The History and Development of the TU-95 Bomber

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The History and Development of the TU-95 Bomber

Tupolev Tu-95

The Tupolev TU-95 bomber, also known by its NATO reporting name "Bear", is a strategic bomber and missile carrier aircraft developed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The development of the TU-95 began in the early 1950s as the Soviet Union sought to develop a long-range bomber capable of delivering nuclear weapons to targets in the United States.

The Tu-95MS is the most recent bomber/missile carrier model. (Western designation Bear-H). It was produced until 1992 and put into use in 1984. Two subvariants exist, both of which are based on the maritime Tu-142. There are 16 long-range air-launched cruise missiles carried by the Tu-95MS16 (Bear-H16). (6 internally and 10 externally). The Tu-95MS6 (Bear-H6) is the more common version, and in compliance with the SALT/START treaties, the provision for external missile carriage was removed. By 2022, heavy bomber regiments at Engels and Ukrainka will be based with about 60 Tu-95MS aircraft of both versions. Three previously held planes were included in this total. Eleven Tu-95KUs from an earlier variant are also used as trainers by the Russian air force.

Even though at the time jet engines made more sense, a turboprop arrangement was chosen because it was more fuel-efficient. To arrive in the United States without refuelling during flight, this was crucial. A crew of seven people fly this plane.

The air-launched cruise missile Kh-55 is the primary weapon of contemporary Tu-95 iterations. It is a standoff weapon with a vast range. This missile comes in nuclear and conventionally armed varieties. The T-95MS and other updated Tu-95 models can also carry the more recent Kh-101 and Kh-102 air-launched cruise missiles. This bomber would be armed with nuclear-tipped missiles in the event of a conflict with NATO or China.

A Tu-160 long-range strategic bomber that was significantly more powerful was introduced in 1987. It was the second Soviet bomber capable of flying nonstop to the United States. However, the construction and upkeep of this bomber were very expensive. It could never take the place of the outdated Tu-95.

The Russian military frequently employed the Tu-95 in 2022 and 2023 to launch long-range missiles at Ukrainian targets from a standoff distance.

The TU-95's first flying prototype took to the skies in 1952, and the Soviet Air Force began using the aircraft in 1956. The TU-95 was remarkable for using four turboprop engines, which allowed it to travel farther and at higher altitudes while using less fuel than traditional jet engines.

Throughout its operational lifespan, the TU-95 underwent constant development and improvement; later models included enhanced propulsion, avionics, and armament systems. The TU-95MS, which entered service in the 1980s and could transport the Raduga Kh-55 nuclear cruise missile, was one notable variation.

The TU-95 was an essential component of the Soviet Union's nuclear deterrent posture for decades, and afterwards the Russian Federation. Additionally, the aircraft was exported to China and India, among other nations.

Despite its age, the TU-95 remains in service with the Russian Air Force as of 2021, although its role has been partially taken over by the more modern TU-160 and TU-22M3 bombers. The TU-95 is expected to remain in service until at least 2040, after which it will be replaced by newer designs.


The mid-swept wing and single-fin tail of this all-metal monoplane provide good aerodynamic qualities at high flying speeds. The large aspect ratio of the wing, the corresponding selection of the angle of its sweep, and a series of profiles over its span all contribute to improved flight characteristics. Four NK-12MP TVDs with coaxial four-bladed AV-60K propellers make up the Tu-95MS's engine. The aircraft's fuel is stored in three soft tanks in the centre portion and the back of the fuselage, as well as eight sealed compartments in the wing box section (box-tanks). There is central fueling. For the air refuelling system, there is a fuel reception rod.

The Tu-95 aircraft has a high-positioned cantilever three-spar wing and is constructed in accordance with standard aerodynamic arrangement. High aerodynamic quality at fast flying speeds is guaranteed by this aerodynamic architecture. The large aspect ratio of the wing, the corresponding selection of the angle of its sweep, and a series of profiles over its span all contribute to improved flight characteristics. The Tu-95MS's power source comprises four NK-12M (MB) turboprops with a combined output of 15,000 horsepower and coaxial, four-blade AV-6ON screws.

The employment of a swept wing and, more significantly, the installation of turboprop engines—a first in the world of aircraft production for this class—were two features of the new design. The N.D. Kuznetsov-designed NK-12 turboprop engines and coaxial multi-blade K.I. Zhdanovs propellers were unmatched in terms of power and efficiency across all flight modes.

In the middle of December 1951, the 95 aircraft's preliminary design was complete. In it, the OKB guaranteed a practical flight range of 14,500–17,500 km and pledged to go beyond the standards for the flight range. It also promised a cruising speed of 750–800 km/h at altitudes of 10,000–14,000 m.

