The Tupolev Tu-143 Reys (“Journey” or “Trip” in Russian) was a Soviet reconnaissance drone in service with the Soviet Red Army and with a number of its Warsaw Pact and Middle East allies during the late 1970s and 1980s.
The Tu-143 was introduced in 1976 and strongly resembled the Tu-141, but was substantially scaled-down. It was a short-range (60–70 kilometer) tactical reconnaissance system and had a low-level flight capability. The Tu-143 was truck-launched with RATO booster, recovered by parachute, and powered by a TR3-117 turbojet with 5.8 kN (590 kgf, 267 lbf) thrust. The initial version carried film cameras, but later versions carried a TV or radiation detection payload, with data relayed to a ground station over a datalink. Some 950 units were produced in the 1970s and 1980s.
The Tu-143 was used by Syria in reconnaissance missions over Israel and Lebanon during the 1982 Lebanon War, as well as by Soviet forces in Afghanistan during the Soviet war in Afghanistan.
A target drone version, the M-143, was introduced in the mid-1980s.
The Tu-143 was followed into service in the late 1980s by the similar but improved “Tu-243 Reys-D”, with a 25 cm (10 inch) fuselage stretch, to provide greater fuel capacity and about twice the range; an uprated TR3-117 engine with 6.28 kN (640 kgf, 1,410 lbf) thrust; and improved low-altitude guidance.
Since 1995, Tupolev began promoting the further refined “Tu-300 Korshun”, which resembles its predecessors but is fitted with a nose antenna dome and nose fairings for modern sensors and electronic systems. It also features a centerline pylon for a sensor pod or munitions. Financial issues forced a halt to development at the end of the 1990s, but work was resumed in 2007.
Korean People’s Air Force
Used as targets (in service as of 2011)
VR-3 Rejs, retired in 1995
VR-3 was in service from 1985, passed to Czech Republic and Slovakia
(Retired from service)
VR-3 Rejs, retired
Passed to Russia and Ukraine on dissolution of the USSR
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