Tupolev Tu-16

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Tu-16R "Badger-E"
Role Strategic bomber
Manufacturer Tupolev
First flight 27 April 1952
Introduction 1954
Retired 1993 (in former Soviet Union nations)
Primary users Soviet Air Force
Egyptian Air Force
Indonesian Air Force
Iraqi Air Force
Number built 1,509[1]
Variants Tupolev Tu-104
Tupolev Tu-124
Xian H-6

The Tupolev Tu-16 (NATO reporting name: Badger)[2] was a twin-engine jet bomber used by the Soviet Union. It has flown for more than 50 years, and the Chinese licence-built Xian H-6 remains in service with the People's Liberation Army Air Force.

Development[edit source | edit]

Tu-16 bomber at the Monino Museum.

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 version of the American B-29 Superfortress. The development of the extremely 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.

Rearside view of a Tu-16 Badger reconnaissance variant (most likely Tu-16R).

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 (19,800 lb) conventional bomb (the Russian equivalent of the British Grand Slam bomb) or various nuclear weapons to a range of around 4,800 km (3,000 mi).

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 (1,125 mi). These very large weapons were aerodynamically similar to the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 fighter, fitted with either a nuclear or conventional warhead, had a range of about 140 km (90 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.

Egyptian Tu-16s.

A versatile design, the Tu-16 was built in numerous specialized variants for reconnaissance, maritime surveillance, electronic intelligence gathering (ELINT), and electronic warfare (ECM). A total of 1,507 aircraft was constructed in three plants in the Soviet Union, in 1954–1962. A civilian adaptation, the Tupolev Tu-104, saw passenger service with Aeroflot. The Tu-16 was also exported to Egypt, Indonesia, and Iraq. It continued to be used by the Air Forces and naval aviation of the Soviet Union and subsequently Russia until 1993.

Delivery of the Tu-16 to China began in 1958, and the Xi'an Aircraft Industrial Corporation (XAC) produced a copy of it under the Chinese designation Xian H-6. At least 120 of these aircraft remain in service. 14 May 1965, one of the PLAAF Tu-16 bombers carried out the first airborne nuclear weapon test inside China.[3]

Variants[edit source | edit]

Among the main production variants of the Badger were the Tu-16 and Tu-16A bombers; Tu-16KS and Tu-16K-10 missile carriers; Tu-16SPS, "Elka", and Tu-16Ye ECM aircraft; Tu-16R reconnaissance aircraft; and Tu-16T torpedo bomber; others were produced from conversions. Individual aircraft could be modified several times, with designations changed, especially concerning missile-carrying aircraft.

