Russia’s fleet of rusty strategic bombers has seen better days. For one, they haven’t seen significant upgrades in decades. For two, the fleet is less than half the size of America’s combined force of conventional B-52s, B-1Bs and B-2 stealth bombers. And with plans by the U.S. to build a stealthy new bomber augmented by a plethora of new drones, Russia risks not only being left behind, but being put out to pasture. There is also NATO’s deployment of missile interceptors in Europe for Russia to worry about.
Enter Russia’s boss for life — and newly re-coronated president — Vladimir Putin. During a defense budget meeting Thursday after visiting a base in southern Russia, Putin said he’s serious about developing a new stealthy bomber, the PAK-DA. And if development does not start soon, Russia might be left behind, Putin warned, according to news agency RIA Novosti.
“We have to develop work on the new PAK-DA long-range bomber aircraft,” Putin said. “I know how expensive and complex this is. We have talked about this many times with ministers, and with the head of the General Staff. The task is not easy from a scientific-technical standpoint, but we need to start work.” Putin also said Russia needs to finish development of its new AWACS early-warning aircraft, the A-100.
Oh, and Putin wants drones, too. A lot of them.
“We need a program for unmanned aircraft. Experts say this is a most important area of development in aviation,” he said. “We need a range of all types, including automated strike aircraft, reconnaissance and other types.” Russia is allegedly spending $13 billion on unmanned aerial vehicles through 2020.