Tupolev TB-3

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Tupolev TB-3 (ANT-6)
Paratroopers jumping from Tupolev TB-3.jpg
TB-3 dropping parachutists
Type: Heavy bomb plane
Design country:

Soviet Union 1923Soviet Union Soviet Union


Tupolev ( AGOS / ZAGI)

First flight:

December 22, 1930



Production time:

1931 to 1937

Number of pieces:


The heavy, four-engine Tupolev TB-3 ( Russian Туполев ТБ-3 ) bomber was built in 1930 and, with its cantilevered low-wing design, was the first cantilever four-engine all - metal deck of its time. It served with the Soviet Air Force until World War II . Some specimens specially converted with closed cabins were used under their factory designation ANT-6 to supply the research camps in the Arctic. On May 21, 1937, such an ANT-6 (registration number SSSR N-170) landed under Commander Mikhail Vodopjanow as the first aircraft at the North Pole and deposited the crew of the drifting polar station North Pole-1 there.


The design work began in May 1926 in the AGOS department within the ZAGI , headed by Andrei Tupolev , and lasted until December 1929. It was assumed that the twin-engine TB-1 also came from Tupolev's design department . The TB-5 and K-7 heavy bombers were designed parallel to the TB-3 . However, both models could not convince and remained experimental samples. After the design had been approved by the responsible authorities on March 21, 1930, construction of the prototype began, which was completed on October 31 of the same year when it was brought to the test site. Then the state acceptance took place from November 20, 1930 to February 20, 1931. On December 22, 1930, the prototype, controlled by Mikhail Gromov , rose into the air for the first time, equipped with snow runners instead of a wheeled chassis because of the winter. Four American Curtiss Conqueror engines served as drive . After the successful first flight, the prototype went back to the AGOS department, where some changes were made. The most important of these were the installation of BMW VIz engines with correspondingly enlarged radiators, the replacement of the aileron horn flaps that extended beyond the wing edge with slotted flaps, the installation of ZAGI wood propellers with a diameter of 3.5 meters and the redesign of the main landing gear and the grinding spur. The subsequent tests suffered from the incorrectly working engines, which often failed due to broken crankshafts.

On February 20, 1931, the production of the aircraft with M-17 engines - licensed production of the German BMW VI - was decided. The first series machine was ready to fly on January 4, 1932 and was tested by A. B. Jumaschew and I. F. Petrow. P. M. Stefanowski was also involved in further testing . During the flights, different armament variants as well as equipping the landing gear with wheels and runners were tested.

Series production began in early 1932 in Plant No. 22, the former Junkers branch in Moscow-Fili . The development of the production technology taking into account the available possibilities took place in close cooperation with AGOS under the direction of Vladimir Petlyakov , the head of the 1st construction department. The first nine TB-3s were delivered by April and were shown to the public on the May 1st parade. Plant No. 39 also began production and completed its first TB-3 in the second half of the year. This completed the test in December and was already equipped with the improved M-17F. However, compared to the prototype, the series machines were made coarser, for example with thicker sheets, which resulted in a higher empty weight, which in turn had an effect on flight performance. Sometimes the aircraft were up to twelve percent heavier than originally intended. It was therefore tried by all kinds of measures during ongoing production to build the aircraft lighter again, which ultimately succeeded.

In the course of production, various engines were installed in the TB-3 and the chassis and armament were changed, so that there were a total of twelve main variants. Production ran until 1937 and ended with the delivery of the 818th machine.

Civilian use

Josef Stalin inspecting a TB-3

The TB-3 was used in the civil air fleet (GWF) in the G-2 version (Grusowoi, freight) as a pure cargo or combined transport / passenger aircraft, mainly equipped with M-17F and AM-34RN engines. These aircraft were not new builds, but former bombers, from which the military equipment had been removed and its structure reinforced. The armories were covered by metal sheets. The G-2-4M-17F version could carry 3,400 kilograms at a top speed of 160 km / h, the G-2-4AM-34RN 16 passengers and cargo up to 3,200 kilograms at up to 200 km / h.

The G-2 transporters were mainly used on the eastern flight routes of the Soviet Union and at the headquarters of the Northern Sea Route (Glawsewmorput) and caused a significant increase in the volume of freight on the routes flown. For example, Aeroflot's G-2s flew the approximately 3,000-kilometer route from Moscow to Tashkent from 1938 to 1940 . Raw materials such as sulfur, copper ore or cotton as well as food such as fish or fruit were transported. Thanks to the relatively good maintenance, the G-2 had a long service life. At the beginning of the German-Soviet War , a large number and their crews were handed over to the air forces, which at the beginning of the war formed the MAON GWF (Moskowskaja Awiagruppa Ossobowo Nasnatschenija GWF, Moscow Aviation Group of the Civil Air Fleet zb V.) and later part of the 1st Air Transport Division and the 10th Guard Air Transport Division of the GWF. The planes of the Glawsewmorput were combined to form OSAG (Ossowaja Severnaya Aviagruppa - Special Northern Aviation Group). The few G-2s that remained in the civilian facilities were used to transport war goods. After the end of the war, the aircraft, if they still existed, were returned to the civil air fleet or the Nördlicher Seeweg headquarters.

