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Outstanding designer of engines Ivan Koval

Фото. Коваль Іван Андрійович

2014 is  the anniversary year for three well-known makers of various application engines, whose fates are linked with Ukraine. In the XIX International Congress engines designers, held from 14 to 19 September, dealt with the 100th anniversary of the birth of famous chief designers, who were honored by the Stars and Heroes of Socialist Labor and Lenin Prize. They were: Vladimir Nikolaevich Chelomey who was designer of rocket engines and space technology; Lotaryev Vladimir - builder of aircraft engines, Ivan Koval, whose contribution to the domestic tractor and combine diesel-engine development defined stages of formation and development of the country.

The fate of the designer of surface technics began from aviation motors

The time and place of birth of Ivan Koval played a prominent role in his life. Born December 9, 1914 in Hryhorivka that 20 kilometers from Zaporozhye, graduating from seven year school 18-year-old country boy for a year worked on a lathe at Zaporozhye air motor plant. Romance aircraft seized him still at school, and therefore the admission to engine department of an aviation college was his conscious choice.

Excellent student showed capacities to the technics and state committee decided to send him to continue the studies on the engines faculty of Kharkiv aviation institute. This was at that time one of the most dynamic institution to train the future specialists of aircraft construction. As before the diligence in learning and hard work accompanied the life of Ivan. He begun his pre diploma practice in Zaporozhye, in design bureau of his well-known aircraft plant, where aircraft engines were designed.

With the war start Koval together with design office staff is evacuated to the city Omsk. During the war the produced aircraft engines under very harsh conditions, providing the army with fighting vehicles. Koval returned after the war in Zaporozhye. He was already the experienced designer and family man. Taking into account his practical work in Omsk he got his diploma in KAI without formal defense and continued to work in Zaporozhye. However, his understanding of a necessity to help the villages in post war revival made him to take a proposition of the Ministry of Agricultural Machinery to move in Kharkiv for a work at the plant “Hammer and Sickle” in a group of engineers who have experience with the design of internal combustion engines. It was 1950 year. From his 36 years of life 18  were associated with air engines construction.

Successful start of the new business

It was the time of swift mechanization of the agricultural production. However, the constructions of new-designed combines required new powerful, safe and at the same time simple engines, which can work at hard exploitation conditions. All these works became the area of responsibility for the new assistant of chief designer of “Hammer and Sickle” plant. Beginning with tuning and forcing for serial production forty horse power gasoline carburetor engine U-5M, Koval proposed to produce instead light diesel engine, which had clear advantages and was used before on tractors. However, this initiative Koval and his closest colleagues realized on their own, working at the same time with the project of carburetor engine increased power. Koval was convinced: “Diesel must be settle with the combine. Moreover, there was a need to save metal; it is not growing on the trees… Двигун СМД-7Is this right, that the tractor’s engine with a power of 50 h/p weighs one and a half tone?” Only after two years the diesel project was included in the schedule of research works. The previous hard work and enthusiasm of the creators led to creation in a short time of the first in the world combine diesel, which was named SMD (Russian abbreviations for Hammer, Sickle and Diesel). Koval successfully defended his project of combine diesel at the Ministry Technical Council and from August 1952 headed a special design bureau for engines (SDBE). The designers improved the first combine engines, investigated different parameters, made laboratory and field tests. At a logic result, the country got light speedy diesels SMD-7 with unseen economic characteristics. The world level of obtained results became the background of the government decree about dieselization of all combine park of the country. A new self-supporting special design bureau of engines medium power with experimental production workshop was created on the base of SDBE at the “Hammer and Sickle” plant. It was included in the list of enterprises controlled by the Ministry. I.A.Koval was appointed the head MSDBE and chief designer on engines under Ministry of Agricultural Machinery. In 1957, SMD-7 became serial. It was widely used in combine construction. SMD-7 became the basis engine of the first in the country self-propelled combine SK-3. This combine was awarded the highest prize – Gran Prix of the first after-war exhibition of agricultural machines in Brussel.

Unification and universalization of engines

Ivan Koval proposal to create unified diesel engine for tractors and combines, despite clear advantages concerning enterprises’ specialization and cooperation during mass production, was not supported at once by the specialists.  Only after the appropriated decree of top officials of the country, Kharkiv plant was given the task to produce unified experimental engines, named SMD-14. The designers had to solve also the problems of durability and reliability of SMD-7, as well as the new unified engines. Working closely with production workers the researchers processed out the technology of mass production of engines with power 75 h/p and weight about 660 kg. They replaced tractor’s engines D-54 with power 54 h/p and weight 1100 kg. SMD engines differed from the others by low metal content as well as by high unification of all their units and significant economy of fuel and oil. A number of country plants carried out the production of SMD engines. In 1957, number of produced engines reached 500 thousands. This enabled engine SMD take the leader positions in the country and compete on the world markets. In 1964, for the creation of the self-propelled combine harvester SK-4 with diesel SMD-15K the chief designer Ivan Koval was awarded Lenin’s Prize. Before his 50th birthday, he obtained recognition of scientist defending his candidate’s dissertation. Durability of his engines reach 3500 working hours.  

