Join 3,414 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Kalinin K-7: the giant plane that might have been
November 8, 2009 12:58 AM   Subscribe

The Kalinin K-7 was a giant flying fortress that might have redefined aerial combat in the 1930s. The hugely expensive and trouble-prone prototype was scrapped by Stalin and its designer was later executed. Here are some renderings of the planes that might have been, with spacious lounges, battleship-sized cannons, and the ability to defend us from UFOs.
posted by Joe in Australia (68 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
That's awesome.
posted by brundlefly at 1:13 AM on November 8, 2009


It's also an incredibly stupid idea.
posted by daniel_charms at 1:27 AM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


The K-7 wasn't in any way revolutionary, much the contrary. Bomber development since WWI until the early 30s had gone towards gigantism.
What changed then, and made the likes of the K-7 immediately obsolete, was that civilian transport aircraft were developed, like the Douglas DC-2, that were considerably quicker than the fighters of the time. This started a speed race which favoured more streamlined, lighter designs. The top speed of the K-7 is less than half that of the most important bombers of WWII, like the He-111, the B-17, or the Avro Lancaster.

You do also realize that those renderings have absolutely nothing to do with the real K-7, and are instead wild extrapolations of a Russian steampunk fan, right?
posted by Skeptic at 1:52 AM on November 8, 2009 [8 favorites]


Ah, for the days when incompetence was punishable by death.

...unless you happened to be an autocratic dictator, of course.
posted by Target Practice at 2:01 AM on November 8, 2009


Except for height (maybe) the K-7 is wildly smaller than an A380 which has 23 metres more wing span, an additional 45 metres length and an order of magnitude more unladed weight. It's amazing what some really big engines can do for your engineering plans.
posted by Mitheral at 2:10 AM on November 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Also, bomber crews in WWII quickly recognised that a lone bomber, no matter how heavily armed, would always be very much a sitting duck for fighters. Rather than overloading individual bombers with cannons and machine guns (and losing range, speed and bomb-carrying capacity), tacticians quickly recognised that the answer was to group together ever-larger waves of bombers. For a German fighter pilot in 1944, attacking B-17s was a terrifying experience, not because of the defensive armament of each individual bomber, but because he had to face the massed defensive fire of hundreds of bombers (never mind that of the long-range Mustang escort fighters).
posted by Skeptic at 2:23 AM on November 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


... its designer was later executed.

You know, if the US started doing that with its designers of insanely expensive military equipment and weapons boondoggles, it might just help rein in in the Military/Industrial Complex. A little.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:30 AM on November 8, 2009 [8 favorites]


What... is your name?
What... is your quest?
What... is the airspeed velocity of an unladen K-7 Kalinin?
posted by daniel_charms at 2:33 AM on November 8, 2009 [7 favorites]


Another innovation for this aircraft class were tires with cameras "GoodYear".
And I was just getting over wanting those light-up tires from the '50s. Talk about your lost knowledge of the past...
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:44 AM on November 8, 2009


What... is the airspeed velocity of an unladen K-7 Kalinin?

African or European?
posted by DreamerFi at 2:44 AM on November 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


Kirth Gerson I suspect that's just an inept translation for "tubeless tires".
posted by Skeptic at 3:06 AM on November 8, 2009


from this link the original post: http://englishrussia.com/?p=2231

"In 1930s Russian army was … by the idea of creating huge planes. At that times they were proposed to have as much propellers as possible to help carrying those huge flying fortresses into the air, jet propulsion has not been implemented at those times yet.

Not much photos were saved since that times, because of the high secrecy levels of such projects and because a lot of time passed already. Still on the photo below you can see one of such planes - a heavy bomber K-7.

Now modern history lovers in Russia try to reconstruct according the plans left in once to be top-secret Russian army archives their look in full color. This is one example based on ideas of Russian aviation engineers of that times."

Translation is not being.....best in blog of Russia
posted by GavinR at 3:43 AM on November 8, 2009


The Soviets were just anticipating having to fight these things.
posted by permafrost at 3:43 AM on November 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


The hugely expensive and trouble-prone prototype was scrapped by Stalin and its designer was later executed

I like that.