Use for international flights

Nine specially converted TB-3s were manufactured in 1933 and 1934 for representational purposes and state visits. The aircraft were all equipped with AM-34RD engines. Because of the intended civil use, the factory designation ANT-6 was used as usual, the official type designation was ANT-6-4AM-34RD. In contrast to the normal series version, the rear wheels of the twin main landing gear had wheel brakes. The shooting positions in the fuselage and stern were covered by smooth metal sheets. The fixing points for attaching external loads were present, but no load carriers were installed. The planes were painted white and had civilian license plates.

A first official flight was carried out on July 28, 1934 under the direction of Salewski by the ANT-6 pilots Baidukow, Jefimow and Leonow, who carried a Soviet delegation to Poland. The three planes took off from Moscow and landed in Warsaw-Okęcie after eight hours and 40 minutes . The return flight took place on August 1st.

In the 1930s, the Soviet Union sent several groups of representatives from the aviation industry and air forces to various European countries to find out about the state of western aviation technology and, if possible, to acquire aviation equipment, engines and manufacturing licenses. On this occasion, on August 5, 1934, two groups of three ANT-6 flew together to Kiev, where they separated after a short stopover. One formation flew via Vienna to France, where it arrived at Paris airport on August 7th. The group in command was again Salewski. The pilot of the pilot plane Georgi Baidukow and his navigator Alexander Belyayev were to become famous three years later, together with Valery Chkalov, through their long-distance record flight from Moscow to Vancouver / USA. The return flight on August 13 was difficult due to bad weather. After an unscheduled stopover in Strasbourg, the crews flew to Prague on August 15 and, after a two-day stay, on to Moscow. The second ANT-6 group flew to Rome via Kraków, where a meeting with Polish military personnel was taking place. The arrival took place on August 8th. The delegation, which also included aircraft designers Alexander Jakowlew and Igor Tschetwerikow , was then received by Benito Mussolini . The return journey began on August 15 and led again via Vienna to Moscow. Both groups carried out demonstration flights with passengers during their stay in Paris and Rome. Overall, the two state visits were unsatisfactory for the Soviet side, as both French and Italian aviation in the 1930s showed some deficits in relation to international standards.

In use with the polar air fleet

On February 13, 1936, at a meeting in the Kremlin in which Josef Stalin and the pilots Sigismund Lewanewski and Michail Gromow also took part, the Arctic researcher Otto Schmidt proposed the establishment of a polar station on a drifting ice floe. The transport and the further supply of the camp should be done by airplanes. The proposal was accepted and the Northern Sea Route Headquarters entrusted the organization. The TB-3, which could transport a large payload, was to be used as an aircraft. Rudolf Island , on which a weather station had already been set up in 1932, was to serve as the starting point . In the following period, an airfield was laid out at the station under the direction of Iwan Papanin and new storage and residential buildings and workshops were built.

Wodopyanov in front of his ANT-6

In Plant No. 22 in Fili, four specially converted ANT-6s (since the aircraft were to be used for civilian use, the plant name was used) were produced for the polar air fleet (Polyarnaya Aviazija). They were adapted to the icy arctic conditions. The normally open pilot cabins were given attached cabins, the lower part of the bow pulpit was moved forward and now closed with the upper edge. The main landing gear was equipped with runners, whereby the actual main wheels with a diameter of two meters were attached under the fuselage. The steerability on the ground has been improved by a steerable rear runner. As a further special feature, each aircraft received a powerful de-icing system and a 50 m² brake parachute in the rear, which was able to reduce the landing roll distance by half and was used for the first time in the history of aviation. In addition to the on-board radio system, a pneumatic tube was installed for communication between the pilot, navigator and radio operator. The license plates of these four machines were N-169 (Commander Ilja P. Mazuruk), N-170 ( Michail W. Wodopjanow ), N-171 ( Vasili S. Molokow ) and N-172 (Anatoli D. Alexejew). The letter N marked the assignment to the main administration of the civil air fleet. The paint was brightly orange-red with blue to make it easier to find it in the event of an emergency landing in the ice.

