Aviation of World War II

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Military Trophies of the Soviet Union

D.A. Sobolev, D.B. Khazanov

In late June-early July 1945 in accordance with the Yalta agreements, the line of demarcation dividing Germany into occupation zones was changed. The Anglo-American forces withdrew to the West and Thuringia. Saxony, and a number of other regions were transferred to the Soviet zone of occupation. As a result, hundreds of new aviation enterprises and organizations fell into the hands of the USSR. There were 175 of them in Thuringia alone, and 74 in Saxony. In all, there were now 600 plants and factories connected one way or another with aircraft manufacture in the Soviet zone of occupation. These number included 213 main aviation enterprises and 387 organizations retooled for production for the aviation industry during the war years. Their total production area amounted to 4 million square meters. This represented more than half of the entire German aviation industry.

Many of these enterprises belonged to such major companies as Junkers (57 factories), Arado (38), Heinkel (18), Focke-Wulf (7), Siebel (6), Dormer (5), BMW (11), Daimler-Benz (4), AEG (5), Siemens (7), Zeiss (3), and Askania (2).

However, it should be noted that the overwhelming majority of German aviation plants and factories were incapacitated. They were severely damaged by aerial bombardment and several large enterprises were destroyed almost completely. The allies stayed there for 2 months and managed to take to the West the most valuable equipment, examples of the latest technical innovations, and documentation. The Americans and British also took with them the most outstanding aviation scientists and designers such as Prandtl, Baetz. Busemann, Georgi, Heinkel, Lippisch, Saenger, Flettner. and others. The remaining plant and experimental design bureau employees dispersed to their homes.

After the German aviation enterprises were turned over to the USSR, most of them were disassembled and all preserved equipment dismantled and shipped to the USSR By mid - 1946, 123,000 machine tools and other pieces of equipment were shipped from Germany, including 66.000 sent to Ministry of the Aviation Industry plants.

Some of the industrial equipment brought from Germany was unique. This includes, for example, a 30,000-ton hydraulic press removed from the I.G. Farben Industry plant in Bitterfeld. A single head of this giant press alone weighed 552 tons.

Dismantling the equipment in 10 underground plants was especially complicated. Prior to retreating, the Germans had destroyed the underground facilities and the depth of shafts where machine tools and presses were located sometimes reached 500 meters.

A press we had ordered before the war. but had not succeeded in obtaining, was discovered in one such plant.

On the base of the industrial equipment brought from Germany, nine new aviation plants were built in the USSR. Two produced airplanes and three were engaged in engine production.

Examination of German scientific and technical achievements was also a very important task. During the Second World War, Germany made significant progress in development of aviation. The greatest achievement was creation of jet aircraft. Shortly before the end of war, the German aviation industry began series production of jet fighters with pulse-jet and turbojet engines capable of speeds exceeding 800 km/h. Jet bomber, ground-attack, and reconnaissance aircraft also were under development.

The appearance of jet aircraft marked a new stage in aviation development. On the one hand, a further increase in the speed of a conventional piston-engine aircraft was constrained by a drop in propeller efficiency and, on the other, drag increased sharply because air compressibility began having its effect at high speeds. Use of jet engines and swept wings made overcoming these obstacles possible and paved the way to new altitudes and speeds.

The importance of using German scientific and technological achievements to improve military equipment was well understood both in the USSR and in other countries. The USSR was especially interested in new7 designs because many promising experimental efforts initiated prior to the wrar had to be halted and design teams disbanded thanks to the necessity to produce combat aircraft in large numbers. Many documents pertaining to new designs were lost or destroyed during the hasty evacuation to the east.

At first, the work of examining the German scientific and technological achievements boiled down to examination of certain documents and examples of military equipment, and their shipment to the USSR for further study. In March 1945, the State Defense Committee adopted an enactment concerning removal of documents and equipment connected with radar from German plants for the production of advanced experimental models of airborne radar in the USSR (at Central Design Bureau-17). A month later, another enactment followed: "On Sending of a Commission for Removal of Equipment and Examination of the Work of the German Rocket Institute in Peenemuende". Yu. A. Pobedonostsev, a branch chief in People's Commissariat of the Aviation Industry Scientific Research Institute-1 was appointed to head the commission.

