Gliders of the Soviet Union

A-7

The Antonov A-7, also known as the Red-Front (Rot-Front) RF-8, was one of the early Soviet military transport gliders. It won a design award for Oleg K. Antonov, the famous aeronautical engineer. The first models were built about the time World War II started (1939). In its high aspect-ratio, its 62.2-foot wing, and its fuselage, it preserved many of the excellent flying characteristics of a sailplane. It was 37.7 feet long and carried eight equipped soldiers.

It had a retractable landing gear and all the latest instruments necessary to enable the pilot to handle the glider in all flyable weather; 400 were manufactured.

The Army used the A-7 extensively to support Soviet guerrillas operating against the Germans. The glider was towed by the Il-4, the SB-3 and the Il-2.

A-7 Technical Data

Crew: Pilot

Dimensions

Wingspan: 62.2′

Wing area: 335 square feet

Fuselage length: 37.7′

Weight

Cargo: 2,000 lb

Payload

Pilot, 8 equipped troops

Tow-planes: Li-2, SB-3

A-11 (G-11)

While some sources doubt that the A-11 was ever built, there is substantial evidence to prove its existence. The evidence shows that the A-11 was an improved version of the A-7 glider. It was similar in appearance to the A-7, except for the fact that it had a strut-braced wing.

Vladimir Gribovskii collaborated with Oleg K. Antonov in its design and development. It had a wing span of 82 feet and a length of 42 feet.

Reports also exist of a G-11 glider. In view of the fact that Gribovskii was the co-designer of the A-11, it is possible that the A-11 and the G-11 (Gribovskii-11) were one and the same glider, the A-11 at some time taking the G-11 designation for unknown reasons.

A-11/G-11 Technical Data

Type: Transport

Crew: Pilot and co-pilot

Payload:

Pilot, co-pilot, 20 equipped troops

Dimensions

Wingspan: 82′

Fuselage length: 42′

Weight

Cargo: 4,400 lb

BDP (S-1)

In July 1941, the Bureau of Special Construction, OK B (Osoboe Konstruktorskoe Buro), ordered the production of a battle transport-glider, BDP (Boevoi Desantnyi Planer). The first model was built within a month, and the first test-flight was made before the end of the summer.

The BDP (S-1), as it became, had a high cantilever wing 65.7 feet long, of wooden construction, with a high aspect ratio. It was tapered and had a wing-root dihedral. Trailing edge flaps were fitted.

The monocoque fuselage was oval shaped and accommodated a pilot and 20 fully-equipped troops. Gun-ports were built into the fuselage, from which glidermen could shoot at attacking aircraft or, while landing, at enemy troops. The wheel under-carriage was dropped after take-off and the glider landed on plywood runners.

The government stopped production shortly after the first gliders were manufactured, deploying the factory to the east in Russia to escape destruction by the advancing Nazi armies. Production of the BDP (S-1) was not resumed because the government turned all aircraft production resources toward the construction of combat aircraft.

BDP (S-1) Technical Data

Type: Battle glider

Crew: Pilot

Payload: 20 soldiers, equipped, or equivalent weight in other cargo.

Towing speed: 100 mph (maximum)

Dimensions

Wingspan: 65.7′

Wing area: 481 sq ft

Weight

Total with cargo: 7,700 lb

Empty: 5,070 lb

Cargo: 2,630 1b

MOTOR-GLIDER MP-1

The motor-glider MP-1 (Motoplaner-1) showed the wartime continuation of Russian hopes to develop a satisfactory powered glider—long a dream of glider advocates. This development took place in 1943 just before the deployment of the factory to the east. The MP and the BDP (S-1) differed only in minor detail, except for the installation of two 140-hp five-cylinder engines on the leading edge of the wing of a standard BDP (S-1). A fixed-wheel landing gear was installed, also hoops at the ends of the wings to protect the tips on landing. A trim tab was fitted to the rudder, and a small window at the bottom of the nose to give the pilot better visibility.

