Tupolev Tu-16/Xian H-6



One of Russia’s first effective jet bombers, the Tupolev Tu-16 has enjoyed a frontline service career matched by few other types.

The Tu-16 was made possible by the development of the Mikulin AM-3 turbojet, which also powered the four engined Myasishchyev M-4 ‘Bison’. A prototype designated Tu-88 and powered by AM-3A turbojets flew for the first time on April 27 1952. A second, considerably lightened prototype flew later that year and the type was subsequently selected for production ahead of the rival llyushin II-46.

Early production Tu-16s covered by NATO’s ‘Badger-A’ designation include the Tu-16A nuclear bomber, torpedo armed naval Tu-16T and the Tu-16N tanker for other Tu-16s (using the unique wingtip to wingtip method). Of the ‘Badger-A’s, only Tu-16Ms survive in service, although over 100 Chinese built Xian H-6s remain in service.

The first anti-ship missile launching Tu-16 was the Kh-1 (AS-1 ‘Kennel’) firing Tu-16KS-1 ‘Badger-B’ with retractable radome (now retired). The Tu-16K-10 ‘Badger-C’ is identifiable by its large, flat nose radome housing the l-band ‘Puff Ball’ radar and carried a single Kh-1 OS (AS-2 ‘Kipper’) missile semi recessed under the fuselage (modified to Tu-16K-10-26 ‘Badger-C Mod’ standard it could carry a single Kh-26/AS-6 ‘Kingfish’). The similar Tu-16K-11-16 ‘Badger-G’ was developed to carry the 320km (170nm) range Mach 1.2 Kh-11/ Kh-15 (AS-5 ‘Kelt’). ‘Badger-G’s modified to fire the Kh-26 are designated Tu-16K-26 ‘Badger-G Mod’.

Many of the 1800 plus Tu-16s built were converted to Elint/reconnaissance platforms. The Tu-16Ye is an elint conversion of ‘Badger-C’s, as is the Tu-16P ‘Badger-K’ and Tupolev Tu-16P ‘Badger-L’, while the Tu-16R ‘Badger-E’ and Tu-16P ‘Badger-F’ are optical reconnaissance variants.

Finally the Tu-16PP ‘Badger-H’ and Tu-16RM and Tu-16KRM, both ‘Badger-J’, are EW jammers.

Xian H-6 medium bomber

In early 1956 the Soviet Union agreed to licence production of the Tupolev Tu-16 medium bomber (NATO reporting name Badger) in China. The aircraft, which first flew in April 1952 and entered Soviet Air Force service in February1954, represented the then-latest state of the art in Soviet bomber design. The Tu-16 had mid-set wings with moderate sweepback and conventional swept tail surfaces; the four-wheel bogies of the main landing gear units retracted aft, somersaulting through 1800 to lie in large fairings projecting beyond the wing trailing edge. The powerplant consisted of two Mikulin RD-3M-500 axial-flow turbojets with a take-off thrust of 9,520 kgp (20,990 Ibst) placed on the fuselage sides immediately aft of the rear wing spar so that the inlet ducts passed through the wing roots, the fuselage being ‘pinched’ in accordance with the area rule. The crew consisted of two pilots, a navigator/bomb-aimer (sitting in an extensively glazed nose), a dorsal gunner/radio operator sitting behind the pilots, plus two more gunners sitting in a separate pressure cabin in the rear fuselage. The defensive armament comprised three powered barbettes with twin 23-mm AM-23 cannons and a single fixed cannon of the same type in the nose.

The actual licence agreement for manufacture of the Tu-16 was signed in September 1957. Under the terms of this, China received two production Tu-16 bombers as pattern aircraft, a further two aircraft in the form of a semi-knocked-down (SKD) kit and a CKD kit, essential for mastering the assembly of the first examples, and a set of blanks and raw materials for parts manufacture together with the necessary technical documentation. All of this was supplied by plant No. 22 in Kazan’, the main manufacturer of the type.

In 1959 the decision was taken to begin licence production in China, and in the same year a large technical team left the USSR for China to assist in setting up series production. It remained in China until the autumn of 1960.

