The construction of the first strategic stealth bomber began in Russia. As TASS reported, citing sources in the defense industry complex, the first prototype of the machine began to be assembled at one of the aircraft factories that are part of the UAC structure. The development of design documentation was completed, the plane in the drawings acquired its more or less complete shape. Thus, the PAK DA program (Advanced Aviation Complex for Long-Range Aviation) has entered its final stage.
Of course, all work on a promising strategic bomber was carried out under the heading "top secret." But nevertheless, we know little about the appearance of the new car. And not only about the appearance, but also about its alleged characteristics.
First of all, it is known that the new strategic bomber will be made according to the “flying wing” scheme in order to minimize its effective reflective surface. The appearance of one of the layouts of the new aircraft leaked to the media back in 2017, although it is certainly not worth completely eliminating the possibility of intentional misinformation.
It is also known that the car will be subsonic, that is, its cruising speed will vary in the range of 800-900 kilometers per hour, and the maximum is unlikely to greatly exceed a thousand km / h. There is a direct indication of this: in 2018, a tender appeared on the public procurement website for experimental design work on the engine for PAK DA. Basic requirements for the engine excluded the possibility of installing it on a supersonic machine, therefore, we only have one conclusion - PAK YES will be subsonic.
It was also noted that the engine should have a service life of at least 12 years, operate in a wide temperature range from -60 to +50 degrees Celsius, withstand, including negative overloads, and also provide non-stop flight lasting up to 30 hours.
In addition to the form, the invisibility for radars is supposed to be provided due to the wide use of composite materials, as well as a special coating developed by Russian scientists. It is also assumed that an integrated electronic warfare system (EW) can suppress the electronics of enemy aircraft and the homing system of anti-aircraft missiles and air-to-air missiles.
In general, it can be stated that the work begun in 2009 has overcome a very important milestone. Now we can confidently say that the new strategic bomber will soon (relatively, of course) become a reality. Of course, it is too early to predict the exact timing of the appearance of a new car in the ranks, but now it is really a matter of financing and perseverance.
At the same time, there are many myths that surround this machine. There remain quite serious questions regarding its possible combat use. In particular, recently there have been a lot of stuffing on the topic of which generation should be classified as PAK YES. A lot of unfortunate experts hastened to declare the new Russian bomber a “sixth generation” machine. But this, of course, is not so, and such numbering does not stand up to the slightest criticism.
Strictly speaking, the requirements for this "sixth generation" are not even formulated. Someone talks about hypersonic speed, someone mentions the possibility of going out into outer space, someone cares about the ability of a machine to fly without a pilot at all ... In general, there are a lot of criteria, there is simply no established standard in any army in the world, not a single technological school still not clearly defined what it should be, this is the "sixth generation". But we are already in a hurry to reckon our aircraft to it, which in its characteristics does not go much beyond the already familiar fifth.
Objectively, the capabilities of PAK DA are unlikely to greatly exceed the capabilities of the American B-2 "Spirit", which "stood on the wing" back in 1989. A similar form, subsonic flight speed, comparable range, combat load, weapons capabilities. Perhaps the new avionics and weapons promise our bomber some superiority in the first stage, but it is obvious that the Americans will be able to quickly catch up with the usual modernization. Against this background, statements about the “next generation” do not look very justified, and this is still mildly said.
Many questions, if not complaints, are raised by experts that the new brainchild of the Tupolev Design Bureau will be subsonic. Many believe that this is a real step back in comparison with the Tu-160 bomber in service. Accordingly, critics do not accept reject the new machine already at the level of conceptual choice, not to mention some particulars.
But I venture to say that this is not from a great knowledge of the subject. To begin with, I’ll say a paradoxical thing, perhaps: the supersonic Tu-160 in any modification is slower than its earlier strategic counterparts, the American B-52 and the Russian Tu-95. The fact is that supersonic on the Tu-160, if used, is only in extreme cases, for example, when it is necessary to overcome the area as quickly as possible controlled by enemy fighter aircraft. The forced mode of engines leads to a very significant excessive consumption of fuel and directly affects the ability of the bomber to reach the designated launch point of missiles and return to its base. And if so, the supersonic Tu-160 ideally never switches to supersonic during a sortie, and such an opportunity remains only a bonus that ensures survival. The cruising speed of this car is not much, but lower than that of the subsonic cars mentioned below.
