- Yes, as a tech tree vehicle
- Yes, as a premium vehicle
- Yes, as an event vehicle
- Yes, as a squadron vehicle
- No, I would not like to see the Tu-16 in game.
The Tupolev Tu-16 “Badger” was the first mass-produced nuclear-capable bomber fielded by the Soviet Union and was an indigenous design built to replace the Tu-4 “Bull”. With a storied career spanning over 4 decades, the “Badger” is an iconic aircraft, and one that I believe deserves to be in War Thunder. Throughout its career, the Tu-16 had many duties, including:
- Long-range conventional bomber
- Nuclear-capable bomber
- Cruise missile carrier
- Reconnaissance aircraft
- ECM aircraft
- Air refueling tanker
and many experimental models. I personally do not believe most of these variants are viable for War Thunder, so today I will only be discussing the standard Tu-16 long-range conventional bomber, the first production variant which received many upgrades during its service life.
Case for the “Badger-A” in War Thunder
The Tu-16 is a fast, well defended strategic bomber with an appreciable bomb load, evoking comparison to the American B-52 Stratofortress. While strategic bomber aircraft can generally be considered unpopular, the Tu-16 has some attractive features that would make it a capable follow-up to the Tu-14T in the tech tree.
- Speed: The Tu-16 can reach speeds up to 1,050 km/h at medium-high altitudes - high subsonic speed would help it escape some of its adversaries at altitude. At sea level it still reaches over 675 km/h, which while not the greatest still allows pilots to come back to the battlefield within a reasonable amount of time for a second bombing run.
- Defensive armament: The Tu-16 is well defended by three twin-cannon turrets covering most angles of the aircraft. These AM-23 23mm cannons are improved compared to the standard NR-23 with a much higher rate of fire. In addition, the rear turret, which has a massive ammunition pool, is supplied with a ranging radar (note it does not cover the whole rear hemisphere). If implemented, this mechanic could make attacking the “Badger” from behind a very dangerous prospect.
- Countermeasures: The Tu-16 was upgraded numerous times during its long service life. The most important upgrades were the addition of ECM suites, an RWR system, and chaff/flare dispensers. One of the main concerns of a high tier jet bomber would be protection against IR/radar missiles, which the Tu-16 is well-equipped to handle.
- Bomb load: The Tu-16 is equipped with up to 9,000 kg of conventional bombs, including a single devastating FAB-5000 or FAB-9000. Even if the FAB-9000 were not added, the Tu-16 would be a much better delivery vehicle in higher tiers for the dreaded FAB-5000 than the Pe-8. In air battles, its bomb load would be quite good, almost on par with the Tu-4, but with a much higher speed to deliver it more safely. This could be a nice nuclear strike aircraft for the ground battle killstreak as well, with higher speed than the “Bull”.
Like most high tier bombers, the “Badger” would be vulnerable to interception from progressively faster aircraft. Bombers in air RB are generally not in a great position, especially in jet tier. However, I still believe the Tu-16 would be well equipped to handle enemy pilots who don’t approach it carefully and brave the hostile environment it would find itself in. This aircraft would sit well between the Tu-14T and Yak-28B in the Soviet tech tree’s bomber line.
The “Badger” was originally conceived as a long-range high-speed strategic bomber to bolster the Soviet Union’s long range bomber force’s strength. The Soviet bomber industry was well behind the West at the time, as evidenced by the huge leap forward the B-29 (Tu-4) gave to Soviet designers. With the Americans beginning to deploy pure jet-powered strategic bombers such as the B-47 Stratojet, Soviet engineers were faced with a challenge: produce a design that could not only match but exceed American contemporaries. With limited experience in the field, they would have to work hard to deliver on this request. The Tupolev bureau had begun to foray into the field of jet bombers, and two key advancements allowed them to develop the Tu-16 (internal code ‘88’).
Firstly, engineers had studied the swept wing designs of captured Me 262 fighters and Junkers bombers from Germany after their 1945 defeat. The swept wing was ideal for high speed flight compared to a traditional straight-wing design. Compared to the Tu-16’s direct competitor, the Ilyushin Il-46, the swept wing offered higher potential performance for the aircraft. Designing a heavy swept-wing aircraft was a first for the bureau with many challenges, but it had to be done. Extensive design studies were carried out to make sure the new design would be satisfactory.
The second major advancement was in the field of turbojet engines. The enormous Mikulin AM-3 turbojet, offering 9,500 kgf thrust apiece, would be selected for the new bomber design. With two engines delivering a total of 19,000 kgf thrust, the Tu-16 project would be able to reach speeds of over 1,000 km/h. In order to reach this figure, the ‘88’, a prototype version of the Tu-16, needed a slimming down. Dropping over 5 tons in weight, the production Tu-16 was able to meet its design goals. It was faster, better defended, carried more load, and had a longer range than its competitor. For the Soviet air force, the choice was clear.
The first Tu-16 prototype, internal designation ‘88/1’, was heavier than the final model, and required a year-long redesign to meet standards.
The first prototype made its first flight on April 27, 1952. A revised prototype would fly on April 6, 1953, which demonstrated the improved speed gained from the weight reduction. After trials ranging from late 1953 to early 1954, the ‘88’ was accepted for production as the Tupolev Tu-16.
