Saturday, 10 December 2011

Captured Tupolev TB-3 4M-17F




Tupolev TB-3 4M-17F captured by the Germans during the winter of 1941-42. Note the small red stars on the engine cowlings. By the early 1940s the TB-3 had been in service for a decade and was largely obsolete. Some 516 examples were still in service with the VVS in the West when the Germans lauched Barbarossa and losses during the first weeks of Hitler's attack on the Soviet Union were catastrophic, especially when the type was pressed into service by day as a ground attack aircraft. The TB-3 enjoyed some successes bombarding German aerodromes at night during July 1941 in the Minsk and Smolensk sectors. The TB-3 is perhaps best known as a 'flying aircraft carrier' with mid-air launches (Zveno) being successfully carried out with two I-16s loaded with FAB-250 bombs in the dive-bombing role (SPB). The first successful raid was mounted by two TB-3s in this configuration on 1 August 1941 by aircraft of the Black Sea Aviation against the Rumanian port of Constanza. The bombers launched their I-16s some 50 km from the target with the Polikarpovs returning safely to an airfield near Odessa. On 11 and 13 August 1941 Zveno-SPBs attacked the bridge over the Danube at Chernovodsky. Zveno-SPBs also attacked refineries at Ploesti. As the Germans closed in on Perekop, Zveno-SPBs were launched against German armoured columns. By 1942 the first TB-3s were deployed as flying bombs being radio-guided (TMS - Tele-Mekhanichevsky Samolet) from the ground over distances of up to 100 kms and further from in the air.  (from 'Avions' No. 72 March 1999 with permission)


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