Polikarpov Malyutka

Polikarpov Malyutka (eng. ‘Little one’) was an Soviet secret project during WW2. It was the last aircraft of Nikolai Nikolaevich Polikarpov design, and he oversaw its progress himself. It was an OKB project, begun in June 1943. Construction of a single prototype began in early 1944. Progress was rapid until 30th July 1944, when Polikarpov suffered a massive heart attack and died at his desk. Even though the prototype was almost complete, work stopped and was never resumed.

The key to the Malyutka was the existence of the NIl-1 rocket engine. Developed by the team led by Valentin Petrovich Glushko (principal Soviet designer of rocket engines during the Soviet-American Space Race), this controllable engine had a single thrust chamber fed with RFNA (concentrated nitric acid) and kerosene. Maximum thrust at sea level was 1,200kg, but in this aircraft the brochure figure was 1,000kg (2,205 Ib). Bearing no direct relevance to any previous Polikarpov fighter, the airframe had a curvaceous Shpon (plastic-bonded birch laminates) fuselage sitting on a wing of D-l stressed-skin construction. The tail was also D-l alloy. The pressurized cockpit was in the nose, behind which was the radio, oxygen bottles and gun magazines, followed by a relatively enormous tank of acid and a smaller one of kerosene. The tricycle landing gears and split flaps were operated pneumatically, and the armament comprised two powerful VYa-23 cannon.

Had it run a year or two earlier this might have been a useful aircraft, though it offered little that was not already being done by the BI and Type 302. At the same time, the death of the General Constructor should not have brought everything to a halt.

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