The hugely expensive and trouble-prone Windows Vista was scrapped by Microsoft and its designer was later executed
posted by mattoxic at 4:10 AM on November 8, 2009 [7 favorites]


The hugely expensive and trouble-prone prototype was scrapped by Stalin and its designer was later executed

I like that.


I doubt that there was any causal connection between the two. The K-7 project was scrapped in 1935. Kalinin was shot (along with hundreds of other people) during a "purge" in the aviation industry in 1938, on the usual (for that time) charges of espionage and sabotage.
posted by daniel_charms at 4:47 AM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I love the fact that whoever did those renders thought, "Let's throw a flying saucer in there too. Why the hell not?"

Also, wow, execution? Wonder what Stalin would have done to the team that that designed the Osprey.
posted by Talanvor at 5:18 AM on November 8, 2009


Also, wow, execution? Wonder what Stalin would have done to the team that that designed the Osprey.

Read them his poetry, then execute them.
posted by Target Practice at 5:59 AM on November 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


What do these people have against balloon boy?
posted by cjorgensen at 6:08 AM on November 8, 2009


Read them his poetry, then execute them.

Stalin was a Vogon?

I'm less surprised than I should be.
posted by Talanvor at 6:23 AM on November 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


For a German fighter pilot in 1944, attacking B-17s was a terrifying experience, not because of the defensive armament of each individual bomber, but because he had to face the massed defensive fire of hundreds of bombers (never mind that of the long-range Mustang escort fighters).

The massed heavy-bomber formations must indeed have been terrifying, but the principle worked on smaller scales, too. In his post-war autobiography, the Japanese ace Saburo Sakai writes of up behind what he thought was a formation of Wildcats over Guadalcanal. It turned out to be a formation of Avengers.* He realized as they opened up on him that he was facing seven or eight machine gun turrets and barely escaped with his life, limping home long after he'd been written off as dead by his squadron.

--
*This is what it says in the book. That didn't seem right to me at the time -- were they in service by then?
posted by lodurr at 6:23 AM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


"writes of up behind" => "writes of coming up behind"
posted by lodurr at 6:24 AM on November 8, 2009


Didn't I see this plane in "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow?" If not, can I haz it in the sequel, battling to the death with the Landkreuzer P. 1000 Ratte?
posted by Faze at 6:33 AM on November 8, 2009


It would be funny as hell watching an Me-262 take this one of these bad boys out. 550 mph vs. 140 mph... good luck with those big cannons!

(Alternately, though, I guess you can just save up your p-wings...)
posted by markkraft at 6:42 AM on November 8, 2009


"It would be funny as hell watching an Me-262 take this one of these bad boys out. 550 mph vs. 140 mph... good luck with those big cannons!"

(Oh, and btw, why isn't there a game out there yet where I can sim this?)
posted by markkraft at 6:47 AM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


That didn't seem right to me at the time -- were they in service by then?

TBF Avengers went into service in 1942, and were quickly made the front line aircraft after Midway, where the TDB Devastators proved to be obsolete.
posted by eriko at 6:48 AM on November 8, 2009


Yes, by comparison it was slow and smaller compared to the A380. But it doesn't have legroom issues.
posted by uni verse at 7:12 AM on November 8, 2009


Aw, Skeptic, you took all the fun out of it. Yeah sure maybe the K-7 was wildly impractical vis-a-vis the actual development of WW2 aviation history. But then those bomber squadrons with Mustang escorts were fighting other airplanes. As these photos show, the K-7 was designed to fight Nazi UFOs. And while the slow, low, heavy design of the K-7 might be a liability against faster airplanes, it's exactly the right thing against a UFO with omnidirectional navigation and slow flight in atmosphere. When fighting UFOs, it's a virtue that your ceiling is 13,000 and your hull is bristling with guns pointing in every direction.
posted by Nelson at 7:36 AM on November 8, 2009


....its designer was later executed

Next time someone doesn't like my design/idea, I'm going to remind myself of this.
posted by dabitch at 7:40 AM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


>...those renderings have absolutely nothing to do with the real K-7, and are instead wild extrapolations of a Russian steampunk fan, right?