In late April, a special commission from the People's Commissariat of the Aviation Industry' headed by Major General N. I Petrov, Chief of the Aircraft Equipment Institute, flew to Germany to search for and examine German scientific and technical advances in the field of aviation. The commission comprised representatives of leading aviation scientific institutions: V. V. Vladimirov, Deputy Chief of TsIAM; K. N. Surzhin, Deputy Chief of TsAGI; R. S. Ambartsumyan, Deputy Chief of VIAM; D. Zosim. Deputy Chief of the Flight Research Institute; G. N. Abramovich, Deputy Chief of Scientific Research Institute-1 [NII-1]; B. Ye. Chertok, an employee of that institute: and TsAGI professors A. K. Martynov and K. A. Ushakov. The government enactment proclaimed: 'Assign this task to the commission: removal, safekeeping, and shipment to Moscow of all German experimental aircraft and engines of all types: aviation equipment, components, and all materials connected with their design and manufacture; scientific research materials: laboratory installations: wind tunnels; instrumentation; libraries: and scientific archives. The commission must work on the scene immediately after Soviet troops units capture the appropriate locations, scientific centers, and industrial regions of Germany.

Combat was underway in Berlin when commission members began inspecting the Aviation Research Institute (DVT). All-German Material Testing Institute, Telefunken pilot factory engaged in radar production, and Henschel, Siemens, BMW, and Askania enterprises located in and around the city.

Among the most valuable finds there were the examples of Me 163, Me 262, and Arado 234C jet aircraft, Jumo 004 and BMW 003 engines, a full set of reports on DVL wind tunnel tests of aircraft and their components for 1939-1944 (including test results on Messerschmitt jet fighters), examples of airborne and ground radar, a piloted V-l flying bomb variant, an He 162 jet aircraft fuselage, and BMW 003 turbojet test benches.

Some 50 DVL employees were interrogated, including its head Professor Bock and engine laboratory chief Karosell. They provided valuable information regarding the location of some documents. As it turned out, many scientific reports had been walled up in the Institute's air raid shelter shortly before the war ended. All were shipped to TsAGI. Academician G. S. Byushgens writes:

After the war's end in 1945. TsAGI scientists and other aviation specialists had the opportunity to familiarize themselves with captured materials on aviation research work from the German institute DYL (Adlershof). Besides results from institute wind tunnel tests on specific aircraft models, these materials contained data of a general nature.

Goettert's work was the most interesting among them. It contained materials on testing the airfoils and wings of various sweeps at different Mach numbers. Also provided here was an estimate of the sweep's influence upon critical Mach number and onset of the wave drag. The materials concerned only test results at subsonic Mach numbers. [Aerodynamic research efforts at supersonic speeds were carried out mainly at the Goettingen Institute and these documents fell into the hands of the Western allies—Author].

At first, the captured materials were evaluated skeptically by some TsAGI scientists but a few understood the prospects of this trend. A large team of TsAGI scientists that S. A Khristianovich and V. V. Stuminskiy supervised later conducted further very energetic theoretical and experimental research.

Also, the trip a group of engineers (Bondaryuk. Zavitayev, and others) from the People's Commissariat of the Aviation Industry took to Austria in late April and early May 1945 produced very useful results. At the end of the war, E. Heinkel's design bureau and factories were located in Vienna and its environs. In addition to a large volume of technical documentation shipped to TsAGI, they found half-built examples of single-engine He 162 jet fighters, three damaged two-engine He 280 fighters with Heinkel S 8a engines, as well as fuselage and wing parts from a four-engine He 343 jet bomber. At the underground plant in Hinterbruehl, there were two fully-assembled turbojets, a Jumo 004 and a BMW 003. At another Heinkel plant in Heidfield. they found 11 BMW 003 engines the Germans had blown up, but five of them were fit for examination. At an airdrome outside Prague, two undamaged Me 262 jet fighters were found along with four more half-dismantled aircraft of the same type.

