Nikolai Nikolaevich Polikarpov
Before the Great Patriotic War, practically all the fighter planes that were in service with the Soviet Air Force were created in the design bureau of NN Polikarpv. Between 1934 and 1942, aircraft factories produced more than 16,000 I-16, I-15, I-15bis and I-153 fighters. A significant part of this winged armada took part in air battles from 1936 to 1945.
Everybody knows about such aircraft of the Second World War as "Yak", "Lavochkin", "MiG", everyone at least heard something about "Tupolev", "Il" and about the company "Sukhoi". Today only the Po-2 biplane is a reminder of the largest aircraft designer of the USSR at the beginning of the 20th century, The irony is that Polikarpov was called the "king of fighters": for more than 10 years in the 1930s, the USSR Air Force was armed only with its aircraft.
The legendary Soviet aircraft designer Nikolai Nikolaevich Polikarpov was born June 8, 1892, into a family of a village priest. After graduating from the Spiritual School, he, against the will of his father, passes examinations for the course of the gymnasium externally and in 1911 he entered the mechanical department of the St. Petersburg Polytechnic Institute. Since 1914, carried away by aviation, he was also involved in aeronautical courses at the shipbuilding department of the institute.
After graduating from the institute, Nikolai Nikolaevich started working at the aviation department of the Russian-Baltic Carriage Factory, which was headed by the famous aircraft designer Igor Sikorsky. After the revolution, Sikorski, because of his origin, fell into disgrace and was forced to emigrate to the United States. He invited Polikarpov, promising ideal conditions for creativity, but Nikolai Nikolaevich refused.
From August 1918, the young engineer has been working at the Moscow aircraft factory "Dux", later renamed State Aviation Plant No. 1 (GAZ No. 1), as head of the technical department. For several years, he has been working on improving the products, redesigning the "Newpores", "Farmanov" and "De Havilland" for the available engines, equipment and materials. The most ambitious work carried out at GAZ No. 1 until the mid-1920s was the preparation for serial production according to Russian standards and from the Russian materials of an English DH-9 aircraft, which became known as P-1(scout first). The greatest role in this activity belonged to NN Polikarpov, therefore this aircraft is quite legitimate sometimes called the first airplane of his design.
Airplanes before the war were called not by the names of the main designers, but by serial designations: reconnaissance R-1, heavy bomber TB-3, fighter I-16. In the spring of 1923 Polikarpov created the first Soviet I-1 fighter (IL-400), which became the world's first fighter-free monoplane. In 1923, under the leadership of Polikarpov, a reconnaissance R-1 was created. In January 1925 N.N.P. (after the departure of DP Grigorovich to Leningrad) achieved organization of GAZ 1 named after them. Aviakhim of the experimental department and became his boss. In February 1926 NN Polikarpova was appointed the head of the department of land aircraft construction (CCA) Central Design Bureau Aviatrust. In 1927 he created the I-3 fighter, in 1928 - reconnaissance R-5 (was widely known in connection with the rescue of the Chelyuskin steamer expedition), the U-2 initial training aircraft, which became world-famous and renamed Po-2 after the death of the designer. During this time, more than 40 thousand cars were produced, over 100,000 pilots were trained on them. During the Great Patriotic War U-2 was successfully used as scouts, night bombers. These aircraft were one of the best aircraft of their time, and this is in conditions of extreme shortage of aircraft materials.
In November 1929 Polikarpov was arrested by the OGPU on charges of "participating in a counter-revolutionary wrecking organization" and sentenced to death without trial. After two months of waiting for the execution of the sentence, in December of the same year he was sent to the "sharashka" - the Special Design Bureau (TsKB-39 OGPU). Here, together with D.P.Grigorovich and other designers in 1930 Polikarpov developed an I-5 fighter that was in service for over 9 years. In 1931, the OGPU collegium sentenced Polikarpov to ten years in the camps, but after a successful show to Stalin of the I-5 it was decided to consider the verdict conditional.