I spent all of Grade 4 designing this stuff, right after I got my first geometry set. How'd they find 'em?
posted by Artful Codger at 7:55 AM on November 8, 2009


You do also realize that those renderings have absolutely nothing to do with the real K-7, and are instead wild extrapolations of a Russian steampunk fan, right?

I thought the inclusion of the Nazi flying saucers was a teeny weeny clue in that direction, yes.
posted by Coobeastie at 7:56 AM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


It would be funny as hell watching an Me-262 take this one of these bad boys out. 550 mph vs. 140 mph... good luck with those big cannons!

The Me-262 would likely suffer in this case from the same problem that Me-163 pilots faced during engagement - their planes were too fast compared to their targets, and would pass them so quickly that their comparatively slow-firing cannon would only have time to get off one or two rounds.
posted by me & my monkey at 8:12 AM on November 8, 2009


....its designer was later executed

An old Russian gentleman here in New York, who started a neon sign company, told us about building the world's biggest neon sign in his youth, a gigantic portrait of Stalin. At the unveiling the team stood on a platform with Stalin, and the thing was fired up. After a few seconds the mustache began to flicker. Stalin turnerd to them with a stern look, and they assumed their lives were over. Then Stalin burst out laughing.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:42 AM on November 8, 2009 [10 favorites]


I always thought Bruce McCall was joking.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 8:44 AM on November 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Then Stalin burst out laughing.

See, socialism works.
posted by Faze at 8:47 AM on November 8, 2009


The UFOs are obviously included in the renderings for scale.
posted by schwa at 8:51 AM on November 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


(Oh, and btw, why isn't there a game out there yet where I can sim this?)

If you know C, or can edit it a bit, I think nethack is pretty extensible; just go into the monsters file, create a Kalinin K-7 (ascii "K", maybe, with a slow movement and carrying lots of loot, weapons), and so on.

Roleplaying a Me-262 is a bit more tricky; I'd modify the 'Valkyrie' player class into a 'Figher Plane' player class, I think.

By the way, is there a K-7 たん up on here yet? K-7 たん v.s. messerschmidt-chan sounds pretty hot, really. (This came up in a search and is cute but unrelated.)
posted by sebastienbailard at 9:05 AM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is cute as well. I don't think the kitten-nazi theme from the previous really works, somehow.
posted by sebastienbailard at 9:10 AM on November 8, 2009


This would be an excellent project for the X-Plane system-
here
Pretty involved, but all the tools are there.... not exactly sure about the flying characteristics of a wing with passenger seating inside, but hey, it's only numbers....

for that matter, how about simming this yew-eff-oh?
posted by drhydro at 9:52 AM on November 8, 2009


Saying "he was later executed by Stalin" is hardly a distinguishing feature. Kind of like "he won a bingo game once" or "he was left handed", it is a biographical detail, but provides little information due to relative ubiquity.
posted by idiopath at 9:54 AM on November 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


why isn't there a game out there yet where I can sim this?

Someone made a flyable Kalinin for the X-plane flight simulator -it's fun! I think there's a Me-262, too, but I don't know how to make planes fight in that sim. I've done something similar for target prpractice in IL-2 Sturmovik, attacking formations of ME-323 Gigants with an ME-262. It's really embarrassing when you get shot down.
posted by gamera at 9:55 AM on November 8, 2009


argh. practice, not "prpractice".
posted by gamera at 9:56 AM on November 8, 2009


Dang. Shoulda looked harder!
posted by drhydro at 10:00 AM on November 8, 2009


(Oh, and btw, why isn't there a game out there yet where I can sim this?)

