July 29, 1944
Stealing the Superfortress
On this day, three of America's most advanced bombers, the Superfortresses, land at an airfield at Vladivostok, Russia. The bombers have just bombed targets in Japan, and are running out of fuel. Since Vladivostok is the closest allied city that they can land at, they decide to go there.
However, a few months before, the Soviets signed a pact with the Japanese that they would be neutral nations. According to international law, the neutral nation must take the arms (weapons) of the allied nation that is fighting the nation that it is neutral with. In plain English, it means that the Soviets got to take and keep the American's B-29s. If the Americans didn't follow this rule, news would leak out, and get to Japan, and Japan would think the Soviets were supporting the Americans. This would push Japan into war against the Soviets and millions more people would be killed in Vladivostok and other cites at the eastern end of Russia.
Stalin always had wanted a long range, strategic bomber of his own and assigned Andrei Nikolaevich Tupolev, the top Soviet airplane designer at that time, to exactly copy the Superfortress and to create/mass produce the plane.
- The first plane, the General Hap Arnold Special, was deconstructed and every part of it carefully examined and copied.
- The second plane, the Ramp Tramp was used as a trainer for Soviet pilots.
- The third and last plane, the Ding How and was used as a yardstick for the final design.
The Soviets modified and improved the plane by adding better remote gun turrets and more powerful, ASH-73TK engine designed by A.D. Shvetsov. This engine gave the Tu-4, or what Soviet version of the B-29 was called, a top speed 558 kmh (compare it to the American engines which gave the B-29 a top speed of 540 kph). Unfortunately, the American B-29 had a range of 6,000 miles with a payload of 3,000kt, but the Tu-4 had a range of 5,400 miles with a payload of 3,000kt.
The first plane rolled off the Assembly line in the year of 1949 and eventually, about 300 were produced. The planes were scrapped in 1952 because they were too slow and jets were being used instead of propelers.
Of all the Tu-4s built, only one remains at display at the Russian Air Force Museum at Monio, Russia.
Source: || The History Channel: Stealing the Superfortress
Another Source: || www.FAS.org
Version 1.0.1: Changed both the units so that they are the same.