Russia’s proposed new military transport will be a behemoth of an aircraft — assuming such a plane can even fly, and if Russia is even vaguely serious about actually building it.
According to Kremlin propaganda outfit RT citing design specifications from Russia’s Military-Industrial Commission, the new PAK TA transport will have the improbable ability to achieve supersonic flight while carrying massive payloads. The Kremlin plans on acquiring 80 PAK TAs by 2024.
The introduction of the PAK TA is in keeping with Moscow’s stated goals of modernizing its air fleet within the next decade. Largely comprised of Soviet-era aircraft, Russia has dedicated $US130 billion through 2020 for the modernization of its largely ageing air force.
But until prototypes of the plane are built and begin flying, there is no telling how well the plane will actually perform or if it’s even practical. Russia’s fifth-generation fighter, the T-50, has run into design problems.
According to the Indian Air Force, the joint India-Russian variant of the T-50 still has numerous stealth and engine problems even at a late stage in its development.
And the plane itself is just hugely impractical. A supersonic plane of its size and cargo capacity — an anticipated 200 tons — could only land on a very long, reinforced runway that may need to be purpose-built for the plane itself. It would necessitate an astonishingly large fuel load which would further limit the number of airports at which the aircraft could take off and land. It would also have an enormous wingspan that would make the plane an easy target for enemy forces.
On a more basic level, who in their right mind would entrust 200 tons of cargo aboard such an outlandish, experimental aircraft?
It will be an astonishing accomplishment if a prototype ever takes the skies — never mind 80 finished planes.
As of now, the aircraft is at most an aspiration for Russia. It may also just be a propaganda ploy meant to highlight the Kremlin’s modernization drive and create the impression that Russia’s military-industrial complex possesses technological capabilities that it doesn’t actually have.
Even if the PAK TA may be crude Kremlin psy-ops, the concept art for the new aircraft is still pretty spectacular. Here’s what Moscow’s claiming about its fanciful super-plane of the distant and probably non-existent future.
The PAK TA is being developed by Russian aviation company Ilyushin.
The next-generation carrier is touted as being able to travel at supersonic speeds, carry up to 200 tons of cargo, and have a range of 4,350 miles.
The PAK TA’s payload capacity is envisioned as being 80 tons more than the US’s largest cargo plane, the C-5 Galaxy.
RT estimates that a fleet of PAK TA’s could carry 400 T-14 Armata heavy tanks. Left unaddressed is why anyone would be careless enough to load 400 tanks into a fleet this ridiculous.
The plane is thought to feature an upper gas turbine, as well as twin electrically powered fans. The back of the plane’s wings will generate vectored thrust — assuming a single one of them is ever built.
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