MOSCOW -- Once it has completed work on its own fifth-generation fighter, Russia must proceed with designing a brand-new nuclear-capable strategic bomber, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Monday.
"Certainly, we should not confine ourselves to developing just one new model. After the fifth-generation fighter jet, we must think and get down to work on a next-generation, long-range aviation complex -- our new strategic missile carrier," Putin told a cabinet meeting on Russia's military-industrial complex.
After the demise of the Soviet Union, Russia inherited a fleet of the still formidable but fast-aging Tupolev Tu-95MS turbo-prop strategic bombers and missile platforms codenamed "Bears" by NATO.
It also has a much smaller fleet of the more modern, supersonic Tupolev Tu-160 "Blackjack" jet bombers, the world's biggest warplanes built so far.
Russia test-flew its long-awaited stealth fighter at the end of January, presenting it as Moscow's first all-new warplane since the 1991 Soviet collapse and a challenge to the technological supremacy of Cold War foe the United States which rolled out its fifth-generation fighter more than a decade ago.
Putin, then president, ordered in 2007 to resume Soviet-style patrols of Russian bombers around the globe, seeing it as a way of boosting Moscow's stature in the world.