Aircraft: Myth and Reality
In December 1960, N. S.
Khruschev, First Secretary of the
Central Committee of the
Communist Party of the Soviet
Union (CPSU) made a speech at the
Supreme Council session in which
he, in fact, proclaimed the
inexpedience of the further
development of military aircraft. The
gist of the speech of the then Soviet
leader, fascinated by the triumph of Russian space technology and
that all the tasks formerly executed by the combat aircraft could be
guided missiles of various types. Taking the speech as a directive, the
Ministers and the CPSU Central Committee issued a joint decree terminating
work on new promising aircraft.
The first victims of the decree were the Lavochkin and Myasischev aircraft
design bureaus. They had to fully reorganize their work. V. Myasischev was
appointed director of TsAGI. He was very disappointed at the fact that
only a few of his M-50 and M-52 long-range supersonic bombers were
produced. Other design bureaus limited themselves holding up a number of
promising projects and started working on rocketry.
Ordering to cease development of new aircraft, Khruschev didn't risk it
coming out directly against the Soviet aircraft patriarch A. Tupolev by
terminating the "aircraft 135" project. To do that, he chose
another way. The Tupolev design bureau was told to increase the speed of
its new aircraft up to 3,000 km/h, since the overseas XB-70 could fly at a
speed of 3,000 km/h.
At the same time, the State Committee on Aeronautical Technology (SCAT)
was directed to hold a tender on the development of a long-range
supersonic missile-equipped aircraft capable of hitting enemy aircraft
carrier battle groups out in the ocean.
The principal opponent of the "aircraft 135" project was SCAT
Chairman P. Dementyev who didn't want to deal with such an expensive, new
- in technical terms - and, which is more important, risky and complex in
terms of organization project. One should have to reequip plants, create
new cooperation links, release work force and expand facilities and so
forth. To get rid of the "aircraft 135" project, Dementyev took
a rather Jesuitical step. He ordered the fighter aircraft design bureaus
headed by Pavel Sukhoi and Alexander Yakovlev, to work on the new strike
aircraft alongside with Tupolev. The idea was simple enough - having no
experience in designing such, the companies would conduct the project
research only, realize that the task was a tall order and, finally, bury
the program on the quiet. With the tender commenced, the three
aforementioned design bureaus began working on the new aircraft project.
In the autumn of 1961, the Sukhoi design bureau commenced designing the
new single-mode strike aircraft with the cruising speed of up to 3,000
km/h and the max range of up to 6,000 to 8,000 km. The initial design of
the aircraft general configuration was vested in A. Polyakov, deputy chief
of the airframe design team, while the overall project supervision was
entrusted to I. Tsebrikov.
Initial calculations indicated that the aircraft weight would be 102
tonnes. Later, the aircraft designation, i.e. "item 100", was
derived from that figure. In May 1962, the T-4 aircraft was designed as a
flying wing with the protruding fuselage. The variant had been submitted
to Sukhoi for approval that was granted.
The results of the tender on the single-mode strike aircraft were summed
up at the scientific and technical council held in July 1962. The Tupolev
design bureau submitted long-designed "aircraft 135" project
which was took heavy flak due to excessive mass of the aircraft, whose
take-off weight equalled 190 tonnes, and failure to match its cruising
speed to that of the required one, i.e. 2,500 km/h instead of 3,000 km/h.
Aircraft first prototype assembly
The arguments of the Tupolev representatives at the scientific and
technical council were rather sound and competent. To save state assets
and funds, it made sense to build only one type of aircraft capable of
accomplishing strategic tasks as well as the tasks of the long-range
aviation. The latter operates at a range of 3,000 to 3,500 km, so its time
on target (TOT) at a speed of 2,500 km/h increases only by 12 minutes,
which makes 72 minutes instead of previous 60 minutes. Moreover, the
"aircraft 135" could carry four-to-six missiles as compared with
only two in the designs of the Tupolev and Sukhoi design bureaus.
Alexander Yakovlev came up with the Yak-35 aircraft boasting a take-off
weight of 90 tonnes and a cruise speed of 3,000 km/h. Outwardly, the
aircraft resembled the American Hustler very much.
Aircraft tail section
Pavel Sukhoi was last to submit his design. He equipped his T-4 with an
R-15BF-300 turbojet engine and an Kh-45 cruise missile developed by
Alexander Bereznyak. In general, such a design met the tactical and
technical requirements set by the Air Force, but a decision was taken to
summarize the results of the tender at the next scientific and technical
council slated for September 1962.
Tupolev realized that the "aircraft 135" design would be struck
out from the contest, so he ordered that a new "aircraft 125", a
would-be replacement for Tu-22, should be prepared for meeting the tender
The new plane was designed to be a single-mode canard-type aircraft fitted
with two NK-6 turbofan engines mounted beneath the wings. The
"aircraft 125" design provided for the broad use of titanium
alloys alongside duralumin. The plane was planned to be equipped with then
most up-to-date avionics. However, the Tupolev design bureau didn't have
enough time to make the "aircraft 125" project to comply with
the requirements of the tender.
center fuselage section
At the last session of the scientific and technical council the Sukhoi
design bureau project was declared winner. This contravened the
Dementyev's plans, so he didn't scruple to pay a visit on Polikarpova
Street, where the Sukhoi design bureau was located, in person.
"Pavel Osipovich, you have accomplished your mission," said the
SCAT Chairman, hardly having crossed the threshold. "The Moor has
done his job and has to leave now. This project belongs to Tupolev but he
cannot proceed with his "aircraft 135" due to your victory in
the tender. That is why I'm asking you to withdraw your design".
Sukhoi kept silence for a moment then said very politely: "I'm sorry,
but it was me who won the contest, not Andrei Nikolayevich. That's why I
cannot withdraw my design, moreover, I'm against my design bureau being
burdened with rocketry. I want to build planes". Dementyev had nearly
blew his top. However, he pulled himself together and warned, "Well,
Pavel Osipovich, you said so".
But the genie has already been let out. The T-4 design was supported by
the military as well as by the State Committee scientific and technical
council, and one couldn't just dump it. Lots of "openhearted and
confidential" talks of the opponents of the project were to no avail.
A man of high culture, Sukhoi suddenly turned out to be very stubborn in
protecting his design bureau priority and was not going to cave in.
In December 1966, the Sukhoi design bureau presented the Air Force with
the mock-up of the T-4 strike/reconnaissance aircraft. On order of the
Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force, a mock-up evaluation commission was
set up which from January 17 till February 2, 1967 considered the T-4
mock-up and the avionics, armament as well as its flight and technical
performance. The mock-up evaluation commission stated in its report that
the creation of the T-4 strike/reconnaissance plane was a most important
national task aimed at equipping the Air Force with effective
new-generation strike/reconnaissance aircraft.
In 1967, the Soviet government issued a decree ordering an experimental
batch of seven T-4 aircraft to be built, of which one should be used for
static research and the rest to be flight-tested. The first aircraft
designated by the producing plant as "101" was planned to be
used to evaluate the aircraft on-board systems, determine the plane's
stability and controllability at the maximum speed as well as flight and
The "102" aircraft was slated for testing the navigation
systems, the "103" was supposed to launch guided missiles. The
"104" was to be used to work on the problems of bombing and test
the aircraft performance in terms of the flying range. The "105"
was planned to be used for testing the whole of avionics, and the
"106" was to be used to perfect the whole strike/reconnaissance
complex. The "100S" was to be used for the static research.
...The first experimental T-4 - "item 101" - was transported
from the assembly workshop of the Tushino machine-building plant to the
Zhukovsky air base at night on December 30, 1971.