At the heart of the Tu-142 was its onboard equipment which was half of the system (the other being its weaponry). The equipment allowed for the detection, tracking and engagement of undersea vessels coupled with the inherent long-range qualities of the original Tu-95. Also retained was the general four-engine configuration which included swept-back wing surfaces, a traditional tail unit and a slim fuselage. The undercarriage was retractable and of the tricycle arrangement. The operating crew typically numbered 11 personnel.
Design work on a dedicated sub-hunter began back in the 1960s. The Tu-95PLO study emerged from this and cleared to carry upwards of 19,800lbs of ordnance but lacked the needed detection/tracking system which led to the project falling to naught. The idea of a dedicated ASW aircraft then returned in early 1963 when Tupolev was charged by the government with the same requirement. Taking the Tu-95RT (Maritime Reconnaissance and Signals Intelligence) as a starting point, the aircraft was given the proper search radar (based on the one used in the Ilyushin Il-38 "May" line) and full naval weapons capability. A specialized navigation system ensured proper and safe travel over water and a dedicated Electronic CounterMeasures kit was installed. An electronics package allowed for reconnaissance in the SIGnals INTelligence role. The wings were only slightly modified from the original Tu-95 with wing area increased for better lift and control. The twin 23mm cannon arrangement in the tail was reduced to one. The undercarriage was revised to a Navy requirement for operations from rough runways. The aircraft differed enough from the original Tu-95 line that it was granted its own designation of Tu-142. For NATO, the series remained under the "Bear" codename.
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