Tupolev Bear

Often derided over the decades for its seeming propeller-driven quaintness, Tupolev's Bear remains every bit as viable a warplane as its B-52 counterpart, and looks to remain the backbone of the Russian bomber force for some time to come.

   The only true intercontinental range bomber to be fielded by the Soviets during the Cold War, the Tu-95 is a direct descendant of the bureau's Tu-4, and therefore of the B-29. The Tu-4 had given the Soviets a nominal capability to strike at some parts of the US, but a more capable aircraft was clearly needed. Tupolev's first attempt at a Tu-4 replacement, the Tu-80 of late 1949, was very clearly an evolved, stretched Bull with a conventional windscreen. The slightly later Tu-85 was further enlarged, but although these aircraft featured better range than the Tu-4, these piston-engined designs were recognized as dead ends. A much more radical development was then pursued, using an immensely powerful turboprop engine being developed under the auspices of the Kunetsov design bureau by former Junkers engineers.

Tu-95U Bear-T: Bear-As used for training; withdrawn.

Tu-95K/KD Bear-B: Like the US, the Soviets were also by the laet 1950s moving towards the concept of using bombers as launch platforms for standoff weapons, in response to the fielding of advanced interceptors and SAMs. The first missile-armed Bear was the Tu-95K, which could carry a single Kh-20 (AS-3 Kangaroo) semi-externally on the centerline. There was a large wrap-around radome on the nose for the associated Crown Drum guidance radar. The Tu-95KD added a fixed probe on the nose for taking on fuel from Bison tankers, while the Tu-95KM had added ESM.

Tu-95MR Bear-E: Bear-A bombers converted to photo recon platforms for the Soviet Navy.

Tu-142 Bear-F: The utlity of the Bear in the maritime role having been proven, Tupolev accordingly began work on a thoroughly revised machine for such work. This emerged in the early 1970s as the Tu-142, NATO codenamed Bear-F. This had the fuselage stretched forward of the wing, a larger rudder, double-slotted flaps, and lengthened inboard nacelles.

Tu-95K-22 Bear-G:  The obsolescence of the Kh-20 missile and the need for an updated standoff missile platform led to the K-22 program, which was started in the 1970s. This involved rebuilding older aircraft with new radar, warning systems and jammers, and the ability to carry a trio of Kh-22 ASMs under the fuselage and on wing pylons.

Tu-95MSM: Bear-H upgrade program that sees the fitment of external pylons for Kh-101/Kh-102 ALCMs, Glonass, and new radar.

Tu-96: Solitary prototype intended for high altitude operations with a new, larger wing and TV-16 engines. Flown with TV-12s; the definitive engines were never built.

Tu-95LAL: Conversion of a single Tu-95 to carry a WRL-100 nuclear reactor aloft in order to test how to shield the crew of a nuclear-powered aircraft. As with the US NB-36H, the Tu-95LAL retained standard non-nuclear engines. The Soviet program was conducted later than the US effort, with flights taking place between 1961-65.

Tu-119: Projected nuclear-powered Bear derivative, with NK-14 nuclear engines inboard and conventionally-fueled NK-12s outboard. Not proceeded with.


    "The Billion Dollar Bomber - Part Four" Air Enthusiast October 1971  Includes several Bear-D photos, a large 3-view, and side view diagrams of the Tu-114D, Bear-A, Bear-B, Bear-C, Tu-114, and the Moss
    Bear-D schematic drawing   Air International  May 1987 p.224-225
    "Inside the Mighty Bear"  World Air Power Journal Vol 20/ Spring 1995  p.24-25 Tu-142M-2 visit to RAF Fairford; includes cockpit, flight engineer, and radio operator station photos
    Ken Duffey  "Big Bear: Trumpeter Tu-95MS"   Scale Aviation Modeller International  December 2004  building the 1/72 Bear-H kit
    Photo: Tu-95MS after severe fire.  Combat Aircraft Monthly June 2013  p.32
    Photo: Bear-H RF-94122 with escorting RAF Typhoon   Air Forces Monthly  November 2015  p.102-103
    "Aviakor Delivers Its First Tu-95MSM"   Combat Aircraft Monthly  February 2016  p.17
    "Up-Armed Bears In Victory Day Parade"   Combat Aircraft Monthly  July 2016  p.22-23

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