In the fall of 1945 an official U.S. estimate deprecated the Soviet ability to develop "trans-ocean missiles" and "B-29 type" bombers, putting that possibility beyond 1950 while at the same time it projected the likelihood of later Soviet capabilities for attack against the United States. A more immediate, even imminent, Soviet attack threat was acknowledged about three years later, however, in an early NSC paper which credited the Soviet TU-4-a "B-29 type" aircraft by then operational in the Soviet Air Force-as capable of attack against the United States. Among its conclusions, NSC 20/4 saw the U.S.S.R. also to be capable "by 1955" of "serious air attacks" against the United States.
May 19, 1947 was the first flight of the first production aircraft (N.S.Rybko), followed by a second (M.L.Gully) and third (A.G.Vasilchenko). Even before the first flight, November 11, 1946, the Berlin newspaper Der Kurier heralded the beginning of production in the USSR of the copies of the B-29. In the West no one could believe in this. It was believed that the Soviet Union was unable to produce a similar technology.
But all doubts were removed by the demononstration flight on August 3, 1947 Aviation Day of the first three aircraft "...Suddenly at very low altitude surprisingly quickly sped three huge four-engined aircraft. Their sudden appearance literally stunned the tens of thousands of Muscovites who filled the airfield airfield Tuschinski. And I remember very well that all jumped on my feet began to shout "Hooray!" and waving hands. But the friendly cry of the crowd was instantly muffled by the roar of the engines. It seemed that these giants suppress its power. I will say more than that, it is these aircraft fired on the people most impressed. Even more than the first jet aircraft ..." reported one of the witnesses of the parade.
From the start of the Cold War, the Soviet leadership had a clear view of strategic purpose in Europe. Various measures were fused to further the security of the Soviet state. The military and technical requirements and priorities necessary to realize that goal rated strong support. The Tupolev copy of the U.S. B-29 illustrated that fact. The TU-4 had come along more rapidly than anticipated, only one of a number of accelerated developments to confound the United States which were achieved through Soviet programs of enforced technical effort.
Derived from three U.S. B-29's which had landed in the Soviet Union in 1944, this Soviet aircraft began to appear in production numbers in 1947, one year following establishment of Long Range Aviation as part of the Soviet Air Forces. U.S. intelligence saw the TU-4 as a B-29 and, therefore, ascribed to it a comparable role. Whatever its role as actually conceived and planned by Soviet leaders, early development of this aircraft was a noteworthy technical achievement. It gave clear evidence of growing Soviet capabilities, in an operational military sense and as a development milestone.
Taken together with the deliberate, known Soviet programs for the systematic exploitation of German scientists and other western technology, U.S. intelligence needs concerning Soviet military capabilities seemed to be underscored. While U.S. intelligence saw the TU-4 as a threat to the United States, the Soviet leaders looked to their developing strike force as a means of defending the homeland, since the TU-4 and the atomic weapon would allow attack of the forward bases needed to launch strikes against the U.S.S.R. Soviet naval capabilities would help against carriers. Protection of the homeland would be carried out by active, coordinated air defense.
From the beginning of the Cold War, the U.S. felt an increasing need for good intelligence and information concerning Soviet capabilities and actions. This requirement grew while demobilization caused continuing reductions in military intelligence organizations. That fact and the exclusive jurisdiction given to CIA in certain collection activity made for an increased dependence on CIA. As the Soviet military threat appeared to grow while military intelligence capabilities contracted, there was a tendency to attribute to CIA blame for all inadequacies in intelligence concerning the Soviet Union.
In the summer and fall or 1944, three US B-29's made wheels-down forced landings in Soviet Far East territory and were immediately interned. A fourth B-29 crash landed in the Soviet Zone of Korea in August 1945. No information regarding the ultimate disposition or these aircraft was received. The Soviet Union was at that time still a neutral in the war with Japan, and turned a deaf ear to requests that the United States be allowed to repair the aircraft and ferry them out.
Cumulative evidence over the next several years definitely established, however, that Soviet acquisition of these aircraft was the starting point for a high priority production program aimed at meeting immediate Soviet requirements for a lang range bomber or proved design. The first tangible evidence or Soviet interest in the B-29 came to light as early as August 1945, when a Soviet Air Force officer who entered the crash-landed aircraft in North Korea demonstrated his intimate knowledge or the plane to the American crew -- commenting that the position of certain gages had been moved, and making mention or other minor modifications.
German intelligence learned that in March 1945 a new four-engined bomber, designed by Tupolev and designated the Tu-4, was reported to be umergoing flying trials. This new aircraft was to carry a crew or eight and a bombload or 9,000 to 11,000 pounds. What the Germans may have gotten wind of was Soviet testing of the B-29 -- for the Soviet copy was designated the Tu-4.
