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Heavy bomber TB-3 (ANT-6)

The Heavy bomber TB-3 (ANT-6) was a four-engine all-metal cantilever monoplane with fixed landing gear and corrugated skin. The development began in 1925. In 1930, ANT-6 prototype aircraft performed its first flight, and in 1932, the first production airplane took off the ground. The batch production continued until 1938, with 819 aircraft released in total in several versions, differing in engines (M-17, M -34 and their variants), armament and equipment. Its best versions with M-34RN engines had maximum speed within 270-380 km/h, service ceiling of about 7,000 m, with takeoff weight of more than 19 tons, and could carry 2,000 kg of bombs, fly up to 3,000 km and had defensive armament of 4 machine-guns ShKAS. Earlier versions with M-17 engines had significantly lower performance (this was the majority of the produced TB-3 version).

The huge plane was hardly mastered in production. The existing technological level clearly did not correspond to the complexity of TB-3. There was a bad fit of aircraft parts, careless handling of joints, non-interchangeability of units on machines of even one series, waviness of the wing surface. Especially many claims were made to the assembly and leveling of the bomber. TB-3 due to the requirement of the possibility of transportation by rail was divided into a very large number of nodes, even the wing was divided not only across, but also along. So, all this was collected with great difficulty. For example, sections of the wing were not lying on the same plane. The slots in the junctions were gaping so that they were stuck in the canvas for the winter so that snow did not pile up. It's not necessary to talk about what happened inside the plane.

Nevertheless, all the new aircraft came out of the shops. For the first quarter of 1932, 46 TB-3 passed through military acceptance, approximately two-thirds of the plan. These planes lacked sights, radio stations, bomb racks, machine guns. The planes were handed over "conditionally", under the guarantee letters of the plant, to send all that was missing when they were received directly into the military units. Well, the most incomplete bombers settled at the factory airfield. Therefore, in reality the Air Force received significantly fewer machines than were assembled.

TB-3 happened to be a "Soldier of 1941" - these airplanes and their crews did their duty in the most difficult time for the country. That’s why, on August 18, 1945, at the first post-war air parade three TB-3s were done an honor to fly at the parade column with modern airplanes. TB-3 (ANT-6) aircraft were primarily used as bombers, military transport and paratroop airplanes. At the beginning of the war, the Civil Air Fleet had 45 cargo G-2s, and with the beginning of the war they were joined by several ANT-6A of Polar aviation. In 1941 and 1942, these airplanes performed transport and landing operations with TB-3s at the combatant zone. G-2s, left at the rear, were used for cargo and even for passenger transport.

The TB-3, along with I-16, was the main milestone of the pre-war aircraft industry. A huge, four-engine, all-metal aircraft often appeared on newsreels and newspaper pages of those years. Many interesting pages of history are connected with it: the first parachute landing, Vakhmistrov's experiments on the creation of an aircraft, flight across Europe.

Several TB-3 made a series of flights to Warsaw, Rome and Paris. "The Parade Ten" made a proper impression in European capitals. The entire officer and engineering staff was extremely interested in the aircraft, seeing in them a successful solution to the problem of a heavy bomber aircraft. Everyone stressed the surprise that such a large aircraft has high flight data.

The opinions expressed in European newspapers were generally close to panic. So, one of the leading reporters of the British weekly "Independent" wrote, "while in Europe they are arguing about the value of Douhet's theory, the Reds actually implemented it, demonstrating powerful four-engine bombers substantially superior to British cars of the same purpose", and the correspondent of the French Petit Parisienne in general hysterically stated that "five hundred Russian bomb-carriers can crush Europe as a rotten egg ..."

The truth was part of this, since the biplane fighters with a pair, less often a quartet of rifle-caliber machine guns, which were available at that time in the armed forces of all European countries without exception, were almost powerless in front of the armadas of Soviet four-engine bombers, moreover, they had sufficiently powerful defensive weapons, the effectiveness of which increased even more in the case of massive application of TB-3 in dense battle formations, which in fact was worked out during the exercises.