Atari 2600 Combat has a bomber-vs-fighters mode that's pretty close.
posted by box at 10:30 AM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Mmmm. These crazy planes have me salivating for a movie where all these coulda-beens actually get to duke it out.
posted by stinkycheese at 10:32 AM on November 8, 2009


So, this is great and all, but where are the pictures of the giant robot it transforms into?
posted by brundlefly at 10:39 AM on November 8, 2009


What's with the tail dragger wheel in the UFO rendering? Really? If that thing tips back far enough for that wheel to hit dirt, most of the front wheels are going to be off the ground. And frankly, you''ve probably broken the fuselage and trashed the whole airplane.
posted by Naberius at 10:49 AM on November 8, 2009


Now is as good a time as any to bring up My Tank is Fight which is all about crazy WWII battle machines and the men who loved them. [google books]
posted by hellojed at 11:08 AM on November 8, 2009


a gigantic portrait of Stalin

Stalin himself was tiny; 5'5". Master-race proponent Adolf Hitler was 5'8". (Mein Führer, haben Sie im Spiegel geschaut?)
posted by kirkaracha at 11:12 AM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


"What's with the tail dragger wheel in the UFO rendering?"

They probably grabbed the entire tail assembly from a convential aircraft rendering and either forgot or couldn't be bothered to remove it.
posted by Mitheral at 11:14 AM on November 8, 2009


Very, very cool.

I like the fact that they weren't at all shy about making this whole thing so over the top.
posted by bigbluepig at 11:24 AM on November 8, 2009


Perhaps the tailwheel is there in case of an excessively high nose-up attitude during landing? There are real planes with this feature, too.
posted by FishBike at 11:35 AM on November 8, 2009


I saw it in the Wright Patterson Air Museum, but I don't think I can find it in all these links. It was a huge, vulnerable, lumbering tanker plane, and it had a trapeze-like roost on the bottom that held a detachable defender plane. That plane was a comically improbable little thing that was little more than a jet engine with a plastic bubble on top containing a seat and a machine gun. It looked like it relied on thrust alone with very little aerodynamic lift. It was supposed to buzz around shooting at attackers and then reattach to get more fuel. It seemed more like a human sacrifice mechanism.
posted by StickyCarpet at 12:17 PM on November 8, 2009


There were a few B-25 Mitchells with forward facing 75mm cannons in use in the Pacific. The mission was low level attacks on enemy supply and transport ships. One of them still survives at the New England Air Museum.

I talked with an old timer about it several years ago and he let me get a look inside. Apparently the recoil from the cannon was so great that the plane would lose some forward momentum when it was fired, like a momentary stop in the air. I guess the compensation for it was only shooting at high rates of airspeed. The shudder of the cannon fire was great enough that all of the sensitive flight instruments had to be removed. There was nothing in the cockpit, not altimeter, no gyro, no vertical speed indicator, nothing. Just a fluid filled compass in a binnacle on the dashboard. I guess the stress on the airframe was pretty great too.

If it were possible for the K-7 to even get off the ground with even one of those large naval guns, at 140mph top speed the plane would probably stall out as soon as the gun was fired.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 12:35 PM on November 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


In Soviet Russia, you execute Stalin!

hang on, that doesn't work at all.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:38 PM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I really don't want to be a killjoy, but I really want to make it clear that there was never, ever any plan to fit the K-7, or any other airplane for that matter, with large naval guns. The recoil of such guns is so enormous, that it even occasionally buckled the hulls of battleships. It wouldn't just stall an aircraft firing them: it would disintegrate it. I won't even go into the impossibility for such a dramatically underpowered plane as the K-7 to lift even a single one of those heavy guns...
posted by Skeptic at 12:57 PM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


That plane was a comically improbable little thing that was little more than a jet engine with a plastic bubble on top containing a seat and a machine gun. It looked like it relied on thrust alone with very little aerodynamic lift. It was supposed to buzz around shooting at attackers and then reattach to get more fuel. It seemed more like a human sacrifice mechanism.

XF-85 Goblin

The McDonnell XF-85 Goblin was designed to meet a USAAF requirement for a single-seat "parasite" escort fighter that could be carried by a large bomber. Development of two prototypes was ordered in March 1947. The resulting design was entirely the product of design constraints, which required it to fit into the bomb bay of a B-36 (although it was first tested under a B-29). The B-36 was the intended mother ship that would carry as many as three Goblins.

