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Espionage - US Aviation Industry

During the Inter-War period, the whole Soviet foreign trade system was based on the obtaining of technical assistance from abroad. The first decades of aviation development in the Soviet Union and the policy of rapid assimilation of western technology, characterized initial the growth of its aviation industry. While it is true that the USA did not establish diplomatic relations with the USSR until November 1933, commercial barriers were removed by this country as early as 1923. The Amtorg Trading Corporation is an American company based in New York that was founded in 1924 by the Soviet Union to serve as its buying and selling organization in trade between the USSR and the USA. It handled the bulk of Soviet-American trade until 1935. The Amtorg Trading Corp. was established in the State of New York on May 24, 1924, through the merger of Products Exchange and Acros-American, Inc.

With the founding of Amtorg, the Soviet Union had for the first time a legitimate cover for its espionage activities in the United States. Amtorg bought instruments and engines for Soviet aviation. Working as an Amtorg employee served as a convenient cover for Soviet spies. The fact that the United States was early considered to be of great importance in the espionage plans of the Soviet Government is established when we find that at early periods Vyzcheslav Menzhinsky and Genrich Origorievich Yagoda headed Soviet intelligence in the United States. Menzhinsky later became head of the OGPU in Moscow, and Yagoda was the first head of the NKVD, with headquarters also in Moscow.

In 1926 the Soviet Government had sent to the United States two Comintern agents who had been charged with directing the activities of the Communist Party in this country as well as the Trade Union Educational League, which was then the labor section of the Communist Party in the United States.

In the autumn of 1929 a representative Soviet delegation headed by the head of the UVVS PI Baranov left for the USA. There they negotiated with the Curtiss-Wright Corporation about the release in the Soviet Union of three types of air-cooled engines in 165, 225 and 320 hp.

The patriarch of aviation thought in the USSR - Andrei Nikolayevich Tupolev, was sent to the United States in November 1930 to study her airship industry. This was not the first meeting of Andrei Nikolaevich with foreign airships. As early as 1928, while in Germany , he got acquainted not only with aviation factories, but also visited the aerodynamic laboratory of Zeppelin. A year later, while in England and America, Tupolev was also interested in the achievements of these countries in the field of airship construction.

Andrei Tupolev visited Germany and the United States in 1936-37 to study aircraft manufacturing methods. While in America, Tupolev had contacts with a certain John Maglachi, an American agent of the NKVD, who provided him with compromising data on all of Tupolev's main competitors - Grokhovsky, Grigorovich, Polikarpov, Kalinin, Bartini and many other promising Soviet designers whose ideas, according to Tupolev, were too expensive for the state, since they were bought from Americans for national money.

In the squandering allegedly involved as well many Americans among the businessmen of Russian origin, who emigrated to America after the revolution (and were the clear enemies of Soviet power), who were trying to sell to representatives of "AMTORG" unsuitable equipment.

Tupolev allegedly took bribes from the American companies Grummman, Consolidated Vultee and Vought-Sikorsky (Chance Vought) for continuing to win advantageous contracts with AMTORGOM for them. Tupolev implemented not only his own plans, but also, apparently, Stalin's plans. Despite an unambiguous warning, Stalin first punished not Tupolev, but the persons who fell victims of intrigues the intriguer: all of them eventually became innocent victims of the Chekist terror. Eventually Tupoleve was arrested and spent subsequent years in a secret design bureau [sharashka / sharaga] in order to assemble the aviation elite under a single convict roof.

As part of the efforts being made by the Soviet Government to further develop its military air forces, in 1937 N.M.Kharlamov, the director of Tsagi (Central Aero-Hydrodynamic Institute), signed four technical assistance contracts in the United States with American aircraft manufacturing concerns. Engineers from the Consolidated, Vultee, and Douglas companies, would proceed to the Soviet Union to assist in developing planes. Since January 1, 1937, the US Embassy granted visas to fourteen Soviet engineers and specialists who were proceeding to Baltimore to the Glenn L. Martin factory. The Martin Company is to design and develop a new type of large plane for the Soviet air force instead of selling somewhat obsolete models which have been released for export by the American military authorities.

