The establishment of NATO posed the need for the Soviet war machine to create a fast jet bomber capable of reaching targets throughout Western Europe and combatting the carrier task forces with which the US Navy could throw its weight around the world. The basic Tu-16 which first flew in the mid-1950s was developed into nearly 50 versions adopted for various roles, including nuclear-capable bombers, anti-shipping missile strike aircraft, torpedo-bombers and minelayers, numerous reconnaissance and ECM variants, assorted development aircraft for testing new engines, avionics and systems. The Tu-16 even found civil uses as a fast mailplane and a weather research/rainmaking aircraft! The Badger, as the bomber was known to the West, served as the basis for the Soviet Union's first jet airliner, the Tu-104. The nearly 1,500 Tu-16s built in the Soviet Union were an important factor in preventing all-out military confrontation between the East and the West. Since the mid-1950s and until the 1980s the Badger has been a regular picture on the pages of the Western press, snooping around Western naval groups every now and then.
The type also had its share of 'hot' wars, getting its baptism of fire in the Six-Day War of 1967. Apart from three factories in the USSR, the Tu-16 was built under licence in China as the H-6 and remains in service with the People's Liberation Army Air Force. Other foreign users were Egypt, Indonesia and Iraq. All known versions are described and a full account is given of the Tu-16's operational career in the USSR and abroad during the Cold War and in the days after that when many of the surviving Badgers were used as target drones. The book features many hitherto unpublished photos and a detailed production list.