Soviets in the Air

Before we got the (U.S.) guidance systems we could hardly find Washington with our missiles. Afterwards we could find the White House.

Without U.S. help the Soviet military system would collapse in 1 years.

— Avraham Shifrin, former Soviet Defense Ministry official

Signal rockets were used in the Russian Tsarist Army as early as 1717. Present Russian theoretical work in rockets, beginning in 1903, stems from K. E. Tsiolkovskii, who investigated atmospheric resistance, rocket motion, and similar problems. This Tsarist work was continued in the Soviet Union during the twenties and thirties. In I928 pioneer Tsiolkovskii suggested that the value of his contribution had been in theoretical calculations. Nothing had been achieved in practical rocket engineering.

Then in 1936, V. F. Glushke designed and built a prototype rocket engine, the ORM-65. This rocket used nitric acid and kerosene as propellants. The Soviets then developed the ZhRD R-3395, an aircraft jato rocket using nitric acid and aniline as a propellant. Du Pont provided technical assistance and equipment for the construction of large nitric acid plants. During World War II, Soviet rockets used "Russian cordite," which was 56.5 percent nitrocellulose. The nitrocellulose was manufactured under a technical-assistance agreement made in 1930 with the Hercules Powder Company of the United States.

Finally, under Lend-Lease, 3,000 rocket-launchers and large quantities of propellants were shipped from the United States to the USSR.

German Assistance for Soviet Rockets

A major boost to Soviet ambitions in rocketry came from Germany at the end of World War II. Facilities transferred to the USSR included the rocket testing stations of Blizna and Peenemunde, captured intact and removed to the USSR; the extensive production facilities for the V-1 and V-2 at Nordhausen and Prague; the records of reliability tests on some 6,000 German V-2; and 6,000 German technicians (not the top theoretical men), most of whom were not released from Russia until the late 1950s.

The German rocket program was in an advanced state of development in 1945. About 32,050 V-1 "Flying bomb" weapons had been produced in the Volkswagen plant at Fallersleben and in the underground Central Works at Nordhausen. In addition, 6,900 V-2 rockets had been produced — 6,400 at the underground Mittelwerke at Nordhausen and 500 at Peenemunde. Rocket fuel facilities had been developed in the Soviet Zone: liquid oxygen plants at Schmeidebach in Thuringia and at Nordhausen, and a hydrogan peroxide plant at Peenemunde.

The Germans undertook two and one-half years of experimental work and statistical flight and reliability evaluation on the V-2 before the end of the war. There were 264 developmental launchings at Peenemunde alone.

Mittelwerke at Nordhausen was visited in June 1946 by U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey teams who reported that the enormous underground plant could manufacture V-1s and V-2s as well as Junkers-87 bombers. V-2 rockets were manufactured in twenty-seven underground tunnels. The plant was well equipped with machine tools and with "a very well set up assembly line for the rocket power unit." Its output at the end of the war was about 400 V-2s per month, and its potential output was projected at 900-1,000 per month.

When the Soviets occupied part of the American Zone in July 1945 under arrangement with General (later President) Eisenhower, the Nordhausen plant was removed completely to the USSR.

The United States and Britain never did gain access to German rocket-testing sites in Poland. The Sanders Mission reached the Blizna test station, after considerable delays in Moscow, only to find that its equipment had been removed "in such a methodical way as to suggest strongly to the mission's leader that the evacuation was made with a view to the equipment being reerected elsewhere." The Sanders Mission accumulated 1.5 tons of rocket parts. Unfortunately, when the mission reached home it found that the rocket parts had been intercepted by the Soviets. Rocket specimens so carefully crated in Blizna for shipment to London and the United States were last seen in Moscow. The crates arrived at the Air Ministry in London, but contained several tons of "old and highly familiar aircraft parts when they were opened." The Blizna rocket specimens had vanished.

Many German rocket technicians went or were taken to the Soviet Union. The most senior was Helmut Groettrup, who had been an aide to the director of electronics at Peenemunde. Two hundred other former Peenemunde technicians are reported to have been transferred. Among those were Waldemar Wolf, chief of ballistics for Krupp; engineer Peter Lertes; and Hans Hock, an Austrian specialist in computers. Most of these persons went in the October 22-23 round-up of ninety-two trainloads comprising 6,000 German specialists and 20,000 members of their families. Askania technicians, specialists in rocket-tracking devices, and electronics people from Lorenz, Siemens, and Telefunken were among the deportees, as were experts from the Walter Rakententriebwerke in Prague.

Asher Lee sums up the transfer of German rocket technology:

The whole range of Luftwaffe and German Army radio-guided missiles and equipment fell into Russian hands. There were the two Henschel radar-guided bombs, the Hs-293 and the larger FX-1400 . . the U.S.S.R. also acquired samples of German antiaircraft radio-guided missiles like the X-4, the Hs-298 air-to-air projectile with a range of about a mile and a half, the Rheintochter which was fitted with a radar proximity fuse, and the very promising Schmetterling which even in 1945 had an operational ceiling of over 45,000 feet and a planned radius of action of about twenty miles. It could be ground- or air-launched and was one of the most advanced of the German small-calibre radio-guided defensive rockets; of these various projectiles the Henschel-293 bomb and the defensive Schmetterling and Hs-298 [the V-3] are undergoing development at Omsk and Irkutsk . . . [and later at] factories near Riga, Leningrad, Kiev, Khaborovsk, Voronezh, and elsewhere.

Other plants produced improved radars based on the Wurzberg system; the airborne Lichenstein and Naxos systems were reported in large-scale production in the 1950s.

The Soviets froze rocket design in the late 1950s on developments based on German ideas. The German technical specialists were sent home. By 1959 the Soviets landed a rocket on the moon.

Sputnik, Lunik and the Soyuz Programs

From the German V-2 rockets, associated German production facilities, and the all-important German reliability tests, stem the contemporary Soviet ICBM and space rockets.

In the 1960s there were four types of large liquid rockets in the Soviet Union: the Soviet version of the V-2, the R-10 (a 77,000 pound thrust scale-up of the German V-2), the R-14 (a scaled up V-2 with 220,000 pound thrust), and a modification known as R-14A (based on the R-14). The R-14 was designed and developed by a joint German-Rusian team. The Germans were sent home in the late 1950s.

