Tupolev ANT-6 / TB-3 / G-2
The Tupolev TB-3 all-metal cantilever monoplane was the most advanced four-engined heavy bomber in service in the world in the early 1930s. First flown by M M Gromov on 22 December 1930, it was Tupolev's first stake to the claim of having built the world's largest landplane.
The first TB-3s closely resembled the TB-1, and carried the same bombload, but were more powerful and more heavily armed. The 1936 version, powered by M-34FRN engines, established a number of weight-lifting records for the USSR in that year, and in May 1937 four unarmed TB-3s airlifted the Schmidt Polar Expe-dition to the North Pole.
Production began at the end of 1931, continuing through many modifications until early 1937 when a total of 818 had been built.
For many years the TB-3 was the backbone of the VVS (Soviet air forces) heavy bomber units. A number retained the bureau designation ANT-6 and were used for transport. As the first four-engine cantilever monoplane production bomber; it carried 4,410 pounds of bombs and became famous as the carri-er craft in the world's first mass para-troop exercises.
In 1938-39 TB-3s were used operationally against the Japanese, but by the time Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941 most had been converted as paratroop or freight transports under the designation G-2. A squadron of six TB-3s, each carrying two fighter-bombers, was used against the advancing Germans in 1941.
Other uses then consisted of night bombing and transport work of all kinds, including the carriage of vehicles or tanks between landing gear legs, and glider towing.
Experiments started with two I-16 fighters, and slowly worked up to five, four of which were rolled up ramps on to cradles fixed to the bomber's wings, while a fifth joined up in flight, hook-ing on to yet another version of the trapeze gear used in British and American experi-ments. To help get this heavy formation airborne the engines of the wing-mounted fighters were run up at take-off, and once up, the TB-3 could just maintain altitude under its own power.
Use in parasite fighter experiments led in 1941 to Black Sea Fleet TB-3s being used to launch two Polikarpov SPB dive-bomber versions of the I-16 fighter, for raids on pinpoint targets in the Ukraine and Romania.
Engines: 4 x M-17F
Max take-off weight: 17047 kg / 37582 lb
Wingspan: 39.5 m / 130 ft 7 in
Length: 24.4 m / 80 ft 1 in
Height: 8.5 m / 28 ft 11 in
Wing area: 230.0 sq.m / 2475.70 sq ft
Max. speed: 182 km/h / 113 mph
Ceiling: 3600 m / 11800 ft
Range: 2200 km / 1367 miles
Armament: 4 x 7.62 mm machine-guns, 3000kg of bombs
Tupolev ANT-6 / TB-3