In the distant future, the first prototype aircraft, created within the framework of the Prospective Aviation Complex for Long-Range Aviation (PAK DA) project, should take off into the sky. At the moment, this project is at the stage of design work, and therefore most of the information about it is not yet subject to disclosure. However, from time to time, new messages and assessments appear in the domestic and foreign press. In recent months, the total amount of information available about PAK DA has increased markedly.
In mid-November last year, the TASS news agency, citing an unnamed source in the defense industry, spoke about the progress of current work and plans for the near future. In addition, that message spoke about the goals and objectives of the new PAK DA program. According to the source, by that time the project had advanced quite far and approached the beginning of new important stages.
First of all, TASS wrote that the military had approved the tactical and technical specifications for the new aircraft. Due to this, soon the development organization represented by the Tupolev company had to start preparing working design documentation for the new aircraft. After the completion of the documentation, the assembly of the first prototypes of the new technology starts. Also mentioned was the reduction in the cost of the aircraft due to the abandonment of the possibility of flying at supersonic speed. With the help of long-range cruise missiles, it was planned to ensure high combat effectiveness.
The appearance of the PAK DA aircraft according to the Air & Cosmos magazine
According to a TASS source, the new PAK DA aircraft is designed to solve the same tasks as the existing Russian long-range bombers. At the same time, it should surpass the Tu-160 missile carrier in terms of the cost of construction and operation. However, the source did not specify the cost of the future aircraft and the price of a flight hour.
On December 23, the domestic media published statements by Viktor Bondarev, Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on Defense and Security, who previously served as commander-in-chief of the Aerospace Forces. According to him, our country is very close to the creation of an experienced PAK DA. At that time, research work was being completed. Their goal is to create an aircraft capable of replacing all existing Russian long-range aircraft. According to a representative of the Federation Council, a promising bomber will be adopted and entered the army in the second half of the twenties.
The data of an unnamed TASS source, published in November last year, was confirmed at the end of January. In his interview for Komsomolskaya Pravda, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin touched upon the topic of the PAK DA project, indicating the current stage of work and plans for the near future. According to him, this year the Tupolev firm is starting an active design phase. The official expressed hope that the prototype aircraft will be tested in 2023-24. Also D. Rogozin touched upon some technical aspects of the project. He noted that the new bomber will not resemble traditional aircraft. It will be a "flying wing" - "plane of the XXI century".
The newest Russian project naturally attracts the attention of foreign experts and the press. So, in early February, the French weekly magazine Air & Cosmos published an article about the Russian program PAK DA, in which, among other things, he gave a lot of interesting information. Along with the already known data from officials, the publication contained new data, allegedly obtained from reliable sources.
According to Air & Cosmos, the Tupolev company in 2013 completed the creation of a draft design for a new aircraft, which received the working designation "Product 80". At the end of the same year, Tupolev and the United Aircraft Corporation signed a contract for the development of a technical design. This stage of work took less than three years, and in 2016 the technical design was approved. Since the end of 2014, UEC-Kuznetsov has been developing a new engine for PAK DA / Products 80.
It is claimed that the new "Product 80" will be built according to the "flying wing" scheme. It should have a takeoff weight of about 145 tons. Thus, the new aircraft will be almost twice as light as the Tu-160, but at the same time occupy an intermediate position between the lighter Tu-22M3 and the heavier Tu-95MS. The power plant will consist of two turbojet engines under the working title "Product RF", created on the basis of "Product R" - NK-32-02. The total thrust of the two engines will be 46 tons. Due to such a power plant, the aircraft will be able to fly at a subsonic speed for a range of up to 15 thousand km.
It should be recalled that various estimates of the technical characteristics of the future PAK DA have appeared since the announcement of the start of this program. Some figures were subsequently mentioned by officials, but the complete picture, compiled according to information from reliable sources, is still missing. How much the Air & Cosmos data correspond to the real PAK YES project is anyone's guess so far. A confident answer to this question can be given only in a few years, when the necessary information appears.
