Kalinin’s curious bird


By any standards, the Kalinin K-12 reconnaissance, attack and flight transport aircraft — also known by the Soviet military designation VS-2 — was an odd-looking machine. But it still might have been developed into an effective platform, had its chief designer not fallen victim to Stalin’s purges

During the aviation parade at Tushino airfield just outside Moscow on 18 August 1937, staged in honour of the Soviet Union’s Air Force Day, much attention was drawn to an unusual aircraft painted in a livery depicting a fantasy character from Russian fairy tales, the so-called ‘firebird’. It was notable not only in terms of the white feathers adorning it — there were enough multi-coloured aircraft at the show. What struck observers most was the unusual shape, which in essence was a flying wing. The standard tail fin had been replaced by vertical stabilisers and ailerons, which also functioned as elevators.

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