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Flightline: 54/TBD

“Pigpen this here’s the Rubber Duck, we about to go a’huntin’ Bears!”
“Pigpen this here’s the Rubber Duck, we about to go a’huntin’ Bears!”
Photo: U.S. DefenseImagery (Fair Use)

First taking flight in 1952, the Tu-95 “Bear” bomber is one of the loudest, fastest propeller-driven warplanes in service.

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In 1948 the Tupolev OKB began work on a strategic bomber based on the Tu-4 “Bull”, which was an unlicensed copy of the Boeing B-29. The Bull, though state of the art during WWII, was unable to reach the US from the USSR, and a new plane was needed for the nascent Cold War. Starting with the Tu-4's fuselage, a new wing was designed by TsAGI was fitted, along with turbo-compound Dobrynin VD-4K engines. The resulting aircraft, designated the Tu-85 “Barge” had a range of twelve thousand kilometres and a speed of 638 km/h. Production was planned beginning in 1951, but experiences in the Korean conflict convinced the USSR that there was no future in piston powered bombers, and the project was canceled with only two planes completed.

The prototype Tu-85
The prototype Tu-85
Photo: reddit (Fair Use)
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Tupolev went back to the drawing board, eventually developing a new design incorporating a swept wing and turboprop engines. The resulting Tu-95 retained the 12,000km range of the Barge, but the top speed was now 830km/h. The new plane first flew in November 1952, though it crashed after six months after a gearbox failure. The second prototype incorporated updated engines, and after a successful test series, production was ordered in January of 1956.

Orthographic line drawing of the Tu-95MSV
Orthographic line drawing of the Tu-95MSV
Illustration: Kaboldy (Fair Use)
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Numerous upgrades and modifications have been made to the Tu-95 design over the years, including the Tu-95K/KD (“Bear-B”), designed to carry Kh-20 cruise missiles, Tu-95MR (“Bear-E”) photo reconnaissance planes, and the newest mod, the Tu-95MSM. Several aircraft were also derived from the Tu-95, including the Tu-114 airliner, the Tu-126 AEW&C platform, and the Tu-142 maritime recon and ASW aircraft.

One of the the constants of the last sixty years has been US, NATO and other Western aircraft intercepting and escorting Tu-95s:

A US Navy F-8E Crusader escorting a Bear sometime in the middle/late 1960s.
A US Navy F-8E Crusader escorting a Bear sometime in the middle/late 1960s.
Photo: US Navy (Fair Use)
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A CF-101 escorts a Bear
A CF-101 escorts a Bear
Photo: reddit (Fair Use)
F-102A intercepts a Tu-95 Bear-B near Iceland
F-102A intercepts a Tu-95 Bear-B near Iceland
Photo: Pintrest
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NJ ANG F-106 escorting a Tu-95
NJ ANG F-106 escorting a Tu-95
Photo: Unknown
A U.S. Navy McDonnell F-4B-23-MC Phantom II flies near a Soviet Tupolev Tu-95 (NATO reporting code “Bear-D”) on 22 September 1973
A U.S. Navy McDonnell F-4B-23-MC Phantom II flies near a Soviet Tupolev Tu-95 (NATO reporting code “Bear-D”) on 22 September 1973
Photo: US Navy (Fair Use)
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Grumman F-14A Tomcat of Fighter Squadron VF-114 Aardvarks flying alongside a Soviet Tupolev Tu-95RT Bear D maritime patrol aircraft.
Grumman F-14A Tomcat of Fighter Squadron VF-114 Aardvarks flying alongside a Soviet Tupolev Tu-95RT Bear D maritime patrol aircraft.
Photo: US Navy (Fair Use)
Grumman A-6E Intruder escorting a Soviet Tupolev Tu-95RTs Bear-D aircraft in October 1982.
Grumman A-6E Intruder escorting a Soviet Tupolev Tu-95RTs Bear-D aircraft in October 1982.
Photo: US Navy (Fair Use)
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A Soviet Tupolev Tu-95 Bear D aircraft being intercepted by a U.S. Navy Vought A-7E Corsair II aircraft
A Soviet Tupolev Tu-95 Bear D aircraft being intercepted by a U.S. Navy Vought A-7E Corsair II aircraft
Photo: US Navy (Fair Use)
“Because I was inverted...”
“Because I was inverted...”
Photo: Robert M. Sihler (Fair Use)
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British Aerospace Sea Harrier British Aerospace Sea Harrier in formation with Tupolev Tu-95 and Grumman F-14
British Aerospace Sea Harrier British Aerospace Sea Harrier in formation with Tupolev Tu-95 and Grumman F-14
Photo: Charles Daniels English Aircraft Album (Fair Use)
A Soviet Tupolev Tu-95 “Bear H” aircraft escorted by a U.S. Air Force McDonnell Douglas F-15A
A Soviet Tupolev Tu-95 “Bear H” aircraft escorted by a U.S. Air Force McDonnell Douglas F-15A
Photo: USAF (Fair Use)
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A RNAF F-16 escorting a Tu-95 in 2007
A RNAF F-16 escorting a Tu-95 in 2007
Photo: Reuters (Other)
A U.S. Navy McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A-19-MC Hornet aircraft from strike fighter squadron VFA-151 Vigilantes escorting a Soviet Tu-95 “Bear D” over the Pacific in 1987.
A U.S. Navy McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A-19-MC Hornet aircraft from strike fighter squadron VFA-151 Vigilantes escorting a Soviet Tu-95 “Bear D” over the Pacific in 1987.
Photo: US Navy (Fair Use)
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F-22A Raptor escorting a Tu-95
F-22A Raptor escorting a Tu-95
Photo: USAF
A Soviet Tu-142M aircraft (NATO code “Bear F Mod 3") being escorted by a U.S. Navy Lockheed P-3C
A Soviet Tu-142M aircraft (NATO code “Bear F Mod 3") being escorted by a U.S. Navy Lockheed P-3C
Photo: US Navy (Fair Use)
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Tu-95 Bear being escorted by a BAe Lightning
Tu-95 Bear being escorted by a BAe Lightning
Photo: RAF (Fair Use)
Tu-95 Bear bomber being escorted by a Panavia Tornado.
Tu-95 Bear bomber being escorted by a Panavia Tornado.
Photo: RAF
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RAF Typhoon intercepting a Tu-95
RAF Typhoon intercepting a Tu-95
Photo: RAF
A Rafale-N of the French Navy escorting a Tu-142
A Rafale-N of the French Navy escorting a Tu-142
Photo: French Navy
Illustration for article titled Flightline: 54/TBD
Photo: reddit (AP)

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