The Tupolev Tu-2 Bat served a variety of critical frontline roles for the Soviet Air Force in World War 2.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited:
Credit: Image courtesy of the public domain
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.
Production of Tu-2s spanned from September of 1941 to 1951. In June of 1942, the Germans invaded the Soviet Union to open up the East Front and this pressed all manner of Soviet industry to previously unseen levels, requiring entire production lines to be set up in central Russia and many weapons produced in short order. The aircraft went on to have a successful post-war career as well, being showcased in several communist (and Soviet-allied) inventories beyond the Soviet Union. In all, production totaled 2,257 aircraft and stocked the inventories of Bulgaria, China, Hungary, Indonesia, North Korea, Poland and Romania. Amazingly, several managed frontline operational status into the early 1980s (China). Tu-2s saw combat actions in the Chinese Civil War (1927-1950) and Chinese airmen flew sorties in the Korean War against the United Nations. The Chinese also utilized their Tu-2s in forcibly putting down Tibetan upheaval between 1958 and 1962.
It is noteworthy to mention the somewhat "unfriendliness" of Soviet production designations when compared to the basic "A-B-C" or "1-2-3" conventions followed in the West. As such, a "D-model" follows an "S-model" into service while "T" simply signifies a "torpedo" carrying capability.
The Tu-2 spawned into many recognized variants beginning with the ANT-58 3-seat prototype of 1941. This was followed by the ANT-59 four-seat prototype and the ANT-67 five-seater of 1946 outfitted with, interestingly, diesel engines. "Tu-2" was the definitive series marker of 1942 outfitted with 2 x Shvetsov ASh-82 air-cooled engines of 1,450 horsepower. The Tu-2S was an updated design of 1943 with 2 x Shvetsov ASh-82FN radial piston engines of 1,850 horsepower. A long-range variant, the Tu-2D, was unveiled in October of 1944 with larger wings and five crew. The Tu-2DB was a high-altitude reconnaissance bomber variant while the Tu-2F was a photographic reconnaissance platform fielded with camera equipment. The Tu-2G proved a fast cargo hauler with limited capacity and the Tu-2R was a dedicated fast reconnaissance mount. The Tu-2K served as a developmental series for early powered ejection seat testing while the Tu-2N was used to evaluate the British Rolls-Royce Nene turbojet engine. Another testbed, the Tu-2 "Paravan", served to trial a "cable cutting" facility to be used against tethered ground-based enemy obstacle balloons. The Tu-2M was outfitted with 2 x Shvetsov ASh-83 radial piston engines of 1,900 horsepower. The Tu-2RShR was used to trial a 57mm internal cannon arrangement though this would never see serial production. The Tu-2Sh was a prototype ground-attack platform outfitted with various weaponry that came to naught. The Tu-2/104 became an all-weather interceptor mount and the Tu-2T was born as a dedicated torpedo bomber platform (the latter for Soviet Naval Aviation). The Tu-6 was an evolved reconnaissance variant, the Tu-8 a long-range bomber of 1947 and the Tu-10 a high-altitude version of 1943. Training of Tu-2 crew was handled through the downgraded "UTB" variant of 1946 and these were powered by 2 x Shvetsov ASh-21 engines of 690 horsepower.
"Tu-1" served to designate a one-off prototype that saw cancellation in 1947. This was a dedicated twin-engined, three-seat night-fighter in the same vein as the British de Havilland Mosquito.
Status Retired, Out-of-Service
[ 2,257 Units ] : Tupolev OKB - Soviet Union
Bulgaria; China; Hungary; Indonesia; North Korea; Poland; Romania; Soviet Union
- Ground Attack
- Close-Air Support (CAS)
- Reconnaissance (RECCE)
45.28 ft (13.8 m)
61.88 ft (18.86 m)
13.55 ft (4.13 m)
(Showcased structural dimension values pertain to the Tupolev Tu-2 (Bat) production model)
16,755 lb (7,600 kg)
25,948 lb (11,770 kg)
(Showcased weight values pertain to the Tupolev Tu-2 (Bat) production model)
2 x Shvetsov ASh-82 radial piston engines developing 1,850 horsepower each and driving three-bladed propeller units.
(Showcased powerplant information pertains to the Tupolev Tu-2 (Bat) production model)
324 mph (521 kph; 281 kts)
29,528 feet (9,000 m; 5.59 miles)
1,243 miles (2,000 km; 1,080 nm)
1,610 ft/min (491 m/min)
(Showcased performance values pertain to the Tupolev Tu-2 (Bat) production model; Compare this aircraft entry against any other in our database)
2 x 20mm ShVAK cannon in wings
3 x 7.62mm ShKAS rear-firing machine guns (early).
3 x 12.7mm Berezin UB rear-firing heavy machine guns (late).
Up to 3,300lbs of internal (bomb bay) and 5,000lb of external stores.
(Showcased armament details pertain to the Tupolev Tu-2 (Bat) production model)
ANT-58 - Original three-seat model; fitted with 2 x Mikulin AM-37 engines of 1,400 horsepower.
ANT-59 - Revised four-seat model
ANT-60 - Based on the ANT-59 though with Shvetsov ASh-82 engines.
ANT-63(SDB) - High-speed day bomber prototype
ANT-67 - Five-seat long-range bomber of 1946 with ACh-30BF diesel-fueled engines.
Tu-1 (ANT-63P) - Three-seat night-fighter prototype
Tu-2 - Model of 1942; outfitted with 2 x Shvetsov ASh-82 air-cooled engines of 1,450 horsepower.
Tu-2S (ANT-61) - Model of 1943; fitted with ASh-82FN radial engines of 1,850 horsepower.
Tu-2D (ANT-62) - Model of 1944; long-range variant with lengthened wings; crew of five; fitted with 2 x Shvetsov ASh-82FN engines of 1,850 horsepower.
Tu-2DB - High-altitude reconnaissance bomber
Tu-2F - Photographic reconnaissance model
Tu-2G - Cargo transpoer variant
Tu-2K - Ejection seat testbed; two airframes used
Tu-2M (ANT-61M) - Fitted with 2 x ASh-83 radial piston engines of 1,900 horsepower.
Tu-2N - Testbed for Rolls-Royce Nene turbojet engine
Tu-2 "Paravan" - Testbed for barrage balloon cutting
Tu-2R - Reconnaissance platform
Tu-2RShR - 57mm armed prototype
Tu-2Sh - Experimental ground attack model; various configurations trialed.
Tu-2/104 - All-weather interceptor prototype
Tu-2T (ANT-62T) - Model of 1945; torpedo bomber
Tu-6 - Model of 1946; reconnaissance prototype
Tu-8 (ANT-69) - Model of 1947; based on Tu-2D as long range bomber.
Tu-10 (Tu-4 / ANT-68) - Model of 1943; high altitude bomber.
UTB - Model of 1946; bomber trainer variant; fitted with ASh-21 engines of 690 horsepower.
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