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Tupolev Tu-142 (Bear) Long-Range Anti-Submarine Warfare Bomber (1972)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 10/29/2015

The Tupolev Tu-142 Bear was an Anti-Submarine Warfare offshoot of the original Tu-95 Bear family line appearing during the Cold War.

As the Tupolev Tu-95 "Bear" proved a successful strategic bomber across several roles for the Soviet military, a dedicated maritime reconnaissance and Anti-Submarine Warfare variant was evolved from the same airframe as the Tu-142 (NATO codename of "Bear-F" and "Bear-J"). The Tu-142 was given a lengthened fuselage and received a maritime-minded search radar within a ventral radome. It could be outfitted with anti-ship missiles, torpedoes, naval mines and sonobuoys to counter the threat being posed by more advanced ballistic missile submarines beginning to emerge from the West (armed with the "Polaris").

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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Specifications for the
Tupolev Tu-142 (Bear)
Long-Range Anti-Submarine Warfare Bomber

Focus Model: Tupolev Tu-142 (Bear-F)
Country of Origin: Soviet Union
Manufacturer: Tupolev - Soviet Union
Initial Year of Service: 1972
Production Total: 100

Crew: 11

Length: 173.88 ft (53 m)
Width: 164.04 ft (50.00 m)
Height: 39.37ft (12.00 m)
Weight (Empty): 198,416 lb (90,000 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 407,855 lb (185,000 kg)

Powerplant: 4 x Kuznetsov NK-12MP turboprop engines developing 14,795 horsepower while driving two three-bladed contra-rotating propellers each.

Maximum Speed: 575 mph (925 kmh; 499 kts)
Maximum Range: 4,039 miles (6,500 km)
Service Ceiling: 39,370 ft (12,000 m; 7.5 miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 0 feet-per-minute (0 m/min)

Hardpoints: 0
Armament Suite:
1 x 23mm cannon in tail position.

Up to 19,800lbs of mission-specific ordnance that includes sonobouys, torpedoes, naval mines and anti-ship missiles.

Tu-95PLO - Original ASW variant studied by Tupolev

Tu-142 ("Bear-F") - Base series designation; based on the Tu-95 with lengthened fuselage and 1 x 23mm tail gun; revised wings with additional surface area; revised undercarriage for unprepared runway use; search radar in ventral radome; overwater navigation systems support and clearance for various naval-minded munitions.

Tu-142M ("Bear-F Mod I") - Lengthened fuselage; revised cockpit flight deck; simplified undercarriage; weight-savings initiative to promote better field performance.

Tu-142M ("Bear-F Mod II") - Lengthened fuselage; Mod I undercarriage.

Tu-142MK ("Bear-F Mod III") - Improved Tu-142M with new radar, avionics and sub-hunting equipment; 43 examples produced replacing Mod II models.

Tu-142MK-E - Export variant with reduced mission functionality and English labeling; Indian Navy sole customer of eight examples.

Tu-142MZ - Upgraded Tu-142Ms with new Kuznetsov NK-12MP engines of 14,795 horsepower each; self-starting engine capability; updated avionics; revised chin fairing; improved ECM.

Tu-142MZ-K - Proposed commercial cargo freighter based on the Tu-142MZ; appropriately demilitarized; not produced.

Tu-142MP - Avionics testbed; converted from existing Tu-142M airframe.

Tu-142MR ("Bear-J") - Modified Tu-142MK for submarine communications relay role.

Tu-142LL - Turbofan-based test airframes; two examples.

India; Russia; Soviet Union