In 1946 the Soviets attempted to secure license rights for the R-3350 engine which powered the B-29s they had interned, and tried to purchase wheel assemblies for 25 B-29 type aircraft in the United States.
In August 1947, four B-29 type aircraft were photographed by US attaches near Moscow. While it was then believed the Soviets may already have built copies or the B-29, this could not be definite]• established until two more concrete bits of evidence became available in the Fall of 1947. These consisted respectively of the sighting by US observers of 14 B-29 types at Ramenskoye airfield near Moscow in September, and the sighting of six of these aircraft in flight in October 1947. From early 1948 on, confirmed sightings or the Soviet B-29 copy multiplied and by April 1950 as many as 64 had been seen in the air in a single £ormation.
By this tima also, other data had made it possible to reconstruct an approximate history of the Tu-4 project indicating that the first prototype had been begun around the middle or 1945 and that the first series aircraft was completed about the middle of 1947.
The Soviet Union was estimated as of 01 October 1952 to have 36 Tu-4 equipped regiments, which at full TO&E strength would represent approximately 1150 aircraft. Actual strength was estimated at between 75/80 percent of T/O&E, or about 900 Tu-4'e, but further build-up to full strength could occur within a relatively abort time. Such numbers of these aircraft as would be required could be utilised for delivery of atomic weapons against the North American continent.
Estimated deployment of Long Range Aviation Tu-4s (based on T/0&E strength) was: lst Long Range Air Army - 4lt Northwest Command -- (Leningrad, Moscow, Baltic, Belorussia, Kiev, Volga) 390 Tu-4s; 2nd Long Range Air Army -- Southwest Command ... - (Kiev, Carpathian, Volga, 'Transcaucasus) 390 Tu-4's; 3rd Long Range Air Army - Far East Command - (Far East, Maritime, Transbaikal) 190 Tu-4s. Undetermin~d subordination (Western USSR) 180 Tu-4s.
As of 1952, US intelligence believed the entire operational strength, an estimated 900 aircraft, of the Soviet Tu-4 force could be utilized against the North American continent should Soviet plans require such an all-out effort -- unlikely in view of the estimated size of the Soviet atomic stockpile. The Soviets should be capable of achieving a serviceability rate of 90 percent for an initial, deliberately prepared surprise attack. The abort rate could be oa the order ef 20 to 25 percent of the aircraft sortied. The sustained serviceability rate for the Tu-4 was estimated at 40 percent for normal medium bomber operations with a sortie rate of seven per month. These rates might be appreciably lower if a fairly large percentage of aircraft were used against very distant objectives and would, naturally, have no applicability to one-way missions.
The most likely method of attack, because the most feasible and potentially most effective, would be the use of disguised Tu-4 aircraft to deliver atomic weapons to a number of targets simultaneously as the initial act of general hostilities. NIE-31 noted "Because of its resemblance to the U.S. B-29, the Soviet Tu-4 could be disguised with U.S. markings and employed for clandestine delivery of atomic bombs. Present flight regulations of the Civil Aeronautics Administration and the military services require that both military and civilim1 aircraft follow a previously filed flight plan and enter the U.S. by specified routes. Aircraft violating these requirements, if detected, are intercepted. A small number of disguised Tu-4's might escape such detection."
US intelligence assessed that the limiting factor in the operational capabilities of Soviet Long Range Aviation was likely to lie in the performance of aircraft and associated equipment rather than in shortcomings in training and techniques. The progress of Soviet Long Range Aviation personnel toward a high level of co1nbat effectiveness undoubtedly had been retarded by the absence of a background of combat experience in long range air operations and by restrictions on flying such as were imposed by the Soviet security system.
Morale in the Soviet Air Forcea was believed relatively higher than that of other components of the armed forces. The principal reasons for good morale, particularly among officer and flying personnel, were better food, pay, quarters, and job security than the average Soviet citizen was able to obtain. It was apparent, however, that tbe morale of Soviet Air Force personnel was generally lower than the standard desired by tbe Soviet regime. This was evident from official Soviet acts and policies. Propaganda efforts to g1orify military aviation and to honor patriotic airmen were continuous.
As of 1952 no Soviet aircraft were known to be operating over or near the continental United States. Sightinsa of unidentified aircraft or unconventional objects have not been proved to have any connection with the USSR.
|Historical Review - Western Estimates|
|Soviets possess partial sets of B-29 blueprints (according to post-war defector)||1943|
|B-29 lands at Vladivostok in flying condition and is interned||July 1944|
|USSR acquires two more wartime B-29s||November 1944|
|Estimated start of flight testing||1945|
|Estimated start of series production||1947|
|Initial operational capability||1949|
|Significant operational capability||1950|
|Phase out complete||1960|