The MP-1 had to be assisted at take-off when carrying a full load, but when empty could take off without assistance. It was released by its tow-plane once airborne and flew at 100 miles per hour, having a range of close to 500 miles.

GLIDER-BOMBER PB

During 1942, the OKB considered building a single-seat glider bomber, the PB (Planer Bombardirovshchik) and produced plans for it. These called for the glider to have an internal bomb bay that would allow for a variety of loads, including supply containers and a 4,400 lb bomb. The project was dropped, however, perhaps because of the urgent need for facilities and materials to build combat aircraft.

G-31

The G-31 military glider was a daring experiment far ahead of its time. It was designed by Pavel Ignat’evich Grokhovskii, military pilot, parachutist, inventor, and head of the special design bureau of the Leningrad Institute.

It was a mid-wing all-wooden monoplane. The fuselage was a narrow plywood monocoque construction that used wood-fabrication techniques advanced for that day. The pilot and co-pilot sat above the wing in a plexiglass enclosure. The forward edge of the wing, which was 91.9 feet long, was transparent for approximately sixteen feet on each side of the fuselage. Eighteen passengers, nine on each side, lay flat in the wing behind the transparent window.

The G-31 glider-plane or powered glider, Yakov Alksnis, followed the development of the G-31 glider. A 700-hp M-25 9-cylinder radial engine, placed in the nose, powered the Yakov Alksnis.

After flight tests of these gliders had been conducted at Moscow, it became clear that the design did not allow for quick enough abandonment of the glider by its passengers in an emergency or when landing under fire in combat. For this reason, the G-31 and G-31 Yakov Alksnis were abandoned.

G-31 Technical Data

Type: Transport glider

Crew: Pilot and co-pilot

Dimensions

Wingspan: 91.9′

Wing area: 753 sq ft

Weight

Total with cargo: 7,054 lb

Empty: 3,086 lb

Cargo: 3,968 lb

Payload

18 troops fully-equipped.

Flight performance

Maximum airspeed: 84 mph

GN-4

The GN-4 (Croshev No. 4), designed by G. F. Groshev, was built at the Moscow Glider Factory shortly after the factory’s establishment. It was first revealed to the public in the 1934 all-union glider meeting.

This was the world’s first transport glider. In design, it stood between the sailplane and the wartime transport glider, although in configuration it was much like a large sailplane. Although designed to be towed throughout its flight, except for the few minutes after its release from its tow-plane, it is reputed to have flown as a sailplane under suitable wind conditions. It was primarily designed for flying as one of a combination of gliders in a glider train, and was normally towed by the commercial version of the R-5.

The GN-4 was a strut-braced high-wing monoplane with a narrow oval fuselage. It had an enclosed pilot’s compartment with five passenger seats behind the pilot. The 60-foot wing had a straight leading edge and a trailing edge tapered from the centre section. It had a very high aspect ratio. The R-5 towed it at close to 100 miles per hour. The empty weight of the glider was 1,000 pounds.

GN-4 Technical Data

Type: Transport glider

Crew: Pilot

Dimensions

Wingspan: 60′

Fuselage length: 27′

Weight

Total with cargo: 1,992 lb

Empty: 1,000 lb

Cargo: 992 lb

Payload

5 passengers

Flight performance

Towing speed: 100 mph

Il-32

The Il-32 was designed by S. V. Ilyushin and a single glider, a prototype, was finished in 1948. No others were built.

It was an all-metal, high-wing, cantilever monoplane. A unique feature was that both the nose and the rear of the cargo compartment were hinged to permit the loading of heavy or bulky equipment. The glider had built-in ramps for loading wheeled cargo.

It carried a crew and thirty-five fully equipped soldiers.

KT-20

Conceived in 1944 by D. I. N. Kolesnikov and P. V. Tsybin, well-known in the Soviet Union as pioneers in glider design, the KT-20 (named after the designers) was a large transport glider. A few were built in the Yakovlov factory. It had a sharply tapered strut-braced wing 72.6 feet long and a tapered fuselage 49.4 feet long.

