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PAK-DA: Russia’s New Stealth Bomber That May Never Fly

PAK DA
PAK DA. Image Credit: Artist Rendition/Creative Commons.

Will the PAK-DA Ever Fly? – After decades of planning, proposing, and budgeting, Russia has finally begun construction on their stealth bomber project, Tupolev Design Bureau’s PAK-DA. Reports indicate that construction on the first prototype is nearing completion, with components for six more bombers currently underway. The news of Russian progress represents what could be a tangible step in the closing of the stealth aircraft gap that the US has enjoyed since the 1980s. 

But will we actually ever see this supposed new bomber?

A Stealth History Lesson and State of Play

The US has long been an industry leader with respect to stealth technology, where American plane builders have never been rivaled – pushing the envelope with the stealthy SR-71, the F-117, the B-2, the F-22, and the F-35.

And now, Northrop Grumman is on the verge of test flying their mysterious B-21 Raider, an advanced, long-range, heavy-payload, intercontinental, stealth bomber. The B-21 is expected to enter service in 2026 or so, leaving rivals like Russia and China scrambling to catch up.

China, for their part, has relied on espionage (and the wreckage of one notorious helicopter that went down in Pakistan in 2011) to accelerate its stealth aviation development. China’s first stealth bomber, the H-20, is still in prototype mode. Russia, however, with their PAK-DA, may be closer to bridging the stealth bomber gap. 

PAK-DA: The Details

The Tupolev PAK-DA is a secretive program; not much is known.

We won’t really know what the thing is, at least, until Russia is done building it. But we know the airframe is meant to serve as a long-range stealth bomber. Reportedly, the PAK-DA will be crafted in a flying wing design, reminiscent of America’s two stealth bombers, the B-2 Spirit and B-21 Raider.

The PAK-DA is not expected to have supersonic capabilities. Instead, the Russian bomber will remain subsonic, relying on its low-observability to evade enemy interference – a risky decision for a country known for shoddy stealth technology. Russia’s only stealth fighter, for example, the Sukhoi Su-57, is regarded as the least stealthy fifth-generation fighter. But perhaps the Russians are figuring stealth out. The flying wing design, likely a direct emulation of American counterparts that have achieved exceptional stealth performance, is a good start. 

Likely with a crew of 4, the PAK-DA is expected to carry a massive payload of either conventional or nuclear ordnance. Reports differ on just how much weaponry the PAK-DA will carry – but all reports indicate a payload in excess of 30 tons. The forthcoming B-21 is expected to carry just 15 tons of munitions by comparison. The hulking, eight-engine B-52 Stratofortress can handle about 35 tons. So, expect the PAK-DA to be a big, big airplane.

PAK-DA Might Be Just a Dream

The question remains, however, will the PAK-DA ever fly? Russia has finished a full-size wooden mock-up of the airframe. And the first prototype is allegedly nearing completion. Russia hopes to begin flight testing in 2023 and full-on production in 2027.

But that seems overly optimistic. 

The Russian economy is one-dimensional and contracting – while international sanctions imposed in response to the Ukraine invasion have accelerated Russian economic decline. Further, the Ukraine invasion has demonstrated how comprehensively lacking the Russian military is – from their equipment to their logistical planning. The point being: Russia may not have the resources to develop and produce a cutting edge stealth bomber for the first time in the nation’s history.

With limited resources, and with their forces recently decimated, Russia may have to prioritize less ambitious military projects.

Harrison Kass is a Senior Defense Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison has degrees from Lake Forest College, the University of Oregon, and NYU. He lives in Oregon and regularly listens to Dokken.

Written By

Harrison Kass is a Senior Defense Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison has degrees from Lake Forest College, the University of Oregon School of Law, and New York University’s Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. He lives in Oregon and regularly listens to Dokken.

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Michael Nunez

    May 19, 2022 at 2:48 pm

    This one is easy , Russia is going broke on top of losing the best scientists they once had . Putin’s Reckless undermining of Russian Revenue’s , and it’s Economic Wealth . Russia’s future looks very grim today just like the Su-57 . With that said you probably can pick up one at Toy R US or about 10 bucks

    • John Mochan

      May 19, 2022 at 11:09 pm

      It’s a sham B2 is crap Grumman B 21 is a waste

  2. Máster

    May 19, 2022 at 7:01 pm

    Que simpatizantes de las hamburguesas que son, ser antirusos los vuelve antidesarrollos de todo lo que sea de esa nación, después los sorprenden con tecnologías que ni siquiera pueden imaginar…

  3. Hakkinen666

    May 19, 2022 at 7:22 pm

    Are you sure Russia is being decimated in Ukraine? Stop watching CNN and BBC, the Azovstal 2K troops captured sounds very different to what Ukraine and Western propaganda have been selling us since the start of the conflict. I am noe suspicious of everything that comes from both sides.

