Aviation of World War II
The Pe-2 from 40th Guards BAP of Black sea Fleet, Spring 1942.
During the years of the Great Patriotic War, the Pe-2 aircraft found itself used in more applications than just the standard bomber models, and saw widespread use as a fighter, a trainer, and a reconnaissance aircraft as well. Long-range fighters fought over Moscow, and provided reliable air cover for the convoys of their allies as their ships headed towards the northern ports of the USSR. «Peshki» reconnaissance aircraft detected changes in the German forces' dispositions and defenses, and kept up a constant pressure on their airfields and railway links . Thousands of young airmen received their education in bombers while flying in the Pe-2 trainers. As the war dragged on, the design bureau kept up a constant effort in improving the flight technical and combat qualities of the Pe-2 aircraft. The most significant results came in 1944 with the creation of the Pe-2I, the concept of which was based in large measure on the ideas used in the well-known British Mosquito bomber. The Pe-2I, as well as the developed version of the aircraft, the Pe-2M, demonstrated significantly improved flying characteristics which completely satisfied the requirements during the concluding period of the war.
As a whole, the Pe-2 was completely successful as a multipurpose aircraft. It was able to should a tremendous load on it wings during four years of war.
In total 11202 bombers Pe-2 were built during 1941-1945.
* - Decrease flight dimensions is caused by amplification of defensive arms.
Experienced Pe-2 with the "FZ" turret - front-line mission
A separate area of work was the improvement of the defensive systems of the "pawn". Even before the start of the war, the leadership of the Air Force demanded from the chief designer V.M. Petlyakov to strengthen the small arms of the Pe-2 aircraft, which initially consisted of four ShKAS machine guns. In the spring of 1941, this requirement was partially satisfied: instead of the right bow ShKAS, a large-caliber BK machine gun appeared on production vehicles, and a second machine gun of the same type was mounted on a hatch mount. In July-August 1941, the armament of serial Pe-2s was supplemented by an onboard ShKAS machine gun from a magazine-fed gunner-radio operator. It could be quickly thrown from the left pivot installation to the right one, and physically strong shooters sometimes fired from it in the upper hemisphere, resting the machine gun on the edge of the astro-hatch. The weak point of the "pawn" of the early series, as already noted, was the navigator's turret TSS-1 with a ShKAS machine gun. Assessing the power of the hatch machine gun, the German fighters stopped attacking the Pe-2 from below. Now they preferred to attack from behind from above at increased speed with an exit from the attack at a distance of 200-250 m. In this case, the fire of the navigational machine gun did not pose a serious danger, which cannot be said about the shells of German cannons. Since the autumn of 1941, OKB-22 has repeatedly tested rifle installations designed to enhance the fire of the "pawn" in the upper rear hemisphere. So, on plane no. 9/9, a pair of ShKAS machine guns mounted under a hemispherical screen in the astro-hatch of the gunner-radio operator was tested. In September 1941, for the first time, an attempt was made to install a BT machine gun at the navigator - the design was called the MV-7 and was a limitedly mobile turret under a rotating turret screen. Later, the experiments were transferred to the Pe-3 fighter in order to involve plant No. 39. The problem of creating an upper shooting installation that satisfies the navigators turned out to be so difficult that it took more than six months to solve it. In 1942, the FT pivot mount, and later the VUB-1 turret, appeared on production vehicles. Equipped with a Berezin heavy machine gun, both designs were not without flaws.
In May 1943, aircraft no. 7/187, equipped with a new upper gun mount "FZ" and an enlarged cockpit canopy. Installation "FZ" ("front-line task") was a rotating turret with a UBT machine gun mounted on a tubular traverse. The power of the machine gun is store-loaded (cartridges in tapes are stacked in magazine boxes rigidly attached to the machine gun). Two stores had a capacity of 50 rounds, and the third - 90 rounds. Thanks to the magazine feed, the maneuverability of the installation improved (although at the same time there were difficulties with reloading: it took about 30 seconds to change the magazine).
After being checked at the Air Force Research Institute, aircraft No. 7/187 was handed over for continued testing at the NIP AV (scientific test site for aviation weapons), where a number of defects in the FZ installation were discovered, which required the return of the aircraft to the manufacturer. In November 1943, machine no. 3/198 with a new cockpit canopy and "FZ" installation. This time, the innovations received the unconditional support of the military and were recommended for production.
However, the Pe-2 with the "FZ" installation is a front-line mission, and never became serial. Everyone, it would seem, understood that the introduction of the Federal Law would provide a radical increase in the aircraft's defense capability, improve the working conditions of the pilot and navigator, and increase crew safety. But things didn't move. The People's Commissariat of the Aviation Industry did not give permission for the installation of the installation (for fear of disruption of planned targets), factory specialists did not dare to repeat the experience with the unauthorized introduction of "FT" - a front-line requirement, and the Air Force leadership somehow very modestly insisted on its own.