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The Ageing Bomber of the Russian Air Force the Tupelov-95 or Bear That Is Now Becoming Obsolete.

MG is a senior air warrior who has seen combat and is an alumnus of the Staff College and a writer on military matters.


The beginning

At the end of WW II the Soviet aircraft industry was rising up with the help of German technology. The Russians also tested the A-Bomb in 1949, but despite becoming a nuclear power did not have any delivery system. The Russian designer at the Tupolev works did reverse engineering on a crashed and abandoned B-29 and made a bomber. It was however just a makeshift arrangement.

Josef Stalin the Russian dictator called the designer Andrei Tupolev and directed him to make a heavy long-range bomber that could strike deep into America. The cold war was in full swing and the Russians desperately needed a delivery bomber to be able to strike at the distant shores of the USA.

This directive was given in 1949 and the genius of Andrei Tupolev was apparent as he had a prototype ready by 1951 and the first flight took place in 1952. This was the TU-95 a heavy bomber with a range of over 9000 miles. The plane gave the much-needed strike capability to the Soviet Air Force and Stalin was a delighted man.

The plane was codenamed the Bear by NATO and the west soon realized that the Russians had a plane that could deliver Atomic bombs over them.


Development of the TU-95

the TU-95 was a 4 engine turboprop plane which had a range of 9000 miles( without refueling). It had large bomb bays to carry and drop the older version of the Atom bombs which were free falling bombs propelled by gravity. It had a speed of 710 MPH and was a plane known for its resilience and endurance.

The plane had the most powerful engines in the world, the Kutzenov engines that at full speed could almost break the sound barrier. But the engines had a drawback as they created a tremendous noise and this noise was a giveaway. Even submerged submarines could hear the sound of the Bear's engines as they revved to full speed.

The plane, however, had other plus points. It could fly to the coast of California or Alaska and this was a cause of worry to the US air defense. The Russians used these bombers loaded with nuclear weapons as a deterrent against the USA as they cruised close to the US coast.

Further developments followed and the plane began to carry other platforms of destruction like the nuclear-tipped cruise missiles.The bear thus became a platform for the offense as it became a weapons arsenal. The planes often flew during the cold war years to the US coastlands and patrolled with nuclear weapons. they were a cogent threat to America. Though the TU-95 was by modern standards a slow plane, yet it packed a nuclear punch and even if the plane was destroyed it could still launch a few cruise missiles with deadly resultant effect.


Developments after the cold war

During the days of the cold war, the plane carried the Soviet flag to the far corners of the world. Many versions of the TU-95 appeared with the TU-114 maritime reconnaissance plane taking top honors. This was sold to the Indian navy which used it for sweeping the Indian ocean.

The end of the cold war, put the development of a jet bomber to replace the Bear into cold storage. The Bear was refurbished and inducted into the Russian air force as a strategic bomber. Vladimir Putin was keen that the bomber a symbol of Russian might, should continue with the air force. At present nearly 50 of these bombers are still in service. The plane is aging and last year 2 of the Bears crashed sending shock waves through the Russian airforce. The entire fleet was grounded for checks and allowed to fly again after being cleared



Last word

The plane is the pride of the Russians who pride in it as a strategic strike aircraft. Putin as a show of strength allowed the bombers once again to near the California coastline, reminiscent of the days of the cold war.This reminded the world and the USA that Russia is still a formidable power.

The Russians plan to continue the use of the Bear till 2040. The Bear is one of the landmark aircraft in military aviation and deserves a place in the Hall of Fame of military aircraft. The Russians are justifiably proud of this strategic heavy bomber.

End of the road?

However, the fact remains that the Bear is not the most modern of planes and its technology is off the 50s of the last century. In that respect, it is an outdated plane and can be considered obsolete. Yet, the Russian Air Force is persisting with this plane, and with the economy, in the doldrums, it is difficult to justify and maintain a plane just for nostalgia. It would be much better for the Russian Air Force to phase out this bomber. In a live situation and with a maximum speed of just 700 mph the plane is a sitting duck for any modern fighter.

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MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on June 24, 2021:

Tom, good to know about your connection with the Air Force. The TU 95 was a wonderful plane about how to five decades back. In my visit to Russia, I had seen this plane bomber version in one of the airbases. It had an awesome look and is a tribute to Russian engineering. The TU 124 was a gift by Russians to Comm Squadron but it was the fuel guzzler and it also crashed I think at Gauhati with pm Morarji and after that was not used.

tom on June 23, 2021:

tu 142 mr,tu114 airliner,tu 142 phased out by indian navy.b 52 660 mph,modern avionics,tu 142 not manuverable,loud nosie but long range and endurance 11 to 16 hours,tu 142 10 in indian navy ,no crash,one preserved in vizag.tu 142 albatoss,few tu 160 in, service,andrei tupolev and his son designer alexei deadtu 124 vvip squadron crash assam ,morarji desa idead ,my relative sqn ldr martin cyriac and rest of crew dead.tu 95 needs brother in 2004 met a cdr in,tu 142 navigator

Robert Sacchi on December 17, 2019:

You're welcome.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on December 17, 2019:

Thank you for commenting

Robert Sacchi on December 16, 2019:

Thank you for posting.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on December 16, 2019:

Thank you Robert for commenting

Robert Sacchi on December 16, 2019:

This is an interesting article about this iconic bomber, Thank you for posting.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on March 25, 2017:

Thank you Setank Setunk , nice comment.I also have traveled in the Bear albeit as a passenger when I visited Soviet Russia as an officer.

Setank Setunk on March 25, 2017:

This reminds me of the days of heated arguments over Turbo-fans vs. Turbo-props.

It is similar to the mistake made when we abandoned experiments with ramjets to focus on vertical rocket launch.

We still have turbo-props today, but I wonder how advanced they might be if they received an extra 50 years of intense development as with turbo-props.

I love the Bear, even got to see one close up: Nice article.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on August 30, 2016:

Thank you, Lawrence, it's such pleasure to read your comments.

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on August 30, 2016:


The 'Backfire' bomber as NATO knew it was the one plane that the west was truly afraid of and the Russians knew it.

Even today they use the 'Backfire' to test Western responses and our willingness to protect the Baltic states.

Recently I was reading that the RAF deploys regularly to patrol the skies over Estonia and Latvia and in the average month they'll intercept forty or more 'unscheduled' flights mainly of the Tupelovs probing the air defenses.

A great hub about a worthy foe

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on August 03, 2016:

Thank you Builders for reading and commenting

Buildreps from Europe on August 03, 2016:

That was an interesting read, emge. I knew some things about the bear bomber, I learned so much more now about this aircraft.

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