Naval Air: Unarmed Russians Come In Peace

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August 11, 2008:  Russia announced that its long range Tu-142 marine patrol aircraft, increasingly seen over international waters, are unarmed. In the last few years, these aircraft have resumed long range patrols, which were halted in the early 1990s. The Tu-142, which was introduced in the 1970s, is the patrol version of the Tu-95 heavy bomber. This aircraft entered service 51 years ago, and is expected to remain in service, along with the Tu-142 variant, for another three decades.

Over 500 Tu-95s were built, and it is the largest and fastest turboprop aircraft in service. Russia still maintains a force of 60 Tu-95s, but has dozens in storage, which can be restored to service as either a bomber or a Tu-142.   The 188 ton aircraft has flight crew consisting of a pilot, copilot, engineer and radioman, and an unrefueled range of 15,000 kilometers. Max speed is 925 kilometers an hour, while cruising speed is 440 kilometers an hour.

Originally designed as a nuclear bomber, the Tu-142 version still carries up to ten tons of weapons (torpedoes, mines, depth charges, anti-ship missiles, sonobuoys) and a lot more sensors (naval search radar, electronic monitoring gear). There are two 23mm autocannon mounted in the rear of the aircraft.

The mission crew of a Tu-142 usually consists of eight personnel, who operate the radars and other electronic equipment. Patrol flights for the Tu-142 can last twelve hours or more, especially when in-flight refueling is used. Maximum altitude is 45,000 feet, although the aircraft flies much lower when searching for submarines.

There's no way to confirm that a Tu-142 is unarmed, as you cannot see what is in the bomb bays, unless the Russians open them up when fighter jets, from nearby countries, come to check out the Tu-142. The Russians requested that these nations take their word for it, and only send fighters that were also unarmed.

 


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