First entering service with the the Soviet Air Force in 1956, the Tupolev Tu-95 bear is the only turboprop powered strategic bomber to become operational, it holds to this day the speed record for a mass-produced propeller-driven aircraft and is still flying operationally with the Russian Air Force.
The Tupolev Tu-95 was built during the cold war and utilises turboprop propulsion to obtain an optimum combination of range speed and payload. At the time the Tu-95 bear was conceived the USAF had been operating the Convair B-36 and the limitations of the piston engine were clearly reached if not exceeded with this aircraft, jet engines were added to help achieve a higher speed but was eventually replaced with the smaller jet engined Boeing B52 bomber, the Russian decision to utilise turbo-prop propulsion for it's new strategic bomber was a good one, it gave the Soviet Air Force a strategic bomber with the necessary range to threaten mainland America for the first time.
There have been over 500 Tupolev Tu-95 bears produced (including variants), the picture above is British Ministry of Defence picture of a Russian Bear-H bomber photographed by a RAF Typhoon which was tasked with intercepting the Tupolev Tu-95 Bear-H bomber as it approached UK airspace in August 2007. The Tupolev Tu-95 Bear-H is a variant of the bomber dating from the mid 1980's which was designed with the capability to carry and launch the 3,000 km range 200kT nuclear armed Raduga Kh-55 cruise missile.
Tupolev Tu-95MS Bear Specifications:
- Crew: 7 - 2 pilots, 1 tail-gunner, 4 specialists
- Length: 49.50 m (162 ft 5 in)
- Wingspan: 51.10 m (167 ft 8 in)
- Height: 12.12 m (39 ft 9 in)
- Wing area: 310 m² (3,330 ft²)
- Empty weight: 90,000 kg (198,000 lb)
- Loaded weight: 171,000 kg (376,200 lb)
- Max takeoff weight: 188,000 kg (414,500 lb)
- Engines: Four 11,000 kW (14,800 shp) Kuznetsov NK-12MV turboprops
- Maximum speed: 920 km/h (510 knots, 575 mph)
- Range: 15,000 km (8,100 nmi, 9,400 mi)
- Service ceiling: 13,716 m (45,000 ft)
- Rate of climb: 10 m/s (2,000 ft/min)
- One or two 23 mm AM-23 cannon in a Radar-controlled tail turret
- Up to 15,000 kg (33,000 lb) of conventional or nuclear air-to-surface missiles