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TB-7, Pe-8 (ANT-42) vs B-17 Flying Fortress

TB-7 ANT-42 / Pe-8B-17
Country of origin USSRUSA
First Flight 19361935
Year of production 19401937
Weight, take-off 36,000 kg
79,200 lbs
16,800 kg
37,000 lbs.
Wing span 39.1 m
127.1 ft
31.9 m
103.75 ft
Bomb load 2000-4000 kg
2,200 kg
4,800 lbs
Engine 4 x 1700 hp
4 x 1000 hp
Speed 425 km/h
260 mph
500 km/h
300 mph
Ceiling practical 7,000 m
11,700 m
38,000 ft.
Flight range 4,700-5,800 km
2,800-3,500 m
5,800 km
3,600 miles
The TB-7 was a B-17 Flying Fortress "with Soviet characteristics" - not a copy of an American design, but a response seemingly with heavy American influences. The TB-7 is best thought of as representing an intermediate type between the larger and slower B-15, and the smaller and faster B-17. The emergence of the TB-7/ANT-43 was a complete surprise to almost everyone who worked in the USSR for the development of the aviation industry. Launched for testing in December 1939 - just 2 years after the ANT-42 - the aircraft was created in such a deep "conspiracy" even from KB employees that the majority considered "something done" aside by Pyatlyakov and the company, as a regular secret task of the NKVD.

The Soviet heavy bomber comparable to the Western B-17, the TB-7/Pe-8 bore a strong superficial resemblance to its Western counterpart, including a cigar-shaped fuselage surmounted by a dorsal crew cupola. The two aircraft shared a four engine layout, with a glazed nose for the bomber and gun mounts distributed around the fuselaage. The two pilots of the TB-7 sat one after another, like on a fighter plane, while they sat side by side on the B-17, like on a cargo plane.

Comparing World War II bomber aircraft is difficult, as different operating parameters and the rapid pace of change, especially during the war years, makes any form of correlation particularly difficult. During the war years both the Pe-8 and B-17 were extensively modified, up-gunned, and re-engined.

The Petlyakov Pe-8 began in July 1934, when the Soviet government issued a requirement for a new four-engine heavy bomber as a follow-on to the TB-3. The new bomber featured the latest innovations in aircraft design and would operate at high altitude to avoid interception. It would also have a heavy bomb load and strong defensive armament. The engines were to be Mikulin AM-34 water-cooled V-12 engines, then in development, which were expected to provide 840 HP each initially. The Tupolev OKB (experimental design bureau) came up with a design with some general resemblance to the contemporary Boeing XB-15 and B-17 bombers, constructed mostly of metal but with fabric-covered flight control surfaces.

Although the TB-7 was about the same size as the B-17, the Soviet aircraft had a much larger wing area, and a maximum takeoff weight nearly twice that of the American bomber. The maximum speed and practical ceiling of the Soviet bomber were markedly less than that of the American plane, at a time when speed and altitude were at a premium to overcome emerging defenses. The TB-7 maximum range with a 4,400 lbs bomb load was 2,900 miles at a speed of 174 mph. The B-17 could only equal or better this range by using bomb bay fuel tanks which reduced its bomb load to 2,000 lb.

The Pe-8 had both 12.7s and 20mm cannons facing largely to the rear and downwards. It had no real defense from attacks from the side, front, or top. Although the Pe-8 employed heavier weapons, the Pe-8 was less well defended than the B-17, particularly as the American's power turrets were far superior in operation to those on the Russian aircraft. There's no question that was more effective at shooting down planes trailing or even passing behind it than the B-17. The Pe-8, like the other non-US bombers, operated chiefly at night with a view to improving its chances of survival in hostile airspace.

The spectacular massive military use by the Americans of the "Flying Fortresses" B-17, changed the attitude of the leadership of the USSR Air Force to TB-7, the production of which, in the hardest conditions of wartime, was repeatedly renewed. Thus, the aircraft was produced in several small series. The total number of manufactured machines was 93 copies (including two prototypes). In 1942, after the death of VM Petlyakov, the aircraft was given the designation Pe-8. By the end of the war, it was possible to increase the fleet of Pe-8 aircraft a little. In early 1945, the production of Pe-8 was discontinued, since this aircraft no longer met the requirements for aircraft of a similar purpose.

In general, the level of the main systems of mechanization and automation, equipment and mechanisms of the aircraft were far behind its flight characteristics. The backwardness of instrumentation in the USSR affected here; a beautiful, advanced aircraft, far superior in speed, ceiling and other parameters to any existing bomber in the world, could not fully realize its capabilities in combat. The bicycle chassis - first used on such a large aircraft - proved extremely comfortable with the exception of take-off with the maximum weight.

The TB-7 habitability was on a low level than of more comfortable Allied bombers (Soviet engineers developed excellent vehicles but seldom thought about crewmembers to decrease the cost of vehicles, the comfort had insufficient importance for Soviets) - Soviet long-range bomber pilots, who used several B-17s in 1945 mentioned easy control of Boeing during the flight (but worser control duting take-offs) and high level of comfort (good airtightness - Soviet pilots of Pe-8 were used to be at -50, drafts and snow/water inside the cabin at high speeds; as for the toilet - Soviet pilots of Pe-8 used cans for that purpose.

TB-7 (ANT-42 / Pe-8)

TB-7 (ANT-42 / Pe-8)

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Page last modified: 07-09-2018 07:17:56 ZULU