Among the plans voiced by the Air Force, the program for the creation of a new strategic bomber, which received the name “Advanced Aviation Complex for Long-Range Aviation” (PAK DA), stands out. The level of attention to the program is so high that President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev mentioned it in the summer of 2012.
However, the PAK DA program itself is not something fundamentally new, which appeared in 2010. Its roots in the current look go back at least to 2007 the year when the Russian Air Force issued to Tupolev a technical task for the development of a new aviation complex for long-range aviation. It should be noted that R & D funding on this topic was included in the state defense order and, accordingly, in the State Armaments Program (GVV-2015). Funding for R & D for PAK DA was supposed to open in 2008 year. However, a three-year contract to conduct R & D of the Air Force was signed in 2009 year.
There were no special breakthroughs and Stakhanov's successes in the design then - until 2015, the creation program basically had to have a conceptual and research character connected with the definition of the technical “face” of this aircraft. At the end of 2009, the management of the Tupolev Design Bureau announced that it was planned to complete the research on the PAK DA project in 2012, and the development work in 2017. That is, there was already a delay in the readiness of the aircraft, because, according to the original plans, mass production was to begin in 2017.
Probably, the adoption of a new State armaments program up to the 2020 year had a definite influence on the fate of PAK DA. Apparently, compared to the GV-2015, the priority of the PAK DA program has been reduced, since in the four years that have passed since the launch of the program, it is still at the stage of exploratory research.
According to official data, by the middle of 2012, it was possible to form the appearance of a promising bomber (“avanproekt”) and proceed to refinements “according to tactical and technical tasks”. It may well be that all the existing developments for today are the result of a hurt from the last LG. It is known that HPV-2020 has funds only for research and development and shaping the appearance of PAK DA to 2015, and, apparently, the creation of prototypes, but it is planned to move to the mass production stage after the 2020, possibly within the framework of the new HPV-2025 .
This is confirmed by leaks from the circles involved in the creation of the aircraft. The deadlines for the creation of the aircraft are already shifting "to the right" in comparison with the original ideas. Last year, unnamed sources in the aviation industry reported that a new bomber would be built no earlier than 2025 of the year, and a minimum of 15 – 20 years would be required to build a new car.
Today, little is known about the concept of the aircraft itself, and especially about its performance characteristics. In part, this may be due to the fact that the Air Force is not fully determined with the approaches to the new aircraft. Nevertheless, it is believed that PAK DA will not only be able to perform tasks in conventional and nuclear wars, use a wide range of high-precision strike weapons, but also possess a certain set of "qualitatively new combat capabilities allowing to realize completely new ways of solving deterrence tasks."
It is implied that a promising bomber will be created using composite materials and using stealth technology. For it will be created a new complex of onboard radio-electronic equipment (avionics) and developed new weapons.
It is still unclear how the engine will be equipped with a new aircraft. It is no secret that at present the engines for strategic aviation are not mass produced, the Samara OAO Kuznetsov only has the task to restore the production of the NK-32М engine for the Tu-160 strategic bombers, and the first engines will be ready no earlier than 2016 of the year.
However, Samara-based engines based on the projects of the NK-93 engines and the upgraded NK-32М are developing the design of the NK-65 gearbox turbojet engine, which is proposed to be installed both on the upgraded An-124 “Ruslan” transport aircraft and the promising strategic bomber. This may indirectly indicate that the PAK DA may be a subsonic aircraft, possibly close in concept to the American “penetrator” B-2A. Be that as it may, it is obvious that the engine is one of the weak elements of this project, and the timing of the availability of the first prototype and the very possibility of serial production depend largely on the success in its creation.
To this should be added the fact that the Air Force is also, obviously, aware of this problem. Otherwise, it is difficult to explain the information that appeared in 2011 that it is being considered to equip the PAK YA with four engines from the PAK FA fighter (it is not clear whether this is an existing 117 product or a promising 129 product), while designing the bomber allegedly will be engaged in the Sukhoi Design Bureau.
Little is known about the armament of the PAK DA. Probably, its final composition will depend on the outcome of the research and what concept will be adopted by PAK DA. This is a platform for a significant number of long-range cruise missiles or a carrier of a small number of high-precision weapons for hitting point targets and breaking through powerful air defenses.
Despite the fact that work on the PAK DA, obviously, is already underway and funds have already been spent on it, the question of the feasibility of creating such an aircraft is still open. As of the beginning of 2012, 66 bombers were listed as deployed by Russian strategic aviation: 11 Tu-160 and 55 Tu-95MS, which have about 200 strategic charges (in fact, can carry more). Moreover, a number of aircraft underwent repairs and were located in training units. Note that most of these aircraft were released in 1980 – 1990-s and have a minor plaque, that is, the residual life allows you to continue operating these aircraft at least until 2030-2040-s.
