Old Timers EXCLUSIVES

Pilot - - CONTENTS -

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

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