GROUP BUILDS > Za Rodinu - The Anthony P Memorial Build

The Beriev S-13 'Moonshot'

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The real story

 It was almost a forgone conclusion that the Soviet aviation industry would take advantage of the shooting down of Gary Powers' U-2 over Sverdlovsk in May 1960, especially as the great majority of the airframe, engine and systems were recovered. The OKB designated to investigate the various aspects of the technology of the Lockheed spy plane was that of Beriev, located at Taganrog on the north east corner of the Black Sea. Beriev's team very rapidly dismantled the wrecked U-2, Article 360, and various units from the aircraft were sent elsewhere in the Soviet Union for specialist examination, amongst which was the high-altitude Pratt & Whitney J-75-P13 engine which after an in-depth investigation was reproduced as the RD-16-75 by the Zubtsa OKB. The RD-16-75 proved to be remarkably successful and was proposed to replace quite a number of original Soviet developed engines, although its only actual use was in the singleton Beriev S-13.

 With prospects of a suitable engine soon being available Beriev's investigation was transformed into reproducing the U-2 airframe in its entirety once the news of the work had reached the Kremlin, and the new build aircraft was given the designation of S-13. The S-13 project was given the highest priority and the first airframe was ready for its systems to be installed by the middle of 1962, a remarkable job considering the difficulties of reverse engineering such an advanced aircraft, at least by Soviet standards of the time. The original edict from the Kremlin had specified an additional five S-13s to be built after the prototype but the extra airframes were cancelled during late '62 so only the original aircraft being fully completed.

 The fragility of the U-2 and S-13 was remarked upon frequently by the Beriev design staff and the first of the incomplete 'production' airframes was shipped to Taganrog to be structurally tested in advance of the first flight of the S-13 itself. This test airframe was brought up to the prototype's standard and then tested in the multi-channel test rig in Beriev's large test hangar. The results of these tests proved only too well how fragile the S-13 would be when airborne and the Chief Test Pilot of the OKB, Vladimir Beregevoi, spent a considerable time flying advanced sailplanes and other types to prepare himself for the maiden flight of the S-13.

 By the time the first flight rated RD-16-75 engine had been delivered to Taganrog Beregevoi felt he was ready to fly the long spanned S-13, and he'd used the immense runway at the Beriev plant for some high speed taxi tests with a non-flight rated engine. These had gone reasonably well but on one such test one of the pogo outrigger wheels had dropped from its socket as the wing bent up as the speed increased. The port wing tip dropped onto the tarmac as Vladimir throttled down and the aircraft skidded to a halt but with only superficial damage. Accordingly all further taxi tests were carried out with the pogos locked in place. The first proper flight was originally scheduled for May 1st 1963, exactly 3 years from the date of the Powers shoot-down, and a significant date on the Soviet calendar, but this was not to be as there were some problems with the IFF system as it was considered inadvisable to fly an aircraft with such a high altitude capability without some positive identification aboard.

 So some three days later, May 4th 1963, the long spanned S-13 taxied out onto the long runway and lifted off to become the Soviet Union's highest flying aircraft by quite a large margin. An extensive test programme was planned for the singleton S-13, even without a  planned production order, as the Kremlin wanted to know the full capabilities of the American design as it was anticipated that the CIA or the USAF would return to their overflight programme some time in the future once suitable countermeasures had been developed to overcome the threat of the multiple launched SAM-2 systems. Within 3-4 months the S-13 was flying at over 18000 mtrs, and unheard of altitude for a Soviet aircraft, however many problems were experienced with the pressure suit that Beregevoi wore for the test flights, and he had to return to lower levels quite often when the suit's lack of integrity threatened to cut short the flight. Eventually a more suitable suit was designed and produced and the high altitude flights were able to continue and by the end of 1963 the full performance envelope had been explored.

 While still not convinced of the need for such an aircraft in squadron service within the Soviet Air Force, the unique qualities if the S-13 could not be overlooked and the S-13 was equipped with a varied number of wet film cameras while undergoing its flight test programme. This enabled Beregevoi to over-fly Turkish airfields while flying direct from Taganrog and was also known to have flown over the Bosphorus, Dardanelles and Istanbul as well as large areas of the Black Sea but as far as is known no attempts were made to intercept the S-13 by either USAF or Turkish Air Force interceptors.

 The sole S-13 remained at Taganrog for many years although at times it was observed at the Gromov Flight Test Institute at Ramanskoye near Moscow. During the first of these occasions in 1968 and subsequently it appeared in an all black finish, whereas its previous flights had taken place in natural metal, and it's assumed that the black scheme was applied before an official viewing by members of the Soviet Air Force or maybe even by members of the Central Committee. At that time it acquired a Bort No. of Blue '01' and it retained this throughout its later life. At this time the S-13 was given the NATO designation of 'Moonshot', which at the time was somewhat significant of course, but  also alluded to its high altitude capabilities. It's reported that Kelly Johnson was not amused when the CIA informed him of the existence of the Russian copy of his high flyer.

 At various times the S-13 was updated with higher powered engines, larger intakes and even a dorsal instrumentation bulge similar to that carried by the later U-2Cs of the USAF. Presumably the Beriev design staff kept a close eye on Western publications and kept the S-13 up to date accordingly. Little was heard of the sole S-13 after the early 80s and it was assumed to have been scrapped, although Western visitors to the Beriev plant in 1987, there to observe the A-40 Albatross amphibian, saw no sign of a scrap dump there. However, during 2001 a black 'U-2' appeared  at the Russian Air Force Museum at Monino, and further enquiries revealed that this was in fact the S-13.

 While the aircraft did little to increase the Soviet Air Forces capabilities during the 60s and 70s, the S-13 did show the remarkable ability of the Soviet aviation industry to reverse engineer even quite high levels of Western technology.


The Build....

 ...has already been described elsewhere, what there was of it. It's an OOB MPC U-2 kit complete with undersized canopy and built without the pinon tanks because I detest the look of them.

 As a result of this Memorial Build I figured I could add some red stars to the overall black and that would be that. Well, maybe....

I added a couple of Soviet style whimsies, namely the 'Odd Rods' IFF aerials in front of the windscreen and a TsAGI-ised fin top, plus I used the generic 'Soviet Green' paint on the landing gear and added a few more decals. And that really WAS that.

Great build.

Old Wombat:
Good one, Kit! :thumbsup:

Nicely minimal modifications, & suitably understated markings & paint scheme. :cheers:

Nice little build Kit. I am currently reading about the Soviet reverse engineering of the B-29, another remarkable feat performed by the Soviet aircraft industry.


Looks like a prop from a shabby 80ies US movie (*LOL*)...  :thumbsup:


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