NATO Designation "Bear"
|Entered service in||1956|
|Dimensions and weight|
|Wing span||49.1 m|
|Weight (empty)||91.8 t|
|Maximum take off weight||185 t|
|Engines||4 x NK-12MP turboprop engines|
|Traction (dry/with afterburning)||4 x 15 000 kg|
|Maximum speed||910 - 925 km/h|
|Cruise speed||710 km/h|
|Service ceiling||12 000 - 17 000 m|
|Flying range||12 500 km|
|Operational radius||6 400 km|
|Aviation guns||2 x GSh-23 twin barrel aviation guns|
|Missiles||6 x Kh-15 or Kh-55 cruise missiles|
|Bombs||up to 25 t (instead of missiles)|
At the beggining of 1950s A.N.Tupolev design bureau began to work on the strategic bomber featuring intercontinental flying range programme. In 1952 this aircraft, designated as the Tu-95, made it's first flight. In 1956 aircraft entered service with the Soviet air forces long range aviation regiments. The Tu-95 was known as the "Bear" with NATO countries and remains an important part of Russia's long range air power.
The main features of a new aircraft became turboprop engines used with such class aircraft. The NK-12M engines, developed by N.D.Kuznetsov design bureau, were completed with a differential reducer, rotating two pairs of propeller blades into opposite directions. Such engine featured quiet low fuel consumption. Reserve of this engine appeared to be 10-fold higher than with any other bomber engine worldwide.
Bomb bay is placed in the middle of the fuselage. The first models of the Tu-95 "Bear" carried three air-to-ground missiles, one Kh-22 (AS-4 "Kitchen") missile, mounted under the fuselage, and two KSR-5 (AS-6 "Kingfish") missiles mounted under both wings. "Bear's" variant as a bomber carried up to 20 t of free fall bombs. In the front part of the fuselage aircraft is completed with a fixed in-flight refueling probe.
As a counterweight for United States programme of equipping the B-52 "Stratofortress" strategic bombers with an air launched cruise missiles, in Soviet Union between 1981 and 1984 enters service improved Tu-95MS, known as "Bear-H". It carries cruise missile armament. This model features improved wing shape, new tailplane, absolutely new electronic equipment, improved electronic countermeasures systems. However the most important improvement with the Tu-95SM "Bear-H" is it's armament.
There were built two subvariants of the "Bear-H" - the Tu-95MS16 "Bear-H16" carrying 16 Kh-55 long-range air launched cruise missiles (six internally and ten externally) and the more numerous Tu-95MS6 "Bear-H6" with provision for external missile carriage deleted in accordance with SALT/START Treaties. The Kh-55 cruise missiles feature range of fire in 2 500 - 3 000 kilometers. Internal missiles are carried in the rotary launchers, placed in the bomb bay. Dedicated "Bear-H" bombers carry up to 25 tones of bombs instead of missile armament. These aircraft were built at Samara aviation plant until 1992.
The Tu-95 aircraft became as a base for the Tu-126 airborne warning and control system, completed with "Liana" electronic complex. This aircraft was intended to detect air targets in the medium and high altitude.
One more aircraft based on the Tu-95 is the Tu-142 "Bear-F". It was designed primarily for anti-submarine warfare and a variety of naval roles. Around 40 examples equip a single Russian naval aviation regiment at Kipelovo, assigned to the Northern Fleet. The major anti-submarine warfare variants are the Tu-142MK "Bear-F" Mod 3 and improved Tu-142M-Z "Bear-F" Mod 4, the last of which was completed in 1994. The Tu-142MR "Bear-J" is a command post/communications relay platform for communicating with submerged nuclear-missile armed submarines. Such is the importance of the Tu-142 in Russian service, that surviving "Bear-F" Mod 4 airframes are likely to be updated with "Leninets" "Sea Dragon" system, which includes a new radar, low-light-level television, forward-looking infra-red, revised electronic surveillance measures and magnetic anomaly detection systems, and an armament of up to eight Kh-35 (AS-20 "Kayak") anti-ship missiles for an extended anti-surface vessel and anti-submarine warfare roles. The only Tu-142 export operator is the Indian navy which has seven Tu-142MK-Es at Arrakonam, These are broadly similar to the "Bear-F" Mod 3, but have certain downgraded systems.
Recently about 60 Tu-95MS of both variants are based with heavy bomber regiments at Engels and Ukrainka. This total includes three aircraft formerly held in Ukraine. The Russian air force also operates 11 earlier-model Tu-95KUs as trainers. During the Cold War the Tu-95 strategic bombers were based at Cuba, Guinea, Angola, Somali and Vietnam. This allowed strategic command of the USSR to control virtually any global point. At the beginning of 1990s al Tu-95 were returned back from the foreign bases.
Further planned improvement of the Tu-95MS "Bear-H" is to add the Kh-101 air launched cruise missile and Kh-SD air-to-surface missile to the inventory of the aircraft to improve their conventional long-range precision strike capability.