Those Stealth Bomber Blues

Russia’s PAK-DA stealth bomber project has been delayed out past 2023 and has had it stealthiness removed:

The reason behind the delay is Russian President Vladimir Putin’s May 2015 decision to revive production of the Tupolev Tu-160M2 long-range supersonic strategic bomber.

During a visit at the Samara-based Kuznetsov plant of the United Engine Corporation, Russian deputy defense minister Yuriy Borisov stated that “[a]ccording to the plans, serial production of the [Tu-160] aircraft new version [the Tu-160M2] is to be implemented starting from 2023.”

Back in February, Russian defense officials said that the resumption of the production of the Tu-160M2 will not impact the PAK-DA design and production schedule. However, during a Q&A session at the plant Borisov remarked: “The PAK DA project will be somewhat shifted beyond [2023, when it is currently to slated begin entering service], otherwise there is no sense in it.”

Originally intended to be a stealthy hypersonic aircraft, the PAK-DA now appears to be a subsonic strategic bomber with an emphasis on heavy payload and long-range capabilities.


Putin would not have revived Tu-160 production — roughly equivalent in age and abilities to a USAF B-1 bomber — if the PAK-DA project were going well. And removing the PAK-DA’s stealth characteristics means Russia will still be without a stealthy bomber well into the 2030s.

It seems unkind to mention that the Tu-160 still hasn’t met all of its mission requirements, even though it first flew in 1981 and became operational in 1987. Modernization efforts continue however.

Russia’s other PAK project, the PAK-FA fifth generation stealth fighter, has also had its productions plans radically scaled back due to problems with its engines, reliability, and actual stealthiness.


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