Soviet Intercontinental Cruise Missiles Developed in 1950s

94UM0034G Moscow AVIATSIYA I KOSMONAVTIKA in Russian No 6, Jun 93 (signed to press 26 May 93) pp 42-44

[Article by I. Afanasyev under the rubric "Without the Secret Stamp" "'Halt the Work, Destroy the Materials'"]

[Text] The unprecedented aircraft, remotely reminiscent of the Space Shuttle, was launched in columns of fire and smoke on the broad rectangle of the screen - an aircraft with a delta wing, lifted by two powerful rocket boosters - and went off into the sky leaving behind a track of many kilometers. When the solemn sounds of the music had fallen silent and the movie screen lit up, the viewers applauded in concert and genuinely. That is how the participants in the 17th Scientific Readings on Space Science of 1993, among them the creators of the Burya intercontinental cruise missile, welcomed the news that the lid of secrecy had finally been removed from the object whose fate had been carefully concealed from the domestic and world community more than thirty years ago.

After 29 August 1949, when the USSR detonated its first nuclear device, the United States had to reconsider its views of the problem of the "big stick against the Russians." The first stage in strategic parity, however, was achieved only when the first experimental prototypes of bombers with intercontinental flight range appeared at the design bureaus of A. Tupolev and V. Myasishchev. They knew about this in the United States.

But taking into account the prospects for the development of air defenses by a potential enemy, it was necessary to create new and less vulnerable means of delivering nuclear weapons. The principal flight characteristics and look of systems that had the necessary range were determined in the course of research, and two basic ways of developing them were noted - the creation of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and supersonic winged craft. Both the former and the latter had their advantages and disadvantages. While it was difficult even to imagine the means of destroying a flying ICBM at the beginning of the 1950s, the vulnerability of winged craft seemed to be too great. Their principal defense at the time was only altitude and speed. The creation of ICBMs, however, required providing a very high weight efficiency in the design for the times, as well as powerful and economical engines and an accurate, autonomous guidance system, also not easy to do. The requirements for the structural elements and power plants of supersonic strategic bombers and intercontinental cruise missiles (MKRs) were not as high, experience accumulated earlier in aircraft construction was widely employed in their design engineering. A system of celestial navigation on MKRs could ensure high accuracy in hitting the target. The decision was made, in order to guarantee the safety of the country, to develop MKRs, supersonic bombers and ICBMs.

M. Keldysh was the inspiration for the idea, and the theoretician for the creation, of the ICBMs and MKRs. The NII-1 Scientific-Research Institute 1] that he headed was given the task of creating a theoretical-design base for the future systems. The Experimental Design Bureau (OKB) off. Korolev was to incarnate the missile in metal.

A supersonic ramjet engine (SPVRD) was considered to be preferable for the power plant (DU) of the MKR, its operating efficiency reached a maximum at a constant (cruising) speed corresponding to Mach 3-3.5. The work on the SPVRD was advanced most broadly at NII-1 and the OKB headed by M. Bondaryuk. Since this engine operated steadily and economically only within a comparatively narrow range of speeds and altitudes, rocket boosters were required to put the MKR onto the flight trajectory before the start of the cruising leg.

The SPVRD differed from other types of jet engines in the simplicity of its design. It had no compressor to compress the air before being fed into the combustion chamber; it actually consisted of an air intake - diffuser in which the airflow was slowed, raising the pressure thereby, a combustion chamber, and an exhaust nozzle that transformed the potential energy of the hot gas into kinetic energy.

The guidance system determined the accuracy of warhead delivery. Work on celestial navigation systems apropos of cruise missiles was being pursued at the end of the 1940s at the initiative of B. Chertok at N11-88, which at that time was a part of the OKB of S. Korolev. The design department of I. Lisovich, who in 1953 developed an operating celestial navigation system with the necessary characteristics, was also created there.

The heat-resistant structural materials without which the manufacture of the MKR was impossible - titanium, high strength stainless steel - as well as the technology for machining and welding them, were under development at VIAM [All-Union Scientific-Research Institute of Aviation Materials] and MVTU [Moscow Higher Technical School] imeni N.E. Bauman.

