Aviation of World War II
MiGs in Combat
Alexander Medved, Dmitry Khazanov
On the morning of June 22, in five border military districts, there were 917 MiG-1 and MiG-3 (out of a total of 4226 fighters), then two days later only 234 vehicles of these types remained in service (a total of 1821 fighters survived). True, the report for June 24 did not take into account data on the Odessa Military District, which later became the Southern Front, where about 150 more MiG-3s were preserved.
Probably also 99 brand new vehicles, accepted by military acceptance at factory No. 1, and a few hours after the start of hostilities sent to the Orsha airfield to replenish the Air Force units of the Western Special Military District, also died. Consequently, we can come to a disappointing conclusion: MiGs suffered the heaviest losses among all types of aircraft during the enemy invasion, not only in relative terms, but also in absolute (piece) measurement.
The 9th garden turned out to be the most affected, having on the eve of the war 37 MiG-1 and 196 (according to other sources - exactly 200) MiG-3. The defeated formation ceased to exist on June 25, 1941. Its fate was shared by the division commander, Hero of the Soviet Union, Colonel S.A. Chernykh, who was tried and shot. From the few surviving documents of the division, it follows that on the first day of the war, the pilots of the unit reported the destruction of 85 enemy aircraft in the area of the border towns of Ostrov Mazowiecki, Zambrow, Lomza, Bialystok.
Unfortunately, in this report the successes are exaggerated by about an order of magnitude, which can be seen not only from the German casualty reports, but also from the surviving reports and other documents of the regiments that were part of the 9th Garden. So, in the history of the 129th IAP, there are three (according to other sources - four) victories won on June 22, about the same performance was demonstrated by three other fighter units of the 9th Air Division.
On June 22 and 23, the 129th IAP made 125 sorties (more than half on MiGs) related to covering the border, its airfields and relocation. But as soon as the Soviet fighters landed, they were hit like a plague by enemy bombs. All Soviet border airfields had practically no air defense systems and were well known to enemy crews. Apparently, the last five MiG-3s were destroyed by the enemy at the Baranovichi airfield, where on June 24 they were subjected to another raid.
The basing of aviation near the border (the Tarnovo airfield, for example, separated only 12 km from the border strip), as well as fairly intensive flights during the development of MiGs in May-June 1941, made the task easier for the Germans. In a number of cases, aircraft on the ground came under fire from enemy field artillery, and in a number of cases, from enemy mortars. Broken compressors and the lack of compressed air cylinders did not allow the aircraft to be prepared for departures. Even minor damage and breakdowns of the MiG-3 forced the technical staff to destroy the fighters in order to avoid being captured by the enemy.
Despite the loss of almost all materiel not as a result of air battles, but on the ground, the loss of personnel also turned out to be tangible. Of the 248 flight personnel who were in service on the morning of June 22, a week later, only 170 Red Army soldiers and commanders arrived in Orel to receive new aircraft; at the same time, against most of the names in the list of losses, it was indicated - "lagged behind during relocation."
While the aviators of the 129th IAP spent almost 50 full MiG ammunition loads (about 15,000 rounds of 12.7 mm caliber and 36,000 of 7.62 mm caliber) in the first two days without complaint, in the neighboring 124th IAP weapons on new fighters failed quite often. The most notable incident occurred in early June, when due to a malfunction of the synchronizer, a large-caliber bullet shot off the blade, and the pilot had to make an emergency landing.
The urgent measures taken, as can be seen from the following, did not lead to the elimination of defects in weapons. Junior Lieutenant D.V. Kokorev on June 22, the machine guns fell silent after the first shots at the enemy - at 4.30 in the morning (according to other sources, there was no ammunition on the vehicle). Then the pilot went to ram and cut off the keel of the stabilizer of the enemy aircraft with a propeller, which he identified as a Do 215, after which he safely landed the damaged MiG-3 (in fact, Kokorev shot down a Bf 110 near Zambruv). This was probably not only the first ram on Mikoyan and Gurevich's plane, but also during the war as a whole.
