What is the reason behind this unusual nose shape? I am not referring only to the presence of the protuberance on the tip, but mainly to the asymmetry between the top and bottom side.

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Image source

It can be seen better in the profile depiction here:

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Image source

  • $\begingroup$ The F-111 has a very similar nose shape. Possibly related? $\endgroup$
    – J W
    Commented Feb 6, 2016 at 3:57
  • $\begingroup$ To make it look more badass? $\endgroup$
    – Vikki
    Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 0:47

2 Answers 2


Nobody knows why except Andrei Nikolayevich Tupolev, and he is dead.

Andrei Tupolev was known to insist on the fast and adequate at the expense of the theoretically correct, leading to widespread technical debt in his designs. He may have raised the nose cone for no more profound reason than to get the refueling probe in line with the pilot's vision. Once he had energetically dictated where the probe was to go, no one at the design bureau would dare suggest moving it; they would just work the forward avionics into the resulting odd shape as best they could.

Tupolev died in 1972 leaving this and many other of his decisions unexplained.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ "Andrei Tupolev... leading to widespread technical debt in his designs." Interesting. What other unexplained design curiosities did he leave behind? $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 19:57
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ technical debt seems to imply that it caused problems later... is that the case? $\endgroup$
    – Michael
    Commented Nov 21, 2016 at 21:24

The Tu-22M3's nose houses a Leninets PN-AD radar and a NK-45 navigation and attack system. The NK-45 provides improved low-altitude flight, compared to earlier models.

Several Tu-22M3's were converted to Tu-22M3R who carry a Shompol side looking airborne radar and other Electronic signals intelligence equipment.

All this equipement is stored in the nose of the aircraft. This explains the strange appearance (The asymmetry between the top and bottom).

*Edit: I can only guess why the nose is asymmetric: Maybe some parts of the equipment located in the nose has to lock forward / down of the plane. The asymmetric bottom may provide a better "view" for the equipment. (See my comment below).

On this image, you can see all the equipment in the nose. Unfortunately the quality is too poor to be able to read the caption. Tu-23M3 Blueprint Image source

The Tu-22M had a retractable probe on the top for aerial refueling:

Tu-22M nose

As a result of the salt negotations, the probe was removed but it could be reinstalled.

because with refueling it was considered an intercontinental range strategic bomber.



the Soviets secretly agreed to reduce Tu-22M production to thirty aircraft per year and not to give them an intercontinental range.

Stratetic Arms Limitation Talks 2

Overall Source

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    $\begingroup$ This does not appear to answer the question. $\endgroup$
    – J W
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 12:47
  • $\begingroup$ @JonathanWalters Can you explain why? $\endgroup$
    – jklingler
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 12:50
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    $\begingroup$ You have some great info about probes and equipment, but the question is regarding the asymmetrical nose, "the asymmetry between the top and bottom side"(see the second sentence in the question). You do give the one statement: "This explains the strange appearance" which may or may not refer to the asymmetry. If it does, then this should be emphasised and expanded upon; if it does not, you have not addressed the main thrust of the question. $\endgroup$
    – J W
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 13:29
  • $\begingroup$ Well, I can only guess, but it seems like some electronic equipment in the nose has "to look down and forward" of the plane. Therefore, the nose is shaped the way it is, to enable a better "view" for the equipment. However, I don't find any reliable information about this, that's why I didn't include it into the answer. $\endgroup$
    – jklingler
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 13:38
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry for further complicating things, but it seems to me this nose section will produce some lift. Could it be possible that somewhere in the design process there was a need for moving the center of lift slightly forward? $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 19:30

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