The KT-20 was loaded from the rear. The section beyond the trailing edge of the wing lifted upward to open the cargo compartment. It was constructed of wood and metal and carried twenty-four troops or 4,410 pounds of cargo. It was towed by the Il-12.

KT-20 Technical Data

Type: Transport glider

Crew: Pilot and co-pilot

Dimensions

Wingspan: 72.6′

Fuselage length: 49′

Weight

Cargo: 4,410 lb

Tow-plane: Il-12

SAM-23

In 1943, in addition to the KT-20 and the BDP (S-1), the Soviets produced the SAM-23. It was a high-wing, twin-boom, sturdily built monoplane resembling the U.S. YCG-10A. A. S. Moskalev, its designer, conceived a “gondola” fuselage, and so designed the SAM that it efficiently loaded and carried bulky cargo, including Jeep-sized vehicles. The pilot and co-pilot sat in the nose behind a large concave plexiglass window which allowed excellent observation.

The glider had an integral ramp that was lowered when the rear of the cargo compartment was raised, and was propped up between the booms for loading. It could carry sixteen men or a jeep, or an equivalent weight in other cargo.

The Soviets produced a number of SAM-23’s. Moskalev also proposed a motorized SAM, but the project never developed beyond the design stage.

SAM-23 Technical Data

Type: Battle transport glider

Crew: Pilot and co-pilot

Weight

Cargo: 3,600 lb

Payload:

16 equipped troops or a jeep or the equivalent of other cargo.

JAKOVLEVA-CYBINA GLIDER

This glider was reportedly shown at the Moscow Soviet Aviation Day exhibitions in 1949. Six were designed and built under the direction of A. S. Jakovleva, and another six under the direction of aeronautical engineer P. V. Cybina.

It is possibly the same craft as the medium-sized Tshibin cargo glider, since the likelihood of two new gliders appearing at this date is questionable. On the other hand, descriptions of the Jakovleva-Cybina—and the fact that there appears to be no question that one glider was designed and built by these two engineers and the other by Tshibin (in his own right a prominent aircraft designer)—lead to the conclusion that there were, in fact, two new and different models. It is interesting that descriptions of the Jakovleva-Cybina glider and the American World War II CG-4 are similar; and it is quite evident that the Jakovleva-Cybina and the CG-4 are alike in appearance.

The Jakovleva-Cybina glider had a large “greenhouse,” giving the pilot and co-pilot excellent visibility relatively free from interference from structural bracing. It carried troops or cargo, and could be used for parachute drops. It was fabric covered and opened from the front for loading. The towing aircraft was the Il-12.

Comrades I think we will do this…only once!

WINGED TANK “KT”

Around 1941, it was rumored in Soviet circles that the Soviet Army was in the process of developing a glider transport system that could carry a small battle-tank. More recently available reports about this project tend to confirm the fact that such a project did exist.

Assisted by a staff of engineers, Oleg K. Antonov was charged with the development and construction of what came to be known as the transport glider KT (Kryliatyi Tank or Winged Tank). The project apparently started in 1939 or 1940 and was completed in 1941, when the system was tested.

The KT was a new departure in transport glider design in several major respects. One very interesting feature is that it was a biplane glider. Second, Antonov used the T-60 tank as the fuselage of the glider; this combination could be towed into the air and released while in flight to glide down to a pre-selected spot behind enemy lines. The six-ton T-60 tank, its gun pointing to the rear, was secured between the twin booms of the glider and attached to the under surface of the lower wing. A substantial part of the tank protruded ahead of the lead edge of the lower wing. The system was so designed that the controls for the glider were inside the tank.

In view of the shortage of metal in the Soviet Union at the time, the glider frame was made of wood, and the wings and empennage were covered with fabric.

