Russia has begun building a prototype of its first stealth bomber which should be completed next year, the state-controlled TASS news agency reported on Tuesday, citing two sources in the military-industrial complex.
“Development of working design documentation is complete, material shipping has commenced,” according to a source in the “military-industrial complex”, says Russian government-controlled news agency TASS on 26 May.
Production of the PAK DA airframe is to be handled by United Aircraft, while the aircraft was designed by the Tupolev design bureau.
TASS says a source told it that construction of the aircraft’s cockpit has also begun. “The final assembly of the entire machine should be complete in 2021,” its source adds.
Three PAK DA prototypes are expected to be constructed and the aircraft is expected to enter serial production in 2027, according to the 2020 Izvestia report.
The aircraft is expected to be of subsonic speed, have a 12,000 km operational range and a capability to continuously remain in the air for up to 30 hours while carrying both conventional and nuclear payloads up to 30 tons. The aircraft is expected to have a crew of 4.
The addition of a stealth bomber would strengthen Russia’s nuclear triad. The nuclear triad is a strategy employed by Washington and Moscow that gives each country three options for launching nuclear attacks: aircraft, submarines and ballistic missiles.
While Russia has aircraft capable of launching nuclear-tipped cruise missiles, the country lacks a stealth bomber. The USA has a fleet of 20 Northrop Grumman B-2s. The type is a flying wing design: an airframe shape that makes it more difficult to detect on radar. The aircraft also sports a radar-absorbent coating.
China is working on its own long-range stealth bomber — the Xian H-20 — with the South China Morning Post reporting this month that it could make its first public appearance at an airshow in November.
When completed and operational, the new plane will be able to carry an array of advanced missiles and bombs, including hypersonic weapons, TASS said.
Russia has already developed its own stealth fighter, the Sukhoi-57. It first flew in 2010 but has yet to be manufactured in large numbers.