The AM-34R engines used were custom-made by Plant No. 24 in Moscow for extremely low temperatures and equipped with three-bladed metal propellers that were adjustable on the floor. The testing of the aircraft designated as ANT-6-4AM-34R was carried out by Yakov Moiseyev. Due to the aerodynamically cleaner construction, the Arctic version achieved better flight performance compared to the conventional TB-3. It was able to stay in the air for 14 hours, was able to carry almost 12,000 kilograms of payload, with which it still reached a speed of 240 km / h near the ground.

The transfer flight to Rudolf Island began on March 22, 1937, but was not reached until April 18 after three stopovers with waiting times due to the extremely bad weather. Finally, on May 21, 1937, the command plane landed at the pole with Wodopjanow as pilot and dropped off the expedition members including some of their equipment. The other three ANT-6s landed at camp on May 25th. On June 4th, the Nordpol-1 station was inaugurated by Otto Schmidt and the planes took off for their return flight to Rudolf Island. Due to a lack of fuel, the N-172 had to make an emergency landing with Anatoli D. Alexejew on the ice, but after a PS-7 (pilot Pawel G. Golowin) had flown in, it was also able to fly to the base camp on May 9. The N-169 with the crew of Ilya P. Mazuruk was stationed on the island to continue supplying the expedition, the other machines flew back to Moscow, where they arrived on June 25, 1937. The following year, Wodopjanow took part in the annual air show in Tushino with his ANT-6 on August 18, 1938 .

A second, smaller expedition was carried out from March 5, 1941. The N-169 , already used in the Papanin expedition, flew under the command of I. I. Tscherewitschni with a group of scientists towards the Arctic in order to test the regular feasibility of supply flights for Arctic stations. This time the starting point was Wrangel Island . Between April 2 and 29, 1941, the ANT-6 flew to drifting ice floes at the pole three times and dropped researchers on them. The expedition ended on May 11th with the arrival of the N-169 in Moscow. A total of 26,000 kilometers were covered on the flights. After the start of the war, the aircraft was modernized in 1941. It received AM-34FRNW engines with adjustable propellers, two additional fuel tanks and a Flettner rudder in the wing center section . It was then handed over to the Northern Fleet and was lost there after a short time in the same year.

Military operation

The TB-3 was the first four-engine bomber in the Soviet Union and was used as such in the units of the Soviet Air Force (WWS) from the start of delivery until around mid-1943, but also served as a transporter in large numbers. In several smaller airborne companies during the initial phase of the German attack on the Soviet Union, it was used as a drop-off aircraft for parachutists.

Soviet-Japanese border conflict

Three-sided view of the Tupolev TB-3

In its role as a bomber, the TB-3 was used for the first time in an armed conflict in the Japanese-Soviet border conflict of 1938/1939 and was used to bomb Japanese positions on Lake Chassan. In addition, TB-3 bombers were already providing intensive short-front support in this conflict, as they were to do later in the early years of the Second World War . The transport version G-2 was used for the first time in a conflict as early as 1937 in the Sino-Japanese War for supply flights for the Soviet air units deployed on the Chinese side.

The first deployment on Lake Chassan took place on August 6, 1938 to initiate an offensive by the 39th Rifle Corps. 41 TB-3-4AM-34RN together with 89 SB-2 flew an attack against the Japanese positions under cover of I-15 and I-16 fighters. A 1000 kg bomb was dropped from this type for the first time. Until the end of hostilities on August 10, the TB-3 had flown 41 sorties. Since there were no Japanese fighters operating on Lake Chassan, only four aircraft were damaged by flak hits. However, ten days later, seven TB-3s loaded with food for the ground forces got too deep into enemy territory and were fired at by the air defense. The command machine then had to make an emergency landing with hits on Japanese-occupied territory.

On the Chalchin Gol, the TB-3 was not used for daytime attacks due to the fact that the Japanese fighter pilots were outnumbered but by far better trained. At the beginning of July 1939, a squadron of the 4th TBAP (Heavy Bombing Regiment) with six aircraft was relocated to the Obo Somon airfield in Mongolia. This unit had already been used on Lake Chassan a year earlier. The first use took place in the night of July 7th to 8th 1939 with three machines, which dropped 16 100-kg bombs over the village of Gantsur. By the end of the month, a total of 23 TB-3s had been stationed in Mongolia and grouped together. By August 26, the unit had flown 160 missions, most of which were carried out in pairs with a flight time of up to eight hours. The TB-3 never flew higher than 1500 meters and only dropped small-caliber bombs. Only one machine was hit by the ground defense, but could fly back to its base with three engines running.

