A prototype heavy bomber, designated by US intelligence agencies as the Type 31, appeared in the Moscow Air Show on 08 July 1951. According to US intelligence, the Type 31 was probably powered with conventional piston engines on this occasion, but it was believed that the more likely ultimate power plant for it was the Jumo 022 turboprop engine, which was reported to have passed Soviet acceptance tests in November 1950. An outstanding feature of the Type 31 was the fact that its airframe was built largely of Tu-4 and Tu-70 sub-assemblies and it could therefore be rapidly brought into production. If the Type 31 was considered satisfactory by the Soviets, it could be in production at one of the several aircraft producing facilities on which intelligence was inadequate to determine the article being produced.
In February 1952, the first detailed reports reaching Washington on Russia's newest long-range bomber indicate American cities were well within reach of those atomic bomb carriers. New information on the Soviet "Type, 31" bomber, glimpsed briefly during a Soviet air demonstration a few weeks earlier, became available along with fresh and disturbing word about the mounting strength of Russia's jet fighter and tactical air force. The Type 31 bomber was apparently powered at present with piston-type engines, but quite possibly may appear with faster turbo-prop power (a jet engine turbine driving a propeller) by the end of 1952. In its present form, the Type 31 was described as having a range over 6,500 miles and a speed of more than 450 miles. It obviously was intended as a successor to the TU-4.
Jane's "All the World's Aircraft" In December 1952 passed along a few new reports about the Russian Type 31 bomber, a six-engined monster believed by the U.S Air Force to be capable of flying from Russia to American targets and back. Existence of this plane was confirmed in 1952 by Thomas K. Finletter, U.S. Air Secretary, and Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg, chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force. Jane's said the plane, a svveptwing type driven by either six jet or six turbo-prop engines, was believed to be in production in a factory in Central Russia. A turbo prop engine is one in which the power of a jet is used to turn a propeller, with some loss in speed but considerable saving in fuel compared with a standard jet. Armed with five gun turrets, the bomber was said to carry two complete crews, each of 11 men, who would alternate on duty. The approximate wing span was reported to be 223 feet and the length 167 feet.
In April 1953 Life Magazine reported that the Type 31 far outclassed the US B-36, and claimed that Russia's Type 31 may find its closest competition in the U.S. B-52, not yet in production. The Type 31, believed already flying, impressed U.S. engineers as "remarkably similar to designs on American drawing boards."
By 1954 the Intelligence community had fallen out of love with the Type-31. SNIE-7A-54 "Soviet gross capabilities for attacks on the US and Key Overseas Instalations" reported 14 September 1954 that "There has been some evidence of the existence of a large bomber designated the Type 31. On the basis of present evidence, it is highly doubtful that any substantial re-equipment of Long-Range Aviation units with Type 31 class aircraft has occurred to date, though possibly 15 or 20 may have been introduced. The Long-Range Aviation re-equipment program to replace the TU4 is more likely to be accomplished by introduction of the jet bomber aircraft which have now appeared, and the Type 31 class probably will not be introduced in numbers. The estimated radius/range of this aircraft was 2,500/4,800 nautical miles with a 10,000 pound bomb load or 2,800/5,500 nautical miles carrying a 3,000 pound bomb load."
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