Aviation of World War II

Aviation of World War II

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Bf 109E/F vs Yak-1/7.

Statistics and Analysis

Dmitriy Khazanov

During the first six months of the war in the East, the Luftwaffe encountered Yak-1 fighters much less frequently than any other type of Soviet fighter in the frontline zone. Until the autumn of 1941, they were rarely mentioned in claims for German aces victories. This situation began to change on 2 October with the start of Operation Typhoon, in which Luftflotte 2 (2nd Air Fleet) participated. Although the first day of the operation was successful for the Germans, they subsequently suffered significant losses - at least 20 aircraft were written off, including four Bf 109s. Soviet fighters met the enemy in frontal attacks, claiming 31 victories.

The most combat-ready in the Typhoon operation in the Red Army Air Force was the 43rd SAD, which had 13 Yak-1 fighters to reinforce units with other types of aircraft. The future ace (14-victories) Lieutenant S.G. Shvarev of the 236th IAP, successfully operated, shot down a Bf 109 during an intense air battle between five Yaks and 12 Messerschmitts over Yartsevo. The actions of the 11th IAP in the defense of Moscow against Luftwaffe raids and in the fight against enemy reconnaissance aircraft have already been described. From the beginning of October 1941 until the end of August 1942, when the 11th-IAP was sent to the Stalingrad Front, the regiment destroyed 38 enemy aircraft (some of which were Bf 109s).

The 45th IAP, based in Transcaucasia, received its first Yak-1s in early 1941 and had enough time and resources to prepare for air combat. It included pilots, many graduates of the military academy of the North Caucasian School of Mountain Peoples, one of whom was the commander of the regiment, Ossetian by nationality, Ibragim M. Dzusov. The regiment went into battle on January 20, 1942 as part of the Caucasian Front, which was soon renamed the Crimean Front. The regiment made its 1000th sortie on May 7 of the same year, during the Red Army's offensive on Kerch.

Regimental records provide a complete picture of the tasks being performed - 49 sorties against enemy ground forces; 22 against airfields; 120 for reconnaissance (six of which were reconnaissance sorties for weather reconnaissance); and 277, to escort attack aircraft (Il-2 cover - 18 cases and bombers in all other cases). Another 201 sorties to protect ports and transport ships at sea and 178 to cover ground troops, important facilities and airfields. The purpose of the remaining flights are not specified. In 140 air battles, 28 enemy aircraft were destroyed, of which five were Bf 109s. The records do not provide any details regarding the losses of their aircraft and pilots.

IAP - Istrebitel'nyy aviatsionnyy polk - Fighter Aviation Regiment

GIAP - Gvardeyskiy istrebitel'nyy aviatsionnyy polk - Guards Fighter Aviation Regiment

IAD - Itsrebitel'naya aviatsionnaya diviziya - Fighter Aviation Division

SAD - Smeshannaya aviatsionnaya diviziya - Mixed Air Division

IAK - Istrebitel'nyy aviatsionnyy korpus - Fighter Aviation Corps

45th IAP barely had time to recover from losses, as a new battle began to prevent a decisive enemy offensive on Sevastopol. The VIII Air Corps (Fliegerkorps) of the Luftwaffe had a significant advantage over the Red Army Air Force, the losses of which could not be compensated by replenishment from the Black Sea Navy Air Force. Thus, in order to help the defenders of Sevastopol, Marshal S.M. Budyonny ordered the 45th IAP, equipped with the Yak-1, to redeploy to the defense of Sevastopol. Two-thirds of this regiment, under the command of an ace with 19 victories K.D. Denisov, managed to fly from the Caucasus to the Crimea. Thus, 45th IAP became the last reinforcement from the USSR of the air group in Sevastopol.

According to Soviet data, on July 11, the regiment destroyed eight Bf 109s, losing one Yak-1, the pilot of which successfully bailed out.

One of the Luftwaffe aces, a participant in the air battles near Sevastopol, Lieutenant Heinrich Setz of II / JG 77 (who had 133 victories, including 16 Yak-1), wrote in his diary: Despite the fact that air battles near Sevastopol are quite rare, they are extremely risky. The enemy has brand new planes and the pilots are skilled at fighting them, so we must use all our skills. Yesterday I was in a dogfight twice. In the first case, I fought badly and had to run at maximum speed.

The next time I saw a group of enemy planes coming in for a landing. I had a good opportunity to attack the armored IL-2, but I did not go for it. Suddenly, I noticed one of the newest Russian fighter jets overhead. I managed to forestall him, rise above my opponent and enter from the side of the sun. Mindful of my previous unsuccessful fight, I assessed the situation and began my attack. This time I was careful, and caught the engine of an enemy aircraft in the crosshairs of my sight. Nothing saved him. My wingman started chasing another one and then I saw two planes fleeing 1000 meters [3,300ft] above. I pursued them, but almost immediately it became clear that they were our own. Setz claimed five Yak-1s shot down between 11 June and 12 July 1942, including three shot down on 10 July.