The Soviet press had carried a number of articles praising the advancements made by Soviet aviation and claiming, in many cases, that their planes have surpassed those of other countries in efficiency. In an article which appeared in the Moscow Pravda No. 45, of February 15, 1937, the author claimed that Soviet aviation can outstrip that of any other country. Despite the fact that Soviet pilots, in Soviet-made planes, had established a number of world records, it would appear that the military authorities, at least, were not satisfied with the development of Soviet aviation and, therefore, have decided to endeavor to modernize their air fleet through technical assistance contracts with Western companies.

US-Soviet relations soured significantly following Stalin's decision to sign a non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany in August of 1939. The Soviet occupation of eastern Poland in September and the "Winter War" against Finland in December led President Franklin Roosevelt to condemn the Soviet Union publicly as a "dictatorship as absolute as any other dictatorship in the world," and to impose a "moral embargo" on the export of certain products to the Soviets. The licenses and the designs of US aircraft (for example, best and world-known Douglas DC-3), and aircraft engines were purchased. Acquisition of technologies and equipment for aircraft industry had special importance. But the Winter War between the USSR and Finland led to the so-called "moral embargo", which prescribed by the US firms to introduce trade barriers in the field of aircraft industry and adjacent industries.

In 1939, little by little, Soviet engineers were being refused permission to visit parts of the factories on the ground that orders were being filled therein for the United States Army and Navy. In the last few days of August 1939, the Soviet Government had signed with the Wright Aeronautical Company a five-year contract for technical assistance, involving the construction of three types of airplane engines. The contract was signed after six years of relationship between the company and the Soviet authorities, and after the contract had been shown by the company to the authorities in Washington. Under this contract, which provided that several models of the engines should be shipped to Russia and manufactured there, fifteen Soviet engineers were to participate in receiving plans, drafts, and other facilities in the company’s factory.

All was going well when about December 27 or 28, 1939, Mr. Vaughn, the President of the company, informed Amtorg that “by order from Washington” no Soviet engineers would any longer be admitted to the factory, and all passes were revoked. As a result, the execution of the contract has become impossible.

The US Navy Department objected to the presence of such a large number of foreign engineers in the Wright plant for the reason that “it operates to permit needless opportunity for observation of our production and development of military engines at a time when it is particularly to the best interest of the United States Government to exercise the utmost vigilance to prevent such observation”.

These restrictions came as a result of the "moral embargo" policy of the US Government in respect to the exportation of airplanes, aeronautical equipment, and materials essential to airplane manufacture to countries the armed forces of which were engaged in bombing and machine-gunning of civilian populations from the air, in this case, the Soviet war against Finland.

On December 1, 1939, President Roosevelt issued a statement deploring the Soviet’s “dreadful rape of Finland.” Roosevelt also appealed to both nations, asking them not to bombard “civilian populations or unfortified cities.” The following day, the President issued a “moral” embargo, urging U.S. airplane manufacturers not to sell their products to belligerent nations harming or killing civilians. This policy was broadened on December 20 to include an embargo against the delivery of technical information regarding the production of high quality aviation gasoline.

The American public was in general so shocked with the events which had transpired in Finland that many American business men did not desire to furnish material and other assistance to the Soviet Union. American officials attempted to persuade American business men to discriminate against the Soviet Union. This was particularly true with respect to the machine tool trade. The moral embargo policy seemed to be like a snowball rolling down hill; its size and importance increased as time went on.

The Department of State requested Amtorg, the Soviet purchasing agency in this country, to state that it would adhere to the policy of the moral embargo against the Soviet Union; in other words, to promise to cooperate with the American Government in discriminating against the Soviet Union. Amtorg was an American corporation, and as such should be expected to adhere to the policies of the American Government to the same extent as other American corporations. Although Amtorg was an American corporation, it was nevertheless a Soviet purchasing agency. Its primary object was to promote trade between the United States and the Soviet Union. How could it, therefore, subscribe to a policy the purpose of which is to strangle that trade?

