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The Tupolev Tu-16 Badger was one of the first jet powered bombers. When it entered service in 1953, it represented a truly remarkable advance in terms of payload, speed and range, although it was soon surpassed by later designs. Long Range Strategic Air Command operated nearly 300 Badgers right up to the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the air force of the Commonwealth of Independent States will no doubt continue to do so for many years to come. Although a fair proportion of this total is tasked with electronic warfare and refueling, there is still a sizable force of 'Badger-A' bombers still active. The CIS's naval air arm also operates strike role Tu-16's. China is the other major operator, building a copy of the Badger known as the Xian H-6. More than 100 are currently in service with the air force of the People's Liberation Army.

The Badger's wings are mid-mounted, swept-back, and tapered with blunt tips. There are fences on top of the wings and its landing gear pods extend beyond the wings' trailing edges. The Badger's engine(s) are two turbojets mounted in wing roots which extend beyond the leading and trailing edges of the wing root. The engines also have round air intakes. Its fuselage is long, slender, and bulging where the engines are mounted and tapered to the tail. It has a round, glassed-in nose and a stepped cockpit. The tail is swept-back, tapered fin and flats with blunt tips. The Badger also has a tail gunner compartment. All models of Badger are equipped for aerial refueling.

The Tu-16 was designed as a high-speed jet bomber for operations in theaters close to the Soviet Union. Intended to replace the propeller-driven TU-4, the greatest design challenge faced during development was to doubling the speed to improve survivability in the face of enemy fighters.

OKB A.N. Tupolev started working on the design of the Tu-16 following the completion of the TU-4. The resulting design "82" consisted of a swept-wing aircraft with RD-45F or VK-1 turbojet engines. The bomber was supposed to have a speed of Mach 0.9-0.95 with a range and payload was comparable to the TU-4.

Operational research and development of the Tu-16 began with the development of the "82" was officially started after the bomber's operational characteristics had been coordinated with the military and the government. The prototype, which was the first Soviet aircraft with swept-wings, made its' first flight in March 1949. It reached a speed of 934 km/h, 20 percent faster than the TU-14 which also had BK-1 engines. The "82" design was initially supposed to serve as the basis for the "83" bomber, but with the start of serial production of the Il-28, the project was dropped.

Based on the results of the "82" aircraft, in 1950 OKB Tupolev started developing the "492" heavy long-range bomber that had a better performance than the TU-4 and the Il-28. The design provided for a bomb load of 6000 kg (increasable to 12,000kg), a range of 7,500 km, a speed of 1000 km/h and a ceiling of 12000-13000 m.The aircraft could be outfitted with three different types of engines: two AM-3 engines with a thrust of 8750 kg, 4 engines ?R-3A engines (5000 kg) or 4 TR-5 two circuit engines (5000 kg). At the time the TR-5 engines were the most reliable of the three engines and as a result, Tupolev was charged with the development of an experimental long-range bomber (project "88") equipped with two TR-5 engines. However, work on the AM-3 engines continued and was completed in August 1951.

The first prototype of the "88" aircraft received the designation Tu-16 and carried out the first flight on 27 April 1952. During flight tests, the aircraft exceeded the expected speed but lagged in range due to insufficient engine performance. As a result, the second prototype had a reduced weight though less speed at small and medium altitudes. In April 1953 it actually exceeded the expected range.

In 1953 series production of the TU-16 began at the plant Nr. 22 in Kazan and one year later at the plant Nr.1 in Kuibyshev and Nr. 64 in Voronezh. Rather relying on the original TR-5 engines, the aircraft were outfitted with a modified AM-3 engine - the PD-3MT during production. While the bombers were already operational, the AM-3 and PD-3M engines were replaced by PD-3M-500 engines with improved characteristics. When production of the TU-16 finally stopped in 1963, a total of 1509 aircraft had been built.

Deployment of the first TU-16 bombers started in 1954. They replaced the TU-4, operating in theaters close to Soviet territory. During the 1954 Soviet May Day fly-by and the rehearsals preceding it, between 9 and 11 twin-jet medium bombers, designated Type 39 by Western intelligence, participated. Subsequent Western intelligence associated this type with a known Soviet Long-Range Aviation unit. At that time, Western intelligence estimated that as at least two regiments of Soviet Long-Range Aviation with a total strength of 60 aircraft were in the process of equipment with Type 39 medium bombers.

The TU-16 remained in Soviet and later Russian service until 1993. They were used during the war in Afghanistan. The Badger is used by Egypt, Iraq, the People's Republic of China (H-6), and Ukraine. In 1958, delivery of TU-16 bombers to China began, where series production received the designation H-6. In the summer of 1961, twenty TU-16KS were sold to Indonesia. In the 1960s, TU-16 bombers were delivered to Egypt which also received TU-16KS aircraft in 1967 and Tu-16K-11-16 in 1973. Iraq also received TU-16K-11-16 bombers in the 1960s.

Historical Review - Western Estimates
Estimated start of flight testing 1953
First discovery
Badger A 1953
Badger B July 1961
Badger C July 1961
Badger D September 1964
Badger E January 1963
Badger F 1959
Badger G July 14, 1966
Badger H March 1965
Badger J March 1965
Badger K September 1968
Estimated start of series production 1953
Public display in significant numbers May 1, 1954
Initial operational capability 1954
Significant operational capability 1955

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