The airplane was used in operations in China, at Khasan Lake, during Nomonhan Incident and occupation of Western Ukraine and Belarus, during the Winter War and the occupation of the Baltic States and Bessarabia. Units of TB-3 were the first in history that were able to solve strategic missions. It is TB-3 that was the basis for strategic bombers units in the Soviet Union for the first time in the world, that were intended for bombing territories of European countries and Japan. In the second half of the 1930s, with the development of air defense and fighter airplanes, TB-3 outdated and gradually began to be discarded from service.

ANT-16 (TB-4) prototype heavy bomber was a further development of TB-3 scheme and its technical solutions in the direction of increasing weight-size parameters and engine power. First flight was in July 3, 1933.

Before starting the war for the seizure of Europe, Stalin was to conduct a disinformation war. The aircraft "TB-3" took part in this war. By 1939, they certainly are outdated. But, given the fact that Finnish aviation was small and consisted mainly of obsolete aircraft, the Soviet side could successfully use these outdated bombers. Finnish fighters flew twice as fast as TB-3. But in fact "TB-3" were not defenseless lambs. Each of them had 6-7 machine guns for self-defense. Operating in dense lines in large groups, they could protect each other with the fire of machine guns from Finnish fighters, and bomb the Finnish cities with bombs. Stalin could provide them with security, giving them even a small fighter cover. After all, Finnish fighter pilots avoided fighting with Soviet counterparts.

Several dozen TB-3 heavy bombers participated in the Winter War (for example, they had the 9th mixed air regiment). They worked mostly at night, hitting large objects in the enemy's rear, and before the breakthrough, the lines of Mannerheim switched to bombing its fortifications. Here they were indispensable: no other Soviet aircraft could lift a 2,000-kg bomb. But, for the most part, FAB-250 and FAB-500 were in the process. The bombing was carried out from a height of 1500-2000 meters. Usually, TB-3 flew in groups of 3-9 cars, they did not produce massive raids.

For a convincing victory, the Soviet command could throw hundreds of TB-3 against Finland, and instead threw a few dozen. TB-3 was created for action by large groups, and they were used in small groups. The fighters, for cover, they did not give. All this was done not by mistake, but by design, so red strategists played with the Finns. At the same time, during the Winter War, the Finns managed to shoot down only two old and slow-moving bombers "TB-3".

By June 22, 1941, Soviet Air Force had 516 TB-3s in the ranks, and another 25 belonged to naval aviation. TB-3s were located at the airfields relatively far from the western border, that’s why they avoided catastrophic losses from the first German air strikes. Amid large losses of other airplanes, TB-3s initially formed a significant part of bomber aviation.

And no matter how some pseudo-historians tried to blacken TB-3, it made an immeasurable contribution to the victory over fascism. Relatively large losses of these aircraft were only in the initial period (most of them were lost on the ground), and after the transition to night bombing were counted in units. The enemy at first disregarded this aircraft. On the fourth day of the war Halder noted in his diary: "the Russians switched to the use of old slow-moving four-engine bombers - they say that the affairs of the Reds are quite bad ..." After each night battle with TB-3, their "Messerschmitts" drew notes about the next air victory won. But the day passed, the night came, and the "downed" giants flew again to bomb the enemy.

By 1941 almost all "TB-3" served as transport aircraft. In 1941, German aviation concentrated near the borders of the USSR. Under the Stalinist plan, Soviet aviation itself had to strike a sudden blow at the sleeping airfields of Germany and its allies. In this operation, any, even the most outdated aircraft could participate. Given the surprise factor and the multiple numerical superiority of Soviet aviation over enemy aircraft, one can not doubt that after the first strike, enemy planes would rarely appear in the sky. However, Hitler's attack broke all plans of Soviet military leaders. German aviation from the first minutes of the war seized the initiative, in such an environment it was impossible to use the "TB-3" as a bomber. It was impossible to use "TB-3" and to drop paratroopers into the rear of the enemy, since in the course of defensive battles there is no sense at all, to conduct airborne operations.

