Myth dispelled: Tu-160 Blackjack = copy of B1 Lancer?

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posted on Mar, 17 2006 @ 02:34 PM
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Many aviation enthusiasts are quick to point out the similarities between the Russian Tu-160 Blackjack and the American B-1 Lancer. The assumption seems to be that the Tupolev design is a crude imitation of the Rockwell design.

Where that theory runs into a brick wall is when you take into account the design heritage of the Tupolev design, which clearly shows precursory hints at the ultimate design years before the B-1 program was even launched.

There is no doubt that the project which spawned the Tu-160 was initiated as a reaction to America’s B-1 program, but the reason the designs look so alike is due more to similar concepts and similar technology progressions running in parallel rather than deliberate imitation.

To demonstrate that the Tu-160s configuration was a natural progression of Russian thinking, I will track the USSR’s strategic bomber development from the 1960s through to the Tu-160. I will not reference literally every aircraft/concept, just the main relevant ones.

The story might as well start in 1961 when USSR launched a bomber program in response to the US’s XB-70 Valkyrie program. Sukhoi, Tupolev and Yakovlev where invited to make proposals. Before I go on I should point out that the Russian design bureaus were far more incestuous in their ideas and technology than their US counterparts. It was typical for concepts to switch bureau, so even though they were rivals on one level, technology and ideas flowed between them. Thus Sukhoi thinking influenced Tupolev thinking and vice versa.

The main aircraft spawned from the 1961 project was the Sukhoi T-4 supersonic bomber which is often described as a scaled down Valkyrie:


Tupolev’s main design was the Tu-125:


It would be an easy mistake to assume that the T-4 and Tu-125 designs were again crude copies of the XB-70, which they undeniably resemble to varying degrees. However an interesting precursor which demonstrates that Russia was already thinking along those lines of a supersonic bomber is the Tupolev “SB” of 1959:


The Tupolev design lost to the T-4 and never made into prototype form. In another parallel to the American XB-70 program, the Russian program was cancelled in 1969-70 although the exact reason is unclear; the likely reason being that Tupolev, having lost to Sukhoi, managed to sway politicians with the idea of further improvement to the lower risk Tu-22M Backfire project as a cheaper alternative.

Work on the Tu-22M had started in 1965 (then known as “145”) and it first flew on August 30th 1969. An early model of the “145” shows the ”Blinder” heritage, but alsi the variable geometry wing:


This reminds us that Tupolev was flying swing-wing strategic bombers before the B-1 development contract was even awarded (1970)

The cancelled Sukhoi T-4 design had several follow-up designs. The first noteworthy one is the T-4M concept which featured variable geometry wings and shows the half-way house between the T-4/Valkyrie and the Tu-160/B-1:


In 1969 the USSR launched another bomber competition in response to the US’s AMSA project (which resulted in the B-1). This time Tupolev, Myasishev and Sukhoi took part. The winner was officially Sukhoi’s T-4MS (aka “200”), as it’s name suggests a progression of the T-4 design though this time it looked very different:

Note the swing wings and lifting body between underslung engine nacelles.

Myasishev proposed various configurations incorporating swing wings ultimately developing the M-18 concept in 1972:

Note how Myasishev’s design is basically the same configuration as the Tu-160 and B-1. Note That the Myasishev design is two years before the B-1 even flew.. Myasishev’s design came second to Sukhoi’s T-4MS in the design battle, Tupolev’s last. The T-4MS was ordered to be built but that was not feasible because it would have meant canceling/interrupting the comparatively more important Su-27 program. Thus the T-4MS was transferred to Toplev.

Tupolev didn’t develop the T-4MS however, still preferring their own rival: the Tu-160 Blackjack even though it was projected to be less capable (thus loosing the government competition).

The starting point of the original Tu-160 proposal was actually the Tu-144 supersonic airliner (comparable to the Concorde) though early designs of the Tu-160 show a more blended wing/body relative to the Tu-144 (/Tu-244), making it appear more like a militarized Concorde:


It was in 1972 after the transfer of Sukhoi T-4MS technology to Tuploev, and of Myasishev M-18 data, Tuplev started to develop the M-18 design with variable geometry (“swing”) wings. The manufacturer of the first three prototypes commenced in 1977 and first flight was on November 14th 1981:



I am not suggesting that Russian designers are not influenced by American designers, but clearly the popular perception that the Tu-160 is just a “copy” of the B-1 is flawed, there is a clear natural evolution of concepts.