At the end of February, the already known data on the future construction of promising aircraft for long-range aviation were confirmed. The site for the assembly of such equipment will be the Kazan Aviation Plant named after V. I. Gorbunov. Deputy General Director of the enterprise Nikolai Savitskikh told the press that the technical appearance of the PAK DA aircraft has already been protected, and an agreement has been concluded for conducting research and development work with the subsequent construction of a prototype. In this document, KAZ is indicated as the manufacturer of the prototype.
According to N. Savitskikh, work under the program "Perspective Aviation Complex of Long-Range Aviation" will load the production capacity of the Kazan aircraft plant for the next decade. At the same time, the enterprise is experiencing noticeable problems with personnel training. Last year, KAZ specialists prepared a comprehensive target program for the training and retention of personnel who will work in the construction of Tu-160 and PAK DA aircraft. The cost of the program is 2.6 billion rubles.
At the time of the deputy general director's statements, the program was being approved by the Russian government. In addition, within the framework of the corresponding federal program, production facilities are being modernized, including those that are to participate in the construction of PAK DA aircraft.
The latest news about the PAK FA program came out just a few days ago. On May 24, President of the United Aircraft Building Corporation Yuri Slyusar, speaking at the international economic forum in St. Petersburg, touched upon the name of the future long-range bomber.
The head of the UAC recalled that the aircraft is being developed by Tupolev. In this regard, the new car should bear the "historical" Tupolev name. At the same time, however, the head of the corporation did not specify exactly which numbers would be combined with the traditional designation "Tu".
The Russian project "Perspective long-range aviation complex" is currently one of the most interesting topics in the context of current and future rearmament. At the same time, due to its special importance and significance for national security, this project is one of the most secret. Officials from time to time raise the topic of current work and announce this or that information, but they do without special details. As a result, even a few years after the start of work, only the most general features of the future strategic bomber are known.
Earlier it became known that the promising PAK DA bomber, developed by the Tupolev company, is intended to replace two modern models at once. In the distant future, vehicles of this type will be replaced from long-range aviation by the relatively old Tu-95 and Tu-22M3, taking over all their tasks. In the past, the possibility of replacing Tu-160 aircraft was discussed, but the planned serial construction of Tu-160M2 type aircraft probably led to the cancellation of such plans. Thus, from a certain time, the basis of long-range aviation will be deeply modernized Tu-160M2 and completely new PAK DA.
It is already known that the PAK DA project is based on a concept that is new for the national strategic aviation. It is proposed to build an aircraft of the "flying wing" scheme with a subsonic flight speed and reduced visibility for enemy observation equipment. The special layout of the airframe with the largest possible fuel tanks and efficient engines of sufficient power will provide the ability to fly at a range of up to 15 thousand km.
The main armament of such an aviation complex will be long-range cruise missiles with conventional or special warheads. The significant range of missiles will allow the PAK DA to attack the specified targets without entering the enemy's air defense zone. Certain stealth technologies used both on the aircraft and on its missiles should drastically reduce the likelihood of timely detection of incoming bombers or their weapons. All this will have a positive effect on the effectiveness of the strike.
According to known data, research and development work on the PAK DA topic started about ten years ago, at the end of the two thousandth years. For several years, Tupolev and related enterprises have formed the main provisions of the future project. At that time, there were reports of the possibility of building and testing the first prototype aircraft at the end of the tenth years.
However, later the plans changed. In 2015, it was decided to resume the serial production of the existing Tu-160 with the subsequent creation of a new modification of such an aircraft. In this regard, the schedule of work on the PAK DA program has been revised. The start of the preparation of technical documentation for the new aircraft moved to the right for several years. At the same time, the first flight of the prototype was postponed to the first half of the twenties. It should be noted that there is also a different interpretation of the events of recent years. According to her, the decision to build new Tu-160s was a consequence of certain problems with the PAK DA and the inability to produce promising production vehicles in the desired time frame.
Despite all the expected and possible difficulties, the development of the "Perspective Aviation Complex for Long-Range Aviation" continues. It has already become known about the transition of the project to a new stage, preceding the construction and testing of experimental equipment. The moment of adoption of the PAK DA into service and acceptance of the first production samples still belongs to the distant future, but every day it is getting closer. The available information about the current work allows us to look to the future with restrained optimism. Everything suggests that in the second half of the next decade, Russian long-range aviation will replenish its fleet of equipment with completely new models.