TB-7, Pe-8 (ANT-42) vs B-17 Flying Fortress
|TB-7 ANT-42 / Pe-8||B-17|
|Country of origin||USSR||USA|
|Year of production||1940||1937|
|Weight, take-off||36,000 kg |
|Wing span|| 39.1 m |
|Bomb load|| 2000-4000 kg |
|Engine|| 4 x 1700 hp ||4 x 1000 hp|
|Speed|| 425 km/h |
|500 km/h |
|Ceiling practical|| 7,000 m |
|Flight range|| 4,700-5,800 km|
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.
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