Soviet-Finnish Winter War

During the winter war , the TB-3, mostly equipped with a ski chassis due to the prevailing weather conditions, was used both as a bomber and as a transporter, for example to supply trapped troops at Lemetti in February 1940. Due to the very poor level of training of the crews, went during the campaign more TB-3s lost to air accidents than enemy action. Thirteen machines were destroyed in this way, but only four by ground fire and one more by unknown causes. The backbone of the bomber forces in this conflict, however, formed the twin-engine DB-3 and SB-2 , the TB-3 were only used in the bomber role due to their slowness at night.

Second World War

TB-3-4M-17 (1939)

The TB-3 was used for the first time during the Second World War during the occupation of eastern Poland in September / October 1939. For this, 157 pieces were pulled together, of which half were not ready for use. The airworthy specimens were not used in their bomber role, but only served to supply the advancing Red Army or to transport troops.

Although out of date, when the attack on the Soviet Union began , numerous TB-3s were still in active service as bombers in the WWS due to a lack of alternatives, as the conversions to twin-engine Jer-2 and Il-4 , which began in the summer of 1940, were far from complete. Only a very small number of TB-3s got into the hands of the German invaders or were devastated because the long-range bombers of the Soviet air forces were not stationed directly at the front, but in the rear area. In most cases, the bombers had already been relocated to the east when the Wehrmacht took the corresponding airfields and captured aircraft left there. However, the slow-flying TB-3 suffered heavy losses in their first missions. Therefore, after about three weeks of the war, the high command issued the order to only use the TB-3 for night operations. At the beginning of the war, the bombers flew their attacks in groups of three from 2,000 to 4,000 meters. The attack group could not infrequently consist of all squadrons of the attacking regiment. Later, the TB-3 flew their attacks in smaller formations of a maximum of six aircraft at a distance of 700 to 1,000 meters. If the ground defense was low, the approaches were even made at a height of 200 to 500 meters, whereby the shooters tried to increase the impact of the attack with their on-board weapons. In the further course of the war, the targets were usually approached entirely alone, even without the support of fighter planes, or by smaller groups individually at staggered intervals. Individual TB-3s are said to have been used for intensive local support of the troops until 1944. The TB-3 took part in the battles for Smolensk (1941) , Kiev (1941) , Moscow (1941/42) , Kursk (1943) , Kiev (1943) and occasionally in Operation Bagration (1944) . Most of the TB-3s used as bombers had been replaced by more modern models, such as the Li-2WW or Il-4 , and handed over to the transport aircraft or school units by the second half of 1943 . One of these training units was Fliegergruppe No. 122, which was set up in Engels in 1941 by the well-known aviator Marina Raskowa . The women-only members of the 588th NBAP and 587th BAP were trained in it. The TB-3 served as a navigator trainer.

As a drop plane

Paratroopers board a TB-3

The build-up of the Soviet airborne troops began in the early 1930s. Gleb Kotelnikow , the inventor of the backpack parachute, developed the first PD-1 jump parachute for the Soviet armed forces in 1930. On June 1, 1931, the first test airborne division was founded, which was later equipped with twelve TB-3-4M-17F. In the following years, the paratrooper troops were continuously expanded. Most of the candidates had already learned to jump in the paramilitary organization OSSOAWIACHIM . With the TB-3, a large drop-off aircraft was available for the first time, which could carry 35 to 40 parachutists in the G-2 transport version. The exit was made directly through the openings of the armaments, whose machine guns and rotary mounts had been removed, through the door on the right-hand side and through the bomb bay. In some cases, holding cables were attached to the fuselage above the wings so that additional paratroopers could be transported on the wings, which could simply be slid down to jump. The capacity could be increased to up to 50 jumpers per machine. Overall, however, the TB-3 was less suitable for the role of a drop and transport aircraft. The narrow hull construction, which was not designed for this purpose, with hatches that were too small or inconveniently arranged, prevented larger or bulky loads from being carried, unless on external suspensions with a drastic increase in air resistance. Even when the maximum number of parachutists was carried, the payload of the bomber was only used up to about 25 to 35%. In addition, the soldiers involved in the jump found the maneuver of the sometimes quite difficult exit as a real "circus act".

Later on, the TB-3 was used for the first attempts to drop heavy equipment on a dropping system designed by Pawel Grochowski (load pallet with parachutes). An external suspension under the fuselage enabled the TB-3 to fly heavy weapons into the immediate combat area, such as the 2.5 tonne T-38 amphibious tank . Grochowski also carried out, together with the tank designer Josef Kotin, attempts to lower the T-37 and T-38 amphibious tanks directly onto the water in flight. The TB-3 pilot A. N. Tjagunin flew at minimum speed during these tests and dropped the tank from a height of one meter. The plane then landed and supplied the tank with fuel. Although the attempts were successful, there was no practical implementation of this landing concept.

