Aviation of World 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.

Photo Decription

Drawing TB-4 (ANT-16)

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.

TB-6 (ANT-26)

Heavy Bomber

In January 1933, at a meeting with Tupolev, together with representatives of the Air Force Research Institute, the issue was resolved, as recorded in the minutes of the meeting, "identifying the physiognomy of the TB-6 aircraft in terms of armament and the number of crew". In February 1933, the Air Force Research Institute approved more detailed requirements for the TB-6. According to these requirements, the aircraft had to have the following basic data: payload - 19600 kg, maximum speed at an altitude of 5000 m - 250 km / h, landing speed - 70-80 km / h, takeoff run - 300 m, run length - 200 m , technical range - 3300 km, practical ceiling - 7000 m, bomb load - 15000 kg, crew - 17 people.

Defensive armament was stipulated as follows: three 20 mm Oerlikon cannons, one 37 mm caliber cannon, one DA machine gun, four ShKAS machine guns, three ShVAK heavy machine guns. To this should be added, the military assumed that it was possible to hang tanks, guns and other large-sized equipment under the TB-6.

Gradually, TB-6, according to the customer's plan, turned into a giant "transport chest" for military purposes, which still had to bomb and shoot - some kind of fabulous "Snake-Gorynych". In a change to the TTT adopted in February 1933, in March 1933, the Air Force Research Institute suggested that TsAGI replace the M-34 engines with promising ones. In the future, all TsAGI work on TB-6 continued with M-34FRN engines (1200 hp). In the course of further design, TsAGI gradually refined the project in terms of technology, masses and dimensions of individual units. The flight weight in the normal version was determined at 71 tons, empty - 45 tons, of which 31 tons accounted for the glider.

The large flight weight of the aircraft and the natural desire of TsAGI designers to ensure the necessary strength of individual elements and the entire aircraft as a whole, made us look for an appropriate range of structural materials. As such a basic building material for TB-6, TsAGI outlined chromium-molybdenum pipes, the production of which had yet to be organized at domestic factories. According to TsAGI calculations, such pipes should have a diameter of up to 200 mm, a wall thickness of up to 8 mm and a length of up to 8 m.

Looking ahead, Tupolev planned to use pipes with a diameter of up to 300 mm with a wall thickness of up to 20 mm and a length of up to 12 m in his designs. However, the possibility of manufacturing them at Soviet factories clearly did not coincide with the timing of the construction of TB-6. According to the plans for pilot construction, the expiration date of TB-6 was scheduled for the end of 1934, and the assignment to design a plant for the production of chromium-molybdenum pipes was given only in 1933. Therefore, in the summer of 1933, TsAGI was granted the right to purchase the required pipes for TB-6 abroad. But TsAGI continued to "put pressure" on the industry in order to obtain the necessary materials from it, regardless of Western supplies.

According to the plans of experimental aircraft construction, the timing of the release of TB-6 has changed several times. The release of the aircraft in 1932, which was determined by the Red Army Air Force, was initially pushed back to 1934-1935. The deadline for the release of TB-6 with 12 M-34FRN engines was approved for August 1936. Such a shift in time is explained by TsAGI's large load on lighter and more needed aircraft, the gradual insight of the Air Force regarding the real combat value of supergiants in the context of the rapid development of air defense systems. Finally, the inevitable finale in the long history of the Tupolev bombers came. In July 1934, by order of the government, work on the TB-6 was suspended, and then it was removed from the plan with an overall technological readiness of the aircraft of 16%.

As noted above, the design bureau was working on civilian versions of the ANT-26 in passenger and cargo modifications. The commercial load was determined at 15 tons, and the flight range was 1500 km. These projects under the codes ANT-26, and then ANT-28 were stopped at the initial stage. All forces of the OKB were concentrated on the military version, and if it was successful, work on civilian modifications could be continued, as happened with other OKB aircraft, the prototypes of which were originally military aircraft.

TB-6 (ANT-26) Specification
Crew 17
Wing cpan, m 95.00
Wing area, m² 760.0
Length, m 39.08
12 × PE M-34FRN, power, hp. 12 × 1,200
Weight, kg
Empty 45,000
Loaded weight 71,000
Fuel 10,000
Speed, km/h Maximum 275 over ground
225 at altitude
Cruising 170
Service range, km 1,000
Three 20 mm cannons, one 37 mm cannon, one DA machine gun, four 7.62 mm ShKAS machine guns, three 12.7 mm ShVAK machine guns.
maximum up to 16,000 kg of bombs, normal - 10,000 kg

Summing up the work of the Tupolev Design Bureau on more than five years of development of the idea of ​​​​creating super-heavy low-speed cargo-lifting aircraft, we can say that the further evolution of long-range bomber aviation turned out to be behind high-speed high-altitude heavy machines. This is confirmed by the appearance, following the projects of low-speed super-bombers in the Design Bureau of A.N. Tupolev, of the project of a high-speed, but lighter, high-altitude bomber ANT-42 (TB-7), which at the time of its appearance surpassed many machines of a similar purpose in advanced Western countries.

Photo Decription

Drawing TB-6 (ANT-26 12 × M-34)


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.

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.


  • "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/