The results of the first trips demonstrated that Germany had moved much further in the sphere of jet technology than Soviet designers realized and was well ahead of not only the USSR but also the other super-powers. The following was pointed out in a report on this question prepared for the Soviet leadership: "In recent years the development of jet technology in Germany had assumed large proportions. The captured examples of German jet aircraft extant in the USSR—fighters, bombers, ground-attack planes, gas-turbine jet aviation engines, turbojets, radio-guided missiles and unguided rockets (long range and anti-aircraft), flying bombs and jet radio-controlled glide bombs-demonstrate that jet technology in the German Air force. Калу and artillery was implemented on a large scale and Germans had serious success in this field.

In the summer of 1945. the Soviet government made the decision to set up an Interdepartmental Jet Technology Commission within the State Defense Committee's Special Committee in order to examine German achievements in jet technology fully and to use them in the USSR.

Several measures were developed on the basis of the Commission`s recommendations.

Reaction to this enactment followed immediately. As the documents show, already in August 1945, Nil-1 and TsIAM conducted bench tests of Jumo 004, BMW 003 and Heinkel S-8a turbojet engines and Plants Nos. 26, 126, and 16 were preparing to put Jumo 004 and BMW 003 engines into batch production. By the end of the year. 110 and 30 such engines, respectively, were manufactured. Production of the" 1 OX" flying bomb of the German V-I type began at Pilot Plant No. 51 under the supervision of V. N. Chelomey. A. I. Mikoyan (MiG-9) and S.A. Lavochkin (La-150) jet aircraft were at the tooling design and production stage, while the Yakovlev Yak-15 jet fighter based on the series-produced Yak-3 was already in an assembly shop in August.8

At the same time, in the summer of 1945. the idea to use German specialists for development of jet aviation in the USSR appeared. People's Commissar of the Aviation Industry Commissar A. I. Shakhurin appealed to the Communist Party Central Committee in a letter in which the following was stated:

We now have a large number of German aviation specialists and scientists in our hands. These scientists and specialists possess great knowledge accumulated during their work with scientific research and experimental organizations of Germany. According to the information we have, several such specialists staying in the zone occupied by the allies are already used by the allies and some of them have been sent to the North American USA [North American United States, the official name of the USA at that time] and England.

Also, we know that there is a great desire among the German scientists now in the Soviet occupation zone to get to the North American USA and England, something extremely undesirable for our country. We must not only prevent the German scientists from streaming to the allies but. on the contrary, take measures to use [them] in our interests.

From our point of view, it would be advisable to have a special type of organization with a special regime (under NKVD supervision) on the territory of the USSR or in the German zone we occupy where the German scientists could carry out research and development efforts on our behalf. Soviet scientists must provide general management and direction of the research and experimental efforts of such organizations. The Germans must be isolated from contact with our scientific and development organizations.

In view of the extreme importance of the question. I request that you report this to Comrade Stalin so as to instruct the NKVD and People's Commissariat of the Aviation Industry to jointly prepare a draft decision on this question.

In connection with this proposal, final dismantling of some large enterprises involved in the production of jet aircraft and engines during the war was postponed. Among them were a Junkers pilot plant in Dessau, Siebel pilot plant in Halle, BMW turbojet engine development and production center in Stassfurt (Unseburg). Heinkel pilot plant in Rostock. DVL Aviation Scientific Research Institute and All-German Material Testing Institute in Berlin, and the Langbein-Pofanhauser and Sud I.G. Farbenindustrie plants in Leipzig. A search for their employees began in order to study the experience accumulated by these organizations. Representatives from the Ministry of the Aviation Industry and the Soviet Military Administration in Germany (SVAG) special services participated here.

The search for and enlistment of German specialists to cooperate was carried out in different ways. Several, for example, Dr. B. Baade, former Junkers experimental production manager, volunteered to collaborate in order to be able to continue working in aviation. Later S. Guenter leading Heinkel aerodynamics specialist who previously unsuccessfully tried to arouse the interest of the Americans, turned to the Soviet authorities with a suggestion to cooperate. The money and food rations the Soviet authorities promised attracted many. The fear of possible consequences in the event of their refusal also played a certain role.

Good food rations and brilliant prospects were also promised to scientists and engineers in the Western zone of Germany but they proved unsuccessful.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs also carried out a search for scientists and designers in POW camps. "In order to provide special contingents to strengthen the new jet technology facilities, we have selected in special MVD camps 18 German specialists. Before their arrest, they worked in the field of jet technology at plants in Germany." Colonel General I. A. Serov. Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs for Counterintelligence reported from Germany.