The Soviets did not until fairly recently use single boosters — they use dusters of rockets strapped onto a central core. The strap-ons were the scaled-up and modified German V-2. Thus, for example, Sputnik I and Sputnik II had a first stage of two R-14A units, a second stage of two R-14A units, and a third stage of a single R-10 (the German V-2 produced in the Soviet Union). Lunik was a similar cluster of six rocket units. The Vostok and Polyot series are clusters of six units. The planetary rockets, Cosmos series and Soyuz family are seven-unit clusters. An excellent photograph of one of these cluster vehicles is to be found in Leonid Vladimirov's book, The Russian Space Bluff.20

In the mid-sixties, any foolhardy person who insisted that the United States would be first on the moon because the Russians were technologically backward was dismissed as a dimwitted neanderthal. But at least two skilled observers with firsthand access to the Soviet program made a detailed case, one in 1958 and one in 1969. Lloyd Mallan wrote Russia and the Big Red Lie in 1958, after an almost unrestricted 14,000 mile trip through Russia to visit thirty-eight Soviet scientists. He took 6,000 photographs. It was Mallan who first drew attention to the Soviet practice of illustrating space-program press releases with photographs from the American trade and scientific press. The Remington Rand Univac computer was used in the fifties to illustrate an article in Red Star on the Soviet computer program — the captions were translated into Russian. In 1969, Tass issued a photograph for use in American newspapers purporting to show a Russian space station at the time when one Soviet space ship was in orbit and another en route. The Tass photograph was reproduced from Scientific American (Feb. 1962) and was identical to an advertisement in Sperry Gyroscope Company of Great Neck, New York. Sperry commented, "Apparently it is the same as the ad we ran."

This author personally remembers an incident from the early 1960s which illustrates the extraordinary success of Soviet propaganda in molding the U.S. concept of Russian technology. After giving a short speech to a Los Angeles audience on technological transfers to the Soviets, a member of the audience asked a sensible question: "Who will be first on the moon, the U.S. or the Soviets?"

The answer as closely as can be recalled was to the effect that the Soviets did not have the technology to be first on the moon, and by themselves could not make it in this century.

The response from the audience was an instantaneous and loud laugh — how ridiculous was the general audience response, "everyone knows" the Soviets are far ahead of the United States in space.

In fact, the Soviets could not even have achieved their Soyuz program without U.S. help. The docking mechanism is a direct copy of the U.S. docking mechanism.

Unfortunately, NASA and U.S. planners have a conflict of interest. If they publish what they know about the backwardness and dependency of the Soviet space program, it reduces the urgency in our program. This urgency is vital to get Congressional funds. Without transfers of technology the U.S. is in effect racing with itself, not a very appealing argument to place before Congress.

Why Did the Soviets Embark on a Space Program?

From an economic viewpoint, a Soviet space program makes no sense at all: such a program only makes sense from a geopolitical viewpoint.

In 1957, the year of Sputnik, the Soviet Union had fewer telephones than Japan (3.3 million in the USSR versus 3.7 million in Japan). On a per-hundred population basis, the Soviet Union could provide only 3.58 telephones compared to 49.8 in the United States. Even Spain provided 9.6 telephones per 100 of population, or three times more than the Soviet Union.

In automobiles, the Soviet Union was even less affluent. In 1964 the Soviet Union had a stock of 919,000 automobiles, all produced in Western-built plants, only slightly more than Argentina (800,000) and far less than Japan (1.6 million) and the United States (71.9 million).

Even today the Soviet Union is so backward in automobile technology that is has to go to Italy and the United States for automobile and truck technology.

Although we in the West might see this technical backwardness as a natural reason for not going into space, the Soviets saw it as a compelling reason to embark on a space program.

A "technical extravaganza" was necessary to demonstrate Soviet "technical superiority" to the world and maintain the myth of self-generated Soviet military might.

The Soviet economic problem in the mid-1950s was acute. The Soviet economy had shown good rates of growth, but this was due to the impetus given by Lend-Lease equipment and by war reparations. There were no signs of technical viability. Numerous industries were decades out of date with no indigenous progress on the horizon. The only solution was a massive program of acquiring complete plants and up-to-date technology in the West. Beginning in the late 1950s and continuing through to the 1980s, this program had to be disguised because of obvious military implications. One facet of the disguise was the space program. The usual stock of reasons for backwardness had run dry (the Civil War, the Revolution, intervention, warmongering capitalists) — even the damage done by the Nazis could only be spread so far. So two new elements made their appearance:

1. A space program — to get the Western world looking upwards and outwards, literally away from the Soviet Union and its internal problems.

2. Concurrent articles and press releases in the West on Soviet technical "achievements," spotted particularly in Western trade journals and more naive newspapers, such as the New York Times.

Around the same time in the '60s and '70s, the West (or rather the United States and Germany) resurrected Edwin Gay's 1918 proposal to mellow the Bolsheviks, and this proposal now became "bridges for peace" to provide a rational explanation for the massive transfers of Western technology that were required to fulfill Soviet programs. The United States appears, in historical perspective, to have been almost desperate in its attempts to help the Soviets in space. Of course, if the Soviets did not succeed in space, there could be no "competing" American space program and many politicians, bureaucrats, and politically oriented scientists were determined — for their own good reasons — that there had to be a major American space effort. There also had to be U.S. assistance for the Soviet space program.

In the ten years between December 1959 and December 1969, the United States made eighteen approaches to the USSR for space "cooperations."

In December 1959, NASA Administrator R. Keith Glennan offered assistance in tracking Soviet manned flights. On March 7, 1962 President Kennedy proposed an exchange of information from tracking and data-acquisition stations, and on September 20, 1963 President Kennery proposed joint exploration of the moon, an offer later repeated by President Johnson. On December 8, 1964 the administration proposed an exchange of teams to visit deep-space tracking and data-acquisition facilities. On May 3, 1965 NASA suggested joint communications tests via the Soviet Molnlya I. On August 25, 1965 NASA asked the Soviet Academy of Sciences to send a representative to the Gemini VI launch, and on November 16, NASA inquired about joint Molnlya I communications tests. Four U.S. offers were made in 1966; in January NASA inquired about Venus probes; on March 24, and May 23 Administrator James Webb suggested that the Soviets propose subjects for discussion; and in September Ambassador Arthur Goldberg again raised the question of tracking coverage by the United States for Soviet missiles.

Soviet Aircraft Development

In 1913 in St. Petersburg, Igor Sikorsky (who later founded the Sikorsky Aircraft Company in America) designed the "Russki-Vityazyi." Weighing 5 tons with a load of seven passengers, this four-engined plane established a contemporary endurance record of 1 hour and 54 minutes aloft. By 1917 a fleet of seventy-five IM ("Ilya Mourometz") four-engined bombers, based on the original 1913 model, were in service — several decades before the American four-engined bomber fleets of World War II. So tsarist Russia produced and successfully flew the world's first four-engined bomber, a quarter of a century before the United States developed one. This early bomber had a wing span of over 100 feet, or only 21 inches less than that of the World War II Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress.

Obviously there was nothing wrong with indigenous Russian aeronautical talent half a century ago. While Russians have a natural affinity and geographic impulse towards aeronautics, the Soviets have only kept up with the West by reverse engineering, prolific "borrowing" and importation of technology and manufacturing equipment. Russian dependency on Western aeronautical design and production equipment and techniques goes back to the early 1920s.

