Modernized Tu-160M2 Bomber, 'Stepping Stone' to PAK DA 5th Gen Stealth Bomber
17:45 18.05.2017(updated 18:05 18.05.2017)
While Russia is pressing ahead with the development of the Tupolev Tu-160M2 supersonic strategic bomber, work on the PAK DA new generation stealth bomber could be temporarily put on the back burner.
As much as Russia wants to field the state-of-the art PAK DA stealth bomber, financial considerations dictate that it take one step at a time and concentrate on the development of the Tu-160M2 before proceeding with the PAK DA.
The Tu-160M2, a modernized version Russia's much-acclaimed Tu-160 strategic bomber, will carry an impressive arsenal of Kh-555 and Kh-101 cruise missiles, and also the latter's nuclear-tipped version, the Kh-102.
The Kh-555 boasts an advance flight control system allowing the missile to change curse on the go. The Kh-555 carries a cluster or fragmentation/incendiary warhead and has an effective range of over 2,000 kilometers (over 1,240 miles).
The Kh-101 is even deadlier, capable of taking out targets up to 5,500 kilometers away (3,400 miles).
Both missiles have successfully passed the hard test of Russia's aerial campaign in Syria where they were used to destroy the most vital and well-fortified terrorist bases.
Many experts believe that, with emphasis now being on developing the Tu-160M2, work on the new PAK DA new generation bomber could be put off for a later date. Andrei Frolov, editor-in-chief of Arms Export journal, does not think that the PAK DA will come along before 2025.
He believes that even very rich countries can't afford developing two strategic bombers all at the same time. He added that the Tu-160M2 is not a rival to the PAK DA and is just a "stepping stone" to its new generation counterpart.
"We need a replacement for our veteran Tu-95 strategic bombers, and the Tu-160M2 is meant to fill the void. Right now we have 16 Tu-160s and Tu-160M1s on combat duty, but I think we need at least 30 new Tu-160M2s to replace the Tu-95s.This would take us about a decade to accomplish," Frolov said.
"Once we have brought the PAK DA up to speed, we'll start replacing the earliest versions of the Tu-160s and it will take some time too," he added.
Meanwhile, there has already been some progress in the development of the new generation PAK DA stealth bomber.
Earlier this month, the United Aircraft Corporation's chief designer Sergei Korotkov said that they already had a digital model of the "future bomber."
Moreover, Tupolev has assembled a full-sized mockup of the new bomber and has also built a full-sized mockup of the PAK DA's cockpit.
The plane's combat characteristics and armament remain a secret. All that is known is that it will be built according to the "flying wing" design, just like the US B2 Spirit strategic bomber, with an extensive use of composite and radar wave-absorbing materials to reduce weight and make it less visible to enemy radar.
Rumor has it that the PAK DA could be powered by a radically new type of engine. Whether it is going to be supersonic remains anyone's guess though.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|