US Navy A-7 pilot recalls when he flew alone, at night into a formation of Soviet Tu-16 bombers to see if they were conducting a missile strike against his carrier

US Navy A-7 pilot recalls when he flew alone, at night into a formation of Soviet Tu-16 bombers to see if they were conducting a missile strike against his carrier

By Dario Leone
Jan 7 2024
Share this article

A lonely US Navy A-7 intercepting a formation of Soviet Tu-16 Badger bombers.

Developed to meet a Soviet Ministry of Defense requirement for a fast bomber that would counter the threat posed by NATO, the Tupolev Tu-16 (NATO reporting name: Badger) was a ground-breaking project. It was the first Soviet medium bomber to feature swept wings, and it was built around a pair of turbojets that were the world’s most powerful jet engines at the time. First flown in 1952, the Tu-16 filled such roles as reconnaissance, Electronic Counter Measures, nuclear bomb delivery and missile strike.

When the Badger entered service, it was used to monitor the movements of NATO carrier task forces. In the 1960s and 1970s Western aviation publications were full of photographs showing Soviet Tu-16s flying over the decks of US Navy and Royal Navy aircraft carriers.

Tu-16 Badger “simulated” attack on two US Carriers

Former US Navy A-7 Corsair II pilot David Tussey recalls on Quora;

‘I once intercepted a Badger “simulated” attack on two US Carriers operating in the Sea of Japan in 1986. The Badgers were out of Vladivostok. It was about 3 am in the morning. 5–6 aircraft. The formation sped quickly (450kts+) towards the carrier battle group, reached their presumed “launch position” about 100 miles away, and then turned back and slowed down to return home.

‘My job was to verify that there were no missiles on the Badger’s wings, which there weren’t any… So, we knew it was just a simulated attack. Using the carrier battle group as training. The carrier had spotted these aircraft very shortly after takeoff and was tracking them for well over a hundred miles before they turned back.

Flying inside a formation of Soviet Badger bombers

‘Got to admit…it was weird flying inside a formation of Soviet Badger aircraft in the pitch black of night…and they didn’t have their lights on. (My lights were on full display, so they knew for sure I was there.)

‘Creeeeepy. I’m sure the Soviet strike leader was none too happy to have this Navy jet along with them, moving from plane to plane to ascertain they weren’t carrying any anti-ship missiles.’

Tussey concludes;

‘In the end, the Badgers turned back. I left the formation. We tracked them all the way back to Vlad. I returned to the carrier just in time to catch an early breakfast, then hit the rack.

‘Just another Tuesday in Naval Aviation.’

Photo credit: U.S. Navy

VA-86 A-7 Print
This print is available in multiple sizes from – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. A-7E Corsair II VA-86 Sidewinders, AJ400 / 159292 / 1977

Share this article

Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Share this article

Share this article
Share this article

Always up to date! News and offers delivered directly to you!

Get the best aviation news, stories and features from The Aviation Geek Club in our newsletter, delivered straight to your inbox.

Error: Contact form not found.

Share this article
Back to top
My Agile Privacy
This website uses technical and profiling cookies. Clicking on "Accept" authorises all profiling cookies. Clicking on "Refuse" or the X will refuse all profiling cookies. By clicking on "Customise" you can select which profiling cookies to activate. In addition, this site installs Google Analytics in version 4 (GA4) with anonymous data transmission via proxy. By giving your consent, the data will be sent anonymously, thus protecting your privacy. We and our selected ad partners can store and/or access information on your device, such as cookies, unique identifiers, browsing data. You can always choose the specific purposes related to profiling by accessing the advertising preferences panel, and you can always withdraw your consent at any time by clicking on "Manage consent" at the bottom of the page.

List of some possible advertising permissions:

You can consult: our list of advertising partners, the Cookie Policy and the Privacy Policy.
Warning: some page functionalities could not work due to your privacy choices