Russia Building Stealth Bomber That May Carry 'Invincible' Hypersonic Nuclear Missiles: Report

Russian state media has reported that Moscow has started work on a prototype of the country's first stealth bomber, which is being designed to carry a wide range of weapons including hypersonic missiles.

Reuters reported that the prototype build for the stealth bomber—known as the PAK DA—has now begun, citing a report by the state-run Tass news agency which cited two sources "in the military industrial complex."

One source told Tass that work building the cockpit of the PAK DA—an acronym that stands for the Perspective Aviation Complex for Long-Range Aviation program—has already begun.

The source said that the production of the airframe will be handled by a plant run by the United Aircraft Corporation, an aerospace and defense corporation in which the government is the majority stakeholder. "Material shipping" for the project has now begun, the source added.

A second unnamed source said that the prototype should be ready by 2021 though Tupolev—the aerospace company designing the bomber which is overseen by UAC—declined to comment. Newsweek has contacted Tupolev to request clarification on the reports.

Tass said that the PAK DA will be able to carry a range of "advanced" missiles and bombs, including hypersonic weapons. Russia has invested huge sums in its hypersonic program over recent years, now fielding aircraft- and intercontinental ballistic missile-launched hypersonic arms able to deliver nuclear warheads.

Tass did not specify which weapons, but Russia has already put its Kinzhal—meaning "dagger"—hypersonic missile into service following successful tests being fired by MiG-31 fighter jets and Tu-22M3 strategic bombers.

The Kinzhal was among the weapons unveiled by Vladimir Putin in 2018, which the Russian president described as "invincible." It reportedly travels at around 10 times the speed of sound at a range of 1,250 miles, capable of hitting land-based or naval targets.

The PAK DA will be Russia's first stealth bomber. Moscow has lagged behind the U.S. in developing stealth aircraft, fielding its first stealth fighter jet—the Su-57—in 2010. The Su-57 has since been deployed to Syria, though has not yet been produced in large numbers.

Its development was beset by delays and cost overruns, prompting frustration in India which was a partner on the project. New Delhi eventually pulled out of the project in early 2018, suggesting that the aircraft no longer met its military requirements.

Russia's Deputy Minister of Defense Alexey Krivoruchko said in December that the draft PAK DA project had been approved, and later added that the first engine test for the aircraft would be held sometime this year.

Tass said the aircraft will be designed in the "flying wing" style like the American B2 stealth bomber, which entered service in 1997 and has been deployed in various U.S. military operations since. Tass said the aircraft will be subsonic and equipped with "the newest communications and jamming equipment."

Kinzhal, hypersonic missiles, Russia, PAK DA, bomber
This file photo shows Russian MiG-31 supersonic interceptor jets carrying hypersonic Kinzhal missiles over Red Square during the Victory Day military parade in Moscow on May 9, 2018. KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images/Getty