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Evolution of the Pe-2
For the novelty of Soviet military equipment - the Pe-2 dive bomber (serial production actually started only at the beginning of 1941) - the war began on its first day. On the afternoon of June 22, 17 Pe-2s from the 5th bomber aviation regiment destroyed the Galatsky bridge across the river Prut. There were very few of these machines at the front; by the beginning of the war, the Air Force received only 458 aircraft of this type, and some of them had not yet entered the regiments. As of June 22, there were only 42 Pe-2s in the border military districts.
The higher was their value in the difficult conditions of the first months of the war. This fast and maneuverable aircraft could operate quite effectively during the day even without fighter cover. So, on October 5, the crew of Senior Lieutenant Gorelikhin took the fight with nine Messerschmitts and shot down three of them.
The practice of war quickly tested the design solutions embedded in the aircraft. The experience obtained by blood accelerated the process of improving the machine many times over.
The weapons were the first to be revised. Four ShKAS machine guns did not provide a proper rebuff to the German fighters that dominated the sky, and there were not enough of their own fighters to cover the bombers. In addition, complaints began to come from the parts about jamming of weapons in the ventral mount. Urgently had to change the tape feed unit. And on the 13th Pe-2 series, a cardinal decision was made - the right front ShKAS was replaced with a 12.7 mm caliber machine gun BK. The same was done with the ventral installation. This immediately increased the aircraft's firepower. The UB was a very effective weapon with a large bullet weight and high exit velocity, practically on par with the German MG FF air gun. In the 2nd distant reconnaissance regiment in October 1941, they tried another way to strengthen defensive weapons. On all Pe-2 regiments, four RS-82 rockets were placed under the wings "back to front". The missiles were fired one at a time or in a volley down and back, hitting the attacking fighters with shrapnel. From the 22nd series, improved M-105RA engines began to be installed on the aircraft (instead of the previous M-105R).
In parallel with the Pe-2, since the autumn of 1941, they began to produce its fighter version of the Pe-3bis, the story of which, however, is beyond the scope of our article, as well as the conversion of the Pe-2 for use as fighters.
In the course of mass production, the appearance of the Pe-2 also changed. The fuselage nose glass area gradually decreased, small rectangular windows in the tail section disappeared, and the tail cowl became shorter. At the end of 1941 there were interruptions in the metal, which also affected the Pe-2 - after all, it was all-metal. In response, in Kazan, where the Moscow plant No. 22 was evacuated and where there were two more plants, No. 124 and No. 125, which also built the Pe-2, they designed and put into production a wooden tail section. They were equipped with part of the machines produced in 1941-42.
Since January 1942, when V.M. Petlyakov, further improvement of the machine was led by A.M. Isakson, and then A.I. Putilov. Continuing to improve the defense capability of the bomber, in the 83rd series the ShKAS was replaced by the navigator with a large-caliber UBT. The installation remained pivot. Similar alterations were carried out before in various parts. Now, the new standard installation was retroactively installed on machines of an earlier production, for which special conversion kits were made, which were mounted at the front both by factory brigades and by mechanics and gunsmiths of regiments.
Developed a retractable ski landing gear. Moreover, unlike the similar version of the Il-2 aircraft, the Pe-2 with skis had a conventional gondola for a wheeled chassis, on which additional panels were put on screws to ensure the closure of the retracted ski. However, this device is not widely used.
On the 105th series, the RPK-2 radio semi-compass (with an antenna in a drop-shaped fairing) was replaced with a more modern RPK-10 (with an antenna in the form of a ring). However, on vehicles manufactured in late 1941 - early 1942, the RPK-2 was installed only on the reconnaissance version.
From the 110th series in June 1942, the navigator's pivot installation was replaced by a shielded turret - a tower (of the FZ type). This variant is often called Pe-2FT in foreign and in our literature, although there is no such designation in official documents - just "Pe-2 series ..." At the same time, armor protection was strengthened and a portable ShKAS machine gun was introduced at the shooter. It could be thrown from side to side in about 30 seconds. He fired through small windows on the sides of the cockpit of the gunner-radio operator. There are cases when physically strong shooters fired from it, "from the hands" through the upper hatch of their cabin, covered from the oncoming flow by a small folding visor. The electrical and hydraulic systems, the petrol system, etc. were also changed.
In 1943, the management of the former Petlyakov Design Bureau passed into the hands of V.M. Myasishchev, later a well-known Soviet aircraft designer, creator of strategic bombers. He was faced with the task of modernizing the Pe-2 in relation to the new conditions at the front.
