Early Sovjet jet aircraft

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Early Sovjet jet aircraft

Berichtdoor Tandorini » 15 jan 2009, 18:40

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Jet aircraft and jet engine development became a priority task for the Soviet aircraft industry after the war. Huge resources were committed to this task; still, all the money in the world can't buy you time, and the research and development effort was certainly going to be a lengthy one, which meant the service entry of the first Soviet jets would occur rather later than desired. Therefore, to speed up the work the Soviet government chose to make use of Germany's experience in this field.

In 1945 the Soviet Union came into possession of many materials pertaining to jet aircraft development. The rich war booty included complete aircraft and jet engines. Many of these aircraft underwent rigorous testing at the Red Banner State Research Institute of the Soviet Air Force (GK Nil VVS-Gosoodarstvennyy krasnoznamyonnyy naooch-no-issledovatel'skiy institoot Voyennovozdooshnykh sil) and the Flight Research Institute (LII - Lyotno-issledovatel'skiy institoot); they were also carefully studied at the Central Aero- & Hydrodynamics Institute named after Nikolay Yeo Zhukovskiy (TsAGI-Tsentrahl'nyy aero- i ghidrodinamicheskiy institoot). The detailed reports filed after these tests and examinations were circulated to various organizations within the NKAP framework, including design bureaux. The same procedure applied to the captured engines. The Junkers Jumo 004B and BMW 003A turbojets rated at 900 kgp (1,984 lb st) and 800 kgp (1 ,763 lb st) respectively were of special interest to the Soviet engineers because they had reached production status; therefore, it was decided to urgently launch production of these engines in the USSR.

On 28th April 1945 the People's Commissar of Aircraft Industry issued an order to the effect that Chief Designer Vladimir Yakovlevich Klimov, whose engine design bureau had been evacuated from Rybinsk (Yaroslavl' Region) to Ufa during the war, should prepare a set of detail drawings of the Jumo 004B, whereupon the reverse-engineered turbojet was to enter production at the Ufa aero-engine factory No. 26 as the RD-10. Klimov's closest aide Nikolay D. Kuznetsov was put in charge of the actual copying job. Another NKAP order issued on 13th June 1945 tasked Chief Designer of the Kazan' aero-engine factory No. 16 Kolosov with similarly copying the BMW 003A and launching production of this engine as the RD-20. The decision to build the RD-10 and RD-20 was confirmed by the State Defence Committee's directive of 20th July 1945 titled 'On studying and mastering production of German jet aircraft designs'. Production of both models got underway in 1946.

Still, despite the high priority attached in the immediate post-war months to copying and producing the German engines, it was clear that progress in the field of Soviet engine design could only be attained by relying on own resources and indigenous models.

Back in the autumn of 1944 Lyul'ka's design team had begun testing the S-18 turbojet, a further development of the pre-war RD-1; the S stood for stendovyy, meaning that the Soviet Union's first operational jet engine was intended for bench trials and was not yet flight-cleared. At this stage the designers had their first acquaintance with engine surge at high rpm; the surge was bad enough to wreck the engine completely. Still, changes introduced into the design cured the problem and the S-18 successfully completed its trials. The latter included comparative tests with the Jumo 004B, showing that the Soviet engine had not only higher thrust (1 ,250 kgp/2,755 lb st) but a lower dry weight and specific fuel consumption. These encouraging results led to the decision to develop a flight-cleared version designated TR-1 (toorboreaktivnyy [dvigate!'] - turbojet engine) and manufacture a small trials batch. To this end a new design bureau, OKB-165, was established, with Arkhip M. Lyul'ka as Chief Designer.

On 2nd April 19461. V. Stalin, Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars, held a briefing on the prospects of Soviet aviation, including jet aircraft development. One of the items on the agenda was the possibility of copying the Messerschmitt Me 262A-1 a fighter, an example of which had been evaluated by GK Nil VVS in August-November 1945, and putting it into production at one of the Soviet aircraft factories. In its day the Me 262 had an impressive top speed of 850 km/h (459 kts) , heavy armament comprising four 30-mm (1.18 calibre) cannons and was generally well designed. However, the idea was rejected for various reasons.