The Bureau of Aircraft Industry (BAI) allocated two factories in Harbin and Xian (sometimes spelled Xi’an) for Tu-16 production. A major reconstruction of the Harbin Aircraft Factory, in the course of which the shop floor area was doubled, began in 1958; the plant received assistance in the form of 200 qualified workers seconded from the Shenyang Aircraft Factory. In May 1959 the Harbin plant took delivery of the two Tu-16 pattern aircraft and the CKD kit, and assembly of a bomber from the kit began immediately. The first Chinese Tu-16 was assembled in just 67 days (28th June – 3rd September), making its maiden flight on 27th September 1959, and was handed over to the PLAAF that December.

In 1958 the large aircraft factory at Xian was completed, and to assist in Tu-16 production there 1,040 skilled technical and engineering staff and 1,697 other workers were transferred from Shenyang. In 1961 the BAI decided to concentrate all work on the Tu-16 at the Xian factory so that the Harbin plant could concentrate on the H-5; the transfer of production took place in 1962-64. The Chinese licence-built version was briefly designated Feilong-201 (Flying Dragon-201) but became the H-6 in 1964. The RD-3M-500 was built under licence at the Xian Engine Factory (with assistance from the Harbin and Shenyang plants) as the WP-8.

In 1964 the plant began manufacturing the jigs and tooling for series production of the H-6; new production methods differing from the Soviet ones were used, including explosive forming and epoxy resin male moulds instead of metal ones. In October 1966 the first airframe assembled from Chinese parts was finished, one year ahead of schedule; it underwent static tests at the BAI’s Aircraft Structure Analysis Research Institute in December 1968.

On 24th December 1968 the first Xian-built production H-6 bomber completely manufactured in China (with Chinese-made WP-8 engines) made its first flight The crew was commanded by test pilot Li Yuanyi, with Xu Wenhong as co-pilot After this, full-scale production of the H-6 in China got under way.

The reason that it took so long to establish H-6 in production in China was the disorganisation of the Chinese aircraft industry caused by the spread of the ‘Cultural Revolution’. A lot of design documentation was lost during the transfer of production from Harbin to Xian, and it took forever to restore it.

The London Institute for Strategic Studies estimates that approximately 120 H-6 bombers in various versions had been built up to 1987 when production was interrupted. It was resumed several years later.

The standard H-6 was 34.8 m (114 ft 2’Y64 in) long and 9.85 m (32 ft 35Y64 in) high, with a wing span of 34.2 m (112 ft F%4 in). The normal and maximum take-off weight were 72,000 kg (158,730 Ib) and 75,800 kg (167,110 Ib) respectively; the bomber could carry a normal weapons load of 3,000 kg (6,610 Ib) and a maximum weapons load of 9,000 kg (19,840 Ib). The maximum fuel load was 33,000 kg (72,750 Ib). The H-6 attained a maximum speed of 1,014 km/h (630 mph) at 6,250 m (20,500 ft), a cruising speed of 786 km/h (488 mph) or Mach 0.75 and a service ceiling Of 13,100 m (42,980 ft). The ferry range was 6,000 km (3,728 miles) and the combat radius was 1,800 km (1,120 miles).

H-6A nuclear-capable bomber

Even before production of the H-6 had been fully implemented, the modification of a Tu-16 assembled from Soviet parts into a carrier for the Chinese atomic bomb started at Xian under the codename ‘Mission 21-511′. The bomb bay was heat-insulated and air-conditioned to provide the correct environment for the nuclear weapons, the bomb release system was modified and the necessary monitoring and recording equipment for nuclear testing was installed. To all intents and purposes this aircraft was the counterpart of the Soviet Tu-16A. The modification work was supervised by Li Xipu.

The modified aircraft was the prototype of the nuclear-capable H-6A. On 14th May 1965 this aircraft captained by Li Yuanyi successfully carried out the third Chinese nuclear test, dropping a 20-kiloton atomic bomb over the Lop Nor nuclear test range in western China. The flight crew received a collective government award for this mission. On 29th September 1969, an H-6 bomber dropped China’s first thermonuclear bomb with a yield of 3,000 kilotons.

H-6D (H-6 IV, B-6D) missile strike aircraft

In 1975 work began on an anti-shipping missile strike version of the H-6A for the PLANAF. The carrier, given the designation H-6D (orginally H-6 IV), featured a missile guidance system, an automated navigation system and a new Type 245 surveillance radar in a much-enlarged flat-bottomed chin radome linked to the missile guidance system. At an altitude of 9,000 m (29,530 ft) the radar could detect a surface target with a radar cross-section of 7,500 m2 (80,645 sq ft) from a maximum range of 150 km (93 miles). The wings were strengthened for carrying two YJ-6L anti-shipping cruise missiles which were suspended on pylons resembling those of the Soviet Navy’s Tu-16KSR-2 missile strike aircraft.