In another regiment of the 9th garden - the 41st IAP - by the evening of June 23, 9 MiG-3s survived, but they also died the next day. By oral order of the commander of the Air Force, General P.F. Zhigarev on the evening of June 27, 12 brand new MiGs were sent to the unit. Since the administration of the 9th Garden had been disbanded by that time, the 41st IAP continued to fight the enemy as part of the 43rd Iad. During the defense of Mogilev, senior lieutenants P.I. Zabelin, D.G. Korobchenko, A.A. Lipilin. P.A. Tikhomirov and I.D. Chulkov, who fought on new fighters.
Together with the 41st IAP, the surviving MiGs of the 162nd IAP participated in these battles. Nine of these machines were accepted in Baranovichi on the second day of the war by the regimental commander, Lieutenant Colonel Reznik. Soon, Mikoyan and Gurevich's fighters did not remain in the 43rd IAD, and the 41st IAP continued its combat activities on the Western Front until July 7, being part of the 23rd Garden. The last June replenishment was 18 MiGs, which arrived in the 47th Garden as part of the 170th IAP.
The relatively successful results of the combat use of the MiG-3 in the first days of the war were noted by many Soviet military leaders. So, on June 30, representatives of the Headquarters of the High Command, Marshals K.E. Voroshilov and B.M. Shaposhnikov was telegraphed to the Council of People's Commissars of the USSR: “We need bomber, attack and fighter aircraft in the largest possible number, which, by the way, is no worse, but better than the German ... There are only 11 MiGs and they work all day, they are formidable weapons for the Germans. Today, June 29, two of our MiGs at a meeting immediately shot down three Messerschmitts ... ".
One of the regiments, staffed by test pilots, also operated on the Western Front. The initiative to create regiments belonged to the Hero of the Soviet Union SP. Suprun. In the spring of 1941, he flew over the MiGs and participated in the retraining of the pilots of the western districts for a new machine. The deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, Suprun, enjoyed the trust of the leader, had repeatedly visited the Kremlin, and his idea to form a fighter regiment from the pilots of the Air Force Research Institute received support. Soon it was possible to create six air regiments and one squadron, staffed by test pilots, of which two regiments (401st and 402nd IAP for special purposes) were equipped with MiG-3 fighters. If the first part, headed by Suprun himself, had only MiGs, then their comrades also had to fight on the Yak-1 under the command of an equally experienced pilot of the Air Force Research Institute - Lieutenant Colonel P.M. Stefanovsky.
On June 26, the 401st IAP ON completed its formation and the next day arrived at the Zubovo airfield, south of Orsha, where it entered the operational subordination of the 23rd Garden and immediately joined the battle. Captain V.I., who took off on June 27 at the head of the group. Khomyakov opened the victory scoring by destroying Hs 126; two MiG-3s were shot down on the first day, and three crashed.
It is known that a total of 67 MiGs of the latest series were allocated to equip the 401st and 402nd IAPs, some of which had five-point armament (a vehicle with factory No. 3413, for example, belonged to S.P. Suprun). Unfortunately, many MiG-3s arrived from the factory with untrimmed and unregulated weapons, which required additional time in the formation of regiments. Part of the fighters flew to the front only in early July as part of the 3rd squadron.
When evaluating the combat work of the 401st and 402nd IAPs, it must be taken into account that they got to the front at a very difficult time, when the Luftwaffe had already managed to gain air supremacy and largely dictate its will. The significant number of destroyed German aircraft indicated in Soviet reports should not be misleading: the vast majority of air battles ended at that time not in our favor.
By the beginning of the sorties of the 401st IAP, an exceptionally difficult situation had developed on the Western Front. MiGs conducted reconnaissance and attacked the enemy on the Minsk-Borisov, Vitebsk-Borisov roads, there were reports of downed Messerschmitts and Dorniers, as well as about non-returning comrades. If some pilots, including Senior Lieutenant A.G. Kubyshkin subsequently returned to the unit, no information was received about the fate of the others. Probably the first to die was Captain Yu.V. Kruglikov, shot down on July 1 by Messers.
