Russia wants a hypersonic bomber

Russian leaders have taken notice of the U.S. Air Force’s plans to build a next generation bomber announcing they have set their sites on building a hypersonic bomber.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said his country won’t settle for a bomber like the B-2. Air Force leaders want to pursue the same hypersonic technology the U.S. military is trying to develop.

Rogozin’s comments come conspicuously close to a failed hypersonic test flight the U.S. Air Force held on Aug. 15. The test flight vehicle dropped into the Pacific Ocean 15 seconds after it was released from a specially outfitted B-52 and never reached the Mach 6 speeds U.S. Air Force officials had hoped.

To fly hypersonic means flying five times the speed of sound (Mach 5) or faster than 3,840 miles per hour.

The Russians hope to build their hypersonic bomber by 2020, Rogozin said. That timeline seems a bit ambitious if they are starting to develop the engines now.

The U.S. started its Waverider program in 2004 having spent $140 million. The Aug. 15 was the last test scheduled under the program. Pentagon officials will have to seek additional funding to continue the program.

Engineers built the X-51A Waverider’s scramjet engine to fly without liquid jet propellant. The engine instead uses the oxygen in the air to propel it. It also harnesses the energy created by its own shock wave to reach top speeds up to Mach 6.

The U.S. Air Force had hoped to outfit an operational aircraft with hypersonic engines by 2016. Following this month’s test failure and the questions over future funding, those goals are very much in doubt. For the Russians to design and deliver a hypersonic bomber by 2020, seems just as unlikely.

U.S. officials have not specified whether their own next generation bomber would fly hypersonic speeds. The U.S. Air Force said in 2007 the bomber would likely be subsonic to keep costs under control. Of course, the next generation bomber program has been scrapped and then brought back since then by the Pentagon.

However, it’s hard to envision the U.S. fielding a hypersonic bomber in the next decade with the budget shortfalls they will experience the next five years. Not to mention the struggle they’ve had building the fifth generation fighter fleet.

About the Author

Michael Hoffman
Michael Hoffman is the executive editor at Tandem NSI and a contributor to He can be reached at
  • Pilgrimman

    >Hypersonic anything

    Oh God, my sides!

  • Nicky

    Who knows in the next 50 yrs the US can field a Hypersonic or Orbital Bomber

    • I say 20 years for the first.

    • wjsteele

      The US has had orbital bombers since the 70’s! It’s called the Space Shuttle and it’s mini successor, the X-37. (Why do you think the USSR went through so much trouble copying the Space Shuttle?)

  • dirtylodown

    The keep reference this as a failure. This isnt the first test of this. It was successful last time. I do remember Shepard Smith talking about in a few years ago.

  • Nick

    Cool, maybe we can steal tech from them for a change.

    • Ed

      You mean like stealth tech? ;)

      • William C.

        It wasn’t stolen from them. The first aircraft with significant stealth characteristics (although unintentional) were the designs of Jack Northrop (US) and the Horton brothers (Germany).

        IIRC a Russian was the first to write up mathematical theory for RCS reduction. The Soviets never did anything with this however.

      • 00mpal00mpa

        The Russians developed their own stealth technology which is DISTINCT from American Stealth. Instead of using metamaterials which absorb the energy from radar pulses and transduce it into heat, it uses a plasma envelope to scatter radar.

    • john

      You mean you have never copied from them before? you must be joking. Lockheed got the idea from Yakalov which manufactured YAK-141. Go and read up, most of your designers originated from either Germany of Russia. Example. Sikosky

  • Musson

    So they can bomb any site in China within 11 minutes?

  • EW3

    Imagine the IR target a hypersonic anything would be.

    • Nick

      Doesn’t matter, nothing is fast enough to hit it.

      • EW3

        All things are hittable (or laserable).

        Folks said we could never hit a missile with a missile (bullet with a bullet) but the SM-3 is doing a decent job of it, as are the Patriots and Arrows.

        • RunningBear

          I haven’t seen any test coments about maneuvering the targets???, have you?

          Agreed, anything that is hypersonic and ballistic can be hit, but if it maneuvers hypersonicly in the atmosphere, I’m not the current systems can catch it.

          • Mat

            Most intercepts were of target ballons ,hardly comparable to anything going hypersonic ,remeber SR71 evaded all SAM defences, an its turn radius at mach 3 is something like 100miles.
            Lasers are strongly affected by atmosferic conditions so its quite unlikely for a land based laser to be able to shoot at anything in the stratosphere

          • Stratege

            SR-71 was able to evade obsolete SAM defenses. But it’s dead meat against the S-200 (long range Soviet system from the same time period) and newer SAM.

