The PT6 came out a year after the JT8 and is arguably the best turbine engine ever built and ill fight anybody that says otherwise
The PT6 is Pratt and Whitney Canada's work (which at the time the PT6 was designed was called United Aircraft of Canada); they should really be thought of as a separate company altogether. Unlike Big Daddy, P&WC consistently makes the best engines in their class, and show no signs of letting up either.
EDIT: Interestingly enough, P&WC did a big chunk of the design work on the PW1000G...maybe that's why it's so good.
MrChips fucked around with this message at 01:17 on Sep 17, 2013
|# ¿ Sep 17, 2013 01:13|
|# ¿ Jul 14, 2020 10:14|
The Swiss Hornets entered service in 1996, so they're not all that old...certainly not like our Hornets in Canada, which are literally some of the first off the production line in 1982.
Also, the story of how the Swiss ended up buying the Hornet is kind of
|# ¿ Sep 19, 2013 19:02|
As to why Gripen and not Eurofighter or Rafale? Yeah, politics. You don't buy weapons from the nations you're buying the aircraft to protect your sovereignty from.
This isn't correct at all; Eurofighter and Rafale lost because they are way too much aircraft and far too expensive for Swiss needs. On the topic of their Hornet purchasem the single biggest reason why it dragged out for so long was the desire of several groups in government, as well as a very large part of the general population, to purchase a European aircraft. It was so great that after the contest was initially won by the Hornet, it was re-opened to evaluate the Mirage 2000-5 (which lost), and then was sent to a general referendum, which narrowly passed in favour of the Hornet purchase.
Beyond that, the Swiss have operated several combat aircraft from European nations, so again the argument against buying a European aircraft has never really held water.
|# ¿ Sep 20, 2013 20:24|
So by now I imagine many of you have heard of Paul Allen's Stratolaunch aircraft? The idea of converting two aircraft into one outsize cargo hauler wasn't exactly original. Enter, the Conroy Virtus:
|# ¿ Sep 21, 2013 17:45|
The wing to engine size ratio is...messed up? It looks like a 737 flying with two jet turbines made from salvaged Saab turbos.
It looks messed up because the Virtus was designed to have a 450-foot wingspan...those "little" engines are actually Pratt JT9Ds.
|# ¿ Sep 22, 2013 01:02|
Time for fighter drones.
...except, they're not.
Everyone is freaking the gently caress out about "robot F-16s will kill us all", when in reality they're just targets with basically no capabilities beyond some basic maneuvering.
|# ¿ Sep 25, 2013 02:10|
how many sheets of drywall can a laser burn through in a second?
I imagine it depends on whether or not its load-bearing
|# ¿ Sep 25, 2013 04:17|
I have a question that you folks can probably answer:
The vast majority of multi-engine, propeller-driven aircraft have engines that turn the same direction. While this does simplify maintenance and construction, it does impart some nasty characteristics to the aircraft. What happens is at low speed and high angle of attack, the downgoing blade of the propeller has a higher angle of attack than the upgoing blade, which makes the prop produce more thrust on one side than the other. This is known as "p-factor", illustrated here:
In a single-engine aircraft, this doesn't produce much of an effect on the aircraft; it can often be eliminated with a bit of rudder trim. In a multi-engine aircraft, it becomes a bit of a problem, as illustrated here:
As you can see, the left engine has its downgoing blade closer to the centerline of the aircraft than the right engine. This means in a single-engine situation, the aircraft will need much more rudder to compensate for the left engine failing than it would for the right engine - hence the term "critical engine".
In some aircraft, such as the Piper Seneca, they do away with the critical engine by turning the right-hand engine counterclockwise (as opposed to both engines turning clockwise), thus making the downgoing blades closest to the centerline. This makes the aircraft more predictable flying on a single engine, which in turn makes it somewhat safer to fly. There are a couple of notable exceptions to this; the P-38 Lightning and the P-82 Twin Mustang - both of these aircraft turn their engines in such a way that the downgoing blades are furthest from the centerline. This was done for aerodynamic reasons - the resulting propeller slipstream helped generate more lift over the center wing sections, thus increasing takeoff weight and lowering stall speed, among other benefits.
Answering your questions:
The A400M has the props turn in opposite directions like this...
...to make engine-out handling characteristics more favourable. It also allowed Airbus to use a smaller rudder and vertical stabiliser, which in turn reduces weight and drag.
There are jet aircraft that suffer from gyroscopic effects from their engines; mostly, single-engine aircraft with centerline thrust. Pretty much all the single-engined "Century Series" fighters (F-100, F-102, F-104, F-105 and F-106) suffered from this to some extent, but the F-104 in particular had it really bad.
|# ¿ Sep 26, 2013 07:03|
Grab a bowl of popcorn and set aside an hour, because this is a fantastic interview:
|# ¿ Oct 1, 2013 05:25|
|# ¿ Oct 6, 2013 02:48|
To answer you more specifically, it looks like either 1,000ft or 3,000ft vertically.
That's probably 3000 feet vertical...1000 feet opposite direction, the first time you see it, is pants-shittingly close looking. I actually ducked reflexively my first time.
|# ¿ Oct 8, 2013 02:38|
On the First of May, 1954, as part of their annual May Day celebrations, the Soviet Air Force held a massive air show to demonstrate, both to the Soviet people and to Western observers, the strength and prowess of their aviation industry. Huge formations of fighters, bombers and transports (both military and civilian) flew past the assembled crowd, interspersed with displays of cutting-edge prototypes and development aircraft. Two aircraft stood out that year; both were large, four-engine aircraft, with swept wings and a purposeful, menacing look that left no doubt of their intended purpose they were bombers...bombers capable of delivering nuclear weapons over American cities via the North Pole. Intelligence analysts from all the major Western nations who were present at this air show collectively gasped at the sight...then proceeded to get it all wrong. On the other side of the story, you have a brash, young engineer locked in a battle of egos with his former mentor as they both fought for the attention (and admiration) of the Soviet government. One would become one of the greatest aircraft designers of the Soviet Union, if not of all time; the other, caught in a perpetual cycle of falling in and out of favour with the powers that be.
This is the story of the Myasishchev M-4 Bison.
As the World War II came to a close, three things were clear about the future of aerial bombardment; first, the jet engine showed the potential to allow aircraft to carry huge payloads higher and faster than ever. Second, with the advent of the atomic bomb, the huge, massed formations of bombers of WWII were a thing of the past – one atomic bomber could do the work of several hundred conventional bombers. Third and finally, the most advanced bombers of the time were not large enough to carry atomic weapons, nor did they have enough performance to be able to carry it any meaningful distance or be able to dodge the defenses of the time. Clearly, new aircraft were needed. Unfortunately for the Soviets, they lagged behind considerably in developing a fleet of aircraft that were capable of just these things – a “bomber gap”, in their minds, had developed. This was a natural outcome of the previous ten years – the Americans had concentrated a considerable amount of resources developing long-range bombers in the lead up to and during WWII, with the mighty Convair B-36 being the ultimate expression of that philosophy.
The Soviets, pressed for resources and facing an entirely different threat from the Germans, spent more time designing and building fighter and attack aircraft – long-range bombers fell into the “nice to have were it not for our need for a hundred thousand fighter aircraft” category. As the war progressed, however, the Soviet leadership began to realise that they needed to address this issue at some point, particularly so when they learned of the capabilities of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress then entering service in the Pacific Theater. Upon acquiring a pair of battle-damaged B-29s when their crews flew them to Soviet airfields in the Far East, Josef Stalin personally tasked Andrei Tupolev with reverse-engineering the B-29 for use by the Soviet Air Force. This aircraft, the Tupolev Tu-4 “Bull”, was a near-carbon copy of the B-29, and served in large numbers with the Soviets until the 1960s.
Tupolev Tu-4 "Bull" on display at Monino.
While the Bull was in fact a valuable asset, the knowledge acquired during that program was even more so. Shortly after, Tupolev rolled out the Tu-80 and Tu-85, both of which could be considered to be vastly improved variants of the original Tu-4.
Tupolev TU-85 prototype; notice the similarity to the TU-4.
However, these aircraft, like their piston-powered American contemporaries, were now viewed as obsolete – clean sheet designs were needed, and needed fast.
The Power Struggle
In the late 1940s, Andrei Tupolev and his design bureau began studying the possibility of a jet-powered, intercontinental bomber, capable of carrying an atomic weapon from the Soviet Union to the United States. However, with his experience designing the successful Tu-16 “Badger” medium bomber, Tupolev quickly came to the conclusion that while the jet engine offered great potential, it was as yet not ready to power this theoretical intercontinental bomber. Having eliminated the concept of pure jet power, he did determine that a turboprop engine (simply, a jet engine driving a propeller) just might be able to offer the power and efficiency needed for such an aircraft, and devoted the considerable resources his Tupolev design bureau possessed toward this project. Meanwhile, Tupolev’s former protégé, Vladimir Myasishchev, looked upon the problem and determined that it would indeed be possible to design a jet-powered intercontinental bomber. Having demonstrated his considerable talent during WWII, Myasishchev approached the Aviation Ministry for permission to found his own design bureau, away from the domineering and stifling presence of Tupolev. Years of work ensued, and the pressure was immense; intelligence from the United States indicated that the Pentagon had just placed a request for an aircraft of very similar specification to the aircraft that both Tupolev and Myasishchev were working on, and that it would be a great propaganda coup for the Soviets to field one (or both) aircraft before the Americans. The personal conflict came into play too; Myasishchev wanted to demonstrate that Tupolev’s conservative ways were his downfall, and he strove day and night to build the aircraft that Tupolev had dismissed as impossible. In 1952, Tupolev won the race; the Tu-95 “Bear” took its first flight.
Early Tu-95, intercepted by a Convair F_102 Delta Dagger.
However, the Tu-95 was fraught with development problems; the prototype was lost to an uncontrollable engine fire very early into the flight test program. Suddenly, it seemed that the cautious Tupolev might have been wrong after all...sticking with a terrifyingly complex propulsion system and an aircraft a hundred miles an hour slower than Myasishchev’s promised machine? Such a foolish old man! The pressure was still on, as in the United States, Boeing had just flown their gigantic, eight-engine bomber, the B-52, whose specifications might even best that of Myasischev’s wonder bomber, to say nothing of the hapless B-60 that Convair was trying to sell!
Boeing XB-52 Stratofortress; the tandem cockpit was dropped for production models.
Finally, with Tupolev seemingly on the ropes, Myasishchev rolled out his prototype bomber, designated the M-4, at the end of 1952. Similar in size and weight to the Tu-95, the M-4 differed considerably from the Tu-95 with its four wing root mounted Mikulin AM-3A turbojet engines (two of which powered Tupolev’s Tu-16), and unusual bicycle landing gear, giving the aircraft a very nose-high stance. Small outrigger wheels in wingtip pods tamed this unstable configuration, in much the same way as the B-52.
Myasishchev M-4 "Bison" Three-View; The M-4 "Bison-A" plan view is on top, while the improved 3M "Bison-B" is below.
Zhukhovsky, We Have a Problem
Flight testing began early in 1953, and immediately, it became evident that the M-4 was unable to deliver on many of its performance promises. Initially, the range of the M-4 was only enough to make a one-way attack on the United States, and only if the aircraft used staging grounds deep in Siberia or the Soviet Far East, neither of which really existed. It was also found the unconventional landing gear layout was a major reason why takeoff performance was so poor, so a hydraulic “jump” unit was fitted to the forward landing gear unit, to spring the nose of the aircraft up at rotation speed. Adding to the insult, Tupolev was making great strides ironing out the initial problems with the Tu-95, and it was shaping up that the Bear could indeed deliver on all of its performance promises; it was even faster than Tupolev had hoped it would be as well!
Undaunted, Myasishchev continued development of the M-4; engine designer Dobrynin was working on an engine of the right size for the M-4, but with the promise of much improved fuel consumption. Other improvements were planned too; the Americans had demonstrated that in flight refueling was possible and even useful...why not refuel the M-4 in flight as well? However, by this time the Soviet Air Force had seen enough, and decided that Tupolev’s aircraft was the right aircraft for their needs.
At the same time, the political machine of the Soviet Union saw a lot of potential in the M-4; they feared the Americans had more bombers than they did, yet they also recognised that they did not have a jet intercontinental bomber in service at the time, so why not try and scare the Americans into thinking the Soviets had already fielded a heavy jet bomber? A plan was hatched; at the 1954 May Day air show at Tushino airport, they would fly both the Tu-95 and M-4 prototypes in paint schemes that resembled operational aircraft, but without any identification numbers on the sides, so as to hide the true number of aircraft participating. The plan worked perfectly – rather too perfectly, actually. The intelligence analysts present at the show were astounded when a formation of M-4s roared overhead, only to be followed by yet another formation of M-4s a few minutes later (sounds suspicious?), so astounded that they dismissed the importance of the formation of gigantic, turboprop-powered oddities that flew over interspersed with the M-4 formations. Breathless reports were filed; “the Reds have a heavy jet bomber, and they had dozens of them fly over the air show today!”; the gears turned in their collective heads and the reports made their way up the chain of command and all of a sudden, the Soviets have hundreds of M-4s, now designated “Bison”, in service RIGHT NOW. It wasn’t until several years and many U-2 overflights later that the West finally learned that not only were the numbers of Bison thought to be in service were completely false, but that turboprop-powered oddity, the Tu-95 Bear, was actually in service in far greater numbers.
Bison-B: More Bisoner...er...
So having scared the poo poo out of the West, there really wasn’t much more use for the M-4 Bison; the aircraft was a dog, no two ways about it. That is, until Myasishchev finally got his improved Bison, now designated the 3M, into the air.
Myasishchev 3M "Bison-B" and its revised nose, incorporating an in flight refueling probe.
The improved engines were exactly that; fuel consumption was low enough that the 3M finally had something approaching the original range target (it was still substantially short of the goal, however, but in flight refueling helped remedy that), but by this point, the Soviet Air Force was content with their Tu-95 fleet and was starting to look beyond the speed of sound for the successor to both the Tu-95 and the Tu-16. The only arm of the military that had an unfilled need for a long-range combat aircraft was the Soviet Navy, who ordered a number of the improved 3M Bison, designated “Bison-B” by NATO, as well as a number of tanker versions of the Bison. These aircraft served in limited roles until the 1990s. All in all, 93 Bison of all variants were built; a far cry from the 500-odd Tu-95 Bears produced, and a long way off the hundreds of aircraft purported to be in service in the mid-1950s.
3M "Bison-B" at Monino today.
Vladimir Myasishchev – Transport
Myasishchev VM-T Atlant with Buran. Buran's vertical stabiliser is removed for better stability.
