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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. 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 with contra-rotating propellers. It is the only propeller-powered strategic bomber still in operational use today. The Tu-95 is one of the loudest military aircraft, purportedly because the tips of the propeller blades move faster than the speed of sound. Its distinctive swept-back wings are at a 35° angle. The Tu-95 is one of the very few mass-produced propeller driven aircraft with swept wings (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tupolev_Tu-95).
The Tupolev Tu-95 (NATO reporting name: Bear) is a genuinely large, four-engine turboprop-powered strategic bomber and missile platform. first flown in 1952, the Tu-95 entered service With the former Soviet Union in 1956 and it is expected to serve the Russian Air Force until no less than 2040. A naval development of these bomber is designated Tu-142.
The Tu-95 BEAR was perhaps the most successful bomber produced by the Soviet aviation, enjoying long service in many different roles and configurations. It was the only bomber deployed by any country to make use of turbo-prop engines, Which provided extraordinarily long endurance at speeds only slightly less than comparable turbojet-powered heavy bombers (http://russian-aircarft.blogspot.nl/2012/01/tu-95-bear-strategic-bomber-aircraft.html).
It first rumbled into the skies back in the early 1950s, an aerial giant that epitomised Soviet military might. Even its codename – ‘Bear’ – underlined its great size and strength.
When the Tupolev Tu-95 first appeared in front of Western observers in 1956, it did so amid a revolutionary surge in aviation design; the decade after the end of World War II saw jet technology become ascendant. Yet the Bear had propeller-driven engines, which even then seemed archaic.
Few would have believed it would still be on the front-line nearly 60 years later, serving as a strategic bomber, maritime patrol aircraft – and the world’s noisiest spy plane.
The Tupolev Tu-95 first thundered over Soviet parades in the mid-1950s. Why does this giant, propeller-driven bomber still make headlines nearly 60 years later? Stephen Dowling investigates.
The Tu-95 Bear can climb at the rate of 10m per second. The maximum and cruise speeds of the aircraft are 920km per hour and 710km per hour, respectively. Its range is 15,000km. The combat radius and service ceiling of the aircraft are 6,400km and 12,000m respectively. The aircraft weighs around 94,400kg and its maximum take-off weight is 188,000kg (www.airforce-technology.com/projects/tu95bear/).
Last week, the Bear appeared in various British news outlets as two of them were escorted off the UK coast by RAF fighters. It was a traditional, routine patrol for Bears during the height of the Cold War – a routine Russia has recently reinstated. Yet the story of why the Russian Air Force continues to rely on this machine nearly 60 years later is more interesting than the sensationalist headlines.
The Bear has remained in service, partly, because of its visionary creator. Andrei Tupolev was the leading designer of large aircraft in the USSR, a gifted engineer who had been imprisoned during the height of Josef Stalin's purges in the 1930s on trumped-up charges. As World War II gave way to a Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union, Tupolev helped create the country's first nuclear-capable bomber, the Tu-4 'Bull'. It was a reverse-engineered copy of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, the aircraft that had dropped the atom bombs on Japan. During the US bombing campaign against Japan towards the end of the war, several of these advanced bombers had crash-landed on Soviet territory.
The Tu-4 gave the Soviet Air Force its first nuclear bomber, but had too short a range to reach the US from Soviet bases. In 1952 Tupolev and rival design bureau Myasishchev were asked to design a bomber that could carry a bomb load of 11 tonnes 8,000km – far enough to fly to the heart of the US. Myasishchev chose to build a four-engined jet bomber, the M-4 ‘Bison’, that stretched Soviet technical ability to the very limits. Tupolev, instead, decided to mix tried-and-trusted techniques with design features borrowed by the first generation of jets. It turned out to be a masterstroke.