[edit on 17-3-2006 by planeman]




posted on Mar, 17 2006 @ 02:45 PM
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Originally posted by planeman
Many aviation enthusiasts are quick to point out the similarities between the Russian Tu-160 Blackjack and the American B-1 Lancer. The assumption seems to be that the Tupolev design is a crude imitation of the Rockwell design.


great post also i need to mention why do people always assume the russians need to steal western technology what makes them think the west doesnt steal russian technology and designs. russia is very advanced technology and science wise its foolish to assume they cannot make something on there own.

also lets be real how do we know for sure america didnt copy russias designs for the b1-lancer. america steals tech too.

[edit on 3/17/06 by FredT]



posted on Mar, 17 2006 @ 02:54 PM
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Originally posted by iqonxalso lets be real how do we know for sure america didnt copy russias designs for the b1-lancer. america steals tech too.
No, I don't think there's any evidence to support that either. The most likely answer is altogether more obvious: they look alike because they are both 1970's technology solutions to the same generic operational requirement.



posted on Mar, 17 2006 @ 03:00 PM
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Originally posted by iqonx
great post also i need to mention why do people always assume the russians need to steal western technology what makes them think the west doesnt steal russian technology and designs.


I would agree with you to a point. However, it is well known that the KGB penetrated and stole secrets high and low for American technology esp. In the aviation realm. Anybody who knows aircraft also knows that the Tu-160 is an awesum plane on its own merits. Suspicions are always enhanced when you look at the number of coinidences that seem to strike Soviet era aviation: TU-4, Buran, Tu-144 aka Concordski, etc etc.

Aside from that it was amost excellent post planeman



posted on Mar, 17 2006 @ 03:13 PM
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dont get me wrong guys i agree with you that russians steal stuff too ofcourse this is true thats the game of spying for CIA,M16 and KGB/FSB. but the problem is some people assume its a one way street that russians are the thiefs and americans and british make all there technology from scrath they dont realise we steal technology just as much as the russians so its very difficult to say where a certain peice of technology came from if the look the same often the blame is palced on the russians for all we know we could have stolen there designs and stuck a made in america/britian/france badge on them.

anyway both planes are great. do you guys know if these have been used in actual combat where b1 lancers ever used in iraq.



posted on Mar, 17 2006 @ 03:34 PM
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This is probably muddying the waters a bit but in the US Boeing was also considering this basic configuration for its 733 (/2707-200 SST) supersonic airliner proposal as early as 1966:



posted on Mar, 17 2006 @ 03:51 PM
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A good post planeman, and one that mirrors one I made myself (but it was a long time ago, you won't have seen it and I can't remeber where it is
)

You have made one small error though. When the T-4MS was declared the winner Tupolev, who were selected as the OKB that would see the new bomber through to production, recieved all the design data from the Myasischev M-18 as well as the Sukhoi design. Tupolev refused to continue with the T-4MS, as you say, but the Tu-160 was in fact based on the Myasischev M-18, not their own Tu-144 derived proposals, which Tupolev continued to refine right up to the 1980's as a separate venture, one of the last versions I am aware of in this line of development being the Tu-230 of 1983. This was supposed to be capable of Mach 4 and be the replacement for the Blackjack beyond the year 2000 (see pic below)




posted on Mar, 17 2006 @ 04:00 PM
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Thanks Waynos, that makes perfect sense and fills in a few gaps in my research. I trust your knowledge (of course) so I've modified my original article to solidify the Tu-160/M-18 link. Damn confusing two have two radically different aircraft called the "Tu-160".



posted on Mar, 17 2006 @ 04:05 PM
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They all steal, borrow or copy advances from other countries - Perfect example the Bell X1 was copied UK technology.



posted on Mar, 17 2006 @ 05:41 PM
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Id love that to be true prime mover but in fact, like the Blackjack, it is another example of parallel solutions to similar problems. The one thing the X-1 did get from Britain was the 'all flying tail' which not only made it a success but also jet fighters like the F-86 too.

This was from the Miles M.52, which is the plane I assume you were referring to, and was first flown anywhere in the world on the Miles 'Gillette Falcon' associated test aircraft.

It was not stolen or copied by the Americans but was given over freely (Like so much else) when NACA and Bell visited Miles and the RAE in 1944.

If you want an example of the Americans genuinely stealing a design from Britain look into the origins of the Boeing 727.

