The Russian stealth bomber the Tupolev PAK DA is expected to enter serial production in 2027.
Preliminary tests are scheduled for April 2023, and state tests for February 2026.
This is stated in the contract of Design Bureau Tupolev for the implementation of experimental design work to develop the means of protecting the crew of the newest strategic bomber, a copy of the document is at the disposal of Izvestia.
PAK DA will be constructed using stealth technology – being practically invisible to enemy radars.
The latest bombers will be armed with hypersonic missiles. They will be able to hit strategically important enemy targets from a distance of several thousands of kilometers, while remaining invulnerable to fighters.
According to the contract, it is planned to release three flight bomber models. Preliminary tests of the assembled prototypes, including the catapult system, are expected to begin in April 2023 and be completed by the fall of 2025. This will be followed by a stage of state testing.
The crew of the new warplane will consist of four people, similar to the strategic bomber Tu-160.
To equip the first PAK DA, 12 catapult seats will be manufactured. Their creation and preparation for mass production will cost 500 million rubles ($8 million).
“The machine is pre-tested in its main operating modes,” honored Test Pilot, Hero of Russia Igor Malikov told Izvestia. “Usually it takes 50-100 flights and half a year or a year of time. In the process, design flaws are identified, they are eliminated. Then the plane is transferred to state tests, on which absolutely everything is checked. The fuselage is tested at different temperatures, heights and speeds.”
For the first time, a new model will fly into the air during factory tests, said Igor Malikov. As a rule, several flights are carried out. They are quite simple: takeoff, one or two circles in the air and then a landing.
Usually, even the chassis cannot be retracted. At this stage, the main thing is to make sure that the warplane is kept in the air. This stage can last between two to six months.
In 2017, Yuri Borisov, the then Deputy Minister of Defense, said that flight tests of the first prototypes could begin in 2025, and they would be released in 2028–2029.
“The transition to a new generation is a technically complex and long process, and most likely, state tests will stretch for more than two years,” Malikov said. “The new bomber uses new chemical materials and paint; it is constructed under a completely different design.”
The military decided on the final technical appearance of the bomber in July 2017. At the end of the same year, a state contract was signed with PJSC Tupolev to carry out experimental design work to create a strategic bomber.
The program received the code designation “Poslannik-1”. The development of the catapult equipment is part of this multi-billion-ruble project.
Since 2009, Tupolev PJSC has been fulfilling a contract for the general design of the aircraft.
The military decided that the PAK DA will be subsonic and stealth, made according to the “flying wing” scheme (the fuselage and wing of the aircraft represent a single structure, and the chassis does not have a tail). At the beginning of 2017, a full-size layout and digital model appeared.
The aircraft will have an increased flight duration without refueling compared to the Tu-160 and will carry a large combat load. In addition to conventional and nuclear weapons, the PAK DA is also planned to be equipped with hypersonic weapons and air-to-air missiles for self-defense.
At the end of December, Deputy Defense Minister Aleksey Krivoruchko said that defense industry enterprises had already begun to build PAK DA elements that would be used to assemble test units.
All of this should be taken with a grain of salt, since these expected dates of serial production and passing of state tests are seldom kept.
The development of the other next-generation Russian warplane should be reminded – the Su-57 fighter jet. Initially, Sukhoi was selected to develop the next-generation fighter jet in 2002, its conceptual designs were completed in 2004. Funding of the project began in 2005. In 2007 the programme’s development stage was concluded and construction of the first aircraft for flight tests would begin. Three flyable prototypes were planned to be built in 2009, the aircraft’s design was finally approved in the same year.
The prototype’s maiden flight was repeatedly postponed from early 2007 after encountering unspecified technical problems. In August 2009, Alexander Zelin acknowledged that problems with the engine and in technical research remained unsolved.
The official maiden flight of the Su-57 took place on January 29th, 2010 and back then estimations were that it would take approximately 9 to 10 years for serial production to begin.
Then, various delays in production took place, and the first fighter jet was expected to delivered in 2016. Then in 2014, it as reported that by 2020 the Russian Air Force expected to receive 55 such warplanes.
Russian Deputy Minister of Defence Yury Borisov stated in 2015 that the Air Force would slow production, reduce its initial order to 12 fighters, and retain large fleets of fourth-generation fighters due to the nation’s economy.
Russian Air Force Commander-in-Chief Viktor Bondarev stated that the fighter planned to enter serial production in 2017, after all trials would be completed.
In 2017, Deputy Minister Yury Borisov stated that the Su-57 would most likely enter service in 2018, due to implementation of more advanced engines, and further testing.
On June 30th 2018, it was reported that an order for 12 aircraft was agreed, and the deliveries expected to begin in 2019.
Finally, JSC Sukhoi started the serial production of the aircraft in late July 2019. And the first serially produced Su-57 that was to be delivered to the Russian Aerospace Forces crashed in late December 2019.
The project’s original estimation was delayed by anywhere between 3 to 5 years, depending on various sources of information, it is not unlikely that the PAK DA’s development and testing phases and subsequent serial production also face some challenges.
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