Tupolev SB, Soviet High Speed Bomber

By by Mikhail Maslov
Icarus Aviation Press
ISBN 0-9724527-1-0
Hardbound, 224 Pages
Available from Icarus Aviation Press for US$50.00
2459 Highway 14
Columbia, IA 50057
(641) 943-2348

Reviewed by Ilya Grinberg

I was collecting information on Soviet SB bomber for a long time. Honestly, not much was available at all. Just same well known photographs that were printed over and over again from one publication to another, some small articles: a little here and a little there. Than my friend sent me copies of Finnish aviation magazine with drawings and sketches of details. That was great and very convincing. Several years later I got M-Hobby magazine with an article by Mikhail Maslov and Nikolay Polikarpov, although it left an impression of work in progress rather than definitive word. Did it mean that more is coming from this team? I truly hoped so!
Well, it happened indeed! And now I am holding a well printed book Tupolev SB: Soviet High Speed Bomber by Mikhail Maslov.
The book was published by Icarus Aviation Press this year.
Let's start with a cover.
Dramatic view of our ski-equipped hero on a dark blue background attracts immediate attention and well relays clean aerodynamic forms of this revolutionary for it's time twin-engine bomber.
The text begins with the list of abbreviations (very useful indeed, keeping in mind almost religious use of them in Soviet documents of the time).
Preface gives a reader an idea of the titanic work the author did for almost two decades digging pieces of a puzzle from various archives and putting them together (remember, I just had similar dilemma finding anything at all!). Introduction follows with description of all-metal airplane design school in Russia, and a biography of Aleksandr Arkhangelskiy - the father of SB.
A fascinating chapter on development, evolution, and series production of the SB high-speed bomber will make any historian and enthusiast more than happy. It provides insights in the history of the legendary design, decision making in the Soviet hierarchy, testing procedures, and manufacturing processes among others. Constant improvements in design and their implementation are discussed in details. Needless to say that this chapter is well illustrated with numerous photographs of assemblies and subassemblies, cockpit details, and views of series and experimental machines. This will make happy not only historians but modelers as well.
Next chapter deals with AR-2 dive bomber. Main differences between the basic SB and its new derivative are discussed in details and illustrated with a number of photographs.
Chapter on civil applications of the SB reminds us that this versatile aircraft was used extensively with other than military operators.
One of the most fascinating chapters of the book is dedicated to long combat history of SB. Spain and China baptized it with fire and proved to be tough tests for the aircraft and people. Winter war with Finland continues this chapter and describes a number of sorties performed by SB-equipped units. Numerous photographs accompany the text. Combat operations during Great Patriotic War section brings us a chilling story of the German onslaught, which started on 22 June 1941 and shows heroism and dedication of SB crews who fulfilled their duty despite obsolete by this time machines and tactics. Many rear photographs accompany this section.

Technical description of the SB bomber is the next chapter and contains sketches and figures from actual technical documentation as well as photographs of subassemblies. This chapter would be a real delight to any series modeler and technical enthusiast.
Specifications and performance tables are presented following the main text part.
Excellent drawings by M. Maslov and N. Polikarpov cover virtually all the variants of SB as well as AR-2 bombers. These drawings are improved and updated versions of the drawings by the same authors published in now hard to find issues of M-Hobby magazine.
The book concludes with color profiles of no less than 49 (!) color profiles with five most colorful of them in all four elevations. The artwork is very nice but red registration numbers on Finnish SBs just don't belong there.

Well, this book puts a cap on my years of search for more material on this famous airplane, which was a landmark silhouette in the skies over the Soviet Union and other countries in the thirties and forties. Or maybe this is just a beginning and motivation for new work on yet unknown aspects of its history? It never ends, you know.

I would highly recommend this very well written and produced book to all aviation enthusiast and modelers alike. Unlike some hastily done compilations this is an authentic and authoritative research.
Kudos to Mikhail Maslov, his team, and Icarus Aviation Press!

My thanks to Bob Repich of Icarus Aviation Press for review sample.