With the test pilot Sergei Anokin at the controls of the winged tank, Pasha Jeremejew, at the controls of a four-engined TB-3 bomber, towed the enormous weight into the air. Although the take-off and early stages of the flight went well, the bomber’s engines began to overheat, and the glider had to be released. Anokin started the tank’s engine and then let the tank treads start to move slowly. At about 200 feet above the ground, he accelerated the treads; they reached their maximum land speed just before the treads touched the ground. The system landed smoothly, and Anokin brought it to a stop. The tank was quickly disengaged from its wings, and it raced off.

Despite the success of the first flight, no others took place, reportedly because there was a shortage of towing aircraft with enough power to tow the winged tank, such planes then being urgently needed at the front.

KT Technical Data

Type: Battle-tank transport glider

Crew: Pilot

Weight

Empty: 4,800 lb

Cargo: 13,200 lb

Total with cargo: 18,000 lb

Dimensions

Wingspan: 49.2′

Wing area: 732 sq ft

Fuselage length: 37.7′

Payload: 1 six-ton T-60 tank

Flight performance

Lift off speed: 100 mph

Tow-plane: TB-3 bomber

TS-25

First seen by the public in 1948 at the Soviet Aviation Day exhibition in Moscow, the TS-25 was one of the largest of the postwar Soviet gliders to go into production. At the time of the exhibition, six had been manufactured. It had many of the design characteristics of the wartime KT-20, for which Tsybin was a co-designer, and in one way can be considered a technologically sophisticated successor to the KT-20.

Designed by P. V. Tsybin, the TS-25 was a heavy cargo-glider. It had a braced high wing and a pilot’s compartment sitting above the cargo compartment. The nose was hinged to facilitate loading. The wheels could be dropped, after which the pilot landed the glider on skids fitted to the bottom of the craft. The glider appeared to be constructed largely of wood, with wing and fuselage exteriors of stressed plywood.

The Soviets furnished a number of the TS-25’s to the Czechoslovak military forces, who called it the NK-25.

TS-25 Technical Data

Crew: Pilot and co-pilot

Weight

Empty: 5,115 lb

Cargo: 4,806 lb

Total with cargo: 9,921 lb

Dimensions

Wingspan: 82.8′

Wing area: 830 sq ft

Fuselage length: 54.1′

Payload: 25 troops, equipped, small vehicles, light artillery, or miscellaneous cargo.

Towing speed: 155 mph (maximum)

Yak-14

The Yak-14, a large, bulky, square-shaped wooden glider was designed by A. S. Yakovlev and produced shortly after the war. This glider and the TS-25 caused a sensation at the Soviet Aviation Day Show held at the Tushino Airport near Moscow in 1949, when six of each flew overhead in what was described as “spectacular glider-trains.”

The Yak-14 had a high-aspect-ratio braced wing with a span of 85.8 feet. The wing was built from three sections, a rectangular center section and two tapered outer sections that were square at the ends. The wing had no dihedral. Fowler flaps and slotted ailerons extended over the whole of the trailing edge.

The nose opened sideways to permit the loading of cargo. The pilot and co-pilot sat in the nose, which featured a large “greenhouse”, giving the pilot excellent visibility relatively unobstructed by structural bracing.

The Yak-14 carried small vehicles or other cargo to the extent of 7,716 lb, or could transport thirty-five fully-equipped soldiers, and it could be used to drop parachutists. The cargo compartment measured 26.3 feet in length by 7.6 feet in height and was 7.4 feet wide. The maximum towing speed was 186 miles per hour.

The Soviet Union supplied several of these gliders to the Czechoslovak military forces.

Yak-14 Technical Data

Type: Transport glider

Crew: Pilot and co-pilot

Weight

Empty: 6,825 lb

Cargo: 8,056 lb

Total with cargo: 14,881 lb

Dimensions

Wingspan: 85.8′

Wing area: 1,050 sq ft

Fuselage length: 60.5′

Cargo compartment

Length: 2 6.3′

Width: 7 .4′

Height: 7 .6′

Payload: 35 fully-equipped troops

Towing speed: 186 mph (maximum)