          • Dfens

            Like hell. It defeated S-200’s all the damn time. More revisionist history.

          • Stratege

            It was not able to defeat the s-200 since the sr-71 had never tried to overfy the s-200’s sites.
            S-200’s missiles had a peak speed around of 9000 kmh and 130,000 ft max flight altitute. That was more than enough to kill the SR-71.
            Sr-71 had straightforward maneuverability and literally zero chances to avoid a long range SAM missiles.

            Sure, SR-71 had many overflights over Vietnam/Middle East region against outdated/middle range air defense systems (mostly the SA-2). Where the myth about Sr-71’s invulnerability comes from.

          • B-52CrewChief

            Here’s the problem with the S-200. It flew at mach 4 while the SR-71 could do mach 3+. By the time the S-200 missile system could lock onto the Blackbird and launch. The SR-71 was already gone. It did not have enough range to catch up with the aircraft.

        • SecretSquid

          Yes, but what is the Pk? How many shots does it take? How long does the defender have to detect, ID, target, and kill? How many targets can he engage in that extremely short window? Hypersonic speed is a no-trivial force multiplier.

          Remember, it’s taken us 30 years and billions of dollars to achieve our current BMD capability. If hypersonic platforms and weapons buy us a 30-year advantage on our adversaries, it may be well worth the investment.

  • Supposedly, the Next Generation Bomber will be subsonic.

    • Raraavis

      The Next Next Generation Bomber is suppose to be a Global Reach Hypersonic or High-Hypersonic Bomber I think it is schedulrd to enter service in 2048. Seriously that is the time line that is also when the last B-52 is suppose to retire.

      • That’s the unofficial “2037 Bomber”. The Next Next Generation Bomber is supposed to be subsonic.

  • Raraavis

    The US Next Generation Bomber is suppose to be an subsonic, optionally manned shorter-ranged, smaller-payload, but much stealther B2. The Hypersonic Global Strike is not suppose to go into service until mid-century.

    I am guessing neither will ever be built.

  • dude

    It is much more practical (and cheaper!) to make the munition hypersonic than the whole aircraft hypersonic.

    SR71/B1A/F15/F22 all suggest that Mach2 is fast enough for manned aircraft. Use LO hypersonic A2/AD missile to destroy target protected by IADS.

    • Marvin

      Depends what you mean by “fast enough” (or, “fast enough for what?”) The stated goal seems to be to be able to strike a target anywhere in the world within a few hours – something that is not really practical with Mach 2 aircraft. Also, even at Mach 3 the SR-71 would have a tough time with modern air defenses. Hence most strategy today would involve strikes to first neutralize enemy air defenses via cruise missiles and low level penetration strikes below radar.

    • SecretSquid

      Russia has already a huge inventory of hypersonic munitions which provide it a robust Prompt Global Strike capability. They’re called ICBMs.

      They’re also completely unusable in any military contingency in which Russia is not willing to cross the nuclear threshold.

      Hence (I suspect) the need for a hypersonic delivery platform capable of precision delivery of conventional munitions.

    • TomR

      The SR71 has been engaged/fired upon some 4,000 times, and has never been shot down. Something to be said for speed.

  • Nadnerbus

    Never mind if they have the technical capacity to do this, which they probably don’t. They don’t have the money to do this, and unless oil shoots up to 200 dollars a barrel, they probably never will. Russia is commendable for their efforts to modernize their armed forces, both with new modern gear and trying to become more westernized with highly trained volunteers instead of apathetic conscripts. But they still have a fleet rusting pier side, massive investments in new ballistic missile subs and ICBMs, an underfunded fighter fleet, etc.

    There still seems to be an old Soviet mindset of keeping up with the Joneses, and trying to be a world power when they would be much better served acting in the capacity of regional power.

  • tiger

    How about Russia finding a cure for AIDS or something? The world does not need a faster way to kill each other. We have plenty already. Even more flavored vodka types would be more useful to the world……….

  • Tim

    I wouldn’t take the Russian leaders’ comments seriously, especially when it comes to new weapon systems. They are no longer the Soviet Union, which collapsed while trying to top the U.S. on every weapon type. Nowadays, Russia can’t even produce a decent UAV. It is at least two decades behind the U.S. in that area. It’s only 5th generation fighter is only in the initial testing phase. By the time they could field that, the FF-22 is almost halfway through its useful life.

    • Andy

      and dont’ forget they can’t even buit a Amphibious, they ahve to buy it from French.