A footnote to the M-4 story that is just too good to leave out is the VM-T. In the late 1970s, the Soviets were caught up in Space Shuttle fever, just like the Americans. Their line of thought was that while the Space Shuttle was ostensibly civilian in nature, it could have any number of military applications and consequentially it was vital that they had one too. The only problem is that to be able to fly the thing with any degree of frequency, they needed a transport aircraft that could carry outsized cargo from the factories dispersed all over the country to Baikonur, and in a pinch, transport the orbiter itself, at least until a dedicated aircraft was ready for the task (this aircraft ultimately being the Antonov An-225). Vladimir Myasishchev, having been stripped of his design bureau and working with the Buran program, saw fit to modify a pair of his beloved 3M Bison. With mounting points fitted to top of the fuselage and new horizontal and vertical stabilisers installed, these aircraft, called the VM-T Atlant, were to carry outsize cargo either in a pod or whole, as the payload dictated. These aircraft served very sporadically until 1999, when both were retired from service; one aircraft is still shown regularly as a static display at the biannual MAKS air show at Zhukovsky air base.
VM-T with cargo pod.
Next Infopost: Myasishchev M-50 Bounder; or, Vladimir Writes Cheques his Bureau Can’t Cash
|# ¿ Oct 19, 2013 08:18|
I love the Bison just because of the bicycle landing gear. I blame Kruschev for the the Bounder, I don't think that the debacle you are writing about next was entirely Myashischev's fault- I blame the political climate of "SOVIET SUPERMEN WILL USE SCIENCE TO PREVAIL" for creating unrealistic goals.
Without spoiling too much, the political climate at the time was a big factor - after all, the Soivet Union must have bigger and faster bombers than the imperialist pigdogs - but at the same time, Myasishchev stepped up to design an airplane that Tupolev (and in fact everyone else in the Soviet Union) looked at and basically said "oh gently caress that noise".
Also, if you think the propaganda and bad intelligence surrounding the Bison was fun, just wait until you see the rumours propagated about the Bounder.
MrChips fucked around with this message at 16:53 on Oct 19, 2013
|# ¿ Oct 19, 2013 16:48|
I'd argue that Sukhoi also stepped up and said "Hey hey! Look at us! We can build more than interceptors!" - but that's another big spoiler. If I recall correctly, the rumors about that horrifying failure of an aircraft were even funnier than the Bounder! I think Tupolev had the freedom to gently caress any and all noise they chose because of their successful commercial and military projects. The favourite son, even in the Soviet Union, always had right of first refusal. The Myashischevs and Lavochkins of the era had to do anything and everything to keep their dachas, even if it meant killing pilots. At least they weren't working for the OKB of Dr. Brunholf Baade
Apart from Artem Mikoyan, who was apparently born under a lucky star, every design bureau fell out of favour from time to time with the Politburo. Even the mighty Tupolev very nearly lost face over the Tu-144 debacle (though Andrei himself had retired some time before that). I do agree that Tupolev could pretty much pick and choose what they worked on; they had so much power that they could pull rank and take projects that other bureaus worked on. In an effort post I have planned for the future, there is a story where Myasishchev got it very, very right (for once), only to have Tupolev pull rank and take the design as their own.
|# ¿ Oct 19, 2013 17:46|
I know the project of which you speak, and I am very excited to read your take on it. I'll avoid further discussion because of spoilers. I'm just curious now, what kind of cold war avgeek are you? I'm actually employed as a Russian aerospace geek somewhere media-y.
I'm just a dumb pilot who loves to read about aviation history, especially that of the Cold War. I find that era to be very interesting because the advent of the jet engine kind of threw the design consensus out the window and spawned the development of some pretty crazy stuff. I especially like to read about all the obscure aircraft that don't necessarily get much attention from the public (or even more mainstream aviation nerds).
Put simply, I guess I'm kind of an amateur aviation hipster/historian.
|# ¿ Oct 19, 2013 18:47|
This is my understanding as well: that the B-36 had about as many parts and be as hard to maintain as the equivalent weight of Swiss watches.
There are no flying B-47s because a) Arms limitation treaties and b)
(Actually watch that whole video, if you want to see a wobbly old bomber flown like a fighter )
When the B-47 was retired, the entire fleet was beat to absolute hell because of toss-bombing - tons of them had cracks in the wing spars and a number were lost in inflight break-ups.
MrChips fucked around with this message at 23:18 on Oct 21, 2013
|# ¿ Oct 21, 2013 23:12|
Myasishchev M-50 Bounder; Or, Vladimir’s Bureau Writes a Cheque Nobody Could Cash
In 1954, the Soviet Union was hard at work building and flying their first generation of truly intercontinental bombers. The turboprop-powered Tupolev Tu-95 “Bear” was not far from entering service, and its pure-jet-powered rival, the Myasishchev M-4 “Bison” was, well, demonstrating firsthand just how wholly inadequate it was as a long-range bomber.
The Myasishchev M-4 “Bison” – a flawed aircraft that met few of its performance goals. Clearly, we should get them to build us another aircraft!
Undeterred, the ever-forward thinking Soviet government issued a request for a successor to both the Bear and the Bison; a jet-powered bomber capable of flying at Mach 1.6 for nearly 9,000 miles and delivering a single, five-ton free-fall hydrogen bomb. This was an audacious request; at the time, nobody had delivered a fighter aircraft capable of that kind of speed (though prototypes were being tested in several countries that could), to say nothing of a bomber designed to cruise at such a speed...never mind for the distance specified. In fact, no contemporary Soviet bomber was capable of flying that far period, supersonic or not.
Not Just Long-Range...SUPER Long-Range!
Unlike the program that spawned the Tu-95 and the M-4, the Soviet government realised the challenge of this specification and began the “Sverkh-Dahlniy Bombardirovshchik” (Super Long-Range Bomber Project, or SDB for short), in which all the leading design bureaus of the Soviet Union were invited to participate. Intelligence from the West claimed a number of supersonic medium- and long-range bomber projects were in development as well, so there was a considerable amount of pressure to produce an aircraft...and a considerable amount of prestige at stake for the designer who succeeded in this task. Naturally, Myasishchev jumped at the prospect of leading the SDB program. For several years beforehand, he conducted a number of internal studies within his design bureau on the possibility of building a supersonic bomber. This head-start, combined with his ever-stronger desire to prove himself over his mentor-turned-rival, Andrei Tupolev, made Myasishchev’s bureau the natural leaders of this project. Working with the Central Aero-Hydrodynamics Institute (TsAGI) for aircraft design and the Central Institute of Aviation Motorbuilding (TsIAM) and both Dobrynin and Turmansky (then the leading design bureaus for jet engines in the Soviet Union) for engines, Myasishchev’s concepts soon started to take shape. However, it wasn’t entirely clear what or how these lofty goals were to be achieved.
Ducks and Drop Tanks
One of the largest problems facing the SDB program was that of engines; up to that point, the Soviets (or anyone else, for that matter) had not built a jet engine large enough nor powerful enough for a bomber-sized aircraft to cruise supersonically, yet with low enough specific fuel consumption to allow such an aircraft to strike deep into the United States and return to the Soviet Union. As a result, some highly unorthodox ideas were considered. One of the first serious concepts was a composite aircraft known as the “Duck”:
The “Duck” – A fowl concept indeed.
The “Duck” consisted of two parts; a large, disposable carrier aircraft, and the piloted front section, which carried the single nuclear weapon and completed the mission once the carrier had expended its fuel. The issues with the “Duck” concept are almost too numerable to mention; throwing away an otherwise perfectly serviceable aircraft is bad enough, but how do you test both aircraft separately, or as a whole system? Structural performance was poor (lots of extra weight by being effectively two separate aircraft), and supersonic performance was shown to be far worse than a single aircraft would be. Also, the design required a launch sled capable of accelerating the combined “Duck” to a launch speed of nearly 400 mph (!!!) This meant that the “Duck” was dead in the water, but not before wasting almost 18 months and trainloads of rubles on the concept. Undeterred by this failure, the eggheads at TsAGI recommended instead that two separate aircraft be built, with yet another large, disposable and unmanned “refueller” stage towing a smaller “strike” stage like a towplane pulling a glider. Needless to say, this concept was abandoned as well.
Encouraging news from the engine designers meant that it might *just* be possible to design one aircraft to maybe meet this specification. This new concept would be much larger than the “Duck”, and in fact much larger than either the Bear or the Bison. However, the engines that the designers came up with, while powerful enough, were still not efficient enough for the job. Therefore, two gigantic drop tanks, fitted with two engines themselves, would be fitted to a large, twin-engine delta-wing aircraft:
”Tanks and Engines” concept; a novel means of delivering jet engines to belugas.
While this idea had more merit than the cooked “Duck”, it was still incredibly wasteful to jettison two engines just because you had to; plus, it was found that the remaining two engines would not have been powerful enough to maintain supersonic speed. Some bright light then thought, “why not keep the drop tanks but mount their engines to the fuselage?”, which seems like a good idea until it was found that this version would have less range than if no tanks were fitted, and it wasn’t capable of supersonic flight with them.
”Tanks and Engines” second concept; a good idea, were it not for how bad it was.
So, yet another concept goes down the drain.
A Winner Emerges From the Muck
By the end of 1955, good news from the engine side of the program meant that it might be possible to not only design a single aircraft capable of meeting the specification, but allow it to do so without littering the Arctic with bits of itself! By this point however, Myasishchev had lost patience with both Dobrynin and Turmansky and summarily dismissed them from the project, bringing in Zubets instead with his M16-17 turbojet. However promising this engine was, it was a very long way from being built, so Myasishchev was forced to use Dobrynin VD-7 turbojets (the same “improved engine” used in his 3M Bison version) in the prototypes. Finally, the aircraft, now known as the M-50, took shape and on paper at least, looked pretty special.
The Myasischev M-50 “Bounder”
The long, slim fuselage, combined with the very large and efficient delta wing was a necessity to meet speed and range requirements. Added to that, the adoption of several automated flight control and navigation systems allowed the required number of crew members to be reduced to two (which, for a Soviet aircraft, is nothing short of incredible), thereby allowing the carriage of more precious fuel internally. The bicycle landing gear arrangement was very similar to the M-4, with the front bogie doing the steering and the rear bogie doing the braking (mercifully, with conventional hydraulic brakes, unlike the pneumatic brakes found on the M-4). This arrangement was a bit of a problem in the M-4 and turned out to be a major problem in the M-50. The far-aft position of the rear gear severely limited elevator authority, which seriously hampered takeoff performance. In fact, without the assistance of rocket motors and the hydraulic “jump cylinder” on the front landing gear bogie, combined with a rotation speed of nearly 200 mph, the M-50’s required takeoff roll was calculated to be roughly 20,000 feet!
M-50 forward landing gear; note the ski brake on the nose gear. Nothing like giving up your only steering with an acre of drag parachutes behind you...
The landing gear also caused issues on landing too. While triple braking parachutes were fitted (like the M-4), the aforementioned but the non-braked front bogie was fitted with a ski brake, where a metal ski would be lowered to the runway surface, stopping the aircraft in a shower of sparks. Seeing as the front bogie was the only steering landing gear on the aircraft, one has to wonder what effect the ski brake would have had on directional control...
The Inevitable Sets In
The second M-50 under construction at Experimental Aircraft Factory 23. Note the first M-50 in the background.
By the end of 1957, it was becoming clear that there was, at least in the near future, no way that the M-50 would ever be able to meet the original specification; even with the definitive Zubets engines, the M-50 only had a range of 6000 miles, rather than the desired 8800 miles. Undeterred, Myasishchev sought approval to build and fly the M-50 anyway, as its performance was nonetheless unprecedented anywhere in the world and would represent a propaganda coup for the Soviet government. The go-ahead was given and by July of 1958, the prototype M-50 was rolled out for ground testing.
M-50 undergoing ground testing
The desire to get the M-50 into the air was very high...so high, in fact, that instead of the interim VD-7M engines, Myasishchev fitted much less powerful, non-afterburning VD-7A engines instead; an interim engine for the interim engine. As is expected for such an advanced aircraft, numerous problems cropped up in ground testing and initial taxi runs. Myasishchev and TsAGI threw considerable resources at the problem; at any given time, four teams of engineers worked tirelessly with the aircraft, back at TsAGI and at the factory to find and remedy these issues. To their credit, the aircraft was deemed ready for advanced testing by October of 1958, and was dismantled and shipped by barge to the Flight Research Institute at Zhukovsky. With the aircraft reassembled by the start of 1959, the test program was in full swing. An M-4 was allocated to the program to help test engines, flight control systems and other equipment, while the pilots assigned to the program were busy at TsAGI working with a novel new tool; a flight simulator. More problems were ironed out, and finally on October 27, 1959, the M-50A took to the skies for the first time, with the crew declaring it a surprisingly forgiving and easy aircraft to fly.
M-50 after the first flight, with the pilots making the perilous descent to the ground. Notice the downward ejection seats, similar to the Tupolev Tu-22 "Blinder".
Flight testing continued at a steady pace, interrupted for three months in May of 1960 when the M-50A was involved in a serious ground accident when it jumped its wheel chocks during an engine test, colliding with a parked M-4 Bison. The M-50A was repaired and in September of 1960, reached supersonic speed, Mach 1.01, for the first time. This was the absolute limit of what the M-50A was capable of doing, and over the winter of 1960-1961 it was decided to replace the two inboard VD-7A engines with the much more powerful “definitive interim” VD-7MA engines, which gave the M-50A a calculated top speed of Mach 1.35. Sadly, the M-50A would never achieve this speed in testing...
The End of Myasishchev
By the beginning of 1961, it was becoming clear to every nuclear-armed nation that an aircraft-based deterrent using free-fall bombing was no longer viable, between the advent of intercontinental ballistic missiles and the widespread deployment of sophisticated air defense networks. The Soviets were no different; it was decreed that all manned bombers would be either be scrapped and replaced with ICBMs, or repurposed as "missile carriers"; a task that the M-50 and upcoming M-52 variant were not well suited to at all. Unfortunately for the M-50, this meant the cancellation of the program, and unfortunately for the Myasishchev design bureau, it also meant they got reassigned to missile development; Vladimir Myasishchev himself was “kicked-up” to head TsAGI (and where he couldn’t waste any more resources building aircraft he couldn’t deliver upon). One M-50 was built, and but for fitment of engines, a single, improved M-52 variant was built as well.
Artist’s concept of the improved M-52 variant. Notice the double horizontal stabiliser and greatly revised wingtips. Also, the Soviets’ love affair with the tail-mounted gun turret shows no bounds!
The M-50 flew nineteen times from 1959-1961 in testing, but had one last hurrah, when it flew over the Aviation Day parade at Tushino airport in July of 1961, flanked by a pair of MiG-21s. The Soviets then leaked that the M-50, which NATO soon dubbed the “Bounder”, was in fact the long-rumoured nuclear-powered bomber that the West had feared the Soviets were working on. In short order, this caused every Western intelligence analyst to crap their pants simultaneously...at least, until they found out the truth behind the Bounder.
Let’s make the West crap their pants again!
Today, the sole M-50A can be found at the Central Air Force Museum at Monino, just outside of Moscow. Though the program itself was a victim of politics as much as it was of technical hurdles, the M-50 program gave the Soviets a considerable amount of experience building large, supersonic aircraft which would come to benefit them for years to come, such as in...
COMING SOON: An Even More Agonizing Soviet Bomber Project
MrChips fucked around with this message at 05:24 on Oct 26, 2013
|# ¿ Oct 26, 2013 05:19|
You'll all just have to wait until next Friday to find out!
