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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Myasishchev Molot - M-4/ Mya-4 - Western Views

An element of competition was introduced through Myasishchev, with a large straight-wing propeller-driven project M-13, an airplane that was not produced, and the Mya-4 Bison four-jet strategic bomber. In 1954 the USSR displayed a new long-range four-engine swept-wing jet bomber during May Day celebrations in Moscow. At first, Western experts believed the new bomber, comparable to the B-52, was an Iluyshin or Tupolev, but later identify it as the Myasishchev Mya-4 Bison.

The Type 37 Heavy Bomber was initially spotted by Westen observer on 30 July 1953 and later observed in flight on seven different occasions in connection with the 1954 May Day celebration. It was characterized as a swept wing, four-engine, jet heavy bomber with an estimated gross weight of 365,000 pounds. The aircraft was expected to appear ln operational units by the end of 1954, building up to an actual strength of about 50 aircraft by 1957.

The world learned about the birth of another Russian giant bomber in 1954 at a traditional May Day parade. The noise of the M-4 engines did not have time to calm down, and foreign experts have already given their assessment to the new machine: “The aircraft has a number of design features that indicate its purpose as a long-range high-altitude bomber. The wing of the aircraft has a range of 48 to 52 meters; a particularly large elongation is chosen mainly to ensure the altitude characteristics of the aircraft. The main disadvantage of such a wing, in addition to design considerations, is its lack of torsional rigidity. Torsional vibrations or deformations can cause the presence of fairings at the ends of the wing, which, in all probability, are weight balancers. These cowls can also be used to house heaters. The root parts of the wing have a large chord and a sufficient thickness, allowing partially hide the turbojet engines in the thickness of the wing. It is estimated that each engine has a thrust of about 6800 kg. The aircraft is probably designed for subsonic flight speeds, its critical number M is about 0.95. The take-off weight of the aircraft is obviously about 113,500 kg. ”

Foreign experts were greatly mistaken in engine thrust. They could not even imagine that the Russians would be able to create an engine with a thrust of 8750 kgf, because they had nothing of the kind. Hence, a very low take-off mass appeared, and the low specific load on the wing made it possible to incorrectly classify the aircraft as high-altitude.

The Eisenhower administration decided in November 1954 to resurrect a rejected Lockheed Corporation proposal for a high flying, single-engine reconnaissance aircraft, the U-2, and give its development to the CIA. The objective of the program was to obtain overhead photographic intelligence of the Soviet Union, specifically its strategic Bison bomber fleet.

On Soviet Aviation Day in July 1955, ten Bison jet-powered strategic bombers flew past the reviewing stand. These same aircraft flew past six times, creating the illusion that the Soviets possessed at least 60 such aircraft. This show, combined with the introduction of the smaller Badger jet-powered bomber the year before, resulted in the perception in the United States of a "bomber gap." The Soviet tendency to unveil new weapons during public events, often to the surprise of Western observers, added to their shock value. Western analysts extrapolated from the illusionary 60 aircraft, judging that it would take only a short time for the Soviets to produce 600. Even with 600 planes, the Soviets could not match the United States plane for plane, but the mere perception that the Soviets had many planes that could reach over the northern polar cap to America was enough to reinforce the American arms buildup that was already underway.

Shortly thereafter, the Soviets introduced another strategic bomber, the Bear. From the extent of service and the number produced, it was clear that Tupolev's turboprop Bear was favored over the turbojet Bison. Subsequently, the Bison served in small numbers as a strategic bomber, maritime reconnaissance craft, and aerial tanker.

Beginning on 20 June 1956 through May 1960, the U-2 made a total of 24 overt1ights of the Soviet Union. Thousands of feet of film from the overflights poured into the CIA's small Photo Intelligence Division. The photographs obtained by the first U-2 flights provided a bonanza of data for US intelligence agencies. In fact, a photograph of the Saratov-Engels air field at Ramenskoye, southeast of Moscow, taken on 5 July 1956, put to rest the "Bomber Gap" debate. It showed less than three dozen of the new Soviet Myasishchev-4 (Bison) heavy bombers. The United States Air Force was at the time claiming that nearly 100 of the Bisons were already deployed. The U-2 missions could find no additional Bisons at other major Soviet airfields. DCI Allen Dulles referred to this photograph in later years as the "million dollar photo."

A revised version of the CIA briefing note prepared on 13 June [LONG RANGE BOMBERS 11 July 1058] took into account new evidence re-ceived since publication of SNIE 11-7-58. The intelligence community conducted "an intensive re-examination of all evidence pertaining to the development and production of long range bombers in the USSR. As a result, we have made a slightdownward revision in our estimate of the number of heavy bombersthe USSR would have as of mid-1958 and a very considerable re-duction in the numbers of such bombers it would probably have inthe next few years.... Heavy bomber and tanker strength has fallen somewhat short of even our revised estimate of last November, in which we projected a gradual buildup, reaching 150-250 in mid-1958 and levelling off at 400-600 in mid-1960....

BISON production virtually stopped early this year, but recently some additional production has been reported. We cannot be sure at present whether the current model of the BISON is being phased out of production in favor of an improved version or perhaps a new aircraft, or whether the Soviets intend to continue producing the present model.

"In retrospect, however, the history of the Soviet heavy bomber program leads us to believe that despite the efforts they devoted to developing the BISON and BEAR, Soviet planners probably decided within the past year or two to forego a rapid buildup with present heavy bomber models. This decision was probably affected by several factors, among them possibly: dissatisfaction with the performance of BISON and BEAR; progress in developing new or improved bombers; Soviet confidence in their ability to acquire an ICBM capability at an early date.... We therefore project Soviet heavy bomber and tanker strength for mid-1960 as lying within the range of 100 to 200 aircraft."

Historical Review - Western Estimates
Bison A Bison B Bison C
Estimated start of flight testing 1953
First discovery 30 July 1953 1956 1960
Estimated start of series production 1953 1956 1960
Initial operational capability 1955 1958 1960
First public display (single aircraft} 01 May 1954
Public display of 13 aircraft 01 May 1955
End production 1961

Page last modified: 25-08-2021 17:17:29 ZULU