They decided first to build an experimental cruise missile (EKR) with a cruising speed of Mach 3 and a range of 1,300km, the design for which was developed at the OKB of S. Korolev in 1951-53, in order to check out the possibility of realizing supersonic cruise missiles. Like a full-scale MKR, it was to consist of a booster with ZhRDs [liquid-fueled rocket engines] (the R-11 rocket with long-term storable fuel) and a cruising stage with an SPVRD developed by the OKB of M. Bondaryuk. It should be taken into account that virtually no one, either in our country or abroad, had any experience in the creation of SPVRDs with the required characteristics. Relying on the comparatively modest experimental elaborations of past years and quite substantial scientific work in progress at the NII-1, the necessary engine was created in the shortest possible time and passed through the whole set of ground try-outs, confirming its design characteristics.

Reporting to the leadership of the USSR the completion of working design engineering for the EKR, representatives of the expert commission affirmed that the amount of research that had been performed was so great, while the data obtained from the ground testing satisfied the requirements of the customer so well, that the possibility existed of foregoing the completion of the experimental missile and its flight testing. An immediate move to the physical development of the MKR using the manpower of aviation design collectives, rather than "missile" ones, and the accumulated design work of the EKR was proposed. The Korolev OKB could concentrate all of its efforts after that on the creation of ICBMs, which no one had rejected either.

A decree came out on 20 May 1954 on the start of development of two parallel MKR projects, the Burya and the Buran, the creation of which was entrusted respectively to the OKB of S. Lavochkin - which at the time had experience in building supersonic fighters and had moved on to the new subject matter - and the OKB of V. Myasishchev, which was developing long-range supersonic bombers. The main executor of the SPVRD for both missiles was the OKB of M. Bondaryuk. The celestial navigation guidance system was being created under the leadership of R. Chachikyan, while the inertial guidance system for the operating leg of the launch boosters was under the leadership of G. Tolstousov. The scientific research of all subdivisions of the NII-1 and the corresponding departments of the Institute of Applied Mathematics was directed toward supporting the solutions of the tasks of the OKBs of Lavochkin and Myasishchev.

Soviet MKRs were designed as unmanned supersonic aircraft with vertical launch. The launch and reaching of cruising speed were expected to be accomplished using powerful boosters with liquid-fueled rocket engines. The booster engines of the Burya were developed by the OKB of A. Isayev, while those for the Buran came from the OKB of V. Glushko. Both, at the recommendation of TsAGI [Central Institute of Aerohydrodynamics imeni N. Ye. Zhukovskiy], were two-stage craft, with the second (cruising) stages fitted with SPVRDs structured according to a normal aircraft configuration with a delta wing, a sweep angle at the leading edge of 70° and a thin, supersonic profile. The forward portion of the cylindrical fuselage of the cruising stage held a supersonic diffuser with a central body, in which was accommodated the warhead. The air-intake duct led back to the tail section of the fuselage where the SPVRD was installed, encircled by annular fuel tanks; the fuselage ended in the SPVRD nozzle and X-shaped empennage with aerodynamic control surfaces. The system of celestial navigation and control was located in a cooled instrument compartment in the upper front part of the fuselage; its sensors were covered with a unique kind of canopy made of heat-resistant quartz sheets.

The dimensions and design execution of the individual systems and units of both MKRs were different. Since the Buran was designed for a larger warhead than the Burya, it had a large takeoff mass and thrust of both the cruising and the launch engines. The work of the Lavochkin OKB outstripped the plans, and by 1956, when the Myasishchev OKB was finishing the design engineering of the Buran, the first models of the Burya had already been created.

It is interesting that they were informed abroad about the Soviet work on the MKRs. The authors of the "International Handbook on Controlled Shells and Spacecraft," published in the United States in 1960 by F. Ordway and R. Wakeford, described in a great deal of detail the "large winged antipodal T-4A bomber under development in the USSR," and even included a drawing. The aircraft depicted in it resembled the Burya. They assumed that the Soviet projects were based on the research of German scientists E.Senger and I. Bredt on a super-long-range rocket aircraft during World War II.

