Tu-200: Tupolev’s Mythical Peacemaker
The early 1950s was a scary time in the West. The US was engaged in a “police action” in Korea that was indistinguishable from a “war” to its participants, one that threatened to grow even larger. The early postwar American monopoly on nuclear weapons had disappeared with the Soviet test of the “Joe I” bomb, and both sides were racing towards the development of far more powerful hydrogen weapons. Even the American homeland, so long protected by vast oceans, was now at risk, as the Russians had managed to copy, in fairly short order, the B-29 Superfortress heavy bomber. Tupolev’s Tu-4 Bull copy of the Superfort lacked the range to effectively hit American targets, but it was anticipated that the Soviets would use the Tu-4 as the basis for a much larger, truly intercontinental bomber.
As things would turn out, Tupolev did end up using the Tu-4 experience to build a new bomber, scaling the basic design up with the Tu-80 and Tu-85, and then applying swept wings and turboprop engines to yield the Tu-95 Bear, an aircraft that remains a threat to the CONUS to this day. But at the time, the Western media had a much different idea of what the Soviets might be building.
In an era before the advent of the B-52, the popular idea of a “super bomber” revolved around Convair’s mighty B-36 Peacemaker, and its evolution, the abortive YB-60 swept wing outgrowth. Thus, combining the western concept with information that had surfaced about Tupolev paper designs for six engined bombers, the mythical “Tu-200” or “TuG-75” was born. This would have been a colossal YB-60 lookalike (the YB-60 as flown had turbojets, but there were turboprop versions planned) with a high subsonic speed and the range needed to hold American cities at risk. There was no such aircraft, but this would not be the only fictional Soviet design to be publicized in the American media.