In 1935 the further developed D-1 round-cap umbrella was introduced to the troops. In the same year, the new type of weapon was also demonstrated to foreign observers when, as part of the Kiev maneuver, a TB-3 formation consisting of 40 aircraft dropped 1200 paratroopers, who secured the jump zone, so that subsequently landing TB-3s another 2500 with grenade launchers and anti-tank rifles , soldiers equipped with heavy machine guns and light anti-aircraft guns could fly in. In the following years, two major air landing maneuvers were carried out, also in the summer.

TB-3 with the
T-27 tank suspended below

During the Second World War, several airborne operations took place, but these remained only on a smaller scale and locally limited, as the TB-3 was mainly used as a bomber and transporter and was only partially available as a drop-off aircraft. A major shift of troops took place from October 3rd to 5th, 1941 with the transfer of the 5th Airborne Corps, consisting of 5,440 men and 12.5 tons of equipment, from Ivanovo to Orel . In addition to other types, 15 TB-3s of the long-distance fliers and 40 TB-3s of the flier group of the civil air fleet (MAON GWF) were involved. When the Red Army launched a counteroffensive in the course of the Battle of Moscow in December 1941, 21 TB-3 and ten Li-2 416 members of the 250th Rifle Regiment and the 201st Airborne Brigade near Bolshoye Fatyanowo were killed on the night of January 4, 1942 discontinued. They had the task of securing the airfield there in order to then be able to fly in a further 1,300 men. The company failed because of the resistance of the German troops. A few days later, on January 18 and 19, 452 and 200 paratroopers respectively were dropped off at Schelanje by TB-3s of the MAON GWF and 23rd Bombing Division and some Li-2s. They were able to occupy a landing zone and 1643 more men were flown in from January 20-22. The troops were able to defend the position until units of the 1st Guard Cavalry Corps arrived on January 30th.

Another airborne company in the winter of 1942 saw the withdrawal of units of the 4th Airborne Corps about 35 km southwest of Vyazma , which were supposed to interrupt German supplies by occupying the taxiway and the railway line from Vyazma to Smolensk . In addition to 34 Li-2s, 22 TB-3s were available, which from January 27 to February 2, 1942, dropped a total of 2323 paratroopers from the 8th Airborne Brigade in the target area. Seven TB-3s were destroyed in attacks by the German Air Force on the airfields of the transport associations. From February 18, the 9th and 214th Airborne Brigades of the 4th Airborne Corps followed with 41 Li-2 and 23 TB-3. By the end of the month, a total of 6988 soldiers had been deployed behind enemy lines, most of whom operated as independent commandos or joined regional partisan units. For air landings carried out in the further course of the war, enough modern types were available so that the TB-3 was no longer used for this purpose.

Remote control experiments

After the beginning of the war against the Soviet Union, tests with a TB-3 as a radio-controlled and unmanned "flying bomb" were carried out from September 1941. The idea for this use came from Colonel W. Krawez and was due to the overwhelming German air superiority and the resulting high losses of both aircraft and crews during the first weeks of the war. With the TB-3, which was technically outdated but still available in sufficient quantities, it was possible to carry out bombing attacks without risking losses to pilots. Nison Gelperin's design office was entrusted with the practical implementation of the tests . Gelperin was a chemical technologist and had recently developed reinforced concrete-coated bombs that went into production in various sizes in June 1941, a month before the outbreak of war. Gelperin developed a thin-walled housing consisting of six cast parts with 6.2 tons of explosives, the individual components of which were maneuvered into the hull of the TB-3 and assembled there. Sand served as a weight for the experiments. The available remote control did not allow the heavily loaded aircraft to take off. Therefore, pilots should take the TB-3 in the air and after activating the controls, the transmitter of which was installed in an escort aircraft, jump with the parachute. For the experiments, a special group with selected pilots was set up within the 81st Long-Distance Aviation Division , among them E. K. Puusepp , A. N. Tyagunin and N. N. Ponomarenko. The first flight ended in failure. Due to the failure of a radio channel, the controls failed - the TB-3 climbed with the engines running at full throttle and crashed a little later. The subsequent flights were more successful, so it was decided to use the "flying bomb". However, only a few flights are known to have been carried out in which the TB-3 was lost every time due to the interruption of the radio link. A successful attack is said to have taken place only on October 15, 1942. The Gelperin design office finally turned to other tasks. It developed the five-ton FAB-5000NG bomb, the heaviest aerial explosive bomb used by the Soviet Union in World War II.