In this regard, the question arises, who should be replaced by PAK DA and in what quantity, although the leadership of the Air Force makes it clear that it is to replace the Tu-95MS / 160. In this regard, it should be noted that the Tu-160 and Tu-95MS, in their present form, are essentially carriers of long-range cruise missiles and have limited capabilities for the use of guided bombs, as well as for the breakthrough of echelonized air defense. This is a significant difference from the strategic aviation of the United States Air Force, which includes the 91 bomber (72 B-52H and 19 B-2A), where B-52H is analogous to the Russian Tu-95MS / Tu-160, and B-2A is the carrier of controlled bombs and designed to break through powerful air defense. In this case, the 64 B-1B bomber is actually reclassified as front-line bombers and serves as direct support for the ground forces.
That is, given the significant resource of the existing fleet of strategic bombers, the development of a new carrier of cruise missiles to replace them in current conditions looks somewhat redundant. Creating a domestic analogue of B-2А or the promising American Next Generation Bomber (also known as Long-Range Strike-B) is again too expensive for the economic realities of modern Russia. An indirect guideline is the estimated cost of developing a new American bomber at 40 – 50 billion, which is one third of the procurement budget of the Russian Air Force, according to GVV-2020, as well as the cost of completing the Tu-160 “from the back of”, for which in 2006, KAPO wanted to get about 24 billion rubles.
In any case, it is clear that the “one-to-one” substitution will hardly be within the power of the domestic budget, besides, the question of the role of the air component in the perspective of strategic nuclear forces remains, for example, after the 2020 of the year. In this regard, it is interesting to note that the PAK DA program has opponents in the Ministry of Defense itself. In their opinion, such complexes of Russia are not needed given the emphasis on the deployment of the Strategic Missile Forces. Moreover, on the R & D of the PAK DA project, one more argument is presented by opponents, too much money is required.
In addition to questions regarding the concept of using the PAK DA and the number of aircraft purchased, the issue of the ability of the Russian aviation industry to design such an aircraft, and the industry to launch its mass production (including the production of the necessary components), is no less urgent. Epic with the development of a less complex aircraft, such as the T-50 fighter (PAK FA), which is far from complete, the deployment of the production of the IL-76MD-90, a new transport aircraft for Russian enterprises, the delay and difficulty in repairing and upgrading the Tu-160 - All this suggests that the development of the PAK DA can be a daunting task for the industry and a “black hole” for the budget.
Even a cursory review of the existing production sites allows us to conclude that it will be possible to “stick in” PAK DA either at KAPO named after Gorbunov (whose existing capabilities to produce PAK DA are in doubt) or to a new plant. The first steps in this direction have been made: in June 2012, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev announced plans to create a new aviation enterprise based on KAPO named after Gorbunov, where the main product will be An-70 military transport aircraft. But the possibility of the release of the PAK DA was not excluded. The price of the issue remains unknown.
A no less vulnerable element of the program is the onboard complex of radio-electronic equipment and EW. The operating experience of the onboard radio-electronic complex Tu-160, which has been brought to mind for almost 20 years, suggests that in the case of the PAK DA история may repeat at least on the same scale, if not worse, taking into account the incommensurable possibilities of the electronic industry of the USSR and Russia.
Under current conditions and the current situation in the domestic aviation and industrial complex, the most preferable by the criterion of “cost-effectiveness” is to maintain the fleet of strategic bomber Tu-95MS / Tu-160 at the existing level, which will be used exclusively as carriers of long-range cruise missiles with nuclear and conventional combat units launched from areas controlled by the Russian Air Force.
But the greatest effect can be given by the modernization of the fleet of Tu-22М3 long-range bombers (about 100 deployed and about the same at storage bases), which seems to be the most versatile aircraft for Long-Range Aviation. Given the fact that the Su-34 new front-line bombers will be assigned part of the current functions of the Tu-22М3, the latter unwittingly “move” into the niche of strategic aviation. HPV-2020 provides for the modernization of all 30 aircraft of this type, which is absolutely not enough. Rather, it is this program that should receive priority, including at the expense of funds allocated for the PAK DA theme.
Modernization of the Tu-22М3 should go not only along the lines of improving the accuracy of the on-board sighting system and updating the avionics, but also by equipping the Tu-22М3 fleet with refueling rods, as well as new compact cruise missile, in weight and size characteristics written off with the X-15, but with a significantly increased range (at least 1000 km). It is possible to give the Tu-22М3 and the ability to use guided bombs. It will also require an accelerated resumption of production of the NK-25 engines, probably even to the detriment of the NK-32M program. Thus, the Tu-22М3 can become a kind of analogue of the American B-1B, but with the ability to use and substrategic weapons and be really a kind of small change in future conflicts. The depth and scope of the development of the new aircraft will allow the work to be loaded not only by the Tupolev Design Bureau, but also by KAPO, as well as enterprises of the radio-electronic and rocket industry.