Tu-95 Bear Bomber
The Tu-95 is the world's only swept-wing turboprop ever to enter service. Its distinct engines, each with two counter-rotating propellers, also make the Bear the fastest propeller-driven airplane ever built.
The original Tu-95 was designed to carry two nuclear bombs to targets in the continental US.
Later versions carried cruise missiles for long-ange stand-off missions. The Bear has also been used for reconnaissance, especially by the Soviet/Russian Navy which used the aircraft to locate US aircraft carrier task forces.
A specialized variant of the Bear is the Tu-142 dedicated to maritime surveillance and anti-submarine warfare. Over 300 Bears were built.
Tu-20 Original designation for the Tu-95/Tu-142 aircraft
Appearance of Tu-95 at July 1955 Aviation Display at Tushino put western observers at a loss. A combination of propellers and swept wing and tail surfaces seemed to be inappropriate and early analysis of Bear's performance resulted in unrealistically downplayed bomber's performance. Western experiments with supersonic propellers flown on XF-84H and XF-88B have shown considerable loss in performance of the high-rotating propeller when tips were reaching supersonic speeds.
In 1975 the figure for range changed to 7,800 miles and currently it is believed to be 9,200 miles with 25,000 lb load. Level speed was admitted to be 570 mph (Mach 0.82) at 25,000 ft and 520 mph (Mach 0.785) at 41,000 ft. Cruising speed of Tu-95 is 442 mph (Mach 0.67). Later versions with more powerful engines have higher performance.
Max. speed at 25,000 ft 575 mph, at S/L 404 mph, nominal cruising speed 442 mph, ceiling 39,370 ft, combat radius with 25,000 lb payload 3,975 miles, with one in-flight refueling 5,155 miles.
It is rumored that Bear is known to be able to out accelerate contemporary western interceptors. This hard to believe fact can be accounted by use of variable-pitch propellers of NK-12M turboprops. Modern jets need to use afterburners to keep up with accelerating Bear. In fact, one of the photo showing Panavia Toronado using reheat on one of the engines while pursuing this remarkable bomber.
Presumably, Bear holds an unofficial speed record for a prop-driven aircraft...
Continue reading: Tu-95 bomber / Tu-142