As the Tupolev Tu-95 "Bear" proved a successful strategic bomber across several roles for the Soviet military, a dedicated maritime reconnaissance and Anti-Submarine Warfare variant was evolved from the same airframe as the Tu-142 (NATO codename of "Bear-F" and "Bear-J"). The Tu-142 was given a lengthened fuselage and received a maritime-minded search radar within a ventral radome. It could be outfitted with anti-ship missiles, torpedoes, naval mines and sonobuoys to counter the threat being posed by more advanced ballistic missile submarines beginning to emerge from the West (armed with the "Polaris").
At the heart of the Tu-142 was its onboard equipment which was half of the system (the other being its weaponry). The equipment allowed for the detection, tracking and engagement of undersea vessels coupled with the inherent long-range qualities of the original Tu-95. Also retained was the general four-engine configuration which included swept-back wing surfaces, a traditional tail unit and a slim fuselage. The undercarriage was retractable and of the tricycle arrangement. The operating crew typically numbered 11 personnel.
Design work on a dedicated sub-hunter began back in the 1960s. The Tu-95PLO study emerged from this and cleared to carry upwards of 19,800lbs of ordnance but lacked the needed detection/tracking system which led to the project falling to naught. The idea of a dedicated ASW aircraft then returned in early 1963 when Tupolev was charged by the government with the same requirement. Taking the Tu-95RT (Maritime Reconnaissance and Signals Intelligence) as a starting point, the aircraft was given the proper search radar (based on the one used in the Ilyushin Il-38 "May" line) and full naval weapons capability. A specialized navigation system ensured proper and safe travel over water and a dedicated Electronic CounterMeasures kit was installed. An electronics package allowed for reconnaissance in the SIGnals INTelligence role. The wings were only slightly modified from the original Tu-95 with wing area increased for better lift and control. The twin 23mm cannon arrangement in the tail was reduced to one. The undercarriage was revised to a Navy requirement for operations from rough runways. The aircraft differed enough from the original Tu-95 line that it was granted its own designation of Tu-142. For NATO, the series remained under the "Bear" codename.
First flight of a Tu-142 prototype occurred on July 18th, 1968. A second and third prototype joined the stable by the end of the year. Following the requisite testing and evaluation period, the type was formally adopted by the Soviet Navy. Deliveries commenced in 1970. Early versions were marked by NATO as "Bear-F".
The Tu-142 "Bear-F" Mod I was a refined version of the original production form. Weight-savings measures were instituted including a new undercarriage. Crew comforts were added for long patrol sorties. Due to the changes, performance gains were experienced. The Tu-142 "Bear-F" Mod II (also "Tu-142M") was a further refinement of the line. This included additional lengthening of the fuselage and all-new cockpit to go along with the revised undercarriage of the Mod I standard. The Tu-142 "Bear-F" Mod III (also "Tu-142MK") sported improved avionics and submarine detection qualities. These replaced the Mod II models and 43 aircraft emerged.
The Tu-142MK was delivered with reduced mission capabilities and English labeling to the Indian Navy as the Tu-142MK-E. Eight aircraft were part of the deal.
The Tu-142MZ was a Mid-Life Upgrade (MLU) intended to keep the Tu-142 a viable ASW platform against new-generation submarines of the West. All new equipment and an improved ECM kit became part of the mix while new Kuznetsov NK-12MP engines of 14,795 horsepower were installed. The engines no longer required the services of an external power unit for starting. These models were also noted for their revised chin fairings. Development spanned the mid-1980s and joined the Soviet Navy in 1993. 1994 marked the final "Bear" to leave the assembly line after 100 aircraft had been built.
As with the service life of the Tu-95 before it, several "special mission" and experimental aircraft were developed from the Tu-142 line including the Tu-142MZ-K commercial cargo freighter (not adopted), the Tu-142MP avionics testbed, the Tu-142MR submarine communications relay platform and the Tu-142LL turbofan-powered testbed (two examples built).
