M-25 / Molot M-4 / Mya-4 / 3M
The greatest early Soviet success in the development jet bombers was achieved by OKB-23, led by Vladimir Mikhailovich Myasishchev. . It is noteworthy that the M-4 was the first strategic jet bomber in the world to enter combat units, it was several months ahead of its overseas competitor in the person of the famous B-52 bomber. After several years of forced break, on March 24, 1951 it resumed work specifically for creating strategic bomber M-25. Later it was renamed the M-4 (NATO code "Bison"). Since 1955 the series production aircraft at the aircraft factory # 23 in Moscow, and the OKB started to create a supersonic machine.
The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ushered in the era of nuclear weapons. But it was not enough to invent and make a bomb - it had to be delivered to the place of bombardment. And it is precisely with this that the opponents of the new cold war had problems. Both the USSR and the USA had enough modern bombers capable of delivering powerful strikes - but there weren’t those who could reach the enemy, remaining invulnerable on their territory. This required aircraft capable of quickly crossing the ocean. And they had to be created from scratch. The first to develop such aircraft were the Americans. And no wonder: they already had an atomic bomb, and besides, they had rich experience in creating long-range bombers for the war in Europe.
Development of an intercontinental bomber with a strike capability at US-territory began in the early 1950s. The chief specialist in Soviet bombers - aircraft designer Andrei Tupolev - refused high honor, despite the fact that Joseph Stalin himself set the task for him. Tupolev simply argued his refusal: the creation of such an aircraft is currently impossible, since the available engines will not provide the desired range, and turboprops will not provide speed and altitude. But one of his students, the head of the MAI department Vladimir Myasishchev, took up the matter. Despite the fact that his OKB No. 482 did not issue a single serial bomber during the war, and Myasishchev himself was repressed and still not rehabilitated, the readiness of the designer to solve the question and reasoned considerations about this decision in the Kremlin were considered sufficient grounds for starting work.
The governmental order of 24 March 1951 provided for the establishment of a new design bureau headed by V.M. Myasishchev. The design bureau was in charge of organizing and manufacturing the development of the bomber which would have a range of 11000-12000 km, a maximum speed of 900km/h and could carry a payload of 5000 kg. The Bison was a four-engine, swept-wing jet bomber with engines were buried in the wing roots. An unusual feature was the tandem landing gear, with small stabilising wheels at the tips of the drooping wings, and a nosewheel leg extended at take-off to achieve the correct angle of incidence.
Due to the fact that the high-power BD-5 engines for the aircraft were still in the development stage, the aircraft used four AM-3A turbojet engines developed by OKB A.A. Mikulina. The first prototype was finished in December 1952 and carried out its' first flight on 20 January 1953. It reached a speed of 947 km/h and a ceiling of 12500 m. Although the bomber had a range of only 8500 km, which did not allow strikes at US territory, series production of the M-4 bomber began in 1955 at the plant Nr. 23 in Moscow. In July 1955, deployment of the first ten bombers started.
Molot (Hammer) was designed as a strategic bomber, but inefficient fuel consumption by its engines and other design shortcomings limited its range to 8,000 km (insufficient for striking North American targets and returning to base). As a result the development of an improved version of the bomber with more fuel-efficient bypass engines and a new wing design, an aerial refueling program was initiated. To facilitate operational support and formation flight during the refueling process, the bomber and the tanker aircraft were intended to have identical design and performance characteristics.
Despite the fact that the M-4 did not fully meet the specified requirements, the aircraft was adopted. This decision, apparently, was associated with difficulties encountered in testing the Tu-95 turboprop. Flight tests of the first prototype Tu-95/1 began in November 1952, but its catastrophe and the long delay associated with the development of NK-12 engines led to the fact that the second prototype flew into the air only in February 1955. By that time at the factory number 23, the M-4 aircraft was mass-produced, and at the airport in Engels, its military tests passed.
The aircraft was released in a very limited series, with each of the bombers having their own individual characteristics, sometimes significant, which was a problem in training the crews. A very difficult task was to achieve stable operation of the control system - the number of nodes to be adjusted was hundreds. At the same time, the number of operations performed by each crew member in preparing the aircraft for takeoff turned out to be very large.
In 1963, production of the Bison bombers completely stopped. A total of 93 aircraft, including ten M-4 and nine 3MD13 had been built. The 3M bombers were in service with the Air Forces until the end of the 1980s. The last M-3M and M-4 "Bison-A" bombers and M-3MD "Bison-C" maritime patrol aircraft were retired or converted in 1987, and were removed in accordance with the START-1 treaty on offensive strategic force reductions. The 3MS2 tankers remained in service through 1994. A small number of M-3MS-2 "Bison-B" tankers remain in service with the Russian AF, but are being replaced by the Il-78T "Midas", and were gone by the end of 1994.
The three airplanes that had been converted to transport oversized cargo are used for purposes unrelated to the START I Treaty; and are not reconnaissance airplanes, tanker airplanes, or jamming airplanes, and thus do not meet the definition of the term "former heavy bomber" provided for in the Definitions Annex to the Treaty. These airplanes are not included within the Treaty totals, though all other airplanes of the Bison type were considered to be former heavy bombers.
The Tu-95, which haf many of its flaws and inconveniences, having passed a series of modernizations, continues to fly today. It has no replacement, and is not yet in sight, which means that his service is planned until 2040, and there are about 60 of them left. The foreign rival B-52 is also going to serve until 2040 or until 80 years of age. There are only four known examples of the Bison preserved in Russia. They are a highly modified VM-T transport at Zhukovsky (Ramenskoye), and standard versions at Engels Air Base, Ryazan AB and at Monino museum.
The merit of the OKB-23 team lies primarily in the fact that they created a plane that became not so much an “aggressor" as a deterrent in the arms race. The appearance of the M-4 intercontinental bomber violated the "calm" of the American continent. Now, not only the Soviet Union, but also the hitherto invulnerable overseas enemy began to strengthen the air defense of their cities, air bases and industrial centers. This was a good reason to think about the possible ways of peaceful coexistence of states with different political systems.
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