The YJ-6L air-to-surface missile (export designation C-601, NATO codename CAS-1 Kraken) was developed in China from the HY-2 ship-/land-based anti-shipping missile – a copy of the Soviet P-15 supplied to China at the end of the 1950s. The missile was powered by a liquid-fuel rocket motor and fitted with a 513-kg (1, 131-lb) high-explosive warhead; it had a range of 120 km (74.5 miles) and a speed of Mach 0.8. The H-6D reportedly also retained a level bombing capability.

The first flight of the experimental H-6D took place on 29th August 1981 with Zhai Xijie in the captain’s seat. The first launch of a YJ-6L instrumented test round followed on 6th December; all four tests of inert missiles were reportedly successful. The test program for the aircraft and the ASM complex as a whole was concluded by live missile tests at the end of 1983. In December 1985 the new anti-shipping complex entered service with the People’s Liberation Army Naval Air Force (PLANAF).

In May 1985 the H-6D with its C-601 missiles was exhibited at the Paris Air Show.

Later, the YJ-6L was replaced by the more modern YJ-61 (C-611) missile which has a range of 200 km (124 miles). The export version of the H-6D was designated B-6D (B for bomber); four were supplied to Iraq.

The dimensions of the H-6D were identical to those of the standard bomber, and the performance was similar. Differences included a service ceiling reduced to 12,000 m (39,370 ft).



German Defeat in the Crimea, 1944 Part II



On the Kerch Peninsula, Allmendinger’s V Armeekorps began retreating from its positions during the night of April 9/10. His troops had to retreat over 100 miles to reach relative safety around Sevastopol, and Eremenko’s Coastal Army was hard on his heels. Eremenko had three rifle corps – the 3rd Mountain, 16th, and 11th Guards – comprising ten rifle divisions and two naval infantry brigades. His armor force was relatively small – just Colonel Aleksandr Rudakov’s 63rd Tank Brigade, three independent tank regiments, and a self-propelled artillery unit – with a total of 204 tanks and assault guns. The German retreat was relatively sloppy, with no effort at deception, and Eremenko launched a hasty attack that destroyed FEB 85 and wiped out company-size rearguards from the 73. and 98. Infanterie-Divisionen. It was clear that Axis morale in the Crimea was collapsing and that no one wanted to be left behind – all thoughts were on getting to Sevastopol and the evacuation ships. In contrast, Soviet morale was sky-high, and Eremenko’s Coastal Army had not suffered heavy losses. On the morning of April 11 Eremenko’s troops entered Kerch to occupy an empty and devastated city. Meanwhile, the bombers of the 4th Air Army viciously attacked Allmendinger’s retreating columns. Since there was only a single main road leading west, Allmendinger’s entire corps was stretched out along it – making easy targets for low-level strafing. Most of the German artillery was horse-drawn, which could not retreat very fast. Oberst Karl Faulhaber’s Grenadier-Regiment 282 formed the rearguard, reinforced with motorized flak guns and some antitank guns. Allmendinger was able to get his corps to the Parpach Narrows by April 12, but he could not remain at this position. With the 19th Tank Corps and 2nd Guards Army heading for Simferopol, it was clear that they would soon cut off Allmendinger’s retreat path, so Jaenecke ordered him to instead head for Feodosiya or Sudak, where the Kriesgmarine could evacuate him by sea.

Despite the fact that AOK 17 was in full retreat on all fronts and suffering heavy losses, Hitler would still not authorize a full-scale evacuation of the Crimea. However, he did allow Jaenecke to begin evacuating wounded, as well as non-essential support personnel, but no able-bodied combat troops. In Hitler’s mind, AOK 17 should be able to hold out in Festung Sevastopol for many months, just as Petrov’s army had in 1941–42, although he ignored the fact that the defenses were in very poor condition. Hitler ordered the Luftwaffe to slow the Soviet advance in order to buy time for AOK 17 to organize a defense of the port, but Soviet tanks had already overrun German airfields at Bagerovo and Karankut, which seriously disrupted Luftwaffe air operations at a critical moment. All German air units in the Crimea were forced to relocate to the small airfields at Sevastopol. Fritz Morzik’s transport fleet hurriedly brought in ammunition to replace the stocks lost in the Perekop and Sivash fighting, while evacuating hundreds of wounded troops. Hitler also order the Fliegerkorps I headquarters to return to the Crimea to control air operations, while directing Luftflotte 4 to provide air support from its bases in Romania. The He-111 bombers of KG 27 and Bf 110 fighters of II./ZG 1 intervened in an effort to stem the Soviet armored pursuit, but it was too little and too late.

