Tupolev Tu-16

The Tupolev Tu-16 (NATO codename: Badger) was a twin-engine jet bomber used by the Soviet Union. It has flown for more than 50 years and remains in service with the Commonwealth of Independent States and in the People's Republic of China.



In the late 1940s the Soviet Union was strongly committed to matching the United States in strategic bombing capability. The Soviets' only long-range bomber at the time was the Tupolev Tu-4, a reverse-engineered version of the American B-29. The development of the extremely powerful Mikulin AM-3 turbojet led to the possibility of a large, jet-powered bomber.

The Tupolev design bureau began work on the Tu-88 ("Aircraft N") prototypes in 1950. The Tu-888 first flew on 27 April 1952. After winning a competition against the Ilyushin Il-46, it was approved for production in December 1952. The first production bombers entered service with Frontal Aviation in 1955, receiving the service designation Tu-16. It received the NATO reporting name 'Badger-A'.

Tu-16s and
Tu-16s and F-14
Tu-16 of the
Tu-16 of the Egyptian Air Force

The Tu-16's fuselage and structure were in essence an enlarged version of the Tu-4, sharing much the same defensive armament. It had a new, larger swept wing and two massive Mikulin AM-3 turbojets, one under each wing. It could carry a single massive FAB-9000 9,000-kg (19,800 lb) conventional bomb (the Russian equivalent of the British Grand Slam bomb) or various nuclear weapons to a range of around 4,800 km (3,000 mi).

Although the Tu-16 began as a high-altitude, free-fall bomber, in the mid-1950s it was equipped to carry early Soviet cruise missiles. The Tu-16KS-1 ('Badger-B') version could carry KS-1 'Komet' (AS-1 'Kennel') missiles over a combat radius of 1,800 km (1,125 mi). These very large weapons were aerodynamically similar to the MiG-15 fighter, fitted with either a nuclear or conventional warhead, had a range of about 140 km (90 mi). They were intended for use primarily against US Navy aircraft carriers and other large surface ships. Subsequent Tu-16s were equipped to carry later, more advanced missiles.

A versatile design, the Tu-16 was built in numerous specialized variants for reconnaissance, maritime surveillance, electronic intelligence gathering (ELINT), and electronic warfare (ECM). A total of about 2,000 aircraft was constructed in the Soviet Union. A civilian adaptation, the Tupolev Tu-104, saw passenger service with Aeroflot. The Tu-16 was also exported to Egypt, Indonesia, and Iraq. It continued to be used by the Air Forces and naval aviation of the Soviet Union and subsequently Russia until 1993.

Delivery of the Tu-16 to China began in 1958, and the Xian Aircraft Corporation (XAC) produces a copy of it under the Chinese designation Xian H-6. An undetermined number of these aircraft remain in service, and low-rate production may still be taking place.


  • Badger A (Tu-16) - This the basic configuration of the Tu-16 bomber deployed in 1954 to replace the Tu-4. Several modified models of these variant existed, all of which were known as Badger A in the West.
    • Tu-16A - Remodified Tu-16s designed to carry nuclear bombs and the most numerous version, with over 700 built. Many of those units were subsequently converted into other variants.
    • Tu-16E - An early specialized version of the Tu-16 that served as airborne tankers, though they retain their medium bomber role.
    • Tu-16M - Maritime strike version of the Tu-16A that served in the Soviet Naval Aviation.
    • Tu-16N - A dedicated tanker version, with enhanced air refuelling systems. Entered service in 1963.
    • Tu-16T - Limited production version that carried air-to-surface missiles, mines, depth charges, and torpedoes. All units subsequently converted into Tu-16S configuration.
    • Tu-16S - Version used for search and rescue operations.
    • Tu-16Ye - These were equipped with heavy electronic warfare and electronic intelligence (ELINT) equipment.
  • Badger B (Tu-16KS) - Variant designed as a launch platform for the AS-1 Kennel/KS-1 Kometa missile. Later served with the Soviet Naval Aviation.
  • Badger C (Tu-16K-10) - Another Naval Aviation variant, units of this version carried the AS-2 Kipper/K-10S anti-ship missile. A further development, the Tu-16K-10-26, was designed a much more varied armament such as the KSR-2, KSR-5S and K-26 missiles. Many of the units were later converted into ELINT platforms.
  • Badger E (Tu-16R) - Reconnaissance version of the airframe.
    • Tu-16RM - Similar to Tu-16R, serving in the Naval Aviation.
    • Tu-16KRM - Launch platforms for target drones.
  • Badger F (Tu-16RM-2) - Another reconnaissance version based on the -16R/RM but with the addition of external ELINT equipment.
  • Badger G (Tu-16K-11-6/Tu-16K-26) - Serving in the Naval Aviation, these were mostly conversions from from earlier models. These were designed to carry bombs in internal bays in addition to carrying missiles externally, such as the AS-5 Kelt and AS-6 Kingfish.
  • Badger H (Tu-16P Elka) - Designed for stand-off electronic warfare and electronic counter-measures support.
  • Badger J (Tu-16P Buket) - Another electronic warfare variant configured as an ECM strike escort.
  • Badger K (Tu-16Ye) - Believed to be a version of the Badger F configuration possessing enhanced ELINT capability.
  • Badger L (Tu-16P) - Another version of the Badger J with more modern systems and used in ELINT role.

Specifications (Tu-16)

General Characteristics

  • Crew: four
  • Length: 34.80 m (114 ft 2 in)
  • Wingspan: 33.00 m (108 ft 3 in)
  • Height: 10.36 m (34 ft 0 in)
  • Wing area: 165 m² (1,775 ft²)
  • Empty: 37,200 kg (82,000 lb)
  • Loaded: 76,000 kg (168,00 lb)
  • Maximum takeoff: 79,000 kg (174,000 lb)
  • Powerplant: 2x Mikulin AM-3M-500 turbojets, 93.2 kN (20,900 lbf) thrust each


  • Maximum speed: 1,050 km/h (656 mph)
  • Range: 7,200 km (4,500 miles)
  • Service ceiling: 12,800 m (42,000 ft)
  • Rate of climb: N/A
  • Wing loading: 460 kg/m² (94 lb/ft²)
  • Thrust-to-weight ratio: 0.24:1


  • Six (two each in dorsal and ventral remote turrets and manned tail turret) or seven (same turret armament plus one fixed forward in the nose) Nudelman-Rikhter NR-23 cannon
  • 9,000 kg (19,800 lb) of free-fall weapons or one Kh-10 (AS-2 'Kipper') anti-ship missile semi-recessed in bomb bay or one Kh-26 (AS-6 'Kingfish') anti-ship missile on port underwing hardpoint


Related content

Related development: Tu-104 - Tu-124 - Xian H-6

Comparable aircraft: Vickers Valiant

Designation sequence (Tupolev): Tu-82 - Tu-85 - Tu-86 - Tu-88 - Tu-89 - Tu-90 - Tu-91

Designation sequence (Soviet Air Force): Tu-6 - Tu-12 - Tu-14 - Tu-16 - Tu-20 - Tu-22/Tu-22M - Tu-24

Lists of Aircraft | Aircraft manufacturers | Aircraft engines | Aircraft engine manufacturers

Airports | Airlines | Air forces | Aircraft weapons | Missiles | Timeline of aviation

de:Tupolew Tu-16 fr:Tupolev Tu-16 Badger


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