These slow-moving giants in the superiority of the German air force were very vulnerable during the day but quite successfully performed their functions at night. Already overnight into June 23, TB-3s from the 3rd Heavy bombers aviation regiment rained heavy bombs on enemy troops in areas of Seima, Sopotskin, Radin and Vengrov. The next day, TB-3s from the 1st and 3rd TBAP hammered the airfields in Suwalki, Mozhedov, Bela-Podlyask and Ostroleka with cluster bombs. However, the critical situation at the front forced use of these airplanes for striking German columns during the day.

Basically, TB-3s flew to the target without fighter cover and bombed targets from low and medium altitudes, which resulted in heavy losses. For example, in the afternoon on June 26, three TB-3s from the 1st TBAP tried to bomb the crossing of the Berezina river, but were shot down by messerschmitts (the episode was precisely reproduced in the film "The Living and the Dead" based on the similarly-named novel by Konstantin Simonov), however, the same night TB-3s completed another task without loss.

Gradually, military commanders completely switched TB-3s to the night actions, so they bombed the communications near Minsk, Mogilev, Galich and Smolensk. In the night into July 12, the 1st and 3rd TBAP attacked rear German airfields, inflicting heavy losses on the German bombers. Efficiency and intensity of combat operations for the airplanes of this class was high enough (sometimes there were up to three successful sorties during the night) due to the high level of pre-war crews (after all, that was the elite of the Red Army Air Force) and relatively good invulnerability of TB-3. Despite the loss due to TB-3 transfer from the rear areas, the number of the airplanes at the front was relatively large: by July 22, there were 51 TB-3s operating, and by August 22 – already 127. They made up a quarter of the long-range bombers fleet operating at the front (four of the six long-range bombers aviation divisions flew TB-3).

At the same time Black Sea Fleet began to use their TB-3s as composite dive bomber. Works on the fighter-carrying aircraft under "Zveno" project based on TB-1 and TB-3 were conducted in the Soviet Union before the war for several years and by the beginning of the war it became possible to convert a small number of TB-3s to dive bombers, carrying modified I-16 fighters (one TB-3 with two I-16 under the wing). On August 1, two TB-3s, each carrying two I-16s suspended under the wing, started out for the raid on Constantsa. When it was 40 km from the target I-16s separated from the carriers and each dropped two 250 kg bombs to the oil storage tanks, and then went, lossless, to the base near Odessa. In total, all operations involved 6 TB-3 and 12 I-16. The most famous operation became raids on well protected Chernovodskiy Bridge on August 11 and 13 - as a result of them, a pipeline was broken and the bridge supports were damaged. There were a few more successful attacks. After the arrival of the Germans to Perekop, SPB were switched to attacks of the nearest tactical targets, and in the autumn of 1942, all operations of the remaining "Zveno" were stopped due to the high vulnerability of aircraft carriers.

In addition to the bombing raids, TB-3s played an important role as a transport aircraft. At night they air dropped reconnaissance and sabotage units, and supplied the Red Army units, surrounded by enemies. Within the first five months of 1941 2,797 tons of cargo and 2,300 people were transferred to the Western Front. During the combat actions at Orel, units of the 5th corps of Airborne Forces were transferred there from Yaroslavl by TB-3 and G-2 (unarmed TB-3 of CAF) and were thrown into battle with the Germans rushing forward. During the “Vyazma catastrophy” in October 1941, TB-3s were methodically supplying surrounded units with food, fuel and ammunition, which allowed perishing forces continue to resist, thereby chaining German units to them and giving the command of the Red Army to win days and hours for the organization of defense of Moscow that were of great importance. TB-3s supplied the besieged Leningrad and also took evacuees from there. TB-3s took an active part in the Battle of Moscow, night bombing German mobile mechanical divisions and their rears.

Losses of TB-3s continued to be replenished by TB-3s coming from the rear (including the airplanes released in the first years), which allowed maintaining the combat capability of the units flying these bombers. In January 1942, TB-3s were used for landing of troops when the Soviet forces were attacking Germans units near Moscow. In total, two battalions and one regiment were air dropped near Viyazma.

