Russia’s deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin is calling for the development of a hypersonic bomber for that country’s air force.
“I think we need to go down the route of hypersonic technology and we are moving in that direction and are not falling behind the Americans,” Rogozin tells Rossiya 24 TV (via RIA Novosti–I can’t speak Russian so I have to take their word for it). “We will use this technology when developing a new bomber.”
“The question is will we copy the Americans’ forty-year experience and create a [Northrop Grumman] B-2 analog…or will we go down a new, ultramodern technology route, looking to the horizon, and create a machine able to penetrate air defenses and carry out a strike on any aggressor,” Rogozin asks.
The development of a hypersonic bomber would be extremely challenging, to say the least. The technology is in its infancy. The US Air Force Research Laboratory’s X-51A Waverider, despite the recent failed test, has shown some promise. But the most immediate applications for the technology would seem to be some sort of missile. The same is true for other hypersonic programs. It almost certainly would not be ready by the mid-2020s date the Russians have previously set to deploy their new bomber.
But then the Russians have apparently agreed to work on developing a new hypersonic Brahmos II cruise missile with the Indians that would be able to hit speeds of around Mach 5 to Mach 7. That weapon is set to undergo flight testing in 2017.
“I think we will need about five years to develop the first fully-functional prototype (of the hypersonic missile). We have already carried out a series of lab tests at the speed of 6.5 Mach,” Sivathanu Pillai, chief executive officer of the Russian-Indian joint venture Brahmos Aerospace, told India Business News in June.
So it is possible Rogozin believes that missile technology would be applicable to building a new bomber… However, given the available technology, it’s much more probable that Russia will build a more conventional subsonic or potentially supersonic bomber armed with such a weapon.
Likewise, it’s probably a safe bet that the USAF’s new Long Range Strike-Bomber (LRS-B) will also be a conventional subsonic stealth bomber given the focus on “mature technologies” and maintaining cost discipline. A hypersonic development would entail throwing the concept of using “mature technologies” out of the window (not to mention ungodly expensive) while even mere supersonic capability would probably also greatly add to the aircraft’s cost.