Aviation of World War II
"Hurricanes" on the Soviet-German Front
Vladimir Kotelnikov, Dmitry Khazanov
The Hurricanes were the first Allied warplanes to arrive in the USSR. On August 28, 1941, 24 Hurricane IIB fighters took off from the deck of the Argus aircraft carrier and then landed at the Vaenga airfield near Murmansk. The vehicles were part of the 151st Wing (Regiment) of the British Air Force, sent to the aid of Soviet units in the Arctic. After a while they were joined by another 15 Hurricanes, delivered by cargo ships to the port of Arkhangelsk and collected there by the British. Subsequently, these fighters were transferred to the 78th IAP of the Northern Fleet Air Force. This handful of Hurricanes was followed by a massive stream (over 3,000) of this type of aircraft, built by British and Canadian factories.
The Hurricane fighter began to be designed at Hawker under the leadership of chief designer Sydney Camm in 1933. Two and a half years later the aircraft was tested and in October 1937 it began to be serially built. For its time, it was definitely a progressive design. It included almost all the features characteristic of monoplane fighters of the so-called "new wave", the first representative of which was the Soviet I-16 N.N. Polikarpova - a low-wing aircraft with retractable landing gear and a closed cockpit. Of the novelties of that time, Camm did not use only an all-metal structure with a load-bearing skin - the Hurricane had a fuselage frame made of steel pipes with internal braces (about the same scheme as our Yak-1). By the time it entered our country, the plane had undergone numerous changes. On it, the ventral keel was consistently introduced to improve the corkscrew qualities, jet exhaust pipes, the two-blade fixed-pitch propeller was replaced with a three-bladed automatic propeller. However, these modifications could not eliminate the Hurricane's lag from its main enemy, the German Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter, revealed from the very beginning of World War II. The installation of a more powerful and high-altitude Merlin XX engine with a two-speed supercharger (instead of the Merlin III). Although in 1941 the Hurricane was included among the five most important aircraft types, which were given priority in Great Britain, there was a clear tendency in production to supplant these aircraft by the more advanced Spitfires. Since the fall of 1941, the Hurricanes were gradually reoriented to the functions of fighter-bombers, attack aircraft and tactical reconnaissance aircraft; they were also used in secondary theaters of military operations far from the metropolis.
The British considered the Soviet Union to be such a secondary theater. Following the "first swallows" from the Argus, containers with new Hurricanes began to arrive on the ships of the northern convoys. Subsequently, these fighters entered our country through Iran. In total for 1941-1944. (in 1944, the Hurricanes were discontinued) in the USSR, 3082 fighters of this type were adopted (including the military aviation received 2834 aircraft). We were sent at least 210 machines of modification IIA, 1557 - IIB and similar Canadian X, XI, XII (produced by the Kenedian Car and Foundry company and were partially equipped with American equipment), 1009-IIC, 60-IID and 30-type IV. Some of the Type IIA fighters were actually a Rolls-Royce rework of the old Type I aircraft. In the fall of 1942, we also got one Sea Hurricane I (number V6881), the so-called "catafighter". This plane ejected from the Empire Horn transport while covering the ships of the PQ-18 convoy and landed in Arkhangelsk. 37 "Hurricanes" IIB of the 151st wing were officially transferred to the Soviet side in October 1941. And even before that, on September 22, 1941, the Air Force Research Institute commission chaired by Colonel K.A. Gruzdev received the first "Hurricane" (number Z2899), delivered to our country "directly". The commission made its conclusion only on the basis of an inspection of the car, since only the next day the instructions and description were sent to the USSR. The act stated that the plane was far from new, shabby, there was a lack of a launch handle, a watch, and ammunition. This case was no exception - for the first installments of the Hurricanes it was the norm. Experts who were involved in the acceptance of British equipment noted that many fighters (unlike those who arrived from the United States) needed additional equipment and repairs. There were cars whose flight time exceeded 100 hours. The Soviet workers, who opened the boxes, especially outraged the unpainted Finnish swastika on the sides and fuselages of some Hurricanes. Several reserve regiments and training units were engaged in the retraining of pilots and the manning of units with Hurricanes. The first of them were the 27th zab, located in the Vologda region (Kadnikov airfield) and part of the 6th zab, located in Ivanovo. At first, English instructor pilots, engineers and mechanics worked there.