E: The Blinder is not included, but if you all want it, I'll make a post about it; just have to figure out where to put it amongst the sixteen-odd posts I have already planned out.
MrChips fucked around with this message at 17:23 on Oct 26, 2013
|# ¿ Oct 26, 2013 17:15|
Bad news everyone; tonight's infopost has been delayed. Aiming for Monday now.
|# ¿ Nov 2, 2013 02:12|
An Even More Agonizing Soviet Bomber Project – The Story of the Tupolev Tu-160
Shortly after the departure of Nikita Khrushchev from office, the Soviet Air Force felt a great reduction in pressure from above. Never really a fan of the air force, Khrushchev ordered a virtual halt to long-range aviation development in the late 1950s, changing the emphasis of the Soviet’s nuclear deterrent from aircraft to ground and submarine-based missiles. In fact, the only way that the bomber force survived was by a wholesale relinquishment of free-fall bombing and adopting the role of missile carriers. There was a considerable amount of sense to this idea; it had become clear in the previous few years that it was unlikely that any bomber-sized aircraft would be able to penetrate heavily-defended airspace and complete its mission successfully.
Into the 1960s, however, advances in technology made the “missile-carrier” aircraft into quite a valuable tool. Small turbojet engines and advanced rocket motors dramatically increased range and speed, while improved guidance systems made these missiles considerably more accurate (not that accuracy is needed with a one-megaton nuclear warhead onboard). After Khrushchev’s departure from politics, the Soviet Air Force once again began to explore the possibility of building an all-new, intercontinental missile-carrier to replace (or at least supplement) the aging Tupolev Tu-95 “Bear” and the Myasishchev 3M “Bison-B”. Intelligence out of the West also seemed to indicate they were moving that direction as well; the XB-70 Valkyrie program, fantastic as it might have been, was quickly becoming obsolete as a weapon system and a new aircraft program, the Advanced Manned Strategic Aircraft (AMSA), was quickly taking shape in its place.
An Abortive Start
First to submit a design for this new aircraft was the design bureau of Pavel Sukhoi. Eager to demonstrate his talent stretched beyond the fantastically fast but deeply flawed interceptors he was famous for, Sukhoi created a design for a supersonic bomber capable of sustained flight at Mach 3, the T-4.
Sukhoi T-4 3-view diagram.
T-4 in flight. Where do the bombs go?
While the T-4 was indeed incredibly fast and very innovative - it was one of the first aircraft ever fitted with multiple-redundant fly-by-wire - it suffered from numerous problems. The Soviets had never before built an aircraft almost exclusively out of titanium, and their lack of knowledge working with this metal made for a number of serious structural defects. The T-4 also lacked a very important component that any bomber needs to have; that of a bomb bay. In fact, it is doubtful that the T-4 in its original form could have ever been made to carry any kind of payload, to say nothing of the very large cruise missiles the Soviets were fond of at the time. Politics also hurt the T-4; at the time, the Soviet Air Force was in the midst of modernising its fighter fleet. They were given a very blunt choice by the Politburo; you can either have your T-4 fleet, or you can have your MiG-23 fleet. As history will show, the MiG-23 won, and the T-4 was consigned to the history books after only ten flights.
Another Abortive Start
Undeterred, Sukhoi revised his T-4 design through the 1960s and into the 1970s, when the need for a new bomber became less a daydream and more an urgent need. Having scaled up the basic fuselage and engine layout of the T-4, Sukhoi then fitted the new aircraft with a variable-geometry wing; something his design bureau had used to transform his rather mediocre Su-7 ground attack aircraft into the wildly successful Su-22. This new design, the T-4M, emerged in 1968; interestingly enough, this was four years before the original T-4 flew for the first time.
Sukhoi's revised T-4M.
The T-4M was able (at least on paper) to combine the speed of the original T-4 with the aerodynamic efficiency of a subsonic aircraft...could it be, after nearly twenty years of trying, that the Soviet Union might finally have stumbled on the formula for a true “there-and-back” intercontinental bomber? In short, no; like the T-4, the T-4M was unable to carry any meaningful payload, and due to the design of the engines and intake, any missiles it would carry would have to be external – no doubt with a significant speed and range penalty. Adding to that, the long, thin wing of the T-4M was simply unable to withstand the forces the aircraft would generate in flight, regardless of material. By 1969, Sukhoi finally binned the T-4M and began an entirely new design; this one, getting quite a bit more traction.
Having thrown out the T-4M in a drunken fit, Pavel Sukhoi starts over with the T-4MS.
Sharing nothing in common with either variant of the T-4, this new aircraft, designated T-4MS, was considerably smaller and possessed radical aerodynamics; a large, delta-shaped flying wing with small, variable geometry outer wing sections. The four Koliesov RD-36 engines were mounted in two pods far from the centerline, unlike the clustered pod of the previous aircraft. The T-4MS combined considerable aerodynamic efficiency with a very large internal volume; not only was their far more capacity for fuel, it could also carry not one, but two of the very large Kh-45 long-range supersonic cruise missiles then on the drawing board.
Raduga Kh-45 cruise missile. Capable of Mach 4 over nearly 400 miles, the Kh-45 was a great step forward from the Kh-22 "Kitchen".
In addition, this aerodynamic efficiency would allow the T-4MS to take off with only 3,700-foot takeoff run and land in 3100 feet; remarkable performance for an aircraft weighing nearly 380,000 pounds and capable of Mach 3!
Challengers Appear – One Old and One Not(*)
At about the same time that Sukhoi began work on the T-4MS, two other design bureaus began work on an aircraft for this requirement. In 1966, merely five years after they liquidated over the M-50 debacle, our old friends at the Myasishchev design bureau were reinstated and in short order, they began work on their own proposal for this new bomber. Unlike Sukhoi, Myasishchev this time realised that the only way for an aircraft to carry such a large payload over such a range would be to build a large aircraft – larger than either the Bison or the Bounder and certainly much larger than Sukhoi’s T-4MS. This new aircraft design, internally designated the M-20, went through several iterations; the M20-1 initially resembled a massively scaled up fighter-bomber (looking very much like the Su-24 “Fitter”, then on Sukhoi’s drawing board), while later variants were similar to early designs for the XB-70 (the M20-14) and even Sukhoi’s abortive T-4M (the M20-18 to -21). Finally, Myasishchev arrived at a rather prophetic formula in the M20-22 – a conventionally-mounted, variable-geometry wing with four engines mounted in nacelles underneath the wing.
M20-2; basically, a 180-foot long, 300-ton fighter jet.
M20-14; bears considerable resemblance to early XB-70 designs.
M20-21; having run out of their own ideas, they took Sukhoi's T-4M and blew it up on the photocopier.
M20-23, the final, definitive version of the M-20. Note that they arrived at this shape fully 18 months before Rockwell did with their B-1.
Either way, none of the M-20 variants were small; all of them had a planned takeoff weight in excess of 660,000 pounds (and in one case, as high as 760,000 pounds), which would have made the M-20 the largest and fastest combat aircraft ever made. A competition was held to evaluate which design would be built, and ultimately, the Sukhoi T-4MS was declared the winner over the M-20.
All the while, the Tupolev design bureau decided that they wanted a piece of this action and began evaluating a number of designs. However, unlike Sukhoi and the reformed Myasishchev, Tupolev was the big dog of aircraft designers in Russia; they had so much power, in fact, that they essentially had the Soviet government force the air force to re-write their requirement for the new bomber. Tupolev argued (quite correctly, in fact) that the value of a bomber capable of Mach 3.0-3.2 versus one capable of Mach 2.3 was not enough to justify the enormous cost of designing and building such an aircraft. The competition that resulted in the T-4MS being declared victorious was nullified – the argument being that not only was the specification out to lunch, but neither the Sukhoi nor the Myasishchev aircraft were likely to deliver on their promises anyway – and a new competition would be held, this time with Tupolev participating with their Mach 2.3 bomber as well:
Final iteration of the Tupolev 160M.
This design, dubbed the 160M internally by Tupolev, was a very large, delta flying-wing that borrowed heavily from the ill-fated Tu-144 (then in testing) and the preliminary work for a follow-on Tu-244 supersonic transport. The large delta wing gave the aircraft both the aerodynamics and internal volume to meet the revised specifications for speed, range and payload as well as the stringent takeoff and landing requirements demanded by the Soviet Air Force. Meanwhile, Myasishchev was busy revising the aerodynamics of the M-20, as well as converting it from an all-titanium design to an all-aluminum design, which was suitable for flight at the new, lower speed that was demanded. This new aircraft, designated the M-18, was supported heavily by the Central Institute for Aero- and Hydrodynamics (TsAGI, which at the time was run by Vladimir Myasishchev himself), and was heavily favoured to win the new competition.
The final, definitive M-18...the aircraft that Tupolev stole for themselves.
Unlike the flying-wing 160M, which could only be optimised for one speed, the M-18’s variable geometry wing allowed it to be optimised for a very wide speed range, giving good performance at both high and low speeds and altitudes. Ultimately, this was the deciding factor, as the M-18 was declared the winner of the revised competition. What happened next, however, was unexpected. Once again, the Tupolev bureau pitched a fit at the Kremlin, citing Myasishchev’s small size and odious track record, and demanded that they be declared the winner. It was patently obvious that the 160M was an inferior aircraft to the M-18, so the idea was floated that Tupolev inherit the M-18 program and the opportunity to bring that aircraft into reality. All personnel at Myasishchev were transferred to Tupolev and the M-18 was assigned an official Tupolev designation, the Tu-160. Sukhoi, having also had the rug pulled out from under them, decided to abandon bomber design altogether and concentrated on designing fighter aircraft from then on.
Tu-160 Takes Form
In 1973, the new Tupolev team produced their first revised version of the M-18 design, now known as the Tu-160. Like the Myasishchev aircraft, the Tu-160 was enormous, and required tremendous advances in the metallurgy needed to build such components as the landing gear and the massive wing box and bearings that support the large variable sweep sections. On the engine side, engine designer Nikolai Kuznetzov, a close collaborator on many other Tupolev projects, proposed a fantastically complicated variant of his already fantastically complicated NK-25 engine (then being tested for the Tu-22M “Backfire” supersonic medium bomber). This new engine, designated NK-32, would ultimately become the largest and most powerful engine ever fitted to a combat aircraft, producing nearly 55,000 pounds of thrust at maximum afterburner. Top speed of the aircraft was to be Mach 2.3 (which was later revised down to Mach 2.05) at altitude or Mach 0.85 at sea level; very similar performance to the superficially similar Rockwell B-1A, which entered testing in 1974.
Tupolev Tu-160 three-view diagram.
Design work continued throughout the latter half of the 1970s, with a few minor setbacks. The Kh-45 missile never materialised beyond a handful of test articles, so new weapons would have to be found for the Tu-160. Ultimately, it was decided to abandon the notion of carrying one or two very large, supersonic missiles and carry a larger number of small, subsonic cruise missiles (very similar to what the Americans had decided to do with both the B-52 and the B-1B), giving much greater flexibility to the Tu-160. This new missile, the Kh-55, is now the standard armament carried by the Tu-160, with both conventional and nuclear payloads. As for defensive systems, the Tu-160 (like every Soviet bomber before it) was to have a tail-mounted gun turret, but this was abandoned early on in development, instead relying on electronic countermeasures.
In 1977, the project was given the formal go-ahead from Moscow, and by the beginning of 1981, the first Tu-160 was ready for its first flight at Zhukovsky airport. It was at about this time that the aircraft first came to the attention of the West; a passenger landing at a nearby airport snapped a grainy picture of the Tu-160 prototype parked beside a pair of Tu-144s (presumably grounded at this point) at Zhukovsky, likely just weeks before the Tu-160 took to the air on December 18, 1981.
The first appearance of the Tu-160 in Western intelligence. Notice the Tu-144s parked beside as an illustration of scale.
Over the next three years, the Tu-160 continued to undergo flight testing, which by all accounts was rather uneventful; the only incident of note occurred early in the program when the prototype was forced to land with the nose gear retracted. The aircraft was reported to be very straightforward to fly, with light control forces and forgiving handling characteristics.
Tupolev Tu-160 prototype parked at Zhukovsky airbase. There are many small differences between this aircraft and the production Tu-160.
By 1986, the first Tu-160s were rolling off the production line in Kazan, and entered service a year later. Tu-160s from this initial production run were not very well received; initial aircraft were only partially pressurised, meaning crews needed to wear bulky and uncomfortable full pressure suits for the entire duration of their mission, often upwards of 14 hours. The ejection seats were troublesome, as they could only eject if the seat was manually moved to their most forward position (this was later fixed with an automatic system to move the seat), as well as serious comfort issues; the seats, after all, were designed for fighter aircraft and not for a long-range bomber, which meant they were massively uncomfortable after a period of time. Noise levels in the crew compartment were so bad that the only way to communicate was via intercom, and cockpit ergonomics left a lot to be desired. The biggest complaints, however, came from ground handling personnel. With the massive amount of support equipment needed, noise levels outside the aircraft could reach as high as 130 decibels; this collection of equipment also seriously limits the mobility of the Tu-160 force.
Tu-160 in flight.
Many of these issues were resolved with the second batch of production aircraft, which began to enter service in 1989. Unfortunately for the Tu-160, the breakup of the Soviet Union halted production in 1994 after only 36 were built. In addition, the aircraft’s enormous complexity and limited usefulness meant it came perilously close to being completely scrapped. Finally, in the late 1990s, the Russian Air Force repatriated as many Tu-160s as they could from the Ukraine as a payment for natural gas (where 19 of the 36 built were languishing in various states of disrepair), and pledged to restart production at the rate of one new aircraft every two years until 2030. In addition, the Tu-160 has received several updates; new engines, new avionics as well as an entire suite of conventional weapons that dramatically increase its usefulness; these Tu-160M aircraft are expected to remain in service until 2030 at the earliest, when the Russian Air Force expects to field its replacement.
Coming up next - "There are Graveyards Full of Sukhoi Pilots"
|# ¿ Nov 5, 2013 04:54|
Why would the pilot even have a chute? Thankfully he did, but why? Is that normal?
Yeah it's normal for a jump pilot to wear a parachute. If a jumper gets their chute hung up on the horizontal stabiliser, they'll cut lose and use their reserve, but the aircraft at that point would be rendered uncontrollable...jumping yourself is your only option.
|# ¿ Nov 6, 2013 03:06|
What is happening in this video?
In that one particular scene, the aircraft is flown to aerodynamic stall, then followed by a recovery.
|# ¿ Nov 11, 2013 21:34|
There are Graveyards Full of Sukhoi Pilots – the Story of Sukhoi’s Early Jet Fighters
The 1950s were certainly very interesting times in the Soviet aviation industry; like their rivals in the West, it seemed as though technology could not only keep pace with the imaginations of aircraft designers, but exceed it in many cases. Good thing too, as it seemed as though there was always a need to devise an aircraft capable of flying faster, higher and further than ever before...there was an arms race on, don’t you know!
