flying wings 1870 to 1920
flying wings in Europe
tailless aircraft in the USA
German flying wings
British flying wings
Japanese flying wings
American flying wings in WW2
the first Northrop flying wing
Northrop flying wings in WW2
Northrop: towards the bombers
Northrop flying wing bombers
flying wings 1950s and beyond
secret Soviet flying wings

secret Soviet flying wings
By: Raul Colon
PO Box 29754
Río Piedras, Puerto Rico 00929

Little is known about the Soviet Union’s efforts to design, and eventually field an operational flying wing bomber platform. Obtaining a complete picture of what happened on the USSR during the early days of the Cold War is very difficult, but what is now clear is that the Soviets were involved in testing designs for a flying wing configuration bomber. They had two major attempts to achieve this goal.

The first is the Chetverikov RK1 Program. In the summer of 1947, the Voenno-Vozdushniye Sily, of the Soviet Union Air Force issued a request order to the Chetverikov Design Bureau to promptly commence working on a program for the research and development of a flying wing bomber aircraft. A preliminary project design and mock-up was approved for initial feasibility testing in December 1948. The design proposed for this aircraft would not have been a thru flying wing configuration, instead it would have been a test bed for new design concepts. The RK1 was projected to be powered by two Rolls-Royce Nene engines mounted in wing nacelles. The aircraft would have tip fins, a feature seen on many British medium bombers of the time, a tricycle undercarriage, and would have been manned by a three men crew. Maximum bomb load weight was to be 4,409lb. The RK1 defensive armaments were to consist of two ShVak guns mounted in a defensive tail-end turret. If built, the RK1 would have been the Chetverikov Bureau’s first designed and produced bomber aircraft, unfortunately for the bureau; the project was cancelled before it left the drawing board.

It would be almost ten years before the next significant Soviet effort was made into producing a flying wing bomber design. This new program was specifically designed to produce an operational service aircraft, not a test bed, but a research laboratory such as the RK1. The new effort was led by Aleksandr Moskalyov of the renowned Leningrad Red Banner Engineering Academy (LKVVIA), again as a request of the VVS. The design parameters for this revolutionary design were impressive. It would have been able to take-off with a maximum weight of 1,102,290lb, of which approximately 33,069lb would be dedicated for a nuclear or conventional payload. Speeds would need to be in the Mach 2 to Mach 4 regions with an estimated operational ceiling of 114,830ft. Work commenced for the aircraft program, by now designated DSB-LK, in 1957 and by late 1959, vast amounts of research material were collected by the LKVVIA. With the collected data, engineers at LKVVIA started the process of airframe evaluation to be applied to the programs parameters. Many configurations were evaluated. These included conventional wings, a canard system with swept wings, tailless, delta, and flying wings platforms. All to be powered by either afterburning turbojets or a combination power system that would employ turbo and ram jet engines.

Preliminary testing on the DSB-LK design established a more realistic operational parameter for the flying wing concept. Maximum take-off weight would now be 660,000lbs. The DSB-LS were to fly at Mach 4.4, with a top service ceiling of 114,830ft. Studies were conducted into the possibility of replacing parts of the usual D23 alloy airframe with titanium alloys in order to increase the speed of the aircraft. The power configuration to be implemented on the design was to consist between six to ten turbojet engines. A ramjet configuration was also discussed. Defensive measures for the DSB-LK aircraft was provided as four air-to-air missiles with a range of 6.2 miles, augmented by two cannon bettes, and Electronic Counter Measure system. The aircraft would also be able to carry the new Rubin-1 radar system.

After an extensive research phase, preliminary conclusions indicated that with current available technology, the development of the DSB-LK bomber was feasible. After preliminary conclusions were reached, the program moved to the advance design phase. With the assistance of the Tsentrahl’nyy Aero-I Ghidrodinameecheskiy Institoot, Central State Aerodynamics and Hydrodynamic Institute and the Myasishchev Design Bureau; the DBS-LK program moved to the final concept configuration stage. The final revised configuration for the DSB-LK was a cranked delta wing, swept 72 degrees inboard and 42 degrees outboard. A bicycle undercarriage of four wheels on the front leg and eight on the double rear section was implemented to the design. Six massive VK15m engines, generating 34,830lb of thrust, boxed in sets of three; was the ultimate choose for the plane’s power plant. Its crew was to consist of a pilot, co-pilot, and navigator/electronic officer; housed on a small cabin in the nose of the airframe. Its internal bomb bay, located at the centre of the fuselage, would have been able to carry up to 11,023lb of ordinance of various types. Operational range for the bomber was established at an impressive 10,441 miles, with a serviceable ceiling of 114,830ft.

Budgetary constrains and the need to allocate more funds to the USSR’s main deterrent force, its ICBM platform derailed the DSB-LK program. Eventually, the VVS terminated the program in the fall of 1960. Although the program did not make it out of the drawing board, valuable research information was collected by the designers. Data that would eventually find its way into the most advanced Soviet bomber programs such as the Tu-22M Backfire.


[1] Russian X-Planes, Allan Dawes, Key Publishing 2001

2 Russian Aviation and Air Power in the Twentieth Century, Edt Robin Higham, John Greenwood and Von Hardesty, Frank Cass 1998
3 Soviet X Planes, Yefim Gordon and Bill Gunston, Midland Publishing 2000
4 Indigenous Bombers (1945 – 2000) Part I, SM Ganin, AV Karpenko, and VV Kolnogorov, Bastion Press 2001
5 Aircraft by Myasishchev, NV Yakubovitch and VN Lavrov, Russavia