After some early troubles, the Tupolev Tu-16 proved an extremely successful design in a wide variety of combat and support roles. Alexander Mladenov and Krasimir Grozev trace its career
By 1949, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin had expanded his arsenal to include an atomic bomb and a heavy bomber type that could deliver it deep into enemy territory. However, both were copies of US-made originals: the RDS- 1 atomic bomb was a derivative of the Fat Man device dropped on Nagasaki, while the Tupolev Tu-4 bomber was a non-licensed Boeing B-29. It was clear to Stalin that nuclear parity with the United States had to be established as soon as possible and this would necessitate developing a much more capable heavy bomber for the country’s nuclear delivery role.
At the time, the design bureaux in the Soviet Union were actively working on a wide variety of bomber projects. In 1948, Sergei Ilyushin's team notched up a huge success with its Il-28 because comparative testing showed that it was significantly better than the Tupolev Tu-73 in the frontal bomber role. The twin-engine Il-28 (NATO reporting name Beagle) went into series production the following year, and Ilyushin received a new directive from the Soviet government. This called for the development of a twin-engined jet bomber capable of delivering three tons of weapons at a 1,620nm distance, while at maximum take-off weight it was required to carry a payload five tons at 2,700nm. This is how the Il-46 was born.<