Tu-143 "Reys"
Role unmanned reconnaissance aircraft
Manufacturer Tupolev
First flight 1970
(Tu-243 1987)
Introduction 1976 (Army i.e. Ground Forces, SSV)
1982 (Air Force, VVS)
(Tu-243 1999)
Status Active
Primary user Soviet Union
Produced 1973–1989 (Tu-243 1994-)
Number built 950
Developed from Tupolev Tu-141

The Tupolev Tu-143 Reys (Flight or Trip, Russian: Рейс; also Reis, Rejs) was a Soviet unmanned reconnaissance aircraft in service with the Soviet Army and a number of its Warsaw Pact and Middle East allies during the late 1970s and 1980s. It contained a reconnaissance pod that was retrieved after flight, and from which imagery was retrieved.[1]



Tu-143 with launcher

The Tu-143 was introduced in 1976 and strongly resembled the Tu-141, but was substantially scaled-down. It was a short-range (60–70 kilometer) tactical reconnaissance system and had low-level flight capability. The Tu-143 was truck-launched with JATO boosting, recovered by parachute, and powered by a TR3-117 turbojet with 5.8 kN (590 kgf, 1300 lbf) thrust. The initial version carried film cameras, but later versions carried a TV or radiation detection payload, with data relayed to a ground station over a datalink. Some 950 units were produced in the 1970s and 1980s.

Operation history

The Tu-143 was used by Syria in reconnaissance missions over Israel and Lebanon during the 1982 Lebanon War, as well as by Soviet forces in Afghanistan during the Soviet–Afghan War.

During the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, Ukraine appeared to use them to spot Russian air defences and as an ersatz cruise missile. [2] On 29 June 2022, one Tu-143 carrying explosives was shot down in Kursk Oblast. [3]

M-143 variant

A target drone version, the M-143, was introduced in the mid-1980s.

Tu-243 variant

The Tu-143 was followed into service in the late 1990s by the similar but improved "Tu-243 Reys-D", with a 25 cm (10 inch) fuselage stretch, to provide greater fuel capacity and about twice the range; it had an uprated TR3-117 engine with 6.28 kN (640 kgf, 1,410 lbf) thrust; and improved low-altitude guidance.[4]

Tu-300 variant

Since 1995, Tupolev began promoting the further refined "Tu-300 Korshun", which resembles its predecessors but is fitted with a nose antenna dome and nose fairings for modern sensors and electronic systems. It also features a centerline pylon for a sensor pod or munitions. Financial issues forced a halt to development at the end of the 1990s, but work was resumed in 2007.


Current operators

 North Korea
Korean People's Air Force

Former operators

 Republic of Belarus
 People's Republic of Bulgaria /  Bulgaria
 Czech Republic
VR-3 Rejs, retired in 1995
VR-3 was in service from 1985, passed to Czech Republic and Slovakia
 Ba'athist Iraq /  Republic of Iraq /  Iraq
 Socialist Republic of Romania /  Romania
VR-3 in service from 1987 until the early 2000s[7]
VR-3 Rejs, retired
 Soviet Union
Passed to Russia and Ukraine on dissolution of the USSR


Tupolev TU-143 Reys:


This article contains material that originally came from the web article Unmanned Aerial Vehicles by Greg Goebel, which exists in the Public Domain.

  1. ^ The Encyclopedia of the Arab-Israeli Conflict: A Political, Social, and Military History: A Political, Social, and Military History, ABC-CLIO, 12 May 2008, by Spencer C. Tucker, Priscilla Mary Roberts, page 1055
  2. ^ "Cheering Its Own Misery – Why Did Ukraine 'Celebrate' Downing Of Its Own Tupolev Tu-143 Drone By Russia?". April 18, 2022.
  3. ^ "Cruise Missile or Suicide Drone – Russia Shoots Down Invading Tu-143 Inside Its Airspace With Buk Missile". July 1, 2022.
  4. ^ "ВР-3 «Рейс», комплекс воздушной разведки с беспилотным летательным аппаратом Ту-143 — ОРУЖИЕ РОССИИ, Федеральный электронный справочник вооружения и военной техники". www.arms-expo.ru. Archived from the original on 24 October 2009. Retrieved 12 January 2022.
  5. ^ "Воздушные мишени – вторая жизнь зенитных ракет — ОРУЖИЕ РОССИИ, Информационное агентство". Arms-expo.ru. Archived from the original on 2011-10-25. Retrieved 2013-09-03.
  6. ^ The Military Balance 2016, p. 190.
  7. ^ "VR-3 (TU-143)". Aripi Argintii (in Romanian). Archived from the original on 11 July 2017.