TsAGI – Tupolev: ANT 4 Record-Setting Heavy Bomber
14 July 2022
ANT 4, or TB-1, is the world’s first mass-produced heavy all-metal twin-engined monoplane bomber. For this aircraft, TsAGI team would be honored with telegram from Feliks Dzerzhinsky, Chairman of the Supreme Economic Council: ‘My cordial greetings to TsAGI! The records set by your ANT 4 aircraft are advancing the Soviet aircraft industry into the position of the latest achievements of world technology’.
In November 1924, TsAGI was assigned to design a new aircraft that would later become the predecessor of Soviet strategic air forces. The main aim was to create the aircraft capable of carrying parachute mines and aerial torpedoes for several hundred kilometers. The task had to be completed in nine months.
Despite some difficulties, the bomber was ‘born’ in time under Tupolev’s guidance. In the ANT‑4, the designers applied know-how—the multi-spar wing. Quite importantly, the airframe could be separated into parts, facilitating its production, repair, and transportation. Dural trusses and steel tubing became the basis of the aircraft’s structure. Corrugated skin provided the aircraft with strength and torsional rigidity.
The ANT‑4 made its maiden flight on November 26, 1925, piloted by A. Tomashevsky. In his tests of the bomber, Tomashevsky would set two world records on payload flight duration. The aircraft became a real sensation in the USA: Strana Sovetov (‘The Soviet Country’), the modified ANT‑4, made an unprecedented flight from Moscow to New York, which lasted from August 23 to November 1, 1929. In 142 flight hours, the crew covered 21,242 km—despite rather unfavorable weather conditions. ANT‑4 flew to show the power of the Soviet aviation to the West—and it did it.
The aircraft was assessed by Aircraft Designer V. Shavrov in the following way: ‘It is the world’s first all-metal two-engined monoplane bomber... Definitely, this aircraft became the prototype of all the subsequent bombers...’
Apart from that, the legendary aircraft was also notably remarked in aviation history by being used in many expeditions—such as Chelyuskin team rescue, Northern Sea Route exploration, evacuation of people from ships in the Laptev Sea, etc.
Sources: Andrey Tupolev: Life and Activities. [In Russian]. Published in Moscow by TsAGI Publishing Department in 1991.
Bodrichin N.G. Tupolev. [In Russian]. Published in Moscow by Molodaya Gvardia Publishers in 2011.