Tu-4 escorted by a Gurevich 9.

The Tupolev Tu-4 (NATO reporting name: Bull) was a piston-engined Soviet strategic bomber that served the Soviet Air Force from the late 1940s to mid-1960s. It was a reverse-engineered copy of the U.S.-made Boeing B-29 Superfortress.

Tupolev Tu-4 in The Hot War[]

In the early months of World War III, the Soviet Union made the most of the fact that the Tupolev Tu-4 was identical to the American B-29 Superfortress by painting their Tu-4s to look like B-29s. This scheme was most effectively used on 2 March 1951, when several disguised Tu-4s dropped atomic bombs on the American west, including the cities of Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Salt Lake City and Denver.[1] Tu-4s also bombed Bangor, Maine and a location in Newfoundland waw also attacked.[2] The scheme wasn't always fool-proof: Tu-4s headed for Spokane and Las Vegas were successfully downed by U.S. jets.[3] Moreover, only one bomber crew actually made it back to the Soviet Union,[4] with the rest having to land on nearby air fields and surrender[5], and others having to bail out near the cities they'd just bombed and being subjected to civilian vengeance.[6]

Still, the Soviets continued to employ the tactic, with the help of IFF, successfully bombing Bordeaux in May[7], Paris in June,[8] and Antwerp in September 1951.[9]

In January 1952, the Soviets began developing the technique of mid-air refueling for the Tu-4. In May 1952, the Soviet air force had perfected this technique well enough to allow several Tu-4s to fly across Europe and the Atlantic and attack the U.S. cities of Washington, DC, New York City, Boston and Philadelphia. U.S. experts had not counted on this, and the cities were completely vulnerable.[10] While Philadelphia was spared by luck after the plane clipped something while flying low and crashed in a field five miles west of New Egypt, New Jersey,[11] the other three cities were totally destroyed.[12]

Tupolev Tu-4 in Joe Steele[]

During World War II a number of B-29s that were damaged during raids on Japan flew on to nearby Soviet territory rather than return to base. These aircraft were copied and were used as a basis for the design and manufacturing of Tu-4s. During the Japanese War several Tu-4 bombing raids were launched by North Japan against the South. These were ineffective and soon stopped. On August 9, 1949 a sole Tu-4 flew over Nagano unchallenged and dropped an atomic bomb on the city in retaliation to the U.S.' destruction of Sendai three days earlier with a similar weapon. This action effectively ended the war.[13]


  1. Bombs Away, pgs. 141-150, ebook.
  2. Ibid., pg. 159.
  3. Ibid. pg. 165.
  4. Ibid., pgs. 214-215.
  5. Ibid., pgs. 164-165.
  6. Ibid., pgs. 171-172.
  7. Ibid., pgs. 307-311.
  8. Ibid., pgs. 427-430.
  9. Fallout, loc. 3094-3167, ebook.
  10. Ibid., loc. 6541-6615.
  11. Ibid., loc. 6810.
  12. Ibid. 6620-6692.
  13. 'Joe Steele, pg. 371, HC.