Soviet and Russian Bombers
On 17 August 2007, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia had permanently resumed long-distance patrol flights of strategic bombers, which were suspended in 1992 after the collapse of the Soviet Union. "I made a decision to restore flights of Russian strategic bombers on a permanent basis, and at 00:00 today, August 17, 14 strategic bombers, support aircraft and aerial tankers were deployed. Combat duty has begun, involving 20 aircraft. ... Air patrol areas will include zones of commercial shipping and economic activity. As of today, combat patrolling will be on a permanent basis. It has a strategic character," Putin said. The president said that although the country stopped strategic flights to remote regions in 1992, "Unfortunately, not everyone followed our example." Other states' long-distance strategic patrol flights have created certain problems for national security, he said. "We act on the assumption that our partners will treat with understanding the resumption of strategic air flights. Our pilots have been grounded for too long. There is strategic aviation, but there are no flights," Putin said.
Bomber are distinguished by their mission, which is to deliver relatively heavy ordnance, often in large quantities, on military targets, usually at long range. Bombers may be classified according to mission requirements which leads to a general size category of light, medium, and heavy bombers, and an engagement category of tactical or strategic bomber. Heavy strategic bombers are traditionally expected to carry heavy payloads over long distances for accurate delivery in a hostile environment.
Russia was active in the development of large aircraft prior to the Great October Revolution of 1917. Igor Sikorsky's huge machine made its first flight from the airfield at St. Petersburg on 13 May 1913. The Grand was the first four-engine airplane (I00 hp each) and the first airplane to have an enclosed cabin. The Grand weighed 7,000 pounds, had a wing span of 92 feet, and had 16 wheels to spread its weight over dirt fields. The cabin had four seats, a sofa, a table, a washroom, and a wardrobe for clothes. The Grand flew beautifully, and from it was developed the llya Mourometz four-engine bomber/reconnaissance in 1914, 80 of which were built and served the Czar°s air force in World War I. The Ilya Mourometz weighed 10,560 pounds, mounted 8 machine guns and 1 cannon, and had an extremely effective bombing system. The only one that was lost in combat accounted for three German aircraft before succumbing. Sikorsky fled to the United States following the revolution and became quite famous as a helicopter designer.
The Russian attraction for giant aircraft continued after Sikorsky had departed. The work was continued under the guidance of A. N. Tupolev. The ANT-4 (TB-1), built in 1925, was a twin-engine heavy bomber with a low cantilever wing, clearly derived from Junkers, that could carry a maximum payload of 3.5 tons or 1 ton of bombs for a range of 850 miles. The TB-1 set the pattern for large Soviet heavy bombers through the 1930's. The ANT-6 (TB-3) was a heavy four-engine bomber that entered service in 1932, several years before the American B-17. The TB-3 weighed about 40,000 pounds and could carry a maximum of 5 tons of bombs. The ANT-16 (TB-4), designed to carry about a 10-ton bombload (twice that of the TB-3), had six engines -- four mounted on the wing leading-edge and two mounted in tandem above the fuselage. Serious vibration problems of the aft body and tail brought the program to a halt by September 1933. By 1936, the decision was made to terminate further work on super-heavy aircraft.
Much of the bomber development during 1945-54 was done by the Tupolev OKB, proceeding from the Bull (Tu-4 B-29 copy} to the Badger and Bear. Tupolev began post-WW II large aircraft development by copying the US B-29, three of which were forced down in the Soviet far east in 1944. The resultant copy, Tu-4, appeared at the Tushino Air Show in 1947. A civilian version was also built but not produced. A considerably larger bomber version, the Barge, also evolved. Then, proceeding from straight-wing piston-engine designs, Tupolev developed the twin-jet swept-wing Badger bomber and the large turboprop swept-wing Bear bomber. The Badger also evolved into the world's first swept-wing jet civil transport, the Tu-104, while the Bear evolved into the Tu-114 civil transport and the Tu-126 AWACS.
An element of competition was introduced through Myasishchev, with a large straight-wing propellerdriven project M-13, an airplane that was not produced, and the Mya-4 Bison fourjet strategic bomber. In 1954 the USSR displayed a new long-range four-engine swept-wing jet bomber during May Day celebrations in Moscow. At first, Western experts believe the new bomber, comparable to the B-52, was an Iluyshin or Tupolev, but later identify it as the Myasishchev Mya-4 Bison. Subsequently, the Bison serves in small numbers as a strategic bomber, maritime reconnaissance craft, and aerial tanker.
But on Soviet Aviation Day in July 1955, ten Bison jet-powered strategic bombers flew past the reviewing stand. These same aircraft flew past six times, creating the illusion that the Soviets possessed at least 60 such aircraft. This show, combined with the introduction of the smaller Badger jet-powered bomber the year before, resulted in the perception in the United States of a "bomber gap." The Soviet tendency to unveil new weapons during public events, often to the surprise of Western observers, added to their shock value. Western analysts extrapolated from the illusionary 60 aircraft, judging that it would take only a short time for the Soviets to produce 600. Even with 600 planes, the Soviets could not match the United States plane for plane, but the mere perception that the Soviets had many planes that could reach over the northern polar cap to America was enough to reinforce the American arms buildup that was already underway.