In no area was this constant one-upmanship more evident than in the perpetual cat-and-mouse game between bomber aircraft and the interceptors tasked with seeking them out and destroying them. New technologies such as the atomic bomb and the jet engine meant that the days of massed formations of slow and vulnerable bombers were over; the fast, high-flying jet bombers armed with nuclear weapons would be flying, at least in part, by themselves or in very small formations, relying on their speed and altitude for protection (and your gun turrets, if you’re flying a Tupolev Tu-95 “Bear). Even with early warning from radar, the need for a fast-climbing interceptor capable of speeds not even dreamt of was needed, and it was needed yesterday.
Pavel Sukhoi – A Copycat Turned Good (Or Else!...Love, Josef)
Pavel Sukhoi’s career as an aircraft designer didn’t seem to show a whole lot of promise initially. After freeing himself from the yoke of one Andrei Tupolev, Sukhoi used his connections in the government to help him set up his own design bureau; free to create whatever he wanted but most importantly, free from that patronising old goat Tupolev. If there was one thing that Sukhoi wanted to work on, it was fast aircraft – he didn’t care for what, he just wanted to make fast things. His very first aircraft, the Su-1, was one of the first aircraft ever designed in the Soviet Union to use a turbocharged piston engine – most designs of the time relied on engine-driven supercharger instead – and not just one turbo, but two of them. Unfortunately, the Su-1, while fast for its time, had serious reliability issues from the turbos and was otherwise inferior in every other way to rival designs from Mikoyan, Lavochkin and Yakovlev. As if to put the program out of its misery, a pair of accidents early in the test program sealed the fate of the Su-1 for good.
Sukhoi Su-1; more turbos than your fighter!
Working ever further to satisfy his obsession with speed, Sukhoi had a considerable interest in hybrid propulsion; not batteries and propellers and “Save the Whales” stickers, but pistons, turbines and everything between. His first experiment with hybrid propulsion, the Su-7, combined a large radial piston engine with a rocket engine. While the rocket dramatically increased the speed and altitude of the Su-7, it was troublesome, to say the least; the program ended after the sole Su-7 was destroyed at altitude when the rocket motor exploded, killing the pilot in the process. Despite the failure, the Su-7 was awarded the First Order of the Stalin Prize, presumably for demonstrating a novel method of dispatching enemies of the state.
Sukhoi Su-7; first experiment with hybrid propulsion. Should have been the last.
The later Su-5 wasn’t much of a success either; this aircraft combined a conventional V-12 piston engine driving not only a propeller, but a ducted axial compressor as well. The air from this compressor was then fed to a combustor, heated and expanded, then discharged out of a nozzle from the back of the aircraft.
Sukhoi Su-5; a bad idea carried out to its illogical conclusion.
This so-called “motorjet” engine was, as it was in previous experiments elsewhere, a total failure. A gas turbine compressor needs a huge amount of power to work properly, and no aircraft piston engine ever came close to putting out enough power to drive even a small compressor. As such, the motorjet engine was at best a noisy, inefficient zero-sum game.
Fortunately for Sukhoi, real jet engines were now at hand, and like every other designer in the Soviet Union, they struggled with how best to utilise this new engine. Initially, both Yakovlev and Mikoyan simply took one of their piston-engined fighters, threw out the piston engine and glued the jet engine in its place, with the exhaust exiting underneath the cockpit. Sukhoi, on the other hand, took a more pragmatic approach to the problem. Heavily influenced by captured Messerschmitt Me-262s, he designed his next aircraft, the Su-9, to very closely resemble the Me-262; after all, if it worked for Ze Germans, why not for us Soviets too?
Sukhoi Su-9; Messerschmitt would have sued if Steve Jobs ran the place.
Unfortunately, the Soviet government was very cool to the aircraft; the Su-9, despite being a rather docile aircraft to fly, was far slower than rival designs from Mikoyan and Yakovlev, to say nothing of the eyebrows raised by Sukhoi’s copied design. Having been quickly and quietly declined the production go-ahead, Sukhoi revised the Su-9 and followed up with the Su-11.
Sukhoi Su-11; Slight changes spoiled everything.
While nearly 70 miles per hour faster than the Su-9, it had none of the good flying manners of its predecessor; it flew so badly that none of the fixes Sukhoi attempted remedied the Su-11’s alarming lack of stability. Undaunted, Sukhoi proposed yet another design; a twin-engined, swept-wing, all-weather interceptor, designated the Su-15. While it sounds fairly conventional by any standard, JUST LOOK AT THE THING:
Sukhoi Su-15; Yeesh.
Mercifully, the Su-15 prototype (unsurprisingly) crashed in March of 1949, taking with it not only the Su-15 program, but the entire Sukhoi design bureau along with it.
We Need Aircraft, But Do We Seriously Need to Bring Him Back?
Well, yes I guess we do. After Stalin’s untimely
Sukhoi S-1 flying over Tushino Air Show, 1956
Sukhoi T-3 three-view. Not exactly a looker.
Designated Aircraft “S” (S for “strelstrelovidniy” or arrowhead) and Aircraft “T” (T for “treugolniy” or triangular), these aircraft moved ahead at considerable pace – Aircraft “S” ultimately became the Sukhoi Su-7 “Fitter”, one of the most successful fighter-bomber families of the Soviet arsenal, if not anywhere in the world...after it went through one of the most difficult service introductions of any aircraft in history.
Very early Sukhoi Su-7 “Fitter”.
The Su-7 never really flew properly from the get-go; control forces were very heavy and takeoff and landing performance was rather poor. Combine that with bad pneumatic brakes and poor runways and you have a recipe for accidents...and that’s even before you get to the unreliable engine or the serious aerodynamic flaws of the first aircraft. It is estimated that something like 80% of all Su-7A crashes stemmed from some design fault in the aircraft, something that wasn’t remedied until the much improved Su-7B entered service.
Back to Aircraft “T”, though...development work continued apace, and by May of 1956, the prototype, designated T-3, flew for the first time. The T-3 was a very hot aircraft – even with an interim version of the Lyulka AL-7 engine, it achieved a top speed of nearly 1300 miles per hour in short order. At the same time a revised version, the PT-7 (which was given even more engine power and fitted with better radar than the T-3) seemed poised to enter production when on 4 July 1956, the CIA performed the first U-2 overflight of the Soviet Union. Understandably pissed off from this, the Soviet government told Sukhoi to scrap their plans for the PT-7 and come up with something even faster and higher flying; something that could threaten the U-2.
Sukhoi T-43, the prototype for the Su-9 interceptor.
The new aircraft, the T-43, was revised heavily in several aspects; the fixed radome of the T3/PT-7 was moved into a moving “shock cone” in the engine air intake (allowing for both a larger radar as well as far better high-speed performance of the aircraft itself). An even more powerful derivative of the AL-7 engine was fitted, and any extraneous weight was stripped from the design – for the first time, a Soviet fighter aircraft would not be armed with any kind of guns...only missiles. In addition (and presumably to the delight of Pavel Sukhoi himself), provision for a liquid-fueled booster rocket was provided as well. Mercifully for the test pilots, the rocket motor program ran into considerable difficulty, and it was also found that the T-43 possessed incredible performance without it anyways – it could fly at speeds in excess of Mach 2 and reach altitudes as high as 71,000 feet on jet power alone. Delighted with the performance of the T-43, the Soviet government rushed the aircraft into production in October of 1960, designating it as the Su-9 (again). NATO, having seen the T-3 fly at the Tushino Air Show four years before, designated this new aircraft family the “Fishpot”. In addition to building and deploying the Su-9, the Soviet Union made the decision to integrate the Su-9 into their first automatic detection and interception system; essentially their equivalent to the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) system then in service with the North American Air Defense Command.
Sukhoi Su-9 “Fishpot” ready for a mission
A Manned Missile, Perhaps Literally
The Su-9, despite breezing through the flight test program with relative ease, experienced considerable difficulty on entry into service. First of all, the aircraft was very complex and required very careful maintenance; the PVO (the Soviet Air Defense Force, responsible for all radars, SAM sites and interceptors) had no experience with such an aircraft before, and was considerably behind the eight-ball in terms of practices. The aircraft itself had a number of very serious issues to overcome as well:
-Relatively high weight combined with a relatively small wing made takeoff and landing speeds incredibly high – on the order of 230 mph(!),
- Extremely limited fuel; the aircraft carried enough fuel for a mission profile of 45 minutes at the most, so careful planning and execution was the order of the day,
-The aircraft had a number of very serious and unpleasant handling characteristics at both the top and the bottom of the speed envelope, and
-The ejection seat had a minimum safe speed and altitude of 310 mph and 500 feet.
Combined with an initial lack of a two-seat trainer version (which would come later) the Su-9 suffered an absolutely appalling loss rate throughout its career – numbers are virtually impossible to come by, but it is thought that roughly 500 of the 1100 Su-9s built were lost to accidents in total, most of them being related to engine failure on takeoff or runway overrun on landing.
Despite these flaws, perhaps the biggest flaw of all in the Su-9 was with its radar and armament. Aircraft-mounted intercept radar sets were primitive in the 1950s and early 1960s, no matter where you looked, but the R1L radar fitted to the Su-9 was primitive even by those meagre standards. The radar set had a maximum detection range of roughly six miles; you would probably see the B-52 you’re intercepting before the radar can pick it up. Then, once you have said B-52 all lined up, you now have to rely on one of the worst air-to-air missiles ever fielded, the K-5, known in the West as the AA-1 “Alkali”.
K-5/AA-1 “Alkali” air-to-air missile. For when getting out of your interceptor and punching your opponent isn’t quite hard enough.
The K-5 was a radar-guided missile, but unlike the contemporary AIM-4 Falcon or the AIM-7 Sparrow, that use semi-active radar guidance, the K-5 is known as a “beam-rider” missile; meaning, it seeks out the radar beam from the attacker and follows it all the way to the target. The issue with this is that it requires the attacker to maintain radar lock on the target the whole time. Added to that, the K-5 had an engagement envelope of between one and four miles, which was so close to your target that you could practically throw your kneeboard through one of their engines, which you’d probably have to do anyways because the K-5 was terribly unreliable – standard procedure was to shoot two K-5s at a time to compensate for this – and your only other option was to ram your target, what with no guns and all...
So the Su-9 was fast but incredibly flawed, and in the 1960s it seemed as though Sukhoi was falling out of favour with the Soviet Air Force and the PVO, both of whom seemed to prefer designs from Mikoyan-Gurevich and Yakovlev. In a bit of a Hail Mary play, Pavel Sukhoi proposed a highly advanced interceptor capable of flying even faster and (fortunately) further than the Su-9, with the ability to carry the latest radars and missiles then in the inventory and on the drawing board. Having spent a considerable amount of time creating several revised versions of the Su-9, Sukhoi rolled out their T-49 prototype. A very large aircraft, fitted with the huge Oryol radar (the same radar fitted to the Yak-28 and Tu-128 super-heavy interceptors) while retaining the single AL-7 engine as the Su-9.
Sukhoi T-49 prototype. Like many Sukhoi prototypes, it has a face only a Russian mother could love.
The T-49 quickly lost the “Dee” style intakes and opted for a more conventional square intake, complete with variable intake ramps, now feeding two Turmansky R-11 engines (the same engines fitted to the MiG-21). This new aircraft, designated the T-58, was also a fair bit larger than the Su-9 or even the T-49. By revising the intakes in the T-58, it freed up a considerable amount of fuselage space for fuel – the T-58 carried up to 15,000 pounds of fuel, as opposed to 6,500 pounds in the Su-9 – a welcome addition indeed.
However, the original Oryol radar proved to be unsuitable in nearly every way, and the design had to be revised again, this prototype carrying the designation T-58D. Also, considerable effort was made to tame the T-58D’s landing characteristics; the outer wing sections were fitted with a 45-degree sweep section (as opposed to a uniform 60-degree sweep), and boundary layer control, in which engine bleed air is piped over the wing flaps to dramatically increase their effectiveness, was fitted as well. The result was an aircraft that finally flew more or less properly across its entire speed range. This new aircraft, designated the Su-15 “Flagon”, entered limited production in 1966, with the T-58D-derived Su-15T entering production in 1969.
OH GOD NOT YOU AGAIN GET OUT
OK, that’s better....
Smarting from their decision not to field a two-seat version of the Su-9, Sukhoi and the PVO very quickly fielded a two-seat version of the Su-15, designated the Su-15UT. Interestingly, the Su-15UT retained full combat capability with no penalties to speed or range, highly unusual for any Soviet trainer aircraft.
Sukhoi Su-15UT two-seat trainer taxiing by a single-seat Su-15T.
The Su-15 had a rather, erm, action-packed career. Despite being considered a “second-string” interceptor behind the MiG-23 and MiG-25 and spending most of its life chasing down reconnaissance balloons, the Su-15 nonetheless was a participant in nearly every incident in which the Soviets either intentionally or accidentally downed a civilian aircraft, including both Korean Air Lines incidents (the first a 707 being forced down in Siberia in 1978 and the second being KAL 007 in 1983).
Sukhoi Su-15TM patrolling for balloons, wayward airliners...
Interestingly, by the time the KAL 007 incident took place, the writing was on the wall for the Su-15; by this time, the Su-27 and MiG-31 had flown and were approaching service entry in a few years...at that point, the Su-15 was likely to retire. Geopolitics came into play once again, and the collapse of the Soviet Union gave the Su-15 a stay of execution, soldiering on until 1995.
An interesting aside to the Su-15/T-58 story is that of the T-58VD. The T-58VD was a proposed V/STOL version of the Su-15.
Sukhoi T-58VD V/STOL interceptor prototype. Notice the open doors exposing the lift engine intakes.
In place of some of the internal fuel, a trio of Koliesov turbojets were mounted vertically in the fuselage, the idea being to reduce or completely eliminate the takeoff run of the Su-15. Like most lift-jet based V/STOL projects, this project was not pursued beyond the prototype phase. But that’s another story for another time.
COMING SOON: The Booze Carrier
|# ¿ Nov 12, 2013 07:18|
^^^Don't you mean, "drink vodka in the evening"?
I want to buy all those Coalers and start my own Buffalo Airlines up north; I won't even make a TV show about it I promise!
Actually, the Coaler would be almost ideal up there (if you could ever convince Transport Canada to certify them), and a TV show about Buffaloflot would be pretty awesome...
|# ¿ Nov 16, 2013 18:17|
You're 2/3rds to being on discovery - to add on to Buffaloflot, may I suggest getting a bunch of Coalers, then getting a bunch of people with narcissistic personality disorders, and splitting them into teams in competition with each other? That way there would be lots of malfunctions for drama, and you barely surviving a dangerous flight to come back to yell at people, more drama
I like the idea, I really do, but I'm trying to run a business here.
Best I can do is ten bucks.
|# ¿ Nov 16, 2013 18:55|
737-500 (The smallest 737CL variant, very popular in Russia). According to the article, "a fuel tank exploded" and then "the nose hit the ground on landing". I have no idea what could make the fuel tank explode. lovely wiring and an inoperative nitrogen-generation system, maybe?