The piggyback project "Sweno"


In the so-called Sweno project initiated by Vladimir Wachmistrov , the TB-3 was used as a carrier aircraft for single-engine fighters. Initially, the tests were carried out with the smaller TB-1 , but a change was made relatively quickly to the more powerful TB-3. As a TB-3 pilot, Pyotr Stefanowski was mostly used during the tests . In August 1934, a combination called Sweno-2, consisting of a TB-3 and three I-5s attached to its fuselage or wings, took off for the first time . The flight behavior of the bomber was not impaired by the three I-5s and the release of the two fighters located on the wings, which were flown by W. Kokkinaki and I. F. Grods, proceeded without problems during the flight. The fuselage aircraft was not detached from the mother aircraft during the further tests because of the great effort required to maneuver it into its place on the back of the fuselage. Later, its wings and tail unit were completely dismantled and the aircraft was used with the engine running as a propulsion aid. In the same month Sweno-2a flew with an I-5 on each wing.

Sweno-5: TB-3 with docked IZ

The great effort involved in lifting the aircraft onto the wings on the ground - special wooden ramps had to be built - quickly led to the demolition. Instead, a TB-3 combination with two IZ fighters suspended under the wings was tested in October . These had been developed by Dimitri Grigorowitsch for experiments with large-caliber single-shot cannons, but they were not very successful. Now some IZ have been taken over for the Sweno project. However, the rigid chassis of the IZ resulted in difficulties with the suspension under the wings of the bomber. If the aircraft was hung too high, its propeller would touch the TB-3 wing; if it was hung too low, it would hit the ground. Attempts to use shock absorbers to intercept the ground contact of the landing gear during take-off were successful, but the two IZs began to lurch uncontrollably during the flight, which is why a rigid suspension was used again. Now the fighter planes were only attached to a vertical suspension so that they could roll along with the mother plane. At the moment of take-off, the two pilots had to press their aircraft on immediately so that the front and rear latches could engage and the two fighters could be safely locked. This maneuver was very difficult and led to a catastrophe on the first flight. The second IZ with the aviator A. W. Korotkow missed the right time and was pushed against the wing of the TB-3 by the airflow. Stefanowski immediately climbed to 2000 meters and set the aircraft upwards at the greatest possible angle, so that Korotkow could now lock his IZ into place, but the rear lock did not close completely and a short time later the stern came loose and the fighter's bow immediately followed steeply above. As a result of the overuse, the two front locks broke and Korotkov's plane crashed into the wing of the TB-3, where it got stuck. During the emergency landing, which was initiated immediately, the IZ finally broke out of the plane at reduced speed and fell to the ground, killing Korotkow. Sweno-3 were not continued after this incident. Instead, a four-meter-long fold-out device was constructed with which an aircraft could be picked up in the air under the fuselage. This docking maneuver was successfully carried out for the first time on March 23, 1935. The pilot of the IZ was W. A. ​​Stepanschjonok, the TB-3 flew Stefanowski again.

The highlight of the Sweno projects was the “Awiamatka” team, which started on November 20, 1935 for the first time. A. I. Nikashin and S. P. Suprun flew in two I-5s on the wings, T. T. Altynow and K. K. Budakow in two I-16s below. As usual, Stefanowski flew the mother plane. At a height of 1,000 meters, Stepanjonok and his IZ docked under the fuselage before all five fighters detached themselves from the TB-3 at Stefanowski's signal.

Sweno SPB

The only Sweno combination used was the S-6, consisting of a TB-3 with two I-16s suspended below. First tested in August 1935, the I-16 should serve as an interceptor when attacked by enemy aircraft. Test pilots were Stefanowski, Suprun and W. K. Jewsejew. In July 1937, the team was converted into an attack formation against point targets and tested. The I-16s received two 250 kg bombs each. Some TB-3 and I-16 were converted to such SPB (Sostawnoi Pikirujuschtschi Bombardirowschtschik) combinations and used in August and September 1941 by the 63rd Bombing Brigade of the Black Sea Fleet from Evpatoria airfield to attack German troops. In total, the SPB teams flew about 30 missions and bombed after the approach over the Black Sea, among other things, port facilities and an oil refinery near Constanța and the Danube bridge near Cernavodă.


After the enhanced engine AM-34FRN was used in the TB-3, a number of world records were flown, especially with the TB-3-4AM-34FRNW equipped with high-altitude loaders. On September 11, 1936, the pilot of the Scientific Research Institute of the Air Force ( NII WWS), A. B. Jumaschew, together with the flight engineer A. Kalashnikov, reached the record height of 8,102 meters with a payload of 5,000 kilograms. The flight lasted an hour and 32 minutes. This exceeded the record set by Frenchman Lucien Kupe on June 16, 1934 by 1,453 meters. On October 28 of the same year, the crew was able to raise their own record to 8,980 meters.