The Tu-16 would serve in a variety of roles in the Soviet Union and her allies for upwards of 40 years. It equipped both the Air Force and Navy as a long-range bomber, torpedo bomber, cruise missile carrier, reconnaissance aircraft, and more. In China, the “Badger” was license produced as the Xian H-6, which serves with the PLAAF to this day. Tu-16s were also used by Egypt, Indonesia, and Iraq.
Tu-16s saw action in the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, and later, the Afghan War. By the 1980’s, the type was beginning to be phased out of service. While reliable, its age was painfully evident, and the Tu-22M2 “Backfire” was a more attractive option towards the end of the Cold War. The dissolution of the Soviet Union along with the following economic fallout was enough to convince the Russian Federation to abandon the “Badger” for good.
The Tu-16 was capable of carrying up to 9,000 kg of bombs in its large fuselage bomb bay. The bomb bay was close to the center of gravity and did not rely on the wings for load bearing. For defense, the Tu-16 was armed with seven AM-23 23mm autocannons. It had three twin turrets and one fixed forward firing cannon. The rear gunner had access to the PRS-1 Argon radar ranging sight for all-weather defense, or simply for greater daytime accuracy. The AM-23 fired the same ammunition as the NR-23 but 1.5 times as fast, with fire rates up to 1,300 rounds per minute. The tail and ventral gunner both occupied the rear of the aircraft in a pressurized cabin, while the dorsal gunner was in the front along with the pilot, navigator, and bombardier, for a total crew of six men. All crew had pressurized cabins and ejection systems for safety - the pilot and copilot had ejector seats while the rest of the crew had floor-mounted ejection hatches.
The tail gunner’s station was equipped with a ranging radar (seen above the gunner’s window) for all-weather capability.
Late into its service life in the 70’s, the Tu-16 was equipped with six ASO-2 chaff/flare dispensers with two in the rear fuselage and two each in both main gear fairings. It was also given the SPS-5M active jamming system and an SPO-2 Sirena-2 RWR system. Later, some models received the more advanced SPO-3 Sirena-3 and the further advanced SPO-10 Sirena-3M. If necessary, the AM-23 cannon is capable of firing chaff and flare shells for further countermeasure capability. The bombardier was equipped with a ground targeting radar with long range against large targets such as bases or ships, but he also had access to an optical bomb sight for conventional targeting.
Tupolev Tu-16 “Badger-A”
- Span: 33 m (108 ft 3 in)
- Length: 34.8 m (114 ft 2 in)
- Height: 10.4 m (34 ft 0 in)
- Wing area: 165 m2 (1,780 ft2)
Empty weight: 37,200 kg (82,012 lb)
Gross weight: 76,000 kg (167,551 lb)
Takeoff weight: 79,000 kg (174,165 lb)
Propulsion: 2 x AM-3 (RD-3M) turbojet engines
- 9,500 kgf (20,944 lbf) thrust each (19,000 kgf [41,888 lbf] thrust total)
Thrust/weight ratio: 0.24
Maximum speed: 1,050 km/h (650 mph)
Service ceiling: 12,800 m (42,000 ft)
Crew: 6 (pilot, copilot, navigator/bombardier, radar operator, gunner/radio operator, and chief gunner/tail gunner)
- 1 x AM-23 23mm fixed autocannon (100 rounds)
- 2 x AM-23 23mm autocannon in DT-7V dorsal turret (250 rpg, 500 rounds total)
- Horizontal traverse: 360 degrees
- Vertical traverse: + 90 / - 3 degrees
- 2 x AM-23 23mm autocannon in DT-7NS ventral turret (350 rpg, 700 rounds total)
- Horizontal traverse: + / - 95 degrees (rear facing)
- Vertical traverse: + 2 / - 90 degrees
- 2 x AM-23 23mm autocannon in DK-7 tail turret (1,000 rpg, 2,000 rounds total)
- Rear turret equipped with PRS-1 Argon ranging radar
- Horizontal radar area: + / - 35 degrees
- Vertical radar area: + / - 35 degrees
- Horizontal turret traverse: + / - 70 degrees
- Vertical turret traverse: + 60 / - 40 degrees
Internal stores: up to 9,000 kg of conventional bombs, including:
- 16 x FAB-250M43 250 kg bomb
- 24 x FAB-250M46/M54 250 kg bomb
- 12 x FAB-500M43 500 kg bomb
- 18 x FAB-500M46/M54 500 kg bomb
- 4 x FAB-1000M43 1,000 kg bomb
- 6 x FAB-1500M46/M54 1,500 kg bomb
- 4 x FAB-2000M43 2,000 kg bomb
- 2 x FAB-3000M54 3,000 kg bomb
- 1 x FAB-5000M54 5,000 kg bomb
- 1 x BrAB-6000 6,000 kg armor piercing bomb
- 1 x FAB-9000M54 9,000 kg bomb
- RBP-6 Lyustra bomb-aiming radar
- OBP-112 optical bombsight
- SPS-5M active jamming ECM
- SPO-10 Sirena-3M radar warning receiver
- 6 x ASO-2 chaff/flare dispensers
- PRS-1 Argon ranging radar for rear turret
- PT-16 brake chute