Myasishchev M-4

The Myasishchev M-4 Molot (USAF/DoD reporting name "Type 37", NATO reporting name Bison) is a four-engined strategic bomber designed by Vladimir Myasishchev and manufactured by the Soviet Union in the 1950s to provide a Long Range Aviation bomber capable of attacking targets in North America. The Myasishchev design bureau was formed to build such a bomber.

Myasishchev M-4
Class Aircraft
Type Bomber
Manufacturer Myasishchev
Origin Russia (USSR)
Country Name Origin Year
Russia (USSR) 1953
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
Russia (USSR) 1956 1994 View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Myasishchev 93 View

First flying soon after the first flight of the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, the M-4 was first displayed to the public in Red Square, on May Day, 1954. The aircraft was a surprise to the United States, which had not known that the Soviets had built a jet bomber. However, it soon became clear that the bomber had an insufficient range to attack the United States and still return to the Soviet Union. Only a few of the original production M-4s were actually put into service. To remedy this problem, the Myasishchev design bureau introduced the 3M, known to the West as the 'Bison-B', which was considerably more powerful than the previous version. This new model first flew in 1955. Among other things, two of the five original gun barbettes were removed to lighten the aircraft.

In July 1955 American observers saw 28 Bisons in two groups during a Soviet air show. The United States government believed that the bomber was in mass production, and the Central Intelligence Agency estimated that 800 would be available by 1960. The display was a hoax (maskirovka); the first group of ten repeated the flyby with eight more. The classified estimates led, however, to American politicians warning of a "bomber gap".

This time, it was not the Soviet Air Force (VVS) that wanted the 3M, but rather Naval Aviation (AV-MF). Though it could still not bomb Washington, D.C., the 3M had a sufficient range to fulfill the need for a long-range maritime patrol aircraft. In 1959, the 3M broke numerous world records; however, it was thought by the West (and would continue to be thought so until 1961) that the 3M was the original M-4, meaning that the capability of the M-4 was vastly overestimated by Western intelligence agencies.

In the early 1960s, the 'Bison-C', with a specialized search radar, was introduced. By this time, many of the original M-4s had been converted to M-4-2 fuel tankers for aerial refueling. Later, 3Ms were converted to 3MS-2 and 3MN-2 tankers as well.

Neither the M-4 nor the 3M ever saw combat, and none were ever converted for low altitude attack, as many American B-52s were, nor were any ever exported to the Soviet Union's allies.

Production of the Bison aircraft stopped in 1963, by which time 93 of them had been built. The last aircraft, an M-4-2 fuel tanker, was withdrawn from service in 1994.

The three VM-T heavy lift aircraft were converted from 3MN-2 tankers, with very large loads carried piggy-back above the fuselage. The single vertical fin/rudder was replaced with two large rectangular fin/rudders at the tips of the horizontal stabilizers to improve control due to the turbulence caused by the cargo pod.

With the withdrawal of the Myasishchev bombers and tankers the vast majority of the retired airframes were broken up under the terms of the relevant arms limitation treaty. Four aircraft are known to survive:

  • 3MD '30 Red' (c/n 6302831) in the Central Russian Air force Museum at Monino
  • M-4 '60 Red' (c/n 0301804) in the Long Range Aviation museum at Dyagilevo AB, Ryazan
  • M-4 '63 Red' (c/n 5301518) at Ukrainka Airbase, Amur Oblast
  • 3MS-2 '14 Red' (c/n 7300805) at Engels Air Force Base

Role Strategic bomber
Manufacturer Myasishchev
Designer Vladimir Myasishchev
First flight 1953 (M-4/2M)
1956 (M-6/3M)
Introduction 1956 (M-4/2M)
1958 (M-6/3M)
Retired 1994
Status retired
Primary users Soviet Air Force
Soviet Navy
Russian Air Force
Produced 93
Number built 2 prototypes, 91 production aircraft
Variants Myasishchev VM-T

General characteristics

  • Crew: 8
  • Length: 47.20 m (154 ft 10 in)
  • Wingspan: 50.5 m (165 ft 7 in)
  • Height: 14.10 m (46 ft 3 in)
  • Wing area: 326.35 m² (3,512.8 ft²)
  • Empty weight: 79,700 kg (175,700 lb)
  • Loaded weight: 138,500 kg (305,340 lb)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 181,500 kg (400,135 lb)
  • Powerplant: 4 × Mikulin AM-3A turbojets, 85.75 kN (19,280 lbf)[8] each


  • Maximum speed: 947 km/h (588 mph)
  • Range: 8,100 km (5,030 mi) ferry; 5,600 km (3,480 mi) normal range
  • Service ceiling: 11,000 m (36,000 ft)
  • Wing loading: 425 kg/m² (87 lb/ft²)
  • Thrust/weight: 0.25


  • Guns: 9×23 mm NR-23 cannon or 6×23 mm AM-23 cannon in ventral, dorsal and tail barbettes. 1,100 rounds in ventral and dorsal barbettes, 2,000 rounds in tail barbette.
  • Missiles: Up to four cruise missiles carried externally.
  • Bombs: Typically 9,000 kg (19,840 lb) of internal stores. Up to 24,000 kg (52,910 lb) could be carried, including nuclear and conventional bombs

End notes