Tupolev Tu-142 : Anti-submarine warfare aircraft and long-range maritime patrols

Tupolev Tu-142
Tupolev Tu-142

Militarymedia.net - The Tupolev Tu-142 is a maritime patrol version of the Tu-95 strategic bomber. It was actually based on a Tu-95RC maritime reconnaissance aircraft. The Tu-142 is known in the West as Bear-F. It was designed primarily for anti-submarine warfare and various other naval roles. Development began in 1963. The Tu-142 is intended to counter the threat posed by the new U.S. ballistic missile submarine, which carries the nuclear-tipped Polaris ballistic missile. By the early 1960s the U.S. Navy already had a small fleet of George Washington and Ethan Allen-class ballistic missile ships and quickly commissioned a new, larger and better Lafayette submarine. These U.S. ships hid in the ocean and were able to launch their nuclear missiles at Soviet strategic targets. The Tu-142 aircraft were designed to locate these U.S. ballistic missile ships on their precautionary patrols. However it was a difficult task, because in the 1960s and 1970s Soviet submarine detection equipment was rather poor. The new Tu-142 was built using the existing Tu-95 fuselage and fitted with sensors from the Il-38 maritime patrol aircraft. It made its first flight in 1968. Mass production began in the same year, although the type was still tested and upgraded until 1972. 

The Tu-142 was officially adopted in 1972. These maritime patrol aircraft are produced in several versions. It was continuously improved during its production process as new improvements and enhancements were constantly introduced. About 100 Tu-142 series aircraft were built, including variants, when production was halted in 1994. In 2018, that type is still active. Initially a total of 49 aircraft complemented the Soviet naval aviation regiment at Kipelovo, assigned to the Northern Fleet and 24 examples complementing other regiments in Kamenniy Ruchey, assigned to the Pacific Fleet. During the 2000s the condition of the Russian Tu-142 was poor and the availability rate was low.

 Eventually the flight regiment was reorganized and the number of operational aircraft was reduced to 16 units. A total of 8 aircraft remained operational in the Northern Fleet and 8 aircraft in the Pacific fleet. The main anti-submarine warfare variants are the tu-142MK (western reporting name Bear-F Mod.3) and the upgraded Tu-142MZ (Bear-F Mod.4), which were last completed in 1994. In 2018 only 12 Tu-142MK/MZ maritime patrol aircraft were reported to remain in operation, plus 10 other Tu-142MR communications aircraft. Although the aircraft is very old, Russia has not yet obtained a viable replacement for this aircraft. 

So the Tu-142 remains an important type. Naval Aviation Russia also operates smaller Il-38 maritime patrol aircraft for short-haul roles. The surviving Tu-142 fuselage is likely to be upgraded with new radars, sonobuoy, new surveillance systems, and magnetic anomaly detection systems. The only tu-142 export operator was the Indian Navy which acquired seven Tu-142 MK-Es. Although India recently acquired a number of new Boeing P-8I Neptune long-range maritime patrol aircraft (the Indian Navy's P-8 Poseidon). It is a modern aircraft and much more capable.

The maritime patrol aircraft was operated by 11 crew members. It can be used for anti-submarine warfare, anti-shipping, reconnaissance, electronic intelligence, search and rescue, and other roles.

The Tu-142 is equipped with a variety of search sensors, including search radar and sonobuoy. The original sensors were brought in from the Il-38 maritime patrol aircraft, although several new elements were developed. The improved version of the Tu-142 is equipped with a more capable sensor. A magnetic anomaly detection system was added to the upgraded Tu-142M version.

The maritime patrol aircraft is powered by four NK-12MV turboprop engines, each producing 15,000 hp of power and equipped with a rotating propeller. The Tu-142 has an impressive range of 11,500 km. It carries 83.9 t of onboard fuel. In addition, the aircraft is equipped with an in-flight refueling probe, which can expand its range. Even so, these maritime patrol aircraft can reach U.S. shores without in-flight refueling. Russian Naval Aviation also operates smaller Il-38 maritime patrol aircraft for short-haul roles. The Il-38 is another old engine, which was adopted back in 1968. Russia currently has no suitable replacement for this type of aging.