“It took a conservative approach to the development of a long-range bomber,” says Douglas Barrie, an aviation analyst at the International institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), “and was seen as a less risky approach than the Myasishchev M-4 Bison.” (www.bbc.com/future/story/20150225-the-worlds-noisiest-spyplane)
“The Tu-95 is a flying anachronism,” [Scott] Palmer [professor of history at Western Illinois University] said, “though one that remains an essential component of the Russian strategic air arm.” (http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/russias-blast-the-past-beware-the-tu-95-bear-strategic-13669?page=2)
The Tu-95 is an enormous aircraft – it measures 151 feet (46m) from tip-to-tail and has a wingspan of 164 feet (50m). Empty it weighs 90 tonnes and is powered by four enormous turboprop engines, a form of gas turbine whose power drives propellers rather than being thrust out the back. The Bear has eight sets of propellers; all that power is enough to give it a top speed of well over 800km/h (500mph), nearly as fast as a modern airliner. Tupolev rightly predicted that early jet engine technology couldn't meet the requirements; the Myasishchev design was a resounding failure. Unlike most propeller-driven planes, the Tu-95's wings were sharply swept back by 35 degrees, much like those of early jet fighters. This helped the aircraft limit drag and reach such high speeds.
Tupolev's engines power two sets of 18-foot-long blades that spin in opposite directions; this makes them more efficient but also creates enormous noise. The Tu-95 is considered to be the noisiest aircraft in current service; it's even claimed that US submarines can hear the aircraft flying high overhead through their sonar domes while still underwater. Western fighter pilots who shepherded Bears over international airspace have reported being able to hear its turboprops above the sound of their own jet engines.
A heavily-modified version, the Tu-126 ‘Moss’, became the Soviet Union’s first airborne early warning platform – a giant flying radar post that could warn defences of approaching enemy aircraft. There was even a civilian airline version of the Bear, which still holds the world speed record for a turboprop plane – 870 km/h (540 mph), a record that it has held since 1960.
It was a modified Bear that dropped the most powerful human explosive ever devised, the ‘Tsar Bomba’ nuclear bomb tested by the Soviets in 1961. The hand-picked crew dropped the 50-megaton warhead over the Artic island of Novaya Zemlya; the bomb was delayed with the aid of a parachute so the aircraft could get to a safe distance. The force of the explosion – equivalent to 10 times all the explosives expended in World War II – caused the bomber to fall over a kilometre in height even though it was nearly 45km away (28 miles) when the device detonated.
The Soviets even toyed with the idea of a nuclear-powered Bear. One heavily modified example, the Tu-95LAL, was fitted with a small reactor and acted as a flying test bed. The plane made over 40 flights, though most were with the reactor shut down. The main concern was whether the aircraft could take off with the extra weight of the shielding needed to protect the crew from the effects of radiation. The quest to build a nuclear bomber ended up being shelved in the 1960s, but the flights had proven it was technically feasible.
Of the more than 500 Bears built since the 1950s, at least 55 of them are still thought to be serving in the Russian Air Force, while more of the maritime versions fly for the Russian and Indian navies. Just like the US Air Force’s B-52, the Bear has proven difficult to replace – upgrades and refits are likely to keep these Cold War-era behemoths in the air until at least 2040. Andrei Tupolev would be proud.
The aircraft is in service in the Russian Air Force Naval Aviation and Russian Air Force Air Army units, as well as with the Indian Air Force.
The Tu-95s were designed and built at the Tupolev Joint Stock Company aviation plant in Moscow. First flight of the Tu-95 was in 1954 and it entered service in 1956.
The Tu-95 has a maximum level speed of 650km per hour and an unrefuelled combat radius of 6,400km. With one in-flight refuelling, the aircraft has a combat radius of 8,200km.
The Tupolev aircraft regularly made long-range patrols near Nato and US airspace until the end of the Cold War. In August 2007, President Putin announced that the Russian Air Force would resume long-range patrols by Tu-95 and Tu-160 strategic bombers after a gap of 15 years.
In July 2007, two Tupolev Tu-95 aircraft headed towards Scotland and were met by UK RAF Tornado aircraft. In August 2007, two Tupolev Tu-95 aircraft flew towards a US air and naval exercise near the US military base at Guam. That same month, two UK RAF Typhoon aircraft were scrambled to intercept a Russian Air Force Tu-95 over the North Atlantic (www.airforce-technology.com/projects/tu95bear/).
