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GOLDEN AGE


Tupolev I-4 (ANT-5)


Biplane Fighter Aircraft


Total production of the Soviet inter-war Tupolev I-4 biplane fighter was 369 units.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Edited: 6/1/2017
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Specifications


Year: 1928
Manufacturer(s): Tupolev OKB - Soviet Union
Production: 369
Capabilities: Fighter;
Crew: 1
Length: 23.79 ft (7.25 m)
Width: 37.47 ft (11.42 m)
Height: 9.25 ft (2.82 m)
Weight (Empty): 2,161 lb (980 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 3,153 lb (1,430 kg)
Power: 1 x Mikulin M-22 (Bristol Jupiter) air-cooled radial piston engine developing 460 horsepower and driving a two-bladed propeller at the nose.
Speed: 160 mph (257 kph; 139 kts)
Ceiling: 25,115 feet (7,655 m; 4.76 miles)
Range: 522 miles (840 km; 454 nm)
Rate-of-Climb: 1,820 ft/min (555 m/min)
Operators: Soviet Union
Long before the Russian concern of Tupolev OKB was developing famous Soviet Cold War bombers, it tried its hand at fighter design in the I-4 (ANT-5) biplane fighter of 1928. The type became the first Soviet all-metal fighter and was produced in the hundreds during the inter-war period. A handful of variants greeted the service career of this oft-forgotten warplane. Design of the fighter is attributed to Pavel Sukhoi.

Apart from its all-metal design, the I-4 exhibited traditional physical qualities consistent with the inter-period. The single pilot sat in an open-air cockpit behind the upper wing assembly. The upper and lower components were joined to one another by V-type struts. The lower assembly was also shorter in span making the biplane wing arrangement "sesquiplane". The undercarriage, wheeled at the two main legs under center mass, with a skid added under the tail for ground running. The tail unit was conventional with a single fin and low-set horizontal planes.

Engineers elected for the French Gnome-Rhone "Jupiter" 9-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engine of 420 horsepower and this was installed in the nose section. The engine drove a two-bladed propeller which held a large-diameter spinner at its center for aerodynamic efficiency.




Proposed armament had become 2 x 7.62mm machine guns synchronized to fire through the spinning propeller blades. Provision was added later during testing for rockets to be carried along the upper wing - increasing the fighter's attack value.

A first-flight (in prototype form as the "ANT-5") was recorded during August of 1927. This led to some revisions in the design including a new cowling and reworked tail unit. The ANT-5 then entered service as the "I-4".

Performance-wise, the I-4 netted a maximum speed of 160 miles per hour, a range out to 525 miles and a service ceiling up to 25,100 feet. Rate-of-climb was 1,820 feet-per-minute. Empty weight was 2,155lb with a Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) of 3,155lb.

A revised first-series model appeared with the Mikulin M-22 engine (a license-built copy of the Gnome-Rhone "Jupiter" 9ASB) of 460-480 horsepower. The "I-4Z" then followed and this version introduced smaller lower wings. Having the lower wings completely removed - therefore becoming a true monoplane - the aircraft was revised in the "I-4bis" developmental form. The "I-4P" became a converted floatplane derivative.

A total of 369 I-4 fighters were completed into 1934 and the last of the lot was retired from frontline commitments back in 1933 - though the I-4 went on to serve for a time longer as an instructional vehicle. The I-4 series was also briefly trialed as a "parasite fighter" in experiments of the 1930s (that also included the firing of the 76mm Kurchevski recoilless gun from the aircraft), coupled to the new Tupolev TB-1/TB-3 bomber series mothership (detailed elsewhere on this site).








Armament



STANDARD:
2 x 7.62mm machine guns fitted over the nose and synchronized to fire through the spinning propeller blades.

OPTIONAL:
Rockets fitted on rails at the upper wing assembly.

Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun

Variants / Models



• I-4 - Base Series Designation; initial production model.
• ANT 5 - Developmental designation.
• I-4Z - Reduced span lower wing element.
• I-4bis - Monoplane-winged form (sans lower wing span).
• I-4P - Floatplane/seaplane derivative.
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