The Tupolev Tu-142 inherited two large weapon chambers from the Tu-95 bombers. The maritime patrol aircraft can carry 11,340 kg of whooping weaponry, including anti-submarine torpedoes, depth payloads, and mines. For self-defense, the aircraft was fitted with two 23 mm double-barreled guns on the rear.

Tupolev Tu-142
Tupolev Tu-142

The Tu-142 was an early production model. It was adopted in 1972. The original aircraft had a rear undercarriage with 12 wheels per side. The original production aircraft was retired and cancelled in the early 1990s.

The Tu-142M is an improved version, designed since 1969 to meet soviet government requirements. Berkut's original submarine detection equipment performed poorly. The upgraded Tu-142M is equipped with new Korshun submarine detection equipment, featuring a new sonobuoy. The aircraft is also equipped with a magnetic anomaly detection system. The rear undercarriage was replaced and had 8 wheels per side. All Tu-142M were reportedly retired and cancelled in the early 1990s.

The Tu-142MP is a single prototype, made to test anti-submarine weapons.

The Tu-142MR Orel (eagle) (Western reporting name Bear-J) is a command/communications postal relay platform for communicating with submerged ballistic missile submarines. The aircraft is specially designed for nuclear war events. The doomsday aircraft acted as a communication relay between naval headquarters and ballistic missile submarines. Interestingly this aircraft can communicate with submarines while it is stationary at its air base. The Tu-142MR was developed in 1977 and is based on the Tu-142M fuselage. He has nine crew members. The test flight was completed in 1980 and adopted by Soviet Naval Aviation. A small part of this aircraft is made and still in operation.

The Tu-142MRM is a planned upgrade of the surviving Tu-142MR aircraft to expand their operational services. This version was first mentioned in 2014.

The Tu-142MRC is the only prototype reconnaissance and targeting aircraft. It was designed to steer anti-ship cruise missiles. It was built in the early 1990s and was originally intended to replace the Tu-95RC. But at that time satellites were used for the role. So the development of the Tu-142MRC was cancelled.

The Tu-142MK (Western reporting name Bear-F Mod.3) is one of the most numerous variants of anti-submarine warfare.

The Tu-142ME, also referred to as the Tu-142MK-E, is an export version derived from the Tu-142MK. It is broadly similar to the Tu-142MK, but has a specific system that is derived. Several modifications were made to adapt the aircraft to the tropical climate. It has been exported to India. It was officially adopted by the Indian Navy in 1988. The Indian Navy acquired these 8 aircraft and operated them ad Arrakonam. During their operational service, Indian aircraft were upgraded with a new system and had the ability to carry Kh-35 anti-ship cruise missiles for an extended anti-ship role. The aircraft can carry 8 of these anti-ship missiles. India recently acquired a number of new Boeing P-8I Neptune long-range maritime patrol aircraft (The Indian Navy's P-8 Poseidon). It is a modern and much more capable maritime patrol aircraft. The Tu-142 India retired in 2017 after 29 years in charge.

The Tu-142MZ (reporting name Western Bear-F Mod.4) is an improved version of the Ty-142MK. It is another major anti-submarine warfare variant, equipped with new submarine detection equipment. The aircraft is equipped with a slightly better NK-12MP engine. The rear defense system with the cannon was replaced with a more modern one. It's operated by 10 crew members. It was adopted in 1985. The last aircraft of this type was completed in 1994. There are plans to equip the aircraft with Kh-35 anti-ship cruise missiles for an extended anti-ship role, although this plan was never implemented.

The Tu-142MZM is a planned upgrade of the surviving Tu-142MZ aircraft to improve their operational capabilities and remain in service for years to come. There are plans to upgrade all Russian Tu-142MZ operating to this new standard by 2020.

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