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Bear is the NATO reporting name for the Tu-95 series of heavy turboprop bombers. Like its smaller contemporary, the Tu-16 Badger, the Bear has been produced in many variants and in large numbers; unlike the Badger, Russia still flies the Bear today, and in fact has flown exercises within striking distance of the US as recently as 1999.

As with the Badger and Tu-22 Blinder, Bear-A started off as a conventional gravity bomb carrier, then was modified to carry the enormous AS-3 Kangaroo nuclear cruise missile as the Bear-B. ELINT, photo- reconnaissance, and anti-submarine variants followed, with the anti-sub versions being redesignated Tu-142 (Bear-F)1. As smaller nuclear warheads developed, the AS-3 loadout was given up in favor of one or two AS-4 Kitchen on the Bear-G, and later, in the Bear-H, from 6 to 16 of the very long range AS-15 Kent cruise missiles. About sixty of these strategic bombers remain in service with Russia today.

Perhaps more important than the remaining Bear bomber fleet are the Bear-D ELINT planes, which, while themselves unarmed, can loiter at sea for many hours at a time, locating naval targets from hundreds of miles away with their sensitive ESM gear or powerful active radar systems, and provide mid-course missile guidance to anti-ship missiles launched from supersonic bombers such as the Backfire.

Specifications:
Russian designation: Tu-95MS16 (late cruise missile version)
NATO designation: Bear-H-16
Design Bureau: OKB-156 Tupolev
Manufacturer: Plant nr. 18 Kuibyshev, Plant nr. 86 Taganrog
Development began: 1951
First flight: 1952 (Bear-A), 1979 (Bear-H)
Series production: 1956 to mid-1990s? (all types)
Deployed: 1981-present (Bear-H)
Power Plant: 4 NK-12 series turboprops, 12500-15000 horsepower each
Dimensions: 49.6m long by 13.4m high by 51.0m? wingspan (Bear-H)
Crew: 7-8 depending on version Cruising speed: 435kph (Bear-A), 550kph (Bear-H)
Maximum speed: 925kph? (Bear-A), 830kph (Bear-H)
Flight ceiling: 12000m
Max takeoff weight: 185000kg
Maximum weapon load: 27200kg? (Bear-H)
Operational range: 10500km
Armament: 6-16 AS-15 Kent (Kh-55) missiles, twin GsH-23 23mm gun mount in tail turret (Bear-H)


1. Normally, an ASW plane such as the Tu-142 would get a different reporting name with an initial letter M (miscellaneous), such as the Il-38 May, but the NATO designations are frequently inconsistent in this way.
Information obtained from the Federation of American Scientists Military Analysis Network (www.fas.org). As always, publically available information on military hardware tends to be fragmentary and inconsistent; please do not use this information to plan a war.

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