At that time, soon after the Bolshevik Revolution, the Russian aircraft industry depended heavily on foreign aircraft and engine imports. There was considerable Soviet design activity, but this work was not converted into usable aircraft technology. Consequently, in the early 1930s the Soviet stock of military planes was almost completely foreign: 260 fighters comprising 160 De Havilland Type 9a (from Great Britain) and 100 Heinkel HD-43 fighters (from Germany); 80 Avre 504-K training biplanes (from Great Britain) and some Moraine-Saulnier monoplanes (from France); 52 R-3 biplanes (Russian TsAGI design); 20 R-6 reconnaissance planes (Russian TsAGI design); 242 I-4 Jupiter-engine,planes (from Great Britain); 80 Ju-30 and ANT-6 (Junkers design); 20 ANT-6 bomber seaplanes (Russian design; 18 Avro-504L seaplanes (from Great Britain); 40 Savoia S-62 scouting flying boats (from Italy); 150 Heinkel HD-55 scouting flying boats (from Germany); 46 MR-4 (Savoia S-62 license) flying boats (from Italy); 12 TBI (Russian TsAGI design); and 43 Ju-30 naval bombers (from Germany).

From about 1932 onward, and particularly after 1936, there was extensive acquisition of Western aeronautical advances, which were then integrated with the developments of the 1920s. Fortuitously for the Soviet Union, this much-needed acquisition coincided with a period of increased competition among Western aircraft manufacturers. In many cases, military aircraft were designed in the West on Soviet account and the heavy, slow, underpowered Russian designs of the early 1930s were replaced by efficient Western designs.

By 1937 the Soviet government was convinced that the American method of building aircraft was the best for Russian conditions, as the American system of manufacture could more easily be adapted to mass production than any of the European systems. The United States thus became the main source of Soviet aircraft technology, particularly as a builder of new Soviet aircraft plants. Between 1932 and I940 more than twenty American companies supplied either aircraft, accessories, or technical assistance for complete planes and aircraft manufacturing plants. Technical assistance agreements were made for Vultee attack bombers, the Consolidated Catalina, the Martin Ocean flying boat and Martin bombers, Republic and Sikorsky amphibians, Seversky amphibians and heavy bombers, Douglas DC-2 and DC-3 transports, the Douglas flying boat, and other aircraft. Kilmarx has well summarized this acquisition:

The objectives of the Soviet Union were more straightforward than its methods. By monitoring aeronautical progress and taking advantage of commercial practices and lax security standards in the West, the Russians sought to acquire advanced equipment, designs, and processes on a selective basis. Emphasis was placed on the legitimate procurement of aircraft, engines (including superchargers), propellers, navigational equipment, and armament; specifications and performance data; design, production and test information and methods; machine tools, jigs and dies; semi-fabricates and critical raw materials. Licenses were obtained to manufacture certain modern military aircraft and engines in the U.S.S.R. At the same time, a number of Soviet scientists and engineers were educated at the best technical institutes in the West. Soviet techniques also included assigning purchasing missions abroad, placing inspectors and trainees in foreign factories, and contracting for the services of foreign engineers, technicians and consultants in Soviet plants.21

In 1937 the Soviet Union possessed the world's first commercial plane able to fly the Atlantic Ocean nonstop, with a payload of 7,500 pounds. Known as the Martin Ocean Transport, Model-156, with four 1,000 horsepower Wright Cyclone engines, it was built by the Glenn L. Martin Company of Baltimore. Model-156 cost the Soviet Union $1 million. Although capable of being flown directly to the Soviet Union, it was flown only to New York, then was dismantled and shipped to the USSR by boat.

Also in 1937 the Martin Company agreed to design a Soviet bomber. Loy Henderson, the U.S. charge in Moscow, reported:

…since January 1, 1937, the Embassy granted visas to fourteen Soviet engineers and specialists who are proceeding to Baltimore to the Glenn L. Martin factory. This information would appear to be significant in view of the statements that the Martin Company is to design and develop a new type of large plane for the Soviet air force instead of selling somewhat obsolete models which may have been released for export by the American military authorities. . .22

In May 1937 the New York Times reported a $780,000 Soviet contract with Seversky Aircraft Corporation involving construction of, and manufacturing rights for, Seversky amphibians, which then held the amphibian world speed record of 230.4 miles per hour. Under a technical-assistance agreement, Seversky Aircraft provided assistance for manufacture of these planes in the Soviet Union at the rate of ten per day.

Alexander P. de Seversky, president of the company, then informed the State Department that the Soviets had contracted to purchase from the company a large number of bombing planes of a new type to be designed by him. After being informed that a license would be granted if the planes involved no military secrets, Seversky suggested that the War and Navy Departments might object to its exportation "merely" on the ground that the new bomber would be superior to any bombing plane then in existence. Seversky indicated that he intended to address his request for an export license to the State Department, "in hope that the Department might expedite action in this."

The first domestic flying boats under the Soviets were constructed at Leningrad and Taganrog. In 1932, Plant No. 23 in Leningrad produced 18 Avro 504-L seaplanes and 40 Savoia S-62 scouting flying boats, the latter under a license from the Societa Idrovolanti Alta Italia of Milan —an outstanding designer of high-performance flying boats. Also in 1932, Taganrog Plant No. 31 produced 196 flying boats: 150 scouting HD-55s and 46 MR-5s, both built under license from Heinkel. The Soviets also acquired a license from the Macchi Company of Italy to produce the MBR series of Russian flying boats.

Then in 1937 came an agreement with the Consolidated Aircraft Company of San Diego for technical assistance for Catalina flying boats under supervision of Etienne Dormoy. With the Catalina flying boat we once again see the extraordinary ability of the Soviets to acquire anything they set their hearts on. The very first commercial Consolidated PBY ("Catalina") off the assembly, line in San Diego was sold to the American Museum of Natural History — which promptly transferred it to the Soviets.23 This is not the first time the American Museum of Natural History turns up in the Soviet files. In 1919 a shipload of Soviet propaganda was seized — en route to the United States and addressed to the American Museum of Natural History.24

Also in 1937-38, the Vultee Aircraft Division of Aviation Manufacturing Corporation of Downey, California built a fighter aircraft plant for the Soviets in Moscow.

Equally as important, the Soviets acquired rights to build the famous Douglas DC-3, probably the most successful transport plane in the history of aviation. Donald Douglas produced his first DC-3 in March1935 and within one year the Soviets decided this was to be the basic transport plane for the USSR. A technical-assistance agreement with the Douglas Aircraft Company was signed on July 15, 1936 for three years. Within thirty days of contract signature, Douglas delivered the blueprint materials required to fulfill the assistance contract.

