PAK YES program: halfway to success

Model of a “flying wing” aircraft in a wind tunnel. According to some versions, he was related to the PAK DA project. Photo TsAGI /

Since 2009, PJSC “Tupolev” and other enterprises of the industry have been working on the “Perspective Aviation Complex for Long-Range Aviation” (PAK DA). By now, the design work has been completed, and the program is entering a new stage. Now the main task of its participants is to build an experienced bomber for testing.

Recent events

Not so long ago, at the beginning of last year, it was reported about the approval of the final appearance of the future PAK DA. Domestic media then claimed that the documents necessary for the construction of experimental equipment had already appeared. In December, Deputy Defense Minister Alexei Krivoruchko spoke about the readiness of the preliminary design, the beginning of a new stage of work, as well as the launch of the production of individual units of the experimental PAK DA.

On May 26, the TASS news agency announced the launch of the construction of an experimental aircraft. This information was obtained from two unnamed sources in the defense industry. According to one of the sources, the development of working design documentation has been completed by now; it has already been transferred to production.

One of the aircraft factories of the United Aircraft Building Corporation receives the necessary materials and now has to start manufacturing airframe elements. The second TASS source told about the beginning of the cabin assembly. He also noted that the prototype of the bomber will be completed in 2021.

The modern version of the possible appearance of the PAK DA. Graphics

The United Aircraft Corporation, the Tupolev firm or the Ministry of Defense have not officially announced the launch of the PAK DA construction. Perhaps press releases of this kind will appear later.

Expected dates

By now, the planned dates for the implementation of the main stages of the PAK DA program have become known. Back in January, Izvestia got access to one of the contracts between the Ministry of Defense and PJSC Tupolev, stipulating the creation of rescue equipment for the new bomber. This document mentions the timing of the implementation of various works.

It follows from the contract that three experimental bombers will be built for flight tests. Preliminary tests of both all systems and aircraft in general will begin in 2023 and will last until 2025. State tests will start at the beginning of 2026. If they are successfully completed, in 2027 the launch of serial production may take place.

In parallel with the construction of experimental equipment, the development of individual elements will be carried out. In particular, work continues on a promising engine for the PAK DA. This year, it is planned to start testing the product at the stand, and then lift it into the air using a flying laboratory based on the Il-76 aircraft. There is still no exact information on the development of other on-board systems and units.

Intended appearance

In recent years, there have been fragmentary reports about certain technical features of the future PAK DA. All this allows us to imagine the appearance of the aircraft, albeit without much detail. The future role of such equipment in the troops is also known.

One more guess. Graphics

It is reported that PAK DA will be a subsonic stealth bomber-missile carrier, built according to the “flying wing” scheme. This design allows you to get some performance gain in comparison with existing models of long-range aviation. For example, the maximum flight duration should exceed 30 hours, and the range without refueling will reach 15 thousand km.

According to various estimates, in terms of design, the PAK DA is fundamentally different from the existing long-range bombers. Modern and advanced materials and manufacturing technologies are used.

A new turbojet engine is being developed especially for PAK DA. The development of such a product has been carried out by the United Engine Corporation since 2018. This engine will have to provide a continuous flight at high subsonic speed. Maximum thrust – 23 tf. According to various versions, due to the significant take-off weight, the bomber will receive four of these engines.

The PAK DA crew includes four people. It will probably include two pilots, a navigator-operator and a navigator-navigator, as on the serial Tu-160. According to recent reports, 12 ejection seats have been ordered for the construction of three prototype aircraft.

PAK DA should carry forward-looking avionics with an open architecture. This will ensure that the desired characteristics are obtained, as well as simplify further upgrades. The press reported on the unification of the PAK DA, Tu-22M3M and Tu-160M2 equipment. It also mentions the possible use of a complex complex of surveillance systems, providing observation of the entire surrounding space.

The available information on the aircraft’s armament is very interesting, but does not provide any specifics. Officials mentioned compatibility with existing and future strategic aviation weapons. In terms of combat load, it will surpass the Tu-160. It is possible to expand the range of ammunition at the expense of self-defense means – air-to-air missiles.

The same model, seen from a different angle. Graphics

There are also more daring assumptions. In near-aviation circles from the PAK DA “in the distant future” they expect electromagnetic, laser and other weapons based on new principles. How likely such a development of events is and whether such systems are needed for a long-range bomber is a separate question.

Backlog for the future

Obviously, the PAK DA project is being created with an eye on the next few decades. Serial construction of aircraft of this type will begin only in 2027, and the first squadrons will be able to form only by the beginning of the thirties. Due to the limited production rate, PAK DA will initially be only an addition to the existing equipment of various types.

However, the continuation of serial production will increase their share and gradually modernize the entire long-range aircraft fleet. It is assumed that in the early years of the PAK DA service, they will be able to replace the aging Tu-95MS aircraft, which are similar in flight performance. Also, PAK DA will be able to take on part of the tasks of Tu-22M3 and Tu-160 bombers. And only in a later period is the restructuring of long-range aviation possible, during which the PAK DA will acquire a leading role.

Given the timing of the start of service, it can be assumed that the PAK DA will remain in service, at least until the turn of the fifties and sixties. By this time, modern samples will go out of service, and new developments will come to replace them. The media and specialized resources are already discussing issues of the further development of strategic missile carriers – so far, however, at the level of the most general considerations.

Half way

A little more than 10 years have passed from the start of research work to the start of construction of an experimental PAK DA – a completely normal period for a project of such complexity. The commenced construction will take less than two years, after which ground and flight tests will start. It will take another four years to check and fine-tune it. If the project does not encounter unexpected difficulties, serial production can begin in 2027.

Thus, the Tupolev company and the aircraft industry as a whole have already done a lot to create a promising aircraft and the future renewal of long-range aviation. However, no less needs to be done to turn the existing project into ready-made equipment, ready for operation and service.

The project is actually halfway through, and now there are two issues of greatest interest. First, will it be possible to complete all the planned work within the specified timeframe? And the second, more interesting for the public, is when the exact appearance of the PAK DA will become known not only to a limited circle of people with appropriate permits?

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