Cold War advancements of the USA and USSRby Rit Nosotro
Compare the Cold War advancements of the USA and USSR air force and space programs.
Throughout the Soviet Union and the United States during the years between 1945 and 1990 a great race, the arms race, went forth with full strength. Both countries battled hard over the realms of nuclear weaponry, space travel, and speed records. The airforces of both nations grew to enormous numbers. Each side sat fidgeting, waiting for the other side to make the first move. Thankfully, God had other plans, and the Cold War eventually ended without excessive bloodshed.
Here we will look at and compare the race in the realm of aircraft and space. We will briefly look at four different categories for each nation: Fighters, Bombers, Spy planes, and Space craft.
The Soviet Union
The United States
Soviet engineers working in companies such as Mikoyan-Gurevich, Tupolev, Sukhoi, and Yakovlev worked increasingly hard after the end of World War II to gain an air advantage over America. They developed thousands upon thousands of low quality airplanes, and placed lowly trained pilots in them. This gave them a great air advantage in numbers, something very important in the aeronautical world. Many jets were developed, like the Yak-15, 17, and 23, the “Migs”, and the “Sus”. Each was named after their mother company. With constant development, the Russian’s began to excel at the art of making good fighters. They soon began to export them to other countries around the world. The Mig-17 poses a great example. This interceptor and ground-attacker was put into production in January of 1950. More than 9,000 were produced! Only in the early 1990s were the planes all finally retired by countries all across Europe and Asia.
The Soviets had many other breakthroughs, including the infamous Mig-25. This plane was jokingly a “seat on top of two giant engines”. The plane could fly past Mach 3 (think faster than 2,000 mph), and intercept any bomber our spy plane the Americans chose to send at the Russians. However, several difficulties, including the fact that the plane would often travel so fast the wings would simply melt off, hindered its performance.
The United States produced many great fighters during the 50s, 60s, and 70s, including the first jet fighter in 1945. They then began a series of fighter, pursuit, and interception planes that the envy of the rest of the world. Only Russia kept at par with the US’s production. Thousand upon thousands of aircraft were rolled off the assembly lines, and placed at the ‘front’, guarding the United States from an inevitable Soviet Invasion.
The mainstay of the soviet military was its impressive bombers. Even though many would argue that most of the bombers were ‘copies’ of western planes, the fact that the Russians could make and stick with an idea is evident. By taking the ideas of others and perfecting them, the Russians were able to make bombers the likes the world had never seen. With the ability to fly non-stop from Siberia all the way to the United States, the great “Bear” and the jet powered M-4 “Bison” posed a great threat to the United States.
Created in 1949, the Bison posed a great threat to the United states. From a base hidden in Siberia or Northern USSR the “Bison”, so nicknamed by Nato, could travel all the way across the Arctic Ocean and into Canada. These planes, according to the western experts, had the ability to reach all the way to Washington, DC. They also had the nuclear ability to strike the entire United State of America.
In the United States, the world of Bombers was almost equally as large as the Russian program. The United States was forced to develop an equivalent to the Propeller driven “Bear” and the jet “Bison”. They needed a craft that would have a long range, a good payload, and the strength to get back home. To top it off, it would also have speed. Designed and built in the early 50’s, the B-52 served the United State’s Air force’s answer to such an aircraft. It was the largest US aircraft in service, and had the ability to carry the dreaded Hydrogen bomb. Due to its many ‘face-lifts’ the design wonder has remained in service into the 21st century.
During the Cold War, both the Russians and the United States air forces attempted to use spy planes. Yet, much of the information regarding these operations remained hidden. For the most part, the USSR relied more heavily on their space born satellites for the photos of enemy territory. Thus, we will look at them more fully.
The United States had an extensive program for the development of spy planes. This program was named “Skunk Works” and would turn out craft like the U-2, the B-2 Spirit, the F-117 Nighthawk, and the SR-71 BlackBird. Such craft were stealthy, and designed to get in and out without detection. The U-2 was used extensively over Russia, and two in fact were shot down by Russian countermeasures.
“Space, the final frontier”- the famous line from Star Trek almost mirrors the ideas of the United States and the USSR during the Space Race. The Russians won, with their launch of the satellite “Sputnick”. This sent the American scientists like Dr. Von-Braun into a race to get the first United States space vehicle into the skies. From then on, the quest for each Nation to ‘beat’ the other to monumental moments began. Who would first get a man into orbit? Who would complete the first space walk? Who would get a satellite to the moon? Who would get a man to the moon? These fantasies all became reality as the competition continued.
The Russians however, began to fall behind as their finances began to crumble. Many would argue that it was indeed the high costs of the race into space that destroyed the Soviet Union in the end.
The United States started into the space program rather slowly, allowing the Russians to beat them into space. However, they quickly geared up, and the Gemini, and Apollo missions got on the move. Their first great feat involved sending John Glenn up into space, to become the first astronaut to do so. These feats continued, as the United States beat the Russians to the moon. Finally, the Russian juggernaut slowed by its financial troubles, and eventually almost entirely fell out of the space picture.
When President Reagan proposed a "Star Wars" Satellite defense system, the USSR realized they did not have enough money to keep pace with the USA.
Overall, we can see a great difference between the Russian and United States throughout the Arms and Space race. The United States for the most part worked to play defensively. They designed their aircraft with the ability to strike into the heart of the Soviet Union, but also to turn around and defend their own home. The Soviet Union however, mass produced aircraft, that, though good, were no match for the better piloted and designed American aircraft. The space race went in quite the same way. The Soviet’s had the initiative, and were able to launch a milestone in history, the “Sputnik” satellite. However, their ‘first place’ position soon began to drag and then fall behind as financial struggles crippled the USSR.
1) What Jet Bomber, built by the Russian’s, posed a huge threat to the United States?
2) What aircraft was built to answer to the United States call for a long range
3) What eventually became the downfall of the Russian space program?
a) The fact that they didn’t reach the moon.
b) The idea that the American’s were just better at this stuff.
d) Financial troubles
d) Design failures
4) What was the main idea of Russian Production:
a) Quality over quantity
b) Quantity over Quality
c) Quantity and Quality
d) neither Quantity or Quality
“John Corrin” Personal Interview, February 17, 2005
“Aircraft of the World: The Complete Guide” IMP, Inc.
Space Race Exhibition “http://www.nasm.si.edu/exhibitions/gal114/gal114.htm” February 18, 2005
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