Nederlandse F-16's van de Quick Reaction Alert van de Koninklijke Luchtmacht komen sinds 2010, samen met Deense en Britse toestellen, met enige regelmaat in actie om Russische TU-95's te onderscheppen boven de Noordzee..
De meeste Tu-95's die op dit moment in dienst van de Russische luchtmacht zijn, zijn begin jaren negentig gebouwd. Ze zijn van het Type Tu-95MS. Dit toestel wordt nog steeds gemoderniseerd; op dit moment is men bezig het primaire lucht-grond-wapen van de Tu-95, de KH-55 te vervangen. Mede door deze en andere updates is de verwachting dat het toestel nog wel tien tot vijftien jaar mee kan (https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tupolev_Tu-95).
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.
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. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tupolev_Tu-95)
Tupolev's engines power two sets of 18-foot-long blades that spin in opposite directions; they move so fast that the tips of them break the sound barrier
During the 1950s, the real technical innovation was the Bear’s 14,000 horsepower turboprop engines. The four Kuznetsov NK-12M engines each with two contra-rotating propellers are the most powerful turboprop engines in the world.
In fact, the engines are so powerful the tips of the 20-foot long propeller blades break the sound barrier when the pilot throttles up — one of the reasons the aircraft is so deafeningly loud (http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/russias-blast-the-past-beware-the-tu-95-bear-strategic-13669).
The aircraft is powered by four Samara Kuznetsov NK-12MP turboprop engines each rated at 11,033kW. The engines are fitted with eight bladed (two sets of four) contra-rotating propellers type AV-60N, of diameter 5.6m.
The aircraft has four wing tanks and three tanks in the fuselage, two in the centre and one in the rear section. The total fuel capacity is 95,000l. The aircraft has in-flight hose-and-drogue refuelling capability. The refuelling probe is above the nose and is fitted with flush lighting for night time operation. The information friend or foe antenna is installed above the refuelling probe.
The engines drive eight GSR-18000M generators for Type 12 SAM-55 accumulator batteries which provide DC power. AC power is provided by converters and four engine-driven AC generators. A gas turbine auxiliary power unit is installed in the dorsal fin (www.airforce-technology.com/projects/tu95bear/).
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.
On 17 November 2015, Tu-95s had their combat debut, being employed for the first time in long range airstrikes as part of the Russian military intervention in the Syrian Civil War.
On June 8, 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. As a result, one crew member was killed.
On July 14, 2015 it was reported that a Tu-95MS had crashed outside Khabarovsk, killing two of seven crew members. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tupolev_Tu-95)
At first glance, the Russian Tu-95 Bear strategic bomber looks like a 59-year-old flying anachronism, a Cold War leftover that has outlived its usefulness in a century when stealth is king.
The Bear is showing signs of its age. In recent months , two Tu-95 crashes led to the grounding of the entire fleet of more than 50 aircraft to resolve mechanical issues. Besides, there is nothing stealthy about the Bear.
Even when the bomber is in top-notch shape, the turboprop-powered Tu-95 is loud … really loud. In fact, it’s so noisy that listening devices on submerged U.S. submarines can hear a Bear flying overhead.
Furthermore, it has the radar signature of a flying big-box store. The plane is huge.
Photos of lumbering Bear-H bombers intercepted by sleek U.S. or NATO warplanes as they flew toward protected airspace are some of the most recognizable images of the East-West nuclear stand-off during the 1970s and ’80s.
But Cold War aviation genius Andrei Tupolev was no fool. He designed an adaptable plane that can carry one Hell of a load-out when it comes to bombs and missiles, fly thousands of miles from bases in Russia, loiter on the edges of enemy airspace, and deliver megatons of nuclear destruction.
As recently as July 4, multiple Bear bombers flew into U.S. air defense identification zones off California and Alaska. In fact, some of the Bears flew within 40 miles off the California coastline.
Technically, the bombers were still within international airspace. But call it Cold War 2.0 — the Kremlin is sending the same message the bomber has always sent.
