Russia's future PAK-DA manned bomber project will not have hypersonic speed capability, Russia's bomber force commander said on Wednesday, in an apparent contradiction of claims by Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin earlier this year.
"PAK-DA, currently under development, will not be hypersonic," Lt. Gen. Anatoly Zhikharev told RIA Novosti on Wednesday.
The first prototpe PAK-DA is due to enter service around 2020, he added.
Hypersonic speeds are high supersonic, usually referring to Mach five and above, which can usually only be generated using advanced propulsion technology such as ramjet or scramjet engines. No manned aircraft has yet been flown using such technologies, which are on the cutting edge of aerospace know-how.
Zhikharev's statement follows a protracted exchange in the media between senior air force officers, including himself, and Rogozin, who has special responsibility for the arms industry, over what shape PAK-DA should take.
Rogozin repeated in August an earlier appeal for Russia to develop a hypersonic aircraft for its PAK-DA long-range bomber requirement.
"I think we need to go down the route of hypersonic technology and we are moving in that direction and are not falling behind the Americans," he said on Rossiya 24 TV. "We will use this technology when developing a new bomber."
In June, President Vladimir Putin ordered initial development of the new long-range bomber for strategic aviation. Speaking during a conference on defense orders, Putin said: "We have to develop work on the new PAK-DA long-range bomber aircraft for Long-Range Aviation. The task is not easy from a scientific-technical standpoint, but we need to start work."
Rogozin initially said in June he saw no need for PAK-DA to replace the air force's aging Tu-95MS cruise-missile carriers and Tu-160 supersonic bombers.
“These aircraft will not get anywhere. Not ours, not theirs,” he said in an interview with Izvestia that month. He later clarified his statement by saying he was in favor of developing a future bomber, but it should not just be a copy of the serving US Northrop B-2 and should employ hypersonic technology.
In May, he called on Russia's defense industry to develop hypersonic air-breathing weapons as a future strike system. He cited American development work in the X-51, Falcon, HiFire and HyFly hypersonic programs as examples of what he described as the perspective threat posed by U.S. hypersonic development work.
Some aerospace analysts RIA Novosti has previously spoken to say Rogozin's comments are more likely to be relevant to a future air-launched missile, rather than the bomber that launches it.