Russia Talks about Building New Bombers, Again

tupolev081909.jpgWow, it is really starting to feel like military Thursday.  Here’s another story from Wired’s Danger Room reminding us that why Washington isn’t really all that concerned over Russia’s frequent gestures of hostility:

Depending on whom you ask, Moscow’s bomber threat is about to get a lot more dangerous — or it was never all that dangerous to begin with.

Lately, Russia has had to make do with aircraft left over from the 1980s. The Russian strategic bomber force — 16 Tu-160 Blackjacks and 64 Tu-95 Bears — is roughly half the size of the U.S. bomber force, but more importantly, the Russian birds have not been significantly upgraded in 20 years. Most of them cannot use any kind of precision-guided bomb, making them mostly useless for anything but a full-scale nuclear war.

To remedy that, bomber-maker Tupolev is reportedly developing a new “fifth-generation” bomber for the Russian air force, for service after 2020. “The new plane will use a wide selection of high-precision weapons, and will have a whole range of new combat capabilities, allowing it to apply new methods to carrying out deterrence tasks,” Col. Gen. Alexander Zelin said.

Before you start building a bomb shelter in your backyard, considerthis: in the impoverished Russian aerospace industry, talk is cheap.Moscow has been promising to show the world an F-35-like stealthfighter prototype for years, but so far no one has seen so much as a Testors model kit. An order placed this summerfor 64 older Sukhoi fighters by 2015 represents the biggest Russianaircraft buy in 15 years. In the same time-frame, the Pentagon will buyprobably 10 times that many fighters, of more modern design.

And according to one Russian general, new bombers aren’t even a wiseinvestment. Maj. Gen. Pavel Androsov, who has commanded many of theNorth American flights, told Air Forces Monthly just a fewweeks ago that no new bombers were needed. Instead, he said, hisexisting bombers require “deep upgrades” to improve flight safety,navigation and bombing accuracy. He said he wanted his bombers to beable to drop unguided munitions to within 60 feet of their targets.U.S. bombers, you might recall, can reliably put guided bombs throughwindows and air shafts.