Don't believe everything (or anything, raelly) that RT publishes. They make Fox News look like paragons of journalistic integrity.
|# ¿ Nov 17, 2013 23:04|
The Booze Carrier – The Story of the Tupolev Tu-22 family
The 1950s were a golden time for the design bureau of Andrei Tupolev, the godfather of Soviet aircraft design. The Tu-95 “Bear” turboprop-powered intercontinental bomber was, after some initial difficulty, sailing through flight testing, and the smaller, turbojet-powered Tu-16 “Badger” medium bomber was entering service with rave reviews from everyone involved. These aircraft had along the way also spawned a pair of airliners; the Tu-104 (derived from the Tu-16) and the enormous Tu-114 (derived from the Tu-95).
Tupolev Tu-16 “Badger” – the ubiquitous jet medium bomber of the Soviet Air Force.
Tupolev Tu-114 “Cleat” – the civilian derivative of the Tu-95 “Bear” long-range bomber. The story as to why it’s in Japan Air Lines colours is one for another day.
Buoyed by their unprecedented run of successful aircraft, Tupolev began to look to the future. As with the rest of the world, it seemed to him that the future, especially in the bomber aircraft with which he was building his reputation, lay in supersonic aircraft. A massive study encompassing three different aircraft began in 1953, even before the Tu-16 had entered service with the various divisions of the Soviet Air Force. The first aircraft, known as Samolet 98 (Samolet meaning “aircraft” in Russian), was to be a lightweight supersonic attack bomber that borrowed heavily from the Tu-16’s design. The second aircraft, designated Samolet 103, was to be a supersonic medium bomber that would directly replace the Tu-16. Finally, the third aircraft, designated Samolet 108, was to be a four-engine, delta-winged supersonic intercontinental bomber to supplement or replace the Tu-95. Work on these aircraft continued in parallel for quite some time, though Tupolev (quite correctly) determined that Samolet 108 was a total non-starter and dropped that project after a while, leaving the upstart Myasishchev design bureau as the only designer working on a similar aircraft...we all know how that turned out.
Samolet 98 – The First Attempt
Due to quickly shifting roles in the Soviet Air Force (particularly in both Frontal and Naval Aviation), Samolet 98 lost its intended operational role. Undeterred, Tupolev quickly changed 98’s focus from an attack bomber to that of a research aircraft for Samolet 103 and other supersonic projects. As such, Samolet 98 was a fairly conservative design, bridging the gap between proven concepts and new concepts. Tupolev took the forward fuselage of the Tu-16 and made some fairly major alterations; instead of a crew of six (or seven, depending on the variant), Samolet 98 had a crew of three, sitting in tandem. The bombardier/navigator sat in the fully glazed nose section, with the pilot behind him and the electronics officer behind the pilot. The Mikulin AM-3 turbojet engines of the Tu-16 were replaced by much larger and more powerful afterburning AL-7 engines from Lyulka, and were also relocated from the wing roots to the aft fuselage, fed by two large intakes mounted high.
Tupolev Samolet 98, aka the Tu-98 “Backfin”; not exactly a looker, and not exactly successful either.
Tupolev Tu-98 “Backfin” three-view.
Samolet 98, now carrying the designation of Tu-98 and nicknamed “Backfin” by NATO, flew for the first time in 1956 at Zhukovsky air base (the Soviet equivalent to Edwards Air Force Base), and made a brief appearance at the 1956 Aviation Day Parade at Tushino later that year. However, its performance was not outstanding by any measure; top speed was a dizzying 770 miles per hour at altitude, or Mach 1.15 – just barely supersonic – and its range left something to be desired as a bomber aircraft. However, much was learned from the Tu-98, and it would later provide the basis for one of the most unusual aircraft ever to enter service with the Soviet Air Force (which we will talk about NEXT TIME).
Larger is Always Better (or is it?)
All the while during the Tu-98’s evaluation, the design of Samolet 103, the Tu-16 replacement, continued apace. Experience with the Tu-98 suggested so many design changes that Samolet 103 was tossed into the trash and replaced with a new design, designated Samolet 105. Samolet 105 was similar in many ways to the Tu-98, although considerably scaled up. The design for Samolet 105 consisted of a long, cylindrical fuselage carrying a crew of three in tandem mated to a highly-swept wing, and two large, afterburning turbojet engines.
An early Samolet 105 model.
Initially, Samolet 105 had its engines mounted in the wing roots in a similar fashion to the Tu-16, but it was found the long intake ducts needed would create all manner of airflow issues; at low speeds, the intake ducts couldn’t suck in enough air, choking the engine’s power when you need it the most – on takeoff and during climbout. Additionally, the long intake ducts caused even more problems at supersonic speed as well, with unpredictable shock waves rattling around inside them that would disrupt airflow to the engines once again. As such, the engines were moved to the only place where they could be paired with short intakes; above the aft fuselage, clustered together at the base of the vertical stabiliser.
Final design for Samolet 105.
As the Samolet 105 was again much larger than the Tu-98, so too did the engines grow; the Lyulka AL-7 engines of the Tu-98 were replaced with the upcoming VD-7 engine from designer Dobrynin. By the end of 1957, Samolet 105 was ready for its first flight, but a number of difficulties encountered in ground testing meant that the aircraft didn’t take flight until June of 1958.
Samolet 105 prototype; notice the main landing gear retracts into the fuselage, as opposed to the wing pods of other Tupolev aircraft (including the Tu-22B).
By the time Samolet 105 took off for the first time, Tupolev had incorporated many of the fixes needed in Samolet 105 into a new version, Samolet 105A. Flight testing with Samolet 105 revealed a few defects with the aircraft, but they were considered to be not serious enough to halt the program (and in many cases, fixed or at least reduced in severity in the 105A version), especially in light of the considerable pressure from both the government and the Soviet Air Force to field a supersonic bomber as soon as possible. As such, Samolet 105A was ordered into production, holding the designation Tu-22B.
Tupolev Tu-22B “Blinder-A” at the Monino museum.
Tupolev Tu-22B “Blinder-A” three-view diagram.
Entry Into Service and the Dog House
Production of the Tu-22B began in 1959, with the first production aircraft flying in September of 1960 from the Kazan Aircraft Factory No. 22, followed shortly by a ten-aircraft flypast of the 1961 Aviation Day Parade at Tushino. Western intelligence observers, like always, collectively poo poo their pants at the sight of these sleek bombers, which after considerable argument was designated “Blinder” by NATO. However, reality was about as far from the terrifying picture painted by the intelligence community as could be. Immediately, Tu-22 aircrews (initially formed from the most elite Tu-16 crews) began to question the qualities of their new ride. The Tu-22B was an absolute handful to fly; its takeoff and landing speed was almost 100 miles per hour faster than that of the Tu-16, and the Tu-22 had an alarming tendency to pitch up on landing, in many cases causing the tail to strike the runway. Added to that, like most Soviet aircraft of the time, the Tu-22B used pneumatic brakes which were woefully inadequate for the size and speed of the aircraft; as such, it relied on two large drag parachutes for most of its braking effort.
Tupolev Tu-22 on rollout. Braking parachutes are necessary to avoid a nasty trip through a wheat field.
In the air, the Tu-22B’s low-speed handling characteristics were frightening and at high speeds, large changes in engine power required huge changes in elevator trim, and large rudder deflections (say, in an engine-out situation) could warp the very thin vertical stabiliser, which could cause a reversal of rudder input if pushed hard enough. At all speeds, control forces were very heavy; so heavy that crews were limited to a maximum of two sorties per day as it was simply too tiring to fly the aircraft any more than that. Cockpit ergonomics were non-existent; crews would tie strings and hooks to switches that could not be reached from the normal seating position. Visibility from the aircraft was poor too; when landing in a crosswind, the pilot could not see the runway!
Tu-22 crew entry, showing the downward ejection seats. Not for the faint of heart.
Adding to the misery of the Tu-22B was the ejection system; all three seats fired downward, which meant that any incident on takeoff and landing were not survivable. In summary, the Tu-22B was a terrible aircraft, and aircrews hated it so much that they often refused to fly it...something that must have gone fantastically in those days! These characteristics made for an awful safety record; of the 311 Tu-22s built, something like 70 of them were lost to accidents – a terribly poor performance by any measure.
From a maintenance perspective, the aircraft was a mess as well; systems were complicated and hard to access, and the engines were highly unreliable; initially the service life of the VD-7 engine was a paltry 100 hours (this later increased to 200 hours!), so engine changes were pretty much a daily occurrence on any given flight line. The one merciful thing about the Tu-22 from a maintainer’s perspective was that the hydraulic fluid was delicious; the aircraft used 120 gallons of pure, un-denatured ethanol as hydraulic fluid...needless to say, that feature certainly dulled one’s anger when working on the Tu-22! This feature earned the Tu-22 and all its variants the nickname of “Booze Carrier”.
More Variants and Combat
Mercifully, the Tu-22B was rather short-lived; it was at about the same time as the Tu-22B’s service entry that the Soviets changed their nuclear deterrent doctrine to favour ICBMs instead of free-fall bombing from manned aircraft. However, there was still a place for cruise-missile carrying aircraft, as well as a need for high-speed, high-altitude photo-reconnaissance. The Tupolev design bureau whipped up a few new variants; the Tu-22K “Blinder-B” was set up to carry one Kh-22 “Kitchen” supersonic cruise missile, giving their aircraft a new lease on life, especially in chasing down the American carrier battle groups. The Tu-22R “Blinder-C” was the reconnaissance variant, and actually made up the largest share of Tu-22 production; of the 311 Tu-22s built, 127 of them were Tu-22Rs, the vast majority of which ended up in Soviet Naval Aviation (AV-MF) service. The Tu-22U “Blinder-D” was, mercifully, a trainer version of the aircraft, with a second cockpit for an instructor in place of the electronics officer’s seat.
Tu-22U “Blinder-D” trainer aircraft cockpits.
Unlike the overwhelming majority of Soviet bomber types, the Tu-22 actually some use in combat. Tu-22s of several variants were exported to both Libya and Iraq, who used them for several roles. The Libyan Air Force conducted free-fall bombing raids on Chad, Sudan and Tanzania during the wars they either started or got mixed up with during the 1970s and 1980s; mostly, these raids were conducted against airbases and runways, with varying levels of success. The Iraqi Air Force used the Tu-22 extensively against Iran during the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s, again with varying levels of success; several Iraqi Tu-22s were shot down by both Iranian fighters as well as surface-to-air missile batteries. The Soviets themselves used the electronic warfare version of the Tu-22 in Afghanistan to escort Tu-22Ms (more on the Tu-22M in a moment) into Afghan airspace early in the war.
Despite many fixes and improvements to the Tu-22 through its variants, the basic aircraft was so forgone in terms of its many failings that nothing short of a totally new aircraft would correct them (which is exactly what happened, by the way). By the late 1980s, the Tu-22 was essentially withdrawn from service with all three air forces it served with, and only soldiered on in Russia until 1998 because funds were so short they couldn’t even afford to scrap the aircraft.
A Second Attempt – The Tu-22M “Backfire”
The Tu-22M has its roots back in the late 1950s; at the time, the Soviet leadership was looking beyond the Tu-22 for an even faster, more capable medium bomber. Tupolev, knowing full well the difficulties of going ever faster (as well as the negligible benefit of such speed) decided to design a slower, Mach 2-capable design based loosely on the Tu-22 that they designated Samolet 145. As this aircraft came about at a time of transition in the Soviet military, it was received coolly and was shelved. With the ouster of Nikita Khrushchev in 1964, the medium bomber project was back on, especially with the failure of the Tu-22 as a replacement for the aging Tu-16 and the emergence of China as a threat to the Soviet Union. Samolet 145 was dusted off and revised; at the time, variable sweep wings were considered to be the best means of ensuring good performance through a wide range of speeds and altitudes. Combined with a revised engine layout (inside the aft fuselage, with long intake ducts running ahead of the wings) and utilising much more modern and efficient afterburning turbofan engines, made Samolet 145 a far more capable aircraft. On 30 August 1969, the prototype aircraft, now designated Tu-22M0, flew for the first time, using the same Kusnetzov NK-144 engines used in the Tu-144 supersonic passenger airliner.
Tupolev Tu-22M0 prototype at Monino.
Tupolev Tu-22M2 three-view diagram.
While greatly improved over the Tu-22, the Tu-22M was not without problems. The initial NK-144 engines were not sufficiently powerful nor were they efficient enough for the aircraft to enjoy much of a performance advantage over the Tu-22, and the long intake ducts vibrated and “buzzed” (a harmonic vibration caused by uneven airflow) at both low and high speeds. Larger and more efficient engines were fitted in the form of the fantastically complicated Kuznetsov NK-22 afterburning turbofan (itself a distant relative of the NK-144), but the issues with the intakes remained unsolved. The revised aircraft, the Tu-22M1, was rolled out in 1971, with the intent that this version would be the production aircraft. However, it was clear that the M1 still needed a lot of aerodynamic work (mostly pertaining to the engine intakes once again), and only nine M1s were built. It was around this time in 1970-1971 that the West first became aware of the Tu-22M, when an M0 was left parked in the open deliberately so that a spy satellite could photograph the aircraft. The West as always was very concerned with this new aircraft, as it seemed to fix many of the issues that precluded the original Tu-22 from entering widespread service. For a long time, the Tu-22M, nicknamed “Backfire” by NATO, was initially designated as the Tu-26 in the West, as it was clearly a completely new aircraft. It wasn’t until arms reduction talks in the 1980s that the true designation of the aircraft came out (which was largely thought by the West to be a ploy of some kind). In reality, the Tu-22M is an entirely new aircraft compared to the Tu-22; however, to make the Tu-22M more palatable both fiscally and politically, the Soviet Air Force called the aircraft the Tu-22M, much the same way the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet is part of the Hornet family when in reality it is effectively a new aircraft design.
Tu-22M2 intercepted by an F-16 from the Royal Norwegian Air Force.
Back to the Tu-22M, though. The West didn’t get their first up-close look at the Tu-22M until 1979, when the first production Tu-22M2s started to roll off the production line and enter squadron service with both Naval Aviation and Long-Range Aviation. Like the Tu-22K before it, the Tu-22M2 was initially armed with Kh-22 missiles, either one carried semi-recessed under the fuselage or two carried on pylons on the wing gloves.
The ubiquitous Kh-22 “Kitchen” supersonic cruise missile. Standard armament for all Tu-22 and Tu-22M variants.
In addition, the Tu-22M2 could be adapted to carry a wide variety of nuclear and conventional bombs, as well as anti-ship mines. Also, various reconnaissance pallets containing electronic intelligence gear, side-looking radars or photographic equipment could be fitted to the bomb bay, making the Tu-22M a very versatile and deadly aircraft indeed. From the perspective of aircrews, the Tu-22M2 was an absolute delight; crews could actually see out of the thing! The aircraft handled well in nearly every flight regime and takeoffs and landings were no longer an exercise in terror. However, there were still issues; persistent problems with the engines and air intakes limited the top speed of the Tu-22M2 to a maximum of Mach 1.4, and the initial versions of the NK-22 were unreliable and needed overhaul every 50(!) hours. Added to that, at low level the vibrations caused by uneven airflow in the air intakes were so bad that it would cause rivets to back out and fail, which in turn would cause a catastrophic engine failure. It would take yet another version of the aircraft to finally fix these problems.
