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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.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Edited: 8/23/2018
National Flag Graphic


Year: 1956
Status: Cancelled
Manufacturer(s): Tupolev - Soviet Union
Production: 1
Capabilities: Ground Attack; X-Plane;
Crew: 3
Length: 105.18 ft (32.06 m)
Width: 56.66 ft (17.27 m)
Height: 26.44 ft (8.06 m)
Weight (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
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.


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.
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