The Russian aircraft industry is developing a strategic bomber-missile carrier “Perspective aviation long-range aviation complex (PAK DA)”. The construction of the first prototype is already reported, and in the near future it will be tested. However, there are no complete and detailed official reports on this program yet.
Work in progress
At the beginning of 2019, the Russian media reported the approval of the draft design of the future PAK DA. Then it became known that the customer and the contractors signed all the documents necessary for the production of samples. What kind of production was stipulated by these papers was not specified.
At the end of May 2020, TASS published interesting data obtained from two sources in the defense industry. One of them said that the United Aircraft Corporation had completed the development of working design documentation. Also, the supply of materials for the construction of an experimental vehicle has begun. The manufacture of airframe elements is entrusted to one of the factories that are part of the UAC.
The second source then clarified that the assembly of the cockpit for the future experimental PAK DA had already begun. The construction process, according to him, should be completed during 2021. At the same time, such information has not received official confirmation.
In December last year, an unnamed TASS source revealed new construction details. For flight and static tests, two or three airframes are assembled in parallel. The production of tooling and first parts was launched. All gliders will be built several months apart.
The source confirmed the information that appeared earlier, according to which the cabins for the PAK DA are manufactured by the Novosibirsk Aviation Plant. He must complete several of these kits, some of which are intended for ground testing. At the same time, the final assembly of the aircraft was entrusted to the Kazan aircraft plant.
Latest at the moment news the construction of the experimental PAK DA was received a few days ago. On August 2, TASS announced the continuation of work on the “technology demonstration”. It will be ready by 2023. Other details were not disclosed.
At the very beginning of last year, the Interfax agency announced the imminent start of testing and testing the engine for the PAK DA. In the near future, the United Engine Corporation was to prepare a flying laboratory on the basis of the Il-76 transport and manufacture an experimental engine of a new type. At the end of 2020, the laboratory was going to begin ground tests, which will take less than two years.
Russia experience similar technological challenges developing a reliable “product 30” engine for Su-75 and Su-57 aircraft.
At the end of the year, in December, other information was received. The management of the UEC-Kuznetsov company spoke about the work of an experimental engine of a new type with the working designation “RF Product”. By that time, individual components and assemblies were tested. In addition, the assembly of the first prototype product began. Bench tests are scheduled for 2021.
The timing of the completion of work on the RF engine is still unknown. Recent news about the readiness of one of the PAK DAs by 2025 suggests that by this time the engine for it will also be ready.
Recently, there has also been regular news about the development and production of individual units and components of the future aircraft. Also, the development of various technologies continues and the necessary tests are carried out.
In March, RIA Novosti received information from an industry source about tests for radar signature. On a special stand, mock-ups of the aircraft itself and individual units were checked. Even at the stage of research work, using computer modeling, ultra-low EPR indicators were determined. Bench tests have confirmed these characteristics. As reported, the detection range of PAK DA by fighter aircraft has been reduced by several orders of magnitude.
In early June, TASS disclosed information about the development of a new airborne defense complex (BKO) specifically for the PAK DA. It is argued that such a BKO will protect the aircraft from any enemy weapons – systems with radar and optical guidance. At the same time, special emphasis is placed on electronic suppression systems, but again the details were not reported.
Subsystems under construction
Also, a TASS source clarified that all PAK DA weapons will be placed only inside the fuselage. Among other things, the aircraft will receive long-range missiles to strike from a long distance without being detected.
During the MAKS-2021 air show, the Zvezda enterprise announced some data on the development of an ejection seat for the PAK DA. This project is being implemented in accordance with plans and is now preparing for testing. In the coming years, the finished seat will be put on the plane. The pilot’s rescue system will be equipped with a new enlarged plane parachute. With its help, a safe descent will be ensured at all heights. At the time of the announcement of the information “Zvezda” was engaged in the manufacture of such a parachute.
Thus, the PAK DA program is gradually moving forward and yielding the desired results. All or almost all of the required research and development work has been completed, and most of the design has been completed. More than a year ago, the production of individual components and assemblies began, and in addition, a full-fledged construction of several prototypes was prepared and launched. At the same time, some components of the future aircraft are still at the stage of testing and development.
According to the latest unofficial reports, the first PAK DA prototype will be ready by 2025.The start date of flight tests remains unknown, but from this news it follows that the first flight will take place no later than 2025. Accordingly, it becomes possible to predict the possible completion of the tests, the launch of the series and the start supplies of equipment to the troops.
It should be noted that the processes observed now do not fully correspond to the news of the distant past. So, in the middle of the tenth years, it was repeatedly stated that the first flight of the PAK DA could take place already in 2020-21. Unfortunately, the program did not meet such a deadline, and the first flight will take place later. However, it is not known whether 2021 was in the official work schedule as the date of the first flight.
At the same time, it is already clear that such assessments were overly optimistic. As of mid-2021, the industry continues testing and testing various units, incl. engines, radio electronic means and rescue systems. It will take several years to complete these measures, but without them it will not be possible to build a full-fledged PAK DA flight aircraft and conduct its tests.
One way or another, various organizations from the UAC and UEC continue to work and receive new results of various kinds. Some of them are made public through official statements or through unnamed press sources. In general, the emerging picture allows us to draw the first conclusions and assess the situation in a positive way.
Despite the lack of official information and details, Russia continues to develop subsystems of the PAK DA program, 2021-2025 is a particularly crucial period. The successful outcome of the program – and, at the same time, the distant future of Russian long-range aviation depends on the current work both on individual components and on the aircraft as a whole.
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