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Tupolev Tu-95

Tu-95MS Bear H RF-94130 off Scotland in 2014
Role Strategic bomber, missile carrier, airborne surveillance
National origin Soviet Union
Manufacturer Tupolev
First flight 12 November 1952
Introduction 1956
Status In service
Primary users Soviet Air Forces
Soviet Navy
Russian Air Force
Produced 1952–1994
Number built 500+
Variants Tupolev Tu-114 passenger airliner
Tupolev Tu-142 maritime patrol
Tupolev Tu-95LAL nuclear-powered

The Tupolev Tu-95 (Russian: Туполев Ту-95; NATO reporting name: "Bear") is a large, four-engine turboprop-powered strategic bomber and missile platform. First flown in 1952, the Tu-95 entered service with the Soviet Union in 1956 and is expected to serve the Russian Air Force until at least 2040.[1] A development of the bomber for maritime patrol is designated Tu-142, while a passenger airliner derivative was called Tu-114.

The aircraft has four Kuznetsov NK-12 engines, each driving contra-rotating propellers. It is the only propeller-powered strategic bomber still in operational use today. The tips of the propeller-blades move faster than the speed of sound, making it one of the noisiest military aircraft.[2] Its distinctive swept-back wings are at a 35° angle.


  • Design and development 1
    • Tu-116 1.1
  • Operational history 2
    • Cold War symbol 2.1
    • Present and future status 2.2
  • Variants and derivatives 3
  • Operators 4
    • Current 4.1
    • Former 4.2
  • Specifications (Tu-95MS) 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Design and development

A Tu-95MS in 2007.
A Tu-95 showing its swept wing and anti-shock bodies

The design bureau led by Andrei Tupolev designed the Soviet Union's first intercontinental bomber, the 1949 Tu-85, a scaled up version of the Tu-4, a Boeing B-29 Superfortress copy.[3]

A new requirement was issued to both Tupolev and Myasishchev design bureaus in 1950: the proposed bomber had to have an un-refueled range of 8,000 km (4,970 mi)—far enough to threaten key targets in the United States. Other goals included the ability to carry an 11,000 kg (12.1 ton) load over the target.

The big problem for Tupolev was the engine choice: the Tu-4 showed that piston engines were not powerful enough to fulfill that role, while the fuel-hungry AM-3 jet engines of the proposed T-4 intercontinental jet bomber did not provide adequate range.[4] Turboprops offered more power than the piston engines and better range than jets available for the new bomber's development at the time, while offering a top speed in between these two alternative choices.

Tupolev's proposal was selected and Tu-95 development was officially approved by the government on 11 July 1951. It featured four Kuznetsov[5] coupled turboprops, each fitted with two contra-rotating propellers of four blades each, producing a nominal 8,948 kW (12,000 eshp) power rating. The then-advanced engine was designed by a German team of ex-Junkers prisoner-engineers under Ferdinand Brandner. In contrast, the fuselage was conventional: a mid-wing cantilever monoplane with 35 degrees of sweep, an angle which ensured the main wing spar passed through the fuselage in front of the bomb bay. Retractable tricycle landing gear was fitted, with all three gear strut units retracting rearwards, with the main gear units retracting rearwards into extensions of the inner engine nacelles.

The Tu-95/I, with 2TV-2F engines, first flew in November 1952 with test pilot Alexey Perelet at the controls.[6] After six months of test flights this aircraft suffered a propeller gearbox failure and crashed, killing Perelet. The second aircraft, Tu-95/II featured four of the 12,000 ehp Kuznetsov NK-12 turboprops which proved more reliable than the coupled 2TV-2F. After a successful flight testing phase, series production of the Tu-95 started in January 1956.[5]

A Tu-95MS simulating aerial refueling with an Ilyushin Il-78 during the Victory Day Parade in Moscow on 9 May 2008.

For a long time, the Tu-95 was known to U.S./NATO intelligence as the Tu-20. While this was the original Soviet Air Force designation for the aircraft, by the time it was being supplied to operational units it was already better known under the Tu-95 designation used internally by Tupolev, and the Tu-20 designation quickly fell out of use in the USSR. Since the Tu-20 designation was used on many documents acquired by U.S. intelligence agents, the name continued to be used outside the Soviet Union.

Initially the United States Department of Defense evaluated the Tu-95 as having a maximum speed of 644 km/h (400 mph) with a range of 12,500 km (7,800 mi).[7] These numbers had to be revised upward numerous times.

