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Tupolev Tu-143 (Reys / Flight)

Reconnaissance Drone [ 1982 ]

The Tupoelv Tu-143 Reys unmanned reconnaissance drone was born in the latter stages of the Cold War period and still sees operational service today.

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 07/13/2022 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.

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.

From this work came the announcement that an all-new, more powerful model was in development, the Tu-300 "Korshun". This offering was to provide much-needed support for more modern sensors and feature munitions-delivery support. With the fall of the Soviet Empire in the late-1980s / early-1990s, this project struggled to gain footing and was not revitalized until 2007 - though its current development status is unknown.©MilitaryFactory.com
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April 2022 - Russian forces released visual evidence of a Ukrainian Tu-143 drone that had been shot down near Kharkiv.


Tupolev OKB - Soviet Union
Belarus; Bulgaria (former); Czech Republic (former); Czechoslovakia (former); Iraq (former); North Korea; Romania (former); Russia; Soviet Union (former); Slovakia (former); Syria; Ukraine
Operators National flag of Belarus National flag of Bulgaria National flag of Czechia National flag of Iraq National flag of North Korea National flag of Romania National flag of Russia National flag of Slovakia National flag of the Soviet Union National flag of Syria National flag of Ukraine
Service Year
Soviet Union
National Origin
Project Status

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 meters)
7.4 ft
(2.25 meters)
5.1 ft
(1.55 meters)
2,712 lb
(1,230 kilograms)
Maximum Take-Off Weight
monoplane / low-mounted / swept-back
Mainplane Arrangement
Design utilizes a single primary wing mainplane; this represents the most popular modern 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.

1 x Klimov TR3-117 turbojet engine.
590 mph
(950 kph | 513 knots)
Max Speed
16,404 ft
(5,000 m | 3 miles)
124 miles
(200 km | 108 nm)

MACH Regime (Sonic)
RANGES (MPH) Subsonic: <614mph | Transonic: 614-921 | Supersonic: 921-3836 | Hypersonic: 3836-7673 | Hi-Hypersonic: 7673-19180 | Reentry: >19030

None. Mission equipment centered on the airborne reconnaissance role.

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.

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Image of the Tupolev Tu-143 (Reys / Flight)
Image from the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense; Public Release.

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