Polikarpov TIS Heavy Escort Fighter Prototype
The Polikarpov TIS Heavy Escort Fighter was ended with the death of company founder Nikolai Polikarpov in July of 1944.
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The Polikarpov name is long-remembered for the stout, open-air cockpit fighters serving the Soviet Union and others from the 1930s and into the 1940s. Beyond these well-known and recognizable entries, the company managed a slew of other offerings that began with the I-1 monoplane of 1923 (detailed elsewhere on this site). In the fall of 1938, with World War 2 looming on the horizon, Soviet authorities fleshed out a new requirement for a "heavy escort fighter" requiring a crew of two, exceptional armament and strong performance figures. Polikarpov OKB responded with a rare twin-engine offering by the company - the Polikarpov "TIS" ("Tyazhely Istrebitel Soprovozhdeniya").
Engineers elected for a modern monoplane wing configuration with all-metal construction and power served through 2 x Mikulin AM-37 series engines of 1,400 horsepower each. The crew of two would be seated inline, back-to-back and the cockpit held forward of midships. Each wing held an engine nacelle and each engine drove three-bladed propellers mounted on large spinners. The tail section was of a split-rudder configuration and the undercarriage of the "tail-dragger" arrangement. For the armament requirement, 2 x 20mm cannons were coupled with 4 x 7.62mm machine guns (the former mounted at the wing roots with the latter fitted to the nose section). The rear of the aircraft would be defensed by a dorsally-mounted, trainable 7.62mm machine gun and a ventrally-mounted, trainable 7.62mm machine gun. The latter two guns would be managed by the second crewmember to protect the aircraft's vital "six" from intercepting enemy aircraft.
"Samolet A" was used to designate the first prototype completed by Polikarpov. A first flight was held in September of 1941 but the German invasion of the Soviet Union (through "Operation Barbarossa" begun in June of 1941) pushed most of the existing Soviet war-making industry eastwards. This meant that the Polikarpov program was itself delayed as facilities were reestablished at Novosibirsk. By the time the move had been completed, it was June 1944 and a second prototype - "Samolet MA" - was finally flown. Mikulin AM-38 engines of 1,665 horsepower were installed in this aircraft in lieu of the expected AM-39 engines (1,700 horsepower) as they were not made available.
The revised prototype also included an all-new armament fit to better fulfill the revised Soviet fighting doctrine which was now based on years combating the Axis powers. The 2 x 20mm cannons were given up in favor of 2 x 37mm autocannons and the 4 x 7.62mm machine guns were supplanted by 2 x 12.7mm heavy machine guns. This provided the aircraft with a much more fearsome forward "punch" be it in attacking German fighters/bombers or strafing columns and enemy positions.
Salomet MA began its flight testing into July 1944 but the death of its founder, Nikolai Polikarpov, from stomach cancer ended development as his company was absorbed into Lavochkin OKB. By this time aircraft like the competing Ilyushin IL-2 were more than holding their own as a heavy fighters and ground attack platforms and there proved little need to fund and further the still-in-development Polikarpov TIS initiative. Thus ended its flying days and only two prototypes were completed.