Tupolev Tu-28 / Tu-128 (Fiddler)
Long-Range Interceptor Aircraft
The Tupolev Tu-28 became the largest and heaviest dedicated interceptor ever adopted by any national air arm.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited:
With the vast territory encompassing the Soviet Union at its peak during the Cold War, its military required large, fast and powerful missile-laden interceptors when managing its airspace from the prying eyes of the West. As such, aircraft of various makes were adopted including the Tupolev Tu-28 (officially the Tu-128), codenamed "Fiddler" in NATO nomenclature and produced by the Soviet-era Tupolev concern largely associated with bomber aircraft since the days of World War 2.
The Tu-28 was developed as a high-speed, jet-powered interceptor featuring a crew of two in tandem and incorporating a swept-wing design profile as well as twin afterburning turbojet engines. The design exhibited a wingspan of 60 feet with a fuselage length of 89 feet and height of 23 feet. The long, streamlined fuselage was centrally-located in the traditional way, housing avionics, fuel and the two-seat cockpit. The main wing assemblies were low-mounted along the sides of the fuselage, emanating from the twin, half-moon intake ducts set to either fuselage side. There proved only a single vertical tail fin, swept rearwards for maximum aerodynamic efficiency while maintaining control at high speeds. A pair of low-mounted tailplanes were also featured on the empennage. Consistent with other Soviet aircraft designs of the period, the Tu-28 sported noticeable boundary layer "fencing" along each main wing unit for high speed flight. The cockpit was set well-forward in the design, though aft of a pointed nosecone assembly shrouding its onboard radar assembly. The undercarriage was wholly retractable and consisted of a pair of four-wheeled main legs under the wings and a two-wheeled nose leg under the cockpit.
Power for the Tu-28 was served through 2 x Lyulka AL-series afterburning turbojet engines of 16,370lb thrust seated in a side-by-side arrangement within the aft section of the fuselage. This provided the airframe with a maximum speed of 1,150 miles-per-hour, a service ceiling nearing 51,200 feet and a range out to 1,600 miles. Rate-of-climb - an important quality for any interceptor - was an impressive 25,000 feet-per-minute. Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) was 96,340lb from the empty listed weight of 54,000lb.
As a aerial deterrent, the Tu-28 was appropriately armed with 4 x AA-5 "Ash" air-to-air missiles slung under the wings by way of four hardpoints. There was no internal cannon for close-in fighting as it was expected the aircraft would engage its target(s) from long-to-medium ranges. Later versions added a mix of radar-guided and infrared-homing missiles. Interestingly, the Tu-28 did not utilized external drop tanks for added endurance.
First flight of the Tu-28 occurred on March 18th, 1961 with manufacture beginning shortly thereafter. Official service introduction was in 1964 which allowed it to serve throughout the rest of the 1960s and into the 1970 in its given deterrence role. It was not officially recognized by Western observers until its debut at the 1961 Tushino display and several misconceptions of its onboard systems and capabilities soon followed. Production spanned into 1970 with 198 units delivered.
Its primary purpose was in intercepting the larger, slower, high-flying, nuclear-capable heavy bombers of the West in the event of an all-out war against the Soviet Union. The Tu-28 was expected to take-off and meet these aircraft within minutes and were appropriately designs for speed and good climb-to-altitude qualities. The 1960s-era aircraft managed an active service life until 1990 to which a new breed of Soviet aircraft were available offering better capabilities and weapons support. The line was largely given up for the Mikoyan MiG-31 "Foxhound" interceptor as well as the excellent Sukhoi Su-27 "Flanker" air defense/multi-role fighter.
Early versions of the aircraft were codenamed by NATO as "Fiddler-A" to which primary operational models earned the "Fiddler-B" name. Fiddler-B aircraft were recognized in the West as Tu-28P/Tu-128P while the Tu-128UT was the dedicated trainer variant which added a third crewmember in the nose assembly, replacing the radar installation. Four existing airframes were reportedly converted to serve in the training role while ten became new-build aircraft. The Tu-128M designation marked a 1979 modernization of existing stocks, given enhanced low-altitude capabilities with a new air-search radar system and new missiles. The T-28A, Tu-28-80, Tu-28-100, Tu-138 and Tu-148 were all related developments of the T-28/T-128 which came to naught.
The Tu-28/T-128 represented the largest and heaviest interceptor ever adopted by any air arm. The Tu-28 was only ever in service with the Soviet Union, never exported to supporting client nations or satellite states. It served with the Soviet Anti-Air Defense branch. All have since been retired.