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On 10 March 1928, NTK (science – technical complex) VVS RKKA approved requirements for building two types of armored sturmovik aircraft: one light, agile single engine and a more heavy two-engine design. But ten years later that project was not accomplished because of the lack of a powerful engine, necessary quality of armor (strong but light), and worse cooling of engines under armor. Fielded planes also were hampered by poor visibility from the cockpit.

Since at that time the legislator of aviation fashion was the US, it was there that all Soviet views were directed. As a result, when by the end of 1935 information was leaked to Moscow about the new lightweight bomber "Vultee" V-11. This was an attack-bomber development of the V-1 airliner. Normally, it had a radial engine and a tail fin similar to the V-1. The XA-19A version had a an experimental 1200hp Lycoming inline engine and extended tail fin.

Reporting to the People's Commissar of Defense KE Voroshilov on the plans to acquire aviation licenses in the United States, the Chief of Staff of the RKKA Air Force, V.K. Lavrov, stressed that "The Vultee attack plane has exceptionally high speed and range data." In comparison with the morally obsolete Soviet ground-attack biplanes R-5Sh and SSS so it was. As a result, V-11 was included in the list for the purchase of licenses, approved by the decision of the Council of Labor and Defense (SRT - then analog of the Council of Ministers) on April 11, 1935. Soon negotiations with the management of the company "Vultee" began.

Although many of these V-11 aircraft were exported, the US Army Air Corps rejected it after a few were service-tested briefly. It is probably just as well that they did, because this would probably have turned out to be the US equivalent of the RAF's Fairey Battle. The Army Air Corps decided that they preferred larger, twin-engine, aircraft for this particular combat role, such as the Douglas A-20 Havoc.

In September 1936, the Soviet foreign trade organization Amtorg concluded an agreement with the concern Airplane Development Corporation, which was then part of the Vultee company, according to which the General Directorate of the aviation industry under the Narkomtyazhprom (GKAP NKTP) acquired licenses for the construction of V-11 in variants (V-11G) and a light bomber (V-11GB).

The American side provided working drawings, specifications, various instructions and descriptions, lists of materials and purchased products, documentation of machine tools and technological processes, aircraft flight and ground test data, blowing in wind tunnels, materials for strength calculations, more than 300 photos of parts, assemblies and aggregates in different stages of production. Separate applications provided for the purchase of aircraft samples, parts, assemblies and units for the deployment of mass production. Subsequently, the contract was supplemented with a paragraph on the transfer of all drawings to the metric system.

The US Wright-Cyclone SR-1820-F was produced in USSR under license under the designation M-25. And the VISH-2PA screw, chosen for BSh-1, also differed little from the original "Hamilton", as it was also based on the American license.

The Vultee factory delivered four airframes, two complete with a Cyclone engine and the others without powerplants. In the following two years, 31 Soviet renditions of the V-11GB, modified by Sergei Kocherigin to accomodate a 750 hp M-62IR radial engine, were built in Moscow and called BSh-1 (for Bronirovanniy Shturmovik-1, or Armored Attack Plane-1).

In the unfolding of production, they faced enormous difficulties - BSh-1 was all-metal, and earlier the aircraft produced by the plant had a predominantly wooden structure. In general, the unusual design and materials, unfamiliar technology, the saturation of the aircraft with electrical equipment that did not have Soviet counterparts, seriously hampered construction.

As a result, the first aircraft produced did not even pass military acceptance. And this despite the fact that the first five aircraft were actually assembled from parts delivered from the USA. That is, the level of Soviet industry of that period did not allow to effectively establish even a "screwdriver" assembly of a foreign aircraft. And this was by 1938.

Full combat tests of BSH1 in 1937 showed it had poor combat effectiveness because of weak defensive weapons and lack of armor for crew and vital parts of the aircraft. Soviet experts also found the armament of the American attack aircraft obsolete. The rear installation had small angles of fire and did not provide adequate protection against the fighters; the lower hemisphere remained completely open to enemy attacks. Training fights with the I-16 type 4 showed that the V-11G can neither escape the fighter, nor evade its fire. Combined with the low efficiency of defensive weapons, this meant that, in case of interception, the aircraft was doomed to perish.

