Russia’s Tu-95 Is the World’s Last Operational Propeller-Powered Heavy Bomber

Despite its age, the Tu-95 Bomber remains one of the most dangerous aircraft in the Russian arsenal.
MOD Tupolev Tu-95 Bomber

The Tupolev Tu-95 bomber is one of the most emblematic aircraft of the Russian air force and has been in service for decades. Four giant contra-rotating propellers are its defining feature.

It is the equivalent of the U.S. B-52 Stratofortress bomber – and 70 years after its first flight, it is still wreaking havoc in the zones where it is deployed.

The Tupolev Tu-95

Tupolev Tu-95 Bomber
Tupolev Tu-95 Bomber by Marina Lystseva. GNU Free Documentation License.

The Tupolev Tu-95 is a Soviet turboprop-powered strategic bomber and missile platform. It was manufactured by Tupolev in the Soviet Union and is currently operated by the Russian Air Force.

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First flown in 1952, this bomber entered service in 1956 and is expected to serve the Russian Forces until 2040.

In addition, this aircraft has been operated by the Russian Air Force and Ukrainian Air Force. It has a naval version for reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare, the Tu-142. Also, it had a civilian version, the Tu-114.

Tupolev Tu-95 bomber design history

Tupolev Tu-95MS
Tupolev Tu-95MS by Alex Snow. Licensed under CC by 4.0

The development of jet interceptor fighters resulted in the former Tu-85 lagging behind, and Soviet engineers redesigned the bomber to provide it with intercontinental range and fighter-like speeds.

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The new aircraft requirements were assigned to the design bureaus of Andrei Nikolayevich Tupolev and Vladimir Mikhailovich Miashchev.

In 1949, the design work began, and the Tu-95 prototype was flying in 1952. The aircraft was designed to carry a heavy payload over long distances and was outfitted with four powerful turboprop engines.

Each engine was powered by two metal coaxial four-bladed propellers, which make them more powerful and efficient at cruising speeds.

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Now, it is one of the oldest but fully functional bombers in the world, alongside the USAF B-52.

An aircraft modernized for war

Tu-95MS
Tu-95MS by Dmitry Terekhov. Licensed under CC by 2.0

The Tu-95 has seen action in various roles over the years, including conventional bombing, maritime patrol, and electronic warfare. 

It has proved to be a rugged and versatile performer, capable of operating in hostile environments and delivering its payload with precision. 

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Recently, the Russian air force modernized its Tu-95 fleet, giving the bomber a new lease on life.

During the war in Ukraine, the Russian bomber has been operating in various areas of Ukraine, launching missiles, particularly in the Black Sea and Kyiv, helping Russian troops on the ground to continue their advances over Ukraine.

With its upgraded avionics and weapons system, the Tu-95 Bomber is now capable of carrying out sophisticated missions deep into enemy territory.

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Specs

Tu-95MS Bomber
Tu-95MS Bomber by Kaboldy. Licensed under CC by 3.0
  • Crew: 6–7
  • Length: 46.2 meters (151 feet 7 inches)
  • Wingspan: 50.1 meters (164 feet 4 inches)
  • Height: 12.12 meters (39 feet 9 inches)
  • Empty weight: 90,000 kilograms (198,416 pounds)
  • Max takeoff weight: 188,000 kilograms (414,469 pounds)
  • Maximum speed: 925 km/h (575 mph)
  • Cruise speed: 710 km/h (440 mph)
  • Range: 15,000 kilometers (9,300 miles)
  • Service ceiling: 13,716 meters (45,000 feet)

Additionally, the Tu-95 bomber is powered by 4 Kuznetsov NK-12MP turboprop engines, each driving a contra-rotating propeller, and can carry up to 30,000 kg (66,000 lb) of weapons. 

And one of the curiosities of this aircraft is that it is considered the noisiest aircraft that exists. It is reported that even submarines are capable of detecting the aircraft by sonar while submerged.

One of the most probable hypothesis is that the propellers’ tips break the sound barrier when they rotate, causing a considerable noise.

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The Tu-95 Bomber continues to be an important part of Russia’s military arsenal

This bomber has been a critical piece for the Russian air forces – and even after 70 years of service, it is still flying in the skies of Ukraine, destroying everything in its path.

And due to its nuclear capability and high reliability, this aircraft has earned a significant place in the history of aviation and warfare.


Featured image credit: MOD Tupolev Tu-95 Bomber by Ministry of Defence. Licensed under CC by 4.0

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