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Soviet Aerial Refueling - Cold War

In the Soviet Union, after the end of the Great Patriotic War, research and development of various methods of refueling in the airwere conducted in approximately the same way as in the United States. But the specific, of course, was its own. That is, the development and testing of methods for refueling in the air had been underway since the end of 1947. During the late 1940s and early 1950s the Soviet Union experimented with aerial refueling. The Soviets experimented with a strange wingtip-to-wingtip system as well as a more conventional probe and drogue system.

Soviet interest in aerial refueling was evidenced by the late 1940s, but no actual refueling operation had been observed in the West by 1952. However, it was believed that the importance of US targets to Soviet war plans plus range limitations of Soviet long range bcmbers would d warrant the asaignment of a high priority to the development of operational aerial refueling techniques and equipment. The techniques involved were not difficult to master, as was evidenced by US and British experience and there was an abundance of information availalable to the Soviets on US and British developments in this field.

By 1954 Western intellgence had no intelligence that the USSR was actually employing in-flight refueling. However, it was noted that in flight refueling techniques would not impose serious technical problems and the USSR had access to the wartime techniques and equipment employmed by the US In this field. The USSR was known to have evinced interest in Western of refueling techniques, and methods had been discussed in literature. It was therefore neccessary to consider the effect of in-flight refueling in extending the range of Soviet bomber aircraft. a fleet of tanker aircraft, appreciable in their operational use, and the modification of mission aircraft fuel systems, would be necessary before two-way missions US could be conducted on a large scale. The establishment of tanker units would the conversion of TU-4's or new tanker aircraft. Since TU-4 operational units was estimated by Western intelligence to decrease from the 1,100 in 1954 to about 700 aircraft in mid-1957, sufficient TU-4's could be available for conversion to tanker aircraft. With one refueling the combat radius/range of USSR's aircraft could be increased appreciably.

The 26 May 1954 Decree of the Council of Ministers "On the creation of means of fueling aircraft in flight" required the development of refueling systems. When the strategic bomber Tu-4 was found to be too 'short-legged' to deliver strikes against the main potential adversary the USA, both Tupolev and Myasishchev OKBs began the task by creating turbine-engined strategic bombers.

Since the end of 1952 OKB-918 had joined the work. This is widely known today JSC "NPP Star". All the refueling systems and units currently in use in Russia are designed exactly in this design bureau. Initially, OKB-918 was the first to develop a system for the "hose-cone-rod" scheme. It was based on the work of V.S.Vakhmistrov's group, whose specialists continued their activities in this design bureau. Based on the developments of FRL and the experience of testing the Burlaki system, as well as on their own developments in 1953, they performed a system of refueling in the air simultaneously two MIG-15 from the TU-4 tanker. The refueling points were two - on wing tips. The cables were not used. Hoses with cones were produced, which docked with special telescopic rods, fixed on the bow of the fighter.

However, it received its greatest development and use on the TU-16 airplane. This Soviet bomber replaced the TU-4 and began to be used since 1953. An active role here was played by a refueled airplane. It came up behind to the right of the tanker, and at that time let out from the tip of the right console fuel hose with a stabilizing parachute and a lock on the end. The hose completely left the wing and then a 30 meter long cable attached to it emerged. The receiver aircraft "lay down" the left plane on the hose and, by its evolution, tried to hit the hose lock in the annular hook on the lower part of the plane, after which an automatic coupling took place and the hose was attached to the inlet fueling device on the wing.

After the last serious work on the creation of systems for refueling in the air, which took place in the 1950s, there had been some calm in this area. However, with the advent of the air force of the new front-line bomber SU-24 (1975), the task was to improve its combat capabilities, and specifically the range. This was especially true for the European theater of military operations. The bomber had to reach anywhere in Europe. Many existing tankers by that time were already outdated, and the remaining could not be the best option for SU-24. The most correct idea was to use for the refueling in the air the same, the same type of aircraft, and without any cardinal alterations and based on the same airfield.

With the introduction of the new frontline Sukhoi Su-24 (1975) bomber into the Soviet Unions Air Force, scientists began developing new uniform suspended refueling units for the plane, since it lacked a bombing bay. The Su-24 was partnered with the Il-78 tanker, which could be best suited for these purposes, both in terms of technical parameters and the speed of its flight. The idea of creating a tanker based on the IL-76 arose in 1968, when this carrier was only being developed. The new tanker was named IL-78 (NATO- Midas classification ). He made his first flight in 1983, and began to enter the army from 1987 (due to a fairly long debugging).

Since the late 1980s, in-flight refueling capabilities were built into all newly developed tactical aircraft, including the Su-24M, MiG-29, MiG-31, the Su-27 series, some MiG-25 models, and the heavy Tu-95MS, Tu-160, A-50, and Il-80 aircraft. New tankers were also developed, including fighter-tankers, as well as the new hope for Russian strategic aviation, a modified Il-78M.




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Page last modified: 31-08-2018 19:29:50 ZULU