After graduation, Petlyakov continued at CAHI as a structural designer. He became Andrei Nikolayevich Tupolev's deputy (and head of the heavy airplane brigade) in 1931. Petlyakov's first independent design was the ANT-42 of 1934. It eventually entered production as the Pe-8, the Soviet Union's sole long-range heavy bomber of World War II. This excellent aircraft carried 5 tons of bombs, but because the Soviet military leadership had little interest in strategic bombing only 79 Pe-8s were produced. Petlyakov became chief of CAHI's experimental aircraft factory in July 1936 and its chief designer a year later. He was arrested on 20 July 1937 during Stalin's purges and sent to State Aircraft Factory (GAZ) 156, a special internal prison in Moscow.
At GAZ-156, Petlyakov set up Special Technical Department 100, where he designed the Vi-100, a sophisticated prototype high-altitude fighter and dive-bomber. Although it was successful, the air force decided that the MiG-3 could better meet the high-altitude requirement. On 25 May 1940, the air force gave Petlyakov's team until 1 June to design a conversion to a three-seater attack bomber. The mock-up PB-100 passed inspection on 1 June 1940, and the type was approved for production on 23 June.
Petlyakov's success led to his release from prison in July 1940 and his installation as head of his own independent design bureau (OKB) in Moscow, with A. M. Isakson as his deputy. The production PB-100 was redesignated the Pe-2 and became the Soviet air force's most successful standard tactical bomber of World War II. The two-engine Pe-2 was the counterpart to the German Ju-87 Stuka dive-bomber, U.S. A-20, and British Mosquito. With some 11,000 produced, the Pe-2 made up two-thirds of Soviet bomber production in World War II. The Pe-2 had a crew of 3, was armed with 5 machine guns, and could carry 6,600 lb of bombs. It was fast at a maximum speed of 360 mph, and even some fighters had problems keeping up with it.
Following the German invasion of the Soviet Union, the Petlyakov OKB was evacuated to Kazan in October 1941. Petlyakov himself was killed when the Pe-2 in which he was traveling from Kazan to Moscow caught fire and crashed on 12 January 1942. His OKB continued its work until 1946 when its assets were transferred to the new OKB of V. M. Myasishchyev, who had become its chief designer in 1943.
Paul E. Fontenoy
Andersson, Lennart. Soviet Aircraft and Aviation, 1917–1941. London: Putnam Aeronautical Books, 1994.; Gunston, Bill. Tupolev Aircraft since 1922. London: Putnam Aeronautical Books, 1995.; Passingham, Malcolm, and Klepaki, W. The Petlyakov Pe-2 and Variants. London: Profile Publications, 1972.