  • Badger A (Tu-16) – This the basic configuration of the Tu-16 bomber deployed in 1954 to replace the Tu-4. Several modified models of these variant existed, all of which were known as Badger A in the West.
    • Tu-16A – Modified Tu-16s designed to carry nuclear bombs, one of main versions, with 453 built. Many of those units were subsequently converted into other variants.
    • Tu-16Z – An early specialized version of the Tu-16 that served as airborne tankers (a refuelling method: wing-to-wing), though they retain their medium bomber role.
    • Tu-16G (Tu-104G) – Fast air mail model, Aeroflot aircrew training version.
    • Tu-16N – A dedicated tanker version for Tu-22/Tu-22M bombers, with probe and drogue system. Entered service in 1963. Similar aircraft Tu-16NN converted from Tu-16Z.
    • Tu-16T – Limited production maritime strike version (torpedo bomber), that served in the Soviet Naval Aviation, and carried torpedoes, mines and depth charges. 76 built and some more converted. All units subsequently converted into Tu-16S configuration.
    • Tu-16S – A lifeboat carrier version used for search and rescue operations.
    • Tu-16Ye – These were equipped with heavy electronic warfare and electronic intelligence (ELINT) equipment.
  • Badger B (Tu-16KS) – Variant designed as a launch platform for two AS-1 Kennel/KS-1 Komet missiles. 107 built in 1954–1958, served with the Soviet Naval Aviation, Egypt and Indonesia. Soviet ones later converted with newer missiles.
Tu-16K-10-26 Badger C
  • Badger C (Tu-16K-10) – Another Naval Aviation variant, units of this version carried a single AS-2 Kipper/K-10S anti-ship missile. 216 built in 1958–1963. It differed from other variants having a radar in a nose. A further development, the Tu-16K-10-26, carried a single K-10S and two KSR-2 or KSR-5 AS-6 Kingfish missiles (K-26 missile complex). Some were later converted into ELINT platforms.
  • Badger D (Tu-16RM-1) – Maritime reconnaissance model with ELINT equipment; 23 converted from Tu-16K-10. It retained its radar in a nose and could guide K-10S missiles, fired from other planes, at targets.
  • Badger E (Tu-16R)Reconnaissance version of the airframe, with ELINT equipment, first of all meant for maritime reconnaissance. It could guide KS missiles.
    • Tu-16RM-2 – modified Tu-16R, serving in the Naval Aviation. It could guide KSR-2 missiles.
    • Tu-16KRM – Launch platforms for target drones (a variant of Tu-16K-26).
  • Badger F (Tu-16RM-2) – Another reconnaissance version based on the −16R/RM but with the addition of external ELINT equipment.
Tu-16 Badger G with KSR-5 missile
  • Badger G (Tu-16K/Tu-16KSR) – Serving in the Naval Aviation, these were conversions from earlier models. These were designed to carry bombs in internal bays in addition to carrying air-to-surface missiles externally, such as the AS-5 Kelt and AS-6 Kingfish. There existed numerous variants, designated either from carried missile complex (K-11, K-16 and K-26) or from missiles of these complexes (KSR-11, KSR-2 and KSR-5). Following further modifications, they were also given suffixes. Main variants:
    • Tu-16KSR-2 – carrying the K-16 complex (two KSR-2 missiles). Used from 1962. Similar aircraft, converted from other variants, were designated Tu-16K-16.
    • Tu-16K-11-16 – carrying the K-16 complex (KSR-2 missiles) or the K-11 complex (two anti-radar KSR-11 missiles). Used from 1962. Similar aircraft were designated Tu-16KSR-2-11. Over 440 Tu-16 could carry the K-16 or K-11 complex.
Tu-16K-26 or Tu-16KSR-2-11-16, with KSR-5 missiles under wings
    • Tu-16K-26 – carrying the K-26 complex (two KSR-5 missiles), retaining a capability of KSR-2 and 11 missiles. Used from 1969. Similar aircraft were designated Tu-16KSR-2-5-11 or Tu-16KSR-2-5 (no KSR-11 capability). Over 240 Tu-16 could carry the K-26 complex.
    • Tu-16K-26P – carrying the K-26P missiles (two anti-radar KSR-5P missiles, as well as KSR-5, 2 or 11).
  • Badger H (Tu-16 Elka) – Designed for stand-off electronic warfare and electronic counter-measures support.
  • Badger J (Tu-16P Buket) – Another electronic warfare variant configured as an ECM strike escort.
  • Badger K (Tu-16Ye) – Believed to be a version of the Badger F configuration possessing enhanced ELINT capability.
  • Badger L (Tu-16P) – Another version of the Badger J with more modern systems and used in ELINT role.

Operators[edit source | edit]

Current operators of the Tu-16/H-6 in bright red, former operators in dark red
 People's Republic of China
  • Egyptian Air Force : Operated Tu-16KS, Tu-16T, Tu-16KSR-2-11, and Tu-16R. Also operated H-6. Last retired in 2000.[1]
 Soviet Union

Specifications (Tu-16)[edit source | edit]

Orthographic projection of the Tupolev Tu-16.

General characteristics

  • Crew: 6–7
  • Length: 34.80 m (114 ft 2 in)
  • Wingspan: 33.00 m (108 ft 3 in)
  • Height: 10.36 m (34 ft 0 in)
  • Wing area: 165 m2 (1,780 sq ft)
  • Empty weight: 37,200 kg (82,012 lb)
  • Gross weight: 76,000 kg (167,551 lb)
  • Max takeoff weight: 79,000 kg (174,165 lb)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Mikulin AM-3 M-500 turbojets, 93.2 kN (21,000 lbf) thrust each


  • Maximum speed: 1,050 km/h (652 mph; 567 kn)
  • Range: 7,200 km (4,474 mi; 3,888 nmi)
  • Service ceiling: 12,800 m (41,995 ft)
  • Wing loading: 460 kg/m² (94 lb/sq ft)
  • Thrust/weight: 0.24


See also[edit source | edit]

Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era

References[edit source | edit]

Footnotes[edit source | edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e "VectorSite". The Tupolev Tu-16 "Badger". Retrieved 2007-01-12. 
  2. ^ http://www.designation-systems.net/non-us/soviet.html#_Listings_Bombers
  3. ^ "Tu-16 bomber carried out nuclear bomb test in China, 1965". AirForceWorld.com. Retrieved 15 July 2011. 
  4. ^ "World Air Forces". Armenia Air Force. Retrieved 2007-01-12. 
  5. ^ "World Air Forces". Azerbaijan Air Force. Retrieved 2007-01-12. 
  6. ^ a b "Aircraft Profile:Tupolev Tu-16 Badger". Air International. August 2006. 
  7. ^ "World Air Forces". Belarus Air Force. Retrieved 2007-01-12. 
  8. ^ "World Air Forces". Georgia Air Force. Retrieved 2007-01-12. 

Bibliography[edit source | edit]

External links[edit source | edit]