Aviation of World War II
Lend-Lease P-40 Fighters in the USSR
Personnel of the 1st Guards (16th Guards) Air Force Red Army and P-40 fighters
At the beginning of the war, Luftwaffe aviation managed to destroy a large number of Soviet aircraft on the ground. (On December 31, 1941, the combat losses of the Red Army Air Force amounted to 21,200 aircraft.) It was not possible to compensate for the losses, since the factories were evacuated to the east.
Outdated I-16 and I-152 fighters constituted the lion's share of the Air Force fleet. As a result, even such mediocre fighters as the P-40 fell into place.
The first 195 Tomahawks arrived in Arkhangelsk in October 1941. These were English airplanes, which the British hurried to get rid of at the first opportunity.
The resulting aircraft were assembled at an airfield located 25 km from Arkhangelsk. Soon, another 25 P-40s were received, purchased in the USA for gold. In the shortest possible time, the aircraft began to be transferred to combat units.
Soviet pilots considered the Tomahawks to be medium-sized aircraft, better than the I-15 and I-16, but worse than the Jacob. This opinion persisted until the end of the war. The P-40 was inferior in popularity to the Yaks and La.
At the beginning of 1942, the first Kittyhawks and their American counterparts P-40E, as well as P-40F and K (313 airplanes), M (220 airplanes) and N (980 airplanes) arrived. In Soviet documents, the P-40E aircraft were still listed as "Tomahawks", the name "Kittyhawk" was applied only to the following modifications.
In total, 2,430 P-40 aircraft were sent to the Soviet Union, but only 2,097 airplanes were delivered. Most of all - 939 airplanes - were sent to the USSR in 1943. The weakness of the P-40 at high altitudes was not so acutely felt on the Eastern Front, where battles were usually fought on the ground. However, the pilots disliked the P-40 for their low maneuverability, rate of climb and top speed. The mechanics expressed their complaints about the aircraft. They spoke especially sharply about the "Tomahawks" in the winter period of operation. In the cold, the fluid in the hydraulic system often froze, the oil cooler failed, and the propeller shaft bearing crumbled, which led to the propeller jamming in flight.
For the sake of objectivity, I must say about the merits of the aircraft. It was distinguished by its mechanical strength, had a long flight range, could take more bombs in overload than the Il-2, and had a comfortable protected cockpit. But all this did not make up for his many shortcomings. In the unofficial rating of fighters of the Soviet Air Force, the P-40 occupied the honorable penultimate place, yielding first place from the end to the Hurricane. In the late period of the war, the P-40s were used as punishment for those units that suffered heavy losses without showing noticeable success. The best units received good Yak-7, Yak-9, "Airacobra" and La-5. The popularity of the P-40 in the Soviet Union was not facilitated by the constant interruptions in the supply of spare parts. It got to the point that local forces tried to adapt Soviet rims and tires to airplane. They tried to install Soviet radiators on airplanes, and drain taps were necessarily embedded in the cooling system so as not to leave glycol in the radiators overnight. The most acute shortage of spare parts for the Allison V-1710 engines. But even here we managed to find a way out. On the initiative of Major A.A. Matveyev, in the workshops of the 13th VA, more than 40 P-40s were remade, installing on them M-105P or M-105R motors with VISH-61P screws. The decision turned out to be not very successful, the maximum speed of the aircraft after the alteration dropped to 465 km/h, but this was the only way to lift the Tomahawks into the sky. In 1942, in some parts, under the wings of fighters, they installed guides for unguided missiles RS-82, two per wing.
According to our enemy, the German general Walter Schwabedissen, in his book "Stalin's Falcons", a number of Luftwaffe commanders mention that at the end of 1941, British and American fighters (Curtiss P-40 and Hurricane) appeared on the scene. within the framework of the lend-lease agreement. This created some difficulties for the German fighters, but the Soviet pilots could not get better performance from these machines than from their own. Evaluating the American P-40 fighter, the JG 54 report says that in horizontal maneuverability it was equal to the German Bf 109F, but inferior to it in speed and climb rate. According to the Russian captive pilot, the plane was not popular with Soviet pilots.
The P-40 plane also had a significant drawback that led to the death of more than one pilot. From the memoirs of the Commander of the Northern Fleet, Admiral A.G. Golovko: “These aircraft have special bearings in their motors, because the bearings are not filled with a conventional alloy, but with silver. Americans consider such an alloy to be the latest technological achievement; however, motors with silver-cast bearings often fail. That is why our pilots call these aircraft "the miracle of non-engine aviation" with bitter mockery. More often than not, kittyhawks stand idle. "
It was the destruction of the bearings at takeoff modes of the engine that led to its failure.
For courage and heroism shown in the fight against the enemy, on August 09, 1941, junior lieutenant Stepan Grigorievich Ridny was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.
From October 12, 1941, the 126th IAP began to fly combat missions to Curtiss P-40 "Tomahawk".
February 17, 1942 S.G. Ridny died on the P-40 after takeoff due to the failure of the materiel. ("Tomahawk" AK325)
Stepan Grigorievich Ridny personally shot down 21 and 9 enemy aircraft in the group.
On June 16, 1942, Boris Feoktistovich Safonov was the first in history to be awarded the second Gold Star medal. For the second time to the title of Hero of the Soviet Union, he was presented by the People's Commissar of the Navy on May 27, 1942 - three days before his death. He was awarded the Order of Lenin, the Red Banner (three times).
May 30, 1942 died in action on the R-40E "Kittyhawk" aircraft (Serial number 41-13531) in case of engine failure. The possible reason for the engine shutdown was a technical problem. His wingman Kukharenko, called upon to cover his commander, did not participate in the battle, since he returned to the base due to engine failure.
In total, Boris Safonov made 224 sorties, in 34 air battles he shot down 25 enemy aircraft.