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Tu-128 at the Central Air Force Museum at Monino, Russia
Role Interceptor
Manufacturer Tupolev
Designer Iosif Nezval
First flight 18 March 1961
Introduction 1964[1] (or 1966[2])
Retired 1990 (Russia)
Status Retired
Primary user Soviet Air Defence Forces
Number built 198[1] (including 10 trainers)
Developed from Tupolev Tu-98 bomber prototype

The Tupolev Tu-28 (NATO reporting name Fiddler) was a long-range interceptor aircraft introduced by the Soviet Union in the 1960s. The official designation was Tu-128,[2] but this designation was less commonly used in the West. It was the largest and heaviest fighter[nb 1] ever in service.[2][3]

Background[edit | edit source]

In the 1950s, the Soviet Union sought the means to defend against the nuclear-armed American bombers possibly penetrating its borders (especially its long and vulnerable northern border). Contemporary interceptors, even the Yakovlev Yak-28P, were able to cover a radius of a few hundred kilometers;[1][4][5] the newly developed surface-to-air missiles had even shorter range.[1] Considering both, the sheer numbers required to defend a 5,000 km air front[nb 2] were economically impossible to maintain. This left the Soviet Union able to provide a modern air defense only for selected valuable areas.[5] The PVO decided to cover the entire territory, but with a more loose defense. In 1955 it placed a requirement for a large area-defense interceptor, that would achieve it with sparse[nb 3] airbases. The PVO requirement called for a supersonic aircraft with enormous fuel tanks for both a good patrol time and a long range, a capable radar, and the most powerful air-to-air missiles possible. The first attempt, although an unsuccessful one, was a 30-tonne Lavochkin La-250 prototype,[5] the last of the Lavochkin design bureau's aircraft.

Design and development[edit | edit source]

Tu-128 prototype at Central Air Force Museum, Monino, Russia

Iosif Nezval[2][5] of Tupolev Design Bureau led development of the new interceptor aircraft. The work began in 1958, based on an existing single prototype of the unsuccessful Tu-98 supersonic bomber. The military designation of the interceptor was at first Tu-28, but it had been changed in 1963 to Tu-128, identical to the designation used by the OKB.[1][2][5]

The Tu-128 had a broad, low/mid-mounted swept wing carrying the main landing gear in wing-mounted pods, and slab tailplanes. Two Lyulka AL-7F-2 turbojet engines[1][2] were mounted in the fuselage. The two-man crew of pilot and navigator were seated in tandem.

The Tu-128, with its maximum weight of 43 tonnes, was the heaviest fighter ever to enter service.[nb 1][2] It was a pure patrol interceptor, and with its high wing loading, unsophisticated but reliable avionics, and poor visibility, was not an agile aircraft.[2] It was intended to only combat NATO bombers like the B-52,[2][5] not to dogfight with smaller aircraft.

The Bureau managed to make the initial public appearance on the 1961 Tushino air parade. Western experts, being unaware that the bulge on the belly carried various testing instruments, suspected the existence of a large ventral radar for a mixed interceptor/AWACS role.[3] The production version lacked the bulge and had a large nose radome housing a radar, known as RP-S[nb 4] Smerch, with a detection range of about 50 km (31 mi[2]) and a lock-on range of about 40 km (25 mi).[1]

Armament of the Tu-128 was four Bisnovat R-4 air-to-air missiles (known as K-80 during development;[1] NATO reporting name AA-5 'Ash'). Usually two of them were R-4R with semi-active radar homing and two were R-4T infrared-homing missile, with the former on the outer pylons and the latter on the inner underwing pylons. There was no internal weapons bay.

Production of the Tu-128 ended in 1970 with total 198 aircraft built.[1][6]

Development of various projects designated Tu-28A, Tu-28-80, Tu-28-100, Tu-138, and Tu-148 were attempted by the Tupolev Design Bureau but all became abandoned.[1]

Operational history[edit | edit source]

The Tu-128's only publicly reported combat operation was destruction of NATO reconnaissance balloons. The aircraft was long-lived, remaining in service until 1990.[1][2] Through the 1980s, units armed with the Tu-128 were being converted to the Mikoyan MiG-31.[1][3]

Variants[edit | edit source]

Prototype of Tu-28 ('Fiddler-A')
Development test aircraft, one built. Sources differ whether its OKB designation was 98, or 128, or Tu-102.[1][2][3] In the West, Fiddler-A was used for all the aircraft with twin ventral fins[2] — these included a prototype and a few of initial production (perhaps two[1] planes).
Tu-128 (also known as Tu-28; 'Fiddler-B')
Main version, first deployed operationally in 1964[1] (or 1966[2][5] – sources differ). The military designation was at first Tu-28,[2][5] but the existing aircraft were renamed in 1963.[1][7] The full designation of entire weapon complex (aircraft, radar, missiles) was Tu-128S-4.[1][2] In the Western sources, but not in Soviet, often the more precise designation of this version[3][4][6] is mentioned as either Tu-28P or Tu-128P.
Tu-128UT (also known as Tu-28UT)
Training version with an additional cockpit forward of the normal one, in place of a radar. 10 built and 4 converted from standard interceptors.[1][7]
A 1979 modernization of almost all[1] existing aircraft for better interception at a low altitude. Development originated in 1970.[2] Engines and airframe was not altered.[1] The full designation of entire weapon complex was Tu-128S-4M.[1][2][7] It contained a new RP-SM Smerch-M radar, and new missile set: R-4RM plus R-4TM.[1][7]