Like its American counterpart, the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, the Tu-95 has continued to operate in the Russian Air Force while several subsequent iterations of bomber design have come and gone. Part of the reason for this longevity was its suitability, like the B-52, for modification to different missions. Whereas the Tu-95 was originally intended to drop free-falling nuclear weapons, it was subsequently modified to perform a wide range of roles, such as the deployment of cruise missiles, maritime patrol (Tu-142), and even civilian airliner (Tu-114). An AWACS platform (Tu-126) was developed from the Tu-114. An icon of the Cold War, the Tu-95 has served not only as a weapons platform but as a symbol of Soviet and later Russian national prestige. Russia’s air force has received the first examples of a number of modernised strategic bombers Tu-95MSs following upgrade work. Enhancements have been confined to the bomber’s electronic weapons and targeting systems.[8]


A Tu-116 preserved at Ulyanovsk Aircraft Museum.

Designed as a stopgap in case the Tu-114A was not finished on time, two Tu-95 bombers were fitted with passenger compartments. Both aircraft had the same layout: office space, a passenger cabin consisting of 2 sections which could each accommodate 20 people in VIP seating, and the rest of the 70 m³ cabin configured as a normal airliner. Both aircraft were eventually used as crew ferries by the various Tu-95 squadrons.[9] One of these machines is preserved at Ulyanovsk Central Airport.

Operational history

Cold War symbol

The Tu-95RT variant in particular was a veritable icon of the Cold War as it performed a maritime surveillance and targeting mission for other aircraft, surface ships and submarines. It was identifiable by a large bulge under the fuselage, which reportedly housed a radar antenna and that was used to search and detect surface ships.

In a series of nuclear surface tests that were carried out by the Soviet Union in the early through mid 1960s, on October 30, 1961 a modified Tu-95 carried and dropped the AN602 device named Tsar Bomba, which was the most powerful thermonuclear device ever detonated.[10] The bomb was attached outside underneath of the aircraft, as it could not be carried internally inside the Tu-95's bomb-bay. Video footage of that particular test exists[11] as it was filmed for documentation, and shows the plane taking off carrying the bomb, in flight scenes of the interior and exterior of the plane and the detonation.

Present and future status

In 1992, newly independent Kazakhstan began returning the Tu-95 aircraft of the 79th Heavy Bomber Aviation Division at Dolon air base to the Russian Federation.[12] The bombers joined those already at the Far Eastern Ukrainka air base.[13]

A Tu-95 escorted by an RAF Typhoon

All Tu-95s now in Russian service are the Tu-95MS variant, built in the 1980s and 1990s. On 18 August 2007, President Vladimir Putin announced that Tu-95 patrols would resume, 15 years after they had ended.[14]

NATO fighters are often sent to intercept Tu-95s as they perform their missions along the periphery of NATO airspace, often in close proximity to each other.[15][16][17][18]

Russian Tu-95s reportedly took part in a naval exercise off the coasts of France and Spain in January 2008, alongside Tu-22M3 Backfire strategic bombers and airborne early-warning aircraft.[19]

During the Russian Stability 2008 military exercise in October 2008, Tu-95MS aircraft fired live air-launched cruise missiles for the first time since 1984. The long range of the Raduga Kh-55 cruise missile means Tu-95MS Bears can once again serve as a strategic weapons system.[20]

On July 14, 2015 it was reported that a TU-95MS had crashed outside Khabarovsk, killing two of seven crew members.[21] In June of 2015 a TU-95 ran off a runway at the Ukrainka bomber base and caught fire during take-off in the far eastern Amur region.[22][23]

