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Soviet Aircraft - Inter-War Period

At the turn of the first and second decades of the XX century in Russia a number of talented inventors and designers Ya. M. Gakkel, DP Grigorovich, SV Grizodubov, AA Porohovshchikov, II Sikorsky, A. V. Shiukov and others have developed and built original designs of domestic aircraft, some of them were superior in their flying and tactical characteristics to similar aircraft of foreign designs.

In the years 1909-1910. in Russia, the first aviation enterprises begin to emerge. By the beginning of the First World War, there were 7 aircraft and 2 engine-building enterprises in the country, on which aircraft and engines, mainly French models, were built and assembled from finished parts. Of the Russian designs were built serially planes "Ilya Muromets" (1913), flying boats M-5 (1914) and M-9 (1916) and some others.

One of the most famous Russian airplanes of that time was the four-motor wooden biplane "Russian Knight" and the Ilya-Muromets designed by Igor Sikorsky, built in 1913-1914. "Russian Knight" was the world's first four-engined aircraft that laid the foundation for heavy aviation.

The four-engine giant "Ilya Muromets", which was not equalled in the world, could raise the payload of 1500-1700 kg, fly for up to 5 hours at an altitude of more than 3000m at a speed of 100-115 km / h and possess powerful small arms (5-8 machine guns ). The fighters RBBZ-S-16 and RBVZ-S-20, as well as the scout "Swan-12", proved to be very successful. Russian engineers created prototypes of aircraft engines that were not inferior to foreign ones. However, the military department of tsarist Russia focused mainly on foreign countries and did not support domestic engine building.

On August 1, 1914, that is, at the time of the First World War, Russia's air force numbered 244 aircraft, which looked more than worthy against the background of other participants in the conflict. Germany had 232 airplanes, France - 138th, England - 56th aircraft of the first line, Austria-Hungary - about 30 cars.

However, during the war, Russia was unable to create a truly powerful aviation industry. The state actually disappeared from the coordination issueIlya Muromets of Sikorskybut of airplanes. Before the war, seven aircraft factories operated in Riga, Moscow, St. Petersburg and Odessa operated. From 1914 to 1917, five more enterprises entered service. Most of the machines produced by Russian factories were produced under foreign licenses (in the mass production there were 16 foreign models and only 12 domestic ones). At the same time, foreign firms did not seek to sell their latest developments to Russians, and therefore the characteristics of aircraft were worse than those of foreign analogues.

There were few exceptions, for example, the most massive aircraft of Russian construction (about 170 units) was built up to 1917-the Anada scout of the design of the entrepreneur and designer of Italian origin Arthur Anatra, the M-5 and M-9 flying boats of Dmitry Grigorovich's design and, of course, bombers "Ilya Muromets" Igor Sikorsky. However, on Muromtsi, except for a few Russian RRZ-6, there were German engines Argus, French Renault and English Sunbeam, as well as French licensed Salmson. During the war in Russia, 1511 engines (only licensed) and 5,607 aircraft were produced. For comparison, Germany produced 40,449 engines and 47,831 aircraft, in the UK - 41,034 engines and 55,061 aircraft, in France - 93,100 engines and 52,146 aircraft.

The revolutions and the Civil War and foreign intervention that followed were not conducive to the development of industry in general and the aviation industry in particular. Many talented aviation specialists emigrated abroad, some were shot as "counterrevolutionary elements." By 1920, and so not very high productivity of Russian aviation plants fell by 10 times compared with 1917. In fact, the Soviet government was forced to start airplane construction from scratch. Particular hopes were placed on cooperation with Germany. The Treaty of Versailles, which ended the First World War, forbade this country to have its own combat aircraft, and the passenger capacityTB-1x aircraft was limited to 600 kilograms (including the weight of crew members). Therefore, cooperation between the German aircraft manufacturers and Soviet Russia was beneficial to both sides. The Germans got the opportunity to build airplanes, and the Russians got access to modern technologies and airlines on their territory.

In 1922, the USSR concluded an agreement with the firm Junkers on the participation of German specialists in the development of Soviet military aviation. It was assumed that German engineers will establish in the Soviet Union the production of metal aircraft for various purposes, aircraft engines, will assist in mastering the production of aviation materials. In 1923-1925, at an aircraft factory in Fili, the Germans established an assembly of reconnaissance planes Ju-20 and Ju-21. In general, the cooperation with Junkers did not justify the hopes placed on him. The aircraft built in Fili had low flight characteristics; for this reason, in March 1926, the Soviet government decided to terminate the contract with Junkers and strengthen its own aircraft development.

