The USSR in many areas was technically superior to America and Europe, and often by much. For example, Western designers at the right time were not able to create aircraft capable of operating in difficult climatic conditions, and in the USSR there were never any problems with this. Therefore, it makes no sense to talk about some kind of “technological lag” between the USSR and the West.
I am constantly interested in whether the USSR was a technology-developed power or not. Well, it is clear that since we were the first to fly to Space, it means that everything was fine with the technical equipment in the USSR. Although, of course, many ill-wishers claim that Soviet missiles flew into Space thanks to technology stolen from the Germans.
And on what technologies did American rockets fly into space? Maybe someone does not know, but the American space industry was developed by the most important German rocket scientist Wernher von Braun, who knew all the secrets of the German rocket industry. There were also German specialists in the USSR, but at a completely different level. All of Brown’s closest henchmen fled with him to America, and we got only some small fry.
And, nevertheless, we defeated the Americans in Space, including flights of robotic stations to many other planets of the solar system. It should be noted especially that the USSR mastered the space after a severe destructive war, but for the Americans it was not a destructive war, but an enrichment one. But we still defeated the Americans even in these completely unequal conditions.
But I am interested in another period of the USSR, which also fell on the post-war period, and the wars from which Russia emerged were no less destructive. We are talking about the 30s, when literally in 15 years the USSR began to advance to the technical world leaders and again beat the Americans.
Maybe someone did not know, but the battle for the North Pole in the 20-30s between the leading powers of the world was as intense as the battle for Space in the 50-60s. In 1926 and 1928, the Norwegians and Italians reached the North Pole by air, but this did not indicate the development of technology, because airships are not airplanes, they are just bags of gas, which, with a good coincidence, could remain in the air for almost forever.
But as for aviation, that is, vehicles heavier than air, then the USSR still took the palm. In 1937, the crew of Valery Chkalov on the ANT-25 aircraft took off in Moscow, flew to the North Pole, flew over it, and flew to the United States. In a straight line, the length of the route was about 8,500 kilometers, the plane stayed in the air for more than 63 hours, which is more than 2.5 days.
Did the Americans have such records? Did not have. In 1926, the American Richard Byrd tried to reach the North Pole, but he flew to it, or turned halfway back – it is unknown, since there is no evidence other than the words of Byrd himself.
But there are a few more nuances here. Firstly, Byrd flew to the Pole on a three-engined plane, and Chkalov – on a single-engined one. The difference is enormous – if a three-engined aircraft fails in flight, one engine will be able to continue flying on the remaining two. But if the engine of a single-engine aircraft fails, it will simply fall. One can imagine the reliability of a Soviet aircraft engine, which, by the way, was of Soviet production, not foreign, however, like the ANT-25 itself.
Secondly, Byrd’s plane had reliable air-cooled engines, and the ANT-25 flew on a water-cooled engine. Maybe someone did not know, but in-line motors, although they had advantages over radial motors, were the most capricious, and especially in the harsh polar conditions, it was the water cooling system that was very vulnerable. However, Soviet designers made the “water” engine so reliable that it allowed Soviet pilots to fly in absolutely any conditions and at any distance, as far as fuel was sufficient.