And on July 4, the commander of the 401st IAP did not return to the airfield after reconnaissance. Since S.P. Suprun almost constantly participated in battles with the enemy (for example, on the day of his death he made four sorties), the commander of the 23rd garden, Colonel V.E. Nestertsev presented him for the second Golden Star award. By order of Stalin, an investigation into the circumstances of the death of the famous pilot was carried out.
The result was a report compiled by the chief of staff of the 401st IAP Morozov and signed by Nestertsev. “On the return of a group of bombers escorted by MiG-3s,” this document says, “the tenth was Lieutenant Colonel Suprun. Having separated from the group, wishing to conduct reconnaissance along the Borisov-Orsha road, he descended to a low altitude and, apparently, was shot down by fire from the ground. In the Tolochin area, a burnt-out plane and the corpse of a pilot were found. A Golden Star was found in the wreckage.
After the death of Suprun, Lieutenant Colonel K.K. Kokkinaki took command of the 401st IAP. As of July 10, out of 32 MiG-3s that were part of the Air Force of the Western Front, the regiment of test pilots owned 5 vehicles (all in good order). The replenishment that arrived soon was most welcome. By July 22, out of 27 MiG-3s of the Air Force of the Western Front, already 12 (also all in good order) were part of the 401st IAP (after the death of Suprun, the regiment was often called the “Kokkinaki group” in documents).
Although MiGs were specially prepared for combat operations at the Air Force Research Institute, soon serious complaints began to be made about their technical condition. In a report dated July 18, Kokkinaki indicated a list of the most serious defects. According to the reports of engineers and pilots, already after 25-30 hours of engine operation, the visor lantern was heavily splashed with oil due to its intensive ejection from the drainage. There were massive cases of failures of weapons and electrical equipment. The crutch supports were folded twice during the run, which led to the breakdown of the MiG-3 fuselages ...
Despite these problems, in a number of documents of the Air Force of the Western Front, the successful actions of the MiGs were noted. Thus, at the end of July, the units of the 16th and 20th armies in the area of the Solovyovskaya crossing, leaving the encirclement across the Dnieper during the Smolensk battle, were systematically subjected to powerful artillery fire and suffered losses. The called aviation of the "Rokossovsky group" (6 MiG-3s from the 401st IAP and 6 Pe-2s were involved) forced the Germans to cease fire, which made it possible to carry out the crossing of our troops.
On the evening of July 22, 1941, Timoshenko, Bulganin, and Marshal Shaposhnikov, who was at headquarters, reported to the Headquarters of the High Command:
“ The 11 MiG-3 planes that arrived to us with weapons at five points under the command of Comrade Kokkinaki (brother) on July 22 and 23 of this year successfully participated in air battles in the Yartsevo, Dukhovshina area, - this document says. - In this area, for the second time, the He 112 that appeared for the first time was encountered (as Bf109E was mistakenly called at the beginning of the war - ed.), which, as a result of an air battle, was shot down and fell on the territory between our troops and enemy troops ... Pilots, arrived from Kokkinaki, left here, we ask you to give the order to complete this unit up to the regiment and leave it with us.”
The events unfolding on the North-Western Front, the participation of MiGs in the first air battles can be judged to some extent from the political report of the Front Air Force, drawn up on the second day of the war. Noting the high dedication of the aviators of the front, Brigadier Commissar Ryabchiy admitted that “among the flight crew there is a lot of talk about the superiority of enemy aircraft over our SB, I-16 and I-153. There are few new aircraft designs. In addition, they are still insufficiently mastered by the flight crew. Pilots who flew on new types of fighters, before the war, mastered only the technique of piloting, they did not carry out firing flights. Naturally, in the first air battles on these machines, they could not fully use their advantages ...
