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.
The Tupolev Tu-95 could never be mistaken for a stealth bomber, it's radar footprint is similar to that of a flying office block and is so noisy it can be even heard on a submerged submarine's hydrophone, the tips of each of the Tu-95 Bear's 32 massive propeller blades travel faster than the speed of sound, even at cruise speed, jet fighters who have "warned off" Tu-95 bombers from entering their airspace report that at one kilometre away the the propeller noise and reverberation is loud enough to be physically unpleasant resonating their chest cavities and sometimes even causing nausea.
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)
Tupolev Tu-95MS Bear Armament:
- 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