New Russian bomber design revealed in patent filings?
As the Russian war against its former subject and now neighbor, Ukraine, entering its seventh month of bloody fighting, the Russian military has made a surprising disclosure in a recent patent office filing. It appears to have revealed the design for its new long-range bomber.
Tupolev filed for and has obtained a patent for an aircraft engine intake. But in filing for the patent registration, Tupolev was required to file drawings of the design for the entire aircraft and that design looks remarkably like several aircraft, including the B-2 bomber, that are already operational staples in the U.S military.
Technically, Tupolev is a private Russian company but its role as a primary defense contractor for the Russian military, not unlike American defense contractors, means that its disclosure of new aircraft designs in connection with a patent application likely means that the Russian air force has at least seriously considered a new class of long-range bombers that would utilize the newly patented design.
Currently, the Russian air force has fielded and relies on the Tupolev Tu-95MS Bear-H and Tu-160 Blackjack for long range bombing and their designs follow much more familiar designs not unlike the American B-52 and B-1 bombers of the U.S. Air Force. However, the Russian air force has been working on designs for a new bomber designated the PAK DA since at least 2007.
The PAK DA design adopts the flying-wing concept and is very similar to the American B-2 with the same sharp beak nose, a forward sitting cockpit, and with engine intakes positioned on the upper surfaces and either side of the wing/body.
Admittedly, the PAK DA design depicted in the patent filing is not identical to the B-2 and instead incorporates certain design elements of the experimental X-47B drone with its pronounced cranked wing, a less severe angle of sweep to the wing, and a simplified trailing edge. The design also shares some design elements with the Russian S-70 Okhotnik. The X-47B is an American design that has been tested as a potential prototype for a drone or remotely controlled bomber and recently ahs been tested for use from American aircraft carriers.
Not surprisingly, Tupolev and Russian military officials have been mum about plans for the new bomber as well as the patented engine intake design and instead seem preoccupied with the travails of the Ukraine conflict, a war that has consumed huge Huge military resources and attention. If the patent actually does reveal Russian military plans for its next bomber, it seems unlikely that the aircraft would join the Russian air force any time soon.
Why It Matters. Arguably, one of the disadvantages of filing for registration of any intellectual property, whether it be copyrights, trademarks, or even patents, is the requirement that the filing party disclose essential information about that intellectual property being registered. Indeed, were it not for the disclosure requirement, the nature of intellectual property filings would be very different than what we’ve come to know.
Even trade secrets might be a registerable type of intellectual property despite the difficulty of trying to imagine how trade secrets could be registered without disclosing them to the administrative agency where they were registered (filing under seal, perhaps?).
But this situation points up one of the complicating factor of instituting a publicly accessible intellectual property registration systems, particularly for patent designs which would otherwise remain secret and for certain types of copyright such as computer software. Without disclosure, there can be no registration, even if it means disclosing information a registrant would like to keep confidential.