Vakhmistrov's Circus

Zveno Combined Aircraft - The Projects, Development, Testing and Combat

Mikhail Maslov

Date Published :
November 2019
Publisher :
Helion and Company
Illustration :
180 b/w photos plus 16 sets of detailed scale drawings & 8 color views
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Paperback
ISBN : 9781911096757
Pages : 144
Dimensions : 9.75 X 7.25 inches
Stock Status : Available
Binding. : Paperback
ISBN : 9781912866755
Pages : 152
Dimensions : 9.75 X 305 inches
Stock Status : Available


The purpose of this publication is to provide readers with most complete history of combined aircraft designs created by Vladimir Vakhmistrov. The designer himself referred to his projects as ‘Zveno Aircraft’ (where the Russian word ‘Zveno’ stands for ‘Chain link’ or ‘Flight’ combat unit), adding the names of aircraft which were included in each configuration. Vakhmistrov was among the world’s pioneers in devising and implementing the attachment of small fighters under heavy bombers. The larger aircraft were thus able to carry the smaller ones to the target area, whereas the fighters, in their turn, after the separation from their ‘motherships’, acted as guards for the slow-speed giants.

During the period from 1931 thru 1941, several configurations of this concept were created involving mass-produced TB-1 and TB-3 bombers, and I-4, I-5, I-Zet, and I-16 fighters, which were modified correspondingly in order to fit the task. Basing on Vakhmistrov's projects there were carried out the first in the world air connections of fighters under their bomber carriers. The most successful variant among all the created Zveno aircraft consisted of a four-engined Tupolev TB-3 bomber and two Polikarpov I-16 fighters attached under the bomber’s wing. The fighters carried two 250-kg bombs each and acted as a high-speed dive bombers after disconnection from the carrier plane. Several such aircraft, referred to as Zveno-SPB, were used operationally during the war by the Black Sea Fleet Air Force.

Initially, three TB-3s with AM-34RN engines were allocated for re-equipment into Zveno-SPB which were taken into service by the 2nd Special Squadron of the 32nd Fighter Regiment, 62nd Aviation Brigade of the Black Sea Fleet Air Force stationed in Eupatoria. The order to begin combat application of the 32nd Regiment's combined aircraft was given on 22 July 1941, while the first air raid on port structures in Romania, the German ally, was made on 26 July. More than thirty combat missions were carried out till October 1941, and became one of the most successful operations of the Soviet aviation during the Great Patriotic War. Meanwhile, Vakhmistrov had a large number of other interesting projects and many of them remained on the designer's drawing board.

More than 20 years were spent by the author on the historical research of the subject in the Russian archives. The book is extensively illustrated by the pictures from the author's archive, aircraft test reports, as well as specially prepared scale drawings and color side views.

About The Author

Mikhail Maslov was born to the family of a serviceman in Mary (USSR, now Turkmenistan) in 1954, and was brought up in a town in the Urals. He graduated from the Moscow Aviation Institute (University) in 1982 with a degree in mechanical engineering and then worked as a structural design engineer at the Tupolev Design Bureau in 1982-86 and then transferred to the TsAGI engineering information department where took various posts, including that of a deputy head of the department. From the end of the 1990s he has been actively involved in the restoration of historical aircraft, including airworthy Po-2, I-15bis, I-153, I-16, DIT, and MiG-3 airplanes. During his work at Tupolev, Mikhail became interested in the history of Soviet aviation of the 1920-40 period and began the research and analysis of archive material. In the last 30 years of his enthusiastic work he has written numerous articles and several dozens of books on the history Soviet aircraft of that period.


“ … With pictures showing large, improvised wooden ramps built to allow the fighters to be moved up to their mounts on the upper wing of the bomber it could inspire some really interesting and impressive dioramas. A really interesting book and an intriguing topic.”

- Military Model Scene, March 2017

“A very well-produced book and an intriguing subject which would be great to see reproduced in model form – hint, hint!”

- Military Modelling, Vol 47 No 5 2017

“Informative and entertaining at the same time…builders of Russian pre-war aviation, and modellers seeking more unusual subjects, will find this an invaluable reference.”

- Airfix Model World

“More than 20 years was spent by the author researching the subject in the Russian archives and the result is an extensively illustrated volume comprising photographs, drawings and colour profiles. Fascinating from start to finish!”

- Classic Wings

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