      • Ed

        So, whenever a country imports something they can’t build it themselves? Does that mean the US can’t make howitzers, since they import the M777? No medium transport aircraft because they import the C-27J? Russia makes aircraft carriers, for crying out loud…

      • Stratege

        Stupid note.
        Russia can built spaceships and nuclear submarines (the most sophisticated engineering creations), but can’t design amphibiousassault ship.

        I guess, you should also assume that the smartest and strongest nation on Earth (USA) can’t even design a decent machine gun so the US army uses a Belgian MG designs.

        • B-52CrewChief

          Well, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The Russians use equipment from other countries also.

      • SecretSquid

        You should do your homework. The Russians have built plenty of amphibious ships. They have exported plenty of large and small combatants to foreign customers around the world. They continue to be a major worldwide supplier of highly sophisticated weapons and platforms.

        Back on topic, Russian aerospace know-how is formidable. You underestimate them unfairly. Sukhoi, MiG, TSAGI, Khrunichev, etc. are still powerhouses in this field. If the Russians make it a priority and can sustain program funding, they are every bit as capable of producing a hypersonic bomber as the US defense industry.

  • Chris

    Russia’s biggest enemy right now is a declining population and a seriously hurting infrastructure. They are “reasserting” themselves to try and regain as much of their old foothold from the SU days as possible while the US is tied up in the middle east and asia. Nothing new here… they have to maintain a public image in the mother land. They would be dreaming to think they will have an operational (and tbh I don’t even see them having a test platform) by 2020. More like 2075.

    • Ed

      Agreed, 2020 seems unlikely – unless they plan to power it with rockets or something. But this is just a politician who *thinks* they should do that, with his reason being American progress. I hope that actual needs assessment will provide a more thorough base.

      That said, hasn’t there already been such research? Didn’t Sukhoi have an alternative to the Tu-160 that was much more ambitious?

  • Ron

    The arms race with Russia keeps us in check to always be ahead. Just when you thought we are laggin behind, BOOM DARPA is there to WOW us. Remember guys neither Russia or China sat foot on the moon yet!!!and that’s 60’s technology, need I say more.

    • Stephen

      I guess we should’nt have leaked the fact there was nothing on the moon to steal….

    • Stratege

      Do you really believe that USSR was not technically capable to set foot on the moon surface?

      • SecretSquid

        Probably not. By the time they could develop a sufficiently powerful and reliable booster, they lost the political will and economic ability to sustain the program. There have been some interesting revelations about the Soviet N-1 booster program in the last few years. You should google it.

      • B-52CrewChief

        Yes, I really believe the Soviets could not set foot on the moon. I do know they tried as hard as they could. Apparently the Soviets could not steal enough information on the Saturn V to build their own in time.

    • Alois

      60’s why can’t we revisit the moon with 20 15 technology. You know that was a Hollywood jock. just like James Bond

  • Marcellus Hambrick

    The Chinese will have one before the Russkies!

  • stephen russell

    Unless Russia steals plans from Area 51NV or other source & then engineers that way, since we see obvious espionage with F22 & T90 Stealth jets alone,
    Need to use Hypersonic for Military & Commercial
    IE Tokyo to London
    Miami to So Africa
    LA CA to Hanoi Vietnam Runs.

    • SecretSquid

      Yes some espionage…but not where you can see it. Much of the similarity is driven by aerodynamics and RF physics. Russian aerodynamicists (those who are still in business, anyway) are still among the best in the world.

  • sergei

    free vodka with purchase only yesturday bring certificate

  • Tim

    I presume these Russian hypersonic bombers will join their hundreds of 6th gen fighters , super subs and Mach 3 cruise missiles in fantasy land while the budget money ends up in Switzerland. Considering they have no more than six subs that can actually go on deep water missions and the whole defence industry has crumbled into nothing due to all the top guys leaving back in the 90’s I doubt very much this vodka fuelled bs means anything. Russia is militarily screwed and demographically consigned to a slow decline.

    The bear ia finished.

    • tiger

      It is stupid. Even for the US. As a research tool into hi speed flight? Fine. Beyond that, folks in the Midwest care more about the lack of rain than the lack of hypersonic bomber.

    • Stratege

      Russian military industial complex is on recovery now.

      Where you get the information about Russia’a only six capable subs? Isn’t it just a your wiskey fueled fantasy?

      Active Russian strategic subs fleet includes:

      ~10 of modernized Delta4 class SSBNs with updated SLBMs.
      Future strategic fleet: 8 of 4th generation “Borei” class SSBN equipped with new SLBM. Two of these subs scheduled commissioning this year

      10 active SSNs (“Akula” and “Improved Akula” class)

      8 active SSGN subs (“Granit”/”Antey” / NATO: Oscar1/2)

      10 of 4th generation SSN/SSGN “Yasen/Yasen-M” are planned. One scheduled commissioning next year.

