Russian TU-95 “Bear Bomber” – Slow and Aging, But Still Formidable

A lot has been made of the USA’s aging B-52 bombers and the struggles it takes to keep them operational, updated and capable in today’s changing military times. After a cockpit fire destroyed one of the aging giants last year, it was lauded when the Air Force put one that had been mothballed back into service a few months ago. The Russian air force has a similar problem on its hands with its aging and worn TU-95 ‘Bear’ bomber squadrons. Despite that fact, experts warn to not take this loud and slow potential foe too lightly.

As evidence that maybe our armed forces don’t take this aging platform seriously enough, a few years back it was strongly considered whether the military should even do routine intercepts when these Russian bombers flew too close to our coast; these intercepts were considered to be expensive and a waste of time given the aircraft’s capabilities. The fact remains they are out there and they still remain a credible threat. This was clearly illustrated on the fourth of July when Russian ‘Bear’ bombers were intercepted off the Alaskan and California coastlines. It was Russian President Putin’s way of sending us an Independence Day greeting of sorts.

TU-95Why is this aging fleet of aircraft, that is so loud a sub can hear them fly overhead when submerged and has the radar signature of a battleship that gives these slow moving planes away well before they can get close, still a threat? The answer is because of the armament they carry. Russian TU-95’s do not necessarily have to penetrate our airspace to be effective; especially when they are capable of carrying an assortment of different weapon payloads including some with a nuclear capability.

As archaic as its design now seems, the aircraft was actually a state of the art engineering marvel when it was designed back in the 1950’s when the then-Soviet Union decided they needed a counter balance to America’s long range bombers. It features the most powerful turboprop engines that were ever designed (14,000 horsepower each) and its fuel range can take it well over 9000 miles from home; that puts the USA easily in range of these cold war-era metal beasts.

What makes these aircraft a threat is that they can carry a very large variety of bombs and missiles; the most lethal configuration of which is when it carries 6 internal long range cruise missiles and 10 more mounted on pods on its massive 164 foot wingspan. These missiles are capable of being armed with nuclear tips that a have up to a 200 kiloton nuclear payload (10 times that of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima). If any one of those missiles penetrated America’s defenses, it could level an entire city.

Russia is currently working on a large jet bomber that is stealth capable but it is not expected to be operational until the early 2020’s. Even then, the TU-95 Bear bomber is expected to remain operational well into the 2040’s. So it looks like this lumbering monstrosity of an aircraft will continue to be used as an aerial threat and source of pride for Russia well into the foreseeable future.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Craig Smith

Craig has been writing for several years but just recently made freelance writing a full time profession after leaving behind 26 years working in the swimming pool construction industry. He served four years in the US Air Force as an Imagery Interpreter Specialist in Okinawa, Japan and at SAC Headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska. As a staunch supporter of law enforcement personnel, emergency medical technicians, firemen, search and rescue personnel and those who serve in the military, Craig is proud to contribute to the US Patriot blog on their behalf.
Craig Smith
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