The introduction of the Hurricanes began in the north. There, from November-December 1941, combat operations of the 72nd, 78th, 152nd and 760th regiments began operating in Karelia and on the Kola Peninsula. Their pilots mastered these machines with the help of naval aviation pilots trained by the British in squadrons of the 151st Wing.
The very first cases of the use of Hurricanes in combat at the front revealed a large number of shortcomings. Most of the criticism was caused by the armament of the Hurricanes -8-12 machine guns of 7.69 mm caliber that did not cause significant damage to armored German aircraft. Here is a typical example: in January 1942, three Hurricane IIBs from the 191st Regiment pursued the Junkers Ju 88 reconnaissance officer for 10 minutes, continuously pouring fire on him, but they did not shoot him down. The reliability of the armament was also low. In the cold, the locks of the machine guns located in the wing often froze, and the aircraft turned out to be incapable of combat. The weakness of the armament sometimes forced the pilots to resort to ram attacks. So, on May 31, 1942 "Junkers" rammed over Yaroslavl by the future twice Hero of the Soviet Union Amet-Khan Sultan. The flight characteristics did not cause much enthusiasm either. According to the test data, carried out promptly at the Air Force Research Institute (the lead engineer was V.F. Bolotnikov, who participated in the acceptance of the first Hurricanes), in terms of speed, the Hurricane - as the name of the fighter is translated into Russian - occupied an intermediate position between the I-16 and Yak-1. Its main enemy in the North - the German Messerschmitt Bf 109E - was inferior in speed at low and medium altitudes (40-50 km / h) and in the rate of climb. Only at heights of 6500-7000 meters did their capabilities become approximately equal. When diving, the bulky Hurricane "parachuted", which did not allow it to accelerate quickly. True, he could write as an asset a small turning radius, achieved due to the low load on the wing, which made it possible to fight on the horizontal lines. The Hurricane's chassis was designed very poorly. Despite the sufficiently rear alignment, the fighter had a small bonnet angle - only 24 °, taking into account braking (while according to the requirements of the Air Force Research Institute, at least 26.5 ° was needed). It was even less in terms of ammunition and fuel consumption. When landing on uneven ground of field aerodromes, the risk of skapotizing was very high. In this case, first of all, the wooden Rotol screw broke - unlike Soviet metal screws, it was practically impossible to repair it. The Hurricane could also be scooped up while taxiing. This fighter had an unpleasant tendency to raise its tail when the engine was running (a similar property was observed in the Soviet "Yaks"). To protect the car from trouble, one or two mechanics were often put on the back of the fuselage. Sometimes they did not have time to jump off and inevitably rose into the sky. There was such a case among the British - in the 151st wing, one of their "Hurricanes" was destroyed in this way, and two mechanics were killed and the pilot was wounded. The fighting efficiency of the Hurricanes was also decreasing due to the lack of spare parts. The biggest shortage was wooden propellers. They not only broke when nosing, cracked from being hit by bullets, but were also damaged by stones sucked in during takeoff. At times, due to the propellers, up to 50% of the delivered aircraft were "frozen". Ultimately, in March-April 1942, the Soviet Union launched the production of spare blades for Kangli propellers. At times, the Hurricane's loss of combat capability reached appalling levels. In the spring of 1942, due to the absence of a number of parts and assemblies, only two of the 18 Hurricanes of the 488 IAP could take off into the air. And in November 1942, the 122nd IAD, covering Murmansk, out of 69 of its aircraft could count on three combat-ready fighters. While mastering English cars, Soviet personnel were faced with the unusual miles, feet and gallons marked on the instrument scales. The "breaking" control knob was also unusual - one had to get used to all this.
