During World War 2 (1939-1945), Soviet engineers were able to study three captured American B-29 Superfortresses that were forced into landing on Soviet soil following raids on mainland Japan. The aircraft provided engineers with a myriad of advanced technologies regarding high-altitude, long range flight. As the country lacked a true, viable heavy bomber during its war against Germany to the West, it was decided to simply copy the American design and reconstitute it as the Tupolev Tu-4 "Bull" in the ensuing years. The resulting bomber was faithful to the original in most ways and 847 were produced from 1949 to 1952.
However, to catch up with the American's growing long-range nuclear weapons delivery capability, the Tu-4 was found lacking for the role. This furthered several more heavy bomber-related programs of which many fell to naught. Two proved more promising than others and these came to be the Tu-80 and Tu-85 prototypes, both based on the general configuration of the preceding Tu-4 "Bull" and all directly related to the American B-29.
Both the Tu-80 and Tu-85 brought about use of a stepped cockpit (unlike the Tu-4 and B-29 which utilized a heavily glazed, streamlined nose section). Wings were wide-spanning, straight assemblies each mounting two engine nacelles at their leading edges. The tubular fuselage and large-area vertical tail unit of the B-29 were retained. The Tu-80 sported a more noticeable "nose-up" appearance due to its revised undercarriage while the Tu-85's stance was more in line with that of the B-29/Tu-4. Both of the Tupolev designs existed as longer-range offerings when compared to the Tu-4 and this was aided, in part, by the Tu-80's 4 x Shvetsov ASh-73FN radial engines of 2,650 horsepower and the Tu-85's 4 x Dobrynin VD-4K "turbo-compound" radial engines of 4,300 horsepower. The Tu-85 featured an operating crew of eleven personnel. Its fuselage measured 129 feet with a wingspan of 183.5 feet and height of 37 feet. Empty weight was 120,365lbs while Maximum Take-Off Weight reached 167,200lbs. Each engine drove a four-bladed propeller assembly.
The Tu-80 took to the air for the first time on December 1st, 1949 but by this time the product had been cancelled after one prototype by Soviet authorities in favor of the more promising Tu-85 endeavor. It proved faster with better range and good bomb-carrying qualities than the competing Tu-80. Its maximum speed was nearly 400 miles per hour with a range out to 7,460 miles and service ceiling of 38,380 feet. This compared favorably to the Tu-80's maximum speed of 340 miles per hour, 5,100 mile range and 36,680 foot service ceiling. The Tu-85 could carry an ordnance load of 40,000lbs to the Tu-80's 26,500lb limit.
The Tu-85 program therefore progressed to complete a first flight on January 9th, 1951 and include a second completed prototype. While the platform fulfilled the Soviet heavy bomber needs for the short-term, it was soon realized that current-generation prop-driven heavy aircraft would become quickly outpaced by Western jet-powered interceptors. This was primarily driven home during the Korean War (1950-1953) when it was observed how the prop-driven B-29s were manhandled by smaller, more agile jet-powered MiG fighters on interception sorties. The output power of the turbo-compound (essentially reciprocating) engines did not offer the needed qualities at this stage, prompting efforts to develop either more effective "turboprop" engines or turbojets which promised extended range and better altitude performance over conventional propeller-driven types. This thinking led authorities to cancel the Tupolev Tu-85's development in turn.
The advanced work eventually settled on turboprop propulsion configuration which begat the famous Tupolev Tu-95 "Bear", the aircraft still remaining in service today (December 2013) and detailed elsewhere on this site.
Production 2 Units
Tupolev - Soviet Union
- Ground Attack
- X-Plane / Developmental
128.94 ft (39.3 m)
183.73 ft (56 m)
37.40 ft (11.4 m)
120,593 lb (54,700 kg)
236,556 lb (107,300 kg)
(Showcased weight values pertain to the Tupolev Tu-85 production model)
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