On April 13 the Soviet pursuit reached its flood tide, as the 19th Tank Corps liberated Simferopol and Yevpatoriya. Jaenecke evacuated his headquarters from Simferopol just 12 hours before the Soviet tanks arrived. Eremenko pursued Allmendinger’s V Armeekorps with the 227th Rifle Division and 257th Independent Tank Regiment in the lead. After liberating an abandoned Feodosiya, Eremenko’s advance guard caught up with the tail end of Allmendinger’s V Armeekorps near Stary Krim. Antitank gunners from Panzerjäger-Abteilung 198 ambushed and destroyed several T-34s, but the Soviets would soon overwhelm the rearguard unless something was done. Major Walter Kopp’s Gebirgs-Jäger-Regiment Krim, relatively unengaged up to this point, was ordered to make a stand in the hilly terrain in order that the rest of the corps could escape unmolested to Sudak. Kopp’s mountain troops put up a desperate resistance that temporarily halted Eremenko’s pursuit, but most of Kopp’s regiment was sacrificed in the process. The Germans also deliberately left supply dumps intact, knowing that the Soviet penchant for looting would slow their pursuit. At Sudak, MFPs from the 1. Landungs-Flotille arrived and began transfering troops from V Armeekorps to Balaklava. However, it was not long before the VVS-ChF detected the Kriegsmarine operation and sent its bombers to disrupt the evacuation. The Luftwaffe was too preoccupied relocating to alternate airbases, so they failed to protect the evacuation and Soviet bombers had a field day, ripping apart the slow-moving MFPs with bombs and cannon. About 10,000 troops from Allmendinger’s corps were evacuated to Balaklava by sea, but the rest would have to retreat through the partisan-infested Yaila Mountains.

Surprisingly, the partisans did not seriously interfere with Allmendinger’s retreat, after a few displays of firepower. This was a chance for the Crimean partisans to make a decisive contribution to victory, by delaying the retreat of V Armeekorps, but they missed it. Instead, they waited for the Red Army’s tanks to appear, then emerged to join in the numerous photo opportunities that liberation afforded. Had the partisans inflicted delay upon Allmendinger’s retreating corps, there is a good possibility that AOK 17 would have been unable to make even a brief stand at Sevastopol and that the city would have been overrun before a naval evacuation could occur.

Instead, Lieutenant-General Hugo Schwab, commander of the Romanian Mountain Corps, deployed two battalions to help cover the retreat of V Armeekorps along the coast road and to prevent sabotage by partisans. By the morning of April 14, V Armeekorps reached Alushta and continued to move through the town as the Romanian battalions formed blocking positions. Many of the remaining horses were shot in Alushta because they were slowing the retreat, and artillerymen removed the breechblocks from their guns and threw them into the sea. The Germans promised to evacuate the two Romanian rearguard battalions with MFPs from Alushta, but in the confusion of the retreat the Romanians were abandoned. At dawn on April 15, Eremenko’s vanguard struck the Romanians in force, and, after several hours of a delaying fight, they began retreating toward the perceived safety of naval evacuation from Alushta. However, upon reaching the town, the Romanians found the Germans gone and Soviet troops blocking the coast road. The two Romanian battalions attempted to infiltrate westward along secondary roads in the mountains, but they were eventually encircled and destroyed – only three survivors made it to Sevastopol. Schwab was incensed that the Germans had allowed his rearguard battalions to be destroyed, and Axis relations began to deteriorate during the retreat. Meanwhile, the German V Armeekorps reached Yalta on April 15, and Eremenko’s pursuit had fallen behind due to the sacrifice of the Romanian battalions. Allmendinger apparently felt safe enough in Yalta to pause for a good meal and a night’s sleep in the officer’s rest home, which had served as an R & R area for Axis troops since 1942. Generalleutnant Alfred Reinhardt, the commander of the 98. Infanterie-Division, had to remonstrate with Allmendinger to keep moving, lest the Soviet pursuit catch them bunched up on the coast road. Schwab was further angered that the Germans found time to rest while the Romanian rearguard was being annihilated. Finally, after five days of retreating, V Armeekorps reached the eastern outskirts of Sevastopol on April 16. However, the cost of this successful retreat was very high, with over 70 percent of Allmendinger’s artillery and heavy weapons lost, as well as thousands of troops – the survivors were in no shape to conduct defensive operations.