In April 1938 the Defense Committee passed a resolution that said literally the following: "The Vultee aircraft of Plant No. 1 does not meet modern tactical and technical requirements, on this basis it does not have prospects for further development."

On the other hand, in many respects the design was much ahead of the Soviet aircraft manufacturers. In the report of the Air Force Research Institute, it was written: "By its design, by the applied details (open profiles) and materials (corrosion-resistant alloy, plastic), by the production technology (casting, stamping), the Volga aircraft is a good model for introduction into our aircraft industry new types of technological processes, new types of parts and materials, which makes it easier to carry out mass production of aircraft."

Both TsAGI and the Air Force Research Institute noted numerous successful discoveries by American designers. Comfortable comfortable cabin with excellent visibility, reliable chassis shock absorption, efficient brakes characterized the car from the positive side. Of great interest was the mechanism for cleaning the main chassis legs with a self-locking worm; such a stance could not spontaneously form on the landing. The skilled struggle of Americans with vibrations surprised. The dampers of the motors completely absorbed the oscillations, not transferring them to the fuselage.

In 1938 a government commission headed by TsAGI chief N.M. Kharlamov and chief designer A.N. Tupolev purchased in the United States a license to produce the best, for that time, passenger aircraft Douglas DC-3 and its military transport variant Douglas C-47 (in the USSR it was manufactured under the name PS-84, then Li-2). They were the best and most reliable passenger and military transport aircraft of the Second World War.

On January 2, 1938, the head of the St. Petersburg State University, SV Ilyushin, put in his letter an ultimatum to the military: either give clearly formulated and real requirements for changes, supported by design documentation, or the plant starts the production of cars in accordance with the previously received Defense Committee resolution. They did not manage to prepare anything concrete by this time and came to the "Solomon's decision" - while doing the old model, and then we'll see. By that time, proposals began to be limited to the release of 100 BSh-1, and then to replace it with a new airplane or a product of "deep modernization" of "Vultee".

Work on the modified version of the BSh-1 moved slowly. OKB-1 was distracted by parallel work on the R-9 scout, and the management of the plant, which produced mainly fighters, was aware of the growing futility of improving "Vultee".

The next several years saw the production of multi-functional aircraft and the debugging of BSh-1 production. in early 1939, one of the BSh-1, equipped with a new engine M-62IR (with a single-speed supercharger instead of a two-speed engine), was brought to state tests. In tests head BSh-1 failed miserably. In the conclusions of the report, the Air Force Research Institute wrote: "The aircraft BSh-1 M-62IR does not meet the modern requirements for the attack aircraft and light bomber, either for flight-technical data, for defense capability, or for a survey from the cabin during the wind measurement and bombing."

Indeed, the original V-11G in 1937 was inferior to many domestic and foreign aircraft of this class, and the BSh-1 in 1939 differed from it only for the worse. The Soviet variant became heavier (the flight weight in the variant of the attack aircraft was 4,056 kg against 4,015 kg, with a lower combat load), and the engine power fell.

These activities overloaded the scientific and experimental–industrial complex. Because of that, all work on specialized “battlefield” aircraft was practically stopped, which had serious after effects for the country’s defense, and extended the time before special ground force support aircraft entered the AF RKKA. Development of the multi-functional aircraft delayed production of this plane a minimum of two years. The result was that the country did not have enough time for proving the value of battlefield aviation and in the initial phase of the Great Patriotic War the RKKA fought without fire support from the air.

The poor performance of the BSh-1 removed them from the attack bomber role and they were transferred to Aeroflot under the new name PS-43 (for Poschtoviy Samolyot-43, or Postal Airplane-43) as long distance mail carriers for the Moscow-Kiev and Moscow-Tashkent routes. They were employed in liaison duties by the VVS throughout the Great Patriotic War, and the survivors were retired by 1947.

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Page last modified: 30-08-2018 17:21:18 ZULU