Tupolev Tu-4

From Academic Kids

The Tupolev Tu-4 was a piston-engined Soviet strategic bomber which served the Soviet Air Force from the late 1940s to mid 1960s.

Tupolev Tu-4
Tupolev Tu-4


Towards the end of World War II, the Soviet Union was envious of the strategic bombing capability of the USAAF. The US regularly conducted bombing raids on Japan, virtually in the Soviet Union's backyard, from distant Pacific forward bases using B-29 Superfortresses. Stalin ordered the development of a comparable bomber.

During 1945, three B-29s were forced to land in Russian territory. The Soviets seized the bombers, and Tupolev OKB dismantled and studied them. The bombers were copied bolt-by-bolt where possible and reverse engineered where necessary. An unconfirmed report states that all Tu-4s were chromate-green inside until the end of the rear pressure bulkhead, whereupon they were painted in simple white lead. The last B-29 seized by the Soviets was built in Kansas during a shortage of chromate green (a common rust-proofing paint for aircraft of the time). White lead was substituted as a "quick fix", which was promptly institutionalized by the duplicators. It is also claimed that bullet holes found in one of the B-29s were faithfully reproduced in all Tu-4s.

The resulting bomber was the Tu-4, (NATO reporting name Bull), which first flew on 19 May, 1947. Serial production started immediately, and the type entered large scale service in 1949. Entry into service of the Tu-4 threw the USAF into a virtual panic, since the Tu-4 possessed sufficient range to attack Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City with a worthwhile load on a one-way "suicide" mission. Some limited attempts to develop midair refueling systems were made to extend the bomber's range, but these were fitted to few aircraft.

Missing image
Tupolev Tu-4 at Monino museum

The development of the Soviet atomic bomb in 1949 gave the air defense program a new urgency, since the United States was itself now in danger of a nuclear attack with the Tu-4 as the delivery platform. This forced the United States to develop an extremely costly air-interception capability involving ground radar installations, a Ground Observer Corps, radar picket planes, surface-to-air missiles, and fleets of jet interceptor fighters, which eventually became NORAD in 1957.

Operational history

847 Tu-4s were built in the Soviet Union by the time production ended in 1952, with some going to China during the later 1950s. Many experimental variants were built and the valuable experience launched the strategic Soviet bomber program. Tu-4s were withdrawn in the 1960s, replaced by their more capable successors, the Tupolev Tu-95 (starting in 1956) and Tupolev Tu-16 (starting in 1954). At the beginning of the 1960s, the only remaining Tu-4s in Soviet use were used in transport aviation and as airborne laboratories. However, as many as 15 Tu-4s are still in service with the Chinese People's Liberation Army Air Force.

A few derivatives were planned, including an airliner (Tu-70), cargo plane (Tu-75), and refined versions of the basic bomber (Tu-80 and Tu-85), but none of these reached mass production.

Specifications (Tu-4)

General Characteristics

  • Length: 30.18 m (99 ft 0 in)
  • Wingspan: 43.00 m (141 ft 0 in)
  • Height: 8.50 m (27 ft 11 in)
  • Wing area: 162 m² (1,743 ft²)
  • Empty: 35,270 kg (77,594 lb)
  • Loaded: kg ( lb)
  • Maximum takeoff: 65,000 kg (143,000 lb)
  • Powerplant: 4x Shvetsov ASh-73TK radial engines, 1,790 kW (2,400 hp) each


  • Maximum speed: 558 km/h (349 mph)
  • Range: 6,200 km (3,875 miles)
  • Service ceiling: 11,200 m (36,736 ft)
  • Rate of climb: m/min ( ft/min)
  • Wing loading: kg/m² ( lb/ft²)
  • Power/Mass: kW/kg ( hp/lb)


  • 10x 23 mm Nudelman NS-23 machine guns, two each in four turrets and tail barbette
  • 6x 454 kg (1,000 lb) bombs or
  • 1x atomic bomb or
  • 2x standoff missiles

Related content

Related development: B-29 Superfortress - B-50 Superfortress - Tu-70 - Tu-75 - Tu-80 - Tu-85

Comparable aircraft:

Designation sequence: Tu-1 - Tu-2 - Tu-4 - Tu-6 - Tu-12 - Tu-14

Lists of Aircraft | Aircraft manufacturers | Aircraft engines | Aircraft engine manufacturers

Airports | Airlines | Air forces | Aircraft weapons | Missiles | Timeline of aviation

de:Tupolew Tu-4 fi:Tupolev Tu-4 pl:Tu-4


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