In October 1937 the Soviet aircraft industry placed a $1.15 million order with Douglas for additional parts, tools, assemblies, and materials. The order included one complete DC-3 in subassembly and another in "first-stage" production. In addition, aluminum extrusions were ordered for another fifty aircraft, together with two complete sets of raw materials and twenty-five sets of finishing materials ranging from ash trays to zippers. Construction facilities, ordered at the same time, included one complete set of 6,485 templates, a set of 350 lead and zinc drop hammer dies, three sets of hydraulic mechanisms, all the necessary wood and plaster patterns, drill and assembly fixtures, a complete set of drop-hammer stamps, hydraulic-press parts, two crowning machines, and a set of 125 special tools. Later, another six complete transports were purchased, but it was not until 1940, four years after the agreement, that the Soviets got any domestic DC-3s (renamed the PS-84 or the LI-2) off a Soviet assembly line.

For input materials for military aircraft operation and construction the Soviets also depended on American construction assistance and technology. Even after the extensive American construction of refineries in the early 1930s the Soviet Union continued to be dependent on American technology for cracking petroleum into light gasoline fractions. Lend-Lease equipment deliveries brought the output of aviation gasoline from a mere 110,000 metric tons per year in 1941 to 1.65 million metric tons in 1944, despite the fact that several Lend-Lease cracking units were not delivered until after the end of the war. The Standard Oil Company of New York supplied the Soviet Union with technical information, plant designs, and a pilot manufacturing plant for sulfuric acid alkylation for production of 100-octane gasoline, and "voltolization" of fatty oils for production of aviation lubricating oils.

Efficient and specialized tools were developed by American aircraft manufacturers and their equipment suppliers and these in turn were purchased by the Soviets. For example, in 1938 the Lake Erie Engineering Corporation received a Soviet order for six hydraulic presses for forming metal aircraft sections. In the same year, Birdsboro Steel Foundry and Machine Company of Birdsboro, Pennsylvania, filled a half-million-dollar order for hydraulic presses for aircraft manufacture. Similarly, in 1938 the Wallace Supplies Manufacturing Company of Chicago, Illinois, sold seven bending machines "specially designed to bend tubing for aircraft and parts of motors" for $34,000. Most, if not all, Soviet aircraft accessories were straight copies of foreign products. When biplanes were used, "the streamline wires [were] of English pattern, landing wheels of Palmer type, bomb-releases... of their own design, and the duralumin machine-gun rings... of French pattern. Aircraft fuel pumps were the French A.M. type and mobile starters were the Hucks types."

At the request of the State Department and the Buckeye Pattern Works of Dayton, Ohio, the Secretary of War granted "release of Records of Tests made of certain aluminum exhaust stacks at the Aviation Depot at Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, for benefit of the Russian Soviet Government." No military objections were made to the production of Wright aeronautical engines in Russia, and to an application by Sperry Gyroscope to sell bombsights. Nor was objection made to export of Type D-1 an D-2 oil bypass relief valves in 1935 by the Fulton Syphon Company of Knoxville. The Stupino plant also manufactured U.S. Hamilton 2-blade and 3-blade variable-pitch propellers for military aircraft.

The United Engineering and Foundry Company contracts of January 1938 exemplify the advanced nature of the aircraft materials technology supplied by Western firms to the Soviet Union. Indeed, some of these projects strained the research and development abilities of the most advanced Western firms and were far beyond the capability of the Soviet Union at that time. The contracts do suggest, however, that the Soviet Union has had remarkable ability to recognize advance military aircraft technology and enlist front-rank foreign firms in the acquisition process. The January 1938 United Engineering agreement involved the sale of $3 million worth of equipment and technical assistance for aluminum mills at Zaporozhe. These were 66-inch (1,680 min.) hot and cold mills complete with auxiliary equipment — the most modern aluminum mills in the world. Jenkins, the United Engineering chief engineer in the USSR, said of the Zaporozhe mill that "not even the Aluminum Company of America has machinery as modern as it is." Both mills were "completely powered and controlled by General Electric apparatus."

The Stupino mill (Plant No. 150) near Moscow, by far the most important Soviet aluminum-development project, was also the subject of an agreement in May 1939 between Mashinoimport and United Engineering and Foundry for installation of hot and cold rolling mills. These were mills of extraordinary size to produce aluminum sheet for aircraft manufacture.

The Stupino installation comprised two sections: a hot mill and a cold mill. The hot mill had two units. One was a 2-high 66-inch hot rolling mill for rolling cast duralumin, including aircraft specification Type 17-S and 24-S ingots. The 66-inch mill came into regular operation about February 1, 1940 and the 112-inch mill a few weeks later. The cold mill contained two mills of similar size for cold working sheets produced in the hot mill. The 66-inch cold mill started about March 1940 and the 112-inch cold mill late in 1940. All finishing equipment was supplied and placed in operation by United Engineering for the Soviets. The complete contract was worth about $3.5 or $4 million to United Engineering. For this sum the Soviets acquired an installation capable of rolling 2,000-foot aluminum sheets for aircraft. United Engineering said of it, "Nothing of such a size has ever been produced before."

During World War II the Soviets produced 115,596 aircraft from these materials and items of equipment while Lend-Lease delivered to the USSR only an additional 14,018. However, the Russian-produced aircraft were mainly obsolete prewar types and many were one-engine wood and canvas models with inferior engines. The full utilization of U.S. equipment came after World War II. Domestic production was assisted by a high degree of production specialization in a few plants with almost all foreign equipment. The only Soviet dive bomber, the Storrnovik (IL-2), was in production at three plants; each plant produced about the same number of IL-2s, but not other aircraft. Fighter production was concentrated on the YAK-3, the YAK-2 and YAK-6 being advanced trainer versions. The YAK was produced in six widely scattered plants producing only YAK aircraft at a rate of between 65 and 400 per month.

Two-engined bomber production included the PK-2 (based on the French Potez) at two plants, and the IL-4 at three plants, of which only Komsomolsk (which Henry Wallace said was like the Boeing Seattle plant because it had all U.S. equipment) produced other aircraft. The L1-2 (Douglas DC-3) transport was produced only at Tashkent, and the PO-2 (or De Havilland Tiger Moth) was produced only at Kasan. Thus Soviet aircraft production was concentrated on a few types, each for a single flying function. Lend-Lease provided large quantities of advanced equipment for the development of the Soviet aircraft industry. Henry Wallace, after his visit to the important Kornsomolsk aircraft plant, commented as follows:

The aircraft factory [in Kornsornolsk] where Storrnovik bombers were built owed both its existence and its production to the United States. All the machine tools and all the aluminum came from America... It looks like the old Boeing plant at Seattle.

