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Putin wants new long-range bomber

  |   March 4, 2010 at 2:58 PM
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MOSCOW, March 4 (UPI) -- Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin urged his country's military industry to start working on a new strategic bomber after finishing the new fifth-generation fighter jet.

"We should not confine ourselves to developing just one new model," Putin said at an aviation industry event in Moscow this week, Defensenews.com reports. "After the fifth-generation fighter jet, we must think and get down to work on a next-generation, long-range aircraft, our new strategic missile carrier."

While Putin didn't mention details linked to such a new bomber, he said the Russian defense industry should focus on developing new aircraft engines, new electronics and new materials for constructing the planes.

A senior military commander responsible for the aviation sector earlier this year said that new long-range bomber must be commissioned by 2025-30.

Putin's remarks underline that Moscow is eager to update the country's aging fleet of military aircraft.

The Sukhoi cooperation at the end of January unveiled Russia's fifth-generation stealth fighter jet, the T-50, Moscow's first all-new war plane since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The T-50 is intended to compete with NATO's latest fighter planes -- the world's first generation 5 jet, the U.S. F-22 Raptor produced by Lockheed Martin and partner Boeing, and the not-yet-in-service F-35 Lightning II, developed by a consortium including Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Britain's BAE Systems.

The Russian plane's maiden flight Jan. 29 was hailed as a major step for the Russian aviation sector but serial production of the plane isn't expected to start before 2015. The T-50 still has to log 2,000 hours worth of test flights, Putin said.

That didn't keep the prime minister from calling for the new bomber.

It would replace a fleet of Tu-95 and Tu-160 strategic bombers, both built during Soviet times.

Introduced in 1956, the Tu-95, is a large four-engine turboprop strategic bomber and missile platform. Codenamed Bear by NATO, the plane was far ahead of its time in the 1950s.

The Tu-160 is a supersonic heavy bomber designed by the Soviet Union in the 1980s. It still ranks as the largest jet-powered combat aircraft ever built. A friend of military muscle-flexing, Putin in 2007 reactivated long-range patrols by these nuclear-capable bombers after they had not been sent out over the world's oceans for 15 years.

A launch of a new bomber program would be a giant project for the Russian aviation industry, which has been helped by numerous orders and major financial aid packages over the past years. Yet it's only one step of many that will see a major overhaul of the Russian air fleet.

Moscow plans to commission 1,500 new planes and helicopters to modernize the air force by 80 percent, the government said in a statement.

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