[edit on 17-3-2006 by waynos]



posted on Mar, 17 2006 @ 06:01 PM
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Originally posted by iqonx
also lets be real how do we know for sure america didnt copy russias designs for the b1-lancer. america steals tech too


I thinks its pretty safe to assume that since the B-1 was created before the Tu-160.



posted on Mar, 17 2006 @ 06:05 PM
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Originally posted by ShadowXIX

Originally posted by iqonx
also lets be real how do we know for sure america didnt copy russias designs for the b1-lancer. america steals tech too


I thinks its pretty safe to assume that since the B-1 was created before the Tu-160.





you do know some designs can be created years or even decades before they actually start production russians are known for taking there time to actually start to build things.



posted on Mar, 17 2006 @ 07:39 PM
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This article relates to Formula 1 and Moto GP racing design but you can see the principle writ-large when it comes to avaition design -


Formula One, MotoGP's four-wheel equivalent, is littered with stories of covert (and not so covert) intelligence gathering - ranging from marshals being offered money to hand parts over after an accident, to a leading aerodynamicist who was once dragged from under a Williams by his ankles (after 'popping' into the rival pit garage to try and study the car's underbody), to the ongoing court case in Germany where two former Ferrari engineers are alleged to have taken design secrets with them to Toyota.

Given that winning a motor race is about being that little bit better than the opposition, such stories are not surprising, although - as most engineers will admit - the danger in 'copying' is that the compromises, which the original designers made, are unknown to those that reproduce it.

www.crash.net...

- So one can see that whilst individual sub-systems might get spyed and copied the notion that an entire aircraft could be (or would be), without the complete data to do so, is unlikely in the extreme and highly dangerous.

That's not to say it does not or never did happen, more that it was and is probably far rarer than people tend to imagine......although the story of Tupolev's son visiting the Concorde assembly plant, digging out a tape-measure from his pocket and reaching forward measuring and then telling the assembled Concorde staff 'Ah, I see you have enlarged the intake by X amount' is probably more myth than fact.

Even for those convinced the Tu144 was the closest to a 'copy' than anything yet seen - which is simplistic and questionable but if we go with the idea I'd suggest it a turned out a poor one that proves the rule (ie that it doesn't really work and may be dangerous) and that it was even less successful than Concorde with poor range and built in even smaller numbers.
Strange too considering that the press back in the day carried many stories about how those nasty commie French trades unionists (with the implication their British TU counterparts might be a bit suspect too) were supposed to be telling the Russians everything about Concorde.

Similarity of shape is almost entirely IMO a function of similarity of required specification and the laws of physics being the same for everyone.

You also tend to find that many of the theories underpinning certain technologies are already in the public scientific domain, and have been for a long time before they were picked up and used (like the XB70's compression lift or the Russian theories on wave diffusion and electro-magnetic effects that became 'stealth').



posted on Mar, 17 2006 @ 09:02 PM
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I've always said that if you want a plane to do a similar mission, you're going to end up with a similar design. Not by copying, but simply because you're limited in what the shape of the plane can be to do the mission.



posted on Mar, 18 2006 @ 01:03 AM
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Originally posted by iqonx

you do know some designs can be created years or even decades before they actually start production russians are known for taking there time to actually start to build things.


I know but the plans to build the B-1 even predate the plans of the Tu-160. So you have the planning stages, the plane its self and the first flight all before the Tu-160.

Im not saying the Tu-160 was a copy, but to say the B-1 which predated the Tu-160 was a copy of the TU-160 thats baseless without any evidence to back it up.



posted on Mar, 18 2006 @ 01:40 AM
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Oh Please.

Of course they are copies.

Not least because all's you have proven from your own biased standpoint is an ability to point out ONE SIDE of the 'paper planes' timeline. Were equivalent /pre-AMSA/ (RFI or independent study contract) NAR desktop models and line drawings available in time to generate these wonders of perspective illustration?

Can you not begin to comprehend the efforts to gain, by Espionage or AvLeak, 'equal footing' as a very insular and insecure mob-not-nation of technocrats tried to look as good as the Americans at the height of their engineering prowess? Failing over and over again because _we were never in it_ for more than the R&D necessary to 'take the next step' without paying for the last?

Why am I surprised.

Well then, let me lay it out for you. What sets the Cold War Russians apart as a unique class of fools is their assumption that 'we would never notice' their incessant copying, not of 'similar solutions' _but the mission problems that led thereto_.

As an example of this, particularly given the Russian switch to technically superior missiles early on, one would have to truly be an idiot to abandon a cheap (no VG, no CofG management issues, much cleaner wing:body load transfer and simplistic engine/gear location solutions) 'T' (delta wing) Concordski aircraft for a swing wing design. Most especially when the nominal excuses involved (short takeoffs from unimproved fields plus 'supersonic dash') was /idiotic/ for a country as deep as Russia. Or a bomber force flying 12-15,000 miles over threat IADS already roasted by ICBM.

