A Tu-16 in flight over USS Hewitt (circa 1978)
Role Strategic bomber
National origin Soviet Union
Manufacturer Voronezh Aircraft Production Association[1]
Designer Tupolev
First flight 27 April 1952
Introduction 1954
Status Discontinued, In limited service
Primary users Russian Air Force
Egyptian Air Force (Historical)
Iraqi Air Force (Historical)
Indonesian Air Force (Historical)
Produced 1952–1962
Number built 1,509
Variants Tupolev Tu-104
Tupolev Tu-124
Xian H-6

The Tupolev Tu-16 (USAF/DOD reporting name Type 39;[2] NATO reporting name: Badger)[3] is a twin-engined jet strategic heavy bomber used by the Soviet Union. It has been flown for almost 70 years, Soviets retired many of them after the Cold War ended, however, the Chinese license-built version Xian H-6 remains in service with the People's Liberation Army Air Force, with more being built as of 2020.[4]


Tu-16 bomber at the Monino Museum (1998)

In the late 1940s, the Soviet Union was strongly committed to matching the United States in strategic bombing capability. The Soviets' only long-range bomber at the time was Tupolev's Tu-4 'Bull', a reverse-engineered copy of the American B-29 Superfortress. The development of the notably powerful Mikulin AM-3 turbojet led to the possibility of a large, jet-powered bomber.

The Tupolev design bureau began work on the Tu-88 ("Aircraft N") prototypes in 1950. The Tu-88 first flew on 27 April 1952. After winning a competition against the Ilyushin Il-46, it was approved for production in December 1952. The first production bombers entered service with Frontal Aviation in 1954, receiving the service designation Tu-16. It received the NATO reporting name Badger-A.

Rear side view of a Tu-16 Badger reconnaissance variant (most likely Tu-16R) (1989)

It had a new, large swept wing and two large Mikulin AM-3 turbojets, one in each wing root. It could carry a single massive FAB-9000 9,000 kg (20,000 lb) bomb (the Russian equivalent in terms of size of the British Grand Slam, but a conventional bomb rather than a deep ground penetrator) or various nuclear weapons for a range of around 4,800 km (3,000 mi). Production took place in three aviation plants, Kazan Aircraft Production Association, Kuybyshev, and Voronezh Aircraft Production Association.

Although the Tu-16 began as a high-altitude, free-fall bomber, in the mid-1950s, it was equipped to carry early Soviet cruise missiles. The Tu-16KS-1 (Badger-B) version could carry AS-1 missiles over a combat radius of 1,800 km (1,100 mi). These very large weapons were aerodynamically similar to the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 fighter, fitted with either a nuclear or conventional warhead, having a range of about 140 km (85 mi). They were intended for use primarily against US Navy aircraft carriers and other large surface ships. Subsequent Tu-16s were converted to carry later, more advanced missiles, while their designations changed several times.

Egyptian Tu-16s (1980)

A versatile design, the Tu-16 was built in numerous specialized variants for aerial reconnaissance, maritime surveillance, electronic intelligence gathering (ELINT), and electronic warfare (ECM). In total, 1,507 aircraft were constructed in three plants in the Soviet Union, in 1954–1962. A civilian adaptation, the Tupolev Tu-104, saw passenger service with Aeroflot. The Tu-16 was also exported to Indonesia, Egypt, and Iraq. It continued to be used by the Air Forces and naval aviation of the Soviet Union and subsequently Russia, until 1993.

Delivery of the Tu-16 to China began in 1958, and the Xi'an Aircraft Industrial Corporation license-produced the aircraft under the Chinese designation Xian H-6. At least 120 of these aircraft remain in service. On 14 May 1965, one of the PLAAF Tu-16 bombers carried out the first airborne nuclear weapon test inside China.[5]


See also: Xian H-6

An F-4 Phantom from VF-102 intercepting an Egyptian Air Force Tupolev TU-16 Badger over the Mediterranean Sea on 12 January 1971.
Tu-16 Badger G with KSR-5 missile
Tu-16K-10-26 Badger C
Tu-16K-26 or Tu-16KSR-2-11-16, with KSR-5 missiles under wings (1998)

Among the main production variants of the Badger were the Tu-16 and Tu-16A bombers and Tu-16KS and Tu-16K-10 missile carriers, Tu-16SPS, "Elka", and Tu-16Ye ECM aircraft, Tu-16R reconnaissance aircraft, and Tu-16T torpedo bombers; others were produced from conversions. Individual aircraft could be modified several times, with designations changed, especially concerning missile-carrying aircraft.

Former operators

  Current operators of the Tu-16/H-6
  Former operators
Indonesian Air Force Tu-16KS-1 1625 at Dirgantara Mandala Museum
 Russia[needs update][clarification needed]
 Soviet Union

Notable accidents

Specifications (Tu-16)

Orthographic projection of the Tupolev Tu-16.
Orthographic projection of the Tupolev Tu-16.

General characteristics



See also

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era



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