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Tupolev SB-2 Light / Medium Fast Bomber

The Tupolev SB-2 was a solid performer when it came onto the scene in 1936 though vastly outclassed by 1938.

 Updated: 5/1/2015; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©

The Tupolev SB-2 (the "SB" in the designation standing for "skorostnoi bombardirovschik" meaning "fast bomber") was a light-to-medium class bomber in service with Soviet forces in the Second World War. At the time the system was inducted into frontline service, the SB-2 was a breakthrough design incorporating features such as retractable landing gears, an enclosed cockpit and all-metal construction - features not traditionally fielded at this time. The SB-2 garnered a noticeable service record early but would finally see its end with the arrival of more capable Axis fighters. At least for a time, the SB-2 was the day bomber of choice for Soviet forces.

The SB-2's initial design came from the Tupolev firm in the form of two light bomber prototypes designated as the ANT-40. The second prototype was selected as the production model and came to be known as the SB-2. The system featured twin license-built Hispano-Suiza piston engines generating about 830 horsepower each, giving the SB-2 a top speed of over 200 miles per hour which was, at that time, faster than most of the fighters available in any one country. The maiden flight took place in 1934 and the system was hitting frontline units by early 1936.

The SB-2 was fielded with Soviet crews fighting in the Spanish Civil War for a time. Examples were also passed on to China in an effort to thwart the Japanese incursion occurring on that side of the globe. Additionally, Czechoslovakia was allowed to license-produce the system as the B-71. By war's end, some 6,900 examples would have been produced.

The SB-2 aircraft was a typical two-engine design when compared to other World War Two fast bombers of this type. Engines were mounted on a low-wing monoplane design with a slender single-rudder fuselage. The crew of three consisted of the pilot, a nose gunner and a dorsal gunner. Armament was defensive and consisted of 2 x 7.62mm machine guns in the nose, 1 x 7.62mm machine gun in a dorsal gun position (sometimes fitted to a turret instead) and 1 x 7.62mm machine gun in a ventral gun position. Maximum bombload capacity was limited to 2,205lbs of internally-held stores.

Tupolev SB-2's operated with success in the early years of operation. It was not until the more capable and advanced German Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters arrived that the system's drawbacks truly shown through. In an effort to keep the system as a viable weapons platform, the SB-2 was modified the addition of increased fuel capacity, three-bladed propellers and M-103 type engines generating some 960 horsepower each. Nevertheless, the system still under-performed and took on heavy losses in the day bomber role. As such, the system was relegated to after hours work as a dedicated nightfighter.

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Tupolev SB-2 Technical Specifications

Service Year: 1936
Type: Light / Medium Fast Bomber
National Origin: Soviet Union
Manufacturer(s): Tupoelv - Soviet Union
Production Total: 6,967

Structural (Crew Space, Dimensions and Weights)

Operating Crew (Typical): 3
Overall Length: 40.26 feet (12.27 meters)
Overall Width: 66.70 feet (20.33 meters)
Overall Height: 10.66 feet (3.25 meters)

Weight (MTOW): 12,637 lb (5,732 kg)

Installed Power and Standard Day Performance

Propulsion: 2 x M-100 (Hispano-Suiza) V-12 piston engines developing 830 horsepower each.

Maximum Speed: 255 mph (410 kph; 221 knots)
Maximum Range: 746 miles (1,200 km)
Service Ceiling: 27,887 feet (8,500 meters; 5.28 miles)

Armament / Mission Payload

2 x 7.62mm ShKAS machine guns in nose position
1 x 7.62mm ShKAS machine gun in dorsal position
1 x 7.62mm ShKAS machine gun in ventral position

Maximim bombload of up to 2,205 lb.

Global Operators / Customers

China; Czechoslovakia; Soviet Union

Model Variants (Including Prototypes)

ANT-40 - Light Bomber Prototype of which two examples were produced.
SB-2 - Second Prototype Designated with "SB-2" Production Designation.
SB-2bis - Improved SB-2 with three-bladed propeller systems married to two M-103 960hp engines; variable pitch propellers; increased fuel caapcity and overall range.
PS-40 - Transport Conversion
PS-41 - Transport Conversion
SB-RK (Arkhangelskii Ar-2) - Converted SB-2bis models for dive-bomer duty; smaller wing area; fitted with supercharged M-105R powerplants.
B.71 - Czechoslovakian license-produced SB-2.