On February 11, Russian News Agency TASS reported that Russia has commenced construction of its first strategic stealth bomber within the Perspective Aviation Complex for Long-Range Aviation (PAK DA) program, also known as “Product 80” and “Courier”. The production of airframe elements will be handled by one of the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC)’s plants; development of working design documentation is complete, material shipping has commenced. construction of the plane’s cockpit is already underway and final assembly of the entire machine should be complete in 2021. The Tupolev Design Bureau’s press service refrained from commenting on construction of the first PAK DA.
The PAK DA is set to complement and eventually replace the older Tupolev Tu-95 in Russia’s Air Force service. The Tupolev PAK DA or PAK DA (Perspektivnyi aviatsionnyi kompleks dal’ney aviatsii), codename Poslannik (Courier) is a next-generation stealth strategic bomber being developed by Tupolev for the Russian Air Force.It is known that the PAK DA is designed using the flying wing scheme. The machine will feature technologies and materials that reduce its radar visibility (stealth technology). The plane will be subsonic, and will be able to carry current and future cruise missiles, precision bombs and hypersonic weapons, it will be provided with the newest communications and jamming equipment.
In February 2019, PAK DA’s final draft was approved and all documents for construction of the bomber were signed. Construction of the first aircraft components began in late 2019. According to the 2020 Izvestia report, three PAK DA prototypes are expected to be ready for preliminary testing by April 2023, with the state tests to begin in February 2026. The aircraft is expected to enter serial production in 2027. Due to the ongoing modernization of Russia’s current bomber fleet and massive purchases of upgraded Tu-160M2s, it is believed that the Russian Defence Ministry will initially procure only a small number of PAK DA bombers.
PAK DA will be a subsonic long-range aircraft with a flying wing body. It will use stealth technology and be armed with hypersonic air-to-surface missiles, one of which is expected to have a range of 7,000 km. The aircraft itself may have a range of 12,500 km and carry a payload of up to 30 tons. It is expected to use engines derived from the NK-32, which was developed for the Tu-160. While several models of PAK DA have reportedly been built on the Kazan plant, no photos were published. The closest hint at how it may look came from TsAGI, a leading Russian aerodynamics lab, which showed a flying wing model tested in one of its wind tunnels for the PAK DA project. The actual image may be unveiled later this year.