Tupolev Tu-2 (Bat) Fast Bomber / Multirole Aircraft
The Tupolev Tu-2 Bat served a variety of critical frontline roles for the Soviet Air Force in World War 2.
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Russian aviation engineer Andrei Tupolev would lend his surname to a plethora of Soviet-era aircraft after founding his Tupolev OKB concern in 1922. By the late 1930s, the world was at war following the German invasion of Poland in September of 1939 to officially mark the start of World War 2. By 1940, the Soviet Air Force was interested in a high-speed medium bomber platform to lend a modern offensive "punch" in support of various Red Army initiatives - the result becoming the excellent twin-engine "Tu-2" which recorded its first flight on January 29th, 1941 and the series was formally introduced in March 1942. After the formation of NATO in 1949, the Tu-2 was assigned the codename of "Bat" in Western nomenclature.
Light, twin-engined bombers certainly had their place in the aerial inventories of the period concerning World War 2. They offered the high-performance, high-speed flight of dedicated fighter platforms with the firepower of heavier bomber types in one complete package. As such, they could be outfitted with various armament layouts to include machine guns, cannon, bombs and torpedoes while being called upon to carry out differing sortie types consisting of reconnaissance, ground attack, interception and torpedo/dive bombing. In this way, many of these twin-engined heavy fighter-type designs of the war came to become the first true "multirole" fighter platforms and this was embodied through examples produced by all of the major powers of the time - Britain fielded their famous de Havilland "Mosquito" while the Soviets showcased their Tu-2. The Americans managed their Northrop P-61 "Black Widow" night-fighters while the Japanese made good with their Ki-45 "Tony".
The Tu-2 became one of the more important bombers of the Second World War and proved an overall excellent design. In practice, the airframes proved quite resilient to enemy fire and the harsh operating environments that were the European Winter while their capabilities made them extremely valuable to combined Soviet operations requiring air support. The design centered around a pair of Shvetsov ASh-82 radial piston engines fitted to streamlined nacelles under each wing assembly and powering three-bladed (later four-bladed) propellers. The fuselage was long and slender, containing operating spaces for the four crew as well as a large internal bomb bay. The aircraft featured external hardpoints for munitions as well. Total ordnance capacity was 3,300lbs internally and up to 5,000lbs externally. The forward section of the fuselage contained the elevated cockpit position (inline seating) with the lower nose section glazed for the bombardier. The twin-door bomb bay ran just aft of the bombardier's position along the belly of the aircraft. Base armament consisted of 2 x 20mm ShVAK cannon fitted to the leading edge of the wings suitable for attacking enemy aerial and ground targets. Defense was initially provided by 3 x 7.62mm ShKAS machine guns across three defensive positions (cockpit, dorsal and ventral) though these were later upgraded to the more powerful 12.7mm Berezin UB machine gun types. The undercarriage was fully retractable and of the "tail-dragger configuration to include two single-wheeled main legs and a single-wheeled tail leg. The empennage incorporated a horizontal plane straddled by rounded vertical tail fins which provided the needed stability at low-levels. Overall performance specifications included a top speed of 325 miles per hour with a range out to 1,250 miles and service ceiling up to 29,500 feet. Rate-of-climb was 1,600 feet per minute. All told, the aircraft was regarded as a fast airframe for her class type and much appreciated by Soviet airmen. When utilized as a true fighter thoroughbred, the Tu-2 certainly held her own. Her value was such that she was utilized in all major actions towards the end of the war that would see the Soviets victors over their German invaders.