The Tupolev design bureau will develop a new-generation strategic bomber aircraft for the Russian Air Force, as per a new contract signed with the Russian defence ministry.

The contract, signed at this year’s MAKS-2009 air show near Moscow, will kick-start the research and development process for the new aircraft.

The new bomber is expected to replace the existing planes that will become obsolete by 2020.

The new plane will deploy a wide selection of high-precision weapons and have range of new combat capabilities allowing it to apply new methods of carrying out deterrence tasks.

The current fleet that is the mainstay of Russia’s strategic air force command includes Soviet-era Tu-95MC Bear and Tu-160 Blackjack bombers, Tu-22M3 Backfire long-range bombers and Il-78 Midas aerial tankers.