On November 26, 1925, the world’s first twin-engine, all-metal cantilever bomber ANT-4 took to the skies. The aircraft became a classic monoplane and served as a prototype for designers all over the world.
The Soviet Army had begun to examine the possibilities of heavy bombers at the beginning of the 1920s. With the industry not yet fully established, the Army and Air Force planned to order the design work for the aircraft from England. However, they eventually abandoned this idea and ordered Andrey Tupolev to create such a plane in a matter of nine months. At that time, Tupolev was just beginning to establish his name. He would eventually become the most famous Soviet aircraft designer.
The work on the ANT-4 began on November 11, 1924. Despite the shortage of qualified personnel, the strict deadline and the lack of normal operation conditions (the assembly was carried out in a residential building), the prototype aircraft was completed exactly nine months later on August 11, 1925 and cost only 200,000 rubles (half of what the British had asked for).
The ANT-4 was brought piece by piece to Khodynka Airport in Moscow. After reassembly, on November 26 ,1925 it took off for the first time piloted by Apollinary Tomashevsky. The flight lasted seven minutes and only encountered minor problems, even though the ANT-4 was Russia's largest aircraft built up to that time, and few other larger aircraft had been built in other countries.
The ANT-4 was given the Air Force designation TB-1 (TB for “tyazhely bombardirovshchik,” or heavy bomber). The serial production of the ANT-4 began in 1928. At the same time, designers continued testing it with different versions of equipment, loads and weapons. It was also widely used for experimental purposes – refueling in the air, rocket booster takeoffs, and in the creation of a flying aircraft carrier.
The technical characteristics and aerodynamics of the ANT-4 were much ahead of their time. The good flight and functional performance of the ANT-4 formed the basis for the design of many future Soviet bombers. The plane was acknowledged by designers all over the world, many of whom followed its layout.
The real triumph for the ANT-4 became a flight from Moscow to New York in 1928. The aircraft had flown more than 20,000 kilometers in 137 flying hours, covering 8,000 kilometers over the ocean. It was the first time a Tupolev design had been seen in the US, but it certainly was not to be the last.