      Russian demographic dynamics is getting better each year.

  • GoHomeRuskies

    An eagle can fly – a bear? It hibernates and dies.

    • 00mpal00mpa

      I think you take the animal mascots too seriously.

      • blight_

        Double headed eagles are twice as awesome! lul lul lul.

  • Chris

    Reading this paragraph made my brain hurt:

    “Engineers built the X-51A Waverider’s scramjet engine to fly without liquid jet propellant. The engine instead uses the oxygen in the air to propel it. It also harnesses the energy created by its own shock wave to reach top speeds up to Mach 6.”

    A quick look at Wikipedia would tell you that:

    “The X-51 uses JP-7 fuel for the SJY61 scramjet, carrying some 270 lb (120 kg) onboard.”

    I believe what’s meant here, is that the scram-jet, being an air breathing engine, does not carry its own oxidant on-board.

    • guess

      It was my understanding that a scram jet had no moving parts. The super sonic air comes in the front, mixes with fuel and that burns producing thrust. Unlike turbo fan based engines, with their compressor blades

    • guess

      Besides. Aren’t all jet engines are breathing? Cause if it uses an oxidant it would be a rocket right? Cause that would be a chemical reaction causing the thrust like on the Saturn V…
      I think it must be a typo on defense tech’s end

      • Chris

        My point exactly, I just thought it would be sufficiently obvious.

  • Chris

    They did actually get funding for the next x-51 flight. Source: Family member in propulsion directorate in AFRL

  • Pappa51

    I think the Russian’s need to develop a Hyper Jet. It will keep them busy for years to come. Like they say Idle hands are the Devils work shop. And they have been in that work shop a long time. Really; an orbital bomber will be the next generation.
    I’m Done. . . .

  • DB Cooper

    They cant even build a plane that doesnt have to be taken in for major service once a year or build an engine for them that doesnt break down often and they expect to build a hypersonic plane that doesnt blow up? It won’t happen.

    • Stratege

      You have probably confused Russian planes with Chinese. But even Chinese planes (with Russian built-engine)doesn’t need to be taken out of service each year.

      • B-52CrewChief

        Actually, ALL aircraft need to have major service every year. That’s the nature of the beast. Stratege is right; the poor Chinese couldn’t design and build an aircraft without the Russians.

    • 00mpal00mpa

      They’ve already built hypersonic missiles that don’t blow up. Hypersonic aircraft are the next step. The russian design will use MHD propulsion.

  • SecretSquid

    What’s with the irrelevant picture, DT? Why a picture of a Boeing X-45 UCAV in an article discussing hypersonic bombers? There is nothing about the X-45 that is remotely hypersonic.

    Maybe DT needs writers or editors with a better command of defense technologies.

  • 00mpal00mpa

    It turns out that a Russian Hypersonic Plane is ALREADY in the works. It’s know to the west as AJAX. There are no photos of it that I could find on the internet. And I haven’t managed to find any news info about it but I suspect that the Kremlin is being suspiciously silent because they are busy at work with new technology. Given that they have a state controlled media, it’s highly unlikely that these sorts of defense projects would be publicized.

    • Thomas L. Nielsen

      “It turns out that a Russian Hypersonic Plane is ALREADY in the works. It’s know to the west as AJAX”

      Source, please?

      Regards & all,

      Thomas L. Nielsen

      • Stratege

        AJAX aircraft was nothing more than a paper draft.
        However, the new types of Russian ICBMs are equipped with maneuverable hypersonic vehicles (warhead-equipped, 6M at the terminal stage) with nonballistic (unpredictable) trajectory to avoid ABM. There’re also Russian hypersonic cruise missile Kh-90 (ALCM).

        • B-52CrewChief

          Sorry, Stratege, the KH-90 was only capable of mach 2.5 to mach 3.5 and the project was Cancelled in 1988. It was powered by a turbojet not a ramjet or scramjet.

  • Taxpayer71

    In general funding of advanced technology development such as WAVERIDER is justified by some envisioned military application/requirement that has passed some level of review in the acquisition and budget processes. What is the military advantage offered by a hypersonic bomber? While I like advanced technology as well as the next person, this project needs a good scrub to verify that it makes sense, especially in tight these tight budget times.

  • Jeffrey

    If the Russians do develop that kind of tech then we better stay on their good side. They are probably 17-19 years away from that us pretty much the same maybe less.

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