T-4 - the plane ahead of its time (Topic)

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T-4 - the plane ahead of its time


It is generally accepted that fighters are traditionally faster than bombers in the military flight environment. In the 60s and 70s, the USSR managed to refute this. Domestic T-4 - aircraft with bomber functions had a maximum speed of up to 3200 km / h, and by this indicator overtook many fighters. The T-4 "Sotka" became the plane of the future for its time, but ironically it never ended up in it.

Innovative breakthrough

The vast majority of the main units, parts and systems of the T-4 are the result of new original developments and inventions of Soviet engineers. In total, about 600 new ideas were used for the first time in the project “Products 100”, taking into account all the design innovations used, including for the creation of components and additional units. No other Soviet aircraft could boast of such a number of innovative solutions assembled in one aircraft.


Work on the T-4 started in 1961. At the request of the military, the Sotka aircraft was to become a combat vehicle for strategic reconnaissance operations and strikes. The Sukhoi bureau won the competition for the presented projects of the future monster, leaving behind the equally famous creators of the famous Soviet aircraft Tupolev and Yakovlev Design Bureau.

Three features of T-4

The key characteristic of the T-4 was its incredible speed, which in theory was supposed to protect the vehicle from enemy air defenses. Ahead of the aircraft, separate cockpits for the pilot and navigator were located in tandem, each with a hinged hatch in case of an unforeseen emergency. To rescue the military, the aircraft was also equipped with seats with ejection mechanisms, with which it was possible to leave the cockpit at any speed and flight altitude.

The deviating design of the nose became the second important highlight of "Sotka". In the position from below, the bow did not interfere with the forward view, which simplified the control of the T-4 on the ground, as well as landing and takeoff. According to the recollections of the testers, the plane smoothly took off from the airfield, easily maintaining the takeoff angle. When the Sotka was accelerated to ultra high speeds, the nose became a kind of protection for the glazed part of the cockpit, blocking it with itself and reducing the resistance of oncoming air currents. After the front view was closed, various devices came to the aid of the management. A periscope was also provided for the crew, providing good visibility.


Sukhoi Design Bureau engineers faced a difficult task - how to maintain the reliability of the entire structure and find suitable materials that could ensure the full operation of the aircraft at high operating temperatures. And then the third feature of the T-4 appears - in its device at that time, designers massively used high-strength titanium alloys, structural and stainless steel.

Challenges Only

From the mid-60s to the mid-70s, four versions of the aircraft were made in total: three for flight and one for static testing. The first ultra-high-speed aircraft T-4 "Sotka" made a test flight in 1972, and then over the next two years (up to 1974), experimental launches of a supersonic aircraft, innovative for its time, continued. In total, there were about 10 flights.


Despite the successes of the designers who created a unique aircraft, in 1974 the T-4 project was closed at the direction of the relevant aviation ministry. The main reason for this has not been announced and is still unknown. Presumably, the project could be considered too costly or lacking development prospects. Also among the possible reasons are the lack of opportunities for the Sukhoi Design Bureau to organize extended tests and the workload of specialists who were working on the project of the future Su-27 fighter. In addition, at the end of the 60s, new technical requirements appeared, under which the T-4 no longer fell.

Now the only T-4 aircraft, which in a sense has become a unique unit of its time, has been preserved in the Central Air Force Museum (Monino).

The Topic of Article: T-4 - the plane ahead of its time.
Author: Jake Pinkman