Meanwhile, Gruppe Konrad had fallen back precipitously from the Ishun position, but a good part of the artillery was saved thanks to the rearguard fought by two batteries of the Sturmgeschütz-Brigade 279. Elements of the Soviet 19th Tank Corps actually got ahead of the retreating Germans – just as Brigade Ziegler had done to Petrov’s retreating army in 1941. German columns were forced to form all-around defensive hedgehogs at nightfall, lest they be surprised and attacked by marauding Soviet mechanized units. One Romanian battalion that did not form a hedgehog was caught by Soviet tanks and opted to surrender. In another ambush, the Soviets managed to knock out two StuG III assault guns, but the rest of Sturmgeschütz Brigade 279 fought its way out of the enemy ambush. By the time that Gruppe Konrad reached the Gneisenau Line on April 12/13, it found its retreat route blocked by Soviet forces and was obliged to fight its way through the Kessel forming around them. Gruppe Konrad succeeded in fighting through the Soviet pincers, but only by retreating as fast as possible. The Romanian 19th Infantry Division was hard pressed by the Soviet tankers, and some of its battalions were destroyed.

Contrary to what Hitler thought, Sevastopol was not prepared for another siege. A total of seven Romanian mountain-infantry battalions were manning a thin outer perimeter, which was much weaker than the Soviet positions of 1942. German naval engineers had repaired a few flak positions and built some additional bunkers, but very little had actually been done to prepare the naval base for a ground attack. The man on the spot was Oberst Paul Betz, an engineer officer, who had been designated as commander of Festung Sevastopol just two weeks prior. Betz had spent six months with the Afrikakorps in North Africa, then spent much of 1942–43 as a senior pioneer leader for AOK 17 in the Caucasus. Upon the activation of Adler, he formed a Kampfgruppe from Feldausbildungs Regiment 615 (FAR 615), six flak batteries from Pickert’s 9. Flak-Division, and the Luftwaffe’s armored flak train “Michael.” Betz moved his Kampfgruppe to block the main road to Sevastopol, just south of Bakhchisaray. When the lead elements of Gruppe Konrad arrived late on April 13, Betz was given six of the last operational StuG III assault guns to reinforce his position. At dawn on April 14 the vanguard of the 19th Tank Corps arrived at Bakhchisaray, but Kampfgruppe Betz was able to delay them for 12 critical hours, while Gruppe Konrad withdrew into Sevastopol. Then, Betz broke contact and fell back under the cover of a barrage from Gruppe Konrad’s artillery.

While the Germans retreated, Schwab deployed all three of his mountain divisions on Sevastopol’s perimeter, with the 1st and 2nd Mountain Division barring the direct routes in from the north. On the morning of April 15, the 19th Tank Corps began probing attacks against the Romanian defenses, but the mountain-infantry battalions continued to display combat effectiveness and they knocked out 23 Soviet tanks. It took Konrad 24 hours or more to get the disorganized 50. and 336. Infanterie-Divisionen into the perimeter lines, which meant that it was the Romanians who defeated the initial Soviet attacks on their own. Tolbukhin continued probing the Romanians for the next week, but not in great strength. Tolbukhin apparently believed that the Axis defenses of Sevastopol were much stronger than they really were and that a deliberate attack was necessary, so he decided to wait for his artillery to arrive before mounting a serious offensive. In fact, Jaenecke had fewer than 20,000 organized combat troops left after the retreat. In just nine days, AOK 17 had suffered 29,873 casualties, as well as losing a great deal of its equipment. Allmendinger, who had begun to display odd behavior during the retreat, decided to go on leave for a week, and left V Armeekorps under temporary command of a Romanian mountain-infantry officer – a bizarre action for a German general. The two most effective German units, the assault-gun brigades, were reduced to only a handful of operational vehicles. Luftwaffe air support dwindled after the loss of 70 aircraft, and fewer than 50 aircraft remained operational in the Crimea, including 16 Bf-109s and 21 ground-attack aircraft. Simply put, AOK 17 was no longer capable of effective resistance.