Polikarpov R-1

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The Polikarpov R-1 was the first military aircraft to be produced in the Soviet Union and was a redesigned version of the de Havilland DH-9, mainly powered by the Soviet-built M-5 version of the American Liberty Engine.

Soon after the Revolution work began on producing the D.H.4 at the Dux factory in Moscow (soon to become Gaz No.1). Polikarpov was placed in charge of this effort, and the first Soviet D.H.4s appeared in 1920. By 1923 Polikarpov was chief designer at the Dux factory, and it was here that he produced the R-1. Externally this aircraft was virtually identical to the D.H.9/ D.H.9A, but Polikarpov had redesigned it to use materials more readily available in the Soviet Union.

A small number of R-1s were powered by Puma engines. These were originally designated as the R-2, before becoming the R1-SP in 1926. A larger number of R-1s were powered by the American Liberty engine, but the majority used the 400hp M-5, a licence built version of the Liberty engine. The propeller was mounted at the base of the fuselage, with a tall narrow 'venetian blind' radiator mounted above it.

The R-1 had a wooden framework, built of pine. The fuselage was covered with plywood, apart from a small fabric section towards the rear. The wings used pine spars and interplane struts with ash leading edges. It was armed with one fixed forward firing 7.62mm machine gun (either a Vickers gun or a Soviet PV-1), and a flexibly mounted Lewis gun or double DA gun on a ring mounting in the observers position. The aircraft could also carry up to 480kg of bombs on racks below the wings and fuselage.

The first Liberty-powered R-1 made its maiden flight on 15 May 1923, and the first two production aircraft were handed over to the Red Air Force on 29 June. They were the first of many - after a slow start 2,000 aircraft had been built by the end of 1927 and over 2,800 when production stopped in 1931.

The R-1 entered service with the 'Lenin' eskadril'ya of the Red Air Force, in July 1924 and from the autumn of the same year it began to enter wider service. The R-1 served in a wide range of roles, including as a ground attack aircraft, light bomber, reconnaissance aircraft, training aircraft, artillery observation aircraft and by the start of 1931 just over 1,500 R-1s were in service. The R-1 was also used to 'fly the flag' across the wide expanses of the Soviet Union, and provided many people with their first sight of an aircraft. The R-1 also saw a significant amount of use in civil roles.

The R-1 began to be replaced in service by the Polikarpov R-5 from 1931. At the start of 1932 750 R-1s were in service with reconnaissance and bomber units, but this dropped to only 32 by the start of 1934. The surplus aircraft were then moved to training units, were the numbers in use increased from just under 500 at the start of 1932 to over 1,000 two years later. 

R1-M5
Engine: M-5
Power: 400hp
Crew: 2
Wing span: 14.02m/ 46ft
Length: 9.24m/ 30.3ft
Height: 3.46m/ 11.35ft
Empty Weight: 1,469kg/ 3,238lb
Loaded Weight: 2,200kg/ 4,850lb
Max Speed: 185kmh/ 114mph
Service Ceiling: 5,000m/ 16,400ft
Range: 700km/ 434 miles
Armament: One fixed forward firing machine gun, single or double flexibly mounted machine gun in observers position
Bomb-load: 480kg/ 1,058lb

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (21 April 2011), Polikarpov R-1 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_polikarpov_R-1.html

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