19 April 2011

Sukhoi's First Jet Bomber

The Sukhoi Su-10 in its final configuration
Following the end of the Second World War, both the Soviet Union and the West aggressively pursued jet bomber designs after the Luftwaffe had successfully introduced the Arado Ar 234 to combat in the waning months of the war. In the West, many early designs were based on layouts of high-mounted wings with wing-mounted nacelles to allow for a reasonably-sized bomb bay. Similar approaches were taken in the Soviet Union with the design bureaus (called OKBs) of Illyushin, Tupolev, and Sukhoi tapped to develop jet bomber designs to succeed the Soviet Air Force's standard bomber, the piston-powered Tupolev Tu-2. Last summer I had posted about an early Tupolev design that actually did fly, the Tu-12, that was based on the Tu-2 as a matter of expediency pending the arrival of the Tu-14 bomber. While Illyushin and Tupolev both had large aircraft design experience from their own work on twin-engine bombers during the war, Pavel Sukhoi's experience was limited to his prewar tenure at OKB Tupolev. But, given the pace of technological progress and the urgency of rearmament in competition with the West, Sukhoi was ordered on 26 February 1946 to develop a jet bomber powered by four Junkers Jumo 004B turbojets, the same jet engines that powered the Arado Ar 234. Work on Sukhoi's first bomber design began in earnest in April of that year and the aircraft received the official designation of Su-10. 

Several powerplant arrangements were considered along with the use of six engines instead of the four as originally specified. In the Soviet Union, the Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute in Moscow, or TsAGI by its Russian name, did a lot of wind tunnel and theoretical research work to support design efforts at each of the OKBs. At the time that OKB Sukhoi was working on the Su-10, TsAGI had lagged behind Germany and the West in high speed research and as a result, they lacked a significant amount of information on evaluating jet aircraft designs. As a result, much of what laid the basis of TsAGI's high speed aircraft research came about during their work in support of the development of the Su-10 in addition to what had been obtained of German design work following the end of the war. Two leading design variants were evaluated in TsAGI's wind tunnels- one design had four of the jet engines clustered in the mid fuselage and exhausting out the rear with two jet engines under the nose- this was felt to be advantageous design as it left the wings clean. The other leading variant had wing mounted nacelles with a high unswept wing with three engines mounted in clusters on each wing. 

To meet the specified target speed of 528 mph at 26,000 feet, Pavel Sukhoi decided that four engines were insufficient and that six were necessary. Since the Junkers Jumo 004 engine was the only jet engine available to the Soviet Union at the time that had reached production status, the Soviet Politburo placed high priority in reverse-engineering the engine for production- Vladimir Klimov and his OKB were already known for their piston engine designs during the war and he was put in charge of getting the German engine into production as the Klimov RD-10. Klimov's closest aide, Nikolay Kuznetsov, headed the actual reverse-engineering effort- Kuznetsov would go on to form his own engine OKB several years later. 

Inboard layout of the Su-10
With approval from the state authorities to use six engines, design work had settled on a cluster of three engines on each wing as the most efficient layout- the nacelle had two engines side by side with the third RD-10 engine below and slightly ahead of the pair. On 6 May of that year, a full scale mockup was built that was tested in TsAGI's largest wind tunnel with real RD-10 jet engines. Within two months, refinements to the design based on TsAGI's evaluation were in place as full-scale engineering began on the prototype. While two months sounds rapid, development of the Su-10 hit repeated technical hurdles, the biggest of which was that TsAGI lacked a significant portfolio of well-studied high speed airfoils. As a result, while supporting development work on the Su-10, assimilating German design work, TsAGI was also hurriedly developing its on portfolio of high speed airfoils. As a result, Sukhoi's team was constantly having to revise the Su-10 design based on developments from TsAGI. 

By October the full scale mockup had been approved by Soviet Air Force authorities and metal was finally cut for the prototype on 14 October 1946. In the first week of December, the Soviet government commission in charge of aircraft production decreed that the Su-10 would no longer use the Klimov RD-10 engine but instead use the TR-1 engine from the Lyulka OKB, the first indigenous Soviet jet engine design. Since the TR-1 was more powerful than the RD-10, the Su-10 could revert back to a four-engined design and once again Sukhoi and his team had to revise the bomber's design to accommodate the new Lyulka engines. Working at a frantic pace to meet state-decreed deadlines, Sukhoi managed to have a full set of production drawings ready by 23 December 1946 and three days later the OKB's own workshops had completed a static test airframe and production jigs and tooling for the prototype. If things weren't frantic enough as it was, the Minister of Aircraft Industry wanted the Su-10 flying for participation in the air show at Moscow on 18 August 1947! Common sense prevailed and that was one deadline Sukhoi was allowed to ignore. 

Three-view showing the layout of the Su-10 medium bomber
By 15 December 1947 the hydraulic system had been fully tested on a special ground rig (similar to today's "iron bird"), but construction of the prototype was hampered by slow progress from the various subcontractors that were responsible for some of the Su-10's systems. For example, the defensive armament system (which consisted of a manned tail turret, a remotely-operated dorsal turret and forward-firing cannon), the autopilot, the navigation suite and even the Lyulka TR-1 engines were to have all been delivered to Sukhoi's workshops for the prototype but by the end of 1947 none of those items were ready yet. During the delay, studies looked at alternative powerplant options and it was decided that the initial flight tests of the Su-10 would use the TR-1 engine but as soon as the more powerful TR-2 engine developed from the TR-1 became available, the Su-10 prototype would have its engines swapped out and then continue with the flight test program. 
These persistent delays led to the Su-10 prototype to sit in the OKB workshops missing various components- by 4 June 1948 the Soviet Council of Ministers ordered that spending had to be reduced on aircraft development programs that year and one of the unlucky programs to get canceled was the Su-10. By that summer OKB Ilyushin had already made the first flight of its Il-28 medium bomber and its performance outstripped what was projected for the Su-10. Not even rolled out, the Su-10 prototype was donated to the Moscow Aviation Institute where it was slowly reduced to parts over time as an instructional airframe. Sukhoi in the years to come devoted its efforts at interceptor, fighter, and ground attack aircraft and it wasn't until the arrival of the Su-24 Fencer in the late 1970s that Sukhoi finally had a production jet bomber. 
Source/Images: OKB Sukhoi: A History of the Design Bureau and Its Aircraft by Yefim Gordon and Dmitriy Komissarov. Midland Publishing, 2010, p93-101.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for another very interesting article! Your blog has become one of my favorite aviationgeek websites.