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800px-Tu-16 Badger E

A Tupolev Tu-16R

The Tupolev Tu-16 (Russian: Туполев Ту-16, NATO codename: “Badger“) was one of the first operational jet engine bombers. Because of its performance, it is still in service, about 60 years later, by Russia and China.


At the end of the 1940s, the Soviet Air Force was searching for a successor for the Tupolev Tu-4. The new bomber should be able to carry a payload of 6,000 kg over a distance of 5,000 km at a cruise speed of 800 km/h. Tupolev tried to modernize the Tu-4 into the Tu-85, but decided to develop a completely new aircraft instead. At the beginning of 1949, development of the fast long-range bomber Tu-88 began. But the main problem was to place the large Mikulin engines, which were too large to be mounted under the wings. Finally, it was decided to place them on the fuselage, because of the way that the weapon bay was redesigned.

The second jet engine bomber of the Soviet Union, the prototype was called Type 88/1 (Project “N“), and had its first flight on 27th April 1952. Powered by AM-3A engines, this aircraft was followed later that year by the AM-3M powered second prototype, with the type ordered into production as the Tu-16. Some examples built at Kazin from late 1953 were powered by RD-3 engines[1]

As the Tu-16 entered service with the Soviet Air Force as a strategical, medium weight bomber, one year after the first flight, the great performance in terms of speed and range was realised. The aircraft was unveiled on 20th July 1954 at the Tushino Air show. Nine aircraft were available for the 1954 May Day Flypast, with 54 participating in the 1955 Aviation Day Flypast 15 months later.[1] The 22nd November 1955 was the first time a Soviet RDS-37 Hydrogen bomb was dropped by an aircraft.

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The Russian long-range bomber fleets are still operating 175 Tu-16. Even if many of them are used as a tanker aircraft or for reconnaissance roles, many of the Badger-A-bombers are equipped with conventional bombs or nuclear weapons. Badger-L bombers also exist; they are equipped with new radar on the nose. About 240 of the 400 Badgers of the Russian Navy are used for ground attack roles.

The Xian H-6 is a copy of the Tu-16, and also the main bomber of the Chinese bomber fleet. 100 of them are in service with the Chinese Air Force. As in 1960 the relations between China and the USSR were broken, the Chinese investigated the Tu-16 and its engines, and they received the knowledge to built the Badger-A copies Xian H-6 and Wopen-8.


  • Crew: 6-7
  • Length: 34.8m
  • Wingspan: 33m
  • Height: 10.36m
  • Powerplant: 2 x Mikulin AM-3 M-500 turbojets
  • Top speed: 1,060km/h
  • Range: 7,200km (4,474mi)


The Tu-16 was armed with 6-7 23mm AM-23 cannons, with at least 2,700 rounds.[1] In addition, it could accommodate:

  • 9,000kg (20,000lb) of free-fall weapons.
  • 1 FAB-9000 air-dropped conventional bomb
  • The Tu-16A (453 built) was modified to carry 1 or more nuclear bombs.

In addition, in the mid-1950s the Badger was upgraded with hardpoints to accommodate early Soviet cruise missiles, such as:

  • 2 x Raduga KS-1 Komet anti-ship missiles
  • 1 x Raduga K-10S anti-ship missile
  • 2 x Raduga KSR-5 anti-ship missiles


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 World Aircraft Information Files Aviation Partwork. Midsummer Books Ltd. File 274 Sheet 1 (World Military Aircraft:Tupolev Tu-16 'Badger' - Bomber and tanker variants)