Documents have emerged of schematic diagrams for a Soviet built nuclear powered plane.
In the 1950s, Soviet generals wanted to create a long range strategic bomber that would allow them to carry out airstrikes far away, reports Wonderful Engineering.
The supersonic planes they wanted for bomb transportation required over 10,000 tonnes of fuel per flight – not easy to store – and so they came up with the idea of using an atomic reactor for power.
Below is the very first design for the plane complete with nuclear reactor:
Three group of engineers worked on different designs and it was known by three different names – M-52, M-56K and M-60.
The designs featured nuclear engines that used molten metals for transferring heat from the nuclear reactor to the engine – but ingeniously, the engines could also work with regular aviation fuel.
But the design innovation didn’t end there. Engineers also incorporated smaller planes within ‘the mothership’. The smaller jet would carry out precise bombing while the mothership remained at supersonic altitudes.
The model was never finished because the lead engineer was assigned to build ballistic missiles instead, however a different nuclear bomber was completed.
The TU-95LAL made use of propellers, but was still a nuclear-powered strategic bomber.
The nuclear elements were installed around the engine and the pilot’s cabin was surrounded by a thick radiation shield however – inexplicably – the sides were left unprotected, allowing radiation to leak out.
The plane did however complete 34 flights before the project was abandoned due to the risk of contamination from radioactive waste leakages.
The soviets didn’t give up there though. In the 1970s they finally cracked it with the catchily named AN-22 01-07.
According to the engineer:
The only waste it produced was the heated air stream. It was more ecologically sound than even the regular gas powered planes – no waste at all.
The project was eventually abandoned due to the crippling cost of building, running and maintaining the aircraft.
But still, nuclear powered planes, who knew?