The Russian Air Force may receive its first PAK DA next generation long-range bomber about 2020 instead of 2025 as initially planned, Russia’s acting deputy Air Force commander, Major General Alexander Chernyayev, has said.
“I think the first models of the Prospective Air Complex for Long Range Aviation (PAK DA) will be supplied to the Air Force approximately by 2020,” Chernyayev said in an interview published on the Russian Defense Ministry website late last week.
Russia's Long Range Aviation commander, Major General Anatoly Zhikharev, has said the Air Force could receive the new strategic bomber in 2025.
The general look of the new strategic bomber has already been worked out, and engineers are currently finishing work on aircraft specific operational requirements, Chernyayev said.
“We have everything today to develop the plane on time and put it into operation together with [Tupolev] Tu-95MS Bear, Tu-160 Blackjack and Tu-22M3 Backfire [strategic bombers], which have proven their high reliability,” he added. Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered development of the new long-range strategic bomber to be sped up in mid-June.
“I know how expensive and complex this is,” Putin said during a conference on defense orders. “The task is not easy from a scientific-technical standpoint, but we need to start work,” he said, adding that otherwise, Russia could miss the boat.
Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov has said previously that a new aircraft assembly line in Russia's Kazan plant (KAPO) would build PAK DA and the new Antonov An-70 propfan transport aircraft. The same plant previously built the Tu-95MS and Tu-160.
Currently, only Russia and the United States operate intercontinental range bombers. Most other nuclear-capable nations rely solely on intercontinental ballistic missiles, based on submarines or in land-based silos, or cruise missiles. The United States has expressed an interest in successor systems to its B-1, B-2 and B-52H long-range bombers.
Chernyayev also said in his interview the Russian Air Force was planning to modernize its Tu-95MS, Tu-160 and Tu-22MS bombers, as well as Ilyushin Il-78 Midas air-to-air refueling tanker aircraft.
Russia’s strategic air forces operate a total of 63 Tu-95MS and 13 Tu-160 bombers. Altogether, they are capable of carrying 850 long-range cruise missiles.