The leading countries of the world are planning to re-equip their long-range aviation... To this end, a promising bomber Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider is being developed in the United States, the Tupolev is engaged in the PAK DA project in Russia, and the Xian H-20 aircraft is being created in China. Not much is known about these planes, but there is already an opportunity to compare them and find similarities or differences.
According to open sources, the B-21 Raider for the US Air Force will be a subsonic long-range bomber with a "flying wing" design. The project uses the open architecture of the onboard equipment. When creating the airframe and parts of the systems, modern developments on the topic of stealth are taken into account.
The exact tactical and technical characteristics of the "Raider" remain unknown. There is reason to believe that it will be similar in size and weight to the serial B-2A Spirit. At the same time, new technologies and components will improve flight performance and economic performance. The B-21 ammunition will include existing and future missile and bomb armaments for long-range aviation of the United States.
Air Force plans provide for the construction of approx. 100 new bombers. They will have to replace the existing B-1B and B-2A aircraft. The deployment of production vehicles in units will begin in the middle of the decade; the initial operational readiness of the first squadrons will be achieved in the second half of the twenties.
The "promising long-range aviation complex" is still secret, but there are fragmentary data and various assessments that allow us to imagine its appearance. PAK DA is being built according to the "flying wing" scheme and will be subsonic. It is proposed to use the most modern avionics, as well as advanced turbojet engines based on one of the existing products. Measures to reduce visibility are expected.
PAK DA will have to fly to intercontinental range and carry at least 20-30 tons of payload. The range of weapons will include both modern and advanced models. The bomber will be able to carry bombs and missiles of various types, incl. hypersonic - nuclear and conventional.
In May, it became known about the start of construction of the first experimental PAK DA. In addition, testing of the new engine at the flying laboratory will begin this year. The first flight will take place by 2025, and the start of the series and development in the troops are scheduled for the second half of the decade.
China is developing its own long-range bomber for the first time. Xian Aircraft Industry Corporation builds the H-20 or HX aircraft. For obvious reasons, very little is known about him, and the available data often contradict each other. In particular, various sources talk about the use of an integrated circuit or "flying wing" with a sub- or supersonic flight speed. However, they talk about a decrease in visibility. Assumptions are made about the use of Russian technologies or components.
The aircraft must have a flight range without refueling of approx. 8-10 thousand km, which will allow him to operate outside the so-called. Second chain of islands. The combat load is at least 10-12 tons. The topic of weapons for the H-20 remains closed, but the use of modern and advanced cruise missiles is assumed.
According to various sources, the Xian H-20 was developed from the beginning of the 2013s, and a prototype was built in the early tenths. Allegedly, since 2016, he passed flight tests. The existence of the project was officially disclosed only in 20. Not so long ago, foreign media reported that work on the H-XNUMX could be completed this year, and the finished aircraft will be shown at the next aviation exhibition.
At the moment, only the appearance of the American B-21 bomber has been officially disclosed. The appearance of the PAK DA and H-20 remains unknown - although different versions are offered. In addition, the Chinese bomber is often identified with various models that have appeared at exhibitions of the past.
However, the main features of the three aircraft seem to be already known. In all cases, we are talking about subsonic stealth bombers of the "flying wing" scheme with high flight performance and significant combat load. Apparently, it is precisely this appearance of a strategic missile carrier that meets the modern requirements of the air force.
The “flying wing” scheme has the most obvious explanation. This architecture of the aircraft allows you to get the best ratio of flight performance and internal volume of the airframe - under load or fuel. With equal parameters of size and mass, the "flying wing" will have better aerodynamics, range and load.
In addition, the "flying wing" makes it possible to somewhat reduce the visibility for locators - and in combination with other technologies, it gives an "invisible plane". It is assumed that all three new bombers will be unobtrusive, and such wishes of the customers are quite understandable. If the enemy has a developed air defense system, traditional means of protecting a missile carrier in the form of speed or flight altitude are no longer a guarantee of survival and mission accomplishment. Now, complex solutions are required, including stealth, electronic warfare, etc.
Long-range missiles are becoming a kind of means of increasing aircraft survivability. They make it possible to distance the launch lines from the air defense zones, and in combination with an inconspicuous carrier, they make the attack unexpected and leave the enemy a minimum of time for a reaction. The PAK DA and B-21 ammunition load may include promising hypersonic missiles - with understandable consequences for combat effectiveness.
The best of the best?
Since the exact shape and tactical and technical characteristics of the three future strategic bombers remain unknown, it is difficult to compare them. In addition, it is not possible to determine which aircraft is better than others and what its advantages are. However, the tabular data of all these machines will become known in the foreseeable future and will definitely not be ignored.
Now, with only limited data, it is possible to compare the future B-21, PAK DA and H-20 with existing aircraft of this class. This comparison will clearly show how the views of the command of the three countries on the role, appearance and characteristics of long-range bombers have changed in recent years. Apparently, the air forces of the two countries have revised the basic concepts of long-range aviation, and the third continues to develop old ideas.
The American B-21 differs markedly from the supersonic B-1B, but looks like a direct development of the ideas of the stealthy B-2. It follows from this that the future of long-range aviation in the Pentagon is associated with subsonic aircraft, primarily stealthy. The Russian PAK DA is replacing the turboprop Tu-95MS, but in the future it will also replace the supersonic Tu-160. For many years, the ways of developing domestic long-range aviation have been discussed, and the command seems to have chosen a subsonic, inconspicuous direction.
With the Chinese project, the situation is slightly different. The PLA Air Force is armed with long-range bombers of the H-6 family - copies and modernized versions of the old Soviet Tu-16. In fact, any completely new aircraft will be better than the old H-6. A subsonic "flying wing" with a large payload fits perfectly into this logic.
Heroes of their time
For obvious reasons, the requirements for combat aircraft, incl. to strategic missile bombers are constantly changing. Several decades have passed since the creation of previous long-range bombers for the USSR / Russia, USA and China Air Forces - and much has changed since then. Accordingly, it is required to change the look of long-range aviation and create new equipment.
The exact shape and all the characteristics of the B-21, PAK DA and H-20 bombers are still unknown. However, it can be argued that it fully meets the current wishes and needs of the customer. It seems that the time of supersonic bombers for breaking through air defense has passed, and now the ideal long-range aviation aircraft looks different. In the coming decades, strategic tasks will be solved by not the fastest, but invisible aircraft with long-range hypersonic missiles.