Russian military policy is shifting from hurried development of the entirely new subsonic Tupolev PAK-DA bomber to relaunching production of the 1980s vintage supersonic Tupolev TU-160 bomber.
A short time ago, following a recommendation by Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, President Putin ordered a new production run of 60 new Tupolev TU-160 bombers.
Now Russian Deputy Defence Minister Yuri Borisov says Russia will launch serial production of yet another more developed version of the TU-160 (to be called the TU-160M2) in 2023.
Borisov confirmed that production of the Tupolev PAK-DA would be shifted back in light of the decision to continue with production of the TU-160.
This decision makes total sense.
The military were never that keen on the PAK-DA. Deputy Prime Minister Rogozin Tweeted when it was first proposed that it wasn’t needed and would have trouble penetrating modern air defences.
Heavy lobbying from the aerospace industry caused Putin to overrule him.
At that time no-one proposed re-starting production of the TU-160 but the logic of doing so is compelling.
The TU-160 is by common consent the most successful supersonic bomber to enter service anywhere in the world. It makes far more sense to restart its production than to reinvent the wheel, so-to-speak, by taking on the immense cost and design risk of developing an entirely new bomber.
Bringing the TU-160 back into production provides an immediate boost to the air force’s long range bomber force, provides work to the military industries and by giving, Tupolev more time to complete work on the PAK-DA, reduces its development costs and design risks.