Aviation of Word War II

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TB-4 (ANT-16)

  • Heavy Bomber
  • Tupolev

In the early 30s of the last century, the leadership of the Red Army Air Force set a course for the creation of a powerful strategic aviation. At the same time, the main role in it was assigned to giant super-heavy bomb carriers. The Soviet Air Force was to include military aviation (tactical reconnaissance aircraft, artillery spotters, attack aircraft, light single-engine and twin-engine bombers), which was supposed to support ground forces near the front line, and heavy bomber aviation, equipped with huge multi-engine vehicles with a long range.

To a certain extent, the influence of the then popular doctrine of the Italian general Giulio Douai, who argued that a large and powerful aviation is capable of independently deciding the outcome of a modern war, and a ground army is needed only to occupy the territory of the enemy crushed by air strikes, was here influenced to a certain extent. Douet was heavily criticized in our country, calling his theory "bourgeois", but many of its provisions were clearly taken into account by the Soviet military.

In the USSR, there was a "deep" strategy of the Air Force, which was supported by many prominent military leaders. It matched well with the general plans of the Red Army leadership, focused on offensive operations in foreign territory. The rapid throws of the mechanized columns were to be supported by air strikes, paralyzing the enemy defenses, and airborne assault forces capturing key targets. At the same time, a special role was assigned to heavy bombers capable of operating deep behind enemy lines.

To ensure these actions, a gradual transition to ever larger and heavier bombers was envisaged. For the twin-engine TB-1, which was already considered as a front-line tactical aircraft, the four-engine TB-3, which was considered a "class 2 battleship", was to enter service. He, with some deviations in terms of carrying capacity and ceiling, generally met the requirements for the "basic", that is, the most massive machine. This was followed by an even larger, but also four-engine (in fact, it was performed as a six-engine) TB-4 - "battleship of the 1st class", which was also the brainchild of A.N. Tupolev. The "backup" of the TB-4 was the K-7, created in Kharkov under the leadership of K. Kalinin. At the next stage, the Air Force was supposed to receive huge super-heavy bombers. As such were considered Tupolev TB-6 (12-engine ANT-26), or competing with it ten-engine (on assignment) D-1 (aka G-1), developed at the Air Force Academy.

Thus, a gradual transition to ever larger and heavier bombers was envisaged. For the twin-engine TB-1, which was already considered as a front-line tactical aircraft, the four-engine TB-3, which was considered a "class 2 battleship", was to enter service. He, with some deviations in terms of carrying capacity and ceiling, generally met the requirements for the "basic", that is, the most massive machine. Then followed an even larger, but also four-engine (in fact, it was made six-engine) TB-4 - "battleship of the 1st class", which was also the brainchild of A.N. Tupolev. K-7, created in Kharkov under the leadership of K.A. Kalinin. At the next stage, the Air Force was supposed to receive huge super-heavy bombers. As such, the Tupolev TB-6 was considered, or the ten-engine (on assignment) D-1 (aka G-1) competing with it, developed at the Air Force Academy.

At the same time, the evolution of bomber aviation was aimed mainly at increasing the size and weight of machines. They had to carry more and more bombs, cannons and machine guns. The crews became more and more numerous, resembling the structure of the command of warships. At the same time, the aircraft remained relatively slow-moving, low-altitude, and as their size grew, they lost their maneuverability. It was believed that the best defense of the slowly flying armada of bomb carriers would be their cannons and machine guns, plus the firepower of the "cruisers".

According to the views of the aviation strategists of that time (which later turned out to be deeply erroneous), a successful attack of a heavy bomber required more fighters than it has firing points. The focus was on the weight of the bombs carried by the plane. Among the "main ideas" of the long-term plan for experimental aircraft construction for the period up to 1934 was the item: "a sharp increase in the tonnage of bombers, bringing the bomb load to 10, 15 and 25 tons with a corresponding increase in the range to 2000 and 2500 km ".

In accordance with this, in the technical assignments for new bombers, the requirements were lined up in importance as follows: payload, flight range, organization of spherical shelling (they wanted the attacking fighter to meet at least one machine gun from each direction), and only then speed. At the same time, a small take-off distance and landing speed were stipulated - there were few decent airfields in the country. Attempts to fulfill this requirement with low engine power at that time inevitably led to an increase in the number of engines and an increase in wing area.

Mandatory for all types of heavy bombers was the ability to use them for transport (including for "delivering cargo to areas of the uprising in the enemy's position") and airborne assault landing. At the same time, external suspension of bulky equipment, including tanks, was provided.

The creation of an armada of heavy bombers was also to partially compensate for the weakness of the Soviet navy.

Not even worth talking about the astronomical cost of creating a fleet of super-heavy bomb carriers. After all, these are not only airplanes, but also new airfields of a much larger area, with lanes that can withstand the load from the wheels of huge machines, a mass of special equipment for their maintenance, powerful fuel tankers, hangars, a repair base, plus the training of a large number of personnel capable of all this skillfully service.