The enemy did not stand still. Back in the spring of 1942, the first Messerschmitt Bf109F fighters appeared on the Soviet-German front. In the altitude range of 3000-4000 m, they surpassed the Pe-2 in speed by about 50 km / h (however, this superiority disappeared above). And at the end of 1942, the Bf109G appeared, with stronger weapons and armor. In 1943, the Focke-Wulf FW190A fighters, which had previously operated only in Western Europe, also ended up on the Soviet-German front. It was necessary to bring the characteristics of the Pe-2 in line with the new opponents. At the same time, it should be taken into account that the maximum speed and other characteristics of the Pe-2 produced in 1942 even worsened somewhat compared to pre-war aircraft. Here, not only additional armor and reinforced weapons (which somewhat increased the weight of the vehicle) played a role, but also the deterioration in the quality of assembly at factories. The booming production facilities in the east of the country were mostly run by inexperienced women, teenagers who, despite their best efforts, lacked the dexterity of regular workers. Poor sealing of aircraft, poor fitting of skin sheets, etc. were noted.
BAP - Bombardirovochnyy aviapolk - Bomber Aviation Regiment
BBAP - Blizhne Bombardirovochnyy aviapolk - Middle Bomber Aviation Regiment
A sharp improvement in the flight characteristics of the aircraft could only give an increase in thrust. On the 179th series, the M-105RA engines were replaced by the forced M-105PF with a take-off power of 1210 hp. This step was partly forced. The M-105R was removed from production in order to increase the production of the M-105P, which was needed primarily for fighters (it was installed on the Yak-1, Yak-7 and LaGG-3). A feature of this engine was that it was optimized for low and medium flight altitudes (by adjusting the boost). Therefore, after the installation of new motors, the maximum flight speed increased at altitudes up to 4000 m, and higher, on the contrary, fell. The high-altitude characteristics of the Pe-2 also deteriorated somewhat. The situation was aggravated by the fact that from the 22nd series the aircraft were equipped with VISH-61B propellers, matched to the modes of the M-105RA engine. After changing the motors, the propellers remained the same, which did not allow full use of the capabilities of the M-105PF. The installation of the M-105PF motors, however, can be considered progressive, because. a gain was achieved in the most important altitude range for the Soviet-German front up to 4000 m. Near the ground, the maximum speed increased by about 25 km / h.
M-105PF motors were installed in aviation regiments and on early series machines. Since the hoods of the RA and PF motors were not interchangeable (the PF motor gearbox shaft was located 60 mm higher), the old hoods were cut and new self-made sections were riveted to them.
A new major step in the improvement of the bomber was made on the 205th series in 1944. A number of measures were taken to improve the aerodynamics of the aircraft. They put fairings on the dive flaps, improved the airtightness of the aircraft, modernized the turret at the navigator (the external distinguishing feature of the new turret was one large "ear" of the aerodynamic compensator instead of two smaller ones), changed the lower cover of the engine hood, installed new suction pipes, moved forward, to the canopy visor , the radio antenna mast along with the pitot tube. Starting with the 205 series, 100 aircraft were equipped with individual jet exhaust pipes instead of the earlier manifolds. This gave an additional speed boost.
A little later, on the 211th series, the beams of external bomb racks, previously located in teardrop-shaped protrusions under the wing, were hidden inside, and VISH-61P screws were also installed. On the whole, the 1944 aircraft, although they became heavier (their normal flight weight was about 8000 kg compared to the previously almost constant figure of about 7700 kg), but their maximum speeds at different altitudes increased compared to the 1943 aircraft. 5-30 km/h.
In 1943, the Pe-2 variant was designed with star-shaped air-cooled engines M-82FN with a power of 1540 hp. The high power of the propeller-driven installation made it possible to raise the maximum speed and the ceiling of the machine, but not by much. Therefore, in the spring of 1944, a relatively small series of these aircraft (135 pieces) was produced, after which they again completely returned to the M-105PF. Pe-2s with M-82FN engines in small batches (3-5 vehicles each) at the end of spring and summer of 1944 ended up in various units, mainly reconnaissance ones. They had, for example, the 99th and 39th separate reconnaissance regiments. The power plant was insufficiently finished, which, apparently, served as an additional reason for ending the production of aircraft with the M-82FN.
Minor improvements to the Pe-2 continued. On the 265th series, it was possible to dramatically increase the range of radio communication by installing a new radio station. On the 275th series, the defense of the Pe-2 was strengthened from the tail, placing a DAG-10 grenade launcher with 10 AG-2 grenades. Grenades were placed in the cockpit of the gunner-radio operator in two cassettes of five pieces. A grenade ejected from an aircraft was first slowed down by a small parachute, and then after 3-5 seconds it exploded in the path of the pursuing fighter. The installation of a grenade launcher made it possible for the shooter to "smoke out" the Germans from their favorite position when attacking the Pe-2 - from below-behind. On June 30, 1944, Pe-2s of the 5th bomber air division, when attacking the Borisovo airfield, used them to repel an attack by FW190A fighters. With grenades and machine-gun fire, the shooters hit five Focke-Wulfs. In units, grenade launchers were put on dive bombers before, in particular, in the 9th separate bomber regiment they were mounted back in December 1941. In the 39th reconnaissance regiment, they quite successfully tried to use the AG-2 on vehicles on the roads, dropping grenades from a strafing flight.
