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Su-15 - 1948 (SUKHOI)

The 1948 SU-15 should not be confused with the totally unrelated Su-15 Flagon. In 1948, a requirement for an all-weather interceptor resulted in development of three different two-engine, radar-equipped prototypes-the Su-15, the La 200A, and the MiG-310. Of the three aircraft, the MiG was the first to successfully fly. The SU-15 crashed in 1949, the MiG performed successfully in the winter and the Lavochkin flew in February. These were awkward designs which attempted to incorporate two centrifugal flow engines and a radar in the same fuselage. They were dropped in favor of a radar modification of the MiG-15 - a short-range interim expedient.

Among Sukhoi's ill-fated activities was a 1948 attempt at an all-weather interceptor, the SU-15. It featured a curious staggered fuselage arrangement of the production version of the Nene engine, the RD-45. The SU-15 would have been a heavy machine with a radome to house an Air Intercept scanner mounted over a common opening which served both engines. The aircraft would have featured a good 750-mile radius and transonic speed, but unfortunately it disintegrated in one of its first flights in 1949.

It is likely that none of the three models were passed after it was found that the rather primitive Izumrud radar could be fitted to the MiG-15. The fuselage mounting of two large centrifugal engines in the fuselage was an ungainly, inefficient and expensive arrangement without compensating advantages in range. Further, the short acquisition range of the Izumrud may have made greater demands on maneuverability than either aircraft seemed to offer, especially when compared with the MiG-15. Nevertheless, the SU-15, the La-200, and the I-320 do indicate the order of Soviet priorities. Attention was first focused on the achievement of a world standard day interceptor. Then, and only then, did the focus shift to an all-weather capability. The requirement appears to have been dropped when it was found to be technologically inconvenient; a simpler expedient was adopted instead.

The failures of the SU-15 with the post war purges cast a long shadow through Soviet aviation history. Sukhoi's post war record, to those who did not appreciate a number of his technical innovations, appeared to be a series of disasters. Judged by a more objective standard, he was the only major designer who had failed to create a jet prototype suitable for series production.

During the post war period when it seems that every sector of the Soviet society required a ritual "cleansing" Sukhoi's was the obvious target among the design bureaus. Although Sukhoi does not appear to have been imprisoned, his design bureau was disbanded in 1949. The long shadow is this. On the Sukhoi drawing boards was a design, the SU-17, which might have been the first totally supersonic Soviet aircraft.

Such was the success of Sukhoi's 1956-version SU-9 and SU-11 that he is sometimes credited for breaking the sound barrier with the earlier design that never flew. Advanced aircraft concepts such as were seen in 1956 might have been available to the Soviets three or four years earlier had it not been for the purge of the Sukhoi bureau.







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