Soviet and Russian Testbed Aircraft
by Yefim Gordon and Dmitriy Komissarov, Hikoki Publications, Specialty Press, North Branch, Minn., 2011, $56.95
This is a book for the aviation devotee, someone who keeps up on all the current literature and is pleasantly surprised when a new approach to an unusual topic, filled with previously unseen information, becomes available. Respected authors Yefim Gordon and Dmitriy Komissarov have produced a labor of love, illustrated with more than 500 photos and drawings of rare and exotic Soviet and Russian test-bed aircraft.
The ingenious methods by which engineers created new shapes, strapped on outlandish equipment and experimented with what must sometimes have seemed doubtful projects is very revealing. Just riffling through the book shows how dedicated the designers were. More important, in an era of stifling Soviet restrictions, it reveals how very imaginative they were.
Each chapter is dedicated to a specialized form of test-bed (aerodynamic, propulsion, avionic, etc). While all this experimentation must have been invaluable to the industry, it is somewhat surprising how low the yield seems to be in terms of equipment that actually reached service. That’s perhaps true of the experimental programs in all air forces, but the large number of ideas that were tested and then apparently discarded makes this book all the more interesting.
Gordon and Komissarov’s book helps alleviate the depressing fact that Specialty Press has decided it’s no longer economically feasible to publish aviation manuscripts. The good news: It will act as a distributor for books like this one in the future.
Originally published in the July 2012 issue of Aviation History. To subscribe, click here.