Tupolev Tu-144

In the 1960s the Tupolev supersonic passenger transport aircraft was developed parallel to that of the Concorde in Europe and designs by Boeing and Lockheed in the United States. In the end both the Tu-144 and the Concorde have a very similar shape. Hence the Tu-144 was often called "Concordski", but the official NATO code name was Charger.

Both aircraft have delta wings, a long slender fuselage with a pointed nose and a broad, single vertical stabiliser. The nose can be drooped to improve visibility from the cockpit during taxiing, take-off and landing. When the nose is drooped, the visor providing streamline is retracted. The aircraft has no horizontal stabilisers. Under the wings are four engines in long nacelles with wedge shaped air intakes. They are arranged in two sets of engines, much closer to the fuselage than on the Concorde. The gear has long legs, with a two wheel nose gear and a main gear with four wheels on each of the two or three axes.

Different versions

The different versions of the Tu-144 can externally be distinguished by

  • the shape of the wings
  • the presence of retractable canards
  • the number of wheels on the main landing gear
  • the space between the engine sets
  • the shape of the engine exhausts


The prototype of the Tu-144 had a ogival delta wings, like the Concorde. Later versions had double delta. Other characteristics of the Tu-144 include three axes with four wheels on each main landing gear leg, the absence of canards and the engines being evenly spaced.

The Tu-144 prototype had no canards and twelve wheels on three axes. Note the Concorde taking off in the background. (photo P.L.Thill/WikiMedia)


The second production version of the Tu-144 has different engines than the Tu-144S. These engines have conical plugs in the exhaust. For the rest they are the same as the Tu-144S, so with double delta wings, retractable canards behind the cockpit and main landings gears with two four wheel axes.

A typical recognition point of the Tu-144 (except the prototype) are the retractable canards behind the cockpit.

The Tu-144D has exhausts with conical plugs. These exhausts are slightly shorter than on the Tu-144LL (compared area marked with arrow).


Compared to the prototype the Tu-144S has significant changes. First of all the wings now have a double delta shape instead of an ogival shape. Moreover, the main landing gear have just two axes, but still with four wheels on eahc axis. Finally, there is now some space between two engine pairs. Note that the exhausts of the engines have no external plugs.

Here you can see that there is about one engine space between the two engine pairs of the Tu-144S. Note the exhausts have no plugs.


Long after the Tu-144 was retired NASA contracted the Russians to convert one Tu-144D as research aircraft. This was designated Tu-144LL. It has different engines than the Tu-144D and Tu-144S. It has exhaust plugs like the Tu-144D, but the exhausts are slightly longer.

A full view of the Tu-144LL, after being stored at Zhukovsky.

On this detail photo you can better see the difference with the Tu-144D, marked by the arrow

Confusion possible with

Aérospatiale/BAC Concorde

concorde 102

The only other supersonic passenger transport aircraft was the Concorde, that has a very similar shape as the Tu-144. The Concorde has two sets of engines, more widely spaced than on the Tu-144. Moreover, the Concorde has four wheel main landing gears, while the Tupolev has eight or twelve wheels per leg.