Canada’s Arctic has long been a major strategic focus for air-defence planners. From NORAD to the DEW line to the BOMARC missile, significant resources have gone into anticipation of airborne threats from the USSR and now Russia.
While nuclear-tipped ICBMs are a strategic threat in a class of their own, conventional planning has traditionally focused on air combat, pitting Canadian and U.S. fighters and interceptors against Soviet / Russian attack aircraft penetrating Canadian airspace in the North.
A brief survey of selected Soviet / Russian bombers dating back to the Cold War:
Tu-95 (NATO designation: Bear)
The four-engine turboprop Tu-95 first flew in 1952 and
entered service with the Soviet air force in 1956. Designed
as an intercontinental strategic bomber, it was also used
for maritime surveillance and forward targeting. In a 1961
test, a modified Tu-95 dropped the largest and most
powerful nuclear weapon ever detonated. The Tu-95 and its
variants have a maximum speed of 920 km/h and a range of
15,000 kilometres without refuelling. It can carry various
bombloads and/or anti-ship and cruise missiles.
The Bear is expected to remain in service with the Russian Air Force until at least 2040.
Tu-16 (NATO designation: Badger)
The Tupolev Tu-16 is a twin-engine swept-wing strategic
bomber which entered service in 1954 and was designed as a
high-altitude, free-fall bomber capable of delivering both
nuclear and conventional payloads. Subsequent variants were
modified to carry missiles and/or perform reconnaissance
and electronic-warfare missions. The Badger’s maximum speed
was 1,050 km/h and it had a range of 7,200 kilometres. It
also carried up to seven 23mm cannons for
Tu-160 (NATO designation: Blackjack)
The Tu-160 is a variable-sweep wing heavy bomber which entered service in 1987, and was the last strategic bomber designed for the Soviet Union. It is the world’s largest combat aircraft, with a loaded weight of 267,600 kilograms. Its maximum speed is 2,220 km/h (in excess of Mach 2) and its range is 12,300 kilometres. Like other Soviet strategic attack aircraft, its armament can vary; it is capable of carrying several different types of bombs, nuclear missiles, and cruise missiles, depending on its mission.
Tu-22 (NATO designation: Backfire)
A supersonic long-range strike bomber, the Tu-22 entered
service in 1972. It was designed with variable-geometry
wings to enable low-level penetration, and had a maximum
speed of 2,000 km/h and a range of 6,800 kilometres. It
could be fitted with various bombloads and missile
complements, depending on its configuration, and carried a
23mm cannon in its tail turret. It was designed for both
nuclear-strike and conventional-attack missions, and was
used extensively during the Soviet occupation of
Afghanistan in the 1980.
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