May 24, 2014
Russia's PAK-DA bomber to fly in 2019
The PAK-DA programme has lumbered on since first being disclosed in 2007. United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) is under contract to develop the aircraft, with the holding company's Tupolev design bureau and the KAPO production plant in Kazan developing the aircraft.
The new aircraft type is understood to be designed to include reduced radar cross-section 'stealth' features, although speculation over whether the PAK-DA will feature a flying wing or convention design has yet to be answered.
In 2012 a debate emerged in Russian policy circles over the need for the PAK-DA, and on whether it should be capable of hypersonic speeds. With the programme continuing, this debate appears to have been settled, and it is understood that the aircraft will not be hypersonic - unsurprisingly given the immense technical challenge involved. In April, the head of UAC is understood to have confirmed that Tupolev had completed the design of the PAK-DA and that fabrication of certain parts for a prototype had begun.
When, and if, the PAK-DA does enter Russian Air Force service the aircraft will likely cause older Russian strategic bomber designs to be phased out of service. Currently Russia operates three strategic bomber types, all also designed by Tupolev: the Tu-22M3 'Backfire; Tu-95 'Bear'; and the Tu-160 'Blackjack'.