Another flight carried out by Yumashev / Kalashnikov on September 16, which carried a payload of 10,000 kilograms to 6,605 meters, was just as successful. The Italian Antonini's record on February 22, 1930, which had been in place for over six years, was 3,231 meters.

Another mass / height record was set on September 20th. Yumashev and Kalashnikov carried 12,000 kilograms of payload to an altitude of 2,700 meters. A year later, Jumaschew, along with Gromov and Danilin, achieved some international fame through a long-distance record flight from Moscow to San Jacinto / USA.


The remains of a TB-3

A number of TB-3s were still operational in Europe after the war ended. On July 1, 1945, for example, there were still 20 aircraft in the fleet of the 18th Air Army. Due to its hopelessly outdated design, as well as the more modern designs available in sufficient numbers - both bombers and transports - the TB-3 was removed from the inventory of the air force quite quickly. The copies available in the civil air fleet were also replaced after a short time. Not a single TB-3 has survived today. However, several wrecks have been discovered in the vast expanses of the country, for example near Arkhangelsk , where forest workers found the remains of a TB-3-4AM-34FRN with the tactical number 687 , which had to make an emergency landing in 1943, in a forest in the early 1980s were. However, none of these wrecks has been recovered or restored so far. In 2019, on behalf of the Arctic and Antarctic Museum of Saint Petersburg, the recovery of a civilian ANT-6 of the polar air fleet, which had an accident on March 17, 1938 while landing on Rudolf Island near a now abandoned polar station, began. A copy of the smaller twin-engine predecessor model TB-1 , which was rebuilt using two wreckage finds, can be viewed in the Ulyanovsk Museum . The remains of a TB-3 are stored in the Monino museum (see photo).


designation features
The first or second production lot and the TB-3, which was produced in large numbers at the same time. The designation refers to the motors used. 400 units had been delivered by the end of 1933.
TB-3-4AM-34    In February 1933 an improved version with more powerful engines, externally recognizable by the recessed radiators under the wings. The tests of the first two machines were completed in December 1933 and their overall performance was poor, which resulted from the lack of propeller drives. Therefore only about 15 machines were converted.
Variant with propeller gear (R stands for reducer, gearbox), four-bladed propellers on the two inner engines, tail stand, modified vertical stabilizer and hydropneumatically sprung main wheels, appeared in 1934. The trials took place from December 1933 to January 1934. The civil version M-34RD made a tour of Europe in 1934. The transport variant was used as a cargo, medical and cargo glider tow plane as well as for partisan supply. For test purposes, the corrugated iron paneling of one machine in this series was covered with fabric and the aircraft was used for measurement flights from January 1 to February 11, 1935. The smooth surface resulted in a speed increase of 5.5 to 27.5 percent.
TB-3-4AM-34RN    This version equipped with a height loader (N stands for nagnetalni, charged) was tested from August to October 1935 and was easily recognizable by the spherical bow stand, the semi-clad pilot's cabins and the two-meter main wheels. The under-wing armament had been omitted. Production ran until 1936.
In the AM-34FRN (F stands for forsirowanni, increased power) from 1936, all four engines were again equipped with three-blade propellers and the outer shell was smooth, which resulted in better performance. Series production ended in 1937. The M-34FRNW was the last series version with a spherical armament on the back for greater heights (W for Wyssota, height). About 100 pieces were made, which were delivered in 1936 and 1937. They had additional fuel tanks in the wings, a modified bow and were equipped with Flettner oars .
TB-3-4AN-1    Test vehicle for the Tscharomski-AN-1 engine. The tests carried out in 1935 showed a range of 4,280 km, but overall the performance was worse than with AM-34RN engines. Sometimes referred to as TB-3D.
This civil special version was intended for special tasks in the Arctic and was therefore equipped with closed cabins and skis. Five units were built in 1936 and were in use between 1937 and 1944.
Name for decommissioned military aircraft, which were mostly equipped with M-17F and AM-34RN engines and were used as transport aircraft (G stands for Grus, freight) in the civil air fleet (GWF).


