Tupolev Tu-126 (Moss) Airborne Early Warning Aircraft
The Tupolev Tu-126 Moss was a serviceable Airborne Early Warning and Control platform developed from a modified Tu-114 airliner.
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Design of the Tupolev Tu-126 (NATO codename of "Moss") was conventional and followed much of what made up the large, propeller-driven Soviet bomber concepts throughout the Cold War. The aircraft's appearance was characterized by the circular radome installation atop the rear portion of the fuselage while its general characteristics were formed from the existing Tupolev Tu-114 turboprop airliner of 1961. The flight deck was fitted to the extreme forward end of the fuselage behind a short, glazed-over nose cone. The fuselage was largely tubular from nose to tail, tapering off to a point at the rear. Wings were monoplane assemblies, low-set ahead of amidships and each mounted two contra-rotating engines. The engines were fitted into streamlined nacelles hanging underneath the swept-back wings. The low-set nature of the wings, coupled with the leading edge nacelles, necessitated rather long landing gear legs for optimal clearance. The empennage was dominated by a single rear-swept large vertical tail fin. Swept horizontal tail planes were mid-set installations along the aft fuselage. A ventral strake was identifiable under the empennage with two underfuselage blisters just ahead. A dorsal blister could be seen at the forward fuselage, just aft of the flightdeck. A refueling probe was fitted to the nose.
The Tu-126 was typically crewed by twelve personnel which including two pilots. The aircraft was powered by 4 x Kuznetsov NK-12MV turboprops driving contra-rotating propellers, each engine developing approximately 14,795 horsepower. This supplied the aircraft with a maximum speed of 490 miles per hour, an operational range of up to 4,350 miles and a service ceiling of 35,100 feet. Cruise speed was listed at 323 miles per hour.
The Tu-126 served solely with the Soviet Air Force and Soviet Anti-Air Defense branches in the Airborne Early Warning And Control (AEWAC or "AWACs") role beginning in 1965. The line was retired in 1984 with only twelve units being produced.