Foreign Designs for Soviet Aircraft Engines

By acquiring rights to manufacture foreign engines under license and with Western technical assistance, the Soviets were able to acquire a sizable engine-producing capacity for high-quality engines at low cost. For example, in the 1930s, Plants No. 24 and 25 were built in Moscow. Plant No. 24 made Wright Cyclone engines under license and Plant No. 25 made parts for Wright engines. Table 6-2 summarizes Soviet production of aircraft engines in 1940. All Soviet engines were foreign models produced under license.

Before this production program was established, prototypes of every Western aircraft engine were purchased (or stolen). These acquisitions were minutely examined and copied, or composition "Soviet" designs were built incorporating the best features of several foreign engines. A report by Bruce Leighton of Curriss-Wright describes one of these early Soviet models at the Engine Research Institute in 1931:

They've taken Packard, Conqueror, Rolls-Royce, Kestral, Hispano-Suiza, Fiat, Isetta-Franchini — tested them all, analyzed them down to the minutest details, including microphotographs of piston rings, flow lines in crank shafts, etc., taken good features of all, added some ideas of their own (particularly regards valve cooling) and built-up [sic] an engine which we're going to hear more of or I miss my guess.

In 1944, in the entire world, there were about 130 basic types and 275 variations of aircraft engines, either in production or recently in production. Each of the three Soviet engine types was an adaptation of a foreign engine built under a licensing agreement. The M-63 liquid-cooled 9-cylinder radial model was developed from the 1936 M-25, in turn developed from the Wright Cyclone, and used in the Soviet Consolidated Catalina patrol plane. The M-88 was a 14-cylinder air-cooled radial engine based on the French Gnome-Rhone 14-iN, used in DB bombers, SU dive bombers, and PS transport planes. The third engine type was the M-105, a 12-cylinder liquid-cooled V-type of 1,100 horsepower based on the French Hispano-Suiza 12-Y engine, and used in the PE dive bombers, YAK fighters, and L-760 transport planes.


Soviet Aircraft-Engine Production (1940)

Plant Model No.
of Engines  Manufactured
Western Licenser
of Engines Manufactured
Monthly Production
Aircraft motor works No. 29 Baranov M-85, followed by M-87B and M-88 Gnome et Rhone (France) 130
Aircraft motor works No. 24 Frunze and No. 25 M-25, then M-63 and M-64 Curtiss-Wright (U.S.A.) 250
Aircraft motor works No. 26 Aviatroi Parlor M-100, M-103, then M-105Pand M-105R Hispano-Suiza (France) 270
Aircraft motor works No. 10, Tula M-17, then M-38 BMW
Not known
Source: German OKW files.

The Wright Cyclone Engine in the Soviet Union

In 1931 the Curtiss-Wright liquid-cooled engine was the only liquid-cooled American engine still in production. The U.S. Army initially supported development, but dissatisfied with the basic design, cut off funds in 1932. Development support for two other liquid-cooled engines, including the Curtiss-Wright H-2120, was continued by the U.S. Navy. Testing and development continued from 1933 to 1936, when the Navy withdrew support and reverted to air-cooled engines. The second U.S. Navy-supported Curtiss-Wright project was a 12-cylinder V-engine known as the V-1800. This was intended to replace the Curtiss-Wright Conqueror, and successfully completed its testing in 1934. Shortly after this test was completed, the Navy was forced by lack of funds to abandon most of its high-speed program and stopped support of the V-1800. The V-1800 engine was then licensed to the Soviet Union, which funded further research work to raise the engine rating to 900 horsepower from the U.S. Navy's test rating of 800 horsepower. This work was done at Aircraft Engine Plant No. 24 (Frunze) in Moscow, with parts manufactured at Plant No. 25. By 1938 these plants were producing about 250 Wright Cyclones (the Soviet M-25) per month. A plant for manufacturing Cyclone engines was also built at Perm — it was twice the size of the Wright plant in the United States.

The Soviet M-26 engine was based on the Pratt & Whitney Hornet. In July 1939 the corporation licensed the Soviet Union for production 0fthe Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp 1830 and the Twin Hornet 2180 aircraft engines.

The Gnome rotary, manufactured by the Societe des Moteurs Gnome et Rhone, was one of the finest early aircraft engines. After World War I the Gnome Company purchased the license of the British Bristol Jupiter-11 and during the decade of the 1920s the Gnome-Rhone engineering department was dominated by English engineers from the Bristol Aeroplane Company. After producing the Bristol Jupiter engine for some years, the Gnome Company came up with an improved engine of its own design, using American lined cylinders. This crossfer-tilization of ideas led to the exceptional Gnome rotary engines of the 1930s, which were then adopted by the Soviets.

The Gnome-Rhone 114 was built at the Kharkov engine building plant (Plant No. 29) and the French engine became Soviet models M-85, M-87B, and M-88. About 1,500 M-88s a year were produced by 1940.

Similarly, the French Hispano-Suiza engine was produced in Moscow at an enormous plant twice the size of either the Pratt & Whitney or the Wright factories in the United States, themselves gigantic. This French Hispano-Suiza engine became the Soviet M-105 engine.

Western Contribution to the Postwar Soviet Air Force

In 1945 and 1946 the Russian aircraft industry concentrated on mastering the achievements of the German aircraft industry as it had been developed from 1941 to 1943. The years immediately after 1946 witnessed a remarkable expansion in the Soviet industry, based on this and on additional British technical assistance. Technical assistance from the West flowed in from the United Kingdom, particularly through transfer of the Rolls-Royce Nene, Derwent, and Tay jet engine technologies, and from Germany via the transfer of about two-thirds of the enormous German wartime aircraft industry to the Soviet Union.

The postwar aviation and space industries in the USSR have their roots in German World War II aircraft and rocket developments. In 1945 the Germans had a large and relatively undamaged aircraft and rocket manufacturing industry that had been dispersed under threat of Allied bombing toward the eastern regions of Germany — the area later occupied by the Soviets, or transferred to the Soviets on July 1, 1945. Over two-thirds of this productive capacty fell intact into Soviet hands and was removed to the USSR.

The major design units of the German aircraft industry, including most of the Junkers, Siebel, Heinkel, and Messerschmidt plants, were transported to Podberezhye, about 90 miles north of Moscow. Professor Walter Baade of Junkers continued development of the Ju-287K (as the EF-125) after moving to Podberezhye, and followed this with the T-140 and T-150 bombers. These were jets capable of carrying an atomic bomb and, according to one report, they could outperform the U.S. B-47. There were eleven major Junkers aircraft plants in the Soviet Zone and six of these are known to have been completely removed to the USSR, among them the main Otto Mader works, two miles east of Dessau (where Professor Baade had been located), and the Aschersleben, Bernburg, Leopoldshall, and Schonebeck plants. Aschersleben was a fuselage-building plant in process of changing over to the production of the jet He-162; its instrument storeroom, "virtually intact," was placed under military guard by the U.S. Army until the Soviets were able to take it over for removal to the Soviet Union. Benburg was also intact.

