TU-95 BEAR

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duplex

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Unread post13 Feb 2012, 20:08

How dangerous were these cold war strategic bombers in the eyes of USAF ? Have they ever been considered as a real threat the same way as B-52's in the eyes of the Russians? The chances of F-15's to intercept and destroy them before they reach the North American Air Space ?
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tacf-x

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Unread post14 Feb 2012, 00:09

In the 1940's and 1950's the bomber was the main method of deploying nuclear weapons so I'd imagine the Bear was seen as a serious threat. All of those Distant Early Warning radar systems and SAGE were all made to warn the US and serve as a defensive grid to help the USAF intercept them. SAGE was a massive supercomputer that consumed as much power as a small town and was used to monitor all early warning radar systems, SAM systems, and available interceptors and was used to coordinate these systems to fend off an impending Soviet invasion of strategic bombers.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MvEnFyQCuz8

We built a whole bunch of these nuclear tipped SAMS (IIRC they had 10 kt warheads) for the purpose of protecting us from the Bears. We made interceptors like the F-106 and F-104 that could climb to high speed and altitude and launch nuclear tipped AIR-2 Genies to thwart the massed attack.

SAGE served as a network for all of these systems, so the shear number of complicated systems that we built should indicate the threat of a massed attack of Tu-95s was perceived as very real at the time.

However in the era you described with the F-15s being in service the threat of a massed attack of Soviet bombers went obsolete (alongside the defense system SAGE and the interceptor role) and the Ballistic missile became the predominant nuclear delivery method. As such we weren't that heavily threatened by Tu-95s anymore.

As of recent times, I believe this video should show how the usual F-15/Tu-95 intercept procedure goes.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NMb9OmXDj4g

Note that that Bear was rated as being able to launch cruise missiles. As such even at a high standoff range we shouldn't have much trouble intercepting them anymore with E-3 Sentries and other SA assets at our side. The Russians don't really seriously intend to use them for that purpose anyway. They just send bombers over here to test our ability to respond to such crises.
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HaveVoid

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Unread post21 Feb 2012, 16:10

As Tacf-x said, the latest version of the Bear was equipped with the Russian equivalent of the AGM-86, which provided it with a fair amount of reach. Due to the ranges involved, I think it would be far more practical to intercept the missiles a few hundred miles out, versus the bombers closer to 1,000, but obviously the biggest threat would have been any large number of them employing nuclear cruise missiles. Obviously, the likelihood of that is somewhat decreased as of late, The final iteration of the Bear was, and to some extent remains, a perfectly viable stand-off weapons platform.


If only they could find some way to lessen its acoustic signature!


HV
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slicktry

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Unread post22 Feb 2012, 06:09

Wasn't NORAD able to detect them taking off based on their acoustic signatures?
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HaveVoid

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Unread post22 Feb 2012, 16:07

It was said that the SOSUS lines used for tracking submarines could detect them flying overhead.
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ultor

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Unread post14 Jul 2012, 22:43

Well, Bear's threat to the CONUS is a long story! Basically we must take into consideration particular weapons carried by Bear in the following years of Cold War.

- basic hydrogen bombs in the 1950s - Bear had to overfly targets thus being excellent targets for then very powerful US air defense system
- large air to ground nuclear missiles of AS-3 and AS-4 types in 1960s and 1970s - situation looks rather similar because those weapons had several hundred kilometers range giving plenty of time to US fighters to shot down Bear before launching those missiles
- modern nuclear ALCMs of AS-15 types from 1980s onwards - things are more complicated due to AS-15 range of about 3000 km. Fortunately Bear has 150 sqm RCS so AWACS can pick Bears up over the North Pole from huge distances and guide interceptors at them.

It's worth to mention that Bears and Blackjacks still cannot carry non-nuclear weapons aside of iron bombs so their utility in conventional warfare is very limited. That's why Russian strategic power projection capability is non-existent in comparison to conventionally armed American B-52H, B-1B, B-2A fleet. Moreover size of Russian strategic bomber fleet is constantly shrinking. Now only 10-15 Blackjacks and 20-30 Bears are operational. Good for Kremlin mass-media exercises and PR "anti-NATO" patrols but not much more...

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