When it came to planes from the Iron Curtain (the countries that were connected to or influenced by the Soviet Union), there was a perception that they were unattractive. But the M-15 Belphegor took it to another level. It is the most awful aircraft from Warsaw Pact countries. Like extremely ugly!
The Purpose of the M-15
The M-15 Belphegor was designed to replace the An-2 Colt, a crop duster developed by the Polish state aviation agency in the 1950s, but it was a far worse plane. Only a few number of Belphegors have been preserved in museums over the years.
Pest control was essential to preventing starvation in the Eastern Bloc, which included what is now known as Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia since grain production was widespread in these places. Between 1947 and 2002, the Soviet Union built around 18,500 An-2 utility biplanes, many of which were used for pesticide spraying but also for passenger transport and parachutist training.
The Awful Replacement for the AN-2
In 1971, WSK Mielec, a Polish design firm, began developing a successor to the An-2. Despite the fact that it failed, it had at least generated something; it was the M-15.
The An-2 was developed by the Antonov Design Bureau company, the producer of the largest aircraft in the world. The An-2 could transport 12 people and had a range of 525 miles.
To improve on the An-2 while keeping some of its features, the M-15 was built in Poland. The M-15 was a biplane like the An-2, except it had a turbofan engine instead of a propeller-based turboprop engine.
Compressed air was used to spray pesticides stored in the Belphegor’s two massive towers that separated its two wings. Exhaust from the engine was kept away from the pesticide distribution system by mounting it high above it.
The plane was generally operated by a single pilot, although it had room for two additional technicians. The Soviet Bloc had high hopes for the aircraft and hoped to produce thousands of them. The prototype had been flying for only two years before mass production began in 1976.
Why the M-15 was a Failure?
After some time, the M-15 proved to be a massive failure with numerous flaws. It had a maximum range of about 215 miles, which is approximately half that of the An-2.
Particularly at rural airbases in agricultural regions, repairing an An-2 turbojet engine was more complex than a similar turboprop engine on an An-2. Because of the time and difficulty involved in retraining pilots to fly turbojet-powered aircraft, the changeover was prolonged.
Another drawback of the Belphegor was it’s high initial and ongoing operating costs. Another notable design fault was the plane’s unusual pesticide storage mechanism, which severely limited the aircraft’s usability.
The pesticide tank in the An-2’s fuselage ensured that the plane had adequate cargo space to serve a variety of purposes. The M-15, on the other hand, had pesticides stored in the towers, which reduced the fuselage’s size and restricted the plane’s other purposes.
When it came to liquid-spraying aircraft in general, the Polish plane was effectively categorized as a pest-eradication aircraft. Additionally, the M-15 seems to have been intentionally built to be ugly.
One of the more remarkable things about this plane is the lack of any appealing features, which is a remarkable achievement in the aviation industry. It’s hard to think of any plane produced since the Wright brother’s first flight in 1903 that is as awful as the M-15.
The obvious question is: Did Polish aircraft designers, fed up with Soviet rule over their country, and purposefully created the M-15? If the goal of WSK Mielec was to generate a failure, they obviously succeeded.