Russia plans to build a fleet of supersonic military transport aircraft, PAK TA, with an unprecedented payload of 220 tons capable of moving a strategic unit of 400 Armata tanks, and deploying a full-armored army to any spot of the world in just 7 hours at hypersonic speed, Expert Online reported Thursday.
Assuming in can even fly, and assuming that Russia really intends to build something like that, such plane would enable Russia to mount a prompt global military response. The PAK TA is being developed by the Russian aviation company Ilyushin.
According to a new design details from the Military-Industrial Commission in Moscow, a military transport aircraft will fly at supersonic speeds (up to 2,000 km/h) and have a range of at least 7,000 kilometers. Furthermore, its payload capacity will be 80 tons more than the US’s largest cargo plane, the C-5 Galaxy, and will significantly exceed the carrying capacity of the existing Antonov An-124 Ruslan, an aircraft with up to 165 tons payload.
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“For your understanding, one flight of the [PAK TA aircraft] fleet will be enough to deploy, say, to Cuba an operational and tactical army unit comparable to the total amount of US and NATO forces in Iraq,” a source told Expert Online on condition of anonymity, adding that he was shocked by the demands of Russia’s military.
Russia's PAK TA aircraft capabilities
The source elaborated that one PAK TA aircraft will be capable of transporting five heavy missile tanks, anti-aircraft missile complexes, multiple launch missile systems, and anti-tank missile fighting vehicles, without refueling a distance of 4,350 miles. That, of course, if such plane will ever be built.
“It means for the first time we have the objective of creating an operational capability to airlift a full-fledged army to any desired place on the planet,” the source said, meaning that it will be possible to deliver a task force the size of the former NATO and the US troops in Iraq, in a matter of hours to any spot of the world. “In the context of the current military doctrine that defies comprehension.”
The PAK TA supersonic aircraft will be multilevel, with automated cargo loading and have the capability to airdrop its cargo and personnel on any terrain anywhere in the world.
The plane will be built to feature an upper gas turbine, as well as twin electrically powered fans. The back of the plane’s wings will generate vectored thrust.
The Kremlin plans on acquiring up to 80 PAK TAs by 2024. Such plans correspond with Russia’s announced goals of modernizing its air fleet within the next decade. Russia has dedicated $130 billion through 2020 for the modernization of its air force.
“With the development of a network of military bases in the Middle East, Latin America and Southeast Asia, which is expected to be completed during the same time period (by 2024), it’s obvious that Russia is preparing for a full-scale military confrontation of transcontinental scale,” Expert Online says.
However, it might just be another Russia’s propaganda tactic in attempt to highlight the Kremlin’s modernization plans and put pressure on the world that Moscow’s military-industrial complex has technological capabilities that it doesn’t actually have.
Experts claim that such supersonic aircraft is very impractical. With its anticipated 220 tons of cargo capacity, such plane would be able to land on a very long runway that may need to be purpose-built for the plane itself.
The previous Russia’s experimental aircraft, the T-50 – a fifth-generation fighter – has run into design problems. According to the Indian Air Force, the joint India-Russian development of the T-50 still has a number of stealth and engine problems, even though it’s at a late stage of the development.
What will the US do about it?
According to IHS Jane’s World Air Forces, Russia currently possesses1,276 units of combat aircraft, compared with the United States’ 1,391. As for the defense spending, the US Air Force receives $154.1 billion, while the Russian Air Force gets only $11.3 billion due to the recent Russian currency crisis.
Hypersonic weapons have been something of a craze in Washington for a long time now. Such weapons are still under the development at the Pentagon, but the US is hell-bent on finishing their building in the 2020s in order to attack any desired place in the world in less than an hour, at ridiculously long ranges.
The thing is, Russia’s modern air-defense weapons are deterrent against long-range US bombers armed with conventional weapons flying at supersonic and subsonic speeds. Before attacking the targets, such planes must first penetrate highly protected Russian air space, which is an incredible danger for the pilots.
But hypersonic missiles, launched at distances far away from the range of Russia’s ability to shoot back, could destroy radars, military equipment, air bases, and nuclear weapons before they even leave for their destination.
Due to its confrontation with the West, Russia is now engaged in the largest military buildup since the collapse of the Soviet Union more than two decades ago, with major increases in defense spending budgeted through 2020.
Vladimir Putin has repeatedly said that Russia’s perceived weakness makes it vulnerable to external pressure and internal disruption. Putin, who has ruled Russia for 14 years, has always stuck to his commitment of revitalizing his country’s military. The Russian President has constantly been pushing for increased spending to transform the Russian armed forces into a more modern, intimidating, mobile, technologically advanced twenty-first century force.