Role: Maritime Strike/Strategic Bomber
Other Users: Republic of China
Armament: 2x GSh-23mm Cannons (remote control turret)
60,000 ILBs of Ordnance (internally/external hard-points)
• 3x AS-4/AS-6 Air to Surface Missiles
• 69x Freefall Bombs (FAB-250)
• 8x FAB-1500
During the Second World War the Soviet Union became the first country in history to sink a maneuvering ship at sea with an aircraft. Since that feet the Soviet Navy has been interested in having a strong land based naval air arm. This force is designed to protect the USSR through anti-submarine aircraft and provide a strike force for use against the European, American, and Japanese navies. During World War II this role was fulfilled by the Tu-16 Badger. However it was limited as a strike aircraft, vulnerable to Allied jet fighters. Following the war Soviet Naval Aviation (SNA) was limited to a handful of Badgers and Bear bombers.
The great arms build up during the 1960s would see the SNA regiments reequipped with new production Badgers, which were now armed with standoff missiles becoming a more effective platform. Still as the Badger’s weapons improved, so did Allied fighters. The sub-sonic Tu-16 was simply too vulnerable. As a result in the early 1960s the Soviet Navy put in an order to Tupolev for a new strike bomber. The Soviet Long Range Aviation joined this order to achieve a new strategic bomber. After a few years of development, the Tu-26 Kirov was born.
Unlike the sub-sonic Badger, the Kirov could run at high mach speeds thanks to its two powerful Kuznetsov engines. This enabled the Tu-26 to escape from Allied fighters following the release of its ordnance. A large fuel capacity gave the Kirov excellent range. In flight refueling extended this making it a true intercontinental weapon. The most innovated feature of the Tu-26 was its variable-geometry wings. Like the ones that would appear on the American F-14 Tomcat they gave a plane a combination of short take-off performance, efficient cruising, and good high-speed. Early models suffered maintenance problems with the VG wings, but the problems were corrected in later production runs.
For the Soviet Air Force, the Tu-26 was their principle long range strategic bomber. The Soviet Navy saw the Kirov as its primary anti-carrier aircraft. In this role the Kirov would carry long range heavy anti-ship missiles. The AS-4 Kitchen and AS-6 Kingfish that the Tu-26M could be armed with had one ton warheads and were radar guided. Soviet anti-carrier operations called for the Kirovs along with the older Badgers to fire their missiles from maximum standoff range, over 150 miles away. Their missiles would be guided to the target by Soviet ships in sensor contact with the enemy fleet. However the Tu-26M would also operate interpedently, requiring it to find targets with its own search radar. As a result the Kirov couldn’t fire from so far out. Its missiles could fly from the 150 mile distance but the search radar was only effective out to a hundred miles most of the time. Multiple regiments of Tu-26s would be required to destroy an American or Japanese carrier groups on their own. Also the farther the Kirov had to fly, the less weapons it could carry.
Many times however the SNA regiments were able to operate with the support of the Soviet Fleet during the early days of World War III. Kirov bombers were based in the Kola Peninsula, Mexico, Cuba, and the Pacific. Crimean based Tu-26s would attack American ships in the Middle East and Mediterranean. American carrier commanders and admirals respected and feared the Tu-26 Kirov. Prior to the war the USN described it as the second most potent weapon in the Soviet Fleet, behind their surface ships and submarines.
The first successful use of the Tu-26M Kirovs was during the Battle of the Caribbean. Three regiments of Kirov bombers helped the Soviet Cuban Squadron destroy the carriers Midway and Douglas MacArthur and most of their escorts. Other Kirovs bombarded Norfolk Naval Base and sank American merchantmen at sea. Working with the Soviet surface fleet, the Tu-26M helped the USSR cut the USA off from the rest of the world by sea. Soviet Air Force Tu-26s preformed bombing missions against American airbases, ground installations, and cities. Both the SAF and SNA Kirovs operated best when supported by long range fighter support. Generals in Group of Soviet Forces America loved using the Kirovs to smash US Army defense lines and carpet bomb the enemy. During the first months of the war when the USAF was still reeling from its losses, the Tu-26s operated with impunity.
However the effectiveness of the Tu-26M decreased as the war went on. American tactics changed and the European declaration of war upon the Soviet Union would ensure the Tu-26s could not play as effective a role. On March 12, 1972 twenty European fighters and fighter bombers attacked the main operating airfields of the Northern Fleet’s Kirovs. Many of the bombers were destroyed on the ground, and their airfields cratered. During the critical battles between the Soviet Northern Fleet and the European Alliance’s naval forces in the North Atlantic and Norwegian Sea, the Kirov bombers could not intervene in the battle.
Once the main sea lines of communication were cut, the Tu-26s overseas were cut off from spare parts and replacement aircraft. Attrition and mechanical failures began to reduce the American based Kirov units’ strength. By time of the final American counter-offensive only a single regiment of mixed SNA and SAF Kirovs remained in the theater. In Europe the Kirov’s were unable to inflict fatal damage to the European navies but did sink some famous vessels including the Italian carrier, Mussolini. At the end of the war there was only forty Kirov bombers left out of a maximum war time strength of nearly 220.
The new Russian Republic continues to use modified and upgraded Tu-26M bombers (the latest being the Tu-26M3B which can deliver smart weapons). All are in the hands of Russian Naval Aviation. Most of the Kirov regiments operate in the Russian Far East command. This is due to the security threat the Japanese Empire poses to Siberia and its natural resources. The only other user of the Tu-26 is the Republic of China. Like the Russians the Chinese believe the Kirov is their best weapon to use against the Japanese Combined Fleet.
Okay this is the Kirov Bomber. Now you may ask why it isn’t a blimp. I changed it to a real aircraft because the in game Kirov would not work in my more ‘realistic’ Red Alert Universe. So I based the Kirov on my favorite Russian bomber, the Tu-22M Backfire. Some differences between this bomber and the real Backfire are the location and size of the engines, and the air intakes. Mine are slanted downwards. In a nod to the original blimp I did some nose art on the nose of the Kirov.
If you’re wondering why the Kirov isn’t numbered with a 22, I picked 26 because originally the West believed that was the designation for the Backfire (Tu-26). I collect old Cold War books and quite a few from the early 70s have this error. So I thought that would be a nice change.
Anyway enjoy and comment please!