Sukhoi SU-17M4/22M4




Russian aircraft builders display great ingenuity in wringing every last ounce of performance from existing machines. The long-lived Su 17 is such an example, and it continues to be upgraded and employed long after the basic design became obsolete.

In 1956 the Sukhoi design bureau created its first tactical jet bomber, the Su 7, a modern-looking machine built in large numbers to offset its relative simplicity. It was a capable fighter-bomber and ruggedly built but also somewhat underpowered. Moreover, it suffered from long runway rolls and rather short range. In 1967 the Sukhoi bureau decided to upgrade this family of bombers by adding variable-geometry wings to enhance takeoff, landing, and load-carrying abilities. Early on it was judged impossible to fit wing-retracting equipment into the narrow fuselage, so engineers compromised by making the wings pivot midway along their length. The added lift increased the Su 7’s takeoff performance, and operational radius and ordnance payload were improved as well. Commencing in 1971 the new Su 17 became operational in large numbers, and they were deployed by Warsaw Pact allies and Soviet client states. It has since received the NATO designation FITTER.



Lavochkin’s Fighters


While the Yak-1’s fundamentally sound airframe lent itself to progressive improvements that culminated in the superb Yak-9 and Yak-3, it took a more radical step to turn the LaGG-3 into something more than a deathtrap: the replacement of its inline engine with Arkady Shvetsov’s M-82 radial. Ironically, other Soviet designers had experimented with the radial on their existing airframes, such as Mikhail Gudkov’s Gu-82, Mikoyan’s MiG-9, and Yakovlev’s Yak-7 M-82, while Lavochkin hesitated. By early 1942, only the Sukhoi Su-2 short-range bomber was using the M-82 when Lavochkin and Shvetsov were called in to a conference of the People’s Commissariat of the Aircraft Industry in Moscow. In essence, Lavochkin was told that reports on his LaGG-3 were so unsatisfactory that if something significant were not done soon, production of the fighter would have to be canceled. And since hundreds of unwanted M-82s were piling up at Shvetsov’s Plant No. 19 in Perm, Lavochkin was strongly urged to try fitting the radial in his plane.






In addition to France and the United States, Britain, Italy, Germany, and the Soviet Union also tested a variety of lightweight fighters. Ironically, the only country to succeed, the Soviet Union, had not given the lightweight concept serious consideration until 1941, when the Voyenno-Vozdushny Sili began pursuing two different directions of development with the Yakovlev Yak-1, a new fighter that held great promise but was handicapped by an unsatisfactory power-to-weight ratio. The tyazhely (heavy) variants took advantage of the new boosted Klimov M-105PF engine, leading to the Yak-7A and the famous Yak-9. The other, legky (light), option involved taking radical steps to compensate for the existing engine with the smallest, simplest, cleanest airframe possible. Unlike Western designs, the legky fighter was intended to achieve local air superiority over the battlefield, rather than be confined to point defense. Unlike the similarly lightened Mitsubishi Zero, however, the Soviet fighter did not have to satisfy a long-range requirement, since it would be operating just over the lines during the sweeping land battles that could—and would—be fought on Russia’s western steppes.







The table gives a performance comparison of the Soviet, British and American fighters

The initial-production 1-300s (by then the type had been allocated the service designation MiG-9) were to be powered by BMW 003A engines, a small stock of which had been captured in Germany. Known in service as the RD-20 Series A1, these original German engines had a TBO of only ten hours. Subsequently the Kazan’ engine factory No. 16 managed to increase the TBO of 50 hours; the longer-life Kazan’-built engines were designated RD-20 Srs A2.



The production MiG-9 in detail





The MiG-9 was a cantilever mid-wing monoplane of all-metal construction with a smooth stressed skin and a retractable tricycle undercarriage. To simplify the process of assembly the aircraft was divided into several production units.

Fuselage: semi-monocoque stressed-skin structure. Duralumin was used as the main structural material.

Technologically the fuselage was built in two sections – the forward fuselage (frames Nos. 1 through 15a) and the rear fuselage (frames Nos. 15 through 35), which were joined together by fittings. The fuselage structure incorporated two air ducts supplying air to the engines. The ducts had an elliptic cross-section changing to circular at the rear and ran along the fuselage sides, flanking the cockpit.



RAF’s First Cold War Casualty


On March 12, 1953 the Cold War suddenly turned very hot for the RAF. For it was on this day that Soviet fighters finally brought down a British aircraft, in an uneven contest between an ageing Avro Lincoln and a MiG-15 jet.

The first months of 1953 were a particularly tense time in the history of the undeclared conflict between the Soviet Union and the West. The nuclear arms race was at its most intense, the Korean War was still raging and the death of Stalin in early March had plunged the Kremlin into a leadership crisis. Meanwhile, the air forces of the West, primarily – but not exclusively – the USAF and RAF, were regularly conducting clandestine spy flights over Soviet territory, photographing sensitive military installations, testing response times of scrambled Soviet fighters and gathering electronic intelligence (ELINT), such as recording Russian radar emissions.