Thoughts On Military History

Tu 4

The Big Rip Off

Towards the end of WW II, a number of  B 29 Superfortresse were interned in the USSR.  Russia refused to return them. Three were flown to airfields around Moscow and became the genesis of a modern Soviet Strategic Bomber Arm. Russian aircraft designers had been handed an incredibly valuable gift and reverse engineered the B29 into the Tupolev TU 4. “They therefore viewed the unexpected arrival of three B-29s on their soil as an extraordinary windfall, described as a dar Bozhii, or “gift from God,” by bomber pilot Vasiliy Reshetnikov in his memoirs.”1 Lend Lease by a Different  Name. 

The VVS was in need of a long range Bomber. The Pe 8 was obsolete and a decision had been made to cancel the Ant 124. When the B 29 fell into Russian hands Tupolev’s Design Bureau came under immediate pressure to come up with a four engine bomber – and quick. They did – the first TU4 flew on May 19,1947. Stalin, ever practical, told Tupolev to clone the Superfortress in as short a time as possible instead of continuing with his own comparable ANT-64/Tu-10.[8] The reverse-engineering effort involved 900 factories and research institutes, which finished the design work during the first year, and 105,000 drawings were made.[9] By the end of the second year, the Soviet industry was to produce 20 copies of the aircraft, ready for state acceptance trials.[10]

Tupolev TU 4 Strategic Bomber

The effort involved created, perhaps recreated the Soviet aircraft industry in sophistication of product and production management. By the end of the second year 20 TU4’s were in  acceptance trials. In spite of materiel differences (skin, alloys) the Tu 4 weighed close to the same as the B 29.  Turrets were redesigned to take the more effective Nudelman NS 23mm cannon and “Additional changes were made as a result of problems encountered during testing, related to engine and propeller failures.”

The aircraft was first displayed during a flyover at the Aviation Day parade on 3 August 1947, It was assumed that they were merely three B-29 bombers that were known to have been diverted to the Soviet Union during World War II. Minutes later a fourth aircraft appeared. Western analysts realized that the Soviets must have reverse-engineered the B-29.[22]   

A nuclear bomber that gave NATO fits when it appeared: tactics had to be polished in order to meet the new threat – a Soviet B 29! The aircraft functioned in the following major roles: ELINT, ECM, carrier of parasite fighters and gliders, aerial refueling, reconnaissance among other tasks. China received a small number in the 1950’s. The Tupolev TU 4, the start of a modern Soviet Strategic Bomber Arm, was phased out in the 1950’s. A descendant of the TU 4 remains with the VVS to present day – the four engined TU 95 Bear. 

To the boon supplied courtesy of the German aircraft industry must be added the American.   

‘All’s Fair in Love and War”

General characteristics (WIKI)

• Crew: 11

• Length: 30.179 m (99 ft 0 in)

• Wingspan: 43.047 m (141 ft 3 in)

• Height: 8.46 m (27 ft 9 in)

• Wing area: 161.7 m2 (1,741 sq ft)

• Aspect ratio: 11.5

• Empty weight: 36,850 kg (81,240 lb)

• Gross weight: 47,850 kg (105,491 lb)

• Max takeoff weight: 55,600 kg (122,577 lb) – 63,600 kg (140,214 lb)

• Powerplant: 4 × Shvetsov ASh-73TK 18-cyl. air-cooled radial piston engines, 1,790 kW (2,400 hp) each

• Propellers: 4-bladed V3-A3 or V3B-A5, 5.06 m (16 ft 7 in) diameter


• Maximum speed: 558 km/h (347 mph; 301 kn) at 10,250 m (33,629 ft)

• Range: 5,400 km (3,355 mi; 2,916 nmi) at 3,000 m (9,843 ft) with 63,600 kg (140,214 lb) take-off weight including 3,000 kg (6,614 lb) of bombs and 10% fuel reserves

• Service ceiling: 11,200 m (36,700 ft)

• Rate of climb: 4.6 m/s (910 ft/min) at 1,000 m (3,281 ft)

• Time to altitude: 5,000 m (16,404 ft) in 18.2 minutes

• Wing loading: 400 kg/m2 (82 lb/sq ft)

Power/mass: 0.11 kW/kg


• Guns:

• 10 × 23 mm Nudelman-Suranov NS-23 aircraft cannon, two cannon in each of the four turrets and two cannon in the tail barbette

• Missiles:

• 2 × KS-1 Komet standoff missiles (Tu-4K only; these anti-ship missiles resembled a scaled-down MiG-15)

• Bombs:

• 6 × 1,000 kg (2,200 lb) bombs or

• 1 x RDS-1, RDS-3 or RDS-5 nuclear fission bomb (Tu-4A only) – Jelinek, Pauline (25 January 2001). “Report: Soviet Union Copied US Plane”. Associate Press. Retrieved 12 June 2015 – via HighBeam Research

Gordon, Yefim and Vladimir Rigmant. Tupolev Tu-4: Soviet Superfortress: Midland Counties Publications Ltd., 2002. ISBN 1-85780-142-3.

Jelinek, Pauline, Associated Press Writer

AP Online 01-25-2001

Report: Soviet Union Copied US Plane