1/144 Tupolev TU-4T "Bolshoi"

Gallery Article by Alvis 3.1

Silly Week 2009


With the advent of jet aircraft, the leadership of the Soviet Union began to express concerns about keeping up with the decadent Westerners. One area urgently looked into was the Jet Bomber. With this type of aircraft, planes could hit capitalists fast and hard, without fear of interception

One of the first attempts was basically a jet engined version of the Tu-4 "Bull", which itself was a reverse engineered B-29. It seemed simple enough, add some jets to an existingly fast aircraft, and quick like borscht, you'd have a new, faster plane. Well, almost...

It turns out the airfoil design used on the B-29 had a limiting Mach factor, so the addition of jet engines only added 50 knots airspeed. The thirsty nature of early jet engines also meant that a massively large part of the payload had to be given over to fuel, and range suffered drastically as well. It turned out, the Tu-4T was capable of a slightly faster attack, at only 25% of the range of a conventional Tu-4, with only 31% of it's payload. A fully fuelled Tu-4T, taking off from Moscow, could only reach Kiev before requiring refuelling. Needless to say, the plane wasn't put into production, with only three prototypes being built.

However, the ever busy CIA and MI-6 were able to photograph the Tu-4T at a Soviet airfield, and it was assumed to be an operational aircraft. It was designated "Bolshoi" under the NATO naming protocols, and remained in the west's Cold War planning directives as late as 1967.

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I came across this funky old "Mechanix Illustrated" at a local used book store, and had to have it, just on the basis of the cover art. The artist was likely thinking a Russian jet bomber would look pretty much like one of their regular ones, and the result inspired me to build my version of the Tu-4T. I used the Minicraft B-29 and an old Revell DC-8 for engines. This poor model was dropped many many times before it became completed. It was cursed, but I persevered!.

Alvis 3.1

Photos and text by Alvis 3.1