Made in the U.S.S.R.

Of course they copied it. The two airplanes could have been twins. But was the Soviets’ Tu-4 truly an exact duplicate of the Boeing B-29?

View, from slightly above, of several Boeing B-29 Superfortresses flying in formation, 1945. (NASM)
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Stalin reorganized Soviet aviation for the post-war environment, compelling it to adopt a range of new technologies, materials, and techniques of manufacture. Technological inferiority persisted, but the baseline for a more sophisticated aviation sector had been established.

The success of the Tu-4 program cannot be separated from Tupolev’s persona—a rare blend of design and administrative talents. His leadership demonstrated that the relatively primitive aviation industry could be recast to build modern aircraft on a par with those of the West. His success with the Tu-4 program, as many Russian historians acknowledge today, provided a model and an inspiration for Sergei Korolev in the missile and rocket program that was to follow. In its own way, Ramp Tramp had offered the Soviet Union a trajectory to the future.

This article was prepared in consultation with Russian historian Dmitri Sobolev, and with the assistance of V. P. Kotel’nikov, Aleksei Drozhilov, Vladimir Rigmant, Gene Eisman, Michael Moore, and Ilya Grinberg.


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