Tu-16. The first Soviet long-range sweep-wing jet bomber in mass production.

The Tupolev Tu-16 (NATO reporting name: Badger) is a twin-engined jet strategic heavy bomber used by the Soviet Union. It has been flown for almost 70 years, and the Chinese license-built Xian H-6 remains in service with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force.

In the late 1940s, the Soviet Union was strongly committed to matching the United States in strategic bombing capability. The Soviets’ only long-range bomber at the time was Tupolev’s Tu-4 ‘Bull’, a reverse-engineered copy of the American B-29 Superfortress. The development of the notably powerful Mikulin AM-3 turbojet led to the possibility of a large, jet-powered bomber.

The Tupolev design bureau began work on the Tu-88 (“Aircraft N”) prototypes in 1950. The Tu-88 first flew on 27 April 1952. After winning a competition against the Ilyushin Il-46, it was approved for production in December 1952. The first production bombers entered service with Frontal Aviation in 1954, receiving the service designation Tu-16. It received the NATO reporting name Badger-A.

It had a new, large swept wing and two large Mikulin AM-3 turbojets, one in each wing root. It could carry a single massive FAB-9000 9,000 kg (20,000 lb) conventional bomb (the Russian equivalent in terms of size of the British Grand Slam, but lacking the ground penetrating capability) or various nuclear weapons for a range of around 4,800 km (3,000 mi). Production took place in three aviation plants, Kazan Aircraft Production Association, Kuybyshev, and Voronezh Aircraft Production Association.

Although the Tu-16 began as a high-altitude, free-fall bomber, in the mid-1950s, it was equipped to carry early Soviet cruise missiles. The Tu-16KS-1 (Badger-B) version could carry AS-1 missiles over a combat radius of 1,800 km (1,100 mi). These very large weapons were aerodynamically similar to the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 fighter, fitted with either a nuclear or conventional warhead, having a range of about 140 km (85 mi). They were intended for use primarily against US Navy aircraft carriers and other large surface ships. Subsequent Tu-16s were converted to carry later, more advanced missiles, while their designations changed several times.

Flight range – 7800 km, max. speed – 1050 km/h

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