One of the classic aviation designs of the 1950s, the Tu-16 was Russia’s most successful jet bomber. It remains in active service today as a missile platform and maritime reconnaissance craft.
The origins of the famous Tu-16 trace back to 1944, when bad weather forced down three U.S. Boeing B-29s on a Russian airfield in Siberia. The Soviet Union, neutral toward Japan, promptly detained the crews and confiscated the aircraft. This technological windfall handed Soviet dictator Josef Stalin the world’s most advanced bomber aircraft, and he immediately ordered reverse-engineered copies for the Red Air Force. They became known as the Tupolev Tu-4 and received the NATO designation BULL. By 1950 the Americans and British were developing and deploying advanced jet-powered bomber designs, so Stalin authorized production of Soviet models as well. The new Tu-16 thus became the first successful Soviet jet bomber, the first with swept-back wings, and the first with engines buried in the wing roots. It was revealed to the West in 1954 as a midwing aircraft of extremely sleek lines. The landing gear were uniquely positioned in trailing-edge pods, as the wing was too thin to contain them. Tupolev’s conservative approach gave the Tu-16 a robust construction that in turn led to a long and varied service life. Around 2,000 were manufactured and given the NATO code name BADGER.
Initial models of the Tu-16 were tactical nuclear bombers, but, lacking the necessary range to hit the United States, they were quickly phased out by more modern designs. Most were shunted over to the Soviet navy, which employed them in long-range reconnaissance and antishipping strike roles. Many BADGERS encountered at sea were usually configured with one or more cruise missiles in the bomb bay or under the wings. The type was also exported to China in the late 1950s and was produced there in some quantity. An estimated 70 Tu-16s fly with Russian naval aviation and will continue serving for years to come.
Tupolev Tu-16 Experimental Versions
This graceful twin-jet bomber sustained what was in financial terms the most important programme in the entire history of the Tupolev design bureau up to that time. Since then, because of inflation, the Tu-154 and Tu-22/Tu-22M have rivalled it, though they were produced in smaller numbers. The prototype Tu-16, the Type 88, was a marriage of upgraded B-29 technology in structures, systems and to some degree in avionics, with totally new swept-wing aerodynamics and what were in the early 1950s super-power turbojet engines. The Tu-16 entered production in 1953 powered by Zubets (Mikulin KB) RD-3M engines of 8,200kg (18,078 Ib) thrust. The second series block had the RD-3M-200 of 8,700kg (19,180 Ib) followed by the 9,500kg (20,944 Ib) RD-3M-500, which was then retrofitted to most earlier aircraft.
From 1953 the basic aircraft was repeatedly examined against alternatives based as far as possible on the same airframe but using different propulsion systems. Most of the studies had four engines. Tupolev had originally schemed the 88 around two Lyul’ka AL-5 turbojets, but the design grew in weight to match the big AM-3 engine, and this was the key to its win over the smaller Ilyushin with the Lyul’ka engines. In parallel with the production aircraft one project team led by Dmitri S Markov studied versions of the 88 with not two but four AL-5 engines, and then four of the more powerful (typically 14,330 Ib, 6,500kg) AL-7 engines. These Type 90s would have been excellent bombers, with increased power and much better engine-out performance, but the decision was taken not to disrupt production. On the other hand, virtually the same inboard wing and engine installation was then used in the Tu-110 transport, two of which were built using the Tu-104 as a basis. Some of the four-engined bomber studies had engines in external nacelles hung on underwing pylons.
From 1954 Type 88 prototypes and a wide range of production Tu-16s were used over a period exceeding 40 years as experimental aircraft. Some carried out pioneer trials in aerial refuelling at jet speeds.
One large group of about 20 aircraft was kept busy in the development of avionics, including navigation, bombing and cartographic guidance, parent control of drones and targets, and the direction of self-defence gunnery systems.
Probably the most important single duty of Tu-16LL (flying laboratory) aircraft was to airtest new types of turbojet and turbofan engine. In each case the engine on test would be mounted in a nacelle either carried inside the weapon bay or, more often, recessed into it. Usually the test engine would be suspended on vertical hydraulic jacks or a large pivoted beam so that in flight it could be extended down fully into the airstream, with its efflux well clear of the rear fuselage. In many cases the engine pod or the Tu-16 fuselage ahead of it would be fitted with a fairing or door which could be left behind or opened as the pod was extended for test. Among the engines air-tested under Tu-16LL aircraft were: the Ivchenko (later Progress) AI-25, Lyul’ka AL-7F- 1, AL-7F-2, AL-7F-4 and AL-31F, Solov’yov (Aviadvigatel) D-30, D-30K, D-30KP and D-30F6 (in MiG-31 installation), Lotarev (Ivchenko Progress) D-36, Kuznetsov NK-6 (with and without afterburner) and NK-8-2, Tumanskii (Soyuz) R-l 1AF-300 (Yak-28 nacelle) and R-15- 300 (in the Ye-150 and the totally different MiG- 25 installation), Metskhvarishvili R-2I-300 and R-21F with Ye-8 inlet, Khachaturov R-27 versions (including the vectored R-27V-300 in a complete Yak-36M prototype fuselage, Mikulin (Soyuz) RD-3M (many versions), Kolesov (RKBM) RD-36-41 and RD-36-51, and Dobrynin (RKBM) VD-7, VD-7M and VD-19 (in a proposed Tu-128 installation), etc.
One Tu-16 had its entire nose replaced by that intended for the Myasishchev M-55, in order to test the comprehensive suite of sensors. Another tested a scaled version of the bogie main landing gear for the Myasishchev M-4 and 3M strategic bombers, replacing the normal nose landing gear. A new twin-wheel truck was added at the tail. According to documents a Tu-16 with outer wings removed tested the complete powerplant of the Yak-38 (presumably in free hovering flight) though photographs have not been discovered.
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.
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.
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 – 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.