The Tupolev Tu-143 (Reys) was developed as a dimensionally-smaller, low-to-medium-altitude, short-ranged version of the preceding Tu-141 reconnaissance drone (detailed elsewhere on this site) by the Soviet Union's Tupolev OKB concern. The newer version achieved its first-flight in 1970 and was brought online in 1976 - though not officially introduced into service until 1982. The series - of which some 950 were eventually produced - went on to stock the inventories of the usual Soviet-allied players of the time including Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia (eventually passed on to Slovakia), Iraq, Romania, and Slovakia.
Despite its Cold War-era origins, the Tu-143 still manages to serve with the powers of Belarus, North Korea, Russia (reserved as aerial targets), Syria, and Ukraine today (2022) though it is considered an obsolete design as Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UASs) go.
Borrowing design lines from the earlier Tu-141, the Tu-143 was essentially "missile-like" in its general appearance with the exception of a turbojet engine seated over the aft section of the fuselage dorsal line. Mainplanes were added low, and to the sides, of the aft-section of the fuselage while small canard-like foreplanes are set along the sides of the fuselage aft of the nose. The nosecone was capped by a noticeable a probe protrusion. As the aircraft lacked a conventional undercarriage, a launch vehicle (encompassing the Tu-143's own transport tube) was used in the take-off process which also involved Jet-Assisted Take-Off (JATO) from the launch rail (the booster pack seated under the aft-section of the fuselage) with recovery handled by parachute deployed at mission's end.
Dimensionally, the T-143 was given an overall length of 26.4 feet, a wingspan of 7.3 feet, and a height of 5 feet. Its launch weight reached 2,710lb and power form the single Klimov TR3-117 turbojet of 1,300lb thrust provided the vehicle with a maximum speed of 590 miles-per-hour. The vehicle's rated service ceiling was 16,500 feet and its range was 125 miles.
Several notable variants in the Tu-143 family line ultimately emerged beginning with the M-143 of 1983 which was a dedicated target drone. The Tu-243, first flying in 1987, was then offered in 1999 as an improved version for reconnaissance work: its fuselage was lengthened by 10 inches to accommodate additional fuel storage to enhanced operational ranges while the internal guidance system was improved and a more powerful Klimov TR3-117 series engine outputting 1,410 lb thrust was installed.
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April 2022 - Russian forces released visual evidence of a Ukrainian Tu-143 drone that had been shot down near Kharkiv.
Belarus; Bulgaria (former); Czech Republic (former); Czechoslovakia (former); Iraq (former); North Korea; Romania (former); Russia; Soviet Union (former); Slovakia (former); Syria; Ukraine
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
✓Intelligence-Surveillance-Reconnaissance (ISR), Scout
Surveil ground targets / target areas to assess environmental threat levels, enemy strength, or enemy movement.
Aircraft inherently designed (or later developed) with an unmanned capability to cover a variety of over-battlefield roles.
Mainplanes, or leading edges, features swept-back lines for enhanced high-speed performance and handling.
Small foreplanes ahead of the mainplanes reduce wing-loading and / or enhance maneuverability during high angle-of-attack or stall actions.
Can accelerate to higher speeds than average aircraft of its time.
Can reach and operate at higher altitudes than average aircraft of its time.
Design features ability to fly sans pilot, actions controlled onboard through programming and / or ground-based operator.
Payload supports photographic equipment providing still and / or real-time image / video results.
26.4 ft (8.05 m)
7.4 ft (2.25 m)
5.1 ft (1.55 m)
2,712 lb (1,230 kg)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the Tupolev Tu-143 production variant)
monoplane / low-mounted / swept-back
Design utilizes a single primary wing mainplane; this represent the most popular mainplane arrangement.
Mainplanes are low-mounted along the sides of the fuselage.
The planform features wing sweep back along the leading edges of the mainplane, promoting higher operating speeds.
(Structural descriptors pertain to the Tupolev Tu-143 production variant)
(Showcased performance specifications pertain to the Tupolev Tu-143 production variant. Performance specifications showcased above are subject to environmental factors as well as aircraft configuration. Estimates are made when Real Data not available. Compare this aircraft entry against any other in our database or View aircraft by powerplant type)
None. Mission equipment centered on the airborne reconnaissance role.
(Not all ordnance types may be represented in the showcase above)
Tu-143 ("Reys") - Base Series Designation.
M-143 - Target drone.
Tu-243 ("Reys-D") - Improved variant of 1998; improved guidance-to-target area; TR3-117 engine of 1,410lb thrust output; lengthened fuselage; increased range due to increase internal fuel load.
Tu-300 ("Korshun") - In-development modernized variant of 1995.
Ribbon graphics not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective aerial campaigns / operations / aviation periods.
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Image from the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense; Public Release.
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