Variants and derivatives

A Tu-95 performs a fly-over with an Il-78 and two MiG 29s simulating aerial refueling at the Victory Day Parade in Moscow on 9 May 2008.
A Tu-95RTs Bear D (Door Number 17) of Soviet Naval Aviation in flight in May 1983
Tupolev Tu.95LL
  • Tu-95/1: The first prototype powered by Kuznetsov 2TV-2F coupled turboprop engines.
  • Tu-95/2: The second prototype powered by Kuznetsov NK-12 turboprops.
  • Tu-95/Tu-95M: Basic variant of the long-range strategic bomber and the only model of the aircraft never fitted with a nose refuelling probe. Known to NATO as the Bear A.
  • Tu-95K: Experimental version for air-dropping a MiG-19 SM-20 jet aircraft.
  • Tu-95K22: Conversions of the older Bear bombers, reconfigured to carry the Raduga Kh-22 missile and incorporating modern avionics. Known to NATO as the Bear G.
  • Tu-95K/Tu-95KD: Designed to carry the Raduga Kh-20 air-to-surface missile. The Tu-95KD aircraft were the first to be outfitted with nose probes. Known to NATO as the Bear B.
  • Tu-95KM: Modified and upgraded versions of the Tu-95K, most notable for their enhanced reconnaissance systems. These were in turn converted into the Bear G configuration. Known to NATO as the Bear C.
  • Tu-95M-55: Missile carrier.
  • Tu-95MR: Bear A modified for photo-reconnaissance and produced for Naval Aviation. Known to NATO as the Bear E.
  • Tu-95MS/Tu-95MS6/Tu-95MS16: Completely new cruise missile carrier platform based on the Tu-142 airframe. This variant became the launch platform of the Raduga Kh-55 cruise missile and put into serial production in 1981.[24] Known to NATO as the Bear H and was referred to by the U.S. military as a Tu-142 for some time in the 1980s before its true designation became known.
    • Tu-95MS6: Capable of carrying six Kh-55, Kh-55SM or Kh-555 cruise missiles on a rotary launcher in the aircraft's weapons bay. 32 built.[25]
    • Tu-95MS16: Fitted with four underwing pylons in addition to the rotary launcher in the fuselage, giving a maximum load of 16 Kh-55s or 14 Kh-55SMs. 56 built.[25]
  • Tu-95N: Experimental version for air-dropping an RS ramjet powered aircraft.
  • Tu-95RTs: Razvedchik Tseleukazatel: Variant of the basic Bear A configuration, redesigned for maritime reconnaissance and targeting as well as electronic intelligence for service in the Soviet Naval Aviation. Known to NATO as the Bear D.
  • Tu-95U Uchebnyy: Trainer: Training variant, modified from surviving Bear As but now all have been retired. Known to NATO as the Bear T.
  • Tu-95V: Special carrier aircraft to test-drop the largest thermonuclear weapon ever designed, the Tsar Bomba.
  • Tu-96: long-range intercontinental high-altitude strategic bomber prototype, a high-altitude version of the Tupolev Tu-95 aircraft with high-altitude augmented turboprop TV-16 engines and with a new, enlarged area wing. Plant tests of the aircraft were performed with non-high altitude TV-12 engines in 1955–1956.[26]
  • Tu-114: Airliner derivative of Tu-95.
  • Tu-116: Tu-95 fitted with passenger cabins as a stop-gap while the Tu-114 was being developed. Only two converted.[27]
  • Tu-95LAL: Experimental nuclear-powered aircraft project.
  • Tu-126: AEW&C derivative of Tu-114, itself derived from the Tu-95.
  • Tu-142: Maritime reconnaissance/anti-submarine warfare derivative of Tu-95. Known to NATO as the Bear F.

Several other modification of the basic Tu-95/Tu-142 airframe have existed, but these were largely unrecognized by Western intelligence or else never reached operational status within the Soviet military.


A lineup at sunset of Tu-95MS at Engels Air Force Base in December 2005.


 Russian Federation

  • Russian Air Force: 63 Tu-95MS strategic bombers. As of 2012, 55 of them are combat-ready.[28]



 Union of Soviet Socialist Republics

  • Soviet Air Forces, Long Range Aviation: Passed on to Russia and Ukraine.
    • The first Tu-95 division, 106th TBAD (Heavy Bomber Air Division), was formed in 1956. The division commander was twice-Hero of the Soviet Union A. G. Molodchi.[30] The 106th TBAD incorporated the 409th TBAP (Heavy Bomber Air Regiment) (commander – Colonel M. M. Kharitonov) which was raised late in 1956 and the 1006th TBAP (commander – Colonel V. P. Pavlov) raised in 1956. The 106th TBAD's base was Uzin near Kiev.
    • The 1223rd TBAP in Semipalatinsk, under the command of Hero of the Soviet Union Colonel V. M. Bezbokov, was raised in 1957, within the 79th Air Division (commander – twice-Hero of the Soviet Union General Major M. P. Taran). The 1223rd's targets were Canada and the north of the US.
  • Soviet Naval Aviation

Specifications (Tu-95MS)

Right view of the Tupolev Tu-95

Data from Combat Aircraft since 1945[31]

General characteristics
  • Crew: 6–7; pilot, co pilot, flight engineer, communications system operator, navigator, tail gunner plus sometimes another navigator.[32]
  • Length: 46.2 m[33] (151 ft 6 in[33])
  • Wingspan: 50.10 m[33] (164 ft 5 in[33])
  • Height: 12.12 m (39 ft 9 in)
  • Wing area: 310 m² (3,330 ft²)
  • Empty weight: 90,000 kg (198,000 lb)
  • Loaded weight: 171,000 kg (376,200 lb)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 188,000 kg (414,500 lb)
  • Powerplant: 4 × Kuznetsov NK-12M turboprops, 11,000 kW (14,800 shp)[34] each