Nevertheless, thanks to cooperation with the German side, the Soviet experts had the first experience of metal aircraft construction. After all, the world's first all-metal aircraft was designed by Hugo Junkers back in 1915. In 1922, the Soviet Union received the first batch of metal needed to create aircraft, chain mail, an analog of the German duralumin, and on May 26, 1924, the first Soviet all-metal aircraft ANT-2 designed by Andrei Tupolev was launched into the air. A year later, Russian students surpassed German teachers: under Tupolev's leadership, the world's first all-metal bomber-monoplane TB-1 (ANT-4) with engines along the wing was built in the Soviet Union. It was this scheme that became classical and subsequently formed the basis of all the "flying fortresses" of the Second World War. In 1932 as a continuation of TB-1 was built four-engine TB-3 (ANT-6), served in the Soviet Air Force until the Great Patriotic War. To be fair, it should be noted that as early as 1920, German engineer Adolf Rohrbach built a multi-engine passenger monoplane with a motorIl-400 (I-1) Polikarpovawing wing. But this aircraft did just a few flights and did not have a noticeable effect on the development of aviation.

The weakest place of the Soviet aircraft industry was the lack of domestic engines. This was an abiding weakness of Soviet aviation from beginning to end. The fine tolerances to which aviation engines - piston or turbine - always bedeviled Soviet engineers. The required precision for powerful and reliable aviation engines was vastly greater than that required for decent airframes. The history of Soviet aviation is a history of airframe designers waiting for engine designers to catch up, which they never did.

The first Soviet IL-400 (I-1 series) Nikolai Polikarpov I-1 (in the I-2 series), Dmitry Grigorovich, built in 1923, was an American captured water-cooled Liberty engine (Soviet designation M-5) with a capacity of 400 hp, developed at the end of the First World War. Liberty was not bad for its time, but weighed too much to install on the fighters. The Il-400 monoplane flew faster than the I-1 biplane, but was less reliable. Therefore, in the mid-1920s only 14 Il-400 and 209 I-1 were produced.

However, the first mass produced Soviet aircraft was not a fighter, but a reconnaissance R-1 of Polikarpov's design. Until the end of the 1920s, scouts were one of the most common aircraft classes in the world, accounting for 82% of the number of military aircraft in the USSR, 60% in Poland, 44% in France and 40% in Italy. P-1, created in 1923, was built on the basis of an English reconnaissance aircraft of the First World War DH-9 with a Liberty engine. Of course, at the time of its appearance, the P-1 could be considered an obsolete machine, but the Soviet Union was in need of a reliable and simple aviation modelP-1th equipment for mass production. In addition, the twin scout could be used as a multipurpose aircraft, for example, the R-5 and R-Z, which replaced the P-1 in the early 1930s, were actively used in several conflicts as light bombers and ground attack aircraft.

Since the birth of aviation, there had been a dispute about which type of engine was preferable for an airplane - with water or air cooling. The row-type or V-shaped water-cooled engines had a lower drag and, with equal power, they made it possible to develop a high speed, and a poorly streamlined but lighter star-shaped motor reduced the weight of the machine and thus improved its maneuverability. In the 1920s and in the first half of the 1930s, the speed and maneuverability of the fighters were considered equally important. Therefore, in the USSR, as in many other countries, aircraft were built with engines of both types. In the mid-1920s, the USSR purchased licenses for two engines: the German BMW-6 (M-17) with a capacity of 500 hp. with water cooling and British Jupiter VI (M-22) (in the French metric version) with a capacity of 480 hp. with air cooling. It was this engine that originally stood on the first mass Soviet I-5 fighter, designed in 1929 by Polikarpov and Grigorovich, who were in Butyrskaya prison in Moscow on charges of counterrevolutionary activity. I-5 turned out to be successful, and the designers were released.

The first Soviet engine, M-11, with a capacity of 100 hp. appeared in 1929. It was installed on one of the most massive aircraft in the history of aviation - the U-2 (Po-2) Polikarpov's design. This biplane was created as a training and training in the late 1920s, but then widely used in agriculture and communications as a sanitary and even light night bomber. From 1929 to 1959, I-5more than 33,000 U-2 were produced.

