Russia is a true place of birth for strategic bombers - back in 1913, on the eve of WW1, when the Europe flew singles like the Newpor and Farman, the Russo-Balt factory was  assembling, under the supervison of Igor Sikorsky, the Ilya Muromets four-engine heavy air vehicle, which appeared on the front-line in February 1915. Somewhat earlier, on 10 December 1914, the whole of the Russian military aviation had been officially divided into heavy aviation (under the control of the Supreme Command) and lightaviation (for close fire support of ground troops). In January 1915 the world's first long-range bomber squadron became operational with twelve "Iliy Muromets" aircraft in its inventory, including ten bombers and two trainers.

Iliy Muromets (6989 bytes)
Iliy Muromets

    The first Soviet all-metal bomder, the TB-1, had its maiden flight in 1925. This day marked the beginning of the new era in development of heavy-weight aircraft. In the early Thirties the USSR commenced mass production of the very advanced TB-1 and TB-3 heavy bombers supplemented by the R-6 recce/escort fighters. Those formed the backborne of the Long Range Bombardmant Aviation founded in 1934.

Er-2 (8188 bytes)

    In summer 1941 Soviet Pe-8, DB-3, Il-4 and Er-2 long range bombers started to drop bombs on Berlin, Kenigsberg and other key centres in Germany. However, insufficient structure and management of the Long Range Bombardment Aviation resulted in high loses at the end of 1941 only 300 aircraft remained air worthy out of the 1,000-strong inventory in summer 1941. In 1942 the Long Range Bombardment Aviation were tranferred under the control of the Supreme Command, which made possoble mass strikes on enemy skey objects.

TB-3 (12944 bytes)

B-25 (14809 bytes)

    Back in 1943, upon receiving information about work on the atomic bomb in Germany and the USA, the USSR launched its own nuclear project. The bomb demanded a suitable carrier. In 1947 Kazan and Kuibyshev plants commenced production of the Tu-4, a copy ofthe American B-29 bomber. In 1952 and 1953 appeared the Tu-16, Tu-95 and M-4 bombers with turbine powerplant. With the advent of the Tu-22 in 1958, the Long Range Aviation entered the era of supersonic flights.

DB-3 (8555 bytes)

Crew Pe-8 after flight on Berlin (20782 bytes)
Crew Pe-8 after flight on Berlin

    Nowadays the Long Range Aviation operate Tu-95K-22, Tu-95MS and Tu-160 strategic bombers, Tu-22M2 and Tu-22M3 mid-range bombers, as well as Il-78 and Il-78M tankers. During the last few years the staff has been repeatedly cut due to the withdrawal of outdated and wornout 3M, Tu-16 and Tu-22 bombers and very low output of Tu-160 and Tu-22M3 fourth-generation aircraft.

The plane Tu-16 with rockets KSR (10398 bytes)
The plane Tu-16 with rockets KSR

Despite thew hard current situation caused by the inadequate funding for defence programs, the work continues on modification of the Tu-22M3, Tu-95MS and Tu-160. It is proposed to equip them with new precision munitions improve self-protection and electronic counter-measures, and reduce radar signature.

Pre-series variant of the plane Tu-22M-0 (13143 bytes)
Pre-series variant of the plane Tu-22M-0

    In the next decade is planned to create a multi-functional mid-range bomber to replace the Tu-22M, and a strategic aircraft featuring powerful strike capabilities, low radar signature and moderate cost, which would allow the Air Force to procure it insufficient numbers.