See also

Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
Related lists


  1. ^ Kramnik, Ilya. "Оружие: Возвращение летающего медведя (English: Return of the flying bear"), (in Russian)., 19 July 2007 Retrieved: 5 June 2010.
  2. ^ "Russian Bear is back." Russia Today via, 24 September 2007. Retrieved: 23 January 2011.
  3. ^ ."Ramp Tramp"Tu-4 "Bull" and Monino Aviation. Retrieved: 1 November 2009.
  4. ^ "Tupolev Tu-95 Bear." Federation of American Scientists. Retrieved: 23 January 2011.
  5. ^ a b Sobolev, D.A. and D.B. Khazanov. "Creation of the TV-2 (NK-12) turboprop engine 2 TV-2F." Retrieved: 5 June 2010.
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Tu-20/95/142 Bear: The fastest prop-driven aircraft." Retrieved: 5 June 2010.
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Tupolev Tu-116". Aviastar. Retrieved 9 July 2014. 
  10. ^ " Big Ivan, The Tsar Bomba ("King of Bombs"): The World's Largest Nuclear Weapon.", 3 September 2007. Retrieved: 5 June 2010.
  11. ^ [1]
  12. ^ "All Strategic Bombers Out Of Kazakhstan; Talks On Those In Ukraine." RFE/RL News Briefs, Vol. 3, No. 9, 21–25 February 1994, via Nuclear Threat Initiative.
  13. ^ Bukharin et al. 2004, p. 385.
  14. ^ Kramer, Andrew E. "Russia Resumes Patrols by Nuclear Bombers". The New York Times, 17 August 2007. Retrieved: 17 July 2010.
  15. ^ "UK jets shadow Russian bombers." BBC News, 6 July 2007. Retrieved: 5 June 2010.
  16. ^ "NORAD downplays Russian bomber interception". CBC, 25 August 2010. Retrieved: 6 September 2010.
  17. ^ Lilley, Brian. "Canadian jets repel Russian bombers". Calgary Sun, 30 July 2010.
  18. ^ "Portugal scrambles jets again to intercept Russian bombers".
  19. ^ Halpin, Tony. "RAF alert as Russia stages huge naval exercise in Bay of Biscay." The Times, 17 August 2007. Retrieved: 5 June 2010.
  20. ^ "Russia revives Cold War aircraft." Washington Times, 30 October 2008. Retrieved: 5 June 2010.
  21. ^ "Russian bomber crashes in the Far East, kills 2" 14 July 2015 | Retrieved:14 July 2015
  22. ^ "Russia Grounds 2nd Fighter Jet Fleet Amid String of Catastrophes" 6 July 2015 | Retrieved:2 August 2015
  23. ^ "Two Pilots Killed In Russian Tu-95 Bomber Crash" 14 July 2015 | Retrieved:2 August 2015
  24. ^
  25. ^ a b Mladenov Air International August 2015, pp. 43, 45.
  26. ^ "Tu-96." Retrieved: 5 June 2010.
  27. ^ Duffy and Kandalov 1996, pp. 131–132.
  28. ^ Karnozov, Vladimir. "IN FOCUS: Russian's next-generation bomber takes shape." Flight International, 15 October 2012.
  29. ^ "Музей дальней авиации, Полтава". 2012-08-27. Retrieved 2012-11-09. 
  30. ^ "SSM" manuscript from Yahoo TO&E group
  31. ^ Wilson 2000, p. 137.
  32. ^ "Tu-95 Bear Strategic Bomber." Air Force Technology. Retrieved: 20 January 2011.
  33. ^ a b c d Grant and Dailey 2007, p. 293.
  34. ^ Originally measured as 15,000 PS.
  • Bukharin, Oleg, Pavel L. Podvig and Frank von Hippel. Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces. Boston: MIT Press, 2004. ISBN 978-0-262-66181-2.
  • Duffy, Paul and Andrei Kandalov. Tupolev: The Man and His Aircraft. Shrewsbury, UK: Airlife, 1996. ISBN 978-1-85310-728-3.
  • Eden, Paul (editor). The Encyclopedia of Modern Military Aircraft. London: Amber Books, 2004. ISBN 978-1-904687-84-9.
  • Gordon, Yefim and Peter Davidson. Tupolev Tu-95 Bear. North Branch, Minnesota: Specialty Press, 2006. ISBN 978-1-58007-102-4.
  • Grant, R.G. and John R. Dailey. Flight: 100 Years of Aviation. Harlow, Essex: DK Adult, 2007. ISBN 978-0-7566-1902-2.
  • Mladenov, Alexander. "Still Going Strong". Air International. Vol. 89, No. 2, August 2015. pp. 40–47. ISSN 0306-5634.
  • Wilson, Stewart. Combat Aircraft since 1945. Fyshwick, Australia: Aerospace Publications, 2000. ISBN 978-1-875671-50-2.

External links

  • "Bears prowl the Atlantic skies" video report from Russia Today
  • Tu-95 Intercepts From The 1960s Till Today
  • Tu-95МС
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