The Finnish–Soviet war was ended by the peace treaty signed at Moscow on March 12, 1940. On July 5, 1940, Congress passed the Export Control Act which forbid the export of aircraft parts, chemicals, and minerals without a license. This was in reaction to Japan’s occupation of parts of the Indo-Chinese coast.

By April 1940 The Army and Navy Departments were permitting certain American plants to admit British and French technicians and at the same time were refusing to permit Soviet technicians to enter these plants. The refusal of the Army and Navy to allow Soviet engineers to visit certain parts of the plant of the Wright Aeronautical Corporation was explaned to the effect that Soviet engineers were not being permitted to visit those parts of the plants in which French and British engineers were admitted because no Soviet orders were being executed at the time.

This explanation failed to conceal the fact that an injurious discrimination was being made against Soviet engineers in the Wright plant. The Soviet Government took the view that the refusal of the American authorities to permit Soviet engineers into the plant while at the same time allowing British, French and Japanese engineers to enter, was a most serious act of discrimination against the Soviet Union.

The engineers, according to a contract of long standing between Soviet purchasing agencies and the Wright Aeronautical Corporation, had the right to enter the Wright plant in order to keep in touch with the latest processes and inventions. This contract was along the lines of numerous agreements which the Soviet Union had entered into with various American firms in accordance with the well-established Soviet policy of linking up foreign technical assistance with foreign purchases. The obtaining of foreign technical assistance was one of the most important features of the Soviet foreign trade policy and any actions on the part of American Governmental officials which would tend to deprive Soviet industry of American technical assistance must be regarded as serious.

According to the terms of the contract between the Wright Aeronautical Corporation and the Soviet purchasing agency the Corporation had a right to close its factory to inspection by Soviet engineers whenever it was requested so to do by the War and Navy Departments. Most of the Soviet contracts calling for the giving of technical assistance contained clauses of this kind.

The so called “moral embargo” on aviation equipment, airplanes, molybdenum, aluminum, technical assistance for the production of aviation fuel, et cetera, was applied to the Soviet Union. Assistant Secretary of War Louis Johnson at a dinner of the Bankers Association on January 15, 1940 delivered a speech containing rude attacks against the Soviet Union and insults against the armed forces of the Soviet Union for their actions in Finland, given the abhorrence felt in the United States toward the bombardment and machine gunning of open towns, with the resultant loss of life among noncombatant civilians, women, and children.

At no time had the Soviet authorities been as generous in admitting Americans into Soviet plants as the American authorities had been in allowing Soviet nationals to visit American plants. Since 1937 practically no Americans had been admitted in Soviet plants, whereas hundreds of Soviet engineers had been thronging through American plants.

The moral embargo had been extended by the American Government in such a manner as to prohibit the lending by American companies of technical assistance to the Soviet Union in the construction of aviation gasoline plants. The experts of the Universal Oil Products Company and of the Lummus Company who had been engaged in lending technical assistance to the Soviet Government in the construction of aviation gasoline plants in the Soviet Union had been recalled at the request of the State Department.

The authorized visits of the Soviet technicians to the Wright plant were for the purpose of inspecting 10 Cyclone engines which were being built for the Russians. Thus the Soviets were being granted the same treatment as the representatives of other countries, as the visits of the French, English, and other representatives were authorized for the purpose of a temporary visit to inspect equipment that had been contracted for. It was the opinion of both the War and Navy Departments that the interest of the national defense suggested that the representatives of a foreign government should not be continually present in a plant which was doing confidential work for the armed forces of the United States.

In April 1940 US naval officers frankly stated that they thought that all Soviet engineers were spies. The activities of the Soviet engineers at the Wright plant had appeared to be suspicious. Their suspicions in this case were based on the fact that there was a rapid turn-over in the representatives at the plant and the number of engineers at the plant had been increased to 23 from the 15 who had been granted permission to be in attendance at the plant according to the original contract. The officers were of the opinion that there had been discrimination in the past in behalf of the Soviets rather than against them as their engineers had been in the Wright plant for several years which was a privilege few other countries had enjoyed.