Technically speaking, the "95th" initiative was designed to attack political and administrative institutions, military bases, seaports, military-industrial complexes, and strategic targets that were far behind enemy lines. The new machine was to be utilised for a variety of strategic objectives as well as for attacking ships with mines, torpedoes, and bombs in remote maritime theatres (the aircraft was to have mines, high-altitude torpedoes, and up to four guided bombs on an external sling in its combat arsenal).

The aircraft's ability to deliver strategic nuclear strikes with swap-falling nuclear bombs was one of its primary functions, hence the bomb bay was built with thermal insulation and electrical heating. The compartment's temperature has to be kept between +5 and +25. According to the preliminary design, the maximum bomb load was guaranteed to be 15,000 kg, the typical bomb load was 5,000 kg, and the maximum bomb calibre was 9,000 kg. In parallel, research on the issues surrounding the stability of aircraft structures to the effects of nuclear weapons' damaging factors, as well as the issues surrounding their impact on the crew and potential protective measures, was started by the OKB, TsAGI, and other businesses and organisations.

According to the design bureau, the 95 aircraft should have been nearly impossible for enemy interceptor fighters to successfully intercept due to their high flight speeds, high practical altitudes, and powerful defensive weapons (a remote cannon fire system with virtually no dead zones, proposed installation of passive and active REP systems on the aircraft).


The 1949 Tu-85, an enlarged variant of the Tu-4, a Boeing B-29 Superfortress replica, was created by the design bureau under the direction of Andrei Tupolev. It was the Soviet Union's first intercontinental bomber. In 1950, the Tupolev and Myasishchev design bureaus received a new directive: the projected bomber had to have an unrefueled range of 8,000 km (5,000 mi), which was sufficient to pose a threat to important targets in the United States. Other objectives included being able to lift a weight weighing 11,000 kg (24,000 lb) over the target.

The Tu-4 demonstrated that piston engines were inadequate for such a huge aircraft, and the AM-3 jet engines for the projected T-4 intercontinental jet bomber consumed too much fuel to provide the necessary range, therefore Tupolev was forced to choose an appropriate type of powertrain. When compared to the turbojets that were then available, turboprop engines were more powerful than piston engines, provided superior range, and had a similar top speed. Additionally, turboprops were first chosen for the British long-range transport aircraft, the Saunders-Roe Princess, the Bristol Brabazon Mk 2 and the Bristol Britannia, as well as the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress to suit its long range requirement.

On July 11, 1951, the government formally authorizes the Tu-95 design with Tupolev's intended turboprop installation. It employed four Kuznetsov coupled turboprops with a nominal 8,900 kW (12,000 hp) power rating, each with two contra-rotating propellers with four blades each. The engine was created by a German team of ex-prisoners of the Junkers under Ferdinand Brandner. It was cutting-edge for its day.

The primary wing spar was ensured to pass through the fuselage in front of the bomb bay thanks to the traditional mid-mounted wing's 35-degree sweep. Retractable tricycle landing gear was installed, with the main gear units folding into extensions of the inner engine nacelles and all three gear strut units retracting rearward.

U.S./NATO intelligence long referred to the Tu-95 as the Tu-20. Although this was the aircraft's initial designation by the Soviet Air Force, by the time it was delivered to operational units, Tupolev had better recognised it as the Tu-95 internally, and the Tu-20 designation quickly became obsolete in the USSR. The term Tu-20 persisted in use outside of the Soviet Union because it was written on numerous documents that American intelligence officers obtained. The Tu-95 was once estimated by the US Department of Defense to have a range of 12,500 km and a top speed of 640 km/h (400 mph). (7,800 mi). Numerous times, these figures have to be corrected upward.

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

The Tu-95 has remained in service in the Russian Air Force, much like its American counterpart, the B-52, despite numerous successive generations of bomber design coming and going. Its adaptability to mission-specific modifications, like the B-52, contributed to its durability.


The K-016 Sprut missile initialization system, which allows for the use of longer-range Kh-55SM missiles, is only used by Tu-95MS16 aircraft; older K-012 Osina aircraft are not affected by the modernizations; in other words, only aircraft built after 1986 are upgraded. This sums up to a fleet of between 30 and 35 planes.

The Tu-95MS Saratov was the first Tu-95 modernised to accommodate the Kh-101/102 missiles, and it was unveiled at the Beriev aircraft facility in Taganrog at the beginning of 2015. In March 2015, it was given to the Russian Air Force. Three aircraft per year, starting in 2015, are being serially modernised at the Aviakor aircraft plant in Samara. The Tu-95MS Dubna, which was given to the Russian Air Force on November 18, 2015, was the first Tu-95 that Aviakor modernised. The Russian company Gefest & T's SVP-24 sighting and computing equipment will be installed on modified Tu-95MS aircraft in the future.