However, you shouldn't put the Hurricane in a black light. This fighter also showed quite definite advantages. Despite some cumbersomeness, the aircraft turned out to be simple and obedient in piloting. The load on the handle was not great, the steering wheel trim was effective. "Hurricane" easily and steadily performed various figures, being quite accessible to pilots of average skill, which was important in wartime conditions. Our pilots also liked the spacious cockpit with good visibility. A big plus was the complete radio system of the Hurricanes that arrived (recall that on Soviet fighters of that time, transmitters were supposed to be installed on every third plane, but in reality this was not done either). But the British radios were battery powered (although batteries were also installed on the plane), and in winter, especially in the north, their charge was only enough for 1.5-2 hours of work, no matter how our mechanics wrapped them up. It should be noted that a significant part of the Hurricanes arrived in the Soviet Union in late 1941 - early 1942, when the air force of our country experienced an acute shortage of aircraft. The industry evacuated to the East reduced their output and did not even cover losses at the front. From civil aviation, training units and flying clubs, worn-out, often already decommissioned vehicles were removed and sent to the front. Compared with the I-15bis and, moreover, with the I-5, the Hurricane was a miracle of modern technology. But even taking into account all the advantages, the result was unambiguous - the Hurricane was significantly inferior to enemy fighters - and the old Bf 109E, which still remained the main one in the northern sector of the front, and even more so the new Bf 109F. Therefore, after receiving these machines, they began to remake them according to their own understanding, trying, if not to eliminate, then at least mitigate the main shortcomings of the British fighter. Already in the fall of 1941, in the 78th IAP, at the suggestion of its commander BF Safonov, the received vehicles were converted for Soviet armament. Instead of four "Browning" they put two machine guns of BK caliber 12.7 mm with a stock of 100 rounds per barrel and added two holders for a 50-kg bomb. The firepower was also enhanced with four rockets. In January 1942, in the 191st IAP, on the plane of N.F. Kuznetsov delivered two ShVAK cannons. Similar work was carried out in other parts, and 4-6 RS-82 rockets were mounted everywhere. The weak armor protection of the British fighter also caused criticism. Therefore, the standard armored backs were often removed and replaced with Soviet ones. This was first done right in the shelves (on the plane of the same Kuznetsov, for example, they put a back from the broken I-16), and then in the factory when replacing weapons, which will be discussed later.
In the winter of 1941-42. there were already quite a large number of Hurricanes at the front. In the Northern Fleet Air Force alone, by December 1941, there were 70 such fighters. To the regiments operating in the north, at the beginning of 1942, the 67th, 429th and 488th IAP were added in the Moscow region. The counteroffensive near Moscow was the first major operation in which we had Hurricanes. This first military winter caused a lot of trouble for the regiments operating the British fighters. It was noted that the charging fittings of the pneumatic system were clogged with dirt and ice (for some cars they were located in the wheel hub), rupture or blockage of hoses and pipes, and failure of onboard air compressors. Weapons and elements of onboard equipment froze. To combat this, additional drain taps were cut into the main lines, which ensured a complete drain of the cooling mixture and oil in the parking lot, insulated pipelines, accumulators and batteries. The "Rotol" propellers, which were on some series of Hurricanes, froze at a small step when the propeller stopped (the oil froze). To avoid this, a felt cap was put on the screw hub under the spinner. Radiators in the parking lot were plugged with special pillows, and in flight they blocked part of the radiator with an ordinary plate, the dimensions of which were recommended to be selected "experimentally". A number of difficulties were associated with an attempt to operate the Hurricanes with water in the cooling system instead of the standard glycol mixture. To do this, a number of changes had to be made to the system: the thermostat was removed, adjusted according to the "glycol" and did not allow liquid with a temperature below 85 0 C to enter the radiator, the shunt pipe was removed (bypassing the radiator) and a number of secondary circuits were turned off. such as carburetor preheating. Subsequently, we switched to domestic antifreezes, which were distinguished by greater frost resistance.
