Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin repeated his appeal on Monday for Russia to develop a hypersonic aircraft for its PAK-DA long-range bomber requirement.
"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," he said on Rossiya 24 TV. "We will use this technology when developing a new bomber."
Long-range military aviation is vital to Russia and "the question is will we copy the Americans' forty-year experience and create a [Northrop] 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," he said.
Rogozin's latest comments come just days after a test of America's X-51 Waverider hypersonic unmanned test vehicle failed after a control fin broke up and the aircraft fell into the sea. The aim of the test was to prove Waverider could fly for around five minutes at hypersonic speed using a "scramjet" engine.
Russian Air Force Long Range Aviation commander Lt. Gen. Anatoly Zhikharev has previously said the first PAK-DA (an acronym for future long-range aircraft) bomber should enter service by around 2020, and its outline design is currently being devised. Russia's Tupolev design bureau, which designed most of Russia's serving bombers like the Tu-95MS, Tu-22M3 and Tu-160, is leading the program.
In June, President Vladimir Putin ordered initial development of the new long-range bomber for strategic aviation. Speaking during a conference on defense orders, Putin said: "We have to develop work on the new PAK-DA long-range bomber aircraft for Long-Range Aviation. The task is not easy from a scientific-technical standpoint, but we need to start work," Putin said.
Rogozin initially said in June he saw no need for PAK-DA to replace the air force's ageing Tu-95MS cruise-missile carriers and Tu-160 supersonic bombers.
“These aircraft will not get anywhere. Not ours, not theirs,” he said in an interview with Izvestia in June. He later clarified his statement by saying he was in favor of developing a future bomber, but it should not just be a B-2 copy and should employ hypersonic technology.
In May, he called on Russia's defense industry to develop hypersonic air-breathing weapons as a future strike system. He picked out American development work in the X-51, Falcon, HiFire and HyFly hypersonic programs as examples of what he described as the perspective threat posed by U.S. hypersonic development work.
"The undertaking of this work allows us to lay the basis for creation of a national competitor in hypersonic weapons," he said, adding development of such a weapon should be discussed at the highest levels of state.
Aerospace specialists say Rogozin's comments are more likely to be relevant to a future air-launched missile, rather than the bomber that launches it.
"I very much doubt it would be possible to make a hypersonic bomber by that time ," he said. "And there is no point. A supersonic bomber would be useful, but not hypersonic. Probably, he is talking about a missile," said Maxim Pyadushkin, editor of the Russia/CIS Observer aviation magazine.
"In the Soviet-era there was considerable research into high-speed weaponry, culminating in projects such as the Raduga Kh-90, which is sometimes referred to as GELA," said Douglas Barrie, air warfare analyst at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.
"None of the work resulted in an in-service weapon. Elements of this research could be re-invigorated as the basis for a weapon for the PAK-DA within the next 10-15 years. The PAK-DA - should the required substantial funding be made available - will be at best supersonic, if not a subsonic design with some stealth characteristics," he added.