The Soviets had long utilized the Amtorg Trading Corp. as a cover for its espionage operations; however, with the opening of the immigration gates at the beginning of World War II, literally thousands of Russians entered the United States principally as employees of the Soviet Government Purchasing Commission. In addition to these the Soviets increased and strengthened their espionage agents in the embassies and consulates. In the early war years there was a great mass of refugees who entered countries in the Western Hemisphere and that among these refugees were numerous agents of the NKVD.

While the Russians had representatives and nationals totaling thousands in this country, the United States had only a relative handful in the Soviet Union totaling little more than a hundred. While the Americans in Moscow were virtually under house arrest, the Soviets in the USA were given so much freedom that even for a period of time the US Government did not make an attempt to ascertain the arrivals and departures of Russian personnel. Eventually, upon the insistence of agencies charged with security, the Russians were required to furnish data concerning Russian personnel in the USA. However, this matter was left to Soviet officials with the result that almost any information could be furnished, truthful or otherwise.

Andrei V. Schevchenko was a student at the Aviation Institute at Moscow in 1936 and 1937, and later was employed in the Peoples Commissariat of Aviation Industry in Moscow. On June 19, 1942, Schevchenko entered the United States as an engineer in the aviation department of the Soviet Government Purchasing Commission. Until September 15, 1945, he acted as liaison between the Bell Aircraft Corp., Buffalo, NY, and the Soviet Purchasing Commission. During this period of time, the Bell Aircraft Corp. was conducting experiments on the use of jet propulsion as power for aircraft.

In all aircraft and other wartime industries where a foreign nation was involved and had anything to do with the purchase, in one form or another, of the equipment being manufactured, there would be a representative of that foreign nation who would be in reality, the liaison between the manufacturer and the recipient.

The Russian Purchasing Commission offered a potential outlet for peace-time equipment, and members of various organizations in the USA would actually cultivate a friendship with a man of that stature, and in the social aspects of their meetings it is readily seen how they could divulge to him innocently information that they were working on.

The House Un-American Activities Committee held hearings on Soviet Espionage Activities in Connection with Jet Propulsion and Aircraft in June 1949. Schevchenko endeavored through glowing depictions of Soviet life to indoctrinate Leona Vivian Franey who worked at Bell, along with her husband, Joseph John Franey.

One witness testified that "In that time of war there were scarcities, among which were cigarettes and good Scotch. Mr. Schevchenko's apartment lacked nothing. He had a complete array of liqueurs and cigarettes and food and money. He had everything one could desire."

Another witness testified that "He was very nervous. He would stand away from the windows. He would stand in the middle of the floor. He was always very, very nervous. He smoked one cigarette after another and seldom listened to what you had to say.... he was very secretive and very nervous and wouldn't talk in a car or in his home unless he had the radio blasting. The only place he would talk was in the park."

One objective was the complete design of an ultra high-speed aircraft powered by jet propulsion. Schevchenko said he was one man in a contest. There must have been others, because he was very interested in getting all his information at the most ideal source and at as great a speed as he could. Schevchenko claimed to have known of a jet engine manufactured by the General Electric Co. before it was released for any source of publication. In fact, it was in the secret stage.

The policy of appeasement then in existence prohibited the arrest of Andrei Schevchenko, and he was allowed to return to Russia. Schevchenko escaped the USA without ever having been under arrest for violation of the espionage laws.

Information that jet aircraft are actually being created in Germany was reported to the Supreme Commander. This information, as well as intelligence about new German developments contributed to the fact that in May 1944 the State Defense Committee adopted two resolutions on the development of reactive technology. The first decree set the task of creating jet aircraft of the Lavochkin Design Bureau, Polikarpov, Sukhoi and Yakovlev. The second decree asked the development of the following prototypes:

  • LRE [liquid rocket engine] operating on nitric acid and kerosene, designed by Glushko, Dushkin and Isaev;
  • GTE [gas turbine engine] designs cradle and Uvarova;
  • VRDK [pulse jet] driven by VK-107 engine designed by Fadeev and Kholshchevnikov.
To ensure compliance with the aforementioned decree of the State Committee of Defense, the 18th Main Directorate was established as part of the People's Commissariat of the Aviation Industry. In June 1944, the first reports appeared about the shelling of London with new German weapons - V-1 projectiles (according to the current terminology - cruise missiles). The FAA was equipped with a pulsating WFD with a capacity of 3,300 N, developed by Argus. In August, the British transferred the wreckage of two crashed V-1 missiles to the Soviet Union. One "set of remains" turned out to be at the factory 300. Specialists and, first of all, B.S. Stechkin understood that the pulsating engine, on the one hand, was tempting because of its simplicity, and on the other hand, due to the huge unit costs, it is suitable only for a cruise missile and is not suitable for a “real” aircraft.

To eliminate the backlog of the USSR in the development of jet aircraft in early 1945, it was decided to use the experience of German, and later British, manufacturers of turbojets. As soon as the first fallen German jets were found in the location of Soviet troops, a thorough study of the captured engines BMW-003 and YuMO-004 began. After the Soviet troops entered the territory of Germany at the beginning of 1945, representatives of the NKAP, located under the active army, took measures to search for samples of the new German aircraft, save them and send them to the Soviet Union. The first samples of the YuMO-004 engines — or rather, their fragments — arrived at CIAM in early March 1945. After some time, the engines BMW-003 and YuMO-004 (to Me-262) were found.

In 1947, English turbofan engines with centrifugal compressors were copied and put into production: “Dervent” under the RD-500 brand at the factory #500 (now the plant named after VV Chernyshev) and “Nene” under the RD-45 brand at the factory #45 (now the Federal Scientific and Practical Center "Salyut").

The post-war context would require adjustments to new realities, both technological and geo-political. The Soviets entered into a desperate struggle to gain parity with the West. Highly centralized research institutes such as TsAGI and an abundance of talented designers allowed for steady progress. But the sense of backwardness, real and imagined, haunted the aeronautical establishment. The aeropropulsion section is just one example of chronic obsolescence and failure. For the Soviets, the systematic copying of foreign technology and the creative new designs by indigenous designers blended to shape the Soviet Air Force. The Soviet instinct to copy was fully incorporated into research and development. While derivative in many respects, Soviet aircraft also embodied genuine innovations. Part of the problem of interpreting Soviet aviation is to understand this duality.

Western myths relate to the reassessment of the experience gained by Soviet specialists in the study of American F-5, A-37 and C-130 aircraft captured in Vietnam and F-4 and F-14 with AIM-54 missiles purchased from Iran. Yes, these aircraft were not only studied on the ground, but also underwent comparative flight tests in Akhtubinsk. Some of the finds of American designers migrated to Soviet aircraft, but only "something." In the same way, it can be argued that the Americans, when designing the F-15 and F-16, relied on the experience of studying the "captured" MiG-21, and the MiG-23 was the basis for the design of the F-22. Nonsense, of course. They studied, evaluated, compared, "something" was taken into account, but the designers never "wrote off" the entire product.

The Czechs studied the F-5 received from Vietnam and made, based on the experience of studying it, changes in the design of their L-39 trainer aircraft. The Poles studied the F-5 and A-37, also delivered from Vietnam, after which they designed their own I-22 trainer. -37. here it is worth talking more about the "trace" of the European "Alpha Jet". However, the "F-5 had a big impact on 1-22".

The design of the MiG-29 and Su-27 was carried out in parallel with the assistance of TsAGI aerodynamics. In the West, it is generally accepted that both the Sukhoi and Mikoyanites were guided by the American F-15 and F-16. Compared - yes, but guided in the sense of cheating? Indeed, both the MiG-29 and the Su-27 are very similar to the F-15, only the F-15 itself is "copied" from the MiG-25. In addition, the MiG-29 and Su-27 are made according to the so-called integral layout scheme, when the fuselage creates lift on a par with the wing. Moreover, such a layout scheme is the know-how of Soviet designers, and the Sukhovites and Mikoyanists have just not sued for its authorship - this is about the close cooperation of specialists in the design of promising fighters of two well-known Soviet aircraft manufacturers.

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Page last modified: 30-07-2021 18:08:06 ZULU