By 1976, a better engine came available yet again; this being the 55,000-pound thrust Kuznetsov NK-25 afterburning turbofan, which was distant evolution of the NK-22. Combined with a new wedge-shaped air intake designed to alleviate the airflow problems plaguing earlier aircraft, this new variant - predictably called the Tu-22M3 - was finally able to reach its full potential, including unrestricted flight up to Mach 2. This definitive version of the Tu-22M was produced until 1993, accounting for 268 of the 497 Tu-22Ms built in total.
The definitive Tu-22M3. The wedge-shaped intakes are the most obvious change.
Tu-22M3 three-view diagram.
As the Cold War drew to a close, the Tu-22M fleet faced a serious issue; what role would they fulfill in this new world? Over the last ten years or so, a slow but steady modernisation program has been applied to the Tu-22M; new avionics, modern cruise missiles and precision-guided weapons have been integrated into the aircraft, making the Tu-22M a valuable player in today’s environment.
The Tu-22M has seen very limited combat service; apart from a brief lease of four aircraft to the Indian Navy, the Soviet Air Force and its successors were the only operators, meaning there has been very little opportunity to demonstrate the aircraft’s capabilities. As mentioned before, early Tu-22M2s saw very limited service in Afghanistan (as they were rather unsuited to the type of operations conducted there), and they also saw limited use in both Chechnya and Georgia. Additionally, Tu-22Ms are to this day a common sight in the airspace in and around Europe, with the Russian Air Force using them to probe the air defense networks of NATO nations (as well as that of Sweden, the country who has arguably intercepted more Tu-22s than anyone else). It is planned that the Tu-22M will remain in service until at least 2020, though a lack of a true replacement in development would lead one to believe that the “Backfire” will be in service well after that.
Tupolev Tu-22M3 taking off.
Coming Next Week: The Bomber That Thought It Was a Fighter
|# ¿ Nov 19, 2013 05:17|
Another spectacular info post! I've got one request though; is there any chance you could post links at the start or end of these leading to your other info dumps? I'm sure I've missed one or two in all these pages. Hell these are with preserving in an offsite page if you're so inclined, I'd bookmark it for sure!
An index post is a good idea, especially going forward. From now on, I'll throw it up with every new post. Here you go:
http://forums.somethingawful.com/sh...0#post420693541 Myasishchev M-4 "Bison"
http://forums.somethingawful.com/sh...0#post420942400 Myasishchev M-50 "Bounder"
http://forums.somethingawful.com/sh...0#post421399357 Sukhoi T-4/Myasishchev M-18/Tupolev Tu-160 "Blackjack"
http://forums.somethingawful.com/sh...0#post421754428 Sukhoi Su-9/Su-15
http://forums.somethingawful.com/sh...0#post422065270 Tupolev Tu-22 "Blinder/Tu-22M "Backfire"
I'm thinking of doing a post about the Su-27, as it had a pretty contentious development history, to say the least, whereas the MiG-29 was as interesting as plain toast, sadly. Probably not going to do the IL-76 as it too doesn't make for much of a story, but that's not to say there aren't plenty of other Ilyushins to talk about...
Also, In a few weeks, we'll be moving (temporarily) away from Soviet aircraft and into Western aircraft...believe me, there are a TON of stories worth telling there, both military and civilian.
|# ¿ Nov 20, 2013 01:05|
My bet is that a lot of the engineers had gone through the Great Patriotic War. They knew the next war'd be even harsher, they wanted their aircraft to work long after the factories that made coolant were shadows of their former selves. You can brew up ethanol anywhere, it can just take a bit.
My understanding is that the ethanol remains a usable liquid at temperatures well below conventional hydraulic fluids would become useless - it freezes at -114 degrees C (and something like -70 when it has 5% water in it). Remember that there are huge parts of Russia that see long stretches with temperatures below -45 degree Celsius, so cold-weather operations are a prime consideration when designing an aircraft there.
As I understood it the rationale was to just massively overproduce the number of engines compared to aircraft, and then instead of depot-level servicing you just yanked the whole drat thing out and shoved a new one in. Something that could be done closer to the front by less skilled technicians with less downtime - if you had the resources (ie engines) prepositioned.
That is some of it; most of the people working on the flight line would be essentially untrained conscripts, so if anything goes wrong with an engine or any other complex piece of equipment, they would just swap a good part in then ship off the broken/worn unit to a central depot where trained technicians would repair it.
Also, don't forget that the Soviets were a very long way behind in terms of the metallurgy and the control units needed to make a jet engine work in something approaching an optimal fashion; either they could build a durable engine, or one that performed as they needed. As such, their need for engine performance almost always overrode the need for the engines to last a long time (as we'll see in my upcoming info post titled "Massandra").
|# ¿ Nov 21, 2013 00:52|
Don't ask, the story behind this aircraft makes no sense even though it's true.
C'mon man you can't drop a line like that and expect us NOT to ask!
|# ¿ Nov 22, 2013 04:44|
When one thinks of an interceptor aircraft, traits such as huge engines, high speed, incredible climb rate, highly automated operation and just enough range to get the job done come to mind quickly. After all, the concept of an interceptor aircraft can be reduced down to what is essentially a (hopefully) reusable manned missile, using smaller air-to-air missiles as their payload. What happens, though, if instead of defending a city, your interceptors have to defend a region, or worse still, an entire border? Well, they grow into larger aircraft, with the size of the aircraft being proportional to the area they need to cover. The British built the Lightning, an aircraft that is about as true an embodiment of the aforementioned “interceptor traits” as there has ever been; the Americans built the F-106, a large, sleek, delta-winged aircraft. In Canada a larger aircraft still, the Avro CF-105 Arrow, was to be tasked with defending their enormous volume of remote airspace. This begs the question, since the Soviet Union was the largest country in the world, how large were their interceptors? In a word, enormous...
The Bomber That Thought it was a Fighter – The Tupolev Tu-128 “Fiddler” Story
Even before World War II, the Soviets had an understanding of just how vulnerable their country was to an air attack over the North Pole. Several flights of extremely long-range aircraft designed by Andrei Tupolev before World War II demonstrated that it was in fact possible to fly an aircraft over the Arctic region and onward to cities (or targets) beyond.
The Tupolev ANT-25. In 1937, this aircraft flew non-stop from Moscow to San Jacinto, California via the North Pole, a distance of nearly 7100 miles.
With the close of World War II, the Americans possessed not only the knowledge to fly over this region, but also the aircraft to do so; the Boeing B-29 Superfortress could just manage a one-way trip from bases surrounding the Soviet Union, and the upcoming Convair B-36 Peacemaker could make the trip from virtually anywhere in the United States. The advent of jet bombers such as the B-52 Stratofortress made it abundantly clear that air defense must be of the highest priority.
Boeing B-52 Stratofortress; the biggest and most pressing target for any Soviet interceptor in the 1950s and 1960s.
But how do you defend a country the size of the Soviet Union? The new, jet-powered interceptors of the early 1950s had very short ranges, and were really only useful as point-defense aircraft, defending a city or a military base. The surface-to-air missiles that were in final testing were not appreciable better either, and had the added problem of being incredibly expensive to build and deploy; this meant that they were only to defend the most important and vulnerable targets. This left the Soviet government asking, “How do we defend our most remote regions?” The answer, of course, was to build a series of interceptors like no others in the world.
Who You Gonna Call?
At the close-out of World War II, three designers had established themselves as the premier designers of fighter and interceptors for the Soviet Union; Aleksandr Yakovlev, Semyon Lavochkin and
Yakovlev Yak-25 “Flashlight”. The first successful Soviet long-range jet interceptor.
Yakovlev Yak-25 three-view diagram.
The Yak-25 was not a particularly advanced aircraft, even when it first flew. It used a very basic (albeit enormous) radar set, and was armed only with a pair of 37-millimetre cannons. The Yak-25’s performance left something to be desired as well; while it had a relatively long range of nearly 1,700 miles and an incredible service ceiling (for its time) of nearly 50,000 feet, it was a subsonic aircraft. This was fine if you’re intercepting slow-flying B-29s and B-36s all day long, but by the time the Yak-25 entered service in 1955, the B-47 was in widespread use and the B-52 was just entering service; intercepting and shooting those aircraft down when you’re no faster than they are (and trying to do so with cannons, no less) would be nearly impossible. Another much faster aircraft was needed.
Yakovlev took the basic design of the Yak-25 and modified it substantially; more powerful afterburning engines from Turmansky, a better radar set (the same Oryol radar fitted to the Sukhoi Su-9) and an all-missile armament based on an early liquid-fuelled version of the K-8 missile (designated AA-3 “Anab by NATO). In spite of greatly improved performance over the Yak-25, this new aircraft, the Yak-27K, was inferior in every performance aspect to the Sukhoi Su-9 (shudder) and was not authorised to enter production.
Yakovlev Yak-27K interceptor. An improvement over the Yak-25, but Sukhoi’s Su-9 was considered to be better. Boy were they wrong.
It was around this time that Lavochkin came to the uncomfortable realisation that resting on one’s laurels does not necessarily endear you to your superiors. The few aircraft designs he submitted after the war were almost universally rejected as being inferior to the Yakovlevs and MiGs they competed against, and despite building the first Soviet aircraft to fly supersonic, the La-176, his bureau was quickly falling out of favour and needed their next aircraft to be a home run. Backed up by the Central Aero and Hydrodynamics Institute (TsAGI), Lavochkin devised a very large, swept-wing, twin-engine interceptor aircraft capable of speeds in excess of Mach 1.6, altitudes above 60,000 feet and a range in excess of 1,200 miles – very ambitious targets for the early to mid-1950s. More importantly, this new aircraft was to be the first Soviet interceptor to be part of an integrated air defense system called Kompleks K-15, wherein ground-based radars would guide the interceptor to the vicinity of the target, at which point the aircraft’s onboard radar would provide terminal guidance for the intercept and shoot down. Combined with a pair of extremely large and heavy air-to-air missiles, initially called “Missile 275”, this new aircraft showed considerable potential as a wide-ranging area defense interceptor, and the Soviet government immediately ordered that the entire system – radars, aircraft and all - be built and installed as soon as possible. In July of 1956, the first aircraft, carrying the designation La-250, flew for the first time.
Measuring nearly 90 feet nose-to-tail, 45 feet from wingtip-to-wingtip and weighing in at just over 60,000 pounds, the La-250 was truly an awesome sight to behold. However, not all was well with the La-250. The engines originally intended for the aircraft, the VK-9 afterburning turbojet by designer Klimov, were so troublesome that they never made it off the test stand, so the La-250 flew instead with the ubiquitous AL-7F engines from Lyulka; the AL-7F’s lack of thrust compared to the VK-9 meant that the La-250’s performance suffered tremendously. In addition, the enormous K-15U radar was proving to be troublesome, so the La-250 was fitted (at least initially) with the much smaller, less capable K-15M radar. Flight testing also revealed a number of serious issues with the aircraft itself; the first prototype crashed after it departed controlled flight following an uncommanded roll moment. In addition, the position of the cockpit and the shape of the nose left the pilot with essentially no forward visibility on landing. The La-250’s design was hastily revised, with the swept wing being abandoned for a delta-wing (similar to the Su-9 and MiG-21), as well as lowering the nose considerably in an attempt to improve forward visibility. This improved version, the La-250A, flew late in 1956; it became quickly apparent that these fixes didn’t amount to much of an improvement, sadly.
Third prototype of the Lavochkin La-250A heavy interceptor.[super]
[super]First prototype of the Lavochkin La-250A, demonstrating the aircraft’s ornery landing characteristics.
The aircraft’s unpleasant characteristics, combined with the long, slender fuselage, earned the aircraft the rather unflattering nickname “Anakonda”. Four more prototype La-250As were built, and all four of them were lost in landing accidents, each attributable to the lack of forward visibility.
Lavochkin La-250A three-view diagram.
Second Lavochkin La-250A seen in its natural habitat...burned out and in the mud off the side of the runway.
At this point, it was clear that the aircraft and its systems were not only hopelessly behind schedule, but also soon to be outclassed by a newer generation of missiles, radars and airframes. The La-250/Missile 275/Kompleks 15 project was abandoned in 1959, and the once great Lavochkin design bureau shifted its emphasis to surface to air missile development, never to design another aircraft again.
Andrei Thinks Outside the Box (For Once)
At the same time that the La-250 was circling the drain and Sukhoi was busy killing pilots with their Su-9, Andrei Tupolev, head of his eponymous design bureau, studied the possibility of adapting one of his earlier prototype bomber designs, the Tu-98 “Backfin”, into the high-speed, long-range interceptor that the Soviet Air Force so desperately needed.
Tupolev Tu-98 “Backfin” light supersonic bomber prototype. Still ugly, but it was the basis for the Tu-128.
Having gained a considerable amount of experience with supersonic aerodynamics with the Tu-22 “Blinder” supersonic bomber, Tupolev extensively redesigned the Tu-98, giving the aircraft a new fuselage with some consideration given to transonic “area rule” design, as well as an all-new swept wing with pods for the main landing gear (a trait shared with several other Tupolev aircraft). The crew was reduced from three to two, both sitting in tandem in separate cockpits on upward-firing ejection seats. The radar chosen for this new aircraft was the latest generation RP-S Smerch (Tornado in Russian) set, which later found its way into the MiG-25 “Foxbat”. To go along with this huge aircraft and huge radar was an equally huge missile, the Bisnovat R-4, known in the West as the AA-5 “Ash”.
Bisnovat R-4 (AA-5 “Ash”) missile, shown here in both infrared (inner) and radar-guided (outer) versions.
This huge missile came in both semi-active radar homing and infrared guided versions, and could engage a target up to twenty five miles away. The Tu-98 was fitted with the radar and the missiles as a testbed to help sort out their development, which helped dramatically reduce the risk in the new aircraft’s flight test and development cycle.
By 1961, this new aircraft, designated Tu-128, was ready to fly for the first time. As it was unlike any other fighter or interceptor anywhere else in the world, the Tu-128 was impressive to behold by any standard:
Tupolev Tu-128 “Fiddler” in flight.
Tupolev Tu-128 “Fiddler” three-view diagram.
The aircraft was larger again than the already enormous La-250 was; the Tu-128 was nearly 100 feet long, with a 57 foot wingspan and a maximum takeoff weight of just under 100,000 pounds; to put it in more understandable terms, it is approximately the same size as an early Boeing 737 or a modern Embraer 190! Testing proceeded slowly, as not only was Tupolev in largely uncharted territory building a highly complex interceptor, but they did not want to repeat the mistakes made in rushing the Tu-22 bomber into service with a level of finish not far removed from a prototype aircraft. By 1966, however, the Tu-128 was ready to enter service, with the first production aircraft carrying the designation of Tu-128S-4 (or Tu-128P in Western sources). Shortly after, NATO assigned it the codename “Fiddler”, after what is understood to have been a considerable debate as to what exactly the role of this aircraft actually was; many alleged it was simply too large to be a fighter or interceptor, and that it was actually a replacement for the light attack bombers in widespread service in the various arms of the Soviet Air Force, while others were convinced that it was in fact a long-range area defense interceptor. Ultimately, it was found that the latter was true, hence the fighter-type codename.