Abandoned[edit | edit source]

New development, abandoned.[1][7]
Development designation, abandoned.[1][7]
Development designation, abandoned.[1][7]
New development, abandoned.[1][7]
New development, abandoned.[1][7]

Operators[edit | edit source]

 Soviet Union

Specifications (Tu-128)[edit | edit source]

Tupoljev Tu-128.svg

Data from references[1][2]

General characteristics

  • Crew: Two, pilot and radar operator
  • Length: 30.06 m (98.62 ft)
  • Wingspan: 17.53 m (57.51 ft)
  • Height: 7.15 m (23.46 ft)
  • Wing area: 96.94 m² (1043.45 ft²)
  • Empty weight: 24,500 kg (54,013 lb)
  • Loaded weight: 40,000 kg (88,185 lb)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 43,000–43,700 kg[1][2] (94,800–96,342 lb)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Lyulka AL-7F-2 afterburning turbojet
    • Dry thrust: 72.8 kN (7425 kgf;[3] 16370 lbf) each
    • Thrust with afterburner: 99.1 kN (10100 kgf; 22270 lbf) each
  • Maximum g-loading: 2.5 g
  • Maximum fuel load: est. 13,600 kg (30,000 lb)[3]
  • Performance

    • Maximum speed: when armed 1,665 km/h (1,035 mph; est. 1.5 Ma) when unarmed 1,920 km/h (1,193 mph)
    • Range: 2,565 km when armed (1,595 mi)
    • Endurance: above 3 hours
    • Service ceiling: 15,600 m when armed (51,184 ft)
  • Maximum ceiling: 20,000 m (65,617 ft)
  • Armament

    See also[edit | edit source]

    Notes[edit | edit source]

    1. 1.0 1.1 Tu-128 was the largest fighter assuming that the definition of "fighter" includes an interceptor aircraft. Tu-128 was not intended for fighter-to-fighter combat (i.e. air superiority battle). For an even heavier interceptor design, that did not enter service, see Lockheed YF-12.
    2. The geographical distance between Murmansk and Anadyr is 4,911 km.
    3. For example in 1972, a mere six air bases provided the sole interceptor cover for almost a half of the Soviet Union's interior. These bases employed most of the Tu-128 force.[2]:140[4]:259–262
    4. Some sources provide radar's designation as RP-5 instead of RP-S, possibly a mistake.

    References[edit | edit source]

    1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 1.19 1.20 1.21 1.22 1.23 1.24 1.25 1.26 1.27 1.28 "Tu-128" (in Russian). Airwar.ru. http://airwar.ru/enc/fighter/tu128.html. Retrieved 3 March 2011. 
    2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 2.19 2.20 Kandalov, Paul Duffy ; Andrei (1996). Tupolev : the man and his aircraft. Warrendale, PA: SAE Internat.. pp. 137–139. ISBN 1-56091-899-3. http://books.google.com/books?id=fOC7Ii5SgZUC&lpg=PA138&pg=PA140. Retrieved 3 March 2011. 
    3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 Spick, Mike (2002-08-05). The Illustrated Directory of Fighters. ISBN 978-0-7603-1343-5. http://books.google.com/books?id=p40nOZgeh84C&lpg=PA459&pg=PA458. Retrieved 3 March 2011. 
    4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Leonard, Barry (2011-01). History of Strategic and Ballistic Missile Defense: Volume II: 1956–1972. pp. 109–114, 259–262. ISBN 9781437921311. http://books.google.com/books?id=HoxycYhoKZkC&lpg=PA350&pg=PA262. 
    5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 "Tupolev Tu-28". Russiafile.com. http://www.russiafile.com/tu28.htm. Retrieved 2010-02-08. 
    6. 6.0 6.1 Air warfare : an international encyclopedia.. Santa Barabara (Calif.): ABC-Clio. 2002. ISBN 1-57607-345-9. http://books.google.com/books?id=FW_50wm8VnMC&lpg=PA637&pg=PA637. 
    7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 7.7 7.8 7.9 "WWW.AVIATION.RU". http://www.aviation.ru/Tu/. Retrieved 5 March 2011. 
    8. Colon, Raul. "Tupolev TU-128 Fiddler". http://www.pilotfriend.com/photo_albums/timeline/postwar_mil/101.htm. Retrieved 5 March 2011. 

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