|The Myasishchev VM-T Atlant (Мясищев ВМ-Т «Атлант») is a variant of Myasishchev's M-4 'Molot' bomber designed as a strategic airlift airplane. The VM-T was modified to carry rocket boosters and the Soviet space shuttles of the Buran program. It is also known as the 3M-T. |
The design was conceived in 1978 when Myasishchev was asked to solve the problem of transporting rockets and other large space vehicles to the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Engineers used an old 3M (a modified M-4 bomber) and replaced the empennage with dihedral horizontal stabilizers with large rectangular endplate tailfins to accommodate any load that was twice the diameter of the aircraft's fuselage. A large cargo container, placed on top of the aircraft, would contain the freight. In addition, a new control system was added to the plane to compensate for the added weight.
The Atlant first flew in 1981 and made its first flight with cargo in January 1982. Its main task was to ferry Energiya rocket boosters from their development plant to the Baikonur Cosmodrome. On several occasions, the Soviet space shuttle Buran was piggybacked to the Cosmodrome as well.
Two Atlants were built. They were replaced in 1989 by Antonov's An-225 Mriya. One Atlant (RF-01502) is kept at the Zhukovsky airfield in Russia owned by TsAGI and Gromov Flight Research Institute, the other one (RA-01402) at Dyagilevo AFB in Ryazan.