Quite unexpectedly, on 31 December 1968, the Soviet-made TU-144 made its maiden flight. It beat the much-publicized Anglo-French Concorde as the world’s first supersonic passenger jetliner to fly, by slightly more than 2 months.
The western press nicknamed it “Concordski” as it closely resembled the Concorde. Powered by 4 gigantic turbojets, it could fly faster than its rival. Two retractable front canards were added later for improving low speed handling.
It was rumored that the Soviets were snooping on the Concorde’s design in the earlier years, and Anglo-French counter-espionage agents deliberately let loose a lot of bad design data for the Soviets to pick up and put into the TU-144. Perhaps some of that might be true, possibly contributing to the infamous crash at the 1973 Paris Air Show.