The second and largest phase of the modernization programme is referred to as Tu-95MSM. It calls for the replacement of the current Obzor-MS radar with the new Novella NV1.021 passive electronically scanned array radar, as well as the installation of the Meteor-NM2 airborne defence system and the new S021 navigation system.

The updated Kuznetsov NK-12MPM turboprop engines and new AV-60T propellers on the aircraft modernised to the "MSM" type will also lower vibration levels by 50%. The tail turret is then removed. On August 22, 2020, the first Tu-95MSM took flight for the first time. In August 2021, a new contract was signed for the upgrade of Tu-95MS strategic missile-carrying aircraft to Tu-95MSM status.

Tu-95 BEAR (TUPOLEV) Variants

1. BEAR A - TU-95 / TU-95M: The Bear A is a strategic bomber with a great range and a high altitude bombing capability. At its maximum design range, the TU-95 and TU-95M bombers were intended to carry 9,000 kg of bombs.

2. BEAR - TU-95V: The 1956-built Tu-95V was designed to transport big hydrogen bombs. This aircraft was utilised for training since hydrogen bombs were not operational until the end of the 1950s.

3. BEAR - TU-95N: In 1958, OKB-256 P.V. Tsibin transformed a single aircraft into the TU-95N, which was employed to transport the "2RS" attack aircraft.

4. BEAR B - TU-95K / TU-95KD: The Bear B was equipped with a single Kangaroo air-to-surface missile, which had a 350 nautical mile range.

5. BEAR C - TU-95KM: A new radio engineering and navigation system was installed on certain TU-95K and TU-95KD bombers in the 1960s, and they were given the new designation of TU-95KM.

6. Tu-96: The NK-16, a high-speed bomber with turboprop engines, was never put into flight.

7. Tu-119: The atomic engine that was being developed on the basis of the test bench Tu-95M never took flight.

8. BEAR D - TU-95RTs: A Bear A variant that may also conduct ELINT reconnaissance is the Bear D. The TU-95RTS maritime reconnaissance aircraft underwent its first flight test in September 1962 after being developed in the early 1960s.

9. BEAR E - TU-95U: The Bear E is a Bear A variant with photo-reconnaissance capabilities. By converting extra Tu-95M aircraft, 12 were reportedly created for Naval Aviation.

10. BEAR F - TU-142 / TU-142M: The Tupolev Tu-142 "Bear" is an aircraft that was first introduced as a strategic bomber in the early 1950s. It is the last maritime version of the design.

11. Tu-142M 'Bear-F Mods 2-4': ASW variants with a lengthened fuselage, redesigned cockpit, and descending gas bar; Mod 3 plane with a protruding pin back magnetic detector in the end section of the keel, more streamlined rear fuselage; Mod 4 plane with radome radar antenna at the tip in the centre of glazed bow; a group of new multisensor antenna under the bow of the new antennas; and early warning under the tail; exported to India.

12.  BEAR F - TU-142LL: The test engine was positioned in a semi-retractable cradle under the centre-section of at least one "Bear-F" that had been modified to use as an engine test bed.

13. BEAR - TU-95K5: The TU-95K-5, a new Bear upgrade that was intended to carry two KSR-5 [AS-6 KINGFISH] missiles, was in development between 1976 and 1977.

14. BEAR G - TU-95K22: Early in the 1970s, work started on retrofitting older TU-95K and TU-95KD bombers with Kh-22 air-to-surface missiles and the Backfire bombers' guidance systems.

15. BEAR - TU-95M-55: Work on the Kh-55 long-range air-to-surface missile began in the middle of the 1970s. Studies were done to equip the TU-95 with the Kh-55, which was initially intended to be used on the new TU-160 supersonic bombers.

16. BEAR H - TU-95MS: Since the Tu-95MS is based on the Tu-142, it differs from the TU-95 in a number of ways.

17. BEAR H6 - TU-95MS6: The Kh-55 air-to-surface missiles were launched from a rotary launcher inside the bomb bay of the TU-95MS6 version of the aircraft.

18. BEAR H16 - TU-95MS16: Six missiles were carried by the TU-95MS16's fuselage, and ten missiles were carried by the wings.

19. BEAR H?? - TU-95MSM: The upgraded Tu-95 is outfitted with cutting-edge radio-radar hardware and a GLONASS-based target-acquiring/navigation system.

20. BEAR J - TU-142MR: The Tu-142M was further modified into the TU-142MR, which was utilised as a relay for undersea communications.

21. BEAR T - TU-95U: Twelve or so 'Bear-As' that were still flying were modified to the Tu-95U form, which included sealed bomb bays and a wide red band painted around the rear fuselage.


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