The modern Russian Navy still utilizes the Tu-142 though in limited numbers (about 22 in service with plans to modernize the fleet with a new bombing system). Ukraine took on stocks of ex-Soviet Tu-142s after the fall of the Soviet Union though these were scrapped with the STrategic Arms Reduction Treaty ("START-1") agreement between the United States and Russia. Similarly, the Indian Navy no longer operates their Tu-142MK-E model aircraft - the last given up in March of 2017 after nearly three decades in service. The Boeing P-8 Poseidon was selected to replace them in same role.
India (retired); Russia; Soviet Union (defunct); Ukraine (retired)
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
✓Ground Attack (Bombing, Strafing)
Ability to conduct aerial bombing of ground targets by way of (but not limited to) guns, bombs, missiles, rockets, and the like.
✓Special-Mission: Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW)
Equipped to search, track, and engage enemy underwater elements by way of specialized onboard equipment and weapons.
✓Intelligence-Surveillance-Reconnaissance (ISR), Scout
Surveil ground targets / target areas to assess environmental threat levels, enemy strength, or enemy movement.
173.9 ft (53.00 m)
164.0 ft (50.00 m)
39.4 ft (12.00 m)
198,416 lb (90,000 kg)
407,855 lb (185,000 kg)
+209,439 lb (+95,000 kg)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the Tupolev Tu-142 (Bear-F) production variant)
4 x Kuznetsov NK-12MP turboprop engines developing 14,795 horsepower while driving a pair of three-bladed contra-rotating propellers each.
1 x 23mm Automatic cannon in tail position (facing aft).
Up to 19,800lb of mission-specific drop or air-launched ordnance / munitions that includes sonobuoys, torpedoes, naval mines, cruise missiles, and anti-ship missiles.
(Not all ordnance types may be represented in the showcase above)
Hardpoint Mountings: 2
Tu-95PLO - Original ASW variant studied by Tupolev
Tu-142 ("Bear-F") - Base series designation; based on the Tu-95 with lengthened fuselage and 1 x 23mm tail gun; revised wings with additional surface area; revised undercarriage for unprepared runway use; search radar in ventral radome; overwater navigation systems support and clearance for various naval-minded munitions.
Tu-142M ("Bear-F Mod I") - Lengthened fuselage; revised cockpit flight deck; simplified undercarriage; weight-savings initiative to promote better field performance.
Tu-142M ("Bear-F Mod II") - Lengthened fuselage; Mod I undercarriage.
Tu-142MK ("Bear-F Mod III") - Improved Tu-142M with new radar, avionics and sub-hunting equipment; 43 examples produced replacing Mod II models.
Tu-142MK-E - Export variant with reduced mission functionality and English labeling; Indian Navy sole customer of eight examples.
Tu-142MZ - Upgraded Tu-142Ms with new Kuznetsov NK-12MP engines of 14,795 horsepower each; self-starting engine capability; updated avionics; revised chin fairing; improved ECM.
Tu-142MZ-K - Proposed commercial cargo freighter based on the Tu-142MZ; appropriately demilitarized; not produced.
Tu-142MP - Avionics testbed; converted from existing Tu-142M airframe.
Tu-142MR ("Bear-J") - Modified Tu-142MK for submarine communications relay role.
Tu-142LL - Turbofan-based test airframes; two examples.
Values are derrived from a variety of categories related to the design, overall function, and historical influence of this aircraft in aviation history.
The overall rating takes into account over 60 individual factors related to this aircraft entry.
Rating is out of a possible 100 points.
Relative Maximum Speed
This entry's maximum listed speed (575mph).
Graph average of 563 miles-per-hour.
Tupolev Tu-142 (Bear-F) operational range when compared to distances between major cities (in KM).
Max Altitude Visualization
The 3 qualities we look at for a balanced aircraft design are altitude, speed, and range.
Aviation Era Span
Showcasing era cross-over of this aircraft design.
Unit Production (100)
This entry's total production compared against the most-produced military and civilian aircraft types in history (Ilyushin IL-2 and Cessna 172, respectively).
Ribbon graphics not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective aerial campaigns / operations / aviation periods.
Aviation developments of similar form and function, or related to, the Tupolev Tu-142 (Bear)...
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