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“Just a wing without a fuselage”: what will Russia’s new stealth bomber look like?

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The Tu-160 and Tu-95 strategic bombers remain the main link in the Russian nuclear triad. Despite the regular modernization of their design, their lifespan is limited, which is why the Russian Ministry of Defense plans to replace them with the promising long-range PAK DA aircraft. What will Russia’s new bomber look like?

In an article for Sputnik, military expert Nikolai Protopopov tried to answer this question by compiling the few known details about this secret project.

The Ministry of Defense expects the PAK DA to enter service at the end of 2027. The military entity has already approved the design of the new aircraft along with its characteristics and has signed all the necessary contracts for its production.

In December 2020, Russian constructors completed the assembly of the first engine for an experimental prototype of the aircraft, whose construction had started seven months earlier. While trials of this key piece are expected to take place this year, it is too early to say that serial production of the new aircraft will begin in the near future, according to the Russian journalist.

What features will the new bomber have?

Many details of its design remain secret. To date, it is known that the promising aircraft will use stealth technologies. The more powerful engines to be installed onboard will be capable of increasing the flight duration up to 30 hours. For comparison, Tu-160s can stay in the air for about 25 hours without aerial refueling.

The PAK DA will have the configuration known as a flying wing. In addition to making it less visible to radars, this design will allow it to expand its combat capabilities and improve its performance, Russian military pilot Vladimir Popov explained to Sputnik.

“It will not have a fuselage as such, the load will be distributed evenly across the wing. There will be no equipment hanging outside the plane, the air intakes will be hidden inside and the wide rear of the wing will cover the hot exhaust gases. In addition, This configuration will allow carrying more fuel, ammunition and radio-electronic equipment”, highlighted the interviewee.

Also, the PAK DA will be equipped with state-of-the-art electronics with a margin that will allow Russian builders to modernize it for several decades. In fact, this approach was adopted by the USSR when designing the Tu-95 strategic bombers. As a result, these aircraft have served in its Air Force for more than half a century, and they continue to “meet all the challenges they face,” Popov stressed.

Today, Russian manufacturers use novel alloys to produce airframes or fuselages. In recent decades, scientists have advanced considerably in this area by creating composite materials that are less visible and endowed with the greatest resistance. These properties are important, especially when a pilot needs to lift a multi-ton aircraft into the air, handle it and perform maneuvers, subjecting himself to large overloads, Protopopov points out.

At the same time, the new bomber is most likely subsonic and has a cruising speed of about 1,000 km / h, reaching the maximum that is roughly equivalent to that of sound.

Being a flying wing, the PAK DA is also expected to have no vertical stabilizer. The absence of this part will make it difficult for the aircraft to compensate for different pitch moments.

For this reason, its manufacturers reached an agreement that the flying wing should have the largest surface. This will allow the aircraft to preserve its maneuverability while flying at low altitudes above the ground. 

At the same time, at an altitude of 20 kilometers, where the air is less dense, this configuration will create sufficient lift, Popov explained.

“The bomber will be able to fly at an extremely low altitude, following the contour of the terrain to ambush, as well as effectively hit the enemy from an altitude in the stratosphere,” Popov concluded.

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