After comprehensive ground testing of the Burya that was successfully completed in full, a new stage the work started in July of 1957 - flight testing. The first seven launches were to try out the initial leg of the night of the Burya until the moment of booster separation, the aim of the next three nights was to run through the dynamics of the separation of stages and the ignition of the cruising stage. The second pan of the program of flight testing envisaged flights with an operating cruising engine - first for a short distance, and then for a long one - with the actual try-out of all the units. By March of 1960 the MKR had demonstrated the possibility of stable flight and the operability of all systems. The missile was launched before dawn in the last launch, made on December 16 of that same year, with the cruising flight during the daytime, which proved the effectiveness of the operation of the celestial navigation at anytime of day. The planned program of night testing had been completed.

The flights of the Burya took place at the same time as the flight testing of the R-7 ICBM developed by the Korolev OKB. The leadership of the USSR decided soon afterward to curtail the work on the Buran, assuming that the country could not "pull off" two MKR projects with similar characteristics at the same time. This step made the advocates of the idea of a MKR somewhat wary, but it did not particularly upset them - they were objectively justified.

The work on the Burya proceeded with unusual creative enthusiasm. Its creators understood that they were making more than a weapon - they were getting the last word in aviation and missile technology, looking to tomorrow. Against that background, the order of the leadership of the sector, the essence of which could be reduced to the following phrase, made a stunning impression: "Halt the work, destroy all materials..."

Yes, everyone could see that Korolev's "seven" had begun to fly successfully, but was it then worth it to drop the MKR,which had also fulfilled its mission? The decision was made in entirely unwarranted fashion, in the opinion of a number of specialists taking pan in the Burya project. But the higher state leadership, after the launch of the R-7, was in a state of euphoria, and the Americans had curtailed their work on the analogous Navaho MKR by 1958 anyway. Air-defense missiles and interceptor fighters able to counter such MKRs effectively were also being developed at that time. ICBMs seemed invulnerable at the time.

Despite the rapid curtailment of the work on the MKRs, their results were widely utilized in the future in aviation and space, as well as missile, engineering. A domestic school of SPVRDs was actually created using the engines from the Burya and Buran. The engineering ideas that were verified in them were moreover made inherent in the designs of many ramjets installed in air-defense and cruise missiles that are in service to this day.

They returned to MKRs considerably later, in a new stage in the development of aircraft and missile technology when mobility and operativeness in delivery, along with low detectability and high accuracy, had moved to the forefront. And here the experience of the Burya, reflected in the mirror of contemporary science and technology, proved useful.

Comparisons of Design of the Navaho, Burya and Buran MKRs

Characteristics NavahoBuryaBuran
Launch mass, tonnes66.296125
Mass of warhead, tonnes2.252.193.50
Total length of system, meters25.119.924.0
Length, meters23.118.919.1
Diameter of body, meters1.831.451.20
Thrust at launch, tonnes of force128.452 x 68.614 x 55
Fuel Components:
oxidizerliquid oxygennitric acidliquid oxygen
combustibleethyl alcoholamineskerosene
Cruising Stage:
Length, meters20.718.023.3
Diameter of body, meters1.832.202.40
Wingspan, meters8.727.7511.6
Wing area, meters238.96098
Number of SPVRDs211
Diameter of SPVRDs, meters1.221.702.00
Cruising thrust, tonnes of force2 x 3.947.6510.6
Maximum range of flight, km5,4008,5008,500
Cruising altitude of flight, km22-2418-2018-20
Cruising speed of flight, Mach3.253.103.10
Start of development195019541954
Date of start of flight testing6 Nov 561 Jul 57
Total number of launches1117
of which, failed103
Date of end of flight testing18 Oct 5816 Dec 60
Shutdown of projectJuly 1957December 1960