One of the largest air battles involving Yaks took place on June 13, during the third period of the assault on Sevastopol. The air battle continued uninterrupted throughout the entire time, from takeoff to landing. Lieutenants Alexander Filatov and the future ace Ivan Shmatko each destroyed one Bf 109 fighter, the 45th IAP lost three aircraft in this battle, Lieutenant Shmatko and Sergeant S. G. Vazyan successfully escaped. Having five victories, ace l-nt P.A. Ushakov died in this battle. Two Yak-1s from the 6th GIAP of the Black Sea Fleet, pilots Kamyshan and Leshchenko, were also shot down. In addition to the five Yaks shot down, the Bf 109 pilots managed to destroy the Il-2 and the Pe-2 reconnaissance aircraft. These seven destroyed aircraft turned into 14 victories claimed by pilots from II./JG 77!

The number of experts units with a large number of downed aircraft grew due to numerous victories, Lieutenant Anton Hackl correctly identified one of his two victims as Yak-1 (this was his 54th of 180 victories - he claimed 5 victories in total Yak-1/7). Oberleutnant Siegfried Freytag claimed four victories, one of which was a Yak-1 and another LaGG-3 - the latter was almost certainly also a Yak. They brought his account to 39 downed aircraft, and he ended the war with 89 victories. Finally, sergeant major Ernst-Wilhelm Reinert also destroyed two fighters (this is his 52nd 53rd victory), which he declared as LaGG-3 and MiG-1, which are actually Yak-1. He finished the war with 168 victories (12 of which were identified as Yak-1). Officially, according to the documents of the Air Force of the Spacecraft, according to the records, from May 25 to July 1, 1942, the 3rd IAD, which defended Sevastopol, lost 53 aircraft in air battles, 28 of which were Yak-1.

Another 16 aircraft were listed as missing. Among the reasons explaining the unfavorable outcome of this battle in this theater of operations at this time was the high proportion of aces flying in JG 77. In addition to those previously mentioned, Gordon Gollob (146 victories, including eight Yak-1/7), Kurt Ubben (93 victories, including six over Yak-1/7) and Emil Omert (55 victories, including over one Yak-1). In contrast, the most successful Yak-1 pilots of the Black Sea Naval Air Force had between seven and ten victories.

In addition, the German Bf 109F fighters, colliding in battles with Soviet fighters, had the best flight qualities, which was emphasized in the following excerpt from a report compiled by the 62nd IAB (fighter aviation brigade) of the Black Sea Navy Air Force: At medium altitudes, our fighters lag behind the Bf 109 in terms of speed, especially in the vertical plane, so it is quite difficult to conduct air combat on the Yak, and this leads to additional losses. Combat, in almost every case, takes place on a horizontal plane, more like a defensive circle. Here the Yak-1 has much better flight characteristics, but it also lags behind the Me 109F.

Actions and losses in the first half of 1942 can be summarized and summed up by studying the May Kharkov operation carried out in the southwest.

Having accumulated a powerful fist of ground forces for the offensive, the Red Army sought to protect its troops by providing them with substantial air cover. More than 900 Soviet aircraft took part in the operation, including six Yak-1s from 296th IAP (from 6th IAK), seven Yak-1s from 146th IAP (from the 3rd SAD), 16 Yak-1s from 273th IAP (from 4 RAG), 18 Yak-1s from the 6th IAP and 18 Yak-1s from the 186th IAP. At this time, there were only 150 combat aircraft from the 4th Air Fleet on this sector of the front from the Luftwaffe, although an additional 360 aircraft were quickly transferred in the first days of the offensive, when things were most successful for the Red Army Air Force. Nevertheless, the Luftwaffe command quickly strengthened its forces, which allowed the 4th Air Fleet to carry out more fighter sorties. As a result of the German offensive on the Kharkov ledge, a large grouping of Soviet troops was cut off and 239,000 Soviet soldiers and officers were captured. Despite this, according to reports from various headquarters, up to 250 enemy aircraft were destroyed, while losing 76 Soviet aircraft. Indeed, many units of the Red Army Air Force, such as the 273rd IAP, received gratitude for their efforts from the Soviet command. It was noted that, having accepted this regiment only before the offensive, Major I.T. Koshevoy, in the shortest possible time, managed to turn it into a well-interacting combat unit, which from May 11-15 made 129 sorties and destroyed ten enemy aircraft in the air and more than 19 on the ground. During the assault, the regiment destroyed 46 tanks, 26 vehicles and many other vehicles. During the fighting, the regiment itself lost seven Jacobs.

The headquarters of the 4th Air Fleet issued its own assessment of the campaign, which claimed that between May 12 and 29, 596 Soviet aircraft were shot down and 19 destroyed on the ground, 229 tanks were damaged, 3038 vehicles and 22 railway trains were destroyed, and many other destructions were also caused. Own aircraft losses were cited as 49, including 19 Bf 109s. Many German aces subsequently increased their combat accounts during the attack on Kharkov, Lieutenant Adolf Dickfeld of III/JG 52 shot down 11 aircraft in one day, raising his score to 73 wins. The identity of these aircraft is unknown. Claiming 132 downed aircraft by the end of the war, he shot down at least 15 Yak-1s.