Technical specifications

Parameter ANT-6
(prototype 1930)
(1933 series)
(1935 series)
ANT-6 Awiaarktika
(series 1936)
span 40.50 m 39.50 m 41.85 m
length 24.20 m 24.40 m 25.18 m
height k. A. 8.45 m k. A.
Wing area 231 m² 230 m² 234.5 m²
Empty mass 9,375 kg 10,976 kg 12,585 kg 12,500 kg
payload 6,307 kg 6,233 kg 6,115 kg 11,550 kg
Takeoff mass 15,682 kg 17,200 kg 18,877 kg 24,050 kg *
Wing loading 67.9 kg / m² 74.8 kg / m² 79.7 kg / m² 102.6 kg / m²
Power load 8.38 kg / kW (6.31 kg / PS) 8.17 kg / kW (6.01 kg / hp) 6.52 kg / kW (4.82 kg / PS) 9.86 kg / kW (7.24 kg / PS)
drive four water-cooled 12-cylinder V-engines Curtiss V-1550 four water-cooled 12-cylinder V-engines M-17F four water-cooled 12-cylinder V-engines AM-34RN four water-cooled 12-cylinder V-engines AM-34R
Starting power 457 kW (621 PS) each 526 kW (715 PS) each 713 kW (969 PS) each 610 kW (829 PS) each
rated capacity 441 kW (600 PS) each 368 kW (500 PS) each 618 kW (840 PS) each 552 kW (751 PS) each
Top speed 226 km / h near the ground 179 km / h near the ground
177 km / h at an altitude of 3,000 m
245 km / h near the ground,
288 km / h at an altitude of 4,000 m
240 km / h near the ground,
275 km / h at an altitude of 3,000 m
Rise time 5.1 min at 1,000 m
19.9 min at 3,000 m
9.2 min at 1,000 m,
43.4 min at 3,000 m
4.4 min at 1,000 m,
13.2 min at 3,000 m
k. A.
Service ceiling 5,100 m 3,800 m 7,740 m k. A.
Range k. A. 1,350 km 960 km 2,500 km

Take- off / landing taxiway
200 m / 150 m k. A. 400 m / 280 m k. A.
Armament - two DA machine guns
three DA-2 machine guns
nine SchKAS machine guns -
Bomb load - 2,000-5,000 kg -
crew k. A. 8th 6th 5–6 *

* During the flight to the Pole on May 21, 1937, the N-170 lead aircraft had a takeoff mass of 24,500 kg and had a total of 14 people on board.


Web links

Commons : Tupolev TB-3  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Wilfried Copenhagen: Soviet bomb planes. transpress, Berlin 1989, p. 123.
  2. ^ Karl-Heinz Eyermann , Wolfgang Sellenthin: The air parades of the USSR. Central Board of the Society for German-Soviet Friendship, 1967, p. 33.
  3. ^ Rainer Göpfert: The undeclared war on the Chasansee and on the Chalchin-Gol. in Flieger Revue Extra No. 4, Möller, 2004, pp. 98–115.
  4. ^ Rainer Göpfert, Rolf Jakob: The Finnish Winter War. in Flieger Revue Extra No. 11, Möller, 2005, p. 52 and p. 56.
  5. ^ Rainer Göpfert: Tupolew TB-3. In: Fliegerrevue No. 10/2014, PPVMedien, Bergkirchen, ISSN  0941-889X , pp. 50–53
  6. ^ Karl-Heinz Eyermann: Air transport - mirror of the air power. Deutscher Militärverlag, Berlin 1967, p. 99/100
  7. Wilfried Copenhagen : Encyclopedia Soviet aviation. Elbe – Dnjepr, Klitzschen 2007, ISBN 978-3-933395-90-0 , pp. 78-79.
  8. Hartmut Buch: Fallschirmjäger - On the past and present of the airborne troops. in Flieger Revue 2/83, pp. 74–79 and pp. 90/91.
  9. Wilfried Copenhagen: The sky is burning! - Air landings. In Aerosport No. 2/1967, pp. 60/61
  10. Harri Kander: Stories about five tons. in Flieger Revue 3/77, pp. 108–115.
  11. Peter Korrell: TB-3 - The story of a bomber. transpress, Berlin 1987, p. 132.
  12. ^ Rainer Göpfert: The spectacular Russian project "Zveno". Jet & Prop January / February 2002, pp. 43-50.
  13. Olaf Groehler: Piggyback. Part 1, FliegerRevue 10/83, pp. 458–463.
  14. Dave McDonald: Tupolev from the Arctic. In: Flugzeug Classic No. 1/2020, p. 10
  15. ^ Peter Stache: Tupolev bomber. Versions of the ANT-6 / TB-3 in Flieger Revue 10/70, pp. 438–440.
  16. ^ Ulrich Unger: Adventure of Soviet Aviators . Military Publishing House of the GDR, Berlin 1987, ISBN 3-327-00306-8 , p. 183 .