In 1944, the outstanding German rocket-plane designer Sanger was working on the Sanger-Bredt project to develop a long-range rocket aircraft. Former Russian General G. A. Tokaev recalls that in 1947 he was summoned to a Moscow conference at which Stalin said, "Von Braun, Lippish, Sanger, Tank and all kinds of other experts are working for the Allies, we must concentrate very seriously on German specialists."

Voznesensky then completed a draft decree, and read it aloud to the conference:

The Council of Ministers of the U.S.S.R. decrees that a Government Commission shall be formed for the purpose of directing and co-ordinating scientific research into aviation problems, with special relation to piloted rocket planes and the Sanger Project. The Commission shall be composed of the following:

Colonel General Comrade Serov (President)
Engineer Lieutenant Colonel Comrade Tokavev (Deputy president)
Academician Comrade Keldysh (Member)
Professor Comrade Kishkin (Member)

The Commission shall leave immediately for Germany, to undertake its preliminary work. A full report of its activities, and of the results it has attained, must be rendered to the Council of Ministers by August 1st.

Marshall of the Soviet Union Comrade Sokolovsky is hereby directed to give the Commission every assistance.

Moscow, the Kremlin, April 17, 194725

"A thorough examination of the Sanger Project was invaluable," said Tokaev, because "of the experience such research would give our scientists in solving related problems and preparing a base for future activities. In other words, by mastering Sanger's theories our experts would be able to begin where he had left off.

Despite these high-level efforts, Professor Sanger was never captured by the Soviets, although the transfer involved almost all other German projects and technologies under development in 1945.

A troublesome gap in 1945 Soviet technology was modern fighter aircraft. Dr. Siegfried Gunther and Professor Benz, both developers of German fighter aircraft, were removed to the USSR. Gunther had been chief designer for Heinkel and a designer of jet fighters since the late 1930s, while Benz designed the German He-162 Volksjager jet fighter.

Among the Soviet acquisitions in Saxony was the Siebel works at Halle, where the experimental rocket-powered research aircraft DFS-346 (comparable to the U.S. Bell X-1 and X-2 and the Douglas X-3) was in final assembly. This work was continued at Halle on behalf of the Russians until Octoer 1948, when it was moved to the OKB-2 combine at Podberezhye with technicians from the Junkers, Heinkel, and Siebel plants. Flight testing of versions built in the USSR was begun in early 1948, using a Lend-Lease North American Mitchell B-25 bomber and later a Boeing B-29 Superfortress as mother aircraft. The first test pilots were Germans, later replaced by Russian pilots.

The aircraft-manufacturing facilities removed from Germany contained some unique equipment. Two German Wotan presses of 15,000 tons were taken and at least four copies were made in the Soviet Union and other units developed from these presses. Aircraft-equipment-manufacturing plants included the former Nitsche plant at Leipzig, used in the USSR to manufacture curve potentiometers, and the Karl Zeiss plant, for position-finders, wind-tunnel parts, and various precision instruments. It is estimated that in 1954 this segment of the wartime German aircraft industry supplied about 75 percent of Soviet radar equipment and precision instruments.

The Boeing B-20 Four-Engined Bomber becomes the Tu-4 and the Tu-70

During World War II the United States was unwilling to send four-engined heavy bombers to the Soviet Union under Lend-Lease. Although in April 1944 General John R. Deane recommended U.S. approval of Russian requests for heavy bombers, the War Department refused on the grounds that the Soviets could not train a bombing force prior to the spring of 1945 and that certain special equipment for such bombers was in short supply. The official State Department Lend-Lease report on war aid lists Russian acquistion of only one four-engined bomber (a B-24 that force-landed in Siberia), although the Soviets were in fact able to acquire four B-29s by retaining force-landed bombers in the Far East.

The Soviets then started work on the Tu-4 four-engined bomber and the Tu-70 civilian-transport version. In 1946 Amtorg attempted to purchase from the Boeing Aircraft Company a quantity of B-29 tires, wheels, and brake assemblies. In 1947 the Soviets produced the Tupolev Tu-70, which was immediately identified as a direct copy of the Boeing B-29. The similarity has been described in Boeing Magazine:

The famed Boeing 117 airfoil on the Tu-70 is an exact replica of the Boeing B-29 wing. Along with the wing are the superfortress nacelles: outline, cooling air intake, auxiliary air scoop, cowl flaps and inboard and outboard fairings. The cabin cooling air inlet in the wing leading edge between the body and the inboard nacelle is the same. The trailing edge extension on the flap between the inboard nacelle and the side of the fuselage are also identical, according to the evidence provided by the photographs.

On the landing gear, Boeing commnts:

The Tupolev Tu-70 uses the Twenty-nine's main landing-gear structure as well as its fairings and doors. The nose gear also appears to be that of the Superfortress, with the upper trunnion located closer to the body contour of the Tu-70 than on the Boeing bomber.

The tail surfaces of the Russian transport also came directly from the Boeing engineering department. On comparison it is apparent that the vertical tail and the dorsal outline as well as the leading edge of the rudder are the same on the two planes. The rudder of the Tu-70 appears to end at what would be the top of the tail-gunner's doghouse on the Superfortress. The shape of the stabilizer and the elevator is the same on the two planes, and the Tu-70 also uses the inverted camber of the B-29's tail.

The propellers of the Tupoiev Tu-70 were original B-29 props, less cuffs. The hubs are characteristic of the Hamilton-Standard design. Boeing engineers also report that the drift-meter installation of the Russian transport looked like that of the superfortress, as did the pitot head type and location match-up.

The Soviets did design a new fuselage, higher on the wing of the Tu-70 than the fuselage of the B-29, larger in diameter, and a little longer (119 feet as compared to 99 feet). The Tu-70 transport retains the bomber nose, including the bombardier's plate-glass window.

How did the Soviets advance from an inability to produce modern bombers in 1940 to an ability to produce a workmanlike design requiring an extensive period of research and flight testing in 19477 Even if the finest designs were available, jigs and dies to put the plane into quantity production were also required. The 18-cylinder Wright engines for the B-29 had been extremely difficult to manufacture — even in the United States. Further, the Soviet's only experience in the production of four-engined bombers was the very unsuccessful Tupolev PE-8. We also know that in 1940 the Soviets had enormous difficulties putting the DC-3 twin-engined transport plane into production and repeatedly came back to the Douglas Aircraft Company for aluminum sections, parts, and technical advice.

Obviously, the record of a great deal of our assistance to the Soviets still lies buried in the U.S. government files. One area still worthy of research in the 1980s is the so-called "special programs" under Lend-Lease — unpublicized and still classified.

