The Russians aren’t just thinking about their next generation replacement for the Tupolev Tu-95 Bear, Tu-22M3 Backfire and Tu-160 Blackjack, they’re thinking about what comes after the PAK-DA.
According to the Russian Federation Air Force’s long-range aviation commander Lt Gen Anatoly Zhikharev, the Russians are considering the development of a “sixth-generation” unmanned strategic bomber in the years after 2040, RIA Novosti reports.
“That could be around 2040-2050,” Zhikharev says.
I suppose Zhikharev probably expects the policy and legal hurdles (and potentially moral issues) of flying an unmanned (and I’d guess probably autonomous) nuclear armed bomber will be solved.
Tupolev is already developing the PAK-DA bomber, which is scheduled to enter service in the mid-2020s. That runs parallel to the US Air Force’s efforts to field the Long Range Strike-Bomber around the same time.
But the USAF is opting for an optionally manned aircraft that could fly unmanned at times. The question is though, will anyone seriously risk flying a $550 million (minimum) aircraft without a pilot given the accident rate of unmanned aircraft or potential loss of the control link?