Old Timers EXCLUSIVES
Duxford Lysander flys, Tu-2s under restoration the UK at a 'secret location' and more...
A casual conversation, a mobile phone photo and a bit of detective work has revealed the sensational news that a UK aviation business has acquired up to nine former Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) Tupolev Tu-2s and brought them to the company’s base in the Midlands. This specialist engineering company plans to take on the huge task of restoring one or more of these highly regarded WWII Soviet-built light bombers to flying condition.
Designed by Andrei Tupolev after he was imprisoned in 1937 along with his entire staff in a Soviet gulag, ‘Aircraft 103’, which became the Tu-2, was based on his twinengined ANT-58, -59 and -60 bombers. It took until March 1940 for the design to be approved and the prototype was first flown on 29 January 1941. Problems with its AM-37 engines delayed development and only eighty went into service before mass production began in 1944. Recognised as fast, reliable and rugged by Soviet aircrew, Tu-2s were by 1945 playing a major part as the war ended over Eastern Europe. Some 3,300 were built at three Russian factories− including 2,557 at Kazan−up to 1948 when production of new Tu-2s ceased.
The PLAAF received 62 Tu-2s left by the Soviet garrison after it withdrew from Manchuria in 1949 and flew them operationally against the Nationalists in the Chinese Civil War. Subsequently the Tu-2, now given the NATO code name ‘Bat’, took part in the Korean War from October 1950, but the Chinese bombers soon fell victim to the USAF’S jet fighters and at least nine are believed to have been shot down. The PLAAF received a further 311 refurbished TU-2S bombers by 1952, many being flown operationally against the Nationalists, and again in 1959 during the Tibetan uprising. The Tu-2 continued in frontline service with the PLAAF until the mid-’70s and the last aircraft was finally retired at Chiangping AB in 1982. Many Bats were stored, and in the 1980s and ’90s some of these were put up for sale by the Chinese authorities. The War Eagles Air Museum, Santa Teresa, NM, acquired a pair of Tu-2s, and Aero Trader at Chino, CA bought four, passing two of them on to Kermit Weeks in Florida. Although a handful of Tu-2ss are displayed in museums in China, Russia, Bulgaria and Poland, there are no airworthy examples anywhere in the world.
The Bats that have arrived in Britain are believed to have come from the PLAAF museum store at Datang Shan, Chiangping and probably include some of these former Chinese AF Tu-2ss: 0462, 0093, 20562, 20582, 20608, 20661 and 41562, which have been noted by visitors over the past 25 years. We await further details from the company when this exciting restoration project gets under way.
Report: Adam Smith
Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force TU-2S 0462 stored in the PLAAF museum’s mountain hangar