Title: Flying on Nuclear - The Superpowers Quest for a Nuclear Powered Bomber
Authors: Raul Colon
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Next for Tupolev was the Aircraft 132. Another attempt by the Soviets to produce a serviceable nuclear powered bomber. The 132 was conceived as a low-level strike aircraft. The design 132 would have housed the reactor in the front two turbojet engines, the entire package would be accommodated in the rear of the airframe. The engines were to be designed to operate with nuclear power or with conventional kerosene. The kerosene would be only used for take-off and landing operations and the fuel would be housed in a tank installed in front of the reactor. As with the 120, the 132 would have had a conventional configuration, with the cabin, again, heavily shielded. The main difference was the wings configuration. The 132 would have been a delta wing plane. The empennage was also to be swept and the horizontal stabilizer was to be located on top of the fin. As with the other projects, the 132 was cancelled in the mid 1960s for budgetary and, most importantly, technical difficulties. One last attempt was made by the Tupolev bureau to achieve a nuclear powered aircraft. This aircraft would have been supersonic, long ranged bomber designed to compete with Convair’s B-58 Hustler supersonic medium bomber. This time, the aircraft did not make it to the drawing board. In the late 1960s, the Soviet Union decided to abandon further research into the feasibility of a nuclear powered aircraft. The main reason given to the bureaus involved in the project was that with the introduction of more accurate and less expensive Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles aboard nuclear powered Soviet submarines; the Soviet Union could achieve the same degree of nuclear capability at a fraction of the cost. Also, in consideration, but rarely mentioned by the Soviets, was the ecological impact of a crash during operations. Should one of these aircrafts were to crash in a populated area, the radiation fallout could have been disastrous.

Another nuclear powered aircraft program was started by the Myasishchev Design Bureau in the summer of 1955. On May 19th, 1955; a resolution passed by SovMin ordering Myasishchev to commence development of a supersonic nuclear bomber. The bureau first design was code name M-60. The first draft of the project was finished on July 1956. At the same time, Lyulka’s new engine design that would comprise a nuclear/turbojet engine with the heat the reactor generates transferred through air to the jet, a power plant configuration known as Open System; would had give the M-60 a thrust of 49,600lbs. The aircraft would take-off and land with a chemical mixture fuel as its propulsion. On reaching the desired operational altitude, the nuclear system would engage and provide the M-60 with its cruise speed. This engine configuration and thrust would have given the M-60 the ability to achieve Mach 2 speeds. Crew accommodations were to be housed in the center of the fuselage, again, in an all enclosed, lead shielding cabin. The cabin configuration would have curtailed visual observation. Consistent with other Soviet nuclear configurations, the reactor would be housed on the rear of the aircraft to offer further protection. . The initial fuselage configuration called for a long, slim airplane with trapezoid wings and a trapezoid T-shaped tail. The nuclear/jet engines were to be placed side-by-side in the fuselage. The length of the M-60 was proposed at 169ft, 3.5in; with a wing span of 86ft, 11in. Sub sequential designs modifications of the M-60 had the aircraft fitted with four engines stake up in pairs at the rear of the airframe. As with the other nuclear programs, a tricycle undercarriage was selected for the M-60. Later, a swept wing design was incorporated on the aircraft. Another variant for the M-60 was introduced in December 1957; it called for the M-60 to be a delta winged design with both engines placed on under wing pylons and in tip nacelles which resemble the configuration of the M-50 Bounder. After an extensive research phase, the Myasishchev bureau determined that with the correct nuclear power plants, a strategic bomber with a 1,989 mph speed, an operational range of 15,500 miles, and a service ceiling of 65,600ft was achievable. The M-60 also did not make it out of the planning stage. After the cancellation of the M-60 program in 1959, the Myasishchev bureau put much of its research assets on the M-30 program, which started back in 1953; but by this time SovMin interest on a nuclear powered aircraft was winding. Several other attempts were made to design an operational nuclear aircraft, chiefly the M-30, but also the M-62 program, ran similar along the lines of the M-60 The final blow to the nuclear powered aircraft program came in early 1961, when the Soviet leadership called for the abandonees of all related programs, ended one of the their most expensive and technically challenging programs ever. The end of the M-60 and the M-30 was also the end of Myasishchev’s affiliation with the design and production of heavy bombers.

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