From the 301st series, the upper hatch of the gunner-radio operator was changed. From the 354th series, individual exhaust pipes began to be installed on parts of the machines, and from the 359th series, all aircraft were equipped with them. Sights, radio and oxygen equipment, instruments were changed, minor aerodynamic improvements were made. For example, from the 410th series (this is already the release of 1945), they closed the nests for installing the ShKAS flip machine gun with lids, and from the 411th they tightened the fairing slots with tapes, etc.; Numerous changes were constantly made to the oil and fuel systems. For example, from the 249th series they began to dilute the oil with gasoline in winter, and from the 382nd they installed a winter self-starting system.
By 1945, due to additional equipment, the normal flight weight had already increased to about 8400 kg, but thanks to improved aerodynamics with the previous engines, the performance not only did not fall, but, on the contrary, increased.
The last production variants of the Pe-2 were the Pe-2I and Pe-2K modifications. Pe-2I was a very radical revision of the original design. Firstly, it was designed for the new powerful M-107A engines, which developed 1650 hp. at an altitude of 1800 m. The engine nacelles were lengthened. Secondly, the wing received a new profile, more suitable for high angles of attack and moved to a "clean" middle position. Thirdly, the fuselage was expanded to accommodate a new type of bombs in the bomb bay - shorter and thicker. And the bomb load itself increased to 3 tons (against 1 ton earlier), of which 1000 kg were located inside the aircraft. The crew now consisted of two people. The aircraft was defended by one UBT at the navigator and another with remote control in the tail. Both the chassis and the equipment of the machine have changed. So, in many ways, the Pe-2I was a new aircraft designed under the direction of V.M. Myasisheva.
This machine passed state tests in May - June 1944 and was accepted for mass production. The transitional step to the production of the Pe-2I was the Pe-2K, which was a combination of the wing, engine nacelles and chassis of the Pe-2I with other elements of the conventional Pe-2, including the M-105PF engines. Pe-2K and Pe-2I were released in 1945 in a small series. The M-107A motors were at first capricious and unreliable, so they were replaced by the M-105PF in operation.
In addition to its main function, the Pe-2 was also the main reconnaissance aircraft of the Soviet Air Force. As a scout, it was possible to use a serial bomber, which had a regular AFA-B camera, which was often done. But in parallel with the bombers, a special reconnaissance version was also built, called Pe-2R or "Pe-2-scout". Reconnaissance aircraft were made on the basis of the Pe-2 of different series and, as a result, differed from each other, bearing the characteristic features of their series, but also had common features. The reconnaissance aircraft did not have brake bars (sometimes they were also removed from the bombers, if dive bombing was not envisaged). Much more sophisticated was their photographic equipment. In addition to the standard AFA-B, a planned AFA-1 and AFA-27T1 camera was installed for perspective shooting. Additionally, for filming at night, it was possible to install NAFA-19 (instead of AFA-B). In units, they tried to install other combinations of equipment, including AFA-ZS or American aerial cameras obtained under Lend-Lease, as well as swinging installations.
In the 72nd Separate Reconnaissance Regiment, a special Pe-2 was prepared for filming Berlin for the press with a place for a fourth crew member and four additional vehicles. Pictures taken from it on April 7 by V.A. Temin, bypassed newspapers around the world.
Aircraft reconnaissance version had a device for hanging additional tanks. Two drop-shaped tanks contained 290 liters each. gasoline, which made it possible to increase the flight range by another 500 km. There were also differences in instrumentation. In particular, the reconnaissance aircraft were equipped with an AK-1 automatic heading machine with automatic rudder control, which, when shooting, maintained a given course with an accuracy of 1-2 °.
To speed up the process of retraining pilots for the Pe-2 aircraft in 1943, its training version (UPe-2 or Pe-2UT) with dual control was created. The upper turret on it was removed, and in place of the fuselage gas tank No. 2, the instructor's cabin with its own lantern was placed with a hump. Sitting above the trainee, the instructor had a good view. The UPe-2 partially retained its combat capabilities: it retained the bow UBK. It was possible to take 600 kg of bombs inside or on an external sling. The motors were M-105PF, screws VISH-61B. In September 1943, this machine passed state tests and then was built in a large series.
In addition, there were many experimental variants of the Pe-2 that remained in the drawings or one or two prototypes, but in order to simply list them, another article of the same length would be required.
Pe-2, as the main aircraft of the Soviet bomber aviation in the Great Patriotic War, played an outstanding role in achieving victory. It was used as a bomber, reconnaissance, fighter, was used on all fronts and in naval aviation of all fleets. In the hands of Soviet pilots, the Pe-2 fully revealed the capabilities inherent in it by the designers. Speed, maneuverability, powerful armament plus strength, reliability and survivability were its hallmarks. The Pe-2 was popular with pilots, who often preferred this aircraft to foreign ones. From the first to the last day of the Great Patriotic War, "Pawn" served with honor and truth.