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ANT-42 (TB-7, Pe-8)

Heavy bomber TB-7, Pe-8 (ANT-42)


Heavy bomber Pe-8

The aircraft is a four-engine cantilever monoplane with retractable landing gear. It was designed as a high-speed, high-altitude bomber of "flying fortress" class - Soviet equivalent of the American Boeing B-17 "Flying Fortress". The first flight of ANT-42 prototype was performed in December, 1936. It was batch produced from 1939 to 1944. In total, together with two prototypes, industry had produced 93 aircraft. The first aircraft were produced with ACN (unit of central boost), which could significantly raise the operating altitude of the power plant and make it achieve high performance, that made TB-7 virtually invulnerable to air defense systems of the period. It was decided to refuse from ACN for batch production on organizational and technical reasons, but even without it TB-7 remained one of the best four-engine heavy bomber of World War II in its overall performance. Originally, V.M. Petlyakov was TB-7 project leader, and after his arrest, I.F. Nezval followed him. The aircraft was manufactured with several types of engines and a variety of defensive weapons. TB-7 (since 1942, it became Pe-8 designated) with AM-35A engines had a top speed of 443 km/h at an altitude of 6,360 m, service ceiling of 10,300 meters, normal takeoff weight of 27 tons, normal bomb capacity of 2,000 kg, and maximum – 4,000 kg, defensive armament of 7 x ShKAS machine-guns and one ShVAK cannon.


Heavy bomber Pe-8

By the beginning of the war, there were about 13-14 TB-7 in the units, based in Ukraine. After the opening of hostilities, all the available TB-7s in the country were brought together at the airfield in Kazan, where the formation of the new unit began. On August 10, TB-7s raided Berlin, but for various reasons, only several bombers reached the target and dropped their bombs and leaflets on the capital of the Reich. Until the end of 1941, some more combat flights to Germany and occupied territories were performed. TB-7s were also engaged in attacks in the tactical and operational depth of the enemy, both during day and at night. After the creation of the Long Range Aviation, all TB-7s were included in it. In 1942, TB-7s were performing air raids on Berlin, Bucharest and other cities of Germany and its allies. During critical moments of the Battle of Stalingrad, TB-7s were switched to performing tactical tasks.

In August, 1942 TB-7s were attacking German positions in the vicinity of the front line. In the same 1942, TB-7s successfully completed the mission of delivering V.M. Molotov to England and to the United States. The flight was performed at high altitudes, partially over the territories controlled by Germany. In April, 1943 TB-7s performed several air raids on Koenigsberg, and dropped a five-ton bomb FAB-5000 on the city during the last raid. In July, 1943 during the Battle of Kursk FAB-5000s were dropped on the German group from TB-7. In 1944, TB-7s took part in the air raids on the cities of Finland. It is these bombings that have become an additional very strong argument in favor of the withdrawal of Finland from the war on Germany's side. World War II has confirmed the importance of strategic bombing and heavy strategic airplanes. Prior to the war, the Soviet Union did not have a clear vision on the use of strategic aviation, so the production of TB-7 was sacrificed to the production of front-line airplanes. Military operations on the Soviet-German front demanded more front-line aviation, that’s why production of TB-7 was miserable by the standards of war (for comparison United States and Britain have produced in total about 40 thousand heavy four-engine bombers, such as B-17, B-24, B-29, "Lancaster", "Stirling", "Halifax" that turned cities of Germany and Japan in ruins). Already during the war, our military-political leaders have taken the first steps to create a powerful strategic air fleet worthy of a great power. Aircraft design bureaus, including Tupolev DB received appropriate tasks, and the preparation of future projects of modern Soviet four-engine bombers began. After the end of the Great Patriotic War and the beginning of the "Cold War", these works were determined as one of the urgent in the rank of state priorities, that’s why, works were accelerated as possible, and soon the country received long-range strategic bomber Tu-4. This aircraft after beginning of its batch production, replaced TB-7, becoming at the beginning of the 50s, a powerful argument in the "Cold War" together with a dozen of the first Soviet production RDS-3 atomic bombs, which Tu-4 could drop down on the heads of former Western WWII allies.