The first B-4 made its maiden flight on May 19, 1947, and was displayed at the Tushino Air Display in August of that year, leading some Western observers to believe that it was a restored USAAF aircraft rather than a new Soviet design. In reality, the development of the B-4 had been a significant achievement for the Soviet Union, which now had a top-class bomber in its arsenal. The type was redesignated the Tu-4 in October 1947.
The Tu-4 was produced by three factories in a standard long-range version and was produced from 1947 to 1953:
- Plant No. 22 (Kazan)
It was the primary manufacturer of the Tu-4 and the first to introduce design changes. In April 1946, the factory received the manufacturing drawings for the aircraft, and by February 28, 1947, the first production B-4 (construction number 220001) had been completed. At its peak, Kazan was able to produce 15 Tu-4s per month.
- Plant No. 18 (Kuibyshev, now renamed Samara)
In 1947, a government directive was issued requiring Plant No. 18 to join in the series production of the Tu-4. While Kazan remained the chief production plant for the Tu-4, Plant No. 18 played an important role in supporting its production. In February 1949, the first production machine manufactured by Plant No. 18 took to the air from the factory airfield, Kuibyshev-Bezymyanka, shared by plants No. 1 and No. 18.
- Plant No. 23 (Fili)
In 1948, the Soviet government decided to assign the production of the Tupolev Tu-4 strategic bomber to Plant No. 23 in Fili, a western suburb of Moscow. Preparations for Tu-4 production at the plant began on May 19, 1949. Series production of the Tu-4 at Plant No. 23 officially began at the beginning of 1950, although it was carried out on a smaller scale than at the Kazan or Kuibyshev plants.
According to author Yefim Gordon, while the exact number of Tu-4s produced is unclear, estimates range widely from around 600 to nearly 1,300 aircraft.
For example, Dmitriy Markov, the Tu-4’s project chief, estimated that nearly 1,000 Tu-4s were produced. However, Ivnamin Sultanov, a Russian aviation historian, cited a lower figure of 847. The Kazan Aircraft Production Association (KAPO), which was responsible for producing the Tu-4 at Plant No. 22, reported a production run of 644 aircraft, although other sources have quoted a slightly different number of 655.
Meanwhile, the production of the Tu-4 at Plant No. 18 in Samara was estimated to be 480 aircraft. Despite these various estimates, the true production figures for the Tu-4 remain uncertain and continue to be a subject of debate.
Russian aviation writer Nikolay V. Yakubovich based on materials found in the Russian State Archive of the Economy cites the following Tu-4 production:
Tu-4 production table
|Plant No. 18||-||41||108||150||166||16||481|
End of an era
In the early 1950s, the Soviet Union’s aerospace industry underwent a significant shift. In response to the increasing use of turbine-powered aircraft in other countries, the three plants: Kazan (Plant No. 22), Kuibyshev (Plant No. 18), and Voronezh (Plant No. 23) all began to focus on producing turbine-powered aircraft.
Plant No. 22, which had previously been mainly responsible for the production of the Tu-4, launched production of the Tu-16 Badger in 1953, a twin turbojet medium bomber. Plant No. 18, meanwhile, began producing the Tu-95 Bear, a four-turboprop strategic bomber, in 1955.
Plant No. 23 was transferred to the new design bureau of Vladimir M. Myasishchev (OKB-23) and started producing the Myasishchev M-4 Bison-A, a four-turbojet strategic bomber, in 1954.
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