Petlyakov Pe-8 (TB-7) Long-Range Strategic Heavy Bomber Aircraft
The Petlyakov Pe-8 was the only Soviet-made, four-engined strategic bomber to serve in World War 2.
Authored By Dan Alex; Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com
During the lead-up to World War 2 (1939-1945), the Soviet Union joined Germany and Italy in providing a reduced focus on capable, four-engined strategic heavy bombers. As a result, the only Soviet-originated design to carry this quality became the largely forgotten Petlyakov "Pe-8". The Pe-8 was designed to a specific Soviet Air Force requirement that emerged in 1934 calling for a replacement to the outgoing Tupolev TB-3 series. This bomber was ancient-looking even by 1930s standards despite being introduced as recently as 1932. It saw a rather healthy production run of 818 aircraft.
Soviet authorities now turned their attention to a more modern aircraft with a 4,400 lb bomb load capability while reaching speeds of 270 miles per hour with a range out to 2,800 miles. This gave rise to the preliminary aircraft designation of ANT-42 with design attribution given to Vladimir Petlyakov and his team. A working prototype achieved first flight December 27th, 1936 and was eventually adopted under the Soviet Air Force designation of "TB-7". It formally entered service in 1940. However, back in October of 1937, Petlyakov was imprisoned (with others) during Stalin's "Great Purge" which only added delays to the program. The purge served to repress communist officials who threatened Stalin's control with many lives ending in either imprisonment or execution.
While the Soviet Union played its part in the dismantling of Poland during the German invasion of September 1939 (to officially begin World War 2), the former allies became enemies when German forces invaded the Soviet Union in June of 1941 through Operation Barbarossa. The German advance was swift and terrible for the retreating Soviets who pressed any manner of weaponry against the aggressors but lost thousands of men, vehicles, and aircraft to the scourge.
The Pe-8 program labored on though it would be permanently dogged by a lack of available - or capable - engines (the aircraft required four). Original aircraft were to be fitted with superchargers for better performance at altitude but only four production aircraft managed these engine types. Another two airframes were settled with Mikulin AM-34FRNV series engines while a stock of eighteen airframes would be powered by Mikulin AM-35A engines. Though was also being given to Mikulin M-30B diesel-fueled engines though these, while providing better fuel economics, never supplied the required performance results. The Mikulin M-82FN was another engine version, this offering fuel-injection.
On January 12th, 1942, the TB-7's lead designer, Petlyakov himself, was killed in a crash involving his Pe-2 dive bomber. As a result, the TB-7 was redesignated in his honor as the "Petlyakov Pe-8" - which is the designation the heavy bomber is largely recognized for today (December 2013). The change occurred on aircraft arriving from 1942 onwards.