Russia Developing New Interceptor, and Progressing with Bomber
Russia will fly the prototype next-generation strategic bomber in 2019 and develop a new interceptor by 2020 to replace the MiG-31 fleet. Addressing the media on Russian Air Force Day (August 12) the service’s commander, Gen. Victor Bondarev, also said a new combat aircraft with forward-swept wings is under development and could emerge soon as a prototype.
Production of the PAKDA strategic bomber will start in 2021-22, with flight-testing concluding in 2023 so that the aircraft can enter service later that year, according to Bondarev. The commander confirmed that the new bomber is subsonic. It will eventually replace the Tu-95 and Tu-160.
In a recent media exchange, Vladislav Mosolov, head of Russia’s United Engine Corp (ODK), was quoted as saying that the PAKDA’s engine will be a development of the Tu-160’s NK-32 “second edition” engine and use its gas-generator (core). ODK intends to invest $220 million of its own money in the project over and above the approved government funding.
The new interceptor is sometimes referred to as the MiG-41. Bondarev said it forms part of the current Russian armament program, which ends in 2020. Plans call for replacement of the entire MiG-31 fleet by 2028.
Meanwhile, operational examples of the Sukhoi PAKFA fifth-generation fighter (manufacturer’s designation T-50) will be delivered to the Russian air force in 2016. Military pilots are already flying one industry-owned T-50 at the flight-test and armament trials center (Russian acronym Glits) at Akhtubinsk airbase in southern Russia.
Bondarev confirmed that earlier this year the Russian MoD placed an order worth more than $470 million for 16 MiG-29SMT multirole lightweight fighters. Delivery is scheduled for “within two to three years.” These will supplement 28 such aircraft already in service. Bondarev further stated that the contract for the MiG-35 will be signed later this year. The Russian air force will continue upgrade efforts on the MiG-29 fleet to keep the type in service for “another 10 to 15 years, maybe more.”
The commander also revealed the cancellation of plans for a light strike aircraft based on the Yak-130 jet trainer.
Bondarev expects deliveries of Il-76MD-90A strategic airlifters to begin later this year, with 39 contracted for delivery by 2020. The air force also wants to receive some Il-96 airliners, from the order for 14 placed recently by the Russian government, for delivery by 2024. The military would use the aircraft as tankers and transports, according to Bondarev.
The Russian air force continues to build its presence in the Arctic. It has reopened Temp and Rogachevo aerodromes, and work is in progress in Tiksi, Anadyr and Vorkuta. “We must withhold that region. Almost 49 percent of the Arctic territory belongs to Russia, and we shall defend it,” Bondarev said. Plans call for complete radar coverage of Russia’s northern regions.