Pilot’s (above) and radar operator’s (below) cockpits. Surprisingly well-thought out and user friendly for a Soviet aircraft of its time. Notice the pilot’s control column.
From a pilot’s point of view, the Tu-128 was supposedly a pretty friendly aircraft; it was a reasonably good aircraft to fly with few bad characteristics, unlike many contemporary interceptors and certainly unlike its counterparts in the rest of the Soviet Air Force. However, the Tu-128 was an incredibly complex aircraft saddled with a very complex weapons system onboard; as such, the Soviets were very reluctant to export it, and even if they were willing to export the Tu-128, it was far too expensive to buy and operate for just about any other air force. As such, only 198 Tu-128s were built between 1966 and 1970. Three versions were built in all; the Tu-128S-4 “Fiddler-B” made up the majority of the production run, accounting for 186 of the total run. Ten Tu-128UT “Fiddler-C” trainers were built (along with four conversions from Tu-128S-4s), with a third cockpit ahead and below the two existing cockpits.
Tupolev Tu-128UT “Fiddler-C” trainer aircraft.
The Tu-128UT, nicknamed “the Pelican” in service, retained the full performance of the Tu-128, but while it did not retain the radar of the Tu-128, it was still able to use the infrared version of the R-4 missile. The final version of the Tu-128 was the Tu-128M “Fiddler-D”, a heavily modernised variant that entered service from 1979 onwards. The Tu-128M airframe and engines were unchanged, but the avionics and missile systems were completely replaced, making the Tu-128M far more effective, especially at finding and attacking aircraft flying at low altitude.
A number of follow-on variants to the Tu-128 were planned, but none made it much past the drawing board. The Tu-138 came about in the mid 1960s and was planned to be a much larger, faster version (the Tu-138’s top speed was planned to be Mach 2.3, as opposed to the -128’s meagre Mach 1.6) of the Tu-128, with a much larger radar and either K-60 or K-100 long-range missiles (neither of which bare any resemblance to the actual K-60 and K-100 missiles that entered service, but would actually be close in terms of range to the much-ballyhooed modern K-100 “AWACS killer” missile, though not capability).
Evolution of the Tu-138 concept, going from a slightly improved Tu-128 to the rather wild delta-wing final concept.
The Tu-148 came shortly after the Tu-138, and would have been larger and more powerful still than the Tu-138. The Tu-148 was to have a variable geometry wing and even larger (but more efficient) engines, which allowed the aircraft a considerable increase in range as well as speed, with a top speed similar to the Tu-138’s Mach 2.3. This gave the Tu-148 a very stong resemblance to the Tu-22M “Backfire” bomber, and interestingly, it wouldn’t have been far off in terms of size either!
Tupolev Tu-148 concept from 1972. Note the strong resemblance to Tupolev’s Tu-22M “Backfire” bomber.
The Tu-148 was also to be fitted with the Zaslon radar that ultimately ended up in the MiG-31 “Foxhound” long-range interceptor. Unfortunately for the Tu-138, it was simply too ambitious – the Soviets would still need at least ten years for the Zaslon radar system to be ready for service, and without that radar, the Tu-148 was of little more use than the existing Tu-128. The Tu-148 was cancelled and all efforts were directed to the Tu-128M modernisation program.
While the Tu-128 was capable enough to warrant entry into production, there is considerable doubt as to just how effective it truly was; the radar was primitive by any standards, though it was powerful enough that it could “burn through” enemy electronic countermeasures if the two aircraft are close enough. The Tu-128 itself might have been a liability in combat; the size and weight of the aircraft meant it was limited to 2.5g maneuvers, this made it possible for even a heavily laden B-52 to potentially outmaneuver the Tu-128, to say nothing of the even more agile B-1 Lancer. This doesn’t mean that one would expect a Tu-128 and B-52 to enter a dogfight; rather, it means that the B-52 could foil a Tu-128 attack with little more than a series of steep turns. The Tu-128’s best chance then was to be positioned for a nose to nose attack and generally avoid trying to pursue its targets.
In spite of its somewhat questionable usefulness, the Tu-128 remained in service up until 1990, when both the Mikoyan MiG-31 “Foxhound” and the Sukhoi Su-27 “Flanker” finished replacing the Tu-128 in frontline service. There are rumors, however, that a handful of Tu-128s remain in service today as aerial target tugs, but there is little to no information that either supports or disclaims this rumor.
Tupolev Tu-128 at the Central Air Force Museum at Monino.
COMING NEXT WEEK: Massandra
|# ¿ Nov 26, 2013 05:58|
Oops, I forgot the index post:
http://forums.somethingawful.com/sh...0#post420693541 Myasishchev M-4 "Bison"
http://forums.somethingawful.com/sh...0#post420942400 Myasishchev M-50 "Bounder"
http://forums.somethingawful.com/sh...0#post421399357 Sukhoi T-4/Myasishchev M-18/Tupolev Tu-160 "Blackjack"
http://forums.somethingawful.com/sh...0#post421754428 Sukhoi Su-9/Su-15
http://forums.somethingawful.com/sh...0#post422065270 Tupolev Tu-22 "Blinder/Tu-22M "Backfire"
http://forums.somethingawful.com/sh...5#post422385629 Tupolev Tu-128 "Fiddler"
|# ¿ Nov 26, 2013 20:28|
Yes! It was thought that it was the most relaxing color to look at for a long time.
It makes the instruments stand out more as well. On a related note, Douglas also used a shade similar to Soviet Cockpit Green in the DC-9 as well.
|# ¿ Nov 28, 2013 04:02|
I know it's just a 737, but here is a better article with much better photos and vid of the entire flight. The news chopper was left in the dust but the camera operator did a great job. When I first read "10 min flight" I was a little surprised since that seemed really long (I am very familiar with the area) but watching the video looks like they decided to do a low pass . That fuel isn't going to be used so might as well burn it up
It's a sad day in Canadian history with CYXD closing down. It was one of the first licensed airports in Canada, and it was the jumping off point for virtually all of the flights into the North for the better part of thirty years - the flights that opened up Canada's north. Also, it was the start of the final leg of the Northwest Staging Route, an air route (in the days before long-range radio navigation was really widespread) between the US and Siberia, largely following the Alaska Highway. Thousands of aircraft flew from CYXD during World War II to help with the war effort, and the infrastructure left behind (a sizeable part of it still in use today) helped further open up our northern territories. For a very long time as well (from 1927 when it opened until 1960), it was the only airport in Edmonton, and up until 1994 it had regularly scheduled airline traffic - I was, purely by coincidence, on one of the last airline flights out of the old Muni before all that traffic shifted to the international airport out in Nisku.
On a personal level, I learned to fly there back in 2000 and as a professional pilot later on, I've flown in and out of there innumerable times as well. A lot of memories there for me, and I'm sad to see it close.
MrChips fucked around with this message at 01:43 on Nov 30, 2013
|# ¿ Nov 30, 2013 01:38|
^^^IIRC the 727 has been surpassed by the A330, B777-300ER and the MD-11, which has the highest loading of any civilian aircraft. The highest loading I know of period is the B-52.
That's exactly it. What causes problems is the ground pressure not necessarily the amount of weight. A 707 was designed for a specific pressure, but then the Air Force threw a giant radar on it and the equipment to use it and didn't care about the ground pressure because it wasn't as bad as some of the other aircraft they were operating.
The biggest reason why the B-36 prototype used those huge single wheels was due to the primitive brakes and hydraulics of the time. The high-pressure hydraulics needed to power modern-style, multi-disc brakes were devised after the B-36 prototype was started (but before series production began). To generate the braking force the needed, they had to use gigantic low-pressure brakes, hence the huge main wheels.
MrChips fucked around with this message at 22:35 on Nov 30, 2013
|# ¿ Nov 30, 2013 22:29|
There's probably some interesting developments that were made because of thrust reversers. Brake tech could only have gone so far before something had to give. I know with the 707, the jet got away without thrust reversers on account of how sick the brakes were. Stopping distance still is pretty lovely compared to recent jets.
At least in the civilian world, reverse thrust of any kind is just bonus stopping power. Pretty much all takeoff and landing performance calculations are made without factoring the use of reverse thrust. Braking systems have improved significantly over the years too, with the advent of antiskid on the BAC Trident and the 1960s to the adoption of carbon ceramic brakes on the Airbus A310 in the 1980s, airliner wheel brakes are orders of magnitude more effective than those on the 707.
|# ¿ Nov 30, 2013 23:37|
|# ¿ Dec 2, 2013 22:21|
“Massandra” – The Story of the Mikoyan MiG-25 Family
As we saw earlier with the development of the Sukhoi’s interceptors and the Tupolev Tu-128 “Fiddler” heavy interceptor, the Soviet government put a considerable emphasis on the production of home-defense aircraft. In fact, air defense was considered to be so important that the arm of the military responsible for that role effectively operated as an air force unto itself, the “Protivo-Vozdushnaya Oborona Strany”, or PVO for short. In fact, behind the intercontinental ballistic missile force (yet another independent arm of the military) and the Red Army itself, the PVO was next higest in the order of priority at the Kremlin. As such, considerable resources were devoted to the PVO to help them protect the Motherland against any threat – real or imagined.
As go the Bombers, So go the Interceptors (or Vice Versa)
The 1950s and 1960s were a period of incredible developments in aviation; this alternately posed a great advantage and a great threat to the two superpowers of the Cold War. Aircraft such as the Boeing B-29 and the Tupolev Tu-4 brought about the first jet interceptors, such as the Northrop F-89 and the MiG-15/17). These in turn brought about the Tupolev Tu-95 and the Boeing B-52, who in addition to having the ability to reach virtually anywhere in their opponent’s territory, brought with them a considerable jump in speed and altitude as well; all of a sudden, a supersonic interceptor (such as the Convair F-102 and the Sukhoi Su-9) would be needed engage these new bombers effectively. By the end of the 1950s, both the Soviets and the Americans both had plans to replace their considerable fleets of subsonic bombers with fleets of supersonic bombers, with Myasishchev and Tupolev working on the M-50 and Tu-22 respectively in the Soviet Union and in the United States, North American Aviation and Convair on the B-70 and B-58 respectively. At the same time, both sides considered how they would defend against these aircraft, meaning ever faster interceptors were on the drawing boards on both sides of the Iron Curtain (a number of which we will visit in later posts).
North American Aviation XB-70 Valkyrie (above) and Convair B-58 Hustler (below) – the potential targets that posed the most trouble for the PVO.
The design bureau of Mikoyan and Gurevich (MiG) had been working on a series of high-speed, heavy interceptor projects in the mid to late 1950s, in competition with both the rival Sukhoi design bureau and the Tupolev design bureau. Though neither Sukhoi nor MiG put as much emphasis on “heavy” as Tupolev did, both built a series of very similar aircraft with considerable emphasis on outright speed and climb performance. Initial efforts from MiG came in the form of the Ye-150, a very large aircraft bearing considerable resemblance to both their highly successful MiG-21 (though scaled up considerably) and to Sukhoi’s Su-9.
Mikoyan-Gurevich Ye-150 prototype.
Mikoyan-Gurevich Ye-150 diagram. The size of the R-15 engine did not allow for any area rule.
The Ye-150 was a very fast and powerful aircraft; stuffed with the brand new R-15 turbojet engine from the Turmansky design bureau (MiG had established somewhat of a relationship with them in the early 1950s), this aircraft was capable of speed in excess of Mach 2.3 (though it has been claimed that the Ye-150 was capable of well over Mach 2.6, owing to confusion with later aircraft in this family) and altitudes well over 65,000 feet. While impressive, the Ye-150 was a flawed aircraft, though not a fault of the airframe itself. The R-15 engine was, in spite of its size and power, a very simple and somewhat less than optimal design – not because the Soviets couldn’t afford to build a complicated engine (they certainly could...just look at the NK-12 turboprop), but because the engine was literally designed to be disposable – it was intended for use in the Tupolev Tu-123 “Yastreb” reconnaissance drone and as such features such as long service life and usability over a wide range of power settings were basically not an issue. As such, initial versions of the R-15 were not particularly well-suited for fighter-type aircraft, or really any manned aircraft for that matter. As such, the Ye-150 made only 42 flights over its five-year career.
Mikoyan-Gurevich Ye-152 prototype. Notice the huge K-9 missiles on the wingtip rails. Actually, how could you NOT notice them?
Mikoyan-Gurevich Ye-152 diagram. Very similar to the Ye-150 in many ways, but much higher performance.
As flight testing of the Ye-150 continued, MiG built a follow-on aircraft, the Ye-152. In the initial version, the Ye-152 was little more than a Ye-150 fitted with an improved R-15-300 engine, as well as a hydraulically-actuated intake lip surrounding the nose cone. Performance of the Ye-152 was stellar once again, but lack of engine reliability and the sudden cancellation (as a result of the PVO selecting the Tupolev Tu-128 for production) of the Uragan-5 air defense system intended for the Ye-152 meant that it too was relegated to work as a research aircraft. In an attempt to rectify the crippling lack of engine reliability, MiG extensively reworked the Ye-152, fitting the aircraft with two of the proven Turmansky R-11 engines used in the MiG-21. This new version, the Ye-152A, showed considerable promise on paper, but it was also cut down by the cancellation of the Uragan-5.
Mikoyan-Gurevich Ye-152A twin-engine interceptor prototype.
Now with a handful of useless but high-performing aircraft on his hands, MiG decided to do what anyone else would; modify an aircraft and go smash a bunch of world records. Taking the single-engine Ye-152 as their starting point, MiG added a new exhaust nozzle and canard foreplanes to the aircraft, designating this new version as the Ye-152M. Under the false designation of Ye-166, the Ye-152M set several world records for speed (1,482 mph) and altitude (113,891 feet) just before its retirement in 1961.
Mikoyan-Gurevich Ye-152M, aka Ye-166 at Monino.
The Challenge Intensifies
Though stinging from the defeat of the Ye-150/152, the PVO and MiG still felt there was considerable need for an ultra high-performance interceptor. The B-58 was entering service and the B-70 program was still proceeding as though it was still intended for service, and while overflights of the Soviet Union by U-2s had stopped, there was no guarantee that a) they would remain stopped, and b) any follow-on flights would be done with the U-2 and not a much higher performing follow-on; while the Soviets did not yet know about the A-12 program, it was just getting underway at the time. With all that in mind, the interceptor specification that was dreamt up was incredible; a top speed of Mach 3 (or as close to it as possible), maximum altitude of nearly 80,000 feet and a combat radius of at least 500 miles, all while carrying four of the latest long-range air-to-air missiles, guided by the latest and most powerful airborne radar in the Soviet inventory. Oh, and we need to have this aircraft serving with air defense units yesterday, thanks. In addition, the speed and range of this new aircraft attracted attention from the other arms of the Soviet military, as they had a pressing need for a photo-reconnaissance aircraft capable of outperforming all but the most powerful air defense networks. Put together, this specification meant that whatever aircraft was to meet these demanding requirements would have to be big; larger than the Ye-150 family was, and it would have to be built different to anything else out there.