The massive appearance of "Hurricanes" on the Soviet-German front occurred in the spring and summer of 1942. They were used by naval aviation in the Northern and Baltic fleets, air force regiments operating on the Karelian, Kalinin, North-Western, Voronezh fronts and air defense units in various regions of the country. The disadvantages of the Hurricanes were costly for Soviet pilots. The losses were very high. For example, in March 1942 at On the northwestern front, two regiments armed with British fighters were drained of blood by the Germans in less than a week of fighting. At the same time, the 3rd Guards suffered very heavy losses. IAP of the Baltic Fleet Air Force covering the Nevskaya Dubrovka bridgehead near Leningrad. Insufficient speed and poor vertical maneuver characteristics forced the battle formations to be condensed as much as possible and to fight fighters only on the horizontal lines. There are cases when, when German fighters appeared, the Hurricanes rebuilt into a defensive circle and did not even try to attack. In the difficult year of 1942, among the fighters lost by our Air Force, there were about 8% of the Hurricanes, which exceeded their share in the total fleet. In the hands of skilled pilots, these machines also achieved significant combat successes even in conditions of the numerical superiority of the enemy. For example, in April 1942, four Hurricanes from the 485th IAP under the command of Lieutenant Bezverkhny boldly entered into battle with ten Bf 109s. The outcome of the battle: three Germans and two Hurricanes were shot down. On June 19, seven fighters from the same regiment, led by its commander G.V. Zimin, attacked 12 Junkers Ju 87 dive bombers over the Ramushevsky corridor, which were covered by 15 Messerschmitts. Ten German planes and one of ours were shot down. However, the skill and heroism of the pilots was not enough. In March 1942, the Soviet command decided to carry out a complete modernization of the Hurricane's armament, bringing it in line with the requirements of the time. For comparative tests, three versions of the modified Hurricane were made: with four 20-mm ShVAK cannons, two ShVAK and two large-caliber machine guns U BT (precisely in the turret version, which, apparently, was associated with a more convenient installation in the armament compartment) and finally, with four drill collars. The latter option gave a gain in weight without prejudice to other characteristics, but the second was adopted as the main one, which can be explained by the lack of large-caliber machine guns in the spring of 1942. The Hurricane's weapons modernization program also provided for the installation of bomb racks and six guides under the RS-82 under the wings. It was originally planned that the revision of the Hurricane would be carried out in Gorky. But the local aircraft factory was fully loaded with Lavochkin's fighters, so the conversion for domestic weapons was carried out at the Moscow aircraft factory number 81 (the pilots took the cars right at the central airfield) and in the Moscow region, in Podlipki, in the workshops of the 6th IAP Air Defense. There, both newly arrived aircraft from the British and those already at the front were refined. The brigades from factory # 81 carried out this operation at the airfields near Moscow in Kubinka, Khimki, Monino, Yegoryevsk. At these bases of the 6th Air Defense IAC, aircraft were rearmed that could not be overtaken to the plant due to various malfunctions. New powerful weapons expanded the Hurricane's capabilities both in aerial combat and in operations against ground targets. I must say that the Hurricane was often used as a fighter-bomber and partly as an attack aircraft. This was facilitated by a number of its features. "Hurricane" with domestic weapons and with a suspension of two FAB-100 bombs was easily controlled, take-off performance deteriorated only slightly, and the speed decreased by 42 km / h. The plane was tenacious - once A.L. Kozhevnikov's car from the 438th IAP received 162 holes, but, nevertheless, the pilot managed to land safely at his airfield. Successful bomb-assault strikes of the Hurricanes have been noted more than once. In the summer of 1942, aircraft of the 191st IAP (which had Soviet weapons) smashed a German convoy near Novy Oskol with cannons and missiles. And in August 1943, the Hurricanes, together with the Il-2, bombed a German airfield in the Luostari area, destroying 11 fighters and one Junkers Ju 52 / 3m transport aircraft. Air Force fighter regiments were often involved in such operations, but in some places there were Hurricanes in purely assault regiments, for example, in the 65th in the north. The "anti-tank" modifications IID and IV with 40-mm cannons in suspended containers, which arrived in our country through Iran in early 1943, are somewhat apart. We know little about their use, the authors can only add that in the spring of 1943 they were used in battles in the North Caucasus. Participation in the battles on the Don, and then on the distant approaches to Stalingrad, became a serious test for the Hurricanes. If in the North the Germans often used outdated equipment, then in the summer of 1942 they threw all the best they had to the south. It was there that the 235th was urgently transferred over under the command of Lieutenant Colonel I.D. Podgorny. It first included the 191st, 436th and 46th regiments, In 1944, some of the aircraft of this type were used in air defense as illuminator planes when repelling night raids. Usually "Hurricane" took two SAB-100 lighting bombs and dropped them, being 2000-2500 m higher than enemy bombers. The attack was carried out by a strike group. For this purpose, two or four Hurricanes were kept in different air defense regiments. In 1944, even German intelligence officers no longer ventured into the interior of the country. But in Kalmykia, the Hurricane made its last sortie on 23 May. Four pilots from the 933rd IAP were instructed to find and destroy in the steppes the German Focke-Wulf FW 200 transport aircraft that made an intermediate landing there.Flying about 270 km, they found and set fire to this four-engine car, and then supported the NKVD unit with fire, which had captured the crew and passengers ... Individual "Hurricanes" have undergone interesting alterations. A variant with a rear movable rifle installation is known. Several Hurricanes (among which was the HL665 aircraft) were converted into training two-seaters. In England, such machines were not built during the war - their method of training pilots was different. In the already mentioned SWAPSh one "Hurricane" was tried to be put on skis, it was tested by A.E. Augul. On this machine, skis were not retracted in flight. And at the beginning of 1942, at factory # 81, one of the 736 IAP fighters, delivered for repair, was equipped with a retractable ski landing gear. It was tested from 5 to 15 February at the Central Aerodrome. V.A. Stepanchonok from the Air Force Research Institute, as well as pilots from the 10th Guards. iap and 736 iap. For all their shortcomings, the Hurricanes helped the Soviet Air Force survive the most difficult time, and then they brought a lot of benefits. It is interesting, for example, the indirect impact of this machine on our aviation. On this plane, our engineers for the first time managed to "closely" get acquainted with one of the best engines for its time - the Rolls-Royce "Merlin" engine. Reliable and economical, it possessed very high specific characteristics, but required the same high qualifications of mechanics, precise adjustment and very "polite" handling. When British fighters entered our country, the tanks of British fighters, especially at first, were filled with low-grade fuel and oils. The motors stalled periodically. The pilots of the 151st wing immediately faced this: the first flight on a combat mission was disrupted - immediately after takeoff, the engines of both fighters that took off were cut off. It's good that the pilots managed to land safely. British engines were sensitive to the ingress of sand and dust into the air intake of the carburetor, and this was ubiquitous on the sandy airfields of the Arctic. Anti-dust tropical filters were very useful here, although they "ate up" the speed. A thorough study of the "Englishman" prompted our specialists to think about how to improve domestic machines. M.B. Chernobylsky drew attention to the peculiarities of the selection of screws. If for Soviet aircraft they were selected from the condition of the highest efficiency at maximum speed, then on the Hurricane - to obtain the best take-off characteristics. It was noted that the diameter of the Rotol was 3.43 m versus 3.0 m for domestic fighters. In addition, on the "Merlin", to improve the takeoff conditions in the forced mode, both the revs and the boost were increased, and in domestic aircraft engines - only the latter. All these differences were subsequently taken into account when modifying the famous Il-2 with the AM-38F engine, which significantly improved the takeoff characteristics of the attack aircraft, making it faster to climb. And the very design of the "Merlin" did not leave our specialists indifferent. In particular, it turned out that the range of permissible rpm modes is about four times greater than that of the domestic M-105. On the agenda was the task of the optimal choice of the motor operating mode for each screw position. Its solution was the creation of a "step-gas" assault rifle, which was put into service at the end of the war.
In conclusion, we can say that "Hurricane" made its feasible contribution to the history of the Great Patriotic War and, ultimately, also contributed to the achievement of a common Victory.
RS - installation with a suspended projectile
RO - installation without a projectile