The First Soviet Jets

Aircraft Plant No. 1 at Kuibyshev, built by Lend-Lease during World War II, absorbed the equipment from the Junkers facility at Bernburg, which was transferred from Germany along with Junkers engineers, designers, foremen, and test pilots. The function of the plant was to utilize the emerging German jet technology to build the first Soviet jet fighters and bombers. The Soviet designers Tupolev and Gurevich began by visiting German aircraft factories to examine prototypes and production methods. The Junkers Company organized an exhibition of secret German aircraft projects and arranged for tours of inspection. Equipment was then removed under the program of OKSs (Osoboye Konstruktorskoye Byuro); OKB No. 1 was at the Junkers plant in Dessau.

The bulk of the German engineers and scientists were moved to Russia by train on the night of October 22-23, 1946, in what was probably the largest mass movement of scientific brains in the history of the civilized (or the uncivilized) world. These engineers and scientists were divided into small groups of about fifteen persons, with about thirty Russian engineers attached to each German nucleus for study and work. Each project was handled by stages — the draft stage, the technical project stage, and finally the presentation stage. Whenever a project was almost complete it was canceled by the Soviets and the related drawings, papers, biographies, and technical material were turned over by the Germans. Duplicate work was undertaken by separate all-Russian groups some distance from the location of the original German pilot-groups. In addition, German groups were put in competition with each other.

Most German designers and engineers in the aeroengine industry were sent to Kuibyshev Plant No. 1. They came mainly from the Junkers and BMW plants, no less than 800 engineers and technicians from these two companies alone. Among the members of the BMW contingent was Kurt Schell, former head of the BMW rocket laboratory, and engineers Winter, Kaul, Schenk, Tietze, Weiner, and Muller. The Junkers group led by Walter Baade was the most important. Dr. Baade, formerly chief engineer of Junkers with ten years experience in American aeronautical plants, was fully familiar with American methods of aircraft construction. With Dr. Baade was a group of engineers including Feundel, Haseloff, Wocke, Elli, Lilo, Rental, Hoch, Beer, Antoni, Reuss, Heising, and Hartmann.

The Junkers engine team in the Soviet Union was headed by Dr. Scheibe, who designed the Junkers P-1 turbine; he was assisted by engine designers Gerlach and Pohl, who at Dessau had been in charge of the engine testing department. Also in the Scheibe group were Steudel and Boettger and a large number of personnel from the Junkers turbojet department, including engineers, foremen, and skilled workers. Another prominent designer, Ernst Heinkel, worked in the Soviet Union at the Kalinin Experimental Station.

The Junkers plant itself was rebuilt at Kuibyshev, "almost exactly" as it had been in Leipzig.

Development of the First Soviet Jet Engine

At first German engineers were used to develop jet engines for the Soviets after World War II. First came reproductions of the Junkers-004 and the BMW-003 jet engines, which had been removed to the Soviet Union with their associated production equipment. The 004 became the Soviet RD-10, and the BMW-003 was produced as the Soviet RD-20 on a stop-gap basis until more advanced designs came along from British sources.

The first project given to the German design groups was a Soviet specification for a 3,000-horsepower jet engine, a development of the Junkers-012 turbojet, which had been in the design stage in Germany at the end of World War II. By 1947 the Junkers-012 had been developed as a 12-burner assembly, but operating inefficiencies halted development of this engine in 1948. The next project specification given to the German designers was for a 6,000-horsepower turboprop that could attain a speed of 560 miles per hour at sea level. This engine was developed from the Junkers-022 turboprop engine, with the same general design and characteristics as the 012.

By 1949 the Brandner design teams had essentially met the Soviets' specification and immediately set to work on yet another project — a power plant with 12,000 horsepower in contrast to the 6,000 horsepower developed by the Junkers-022. Finally, the Type-K turboprop was developed by the Junkers-BMW team as a 14-stage compressor and 5-stage turbine engine, a logical evolution from the German engines under development during the latter stages of World War II. Type-K engines produced by the mid-1950s power the operational Soviet four-engined bomber (Tu-20 Bear) with four MK- 12M turboprop engines of 12,000 horsepower capacity, and the civilian version, Tu-114 (The Rossiya).

The AM series (after Mikulin) developed from the work of a Junkers-BMW team in the USSR under engineer Brandner. The end result of this design, the AM-3, was seen in 1958 by an American engineer, whose comment was, "The engine is not an outstanding power plant, being of simple design of very large diameter and developing about 15,000 pounds thrust with 8 compression stages."

The AM series of turbojets is currently used in the Tu-104 Came; civilian version of the Tu-16 Badger bomber.

MIG Fighters with Rolls-Royce Turbojets

In 1946 the Soviets bought fifty-five Rolls-Royce centrifugal compressor type turbojets — twenty-five Nenes and thirty Derwents. These Rolls-Royce engines, the most advanced in the world for the time, were well suited to Soviet production methods and introduced the Soviets to the use of a centrifugal turbojet. Up to 1947 Russian jets were all of the axial-flow type based on German designs. These Rolls-Royce turbines proved to be the best possible equipment for the MiG-15, which was designed by Siegfried Gunther and put into serial production under the name of the Soviet designers Mikoyan and Gurevich. Gunther was brought to Moscow and appointed chief designer in the construction office in Podberezhye.

Two versions of the Rolls-Royce engines were produced at Engine Plant No. 45 near Moscow from 1948 to the late 1950s. The plant was toured in 1956 by U.S. Air Force General Nathan Twining, who noted that it contained machine tools from the United States and Germany, and had 3,000 workers engaged in producing the Rolls-Royce Nene.

In 1951 the American counterpart to this Rolls-Royce engine was the Pratt & Whitney J-42 Turbo-Wasp, based on the Nene, but not then in quantity production. When the Korean War broke out in 1950, therefore, the Russians had thousands of improved Rolls-Royce Nene engines in service powering MiG-15s, whereas the U.S. Air Force had only a few hundred F-86A Sabres with comparable engines. Several engines from MiG-15s captured in Korea were evaluated by the United States Air Force. Reports were prepared by engineers of Pratt & Whitney Aircraft Division of United Aircraft Corporation, the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, and Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory. We know from these analyses that by 1951 the Soviets had two versions of the original Rolls-Royce Nene in production quantities. The first version, the RD-45 that powered an early MiG-15, was a direct copy of the original Rolls-Royce Nene and delivered 5,000 pounds of thrust. The second version of the RD-45 delivered 6,000 pounds of static thrust at sea level and 6,750 pounds of thrust with water injection. The turbine blades in the Soviet RD-45 engines were made of a stainless steel alloy of the Nimonic-80 type, while the burner liner and swirl vanes were made of Nimonic-75. Parts of the Nene sold to Russia in 1948 were fabricated from Nimonic alloys — "Nimonic" being the registered trademark of Henry Wiggin and Company of Birmingham, England. Both Nimonic-75 and Nimonic-80 were developed by Mond Nickel about 1940, and the specifications had previously been published by the Ministry of Supply in the United Kingdom on the grounds that it was nonstrategic information.

