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The ageing yet lethal plane of the Russian air force the Tupelov-95 or Bear

Updated on December 22, 2017

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.


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    • emge profile imageAUTHOR


      20 months ago from Abu Dhabi

      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.

    • profile image

      Setank Setunk 

      20 months ago

      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.

    • emge profile imageAUTHOR


      2 years ago from Abu Dhabi

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

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 

      2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      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

    • emge profile imageAUTHOR


      2 years ago from Abu Dhabi

      Thank you Builders for reading and commenting

    • Buildreps profile image


      2 years ago from Europe

      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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