Russia’s next-gen strategic stealth bomber may be unveiled in 2018

A Tupolev Tu-160 supersonic strategic bomber © Ministry of defence of the Russian Federation
Russia’s next-generation strategic bomber, known as the PAK-DA, may be unveiled to the public by the end of 2018, the Defense Ministry announced. In the long term, the new stealth bomber is set to replace the current fleet of Tu-160, Tu-95MS, and Tu-22M3.

“There is a high probability that we will see it in 2018,” Deputy Defense Minister Yury Borisov told journalists during a visit to defence industry facilities in Nizhny Novgorod on Thursday.

The military official added that the PAK-DA (which stands for Prospective Aviation Complex for Long-range Aviation) will reach far beyond any existing long-range strategic bombers.

The PAK-DA project was started in 2009 by the Defense Ministry and the aircraft manufacturer Tupolev. While the work on the next generation bomber is being kept top secret, earlier this year, Long-Range Aviation Commander Lieutenant-General Anatoly Zhiharev, did shed some light on its characteristics.

“This is a fundamentally new plane with a new sighting and navigation system. This plane will be equipped with the latest communication systems and electronic warfare, and will have little visibility to radar,” Zhiharev said.

The plane is expected to be able to cover a range of 6,740 nautical miles and carry around 30-40 tons of weapons including air-to-surface and air-to-air missiles as well as conventional and smart-guided bombs.

The military hopes to fly the first bombers in 2023. But for now, Borisov said, by 2020-21 the Defense Ministry plans to procure around 50 upgraded versions of Tu-160M2 supersonic strategic bombers.

“For now, the baseline number remains the same, but it can be adjusted as we are continuing work on the advanced long-range aviation complex (PAK DA). The current baseline figure for the Tu-160M2 is 50 aircraft,” the Deputy Defense Minister said.