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Molot M-4 / Mya-4 / 3M
Myasishchev 'Bison'

The Molot (Hammer) was designed as a strategic bomber, but excessive fuel consumption of its engines and other design shortcomings limited its range to 8,000 km, which was insufficient for striking North American targets and returning to base. Consequently, along with the development of an improved version of the bomber with more fuel-efficient bypass engines and a new wing, a program was also initiated to develop a specialized aircraft for aerial refueling. To facilitate operational support and formation flight in the refueling process the bomber and the tanker aircraft were intended to have identical design and performance characteristics.

Development of an intercontinental bomber with a strike capability at US-territory began in the early 1950s. The governmental order of 24 March 1951 provided for the establishment of a new design bureau headed by V.M. Myasishchev. The design bureau was in charge of organizing and manufacturing the development of the bomber which would have a range of 11000-12000 km, a maximum speed of 900km/h and could carry a payload of 5000 kg. The Bison was a Four-engined, swept-wing jet bomber with engines were buried in the wing roots. An unusual feature was the tandem landing gear, with small stabilising wheels at the tips of the drooping wings, and a nosewheel leg extended at take-off to achieve the correct angle of incidence.

Due to the fact that the high-power BD-5 engines for the aircraft were still in the development stage, the aircraft used four AM-3A turbojet engines developed by OKB A.A. Mikulina. The first prototype was finished in December 1952 and carried out its' first flight on 20 January 1953. It reached a speed of 947 km/h and a ceiling of 12500 m. Although the bomber had a range of only 8500 km, which did not allow strikes at US territory, series production of the M-4 bomber began in 1955 at the plant Nr. 23 in Moscow. In July 1955, deployment of the first ten bombers started.

In 1963, production of the Bison bombers stopped. A total of 93 aircraft, including ten M-4 and nine 3MD13 were built. The 3M bombers were in service with the Air Forces until the end of the 1980s, and were removed in accordance with the START-1 treaty on offensive strategic force reductions. The 3MS2 tankers remained in service through 1994. The three airplanes that had been converted to transport oversized cargo are used for purposes unrelated to the START I Treaty; and are not reconnaissance airplanes, tanker airplanes, or jamming airplanes, and thus do not meet the definition of the term "former heavy bomber" provided for in the Definitions Annex to the Treaty. These airplanes are not included within the Treaty totals, though all other airplanes of the Bison type were considered to be former heavy bombers.


Soviet DesignationM-4/2M 3M/M-6 3MS/M-6 3MD/M-6
US-Designation Bison A Bison B Bison B Bison C
RemarksBasic AircraftSlightly lager and improvedSlightly changed nose and tail radome
Design Bureau Myasishchev
Manufacturer Plant Nr. 23 Moscow
Development began 3/24/1951
First Flight 1/20/1953 3/27/1956
Series production 1954-1963
Date deployed 19561958
Crew 8 men 7 men
Power Plant Four AM-3, or
Four RD-3M-500, or
Four RD-3M-500A
Four VD-7 Four RD-3M-500A Four VD-7B
Thrust 8,750kg
10,500kg each
11,000kg each 10,500kg each 9,500 kg each
Length 47.67m 51.7m
Height 11.5m
Wingspan 50.53m 53.14m
Wing surface 326.35sqm 351.7sqm
Speed Cruise [km/h]800800800800
Speed Maximum [km/h]930940925925
Ceiling 12,500m
Altitude Over Target (m)128001272512725
Weight (empty) [kg]7970074430
Operational Wt. Empty (kg)695007180071800
Fuel Capacity (gal)29,50034,00034,000
Fuel weight
Maximum Takeoff Gross Weight [kg]165900181800181800
Normal load 5,000kg5,000kg5,000kg5,000kg
Maximum load 18,000kg24,000kg
Operational Range 8,100km11,850km9,440km10,950km
Operational Range with refuelling8,100km15,400km12,400km13,600km
Unrefueled Combat Radius (kmi)450050005000
Maximum Range
Armament: 18.000kg of free falling bombsFree falling bombs with a caliber of up to 9.000kg when carrying a load of 24.000kg, two nuclear bombs with ha weight of 2.000kg or one 4.000kg bomb

Historical Review - Western Estimates

Bison A Bison BBison C
Estimated start of flight testing 1953
First discovery 30 July 1953 19561960
Estimated start of series production 195319561960
Initial operational capability 195519581960
First public display (single aircraft} 01 May 1954
Public display of 13 aircraft 01 May 1955
End production 1961

Sources and Resources

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