Let’s step out of history for a moment for a crash course in aircraft materials in relation to high-speed flight. As we no doubt know, an aircraft flying at supersonic speed generates a considerable amount of heat; first, air friction heats up leading edges of wings, cockpit canopies and air intakes. Second, the shock waves generated by the aircraft compresses the air as it goes by, which (in its most basic interpretation) heats the air surrounding the aircraft considerably. At speeds above Mach 1.5, overall airframe temperatures start to climb dramatically. At Mach 2.0, airframe temperatures average about 100-120 degrees Celsius, with hotspots reaching up to 160 degrees. At these temperatures, aluminum begins to soften and the polycarbonate from which canopies are made begins to cloud; even the more exotic aluminum alloys are tapped out by about Mach 2.3 or so. Composite materials such as carbon fiber are dependent on the resins from which they derive their toughness; all but the most exotic materials aren’t much good beyond Mach 2.2. Any flight beyond Mach 2.5 requires unconventional metal alloys such as nickel steel and titanium.
Back to history, then. From 1961 onwards, MiG evaluated a number of configurations for this new aircraft; all of them large, twin-engine aircraft. Some were highly unconventional, with the engines mounted in underwing nacelles, or with engines mounted in an over-under arrangement (similar to the English Electric Lightning). Finally, a conventional side-by-side arrangement of two R-15B-300 engines (by then the R-15 had matured enough to be of some use), fed by two large intakes on either side of the fuselage was devised, as it offered the best overall solution for ease of maintenance, frontal area and fuselage volume. This also freed up the nose of the aircraft to carry the very large Smerch radar, originally intended for the Tupolev Tu-128. Recognising the difficulties of high-speed flight with regard to temperature, MiG realised that the conventional aluminum construction of their earlier aircraft was totally unsuitable for the new aircraft. However, while they knew titanium would be the ideal material with which to build this new aircraft, they also recognised that it was far too expensive and far too difficult to work with. Therefore, they would build this new aircraft from a very abundant material in the Soviet Union...steel! Specifically, a special high-temperature stainless steel alloy with high nickel content would be used. Another problem cropped up in the construction of the aircraft; at the time, the Soviet Union suffered a severe shortage of countersunk aircraft rivets. In a novel solution, MiG decided that they would weld the aircraft together, often by hand, using rivets very sparingly. This solution was met with considerable skepticism by many; would this welded aircraft be strong enough to handle the shock of landing? By 1964, the prototype aircraft, now designated Ye-155, rolled out and flew for the first time.
Mikoyan-Gurevich Ye-155R-1 prototype. Note the wingtip tanks and fins attached, both of which were later deleted.
The Ye-155 flew well enough, but the wing design of the aircraft had considerable problems. The aircraft lacked adequate directional stability, so MiG added a pair of fins to the wingtip fuel tanks. This, however, caused even more problems, as the fuel sloshing around inside the tip tanks amplified a hitherto unknown flutter of the new fins, causing massive vibrations and dramatically increasing drag. In addition, the very large centerline external fuel tank (carrying roughly 1200 gallons) was found to exact a drag penalty so large that it didn’t appreciably increase the range of the aircraft, so it was dropped (pardon the pun). The wingtip tanks and fins were removed, replaced with a large pair of endplate fins, dubbed “webbed feet” by MiG engineers. As the aircraft developed, the vertical stabilisers were enlarged, making the “webbed feet” unnecessary.
Ye-155P prototype number 5 with “webbed feet” endplate fins on the wingtips. These did not make production.
Testing continued for several years; by 1967 several prototypes of the reconnaissance version joined a similar number of interceptor prototypes to create a fleet of nearly twenty aircraft working on various aspects of the aircraft’s development. A number of performance records fell to the Ye-155. Once again wearing a false designation (Ye-266), a heavily modified Ye-155 set absolute records for both speed (1812 mph), altitude (123,500 feet) and several time to climb records (the Ye-266 flew from stopped on the runway to 98,000 feet in an eye-watering three minutes and ten seconds!), many of which still stand today.
Ye-155R-3 prototype at the 1967 Domodedovo Air Show.
It was also in 1967 that the Ye-155 made its first public appearance, at the special airshow at Domodedovo airport in Moscow commemorating the 50 th anniversary of the 1917 Revolutions. Western observers were shocked by this aircraft (which was nothing new) but in this case, the fear was much greater than normal. At the time, the Vietnam War was raging, and both the Americans and Soviets were being taught hard lessons about the nature of jet air combat. The fear was that the Soviets had taken heed of these lessons and built a new fighter/interceptor aircraft to address the shortcomings of both Soviet aircraft and American aircraft. The Ye-155 was, in their minds, a next-generation, highly agile dogfighter as well as a very high-speed interceptor with the latest radar and missiles. Shortly after, the FX program in the United States began, with the McDonnell-Douglas F-15 Eagle being the result.
Speed and Power (But Not Much Else)
In 1970, the new aircraft was approved for production, and was to be designated as the MiG-25, with NATO giving it the nickname “Foxbat” shortly after. Entry into service was not without problems however, one of which could possibly have been anticipated. Engine reliability dogged early aircraft, as the R-15B-300 was still hampered by poor handling characteristics and very short service life. Some aircraft had issues with the quality of the welds; this had more to do with quality control rather than the welding process itself. Where the MiG-25 went wrong was with a common characteristic of many Soviet aircraft; the hydraulic system. Instead of a conventional hydraulic fluid, the MiG-25 used pure grain alcohol as hydraulic fluid. Being Russian at heart, pilots and ground crews alike in MiG-25 squadrons formed miniature black-market bootlegging rings to sell this free, state-supplied nectar, skimming off a bit of fluid every now and again and selling it in makeshift market stands outside the gates of their fighter bases! It was such a popular thing to do that the MiG-25 quickly earned the nickname “Massandra”, which is a backronym in Russian for “Mikoyan Aviation equips alcohol, people happy with decision of aircraft designer”. Famously (and perhaps apocryphally), the wives of these bootlegger-pilots began a letter-writing campaign, sending letters to both the MiG design bureau and the Air Ministry, demanding that a change be made to the MiG-25 to rid the aircraft of its boozy hydraulic fluid. Artem Mikoyan bristled at the suggestion, stating that “If aircraft system performance demands we fill it with the finest Armenian cognac, then that’s what we’ll use drat it!” Ultimately, later versions of the MiG-25 switched to a more conventional hydraulic fluid; certainly not because of the endemic bootlegging either.
ex-Indian Air Force MiG-25R “Foxbat-B” reconnaissance aircraft.
The MiG-25 did not take long to get its first taste of action. The reconnaissance version of the MiG-25, the MiG-25R, was “exported” to the Egyptian Air Force in 1971 (“exported”, in that the aircraft were painted in Egyptian colours but in reality were owned, maintained and flown by the Soviets) and quickly started making routine reconnaissance flights over Israel. The Israeli Air Force desperately tried to intercept the MiGs, but their surface-to-air missiles and their F-4 Phantoms simply did not have the performance to even come close to the MiG-25. Late in 1971, the IDF came close to shooting down a MiG-25R with a SAM over the Sinai Peninsula, but to the astonishment of the missile crew, the MiG simply accelerated to Mach 3.2 (!) and left the missile in its wake.
All of this proved to be very alarming for the United States and the rest of NATO, as it seemed as though the MiG-25 was virtually untouchable. The myth of the aircraft continued to grow throughout the 1970s as encounters with them, particularly with the MiG-25R variants, became more common. At the same time, very few hard facts were known about the aircraft, likely helping to perpetuate the mythical “Foxbat”.
The Bubble Bursts
Viktor Belenko’s MiG-25P “Foxbat-A” off the end of the runway at Hakodate, Japan.
All of the myths about the MiG-25 came to an end in September of 1976, when a young Soviet pilot, Viktor Belenko, took off on a routine training mission from the Sakhalin in his MiG-25PD (an improved interceptor version) and headed south for Japan. With his fuel tanks running dry, his aircraft landed at Hakodate airport, running off the end of the runway, as he did not have the option of planning his approach and landing. Immediately, he requested asylum in the United States, and his aircraft was quietly shipped off to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, where it was dismantled and studied. Almost immediately, it became evident that the MiG-25 was not the aircraft everyone thought it was. First of all, it was found that it was enormously heavy on account of its steel construction; at maximum takeoff weight, it weighed nearly 80,000 pounds! The sheer volume of the aircraft devoted to fuel – nearly seventy percent – suggested a long range, but in reality the MiG-25 could only carry enough fuel for a 300 mile combat radius. When asked about the performance of the aircraft, Belenko stated that it was limited to Mach 2.5 in normal operations and Mach 2.8 for emergencies. This was a bit of a shock to the West, as they had seen a MiG-25R fly at Mach 3.2, to which Belenko replied that while it was certainly possible to go that fast, the engines would not survive the flight as they would severely overheat beyond Mach 2.8. On the subject of maneuverability of the aircraft, analysts were shocked to find out that the MiG-25 was limited to 5-g maneuvers and at high weights, 2.5-g only. Needless to say, the “Foxbat” had been truly debunked; it was a good interceptor, but that’s about it.
MiG-25PU “Foxbat-C” trainer aircraft.
Despite this setback, MiG-25s continued to be improved throughout the 1970s. As it possessed performance beyond anything else in the Soviet inventory, a trainer version, designated MiG-25PU, was built, with a second cockpit grafted onto the nose ahead and below the original. Since this meant that the radar could not be carried, the MiG-25PU had systems onboard to simulate the radar some target scenarios. The improved MiG-25PD entered service shortly after Belenko’s defection, with better engines and improvements to the radar, and a similarly improved MiG-25RB was fielded as well, which unusually possessed a limited ground-attack capability as well.
MiG-25RB “Foxbat-D” reconnaissance bomber.
Another side-effect of the defection meant that the MiG-25 really didn’t have any secrets to hide anymore, so true export began, with Algeria, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Bulgaria and India purchasing MiG-25s of all three families. MiG-25s served extensively in the Iran-Iraq War with a fair degree of success, though the Iraqi Air Force lost a significant number of MiG-25s to Iranian F-14s (and one to an F-5, for shame). In the First Gulf War, the Iraqi MiG-25 fleet was largely destroyed on the ground, but a number of missions were still able to fly, resulting in a couple of air-to-air kills both for the Iraqis and for the coalition forces. In Syrian service, the MiG-25 did not acquit themselves all that well against the F-4s and F-15s of the Israelis in the 1980s, though most of that is a result of poor training on behalf of the Syrians. India used their MiG-25Rs extensively against Pakistan in several conflicts, once famously flying over Pakistan in what is thought to be a demonstration of how the IAF could operate this aircraft with impunity through Pakistani airspace.
The business end of a MiG-25RB “Foxbat-D”. Just shows that it really is all engine!
Today, the MiG-25 is in limited service, the majority of which are reconnaissance versions serving mostly with Soviet successor states, chief among these Russia, though it remains to be seen just how much longer anyone will operate these now tired, obsolete aircraft. Of note is that a number of MiG-25RUs are used in so-called “space experience” flights for civilians, in which well-heeled individuals can pay for an hour-long flight in the aircraft and fly high enough to see the curvature of the Earth, among other things.
The Aircraft it was Always Meant to Be
Throughout the early part of its career, the MiG-25 offered unprecedented performance at the considerable cost of being a highly-complex and often unreliable aircraft. Studies were made in the mid 1970s to see how the MiG-25 could be improved; these coincided with the PVO’s desire to replace several of their interceptor types with one or two new aircraft. Initially, MiG considered a highly-revised MiG-25, designated the MiG-25M, as a potential successor. Fitted with vastly more improved versions of the R-15 engine, the MiG-25M enjoyed more thrust than the other versions of the MiG-25 and a roughly thirty percent improvement in fuel consumption – a staggering figure. Also, the Zaslon phased-array radar (originally intended for an improved version of the Tupolev Tu-128) was finally approaching a level of refinement that it could enter service. With that and a new engine, the Soloviev D-30 afterburning turbofan (an engine that later found its way into the Tupolev Tu-154 airliner and Ilyushin Il-76 transport, albeit in non-afterburning form), MiG devised a much-improved version of the MiG-25M. Keeping the same basic design, they added a second cockpit for a weapons systems officer and a number of other improvements to the landing gear and structure. Combined with a brand new, aircraft-to-aircraft datalink, this new aircraft first flew in 1978, designated the MiG-31.
No, not that MiG-31...this MiG-31:
Yeah, that MiG-31. Basically a thoroughly modernised MiG-25, not some Mach 6-capable invisible battlecruiser of a fighter.
The MiG-31, nicknamed “Foxhound” by NATO, enjoyed similar high-speed performance to the MiG-25, but it was now able to fly supersonic at very low altitude, and also had a much longer range than the MiG-25. The new radar allowed the MiG-31 to detect and track targets much further than the old Smerch set (up to 120 miles away, as opposed to only 35 miles for the Smerch), as well as pick out an aircraft against ground clutter, useful for hunting bombers or cruise missiles flying at low altitude. The datalink allowed up to four MiG-31s to work together, giving them the ability to have one aircraft use their radar and other aircraft engage the target, potentially from an entirely different direction.
MiG-31 “Foxhound” at takeoff.
Since entering service in 1982, over 400 MiG-31s have been built, and they have undergone a steady modernisation program, with the current MiG-31BM version having a totally modern “glass cockpit” and the ability to carry the most modern missiles in the Russian inventory today. No exit from service has been given, but it likely will be supplemented or even replaced once the Sukhoi T-50 enters production in 2016.
Coming Soon: Sushkas, Cranes and Platypi
SPECIAL BONUS POST LATER THIS WEEK: The Phastest Phantom
|# ¿ Dec 3, 2013 05:05|
I'm planning a post on the Yakovlev VTOL "fighters", but it's a ways off still.
I'm sure that somewhere in the annals of Soviet history, there's a plucky marine commander who asked for it in a VTOL ground attack version. Normally, this would lead to a tale of distributed production in certain battleground electorates and backhanded deals but the soviets, being pragmatists, simply shot him in the head and sent his family and friends to Siberia.
You joke about that, but in the early phases of development of the MiG-25, somebody actually thought it would be a good idea to fit a pair of RD-36 lift jets in the fuselage, to help with takeoff performance. This idea was canned (and likely the hapless engineer who came up with it) as the MiG-25 needed every ounce of fuel they could stuff inside.
You forgot the index post again.
Yes I did, damnit.
Myasishchev M-4 "Bison"
Myasishchev M-50 "Bounder"
Sukhoi T-4/Myasishchev M-18/Tupolev Tu-160 "Blackjack"
Tupolev Tu-22 "Blinder/Tu-22M "Backfire"
Tupolev Tu-128 "Fiddler"
Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25 "Foxbat"/MiG-31 "Foxhound"
|# ¿ Dec 3, 2013 08:01|
|# ¿ Jul 14, 2020 10:14|
Nope, it is a bit weird, though not as weird as it would have been in the bad old days.
Got any pictures of the Mickey Mouse jet yet?
|# ¿ Dec 4, 2013 01:19|