After the arrest of A.N. Tupolev, N.N. Polikarpov was appointed Chief Designer of the aircraft plant No. 156 (ZOK TsAGI). From February 1933 to July 1936 Polikarpov works as the head of the brigade No. 2 of the Central Design Bureau on the basis of the aircraft plant No. 39. This is the "sharaga". On August 11, 1936 Polikarpov was appointed chief designer of two factories: No. 84 in Khimki and No. 21 in Gorky. KB Polikarpova (104 people) relocated to the plant number 84. In early January 1938, his design bureau moved from plant No. 84. By the end of 1938, an I-180 fighter was built-the development of the I-16 with an M-87 engine.
Polikarpov was a "white crow" in the USSR in the 1930s. He never was in the party, wore a cross and attended the church, and was not at all embarrassed, but with the party leadership and even with Stalin himself, he behaved boldly enough. One of his colleagues, designer Vasily Tarasov , talked about the following case. In May 1935, after Valery Chkalov brilliantly demonstrated the Polikarpov I-16 development aircraft to Stalin, he decided to drive Polikarpov and Tarasov home. The car was seven-seater. Stalin - on the back seat, the driver and the guard in front, and the aircraft designers were located on the folding seats. Stalin asked: "Now, Nikolai Nikolayevich, do you know what is common between us?" "I do not know," replied Polikarpov. "It's very simple: you studied in the seminary, and I studied in the seminary - that's what we have in common. And do you know what makes us different? You graduated from seminary, and I did not. " Polikarpov calmly replied: "This is evident, Iosif Vissarionovich."
In 1939 Polikarpov was sent on a business trip to Germany. In his absence, the plant's director Pavel Voronin and chief engineer PV Dementyev separated from the KB some of the divisions and the best designers (including Mikhail Gurevich) and organized a new Experienced Design Department, and in fact - a new design bureau led by Artem Mikoyan, brother of the People's Commissar for Foreign Trade of the USSR Anastas Mikoyan. At the same time, Mikoyan was given the project of a new I-200 fighter (the future MiG-1), which Polikarpov sent to the People's Commissariat of the Aircraft Industry (NKAP) for approval before his trip.
Under the Polikarpov Design Bureau, in the old hangar on the outskirts of Khodynka, a new state plant No. 51 was created, which had no production base or even buildings to house the KB. Nevertheless, the designer was able to create on this site the best experiental fighters of the Second World War - I-180 and I-185.
Structurally, these machines were modifications to the most mass-produced aircraft of the USSR at that time, the I-16, and the main idea was that it would be much easier to introduce them into batch production than to redesign plants for the production of new machines. This was especially important on the eve of the war, when every hour counted. However, the beginning of the serial production of I-180 was prevented by death in the first test flight of Valery Chkalov.
Many books have been written about the death of a famous pilot, many versions have been put forward, but it is still impossible to say that the plane is to blame for the tragedy. The flight mission included take-off, circle above the airfield and landing. Chkalov, having made the first circle above the airfield, left on the second big circle, flying out of the field, and at that very moment the M-88 engine, which was badly brought to that moment, died out at the moment. The pilot could barely reach the runway, when landing outside, the plane caught on the wires, and the pilot hit his head on the metal reinforcement, which appeared on the site of the fall, and died in the hospital two hours later. For the sake of justice it is worth noting that numerous accidents and deaths of pilots on the tests of other aircraft did not prevent their launch into mass production.
The death of V.P.Chkalov drove Polikarpov into disgrace. His deputy, the leading designer D. Tomashevich, the director of the plant No. 156 Usachev, etc., was arrested. His only escape from arrest was the fact that he refused to sign the act of readiness of the aircraft for the first flight and Bajdukov's petition. In May 1939, work on the I-180 was transferred to the State Aviation Plant No. 1. The design bureau was also transferred here, and Polikarpov became the technical director and chief designer of the plant. In parallel with the high-speed I-180 Polikarpov continued the line of maneuverable biplanes - I-190 (1939).
