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Monday, April 29, 2013


Author's note: I apologize for last week's absence; future posts will be more substantive. I'm working on a J-20 related article but in the meantime here are some quick thoughts about Russia's PAK DA concept.

The Russian PAK DA is a proposed replacement to Russia's fleet of Tu-95 Bear and Tu-160 Blackjack bombers. There are currently two proposals for the PAK DA: a flying wing design and a hypersonic aircraft. (Gethin, 2012). The concept image above is not an official concept image and I doubt the final product will bear any resemblance to the image above for the following reasons:

Vertically oriented tails have poor stealth characteristics plus the engine nozzles in the rear are completely bare in the concept image. A bomber must have the ability to strike deep within enemy territory and return safely. Without a stealthy rear radar cross section, the PAK DA would be unable to survive an IADS (integrated air defense system). Furthermore  its unclear if the air intakes in the concept image shield the fan blades from frontal radar returns. The current PAK FA prototype does not shield its fan blades from radar returns. They are clearly visible in the image below. Both the F-22 and F-35 incorporate features eliminate radar returns from the face of the engine e.g. the F-22 utilizes an S shape inlet and the F-35 uses a diverterless supersonic inlet. Furthermore, as explained in the 6th generation aircraft article, concept images of the aircraft this early in the development phase rarely remain accurate for long.

Of the two proposals under consideration, the flying wing design is much more likely to enter production.  Russian procurement programs tend to favor safer more evolutionary design approaches rather than radical leaps forward (Kopp, 2013). Another issue would arise from the proposed hypersonic bomber's huge infrared signature. Even if the bomber has a low radar cross section, the heat generated from such high speeds would make the aircraft easily detectable to an IRST sensor. Although high speed can potentially protect the aircraft (e.g. the SR-71), its much more practical to build stealthier slower aircraft. For example, the RQ-170 Sentinel drone incorporates stealth rather than high speed for protection.


  1. Russia to replace current bombers with subsonic flying wing
  2. Here’s Russia’s (badass) next-generation stealth strategic bomber
  3. United Aircraft Corporation - Annual Report

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