Therefore, the real results turned out to be much more modest than the sweeping plans. It was assumed that by 1937 heavy bomber aviation would consist of half of the already mastered TB-3. The second half were supposed to be "class 1 battleships" - TB-4 (40%) and even larger TB-6 (10%). By January 1, 1938, the Red Army Air Force was supposed to have 384 TB-3, 288 TB-4 and 96 TB-6. An impressive armada?

But in reality, in February 1933, ready-made assemblies of a giant bomb carrier had just begun to be taken out to the Central Airfield. There was no shop in Moscow where such a huge machine could be assembled. It was collected and adjusted right on the airfield,

July 3, 1933 M.M. Gromov first lifted a bomber into the sky. In September of the same year, the TB-4 was transferred to the Air Force Research Institute for state tests. Their results were mixed. On the one hand, the report of the Research Institute stated: "The release of the TB4-6 M34 aircraft with a flight weight of 33 tons is undoubtedly the greatest achievement of the Soviet aircraft industry." On the other hand, on the statement of approval of the report, the Chief of the Air Force of the RKKA Ya.I. Alksnis drew a resolution: I state that in the presented form the TB4-6M34 aircraft did not withstand state tests and cannot be admitted to serial construction at the Air Force Research Institute.

The huge car turned out to be difficult to control, and most importantly - not reliable enough. The speed, ceiling and flight range were significantly lower than those recorded in the assignment, and the takeoff run was much greater. Many problems were associated with the maintenance of the giant bomber. For example, it turned out to be almost impossible to carry out repair work on an improvised upper tandem installation. Delivering water and oil for two motors upstairs was almost an acrobatic stunt. It took 2.5 hours to fill the bomb carrier with gasoline (when using two pumps). To hang the bombs, a team of 20 worked for three hours, while the load was manually lifted to a height of 5 m! All this seriously undermined the credibility of the aircraft.

ANT-20 "Maxim Gorky"

Alksnis decided to abandon the ANT-16 and staked on the military version of the ANT-20 aircraft ("Maxim Gorky", MG). This machine, which existed only in the project, was prescribed to be considered the standard of the future serial TB-4. Thus, under this designation at different times actually appeared two different, albeit similar, aircraft.

ANT-20 was the same huge low-speed corrugated monoplane, like ANT-16, and completely repeated its aerodynamic scheme. The same flat-sided fuselage, the same thick wing, the same high fixed landing gear. Only by the size of the wing it was larger, and there were eight engines on it - six on the wing and two in a tandem installation above the fuselage. It was designed in parallel in the military (like a bomber) and passenger versions.

The military MG, with approximately the same fuselage length as the ANT-16, should have had a larger wing span and area. At the same time, the maximum take-off weight of the military version of the MG was estimated at 45 tons.The aircraft was to be equipped with eight M-34R engines with a further transition to the more powerful M-34FRN (which actually appeared only in 1936). Defensive armament was planned from two cannon and seven machine-gun installations ...

A prototype aircraft in a civilian version was already under construction for the propaganda squadron to them. M. Gorky (hence the machine's own name - "Maxim Gorky"), At the same time, the drawings of the bomber were being finalized.

The propaganda plane was ready by May 1, 1934. It cost crazy money at that time - six million rubles. On June 17, the car made its first flight. The leadership of the SUAI proudly reported to the government: “The giant aircraft surpasses all existing land aircraft in the world. Aerodynamic qualities made the aircraft one of the best examples of world aviation technology. " But MG lived for a relatively short time. On May 18, 1935, the giant collided in the air with an I-5 fighter. Everyone on board the Maxim Gorky died, and the culprit of the disaster, the fighter pilot Blagin, also died.

The catastrophe rocked the entire country. Fundraising began for the construction of 10 and then 16 ANT-20. They even picked their names; the first plane was to be called "Vladimir Lenin". All these machines were supposed to have a dual purpose. The customer was considered the Main Directorate of the Civil Air Fleet, but it was envisaged to install reinforcements under the bomb racks, place bomb releasers, sights and defensive weapons.

The production was launched at the plant number 124 in Kazan (former "Kazmashstroy"). They expected to receive two lead aircraft in 1936, but the unfinished and under-equipped enterprise could not master the huge MG. The absence of many necessary components also contributed. The plan was cut to five aircraft, then the installation of military equipment was abandoned. In reality, only one car was produced, the passenger ANT-20bis (PS-124), and even then in 1939.

Semimotor K-7 Kalinin

A potential competitor to TB-4, the seven-motor K-7, was no more fortunate. Like ANT 20, it was designed in parallel in civil (passenger) and military versions. The preliminary design of the K-7 was prepared in 1931.

The car was distinguished by many non-standard design solutions. Kalinin used a two-girder fuselage and landing gear in the form of two huge cowl-powered bogies with twin two-meter wheels. At the same time, the chassis did not have any depreciation, the designer decided that it would be enough to use special low-pressure balloon wheels.

In the parking position, the fuselage was horizontal, like in modern aircraft with a nose wheel. The control was supposed to use electric servomechanisms (in fact, never created). The armament of the military version consisted of four cannons and eight machine guns, which provided spherical shelling. At the same time, from any direction the enemy met fire from three shooting points.

