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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


Phantom Bombers

No single development in the post-war period was more charged with significance for the security of the United States than the steps taken by the Soviet Union to build a stockpile or weapons of mass destruction and an air arm capable or delivering them against vital targets in the continental United States. There were broad gaps in available intelligence on Soviet capabilities and intentions, and this imposed a limitation on the finality or the conclusions drawn.

Tu-4Type 31"Volga""Stalin""Lenin"
US EquivalentB-50XB-54B-47 turboB-52MX-2145
MX-1554
IOC19501952195719571958
initial gross weight, lb 175,000225,000170,000400,000200,000
payload, lb10,00010,00010,00010,00010,000
engines, number44484
engines, typepistonpistonturbpropturbojetturbojet +
afterburners
Combat Speed, kts345310414500750
Cruise Speed, kts235?400420565
Combat Altitude, ft35,00035,00047,50050,00050,000
Cruise Altitude, ft25,000?47,50046,00047,500
radius, unrefueled, nm 22003500360031001600
range, unrefueled, nm 40006500~6700~6000~3100
radius, 1 refueling, nm ~3000~4600~4800~4100~2100
range, 1 refueling nm ~5200.........~4300
range, 2 refueling nm ~3700~5900~6100~5100~2700
air distance from Moscow to Washington DC is about 4,200 nautical miles
  • adapted from "Air Defense Study" Rand, R-277 15 October 1951
  • The 1951 RAND "Air Defense Study" noted " more advanced bomber types are possible and aircraft similar to the B-52 and B-47 (with turboprop modification) have been considered. The recent appearance of a new Russian bomber, the Type 31, does not change the situation, as its estimated performance is comparable with that of the TU-4 except for its greater range.

    "It is quite possible that the Russians have under development long-range strategic bombers of appreciably higher performance than the TU-4. Unfortunately, however, there seems to be no definite intelligence data on which to base estimates of their characteristics. It thus becomes necessary to hypothesize one or more future Russian bombers. This has been done by using bomber development trends in this country as a basis and these future bombers have been included in RAND'S defense study to permit a test of United States defenseweapon systems'against them. It is not anticipated that all of these bombers will necessarily be developed. The three bombers postulated are identified in this study as the Stalin, Volga, and Lenin....

    "The Volga is an advanced turboprop airplane whose characteristics are taken from the RAND generalized bomber study. This airplane is also similar, generally, to a possible turboprop version of the B-47. The pertinent characteristics assumed are a target speed of 4l4 knots at 47,500 ft altitude (average cruise speed of 400 knots), a gross weight of approximately 170,000 lb, and a combat radius of 3600 nautical miles; the availability date is assumed to be 1957. This airplane would be capable of round-trip unrefueled attacks against a large percentage of United States targets. Although having somewhat lower performance than the Stalin, this aircraft is physically smaller and less vulnerable. It was included in the study to observe the effect on defense-weapon choice of a change in bomber vulnerability and performance characteristics.....

    "The Stalin is assumed to be an aircraft similar to the USAF B-52. An availability date of 1957 is estimated, together with a target-speed capability of 500 knots at 50,000 ft altitude and 420 knots at 2500 ft. The range capabilities of this aircraft, being much greater than those of the TU-4, are such as to result in considerably lessened operational restrictions. The Volga is an advanced turboprop airplane whose characteristics are taken from the RAND generalized bomber study. This airplane is also similar, generally, to a possible turboprop version of the B-47. The pertinent characteristics assumed are a target speed of 4l4 knots at 47,500 ft altitude (average cruise speed of 400 knots), a gross weight of approximately 170,000 lb, and a combat radius of 3600 nautical miles; the availability date is assumed to be 1957. This airplane would be capable of round-trip unrefueled attacks against a large percentage of United States targets. Although having somewhat lower performance than the Stalin, this aircraft is physically smaller and less vulnerable.

    The Lenin is hypothesized as an aircraft having supersonic speed capability in the target area. At present it does not appear feasible to achieve the required strategic-bombing distances with aircraft of this type without assistance. However, with assistance, as when carried initially by another aircraft, or when refueled, or through the use of advance bases, such an airplane could attack the United States."

    RAND 1951 Tu-4Type-31"Volga""Stalin""Lenin"
    US EquivalentB-50D---B-47 turboB-52F-102
    MX-1554
    threat
    IOC19501952195719571958
    ActualUS EquivalentB-50DXB-54XB-55B-52B-70
    Actual SovietTu-4Type-31Tu-95Mya-4M-50
    IOC1950195x19561956195x

    At the time, the available "hard facts" were often meager. The 1953 Soviet nuclear test had caught everyone by surprise. Then, on May Day of 1954, at a public air show, the Soviets showed off a new jet bomber, the Bison. Here was another surprise - a Soviet jet bomber. It was all the more worrisome because no one in the U.S. had known of it until the Kremlin displayed it openly. Through the mid-1950s, the Soviets had been able to fool the Americans concerning their air strength, and to touch off a major Washington flap over a supposed "bomber gap," merely by flying the same aircraft around twice at an air show. The Soviet used a favored tool - maskirovka - deception in which the enemy is led to believe that something is true which is not.

    The 1951 prognostications by RAND were not too far off the mark. The Type 31 in retrospect seems to have been the counterpart of the American B-54, a greatly stretched variant of the B-50, just as the Type 31 was a greatly stretched Tu-4. Neither airplane excited much interest in their home countries, and neither entered production. RAND's "Volga" was a "possible turboprop version of the B-47", which was probably the B-55, which mounted four turboprops on an enlarged B-47 fuselage. The actual Soviet counterpart was the Tu-95, vastly large with a takeoff weight double that of the B-55, which never left the drawing board. On the other hand, RAND's "Stalin" aircraft turned out to be the Soviet M-4 BISON, slightly smaller [400,000 lbs GTOW versus 490,000s for the B-52] and with only four engines, rather than eight. The BISON was a disapointment, while the B-52 soldiers on.

    The aircraft RAND called "Lenin" emerged in the Soviet Union as the M-50 BOUNDER, and the American B-70 Valkyrie. Both must be counted among the most beautifal aircraft of the 20th Century, and neither saw operational service.




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    Page last modified: 24-03-2018 18:33:21 ZULU