A tiny, short fuselage was fitted with low/mid-set foldable swept wings, of 21 ft 1.5 in (6.44 m) span. It was powered by a 3,000 lb (1,400 kgf) Westinghouse J34-WE-7 turbojet. There was no landing gear except for emergency skids. The fighter was intended to return to the parent aircraft and dock with a trapeze, by means of a retracting hook.

posted by Comrade_robot at 1:01 PM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Afaik, the biggest calibre weapons to have ever been installed on aircraft are the 75 mm guns on those troublesome ground-attack B-25s kuujjuarapik mentions, and the 105 mm howitzer on one version of the AC-130 Spectre gunship. The guns on that rendering look at least 300 mm, perhaps even 500 mm. Frigging ridiculous.
posted by Skeptic at 1:16 PM on November 8, 2009


Thank you Comrade-robot!

Since StickyCarpet brought that up, I've been trawling through Google to find that.

As a child, I had a fantastic book called something like World's Worst Aircraft. There's a book by that title on Amazon, but I don't recognize it as the same one I had.

Now that I think of it, the K7 might have been in the book, along with some other really, really neat abominations unto the sky.
posted by generichuman at 1:19 PM on November 8, 2009


Anyone else hearing the Imperial March in their heads when they look at this? No? Just me then...
posted by ZsigE at 1:35 PM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


As someone who takes a lot of prop-driven planes for work travel, all I can say is the K-7 must have been fucking loud, probably too loud for comfortable civilian air travel.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:40 PM on November 8, 2009


"What's with the tail dragger wheel in the UFO rendering?"

They probably grabbed the entire tail assembly from a convential aircraft rendering and either forgot or couldn't be bothered to remove it.
Tailbooms were equipped wit pneumatics, protecting the tail from undesired contact with the ground.
You can also see what looks like a tail wheel in this picture, which is on this page.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:43 PM on November 8, 2009


The Soviets had sort of an obsession with giantism in those days, as witness the "Tsar" series of projects, including the Tsar Bomba, the most powerful bomb ever created. (Scroll down to the bottom for links to the bell, cannon and tank.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:15 PM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also see the T-35 5 turret tank

The T-35 was a Soviet multi-turreted heavy tank of the interwar period and early Second World War that saw limited production and service with the Red Army. It was the only five-turreted heavy tank in the world to reach production but proved to be slow and mechanically unreliable. Most of the T-35 tanks still operational at the time of Operation Barbarossa were lost due to mechanical failure rather than enemy action.

Outwardly it was large but internally the spaces were cramped with the fighting compartments separated from each other. Some of the turrets obscured the entrance hatches.

posted by Comrade_robot at 2:21 PM on November 8, 2009


Thanks, Comrade_robot. Here's another view of that XF-85 Goblin. Gee, I bet the test pilots were just lining up to try that thing out, no landing gear and all.
posted by StickyCarpet at 2:56 PM on November 8, 2009


The fictional B-52 Megafortress from Flight of the Old Dog is a nod in this direction -- a massive plane, loaded with weapons, acting like an airborne capital ship.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:20 PM on November 8, 2009


I love the fact that whoever did those renders thought, "Let's throw a flying saucer in there too. Why the hell not?"

This may not have been completely arbitrary; "The Hunt for Zero Point" examines what (the author contends) may have been German investigations into, and experimentation with, anti-gravity devices. The artist may have been depicting a fantasy battle with one of the 'foo fighters'.
posted by Kronos_to_Earth at 4:10 PM on November 8, 2009


Oh, and btw, why isn't there a game out there yet where I can sim this?

I haven't played Blazing Angels II (warning: sound) because BA I was kind of lame, but it does have some cool fictional WWII planes, including the Daimler-Benz Project C, which looks equally awesome and unfeasible.
posted by stargell at 4:44 PM on November 8, 2009


wow, that could have been legendary and history altering if it ever went into production. great post!
posted by tobe at 1:34 PM on November 10, 2009


« Older Elona Shooter...  |  Past Tense... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments