Nothing says "Cold War glamour" like a Soviet knock-off of a Western technology — especially when it's been reverse-engineered to perfection. Here are some of the greatest and most stylish examples of Soviet techno-piracy.
Original: Boeing B-29 Superfortress (produced between 1943 and 1946) – Rip-off: Tupolev Tu-4 (produced between 1949 and 1952)
The Tu-4 was a reverse-engineered copy of the B-29:
The impounded plane, one of three United States Air Force bombers that made forced landings in the Soviet Far East port of Vladivostok in 1944, was reduced to its 105,000 component parts and each one was copied by engineers working for the aviation pioneer Andrei Tupolev. – according to The Telegraph.
Original: Hasselblad 1600 F (1948-1953) with a Kodak Ektar 2.8/80 mm – Rip-off: Salyut (1957-1972) with an Industar-29 2.8/80 mm lens. The export version of Salyut was known as Zenith 80.
Hasselblad 1600 F
It was the first Soviet attempt to produce a good medium format camera.
Original: Packard Super Eight (1939-1951) – Rip-off: ZIS-110 (1946-1958)
The ZIS-110 was developed from the reverse engineering of a 1942 Packard Super Eight in 1944.
Original: ZX Spectrum by Sinclair Research Ltd. (1982-1992) – Rip-off: Dubna 48K (1991-?), Simvol IK and many others
The ZX Spectrum+
Original: Nintendo Game & Watch handheld games (1980-1991) – Rip-off: Electronika IM series from 1986
Original: Zeiss Contax II (1936-1942), the first camera with a viewfinder and a rangefinder combined in a single window – Rip-off: Kiev II (1947-1957) with a copy of a Zeiss Sonar 2.0/50 mm lens (ZK-Zorki, Solid ZK or Jupiter-8)
Original: Ford Prefect (1938-1949), produced in Dagenham, Essex, United Kingdom by the UK division of Ford – Rip-off: KIM 10-50 (1940-1941)
The Ford Prefect
The KIM 10-50
The Space Shuttle (1981-2011) – Buran (1988)
The Space Shuttle-like Buran completed only one unmanned spaceflight, and spent only three hours in space. The Buran programme was cancelled in 1993, but four other ones were being built then – the Shuttle 2.03 was fully dismantled, the 2.02 was 10-20% done, partially dismantled and some parts were sold on the Internet, the 30-50% done Baikal (2.01) was left under open sky for years, and the OK-1K2 Ptichka (1.02) was 95-97% complete.
Original: The German V-2 rocket (produced between 1942 and 1945) – Rip-off: The R-1 (tested in 1948, accepted by the army in 1950)
In 1945 the Soviet Army captured some military factories, V-2 production facilities, among others. Between 1946 and the mid-1950s some German missile engineers were forced to stay in the Soviet Union to help constructing the Soviet copy of the German rocket.
Original: Hawker Siddeley Harrier (1967-mid 1970s) – Rip-off: Yakovlev Yak-38 (1971-1976)
Hawker Siddeley Harrier
The Hawker Siddeley Harrier was the only successful V/STOL (vertical and/or short take-off and landing) close-support fighter aircraft. The Soviet copy was not that popular – it could hover and fly quite well, but carried only 2200 pounds (1000 kg) of weapons.
Bonus Round: Cultural Ripoff
Original: Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree (Disney, 1966, 26 min.) – Rip-off: Vinni-Pukh (1969, 11 min., based on Chapter 1), Vinni-Pukh idyot v gosti (1971, 10 min., based on Chapter 2), Vinni-Pukh i den zabot (1972, 21 min., based on Chapter 4 and 6), all by Soyuzmutfilm and directed by Fyodor Khitruk
All three episodes are available on Youtube with English subtitles here.