Since the establishment of Long Range Aviation in 1942, most of the remaining TB-3s were included in it. During 1942 TB-3s were used as a part of Long Range Aviation for transport, landing of troops and bomb attacks. TB-3s dropped supplies for troops ringed under Demiyansk, supplied main division of General Belov located in the rear of the Germans near Viyazma in the summer of 1942. TB-3s bombed railway junction in Briyansk with FAB-2000 bombs, as well as crossings of river Don and the German troops on the outskirts of the city during the Battle of Stalingrad.

In the summer of 1943, TB-3s participated in the Battle of Kursk attacking the German armored units. At the end of September 1943, TB-3s took part in a mass parachute assault on Bukrin bridgehead near Kiev. The operation was planned in haste by order of Zhukov and was intended to relieve the German pressure on the troops landed on the bridgehead. As a result, the airplanes were over the concentration of German troops who opened heavy fire at low-flying aircraft from all kinds of weapons, from machine guns and rifles to anti-aircraft guns. The result of the operation was large losses of aircraft and paratroopers (among 7,000 paratroopers only 2,300 soldiers and officers went to partisans and continued to fight, and the rest were killed or captured by the Germans).

In 1943, TB-3s began to be gradually withdrawn to the rear units, where they continued to be used as transport and training. Yet, by July 1, 1945, 20 TB-3s were still a part of combat units of the 18th Air Army (Long Range Aviation).

In combat operation, the Tupolev giant showed true miracles. It could fly from the plowed fields, make landings in the snow up to 1 m deep. I drove heavy oversized cargoes - T-38 tanks, GAZ trucks, artillery ... On the outside, it worked extremely hard. By the end of the first year of the war, a significant number of TB-3 crews had carried out 100 sorties each, and by the end of the Battle of Stalingrad some had up to 200 of them.

The labor of the pilots who flew on TB-3 was noted with dignity - one of the first regiments that received the Guards title was the 250th TBAP. The disadvantages of this machine, too, was enough, but at the time of its appearance it was the only one in its class. Famous B-17 and Velington appeared later, and they should not be compared with Tb-3, but with Pe-8 and Il-4.

1932 1933 1934 1935 1936 1937 1938
Plant # 22
TB-3/M-17 155 200 — — — — —
TB-3/M-34 — 70 41 — — — —
TB-3/M -34 R — — 85 65 — — —
TB-3/M -34 RB — — — 8 15 — —
TB-3/M -34 RN — — — 1 100 22 1
Factory # 39
TB-3/M-17 5 37 8 — — — —
Plant # 18
TB-3/M-17 — — 5 — — 1 —
Technical characteristics TB-3 (ANT-6)
Type Heavy bomber
First flight December 22, 1930
Adopted 1932
Disarmed 1939 (officially), (used until 1945)
Developer Tupolev
Manufacturer Plant No. 22 (Moscow, Fili), Plant number 39 (Moscow), Voronezh plant p / y 71
Crew 8 people
Cruising speed 196 km / h
Max. Speed 230 km / h
Flight range 2000 km
Practical ceiling 4800 m
Combat ceiling 3800 m
Lifting speed 110 m / min
Length 24.4 m / 79.3 feet
Height 8.50 m
Wing span 41.80 m
Wing area 234.5 m²
Chassis non-retractable, with tail wheel
Weight Empty 11.200 kg
Weight Max. 19.300 kg
Engines 4 12-cylinder Mikulin M17F, 525 kW (715 hp) each
Rifle and cannon armament 8 7.62mm machine guns YES on turrets
Internal bombing load 2000 kg of bombs, up to 5000 kg

TB-3 (ANT-6)

TB-3 (ANT-6)

TB-3 (ANT-6) TB-3 (ANT-6) TB-3 (ANT-6) TB-3 (ANT-6) TB-3 (ANT-6) TB-3 (ANT-6) TB-3 (ANT-6)

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Page last modified: 30-08-2018 17:21:19 ZULU