Indeed, a /Valkyrie Clone/ could fire /Skybolt clones/ and _be more survivable_ (certainly more recoverable) from the peripheries of U.S. airspace than a B-1 copy (even a superior-for-scale design like the Tu-160) is.

Just as it would also be a superior platform for thirdworld bombing Vietnam like target matrixes (at Mach 3, 500lb bombs will fly 70-100nm downrange, something the Russkies themselves proved with the MiG-25RB, try defending against that kind of system with Nike Hercules).

Heck, a Tu-95MS with _better bullet_ AS-15 or 19 would be better! God knows the Russians led the world in CMs at one point.

And there you have it folks. The Russians are not merely dolts. They are ringed-cattle idiots that let themselves be literally led around by the nose of expectation (having their weapons systems and thus their doctrine handed to them).

Beginning and cancelling programs _as we did_ for fear that our 'vastly superior technologic base' had come to some vital conclusion that was neither obviously supported from an engineering standpoint. Nor from a doctrinal employment one.

CONCLUSION:
_Never_ copy /the way/ your enemy approaches a problem. ALWAYS make him CHASE YOUR IDEAS.

A lesson that the staid-past-stagnant Communists and their petty bureaucratically snipish, parochial, design house heads never learned.

And something which haunts them, technologically (multi hundred million S-300 miss-ile S2A systems fighting 800 thousand dollar HARMs when they have Tu-243 as a workable altenative: cheap, hunting-multipass capable TurboSAM development base), to this very day.

Moronic Gits, thankfully their incompetence didn't force U.S. to 'really work hard'. Our economy would have been in the same shambles their's is.

Oh, wait...


KPl.



posted on Mar, 18 2006 @ 02:11 AM
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There really isnt any way to know who knew what when as designs are often sketched out and studied many years before prototypes are built and tested. But given

                 Tu-160        B-1B

Length, m:    54.1    44.5 (82%)
Height, m:    13.1    10.4 (79%)
Wing span, m:    55.7    41.8 (75%)
Wing loading, kg/m²:    743    816
Weight empty, kg:    110,000     86,183 (78%)
Weight max, kg:    275,000    214,650 (78%)
Max fuel & payload, kg:    165,000    128,467 (78%)

Essentially the Tu-160 is about 28% larger and has about 28% more capability but has about 25% lower wing loading with a similar load.

While the larger and much more powerful Tu-160 should handle better at both high and low speeds with significantly superior payload and range, the smaller B-1B is faster at sea level and, with different engines, could be faster at high altitudes as well.



[edit on 18-3-2006 by orca71]



posted on Mar, 18 2006 @ 02:46 AM
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Good post, and good thread.

I always just assumed the Tupolev was a copy. Well, I guess you learn something new everyday.

Way to deny ignorance!



posted on Mar, 18 2006 @ 04:12 AM
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Orca71,

I despise people who assume that the obvious (U.S. original design theorem copied 'slavically' as an endemic Uncle Sam prideful prejudice rather than an underlying truth) and try to prove the opposite without compareable proofs.

For such evidentiary proof DOES exist. But since it would rain fire and brimstone if /I/ published on the net copyrighted material from _Modern Combat Aircraft, B-1B_ by Mike Spick, I can only say that there are both drawings and models both similar and different from the Russian ones dating from _1961_ when the SLAB studies began. That in fact these systems progressed through multiple 1963-67 iterations as the AMP, LAMP, AMPSS, ERSA, and AMSA _before 1968_.

While we dithered on high/low, fast, slow in the wake of FGP's little misshap.

>>
There really isnt any way to know who knew what when as designs are often sketched out and studied many years before prototypes are built and tested. But given

                 Tu-160        B-1B

Length, m:    54.1    44.5 (82%)
Height, m:    13.1    10.4 (79%)
Wing span, m:    55.7    41.8 (75%)
Wing loading, kg/m²:    743    816
Weight empty, kg:    110,000     86,183 (78%)
Weight max, kg:    275,000    214,650 (78%)
Max fuel & payload, kg:    165,000    128,467 (78%)

Essentially the Tu-160 is about 28% larger and has about 28% more capability but has about 25% lower wing loading with a similar load.
>>

I have already stated that the Tu-160 is a superior aerodynamic solution (larger fixed glove percentage of total wingarea among other things). Why shouldn't it be when the B-1_A_ was effectively a medium theater strategic platform much closer in design point to the B-58 or Tu-22M than anything remotely similar to the true intercontinental bombers like the Bear or BUFF?