As shown by the first sorties, the MiG-3 fighter has the following disadvantages: after three hours of flight, its engine requires replacement of candles, and when operating on a dusty airfield, radiator cells become clogged and the engine overheats ... There is an acute lack of oxygen for high-altitude flights. It was impossible to create an oxygen supply for the war due to the lack of oxygen cylinders and the presence of only three charging stations for the 24th air regiment. There are also insufficient supplies of spark plugs for MiG-3 engines. Before the outbreak of hostilities, there were only 700 of them, which is clearly not enough for the uninterrupted use of these aircraft.
Both units had a rich history and glorious traditions, having been formed in the mid-30s, and the 15th IAP had a “pedigree” from the 3rd Corps Fighter Aviation Detachment of the Russian Army, created in June 1914 in the winter of 1939 —1940s this regiment in full force fought against Finland, and the most experienced pilots took part in the famous Spanish and Mongolian events. It seemed that these aviators had no experience, but, as follows from the documents cited above, the development of the MiG-3 was difficult here too, accompanied by accidents and disasters.
It is known that the enemy failed to surprise the 31st IAP at the airfield. On the eve of the war, his units dispersed, only the third squadron (13 MiG-3 and 18 I-16) remained in Kaunas, and the other three (39 MiG-1, MiG-3 and 2 I-16) were relocated to Karmelava (13 km northeast of east of Kaunas). However, after training flights on the eve of the war, almost half of the new materiel (24 fighters) turned out to be faulty, and the planes unsuitable for flight were partially abandoned and partially destroyed by the equipment themselves shortly after the invasion began.
The enemy inflicted the greatest damage on the 15th IAP at the Mitava airfield, where at least 180 aircraft accumulated on the evening of June 22. Among the destroyed were also MiG-3s from the 10th IAP 7th Garden - this unit had just begun to master the aircraft of Mikoyan and Gurevich. It was not possible to establish exactly how many MiGs died then, but in total the 8th Garden lost 75 new fighters at the airfields during the first days of the war, of which 40 belonged to the 15th IAP.
In the documents for June 1941, the names of the same distinguished pilots were often mentioned. In the 31st IAP, this is the regiment commander, Major P.I. Putivko (he was seriously wounded in one of the battles), Captain B.V. Ovechkin, Lieutenant S.S. Smyslov, senior lieutenants A.A. acted most successfully in the 15th IAP. Dmitriev, P.T. Tarasov and A.D. Shemyakov, as well as captains I.A. who fell in unequal battles. Dovzhenko, N. Boyarshinov and Lieutenant I.I. Schultz.
The exceptionally large number of sorties per day made by these heroes in the first days of the war was due to the lack of trained MiG crews. For example, on June 22, in the 15th IAP, only 23 pilots were able to fly into battle on new machines. With the outbreak of war, the retraining of the rest of the flight crew on the MiG-3 in Pribachtika had to be temporarily stopped; there was no one to make up for the retired pilots.
In order to preserve combat experience, the Air Force Command of the North-Western Front decided in early July to assemble the entire flight crew of the 8th Air Division flying the MiG-3 into the 31st IAP. The unit was then based at the Karamyshevo airfield and received the task of covering Pskov from enemy air raids. However, as follows from the documents, the 15th IAP, who fought nearby, also continued to use MiGs.
On the North-Western Front, air regiments equipped with MiG-3s lost their combat effectiveness somewhat later than on the Western Front. On July 12, the 15th IAP was withdrawn for reorganization to the rear, and two days later the same fate befell the 31st IAP. According to the report of the last air unit, during the first period of stay at the front, the regiment carried out 714 sorties, conducted 34 battles and shot down 13 enemy aircraft. Their losses were great: the regiment lost all 63 MiGs available on June 22, plus seven vehicles received as replenishment (their fate was shared by the I-16s saved before the war and partially mothballed). During the specified time, 13 pilots died in battle, and 11 did not return from their missions. However, when building a unit in Moscow, where the 31st IAP arrived for new MiG-3s, an even more serious loss of personnel was revealed: out of 266 aviators, only 181 remained in service by July 17.