The 1920s are considered a period of stagnation in the development of aviation. Manufacturers of the most advanced aviation countries of the First World War - England and France - considered the new big war unlikely and did not pay enough attention to the introduction of aircraft technology novelties. The development of German aviation was limited by the terms of the Versailles Peace Treaty, and the Soviet Union created its aviation industry from scratch, trying to catch up with the Western countries. The most intensively developed sport and passenger aviation in the world.

The 1920s in the Soviet Union became a period of formation and strengthening of the main teams of aircraft designers. For example, the development and construction of aircraft in TsAGI was originally the responsibility of the AGOC (Aviation, Hydroaviation, Experimental Construction) department headed by Andrei Nikolayevich Tupolev. The staff of the Department of Land Aircraft Building (OSS), who worked at the plant No. 25 since 1927, was headed by Nikolai Nikolaevich Polikarpov.

In July 1929 the decree on the state of defense of the USSR noted: "One of the most important results of the past five years should be recognized as the creation of a red air fleet. To consider that the most important task for the construction of red aviation in the next few years is to bring its quality to the level of advanced bourgeois countries as soon as possible, and with all its strength it is necessary to plant, cultivate and develop its own Soviet scientific and design forces, especially in engine building."

In the subsequent period, during the development of domestic aviation and the aviation industry, the network of aviation research institutes in the USSR was continuously expanding. In October 1930, the State Research Institute of Civil Aviation (GosNII GA) was established in Moscow, designed to address issues related to the operation of civil aviation. On the basis of the departments and laboratories of TsAGI in 1930, the Central Institute of Aviation Motors (CIAM) was organized. Also in 1930, the Moscow Aviation Institute (MAI) was established on the basis of the aeromechanical faculty of the Moscow Higher Technical University.

At the beginning of 1933, the Central Design Bureau for the Experimental Aircraft Building of Light Aircraft and the Military Series, headed by Sergei Vladimirovich Ilyushin, was separated from the experimental construction of TsAGI (SOS TsAGI). In 1934, Aleksandr Sergeevich Yakovlev received a production base, and a department of light aircraft under his leadership was formed in the SUAF. In 1936 there was a separation from TsAGI design department and a plant of experimental designs (ZOK) into an independent organization headed by A.N. Tupolev.

Especially in the United States, where in the face of tough competition, air carriers tried to master all innovations as quickly as possible. It was in the United States of America in 1933 that the first serial high-speed passenger aircraft of the new type Boeing 247 was built.

The main obstacle in the development of Soviet aircraft construction remained the low quality of aircraft engines. In 1935, in order to speed up the way out of the situation, a number of licensed engines were purchased abroad for their production at the newly constructed aircraft engine plants. In Rybinsk, at the plant No. 26, where Vladimir Yakovlevich Klimov was the chief designer, the production of domestic analogues M-100, M-100A, and then new engines M-103, M-104, M-100 was launched on the basis of the French engine "Hispanot-Suiza" 105. But Soviet aircraft designers mostly developed new aircraft for engines that were either under development or in pilot production, and at best they were engines of the experimental series, but not yet brought to the required level of reliability.

In the early 1930s, the aircraft industry experienced a sharp leap: innovations such as the all-metal construction, streamlined engine hoods (NACA), variable propeller pitch, wing mechanization (flaps, slats), a freely bearing low wing, closed cockpit and, of course the same, retractable landing gear. First of all, these novelties affected passenger, and then bomber aviation. As a result, a new class of aircraft, the so-called high-speed bombers, flew faster than fighters. A typical representative of this class was the Soviet twin-engine bomber SB (ANT-40) designed by Tupolev. Before 1941, in the USSR, 6831 maU-2tire of this type. SBs were actively used in the Civil War in Spain, Khalkhin-Gol, in China, in the Soviet-Finnish war of 1939-1940 and the beginning of the Great Patriotic War. By that time, it was already obsolete, but in 1934 it was one of the fastest bombers in the world, it could carry 600 kilograms of bombs at a speed of almost 332 km / h, overtaking most of the fighter planes that existed at the time.

Most of the fighters of the early 1930s were not far from the models of the First World War. Basically, these were biplanes or half-planes (the lower wing is smaller than the top) of a wooden or mixed structure, with unmounted chassis armed with a pair of rifle-caliber machine guns and flying only 50-100 km / h faster than cars of 1914-1918, mainly due to more powerful engines.