>>
While the larger and much more powerful Tu-160 should handle better at both high and low speeds with significantly superior payload and range, the smaller B-1B is faster at sea level and, with different engines, could be faster at high altitudes as well.
>>

360,000lbs MTOGW for a _supersonic_ bomber with an intended goal of replacing the B-52 as a strategic penetrator is a complete joke, even with the original engine/inlet combination and 'mostly high' mission profile. Even with a 'one way trip' SIOP reality. Taking that gross up to 420,000lbs (taxi limit) out of 477,000lbs max gross is just begging for trouble when you are operating with a VG system that _retracts wing area with Mach point_.

To the extent that you simply cannot fly fast enough, as a function of cruise thrust, to offset the deficiencies of wingloading on accelerative stall, density height and combat ceiling.

Indeed, even the 'other justification' used for VG, takeoff roll, is also in fact /inferior/ by dint of wing area, wing loading and thrust to weight ratio comparison to the very jet it is designed to replace.

And that's with TF33s!

If you want to talk 'more power' talk Trents. Now you get an honest 10,000 mile platform, unrefueled, out of the BUFF. And enough takeoff thrust to meet all hot-high conditions, irrespective of payload:fuel fractions (the Buff can haul a heckuva lot more gas than the Bone can and it can carry CM which are about the only /useful/ [non escorted, reactionary] MISSION role that bombers now can mount).

Could a similar capability enhancement (along the lines of the TF39 in the C-5 have been drawn up using 1960's technology base instead of the utter waste that was and is the B-1 mission system approach?

Damn straight and for a quarter of the money.

So we're right back at: "Why copy a design which has so many faults in it _if_ you can come up with better on your own?"

Why not a flying wing as represented our 'next' superior configurational approach? Why not an efficient supersonic cruise platform like a Tu-144 X 1.5?

It is because, conceptually, the Russians were _stunted_ in their ability to select independent development paths for 'equivalent' roles which they let U.S. determine for them.

If you've ever read _Illusions Of Choice_ you will see that this is largely a function of Cybernetic/Cognitive Design philosophy as affected by an ultra conservative user organization 'trained from birth' to avoid complexity in defining a preset group of standardized scenario/mission templates.

Irrespective of whether they do the job better or if indeed 'the job' needs doing at all.

Along with little-boy-stamps-foot squddian snootiness, this process of failure to analytically look at a mission platform was what ruined the F-111.

But that's /our/ excuse. What's the Russians?

Why.

Didn't the Russians /once/ develop a non-mirror platform with similar mission? Or indeed a -mission- which had _no direct U.S. equivalent_.

Preferring instead to stick with the sloppy analytics approach of 'same mission, same techbase, same solution' excuse for a lack of creative as much as engineering integrity in that one activity which, more than any other, rewards innovation and deviousness.

Indeed, even if you adopt the 'playing black' argument, The Russian Position should itself indicate an unlikely preference for following a trodden path because IF YOU CHOOSE to wait on someone else's developmental technology _coalbed_ to come up with solutions which you copy or steal at the materials/component system level -before- integration with your own platform concept.

Shouldn't your equivalent techbase be better that the otherguys when you start? Shouldn't your 'solution' be more along the lines of blocking or going around his rather than simply lockstep matching him on a 'Tsar Pushka' basis?

Ahhhhh. But it ain't and it wasn't and they didn't. And therein lies the rub inherent to the 'Russians aren't plagiarists!' argument.

No sirree bob. Not by half.

Which is where our own tendency to let herd-speak determine things by dint of historical agreement gets equally annoying because one cow starts the lohing process and then 'by mutual moo' consent, it becomes an indisputable fact.

A tendency to conformance which is so close to the way the Russians thought that it's truly scary.


KPl.



posted on Mar, 18 2006 @ 04:36 AM
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Originally posted by ch1466
I despise people who assume that the obvious (U.S. original design theorem copied 'slavically' as an endemic Uncle Sam prideful prejudice rather than an underlying truth) and try to prove the opposite without compareable proofs.


I despise people who assume putting words in peoples mouth.

Now, going onto the topic at hand and not getting bogged down with dealing with you lott lets continue.

The original idea of swing wing design is older than everyone things, hell bent designs were used with the good ol fashioned F4U's (granted that's ENTIRLY different, but the concept of "BENDING WINGS" is still there). I would fix to bet, probably it is a copy, considering the fact that the B-1B and the Tu-160 were also created during arms races, it's not hard to believe that.

As far as those specifications you posted up Orca, most likely. If the US created it first, Russia would want to make one bigger and better, so these specs would make sense. I'm not sure what the exact argument is here however, is it a copy? Yeah, but what's the debate on it? It seems that this thread has some crossfire.

Good read though.





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