The RD-45 (Nene) was produced in Moscow and also at Magadan from 1951 onwards, at Khabarovsk, at Ufa Plant No. 21, and at the Kiev Plant No. 43 from 1951 until sometime after 1958.

In 1967 the Soviet Strategic Air Force operated about 120 Tu-14 Bison bombers, 70 Tu-20 Bear bombers, and 1,000 Tu-16 Badger bombers. The Soviet Navy also operated these three types of aircraft.

From the information in Table 6-1 we can trace the operational jet engines of the 1960s from the Junkers and BMW prototypes taken from Germany at the end of World War II or from those sold by the Rolls-Royce Company as "peaceful trade" in 1946. Both groups of prototypes were developed by German engineers transferred to Russia as forced labor, with equipment and instruments imported as "peaceful trade." When the K-series and the AM-series turbojets were well along the development road the Germans were returned home. The Soviets have had no difficulty since in making design improvements to the original German and British concepts and technologies. These are the engines that power operational Soviet military aircraft.

Even today in the 1980s Soviet military and commercial aircraft are heavily dependent on Western technology — primarily American.

It has been observed that current aircraft designs from Soviet military aircraft design bureaus are to a significant degree copies of Western military aircraft. Apparently Soviet military designers order documents and plans from U.S. Government sources and we obligingly make deliveries within a month or so directly to the Soviet Union. For example, the Soviet military cargo plane is a direct copy of the U.S. C-5A giant transport. Soviet acquisition of American aircraft also suggests they are just as interested in aircraft construction techniques as in design data for particular aircraft.

This Soviet design interest has been identified especially in military transport and wide body jets and they have probably managed to accelerate their development programs significantly. The Soviet IL-86 is a copy of the Boeing 747. The IL-76 is a copy of the C-141. While neither is a precise copy, both designs are substantially the same.

Even the NASA Space Shuttle has been copied. In 1984 U.S. intelligence sources reported that the, Soviet Union is building a "carbon copy" of the Space Shuttle. Retired Lt. Colonel Thomas Krebs, former chief of the DIA space systems branch, reported: "We've seen the Soviet orbiter and it's identical to ours."

The only difference between the shuttles is reported as an additional set of engines below the fuel tank, thus an increased payload capacity. The Soviets were able to purchase a complete set of Space Shuttle plans. These were unclassified and made available by NASA to any interested party. The Soviets were an obviously interested party, although it is beyond comprehension why the NASA people would release a technology with obvious military implications. The NASA excuse is that the plans were released to improve coordination with commercial suppliers of equipment. The Soviets set up a dummy company to make the purchase (Washington Post, June 9, 1984).

Table 6-1

Western Origin of Some Soviet Military Aircraft

Date in
Origin of
MiG-9 fighter 1946-47 RD-20 BMW 003
MiG-15 fighter 1947-1960s RD-45 Rolls-Royce
MiG-17 fighter 1954 to date VK-2JA Rolls-Royce
MiG-19 fighter 1955 to date VK-5 or (M-205) Rolls-Royce
Tay & Derwent
Tu-70 (Boeing
1950 4 piston-type engines Wright 18-
Tu-16 Badger bomber 1954 to date AM-3M turbojets Junkers-
BMW team
Tu-104 airliner version of Badger bomber 1957 to date AM-3M turbojets Junkers-
BMW team
Tu-20 Bear bomber 1955 to date NK-12M turbo-
BMW team
Tu-114 airliner version of Bear BOMBER 1957 to date NK-12M turbo-
BMW team
Cargo transport 1960 US C5A
IL-86 1970 US Boeing 747
IL-76 1970 US C-141
Space Shuttle 1980 US NASA Shuttle

The Supersonic Tu-144 (Alias "Konkordskly")

British and French aeronautical engineers have their own name for the Russian Tu-144 supersonic plane. They call it the "konkordskiy." A comparative glance at the configurations of the Anglo-French Concorde and the Russian Tu-144 will — even without supporting evidence —readily explain the nickname.

The configurations of the Russian supersonic Tu-144 and the Anglo-French supersonic Concorde are strikingly similar. Given the history of Soviet technical dependence on the West, we can pose the question: Did the Soviets use the design of the Anglo-French Concorde for the Russian Tu-1447

Design work for Concorde began a decade before the British and French signed the Concorde agreement in 1962. Wind-tunnel testing, which yielded the data for the shape of the plane, began in the early 1950s. The Soviets had many other pressing problems in the early 1950s that were more important than research on a supersonic delta plane. However, the Tu-144 has a design concept very close to that of the Concorde. Both have modified double-delta wings, fixed geometry and low-aspect ratio for minimum drag. Fins and rudders are similar; neither aircraft has tailplanes. The major external differences are relatively slight variations in landing gear and engine position. In other words, superficially the Tu-144 is quite unlike anything the Soviets have designed previously; it is a significant jump in the technological horizon (but not as much as the aborted titanium U.S. supersonic plane) and should have required many years of testing and design work.

Dr. William Strang, technical director of British Aircraft Corporation's commercial aircraft division, has stated, "I think it likely that they did have some knowledge of the work we were doing which led to the general shape definition" (London Times, Sept. 27, 1971).

In September 1971 the British government expelled 105 Russian "diplomats" from England on charges of spying, and specifically military and industrial spying. According to the London Times, this espionage included "information on electronics, transformers, semi-conductors, computer circuitry, and technical details of the Concorde and Olympus 593 engine" (Sept. 25, 1971).

Finally, Doyle, a reformed member of the British Communist Party, confessed to accepting L5,000 from the Soviets for information on Concorde, "including manuals, sketches and small pieces of equipment" Security was so lax at the plant that Doyle and his Soviet friends once considered smuggling out a 16-foot missile disguised as a telegraph pole. This was no real problem, as Doyle had keys to all secret departments and security was nonexistent, but he balked at having to answer to his chief for a missing missile. Concorde was one thing, a missile was something else.

British and French engineers may have some justification for renaming Tu-144 the "Konkordskiy."



20(London: Tom Stacey, Ltd., 1971), p. 88.

21R.A. Kilmarx, A History of Soviet Air Power (New York: Praeger, 1962).

22U.5. State Dept. Decimal File, 711.00111 — Armanent Control/1384, Nov. 4, 1938.

23Aircraft Year Book, 1938, p. 275.

24U.S. State Dept. Decimal File, 316-25-684.

25G. Tokaev, Stalin Means War (London: Weindenfeld & Nicolson, 1951), p. 158.