Russia has started building its first stealth bomber, also known as the Perspective Aviation Complex for Long-Range Aviation (PAK DA) programme, according to state media.
“Development of working design documentation is complete, material shipping has commenced,” according to a source in the “military-industrial complex”, says Russian government-controlled news agency TASS on 26 May.
Production of the PAK DA airframe is to be handled by United Aircraft Corporation, while the aircraft was designed by Tupolev Design Bureau.
TASS says a source told it that construction of the aircraft’s cockpit has also begun. “The final assembly of the entire machine should be complete in 2021,” says that source, according to TASS.
The addition of a stealth bomber would strengthen Russia’s nuclear triad. The nuclear triad is a strategy employed by Washington and Moscow that gives each country three options for launching nuclear attacks: aircraft, submarines or ballistic missiles.
While Russia has aircraft capable of launching nuclear-tipped cruise missiles, the country lacks a stealth bomber. The USA has a fleet of 20 Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit stealth bombers.
The B-2 stealth bomber is a flying wing, an airframe shape that makes it more difficult to detect on radar. The aircraft also sports a radar-absorbent coating.
Russia appears to be going with a similar airframe design, though publicly available renderings of the stealth bomber are difficult to verify.
“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),” says TASS. “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.”
China is also building a long-range stealth bomber, the Xian H-20.