Lieutenant Hermann Graf from the same unit during this time proved to be an even more prolific sniper, although none of his victories were identified as Yak-1.

Despite the tragic results of the entire Kharkov operation, the surviving Soviet pilots used their experience to improve their capabilities in air combat. Two pilots such as Art. Lieutenant Aleksey Reshetov and Lieutenant Fotiy Morozov subsequently became successful aces after their transfer from the 6th to the 273rd IAP as a result of the tragic encirclement near Kharkov. In the summer of 1942, their new regiment began to specialize in reconnaissance flights behind the enemy's front line. Pilots usually conduct such sorties in pairs, and this was prudent, because the Yak-1 was more likely to evade Bf 109 attacks than traditional types of reconnaissance. If air combat became inevitable, the Yak pilots could fight their German opponents on equal terms.

As the best reconnaissance pilot in his unit, Reshetov once carried out the personal command of the unit commander, general T.T. Khryukin, who asked him to find the encircled Soviet ground unit and drop their flag. At the end of the war, both Reshetov and Morozov, who often flew combat missions together, were awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.

Their results were impressive. Reshetov made 821 sorties and destroyed 35 aircraft personally and eight more with another pilot. Morozov, who flew 857 sorties, the most by a Soviet fighter pilot, personally shot down 16 enemy planes and shared another five with another pilot. In addition to the summer months of 1941, both heroes flew Yaks throughout the war.

From what has already been said earlier, we can conclude that both sides massively exaggerate the losses of their enemy near Kharkov - this problem existed in all theaters of operations during the Second World War. This is especially evident in the reports made in May 1942 by one of the best Soviet regiments, the 434th IAP, which fought under the command of the Hero of the Soviet Union, an ace with 49 victories, Major I.I. Kleshchev. The best pilots fought in the regiment, they flew much more often than in other regiments, and fought the enemy courageously, initially in the Valuyki-Kupyansk region. However, their combat claims seem to be massively exaggerated. For example, before the general offensive of the Germans in the south, the regiment's pilots reported that during the attack of the Ju-88 group, marching under the cover of the Bf 109 group, they scored six victories. On July 2, the Yaks meet again with the Messerschmitts, and the victories were announced by Captain A.I. Yakimov, Art. Lt. F.S. Kayuk, I.I. Izbinsky and future ace with 36 victories, Andrey Baklan.

After the order of the Red Army Air Force Headquarters, the 434th IAP was sent to the rear to rest and receive new aircraft. Subsequently, he was moved to the rear for another reason. His last tour northwest of Stalingrad, from September 14 to October 3, 1942, was not only fruitful (according to combat reports, 83 enemy aircraft were shot down in 652 sorties), but also the bloodiest - 16 pilots were killed, including, on September 22, ace with 12 victories, Hero of the Soviet Union, Senior Lieutenant Nikolai Karnachenko.

On the German side, claimed victories from I/JG 53 are displayed with very very similar distortion. From September 1st to 23rd, 1942, Ace Spades pilots claim 344 victories in 1,100 sorties, with their 18 Bf 109G-2 losses and eight of their aces.

During the climax of the Battle of Stalingrad, both sides threw their best regiments and their most advanced fighters into the battle. However, the Red Army Air Force still relied on regiments armed with I-16 and I-153 aircraft, which suffered heavy losses from attacks by Luftwaffe experts.

In the North Caucasus, in 5th-SAD, the best flight crew was an ace with 17 victories, Major Dmitry Kalarash, navigator of the 236th IAD, and an ace with 17 victories, Captain Sergei Shirov, squadron commander in the 518th IAP. In autumn, they usually flew in pairs on the Yak-7B and Yak-1, respectively, in the Tuapse region, covering the actions of less experienced pilots. Despite their efforts, the Yakov Regiment was still exposed to enemy attacks, which led to the loss of nine of the 15 aircraft that took part in a large air battle on October 29, 1942, in which the 518th IAP claimed 11 victories. Six pilots were killed, including Major Calarasi, who was attacked from above by Oberleutnant Barkhorn of II/JG 52, this was Barkhorn's 75th victory out of his 300 victories (19 of which were Yak-1s shot down by him on Bf 109F). Posthumously, Dmitry Calarasi was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union, Sergei Shirov, who also died in this battle, was also awarded this honor.

Statistics taken from official Soviet and German reports allow us to draw some conclusions. Without information from both sides about the same event, it is difficult to draw unbiased conclusions because exaggerations were common at the time.

Basically, the failures of Soviet pilots on the Yaks were not due to the technical shortcomings of their aircraft, but for other reasons. These reasons included insufficient aircrew training in the Red Army Air Force, poor ground and air control of STF teams, poor structural organization prior to the transition to the Air Armies, when control of several air formations was divided among different commanders, and outdated combat tactics. In air battles with Bf 109s, on the same Yak-1 fighters, in 1943-44, Soviet pilots achieved much better results, since most of these problems had already been eliminated.