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Tupolev Tu-85

Heavy Bomber Prototype Aircraft

Tupolev Tu-85

Heavy Bomber Prototype Aircraft


Two prototypes of the Tupolev Tu-85 heavy bomber existed though the series was not adopted for production.
National Flag Graphic
ORIGIN: Soviet Union
YEAR: 1951
STATUS: Cancelled
MANUFACTURER(S): Tupolev - Soviet Union
OPERATORS: Soviet Union

Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Tupolev Tu-85 model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.
CREW: 11
LENGTH: 128.94 feet (39.3 meters)
WIDTH: 183.73 feet (56 meters)
HEIGHT: 37.40 feet (11.4 meters)
WEIGHT (EMPTY): 120,593 pounds (54,700 kilograms)
WEIGHT (MTOW): 236,556 pounds (107,300 kilograms)
ENGINE: 4 x Dobrynin VD-4K turbo-compound radial engines developing 4,300 horsepower each.
SPEED (MAX): 398 miles-per-hour (640 kilometers-per-hour; 346 knots)
RANGE: 7,456 miles (12,000 kilometers; 6,479 nautical miles)
CEILING: 38,386 feet (11,700 meters; 7.27 miles)
RATE-OF-CLIMB: 3,280 feet-per-minute (1,000 meters-per-minute)


10 x 23mm Nudelman NR-23 cannons

Up to 40,000lbs of internally-held ordnance.

Series Model Variants
• Tu-85 - Base Series Designation


Detailing the development and operational history of the Tupolev Tu-85 Heavy Bomber Prototype Aircraft.  Entry last updated on 8/6/2018. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©
During World War 2 (1939-1945), Soviet engineers were able to study three captured American B-29 Superfortresses that were forced into landing on Soviet soil following raids on mainland Japan. The aircraft provided engineers with a myriad of advanced technologies regarding high-altitude, long range flight. As the country lacked a true, viable heavy bomber during its war against Germany to the West, it was decided to simply copy the American design and reconstitute it as the Tupolev Tu-4 "Bull" in the ensuing years. The resulting bomber was faithful to the original in most ways and 847 were produced from 1949 to 1952.

However, to catch up with the American's growing long-range nuclear weapons delivery capability, the Tu-4 was found lacking for the role. This furthered several more heavy bomber-related programs of which many fell to naught. Two proved more promising than others and these came to be the Tu-80 and Tu-85 prototypes, both based on the general configuration of the preceding Tu-4 "Bull" and all directly related to the American B-29.

Both the Tu-80 and Tu-85 brought about use of a stepped cockpit (unlike the Tu-4 and B-29 which utilized a heavily glazed, streamlined nose section). Wings were wide-spanning, straight assemblies each mounting two engine nacelles at their leading edges. The tubular fuselage and large-area vertical tail unit of the B-29 were retained. The Tu-80 sported a more noticeable "nose-up" appearance due to its revised undercarriage while the Tu-85's stance was more in line with that of the B-29/Tu-4. Both of the Tupolev designs existed as longer-range offerings when compared to the Tu-4 and this was aided, in part, by the Tu-80's 4 x Shvetsov ASh-73FN radial engines of 2,650 horsepower and the Tu-85's 4 x Dobrynin VD-4K "turbo-compound" radial engines of 4,300 horsepower. The Tu-85 featured an operating crew of eleven personnel. Its fuselage measured 129 feet with a wingspan of 183.5 feet and height of 37 feet. Empty weight was 120,365lbs while Maximum Take-Off Weight reached 167,200lbs. Each engine drove a four-bladed propeller assembly.

The Tu-80 took to the air for the first time on December 1st, 1949 but by this time the product had been cancelled after one prototype by Soviet authorities in favor of the more promising Tu-85 endeavor. It proved faster with better range and good bomb-carrying qualities than the competing Tu-80. Its maximum speed was nearly 400 miles per hour with a range out to 7,460 miles and service ceiling of 38,380 feet. This compared favorably to the Tu-80's maximum speed of 340 miles per hour, 5,100 mile range and 36,680 foot service ceiling. The Tu-85 could carry an ordnance load of 40,000lbs to the Tu-80's 26,500lb limit.

The Tu-85 program therefore progressed to complete a first flight on January 9th, 1951 and include a second completed prototype. While the platform fulfilled the Soviet heavy bomber needs for the short-term, it was soon realized that current-generation prop-driven heavy aircraft would become quickly outpaced by Western jet-powered interceptors. This was primarily driven home during the Korean War (1950-1953) when it was observed how the prop-driven B-29s were manhandled by smaller, more agile jet-powered MiG fighters on interception sorties. The output power of the turbo-compound (essentially reciprocating) engines did not offer the needed qualities at this stage, prompting efforts to develop either more effective "turboprop" engines or turbojets which promised extended range and better altitude performance over conventional propeller-driven types. This thinking led authorities to cancel the Tupolev Tu-85's development in turn.

The advanced work eventually settled on turboprop propulsion configuration which begat the famous Tupolev Tu-95 "Bear", the aircraft still remaining in service today (December 2013) and detailed elsewhere on this site.


Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.

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Relative Maximum Speed Rating
Hi: 400mph
Lo: 200mph
    This entry's maximum listed speed (398mph).

    Graph average of 300 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
Graph showcases the Tupolev Tu-85's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production Comparison
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units

  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.

Altitude Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Supported Roles
Ground Attack
Aerial Tanker
A2A=Air-to-Air; UAV=Unmanned; CAS=Close Support; ASW=Anti-Submarine; AEW=Airborne Early Warning; MEDEVAC=Medical Evac; EW=Electronic Warfare; SAR=Search-Rescue
Supported Arsenal
Graphical image of an aircrat automatic cannon
Commitments / Honors
Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for pioneering aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon representing modern aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur War
Military lapel ribbon for experimental x-plane aircraft
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.