“The current missions being flown by the Tu-95 are absolutely designed and principally intended to appeal to Russian pride and national identity,” said Scott Palmer, professor of history at Western Illinois University and author of Dictatorship of the Air: Aviation Culture and the Fate of Modern Russia (http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/russias-blast-the-past-beware-the-tu-95-bear-strategic-13669).
In 1956, the Soviet Military Air Forces wanted a replacement for the Tu-4 Bull, the USSR’s first nuclear-capable bomber. The Bull was a copy of the B-29 – Tupolev used crashed and interned examples of the B-29 as the basis of his reverse-engineered design.
But even though it was a clone of the same kind of aircraft that dropped the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear weapons, the Bull did not have the range necessary to strike targets within the United States if it was flown from Russia.
The new Soviet bomber would need to have a range of at least 5,000 miles and carry a nine-ton bomb load.
Tupolev’s new design was big even by contemporary standards. The Bear’s narrow fuselage is more than 150 feet long with a 164-foot wingspan. What’s more, the wings are swept back at a 35-degree angle to reduce drag.
In addition, the Bear possesses a 9,000-mile range without refueling. Because it was originally designed to carry 1950s nuclear gravity bombs, it has a large bomb bay and plenty of room on its wings to accommodate newly added hard points.
Today, that means the modified Tu-95MS can carry 16 AS-15 Kent cruise missiles — six internally in an MKU 5-6 rotary launcher, and 10 on external wing pylons. Each missile is capable carrying a 200-kiloton nuclear warhead, a yield roughly equal to 10 times the atomic bomb that destroyed Nagasaki.
Last year, Russia upgraded eight Tu-95s to cruise missile-carrying MS status with 10 more modified Bears scheduled for deployment by 2016 (http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/russias-blast-the-past-beware-the-tu-95-bear-strategic-13669).
The TU-95 houses a massive bomb bay at the centre of gravity of the aircraft, which is immediately aft of the wing central torsion box. The Tu-95MS Bear H is capable of carrying six KH-55 Granat (Nato designation AS-15 Kent) nuclear-armed long-range cruise missiles with a range of 3,000km. The missiles seem to be mounted on a catapult launch drum at the bomb bay.
Alternatively, the aircraft can carry 14 Kh-SD anti-ship missiles with a range of 600km or eight conventionally armed Kh-101 air launch cruise missiles, And also this have a range of as much as 3,000km. The rear gun compartment is fitted with a twin barrelled GSh-23L cannon. The entry into the rear turret is separate from the main crew entry and is through a ventral hatch (http://russian-aircarft.blogspot.nl/2012/01/tu-95-bear-strategic-bomber-aircraft.html).
Despite its drawbacks, what explains the Bear’s longevity? Hans M. Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project for the Federation of American Scientists, told War Is Boring the Russian Federation doesn’t have much choice.
The Russian defense industry fell into disarray after the collapse of the Soviet Union and has not recovered enough to sustain a new bomber program, Kristensen said. The Russians are developing a next-generation jet bomber that is expected to start test flights in the early 2020s, but it remains to be seen what they can build and how soon it can be deployed.
“Generally, airplanes can fly for a very long time, as long as spare parts are available,” he said. “Propeller engines are generally speaking less complex to operate than jet engines and many modern aircraft types also use propellers.”
“Moreover, although a Bear would not last long against a modern air defense system, it is equipped with long-range cruise missiles that provide considerable stand-off capability. So for now, the Bear serves Russia’s needs for standoff air-delivered weapons, signaling and national prestige.”
It may be flawed, but the Bear bomber will be going strong as both a weapons platform and a symbol of Russian might for years to come. Even with plans to build a jet-powered bomber during the next decade, upgrades will allow the Cold War giant to keep flying through the 2040s (http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/russias-blast-the-past-beware-the-tu-95-bear-strategic-13669).
Bomber: When it comes to aircraft, bombers come in all shapes and sizes. But when it comes to beer, a bomber is strictly regulated: one perfectly formed 22-ounce bottle of beer. It’s a large bottle of beer, usually good for two respectable pints’ worth of your favorite craft beer (http://highoctanegrowler.com/2013/05/beer-term-bomber/).