    • Martin

      May 19, 2022 at 9:18 pm

      There is no dought the Russian espionage of stealing Americas finest technology is rampant. The Ukraine invasion will hurt their economy but that monster dictator Putin will do and say anything to continue without being assassinated in a Russian peoples revolt. If the Pak-da gets in the air its a major threat to yhe. west and its allies. The Su-57 is not being used in Ukraine as the Russians dont want to let the West know that its stealh capabilities is less than predicted. I think the communist regime of China is a far better thiefs in espionage capability than the Russian as is proof of the H-6 stealth bomber and another B-2 clone and the J-20 which is a knock off of the F-35. The Chinese even cloned our C-17 with their Y-20 heavy lift transporter. For Christ sakes they even cloned the new Ford Bronco that Ford left 1 in China but yhey denied Ford of building a plant their. The west and NATO better stop espionage of the west top secret data or we will haveca Chinese Communist soldier on rvery corner on Main Streets of the US with AK-47,s on their hands!

    • Martin

      May 19, 2022 at 10:43 pm

      With Putin sending false news to hi people like his cohort Trump which are both liars. Hopefully the Pak da will never fly. The Chinese H-6 is a B-2 stolen clone too! The SU-57 will not fly in Ukraine as the Russian dont want the west to its stealh handicaps. The Chinese cloned the C-17 the Y-20. Commies be afraid,be very afraid of the B-21 Raider.

    • Nader

      May 21, 2022 at 3:49 am

      It’s time of change, when people realize they were fed with lies, probably its worth knowing the truth before we die. Lies develop an army of zombies.. Go get a shower

  4. Martin

    May 19, 2022 at 9:47 pm

    There is no dought the Russian espionage of stealing Americas finest technology is rampant. The Ukraine invasion will hurt their economy but that monster dictator Putin will do and say anything to continue without being assassinated in a Russian peoples revolt. If the Pak-da gets in the air its a major threat to yhe. west and its allies. The Su-57 is not being used in Ukraine as the Russians dont want to let the West know that its stealh capabilities is less than predicted. I think the communist regime of China is a far better thiefs in espionage capability than the Russian as is proof of the H-6 stealth bomber and another B-2 clone and the J-20 which is a knock off of the F-35. The Chinese even cloned our C-17 with their Y-20 heavy lift transporter. For Christ sakes they even cloned the new Ford Bronco that Ford left 1 in China but they denied Ford of building a plant their. The west and NATO better stop espionage of the west top secret data or we will have a Chinese Communist soldier on every corner on Main Streets of the US with AK-47,s in their hands!

  5. Victor Tounsley

    May 20, 2022 at 10:52 am

    China, for their part, has relied on espionage (and the wreckage of one notorious helicopter that went down in Pakistan in 2011) to accelerate its stealth aviation development. China’s first stealth bomber, the H-20, is still in

    Above is an extract from an article I just ready on this platform written by a chap called Herrison Kass. Now to say that the Chinese stealth technology improvement was as a result of a wreckage of a US stealth helicopter in Pakistan Now that’s a naive view of basic understanding and it’s discredit the entire article this is why let’s say you right then that is to say the Chinese scientists and engineering must be amazing brilliant because as you imply in your article from the wreckage came stealth and many brilliant technical advantages.
    Now I think you dead wrong. My thinking is for years decades the Chinese have been investing in education at very high level sponsoring thousands of not to be educated abroad mostly in the best institutions plus improvements at home this means that China has the best highly skilled people with state backing.
    The Chinese are fairly catching up and in some cases surpassing the west, give credit were it’s due and respect your adversaries

    • Nader

      May 21, 2022 at 3:58 am

      You’re absolutely damn right!!

  6. Kamran Shahzad

    May 20, 2022 at 6:05 pm

    Don’t you remember B52 was prototype as well in Germany before WW2? And you still have a Woden stature which you import it from Germany after war so please just a humble request never say No lol

  7. Nader

    May 21, 2022 at 3:52 am

    It’s time of change, when people realize they were fed with lies, probably its worth knowing the truth before we die. Lies develop an army of zombies.. Go get a shower

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