In 1934, Nikolai Polikarpov created a new high-speed I-16 monoplane, which was to become the main Soviet fighter of the 1930s and early 1940s. I-16 - the world's first serial fighter-monoplane with retractable landing gear; initially he had a closed cabin, but it had to be abandoned. The quality of the glazing left much to be desired, and the pilots, accustomed to open cabs, actively protested against the necessary, but inconvenient innovation. Due to the very short I-16fuselage, the I-16 had a small longitudinal moment of inertia and, as a result, a quick reaction to the deviation of the rudders, which gave the aircraft exceptional maneuverability. However, the management of the I-16 turned into a difficult job, demanding from the pilot a high level of training.

There were variants of this aircraft with engines M-22 and M-25 (licensed American Wright R-1820-F3), M-62 and M-63 with two and four 7.62 mm ShKAS machine guns, with two 20-mm ShVAK cannons and 12.7-mm machine gun BS. I-16 was produced in 30 different modifications (types) and, together with Soviet pilots, participated in numerous wars and conflicts of the 1930s-1940s. Together with the I-16 in the arsenal of the Soviet Air Force, there was another Polikarpov fighter-the I-15 biplane, as well as its I-15bis and I-153 versions. The latter began to be mass-produced in 1938, and in 1941 it was the second largest in the air forces of the Red Army after the I-16. Biplanes were used in many countries until the outbreak of World War II. Inferior to monoplanes in speed, they surpassed them in maneuverability. There was even a theory of "two fighters".

However, since the mid-1930s, the main flight performance of fighters is speed, and the last word in fighter aircraft is high-speed fighter monoplanes with water-cooled engines, such as Bf.109 in Germany or Supermarine Spitfire in the UK. The first alarm signal sounded for Soviet aircraft designers in Spain, where the I-15 and I-16 initially prevailed over the German machines created in the early 1930s, but began to lose Bf.109 early modifications, and even less likely to have a chance against version Bf.109E with engines DB-601 with a capacity of 1100 hp. and enhanced armament.

The concept of "multi-purpose aircraft" first appeared in the book "Development of military types of land aircraft" by a leading specialist of the Air Force Scientific Research Institute (and this organization was considered to be a trend setter in military aircraft construction in those years) Colonel N.I.Shaurov, published in 1939 (signed for print 3 March of the same year).

They offered double and multi-seat fighter aircraft and other designers. In the book of N. I. Shaurov, it was written that a multi-seater fighter (aka aerial combat aircraft) is present in most air fleets. According to its design scheme - twin-engine monoplane. The crew consists of 3-5 people. He has strong weapons ahead for offensive actions. However, subsequent experience showed the futility of such fighters, and if two-engine double-seat machines appeared, the main task of the air gunners was to protect the rear hemisphere of their aircraft, to help the pilot to concentrate on solving the main task, and not to conduct active offensive combat.

during the war years, the Americans built and adopted a twin-engine single-seat fighter of long-range Lightning. But the domestic aircraft industry was not yet ready to create such machines, and many designers and commanders of the Soviet Air Force were captured by foreign concepts, which repeatedly led the Soviets to a dead end. What was being done abroad was not always correct, and one should not blindly follow their path.

During the war in Spain it was concluded that superiority in speed gives greater advantages in combat than in maneuverability. This opinion lasted until 1939, and then the speed was still the main indicator in assessing the combat effectiveness of the aircraft.

During the life of Stalin, all questions related to the adoption of certain types of military equipment by the leader personally decided. For this dilettante in engineering, but knowing the situation in the aircraft industry, the main indicators that characterized the aircraft were the maximum values of carrying capacity, range, height and, of course, flight speed. Combining these figures in the same plane is extremely difficult. Graduated engineers were well aware of this, but the leader perceived them separately as a criterion. One can find in the literature that Stalin always had a pocket guide with the main characteristics of foreign aircraft. In theory, there should have been reliable information, including the results of flight studies of aircraft at the Air Force Institute. But it was written exclusively using overpriced advertising, sometimes flawed data published in the open press. Hence the conclusion that the decisions taken by Stalin on aviation were not always correct.

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Page last modified: 20-10-2018 18:43:45 ZULU