But the fact is that survival is ensured by high secrecy. In fact, this is still a big question, what is better - to break away from the persecution or slip unnoticed. Alas, tearing away from a long-range air-to-air missile is quite problematic, and if the fighter reaches the distance of destruction, only electronic warfare systems and prayers will help.
In addition, supersonic cars have another serious drawback - thermal exhaust, which, when the engine is boosted, also increases significantly. Modern infrared optics at night can detect such a luminous spot at a distance of several hundred kilometers, after which the fighter closest to the breakthrough site will also cut down the afterburner and head after the bomber. Subsonic cars are much less noticeable in this regard, and this is another argument in their favor.
Well, one more thing. The fact is that active homing radars of even the most modern missiles can capture a target like a “fighter” at a distance of no more than 30 kilometers. This is due to the relatively small diameter of the rocket (there is simply nowhere to put a large radar) and the weakness of its power system, where every extra ampere and volt are achieved by increasing the mass and dimensions of the rocket. Therefore, even the most advanced missile is obscure compared to a fighter, not to mention the more advanced AWACS.
And in the case of a stealth bomber, whose effective reflective surface is ten times smaller than that of a conventional fighter, the task becomes completely difficult. It turns out that the bomber is little to detect, you also need to keep it in sight for a sufficiently long time in order to carefully launch an attacking missile at it. Despite the fact that he will conduct active radio-electronic counteraction, the task completely turns into extremely difficult for enemy fighter aircraft.
Therefore, we can confidently say that in terms of survival, the PAK DA is unlikely to yield to any supersonic bomber. This is what is called "at least." But in return, the new bomber gets a significantly increased flight range, which is tentatively estimated at 15,000 kilometers. This is a large figure, to which 5000 kilometers must be added - the range of the X-102 cruise missile, which is likely to be armed with a new bomber. The increased range is not just a whim of developers, it is also an opportunity to reach the goal along a more difficult route unpredictable for the enemy, bypass air defense zones, and also a much lesser dependence on refueling aircraft, which under certain circumstances can be critical.
Speaking of weapons. There is a lot of talk now that the main PAK DA weapon will be hypersonic, and the bomber itself can be used both as a long-range interceptor and as a “space fighter” capable of shooting down satellites in low orbit.
But let's still remain realistic: today there are simply no hypersonic missiles that would be justified to use with a new bomber. The “Dagger” and its analogues are fully disclosed, just on powerful supersonic vehicles with a large flight ceiling, since the altitude and speed of the carrier directly affect the flight range of aeroballistic hypersonic missiles of the “Dagger” type. To use for this purpose a subsonic bomber with a practical ceiling of the order of ten kilometers, when there is an MiG-31 or Tu-22M3, is somewhat wasteful and not entirely justified.
Most likely, the main armament of the new aircraft will be the already mentioned X-102 cruise missiles with a range of up to 5,000 kilometers and capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear warheads. In the future, if an aviation version of the Zircon hypersonic missile appears, its appearance in the arsenal can also be expected, but not the fact that the military will consider it expedient to massively replace a long-range missile with a missile whose range is unlikely to be more than one thousand kilometers.
Therefore, we will leave our dreams of the “sixth generation” armed with hypersonic and anti-satellite missiles, and we will agree that we will expect the appearance of just a good, functional and efficient fifth-generation aircraft. No, the expression “having no analogues in the world” will not be applicable to him, since he himself, to a very large extent, will be an analogue of the American B-2 “Spirit”.
But if we get rid of the desire to definitely surpass everyone in everything, then in the end we get very interesting and good news: the next ambitious project, which many considered impossible in modern Russia, is nearing successful completion. Of particular value to this news is the fact that the new bomber is not just another modification of Soviet developments, but a completely new machine, created literally from scratch.
And how many “analogues in the world” he will have is probably not so important. The main thing is that our army receives a modern, fully-equipped combat vehicle, and our pilots have a greater chance of returning home after successfully completing a combat mission.