Sunday, February 17, 2013

US design, Soviet copy, Chinese development

My mention last night of a Soviet-built, Iraqi-operated MiG-25 at the US Air Force Museum in Dayton, OH led me back to an article at ACIG I've read and re-read many times.  It's called simply 'Gone With The Wind', and examines attempts - some successful, some not - by various powers to obtain aircraft and missiles used by other powers, in order to analyze them and learn how to counter them.  It's a long and fascinating article, and I recommend it to your reading pleasure.

One aircraft it mentions stands out for me in particular.  This is a Tu-4 bomber in Chinese service.

As many readers will immediately recognize, the Tu-4 is an almost exact copy of the US Boeing B-29 Superfortress.  It was copied on Stalin's orders, and was the Soviet Union's first strategic and nuclear-capable bomber.  The version shown above and below has been refitted with Ivchenko AI-20 turboprop engines by China (using either original Soviet engines or the Chinese licence-production version, dubbed the WJ6).  They probably provided improved performance compared to the Tu-4's original Shvetsov ASh-73 radial engines (themselves a further development of a license-built version of the US Wright R-1820 Cyclone 9 that powered the B-17 Flying Fortress).

Beneath the wing of the Tu-4 is a Chinese copy of the US AQM-34 reconnaissance UAV, based on the Ryan Firebee target drone.  It was known locally (according to various sources) as the WZ-5, WuZhen-5, Chang Hing or ChangHong-1.  China recovered several of the US drones sent over its territory during and shortly after the Vietnam War, which either crashed or were shot down, and used the wrecks to reverse-engineer the aircraft.

So, in and on one aircraft, we have US designs stolen/copied by another country;  initially using US engine technology produced under license and further developed, then re-engined with an early-generation turboprop powerplant;  and carrying a US-designed UAV captured, reverse-engineered and duplicated by a third country.  That's quite a mixture, isn't it?

Go read the whole article at ACIG.  It's fascinating stuff for aviation buffs.



Old NFO said...

Yep, and it's NOT getting any better out there!

DanG said...

Is that really the best they can do? Somehow, this just isn't that scarey.

Scott said...

Necessity might be the mother of Invention, but never forget the illegitimate child: Reverse Engineering!

If the Chinese ever really figure out quality control, we'll be in deep doo.

Cybrludite said...

I understand that the initial Tu-4s were copied down to the patched bullet holes, so frightened the Soviet engineers were of failing Stalin's orders to copy it exactly.