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The Tu-95LAL was the first nuclear-powered aircraft in Soviet Union




During the Cold War, the Soviet Union had an experimental nuclear-powered aircraft program similar to the American Convair XB-36H Crusader.

Without the need to refuel, a nuclear-powered aircraft will have a very wide range compared to conventional designs.

XB-36H Crusader nuclear-powered test aircraft

On August 12, 1955, the Council of Ministers of the USSR issued a directive to research nuclear-powered aircraft.

The design departments of Andrei Tupolev, Vladimir Myasishchev became the main responsible unit, while ND Kuznetsov and AM Lyulka were appointed to develop the engine.

They chose to focus on direct-cycle systems, testing ramjets, jet engines and even turboprop engines.

Tupolev’s office knows the complexity of the task at hand, estimating that it will take two decades before a complete prototype is created. They think this type of aircraft may appear in the late 1970s or early 1980s.

To gain experience, Tupolev suggested building a flight test platform as soon as possible, installing a small reactor in a Tupolev Tu-95 to create the Tu-95LAL variant .

Test aircraft Tu-95LAL

The VVRL-LOO reactor, installed in the aircraft’s bomb bay, requires top and bottom aerodynamic shaping.

Between 1961 and 1969, the Tu-95LAL completed more than 40 research flights. Most of these are done with the reactor not working.

The main purpose of the above stage is to test the effectiveness of radiation shielding, which is one of the main concerns of engineers. Liquid sodium, beryllium oxide, cadmium, paraffin wax and sheet steel are used for protection.

The effectiveness of the shielding has been controversial, most sources say that is at least enough to warrant doing the job, and indeed the design of the next prototype, the Tu-119 version, has already begun. .

Reactor VVRL-LOO installed in the bomb bay of Tu-95LAL

In the United States, work on developing a nuclear-powered aircraft was canceled due to cost and environmental concerns.

Intercontinental ballistic missiles showed their potential, so the expensive nuclear-powered aircraft program was no longer needed and it was scrapped.

Drawing of the Tu-95LAL, the reactor can be seen in the bomb bay and in the center of the fuselage, supplying steam that is heated at high pressure to turn turbines.

The next stage of the development of a nuclear-powered bomber will be the Tupolev Tu-119 – a modified version of the Tu-95.

The Tu-119 will use both kerosene and nuclear fuel: the two Kuznetsov NK-14A nuclear engines are powered by an internal reactor, while the two Kuznetsov NK-propeller turbines are powered by both kerosene and nuclear fuel. 12 is outside.

The Tu-119 was never completed as the nuclear-powered bomber project was canceled due to cost and risk of serious environmental impact in the event of an accident.