According to Russian media reports, Russia will build three prototypes of its next-generation nuclear-capable strategic bomber, dubbed Tupolev PAK DA for evaluation and testing.
Citing a research and development contract between the Russian government and the Tupolev design bureau signed at the end of 2017, Izvestia newspaper offered a number of new details surrounding the Russian Air Force’s next-generation strategic bomber.
Contrary to earlier speculations, the bomber will reportedly be manned by a crew of four. Preliminary tests of the three prototypes have been scheduled for April and are expected to be concluded by the fall of 2025. This will also include the bomber’s maiden flight.
State trials are set to begin in February 2026, which are expected to last for around two years. Serial production might kick-off as early as 2027 or 2028. As I noted elsewhere, other technical details regarding the PAK DA bomber are scarce:
It is estimated that the new aircraft will have an operational range of about 12,000 kilometers and travel at subsonic speed. The plane’s airframe will consist of radar-absorbent material. (For a first look of the new bomber, check out this video here.)
Furthermore, it was reported that the new fifth-generation PAK DA bomber will be able to carry a 30-ton weapons payload. The new strategic bomber will reportedly carry nuclear-capable air-launched cruise missiles. In addition, the aircraft will reportedly be equipped with air-to-air missiles for self-defense and air-launched hypersonic weapons.
The proposed long-range next-generation plane PAK DA being developed by the Tupolev design bureau will have a variety of functions.
It will be configured as a bomber, command center or reconnaissance plane, as follows from memos compiled for a meeting of the council for legislative support for the defense-industrial complex and military-technical cooperation under the Federation Council.
“Next-generation front-line aviation planes (Sukhoi-57) are being created for addressing a wide range of tasks. So are airborne command centers at the strategic and operative levels and reconnaissance and strategic aviation planes (PAK DA),” the memos say.
Earlier, the head of the Federation Council’s defense and security committee Viktor Bondarev said that research and development were nearing completion on a next-generation long-range multifunctional plane that will replace Tupolev-22M3, Tupolev-95MS and eventually Tupolev-160.