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Tupolev Tu-98 (Backfin)

Swept-Wing, Supersonic Strategic Bomber Prototype Aircraft


Only a single prototype of the Tupolev Tu-98 Backfin bomber was ever completed.

Detailing the development and operational history of the Tupolev Tu-98 (Backfin) Swept-Wing, Supersonic Strategic Bomber Prototype Aircraft.  Entry last updated on 8/23/2018. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©
Following World War 2, the aviation world was moving along at breakneck speeds in development of advanced jet-powered designs. These initiatives were only furthered by the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the West - primarily Europe and the United States. Both the US and Soviet Empire undertook broad-reaching experiments in supersonic jet-powered flight, utilizing all available modern technologies while incorporating mixes of new ones into the fold. One such development of Soviet engineers became the ultimately abandoned Tupolev Tu-98 project - known to NATO as "Backfin". Only a single prototype example was ever realized but the data and experience collected helped to shape other design projects coming into the fold.

Since 1954, the Soviet Air Force made extensive use of the Tupolev Tu-16 "Badger" series of jet-powered strategic bombers. Some 1,509 of them were built in a plethora of variants which saw considerable export to Soviet-allied nations and states. Both the Soviet Air Force and Navy utilized the type and many operated into the 1990s, being inherited from the Soviet empire collapse of 1991. The Tupolev concern, already eying the Tu-16's eventual replacement, gave thought to a more capable and modernized form. A pair of Lyulka AL-7 turbojet engines was selected and a conventional design with high side-mounted intakes was developed. Wings were highly swept back in typical Soviet fashion with a stepped cockpit and heavily glazed nose cone. A single vertical tail fin capped the rear portion of the tubular fuselage. while a fully retractable undercarriage featuring two main legs and a nose leg was devised. The dual engine configuration exhausted through a closely set pair of exhaust rings under the vertical tail unit. Construction of the initial example was underway in 1955 and a first flight was quickly recorded in 1956. The West recognized the development that same year when a visiting American delegation was shown the aircraft at the Kubinka Air Base that June. The design - assigned the designation of "Tu-98" - was crewed by three personnel and its engines outputted at 21,000lbs thrust each, capable of speeds in excess of 850 miles per hour with a range out to 1,500 miles and able to operate upwards of 41,000 feet. The armament payload was expected to be up to 11,000lbs of ordnance with 3 x 23mm Nudelman-Rikhter NR-23 series cannons as standard defense.

Despite the promising nature of the design, the Tu-98 was only ever completed in this initial prototype and never selected for serial production. The program was eventually disbanded though the experience was put to good use in developing the upcoming Tupolev Tu-28 interceptor. The two-seat, twin-engined interceptor existed in 198 examples while being outfitted with various air-to-air weaponry.


YEAR: 1956
STATUS: Cancelled
MANUFACTURER(S): Tupolev - Soviet Union
LENGTH: 105.18 ft (32.06 m)
WIDTH: 56.66 ft (17.27 m)
HEIGHT: 26.44 ft (8.06 m)
MTOW: 85,980 lb (39,000 kg)
POWER: 2 x Lyulka AL-7F turbojet engines developing 20,900lb of thrust each.
SPEED: 848 mph (1,365 kph; 737 kts)
CEILING: 41,831 feet (12,750 m; 7.92 miles)
RANGE: 1,516 miles (2,440 km; 1,317 nm)
OPERATORS: Soviet Union

3 x 23mm Nudelman-Rikhter NR-23 series cannons

Up to 11,000lbs of ordnance.
Graphical image of an aircrat automatic cannon
Variants / Models

• Tu-98 ("Backfin") - Base Series Designation; single prototype completed.

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
Hi: 1000mph
Lo: 500mph
This entry's maximum listed speed (848mph).

Graph average of 750 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
Graph showcases the Tupolev Tu-98 (Backfin)'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 (1)
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
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.

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