Shortly thereafter, the Soviets introduced another strategic bomber, the Bear. From the extent of service and the number produced, it was clear that Tupolev's turboprop Bear was favored over the turbojet Bison. Soviet Long-Range Aviation (LRA) squadrons began receiving Bear bombers in 1956 and 1957, and by the end of the decade, some 150 Bears and well over 1,000 Badgers were in service. Total production was approximately 300 Bears and 1,500 to 2,000 Badgers. The combined payload of the LRA Bear and Badger force probably totaled about 10,000 megatons.
In 1957 the Soviets successfully placed the satellites Sputnik I and II into orbit around the Earth. This led to the mythical "Missile Gap," which made the American public believe that the Soviets had achieved technical superiority over the US. Ever since the mid-to-late 1950s, when the Bear and Bison were entering the inventory and refueling techniques for the Badger and Blinder were being perfected, the Soviets saw a role for the manned bomber against the continental United States. But with the advent of intercontinental ballistic missiles, heavy bombers never figured as prominently in Soviet forces as they did for the United States. Long-range air power also became a vital element of Soviet antiship operations far from Soviet shores and of Soviet power projection into the Third World.
Bomber developments from 1954 through 1989, with the advent of supersonic capability, was dominated by Tupolev with the Backfin (Fiddler) design, the Backfire, and the Blackjack. In about the same time period, Tupolev developed the twin-jet Backfin medium bomber which became the Tu-28 Fiddler longrange interceptor, and the more highly swept-wing Tu-22 Blinder Navy bomber. The Backfin, Fiddler, and the Blinder also marked a step into the supersonic flight regime.
The Backfire A was first identified in the late 1960's has also gone through various structural and propulsion changes in the B and C variants in which, most likely, improved performance was attained. With the development of a Soviet "blue-water" navy and increasing Soviet emphasis on continental theaters, the requirements for bombers with sufficient range capabilities for long distance antiship and deep-theater strike missions substantially increased. By the end of the Cold War Soviet bomber and cruise missile force may have been over-taking the submarine force as a threat to the US Navy.
Myasishchev did produce a four-jet delta-wing supersonic bomber design, the Bounder, that was revealed in the 1961 flyby. M-52 Bounder was the world's largest supersonic airplane when first seen in the 1961 fly-by, but was never produced. The four-jet strategic bomber then reappeared as Blackjack. Having gone into the supersonic realm with highly-swept fixed wings, with which some inherent stability problems may occur, Tupolev turned his attention to other supersonic designs utilizing the double-delta Tu-144 Charger and the variable geometry Backfire. Subsequently, the larger variable geometry bomber Blackjack was discovered by the West in November 1981.
The introduction of the BLACKJACK intercontinental bomber in the late 1980s made the third leg of the Soviet strategic triad far more robust. The BLACKJACK bomber could perform various missions, including nuclear strike, conventional attack, antiship strike, and reconnaissance. AS-16 nuclear missiles carried in the rotary launchers aboard the BLACKJACK strategic bomber in the 1980s were a threat against theater and intercontinental targets. The BLACKJACK bomber entered the Soviet operational inventory in 1988. The AS-16 was a new short range, nuclear armed, air to surface missile.
Historically, the Soviets made no organizational distinction between aircraft with primarily deep-theater strike missions and those with primarily intercontinental/antiship missions. Both types of bombers have existed in geographically organized bomber corps subordinate to the Long-Range Aviation (LRA) arm of Soviet Air Force headquarters.
After almost 10 years of difficult negotiations, the United States and the Soviet Union signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) in Washington, DC, on 31 July 1991. The START treaty required the United States and the Soviet Union to substantially reduce the number of strategic ballistic missiles and heavy bombers and their attributed nuclear warheads. In START, nuclear heavy bombers were subject to more flexible counting rules than are ballistic missiles. Each heavy bomber equipped to carry only short-range n-missiles or gravity bombs counted as one warhead. US heavy bombers equipped to carry long-range nuclear air-launched cruise missiles (ALCMs) each count as 10 warheads, and Soviet heavy bombers equipped to carry long-range nuclear ALCMs each counted as eight warheads. On 05 December 2001, both the United States and the Russian Federation reported their accomplishments of the mandated reductions.
On 03 January 1993, President George Bush and President Boris Yeltsin signed the START II agreement, which was never implemented. In START II, heavy bombers are counted using the number of nuclear weapons -- whether long-range nuclear ALCMS, short-range missiles or gravity bombs -- for which they are actually equipped. This number is specified in the Treaty Memorandum on Attribution and will be confirmed by a one-time exhibition and by routine START on-site inspections. Another new feature of this Treaty is the provision that up to 100 heavy bombers that have never been accountable under the START Treaty as long-range-nuclear-ALCM heavy bombers may be reoriented to a conventional role.
On 24 May 2002, President Bush and Russia's President Putin signed the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (known as the Treaty of Moscow). This new treaty differed from past arms control treaties in that it does not include any of the details that had become common in previous treaties.
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