Key point: Moscow wants to be able to compete with the sixth generation weapons America is building.
As the Su-57 fifth-generation fighter moves into serial production in much larger quantities than previously expected, reports are emerging that the Russian defense establishment has their eyes trained on a “sixth-generation” strategic stealth bomber.
At the 70th anniversary of the Zhukovsky Test Flight and Development Center, Tupolev CEO Alexander Konyukhov said that there are "There are big plans ahead for testing and further developing the heavily upgraded Tu-22M3M, Tu-160 and Tu-95MS aircraft along with large-scale work for testing the prospective complex of long-range aviation [PAK DA].”
Russian state news reports that the PAK-DA, as the bomber is currently known, will undergo initial testing at the Zhukovsky Center. Perhaps the most striking aspect of the PAK-DA is how close the fighter is to entering service within the Russian Air Force (VKS)-- according to then-Deputy Minister of Defense Yuri Borisov, the first prototype is expected in 2021-2022, the maiden flight is scheduled for 2025-2026, and serial delivery will begin in 2028-2029.
Needless to say, this timeframe should be taken with a warranted degree of reservation; from the S-500 to the Su-57, this wouldn’t be the first flagship Russian military hardware project to languish in a cycle of overeager estimates followed by cyclical delays (nor is this phenomenon exclusive to Russia’s military-industrial complex).