The arrows had to get to the installations at the ends of the tail booms on electrified carts moving along the rails. The maximum bomb load was 14 tons (with a take-off weight of 43 tons). With 6,000 kg of bombs, the K-7 had a range of 2,400 km. The bomber's crew was supposed to consist of 19 people, including the boatswain (he is also a reserve shooter and paramedic). An airship, like a naval one, was to be commanded by a commander freed from other functions. On instructions from the Air Force, he was supposed to sit in a special armored retractable wheelhouse behind the cockpit.

At first, they wanted to make the plane a six-engine, but as the design progressed, the weight grew and the designer added a seventh M-34 engine, placing it with a pusher propeller on the trailing edge of the wing in the middle between the tail booms.

In 1932, the design was completed and a full-size wooden model of a passenger car was manufactured. As a civilian, without weapons, they began to build the first prototype. A special building was built for the assembly of the K-7, which followed the contours of the aircraft. The commission that evaluated the project under the leadership of Professor N.A. Zhemchuzhina wrote in her response: "The K-7 aircraft by its design, regardless of the expected flight data from it, represents a major step forward in aircraft construction ...".

August 21, K-7 made its first flight in a circle. Further, after each flight, certain alterations followed. On September 13, an order was received to convert the prototype aircraft into a military one, and to stop work on the passenger version.

In November, it was already required to present the K-7 for state tests. Kalinin did not fit in either the timeframe or the allotted money. They did not have time to execute the order. On November 21, when measuring the maximum speed, the plane suddenly lost control, crashed into the ground and burned down. On December 29, the GUAP ordered the construction of two more experimental K-7s in the military version, taking into account the shortcomings of the first vehicle. But they soon came to the conclusion that Kalinin's plane did not have significant advantages over the more advanced MG. Work went sluggishly until 1935. Then, more than half of the second copy of the K-7 was mothballed and then dismantled.

By 1935, the priorities in equipping the Air Force with aircraft gradually changed. Interest in slow-moving giants has disappeared. The unhurried huge bomb carriers were replaced by fast and maneuverable SB and DB-3 .

TB-3 TB-4 K-7
Crew 4 12 19
Length, m 24.4 32 28
Wing area, m 39.5 54 53
Wing area, m² 230 422 454
Weight, kg
Empty 12,700 21,400 24,400
Loaded weight 18,100 33,280 38,000
Engines 4 × PE M-34 6 × PE M-34 7 × PE M-34
Takeoff power, h.p. 4 × 830 6 × 830 7 × 830
Power load, kg / h.p. 5.5 6.7 6.5
Maximum speed, km/h 197 200 220
Service range, km 2,000 2,000
Service ceiling, m 3,800 2,750 4,000
Time to climb 2000 m, min 22 34
Takeoff run, m 300 400
Mileage, m 330 800


  • "The history of designs of planes in USSR 1938-1950" /Vadim Shavrov/
  • "Planes of Stalin falcons" /Konstantin Kosminkov and Dmitriy Grinyuk/
  • "aviAMaster #8 1984 " /Al. Medved, Dmitriy Khazanov/
  • "Soviet aircrafts " /V.E. Judenok/


An impressive fabulous armada of Soviet super-heavy bomb carriers is assessed by "Internet historians" as a direct military threat to European countries. And note that the result of these fabulous plans was only one dead propaganda plane "Maxim Gorky" and its later passenger "brother" PS-124.
And if the modern nuclear potential is assessed as a deterrent, then the Soviet Union planned its "impressive armada" of course only to capture defenseless European countries and nothing else ...


The European generals turned out to be even more "smart", having surrendered their cities and countries to a fascist soldier, and smart English and American strategists for three years, until the middle of 44, watched from overseas how a Russian soldier was fighting there, whether he would win near Moscow , Stalingrad and Kursk? Will he drive the fascist west? And, he drove, watering the fields of Europe with his blood, well then it's time for us to cross the English Channel ...
True, before that, these same European cities were turned into ruins, this time with their "impressive armadas" of "flying fortresses".


"We will bomb Germany one city after another. We will bomb you harder and harder ..."
The essence of the rationale for carpet bombing of residential areas - "You started first."

May 29, 2017

And in order to certainly convince the Europeans of the aggressiveness of the USSR, you can draw "twelve-engine project" "K-12 - you fantasize"

Photo Description

Drawing TB-4 (ANT-16)

Doublel machine guns YES 7.62 mm in the rear turret of a heavy, six-engine TB-4 bomber.

ANT-20 "Maxim Gorky" in flight

ANT-20bis (PS-124) , in fact ANT-20 without a tandem propulsion system above the fuselage.

Full-size wooden model of the fuselage and center section of Kalinin's K-7. Judging by the layout, it was originally planned to install two of the six engines in the landing gear nacelles. However, this unconventional solution was subsequently abandoned.

K-7 Kalinin in flight - the only photo that has come down to us.

The rest, even more exotic projects of super bombs, were never embodied in metal, or never took off and are not considered on this page.