Created for the first time…

High authority of chief designer and significant scientific potential of the DB collective became the basis to move on a new stage of engines development. This stage was dictated by the life itself: there was a need to increase the productivity in agriculture. For this task powerful engines were needed. The chief designer decided to move another, not traditional way. Instead of increasing the volume of engine cylinders, he decided to pump out more air inside them, using so-called gas turbine boost. However, nobody before him used this method for the medium power engines because of numerous difficulties. The chief designer position was formulated very clearly: “If you say – it is impossible to do, than it will be impossible to do the simplest things. Must, need, cannot do not – this is a starting point to proceed. And all the tasks will be solved.” The efforts were concentrated on the development of a turbo compressor. The compressor which could be used in the new engine with turbo boost SMD-60 for the tractor T-150K. Again, the research for the optimal solutions was carried out contrary to the opposition of some specialists and officials.  The most important was the support of the government head O.M. Kosygin, who said during consideration of the improvement T-150: "We must give Kharkiv opportunity to work more on his engine. Try Ivan Andreevich carefully work out each unit, each position so that in the tests to eliminate all defects ... "

This high support, competition with Yaroslavl partners, who received analogue task on their engine design Tractor T-150K, the prospect of industrial production of engines for the new engine plant which was under construction, prompted accelerate searches  and refinement of engines  SMD-60.  All the resources were subordinated this goal: human, financial, technological and so on.

High prestige of Ivan Koval, who received the title of General Designer industry also worked to the success of the work. As a result, the new engine SMD-60 successfully passed state tests, and with the active participation of designers mastered in mass production.

 Testing of the new tractor T-150K with  turbo engine SMD-60 carried out the US showed the world level of basic indicators of the new engine. Engines MD-60 due to its versatility also used in shipbuilding, railway transport and other sectors. They  became the most widespread in the country, and their chief designer in December 1974 successfully defended his doctoral thesis, which summarized his twenty years of creative activity. During dissertation defense there was  repeatedly sounded the word "first". It was first created and implemented high-speed diesel engines for combines, for the first time it was carried out  their unification and universalization, first time it used in turbocharged diesel engines  for diesels of medium power and intermediate cooling after thermo compressor and others.

Global landmarks of Koval’s school

Двигун СМД-31Yet the life is not static. The country again needed engines that are more powerful for the new generation of combine harvesters "Don". This required the creation of a new engine, the engine of  the third generation of power to 220 horsepower, greater efficiency, lower metal content. The new engine SMD-31 incorporates the best previous experience of designers MSDBE. His power capacity increased by 30% and specific weight has been reduced by almost a third. The level of unification was 80% compared with serial engines. For the main characteristics combine "Don" of the motor MD-31 could compete with the leader of the famous family combines "John Deere". Country rightly assessed the contribution of Ivan Koval in the industrialization of agriculture. This contribution integral can be represented as follows. Diesel engines for years of their creation and production under the direction of Ivan Koval increased capacity from 65 to 300 h/p, with  the reduced  fuel consumption up to 20%, increased capacity in liter 3 times, reduced weight up to 5 times, increased engine life 2 times. In connection with the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Kharkiv Engine Plant "Hammer and Sickle" for special merits in development of domestic Motors in 1982, Ivan Koval was awarded the title of Hero of Socialist Labor.

Scientific and engineering school Ivan Koval answered his vision of interaction between science and practice: "Science - a special branch, it requires dedication. We therefore in our work rely on the ongoing support of research institutions. However, this does not deny but support the claim of fruitfulness of the combination science and practice in one person - the designer and scientist.” There are behind his own school - theoretical foundations of new directions diesel engine; contribution to science as Professor, PhD, the presence of the disciples, followers - more than 20 doctors and candidates of sciences. It is also his own working style - the atmosphere of innovation, efficiency, professionalism; recognition of achievements - more than 40 winners of state awards are his associates, members of the creative team of  established by him MSDBE - the main design organization of agricultural industry of the country.


Ivan Koval completed his working experience as General Designer in 1987, in the heyday of his creation - Main specialized design bureau engines medium power. In the following years he continued to communicate with specialists of the enterprise and youth, students, graduate students, transferring them the experience of his life as a man who managed to do so much.

Stories about some interesting facts of I. Koval’s life, communication with members of his family, students, colleagues, experts MSDBE were thoroughly studied by the writer Konstantin Slobodin. Then he published in 1990 a documentary novel "High landing", which materials are used in this study. In our view, this allegorical tale name harmonized well with the author’s vision of legendary Ukrainian, who started his career with solving aircraft problems techniques and then made an outstanding contribution to the engineering ground applications for the benefit of people.

Today's reality is that the engines created by the school of Ivan Koval, are produced and repaired in small batches by individual businesses. His compatriots who know about his activities, including collectives of the universities, which were related to his studies and scientific cooperation, keep good memory of the outstanding designer. Among them - National Technical University "Kharkiv Polytechnical Institute" and National Aerospace University of M.E. Zhukovsky "Kharkiv Aviation Institute" - alma mater of outstanding designer.

M.Y. Ilchenko, Academician NAS of Ukraine (From a speech at academic readings in NTUU "KPI" 27.11. 2014)


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