Now let's turn to the analysis of the situation on the southern flank of the Soviet-German front. The squadrons of the 5th German Air Corps, operating against the Air Force of the Kiev Special Military District, met fierce resistance from the first hours of the invasion and suffered significant losses compared to other formations of the "invasion fleets". According to updated German data, on June 22, only the KG 51 squadron lost 15 Junkers over Soviet territory, and 52 crew members died or went missing. At least three bombers belonging to the indicated German formation were shot down in the Lvov region, which corresponds to the report of the air defense headquarters and the operational reports of our 15th garden operating here. From the last document it follows that MiGs from the 23rd and 28th IAP, which were part of the division, won the first victories, destroying three Ju 88s.
Located at the Adamy airfield (80 km north-east of Lvov), the 23rd IAP raised 10 MiG-3s into the air on an air raid signal, and 29 serviceable new fighters remained in readiness No. 2. They suffered during the next seven raids by German aircraft, during which 13 aircraft failed. By the evening of June 22, at the disposal of the regimental commander, Colonel A.I. Sidorenko, the number of serviceable MiG-3s was reduced to 19. Despite the losses, part of the day carried out 124 sorties and after 12 group battles announced three victories.
The commander of the 28th IAP, Lieutenant Colonel Cherkasov, managed to raise duty units from the airfield Chunev (Lvov air hub) even before the first enemy raid. In the future, one group was aimed at intercepting enemy bombers at Rava-Russkaya, and the other covered Lvov. In total, the aviators of the unit completed 114 sorties by the evening and reported four downed enemies. As follows from the documents, "individual pilots and aircraft made from 8 to 10 sorties that day." The greatest damage to the unit was caused by its own anti-aircraft artillery, which caused the death of three MiGs. The number of serviceable new fighters in the regiment also dropped to 19 by the end of the day.
A feature of the use of MiGs in the 15th Garden can be considered the fact that the BK underwing machine guns removed before the war were installed back on the fourth day of fighting. According to the pilots and commanders, this event significantly increased the firepower of the MiG-3. Moreover, the situation forced the command to direct most sorties not to fight enemy aircraft, but to attack enemy ground forces.
Other tasks of the MiG crews were reconnaissance of the enemy grouping, covering the areas of concentration and unloading of their troops, and repelling reports on home airfields. By the end of June 1941, the pilots of the 23rd and 28th IAP had 35 German aircraft and one gyroplane (!) (Most of the victories went to MiGs). As of July 1, only 19 new fighters were listed as operational in both air regiments of the air division.
MiG pilots were also named among the most distinguished aviators of the Air Force of the South-Western Front in the first days of the war. The combat account of the 28th IAP and, probably, the entire 15th garden was opened by Lieutenant N.B. Timokhin, who shot down a Bf 109F near Lvov. Two victories were scored by his fellow soldier Second Lieutenant A.M. Murashko, who received two wounds in the first days of the war, but did not leave the ranks. On June 24, Senior Lieutenant Gladyshev from the 23rd IAP shot down a bomber near the Zubov airfield (indicated as Not 111, but in reality Ju 88), but he himself died in this battle. And Lieutenant G.F. Monastyrsky (28th IAP), during a reconnaissance flight on June 25, was attacked by three Messerschmitts, but managed to safely return to his airfield, declaring the destruction of two enemies!
Noting the good flight training of many pilots of the 15th garden and their commander, General A.A. Demidov, the command expressed claims: almost all air battles were fought by our fighters in a defensive manner. Even less successfully used the MiG-3 aviators of the 149th IAP 64th garden. Some were fully equipped with new fighters, but there was not enough time to master them - the war caught the vast majority of pilots in the stage of retraining for new aircraft. In addition, already on the first day of the war, 21 MiGs burned down at the Chernivtsi airfield as a result of several raids by German aircraft.
Nevertheless, German sources recorded one of the victories, which on June 22 was won by "Russian high-speed long-nosed fighters" (with a high probability belonging to the 149th IAP). After a raid on airfields near Stanisław, six Ju 88s from 9/KG 51 turned around and retreated towards the border. One of the vehicles lost its left engine, and the bomber fell behind the unit. For the emerging link of fighters with red stars, the meeting with a single "Junkers" probably turned out to be unexpected - the Soviet pilots did not immediately go on the attack.
The German crew was not lucky, because there was no chance to hide in the clouds, and soon the gunner and radio operator opened fire from machine guns. Flames appeared from the engine of one of the attacking fighters, but the other two, with successive attacks, set fire to the Ju 88, which fell near the town of Stryi (60 km south of Lvov). Four Germans left the vehicle with parachutes. The pilot and navigator landed at the location of the Soviet troops, and their comrades did not learn anything about their fate, and the radio operator and gunner subsequently returned to their own - they were discovered by patrols of the 52nd German Army Corps.
On the Southern Front, the actions of pilots on the MiG-3 had the strongest influence on the course of the struggle for air supremacy. In the south of Ukraine, in Moldavia and Bessarabia, our grouping was no less powerful than in other sectors of the Soviet-German front, and the balance of forces with the 4th German air corps opposing it turned out to be more advantageous for the Soviet side. The presence of Romanian aviation on the southern flank of the Eastern Front could not significantly change the situation. After all, the Romanians, with a sufficiently high level of training, did not have combat experience, and many of their aircraft were obsolete.
The German-Romanian units did not have the ability to exert an intensive influence on the defense of the Soviet troops and on airfields, so the events in the south of the Soviet-German front did not develop as rapidly as in other directions. Nevertheless, here, too, the morning of June 22 began with an attempt by the enemy to destroy as many Soviet aircraft as possible on the ground. First of all, regiments armed with new types of vehicles were hit.
Already at 5.15, the aviators of the 55th IAP had to repel a raid on the Balti airfield by twenty He 111s, covered by eighteen Bf 109s.
Thanks to the timely notification of VNOS posts about the approach of the enemy, the regiment commander, Major V.P. Ivanov managed to lift into the air a duty group of eight MiG-3s. Nevertheless, three new fighters burned on the ground, the fire also engulfed a small warehouse of gasoline.
In the first days, the losses of the MiG-3 (including broken vehicles) in the 4th and 55th IAP were not as great as in other border units. Of the 122 new fighters (115 vehicles according to regimental documents) adopted by the 20th Air Division before the war, 82 MiGs were preserved on June 26 (of which 70 were serviceable), on which 53 pilots could enter the battle.
The greatest success in the June battles fell to the share of the 4th IAP, which operated on the planes of Mikoyan and Gurevich. Having mastered the MiG-3, the commander of the unit, Major V.N. Orlov opened the score of victories: the Blenheim, shot down by him at 7.15, with Romanian markings and tail number 38, fell on fire near the Chisinau airfield. All three crew members, including the pilot, Captain Vasilescu, were killed. Around noon on June 23, co-mask captain A.G. Karmanov shot down two Bf 109s in a group battle with the Messerschmitts - both pilots used parachutes and were taken prisoner.
Unfortunately, the first battles of MiGs on the Southern Front were also overshadowed by unfortunate losses in personnel and aircraft. The head of the political propaganda department of the 20th garden, regimental commissar Melyiakov, noted numerous cases of MiG-3 weapon failures caused by broken synchronizer levers, rapid overheating of the ShKAS machine gun barrels and insufficient strength of the BS machine gun rods. And the commander of the 20th garden, General A.S. Osipenko drew attention to tactical shortcomings. Analyzing the work of the units during the first week of the war, he pointed out the lack of camouflage, the formal setting of combat missions, the poor organization of the gathering of groups, especially when the troops returned to their airfield ...
Due to the hasty preparation before the war, group flying was not worked out, as a result, pilots on new fighters interacted poorly in battle. None of the fellow soldiers covered Karmanov, who went on the attack, and the commander of the 9th detachment of the JG 77 squadron, Lieutenant K. Lasse shot down the MiG-3 from behind with an unexpected burst. The brave Soviet pilot, who had won a double victory a few hours before, was posthumously awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.
When reading the documents of the 146th IAP 21st Garden, which was part of the Air Force of the Odessa Military District, two features can be traced. Firstly, among the victories of the unit, the Heinkels, Junkers, Messerschmitts, which soon became familiar, were indicated, but the Hurricanes, Savoys and PZL. This was due to the fact that the Romanian aviation had an extremely "motley" materiel. So, on the morning of June 25, the operational report noted the destruction of a Breguet 19 aircraft by fire from the MiG-3 west of Falesti, scattering leaflets (probably, the Romanians actually lost the IAR-39 reconnaissance aircraft then).
Secondly, most of the victories were recorded for a group of pilots. But Senior Lieutenant K.P. Oborin did not share the laurels of success with anyone on the night of June 25th. Taking off with him from the Tarutino airfield, located near Odessa, two more crews could not detect a couple of enemy bombers. The deputy commander of the 146th regiment, Oborin, at 3.20 in the morning attacked He 111, and when the weapon fell silent, hit the MiG propeller on the Heinkel plane. Despite damage to the propeller and spinner, many holes in the fuselage from the fire of an enemy gunner, Oborin safely landed the fighter at his airfield at 3.47, using the backlight from the headlights of a truck. The name of the pilot who, for the first time in the history of the Great Patriotic War, made a night ramming, went down in history. K.P. Oborin was presented with a government award, but he did not have time to receive it, because on August 18 of the same year he died of his wounds.
Literally from the first days of the war, the MiG-3 began to be used in various roles, primarily fighter-bombers. They were the only ones among the new type of fighters that received bomb racks and improved wiring for the drop system in the pre-war period. Two or three weeks after the start of the war, the MiG-3 pilots managed to achieve some success in attacking enemy troops and equipment, as well as in defeating its airfields. True, a considerable price had to be paid for success.
So, on July 7, 1941, a group of Soviet high-speed fighters with bombs under their wings managed to disable several Ju 87s (according to our pilots, 18 enemy aircraft were destroyed and damaged and three were shot down over the airfield) from I / StG 2 at the airfield Lepel (north-west of Orsha, not far from the pre-war aviation training center ZapOVO. The Germans also suffered losses among ground support personnel. However, enemy opposition turned out to be strong and effective, as a result of which 9 MiG-3s (mainly from the 401st IAP) were shot down The main reason for the heavy losses was that our aviators had no experience in such actions and did not evade anti-aircraft fire.
The crews of the Soviet Air Force quickly accumulated the necessary experience. In the documents of the 146th IAP, we managed to find a description of the tactics of a successfully completed raid. On the morning of July 14, nine MiG-3 fighters, each of which had two FAB-50 bombs under its wing, approached the Balti airfield, occupied by units of the 4th German air corps, at extremely low altitude.
The raid was designed for surprise. Many pilots knew this base well from pre-war times, and the leader of the group thoroughly studied the approaches to the airfield. At his command, the followers made a small hill, after which bombs rained down on the heads of the unsuspecting Germans, flames broke out among the buildings.
Our pilots did not have the opportunity to carefully observe the results of the Nateta. because after the second approach at low level they retired to the front line. The rapid departure of the MiGs allowed them to avoid losses. It was believed that 12 German aircraft were burned. Undoubtedly, the Luftwaffe in this direction was seriously affected and had to noticeably reduce activity.
On the Northern Front, the use of MiGs with bombs under the wings began in early July. The pioneer was St. Lieutenant P.T. Tarasov from the 15th IAP, who took off with two FAB-50s. However, only well-trained pilots could fly an overloaded fighter. The lack of appropriate sights on the MiG-3 led to very low bombing accuracy. Then the pilots began to strike from a dive, but, as the aviators of the 15th and 124th IAP noted, when the MiGs were withdrawn, they quickly lost speed, becoming clumsy.
Headquarters of the Air Force at various levels made a generalization of the accumulated combat experience, identified the advantages and disadvantages of the new materiel. With regard to MiGs, the following weaknesses were noted: short range, too high landing speed, frequent failures of underwing machine guns (on the Western Front they were removed from MiGs everywhere in early August), numerous cases of propeller spinning, synchronizer failures and, as a result, shooting through the blades of large-caliber bullets. A lot of complaints were caused by the insufficient tightness of the pneumatic system, which prevented the reloading of weapons in battle. Due to too little pressure in the pneumatic system, the landing gear sometimes did not lock, and the crutch wheel was not released at all. Wheel tires on field airfields quickly fell into disrepair and required replacement.
At that time, MiG pilots almost always flew with open cockpit lights, although this led to a noticeable decrease in flight speed. The pilots explained the need for flying with an open canopy not only by the imperfection of the emergency drop mechanism, but also by the poor forward viewing conditions through the long engine hood and the canopy visor splashed with oil. The view back was limited by a high fairing. In addition, it was very hot in the MiG-3 cockpit in summer.
Some claims against the aircraft turned out to be new, not previously identified. It turned out, for example, that the implementation of flights from dusty airfields led to the failure of the engine after 25-30 hours due to a decrease in the efficiency of radiators and increased wear of the cylinder-piston group. The lack of interchangeability of landing gear shields, water radiator tunnels, and wing consoles on wartime production vehicles seriously hampered repairs. This was especially true of fighters delivered from forced landings.
Shortcomings in the tactical training of pilots and commanders also had a very negative effect on the effectiveness of the use of MiGs. For example, on the Southwestern Front, after a bombing attack on the Zubov airfield, where the 23rd and 28th IAP were based in early July, German Bf 110 reconnaissance fighters successfully repulsed the attacks of the MiGs that had taken off, entering into a deep turn, and then exited the battle by diving to the ground with the subsequent transition to strafing flight. The tactics of the "defensive circle" turned out to be unfamiliar to our aviators.
In the reports of the Air Force of the front, a curious document was preserved, in which the engineer of the 15th armament garden, Major Baghdasaryan, assessed the armament of the MiGs. The main attention was paid to the shortcomings: defects in machine gun mounts, especially large-caliber ones (lateral and vertical play in the BS trunnions, quick pulling out of the underwing ammo reload cables), and the completely unsatisfactory quality of the collimator sights (dark glass, moreover, often splashed with oil). But the most interesting, in our opinion, is Bagdasaryan's conclusion about the need to leave underwing machine guns, even to the detriment of the speed and maneuverability of the fighter: “The five-point armament of the MiG-3 is preferable. On it, the pilots fight more confidently and boldly, considering large-caliber machine guns as the main weapon, and ShKASs as secondary ... You need a good optical sight, and if you don’t have one, you need to have at least an additional ring sight.”
The end of August 1941 on the Leningrad front was marked by a series of raids by our fighters on enemy airfields south of Leningrad (Lisino, Zarudinye, Spasskaya Polist, etc.). The main striking force was the LaGG-3 and MiG-3 fighters, both armed with PCs and bombs, and without them. "Light" fighters, as it were, complemented the actions of "attack aircraft" and "bombers". For example, on August 25, six MiG-3s from the 15th IAP appeared over Lisino after two raids by pilots of the 46th IAP, and, according to their reports, burned four Messerschmitts in addition to the 14 previously destroyed.
In the evening of the same day, a German air base in the area of Spasskaya Polisti was subjected to a powerful attack. Based on the reports of the pilots, the headquarters of the 8th garden considered 35-40 German aircraft hit on the ground, 14 - shot down on takeoff, 6 - destroyed in air combat. In addition, the fire engulfed four fuel tanks. Their losses amounted to 8 fighters. According to German data, at least 6-8 fighters converted into attack aircraft failed, and one burned out as a result of a direct bomb hit.