By then several Soviet design bureaux had a number of high-speed aircraft projects in the making; many of them fell for the 'German' layout with two turbojet engines under or on the wings ala Me 262 (which, incidentally, was also employed by the British Gloster Meteor). For instance, Pavel O. Sukhoi's OKB used it for the izdeliye K fighter, the Mikoyan OKB developed a Me 262 look-alike designated 1-260, while the Lavochkin OKB came up with the '160' fighter (the first fighter to have this designation) and the Alekseyev OKB with the 1-21 designed along similar lines. A notable exception was the Yakovlev OKB because A. S. Yakovlev cordially disliked heavy fighters, preferring lightweight single-engined machines. (Later Yakovlev did resort to the twin-engined layout, but that was in the early 1950s when the Yakovlev OKB brought out the Yak-120 (Yak-25) twinjet interceptor.)

As an insurance policy in case one OKB failed to achieve the desired results, the Soviet government usually issued a general operational requirement (GOR) for a new aircraft to several design bureaux at once in a single Council of People's Commissars (or Council of Ministers) directive. This was followed by an NKAP (or MAP, Ministerstvo aviatsionnoy promyshlennosti - Ministry of Aircraft Industry) order to the same effect. This was also the case with the new jet fighters. Initially all the above mentioned OKBs designed their fighters around Soviet copies of the Jumo 004B or BMW 003A engines; later the more promising indigenous TR-1 came into the picture.

It should be noted that in the early postwar years the Soviet defence industry enterprises continued to operate pretty much in wartime conditions, working like scalded cats. In particular, the Powers That Be imposed extremely tight development and production schedules on the design bureaux and production factories tasked with developing and manufacturing new military hardware. The schedules were closely monitored not only by the ministry to which the respective OKB or factory belonged but also by the notorious KGB. 'Missing the train' could mean swift and severe reprisal not only for the OKB head and actual project leaders but also for high-ranking statesmen who had responsibility for the programme. Nevertheless, even though the commencement of large-scale R&D on jet aircraft had been ordered as far back as May 1944, no breakthrough had been achieved by early 1946. For instance, the aircraft industry failed to comply with the orders to build pre-production batches of jet fighters in time for the traditional August flypast held at Moscow's Tushino airfield; only two jets, the MiG-9 and Yak-15, participated in the flypast on that occasion. This was all the more aggravating because jet fighters had been in production in Great Britain since 1944 and in the USA since early 1945. Unfortunately the Soviet aero-engine factories encountered major difficulties when mastering production of jet engines; hence in early 1946 jet engines were produced in extremely limited numbers, suffering from low reliability and having a time between overhauls (TBO) of only 25 hours.

As was customary in the Soviet Union in those days, someone had to pay for this, and scapegoats were quickly found. In February-March 1946 People's Commissar of Aircraft Industry A. I. Shakhoorin, Soviet Air Force C-in-C Air Marshal A. A. Novikov, the Air Force's Chief Engineer A. K. Repin and Main Acquisitions Department chief N. P. Seleznyov and many others were removed from office, arrested and mostly executed.

The early post-war years presaged the Cold War era, and the Soviet leaders attached considerable importance not only to promoting the nation's scientific, technological and military achievements but also to flexing the Soviet Union's military muscles for the world to see. This explains why the government was so eager to see new types displayed at Tushino, regardless of the fact that some of the aircraft had not yet completed their trials - or, worse, did not meet the Air Force's requirements. Thus, the grand show at Tushino on 3rd August 1947 featured a whole formation of jet fighter prototypes: the Yak-19, the Yak15U, the Yak-23, three Lavochkin designs the '150', the '156' and the '160', plus the MiG9, the Su-9 and the Su-11 .

Sometimes the initial production aircraft selected for the flypast lacked armament or important equipment items. This was not considered important; the world had to see the new aircraft at all costs. Behold the achievements of socialism! Feel the power of the Soviet war machine! Fear ye! Still, despite this air of ostentation, the achievements and the power were there beyond all doubt; the Soviet Union's progress in aircraft and aero engine technologies was indeed impressive, especially considering the ravages of the four-year war. It just happened that, because of urgent need, some things which could not be developed in-country quickly enough had to be copied; and copied they were - and with reasonably high quality at that.

Thus by the end of the 1940s the Soviet Union had not only caught up with the West as far as jet aviation was concerned but gained a lead in certain areas. The first Soviet jet fighters dealt with in this post were instrumental in reaching this goal.
NEC JACTANTIA NEC METU ("zonder woorden, zonder vrees")

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