Kind of Neat, but Useless

A cranked flying wing, as expected

Russia is looking to have a first flight of its new strategic bomber in 2024.

Much like the US B-2, and upcoming B-21, and the Chinese Xian H-20, it is a subsonic flying wing.

It will be fitted with two non-afterburning engines, probably a variant of the Kuznetzov NK-32, probably with a larger fan, so I would guess that it would provide about 150 kN (34,000 lbf) of force, which would give a maximum gross weight of something on the order of 70,000 kg (155.000 lbs).

This compares with a gross weight for the B-2 of 152,200 kg (336,500 lb), with the B-21 is expected to be somewhat less, so it appears that it will be significantly smaller.

This is not surprising. Russia does not have the far flung empire of the United states, so an aircraft more on the order of the medium bomber like the B-47 makes sense.

Well, it would if the concept made any sense at all.

Apart from bragging rights, this sort of expensive strategic bomber platform does not make a whole bunch of sense.

More conventional bombers, along with standoff missiles, seems to make more sense:

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, subsequent sanctions by the West and embargoes on the supply of aerospace components do not appear to have deterred Moscow from development of its next-generation strategic bomber, the Tupolev PAK DA. In fact, the first flight of a prototype aircraft may come in 2024.

In May, an extremely interesting table showing the production plans of the Ilyushin Aviation Complex for 2022–30 could be found on the internet for just a few days. The numbers for civil aircraft in the table indicated the data was fresh, produced after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine and under current economic conditions.

My guess would be that the PAK DA was explicitly designed to minimize foreign content, so the direct impact of sanctions would be pretty minimal.

………

From other sources it is known that three flying test aircraft are planned to be built. Final assembly of the PAK DA bombers is set to be done by the Gorbunov Kazan Aviation Plant, a branch of the Tupolev Co.

The presence of the PAK DA in the leaked document means that the new wartime reality has not changed Russian plans — Moscow has no intention of abandoning this project.

Work on the new Russian strategic bomber has been launched and stopped several times, and for a long time it did not progress beyond projects on paper.

This one probably should be kept on paper. Except possibly for striking a carrier group, it does not appear that this generates much bang for the buck.

……

But there are two arguments in favor of the PAK DA program. First, strategic bombers are the most important component of the Russian Air Force. Second, the program is so advanced that relatively little effort is required to complete the construction of several test aircraft.

This is called throwing good money after bad, and the idea that this program is “important” to the RuAF does not mean that it is actually similar to the defense needs of Russia. The debacle known as the B-1 bomber is an excellent indication how the organizational imperatives of a military branch may not be the same as the defense needs of the nation.

In addition to its military significance, the PAK DA is important for Russia’s public image. During the Army exhibition in August 2021, Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov was asked to compare the PAK DA and the U.S. Air Force’s B-21. “We set ourselves the task of creating technology that surpasses the technology of other countries in terms of capabilities,” he replied.

Dick swinging is never a good justification for a major defense procurement program.

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