At the moment Shakhurin petitioned Stalin for the use of experienced German aviation specialists. German engineers and scientists helped us in examining captured equipment. In the following months, more than 1000 specialists were drawn to this work. They were gathered at the aforementioned enterprises in Berlin, Dessau, Leipzig. Halle. Stassfurt and Rostock. Special groups officially called Special Technical Bureaus (OTB) were established. Representatives from Ministry of the Aviation Industry (MAP) plants and scientific organizations - TsIAM official N. M. Olekhnovich (OTB-1, Dessau), Plant No. 500 Chief A. M. Isayev (OTB-2, Stassfurt). People's Commissariat of the Aviation Industry First Main Directorate official N. Vlasov (OTB-3, Halle), and People's Commissariat of the Aviation Industry New Equipment Bureau official N. N. Leont'yev (OTB-4. Berlin) - supervised these special groups. V.P. Kuznetsov. Deputy People's Commissar of the Aviation Industry, was tasked with general oversight of everything involving aviation in Germany.

At first, the work of the German specialists essentially boiled down to answering questions. The following is from a People's Commissariat of the Aviation Industry Special Chief Directorate report:

It was suggested that each of the German specialists compile a report about or an account of previous activities of the scientific institution where he worked as well as about his personal work as a scientific specialist. In addition, certain theoretical tasks on aviation science and technology were assigned.

Our specialists familiarized themselves with these materials and then assigned specific new thematic tasks, to which the Germans specialists responded in the form of corresponding new materials.

All the materials received together with the conclusions our specialists drew were sent to the Ministry of the Aviation Industry or appropriate institutes for in-depth examination and incorporation into their practical work

One aircraft Arado-234C and two Heinkel-162 have been shipped to Moscow for testing.

Exhaustive materials on everything mentioned above have been gathered and sent to Moscow for examination and assimilation.

In addition to the 160 reports the Germans prepared, the hunt for technical documentation and examples of jet aircraft continued. As a People's Commissariat of the Aviation Industry report indicate:

In a result of this work the following items have been found and collected:

1. Technical literature and various reports have been gathered at the DVL Institute in Berlin (Adlershof) and MPA Institute in Dahlem. along with valuable technical documents dated in 1945 that were kept in hiding.

2. A Junkers TL-004 (Jumo-004) jet engine production plant has been found in Dessau, Mueldenschwein. The plant is of great interest since it produced 2700 Jumo-004 engines and also had enormous buffer stocks of components and large individual parts of this engine. The plant possessed the technology for manufacturing and testing the Jumo-004 engine.

The technical documentation, components, and engine examples have been shipped to the Ministry of the Aviation Industry.

At the same place, through questioning, drawings pertaining to air breathing engines have been found hidden in the ground. Junkers experimental propeller drawings were found buried in the ground in Zittau. They have been forwarded to Moscow

3. Documents and various materials on experimental work were found buried in the ground at the Arado aircraft firm in Brandenburg. Among them was a set of blueprints and tracing papers pertaining to the Arado 234 aircraft with a BMW-003 air-breathing engine.

In addition. Top Secret materials on various methods of employing these aircraft and photographs of components and units were found.

4. Components and drawings of the Y-2 radio control system were found at the Constanto plant in liberec (Czechoslovakia).

5. Engines and aircraft of new designs that are of special interest, have been found and shipped to the Soviet Union:

Have been found to the Soviet Union
Me 262 with Junkers-004 jet engine 4
He-162 with BMW-003 jet engine 2
Me-163 with Walter rocket motor 3
Arado-234 with four turbojet engines 1
He-219 with two DB-610 engines and airborne radar 1
Jumo-004 air-breathing engine 20
BMW-003 air-breathing engine 15
Walter liquid-propellant jet engine 2
Junkers-232 powerful piston engines 5
Daimler-Benz powerful paired engines 5
Instruments and components

A special-purpose echelon was sent to TsAGI samples of new equipment, including the latest types of German instruments and units, such as: radars, command control device, sensors, altimeters and other devices.


  • "The German Imprint on the History of Russian Aviation " /D.A. Sobolev, D.B. Khazanov/