April 13 (UPI) -- The Kremlin expects an experimental prototype of Russia's next-generation strategic bomber to be delivered in the early 2020s, according to state media reports.
Russia's defense industry partners completed research and development work for the project, known as PAK DA, in 2016. Government officials said a contract for the aircraft's production was signed on Thursday.
"Now we are switching to the second stage: the development of design documentation and further on -- the manufacture of the aircraft's experimental prototypes," an unnamed Kremlin source was quoted saying by the TASS news agency. "The military has signed a contract for the fulfillment of works at this stage with the United Aircraft-Building Corporation. The first experimental prototype is expected to be manufactured in the early 2020s.
Russia initially planned to begin testing the bomber between 2019 and 2020, but serial production for the Tu-160 aircraft reportedly delayed the program. According to The Diplomat, the country plans to procure at least 50 more of the planes, which will be upgraded to the Tu-160M2 configuration.
PAK DA is now expected to take its first flight in 2025.