With Polikarpov fighters, the situation really was more than ugly: there is no motor, there is no excess metal, there are no machines, no qualified workers. The main thing is that there were no motors for Polikarpov's planes. And this is the main problem. Polikarpov was an excellent designer, who knew how to build airplanes. But when choosing engines for their development, the designer made a fatal mistake, making a bet on new developments. Klimov and Shvetsov could not provide a promising fighter of Polikarpov with promising M-107 and M-71 (or M-90) engines.
The I-185, the last fighter of Polikarpov, at the end of 1941, in terms of the sum of the characteristics in the prototypes exceeded all the serial Soviet and foreign piston fighters of those years. The aircraft with the LTX (flight-technical characteristics), comparable to the I-185 (La-7), was only released by mid-1944. However, instead of this aircraft, fighter planes with inferior characteristics - Yak-1, MiG-1, LaGG-3 - aircraft were launched into series production. Polikarpov lost to the younger designers.
The first I-185 flight was made on January 11, 1941, and on November 18, 1942, after the evacuation of the plant from Moscow, the reference I-185 specimen entered the state tests at the Air Force Research Institute. Moreover, at the end of December 1942, the plane passed front-line tests (participated in battles) on the Kalinin Front, in the 728th Guards Fighter Regiment, and received positive feedback from the pilots. But the launch of the aircraft into batch production was constantly postponed. Realizing that the plane was needed the front, Polikarpov wrote a letter-report on the trials to Stalin, in connection with which a meeting was convened.
Alexander Aleksandrovich Yakovlev, the Deputy People's Commissar of the aviation industry on new technology, as well as the designer of those aircraft that were already in series production - Yak-1, Yak-9 and Yak-7 - (that is, in modern terms, Polikarpov's direct competitor) later described it in his memoirs: "February 16, 1943 in the evening <...> Stalin read aloud a letter from the designer N. N. Polikarpov, in which he reported on a new high-speed fighter that passed factory tests and showed great speed. He asked: "What do you know about this aircraft?" "A good aircraft, the speed is really great." Stalin immediately replied: "You give up your corporate morality." Do not want to offend the designer, speak well. "How impartial?"
Shahurin and I [People's Commissar of the aviation industry - approx. Ed.] tried to objectively evaluate the machine and give it the most comprehensive description possible ... <...> Stalin was interested in the range of the flight. We called the range number. Stalin: "Is it checked in flight?" I answer: "No. The range is not checked in flight, it's calculated data." Stalin: "I do not believe the words." First check the range in flight, and then we'll decide how to deal with this aircraft. " And he put Polikarpov's letter aside."
If what is written in Yakovlev's memoirs is true, Stalin was misinformed. The aircraft at that time was not factory tested, but tests in the Air Force Research Institute, the range in flight was checked, and this characteristic was not lower than all those launched in the series of Soviet and German machines of the Second World War. Other letters from Polikarpov to Stalin did not have any effect: the I-185 was not launched into series production.
Since 1940, the persecution of the designer did not cease, his work was hampered and remained an experimental development, the country's leadership received proposals to close its design office. Only in 1942, at one of the major meetings of the leaders of the aviation industry, Stalin took Polikarpov under his protection. In 1943 NN Polikarpov was appointed professor and head of the aircraft constructions department of the Moscow Aviation Institute.
The story with I-185 knocked down the health of Polikarpov. He died on July 30, 1944 from stomach cancer at the age of 52 years. In commemoration of his memory, the U-2 training aircraft from that moment began to be called Po-2 (Polikarpov-2). On the day of NN Polikarpov's funeral, on August 1, 1944, paying tribute to their creator, they flew low over the place of his last rest at the Novodevichy Cemetery.
His early death struck many: he never used alcohol and did not smoke, spent his whole life doing sports and was always full of energy. Polikarpov died painfully, until the last days continuing to lead the design bureau. Knowing that there were very few left, he wrote a note to the Central Committee with requests not to disband the collective, to keep the plant. His wishes were not met - soon after the death of the designer his latest projects were closed, and the KB was disbanded.
Only in 1956 - 12 years after the death of the designer - the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court of the USSR abolished the previous decision of the College of the OGPU and terminated the case against Polikarpov.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|