Russian nuclear bomber PAK DA “Messenger” has serious design flaws so does the Su-57 fighter

Russia is modernising its military at a slow pace and has now started designing its first strategic stealth bomber, capable of delivering nuclear weapons, under the Perspective Aviation Complex for Long-Range Aviation (PAK DA) programme.

The strategic bomber, the second aircraft from Russia after the Sukhoi Su-57 supersonic fighter, will eventually replace the currents set of Tupolev Tu 22, Tu-95 and Tu-160 strategic bombers.

Programme Overview

According to Russian news agency TASS, a senior military-industrial complex source confirmed about the construction of the bomber under the PAK DA programme designed as a flying wing. “The production of airframe elements will be handled by one of the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC)’s plants; development of working design documentation is complete, material shipping has commenced. The final assembly of the entire airframe should be complete in 2030,” TASS quoted the source as saying.

Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Alexey Krivoruchko had in December 2019 told the Krasnaya Zvezda newspaper that the PAK DA project had got the necessary clearance following which the Tupolev Design Bureau started the work on the future strategic bomber.

The PAK DA bomber will use available technologies and materials to reduce its radar signature, making it invisible to the enemy. However, the bomber will be subsonic but will be configured to carry all the air-launched cruise missiles (ALCM) currently in Russian arsenal as well as hypersonic missiles like Kh-47M Kinzhal and precision-guided bombs.

The first test flight of the PAK DA bomber is likely to take place in late 2021 or early 2022. The bomber is expected to join the Russian Aerospace Force only by 2028 0r 2029 after rigorous testing and development.

Design Flaws

The bomber was found to have a very serious flaw in the latest Russian strategic bomber, PAK DA.

Defense experts believe one of the very serious vulnerabilities in the latest Russian strategic bomber “Messenger”, which could affect the fact that this aircraft, capable of carrying up to 30 tons of weapons, could not reach its desired supersonic speed. This causes a lot of fears for the fate of the new generation Russian bomber, which will have to replace the obsolete aircraft of the Russian Air Force.

Russian media reported, one of the very big drawbacks of the Russian Messenger bomber is its speed, which will not exceed the speed of sound. According to experts, for this reason, the Russian bomber will not be able to promptly attack the enemy and will most likely be shot down even in spite of the radar absorbent material used in its construction.

As the developers from the Tupolev Design Bureau explain, the PAK DA is not a modernization of existing aircraft of this class, but it is a fundamentally new aircraft. The aircraft can partly replace the Tu-160 strategic bomber and long-range Tu-22M3 bomber. Unlike the previous development of the Tupolev, the supersonic Tu-160, the Messenger will be slower – only subsonic speed will be available to it.

On the other hand, given the fact that one of the oldest Russian armament Tu-95 bombers also operates at subsonic speed, but at the same time is an effective carrier of nuclear weapons, this problem may not manifest itself, however, the aircraft itself is clearly not enough subsonic engines in order to serve the Armed Forces for a long time.

While the PAK-FA programme was carried out by Sukhoi and finally culminated into Russia’s first next generation fighter Su-57. The Su-57 is yet to pass the factory trial and postponed until 2025 due to engine problems. The major PAK DA project is with Tupolev Design Bureau and so the bomber is likely to carry the Tu designation.

A Su-57s engine malfunction during factory trials.

Earlier, Director General of Rostec State Corporation Sergey Chemezov announced that the Su-57 domestic fighter made its first flight more than 10 years ago, however, due to various problems, this combat aircraft was never accepted for combat duty.

Experts note that the main problem of the Russian Su-57 is insufficient funding for the project in the initial stages, which led to various kinds of design flaws that had to be corrected after the project itself was implemented.

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