Aviation of World War II

Aviation of World War II

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Aces Against Aces. The Price of Victory.

O.S. Smyslov

Victory is, of course, absolutely essential in a war, but the face of the victorious state depends on the price that was paid for it. In this case, the price of victory in the air can be determined primarily by the number of lost crews and aircraft during the period of combat operations. The cost of victory in the air is the most important criterion for the level of combat skill and military art of command personnel and flight crews, which determines the winner as having achieved victory with much fewer losses than the enemy.

Unfortunately, we have to reckon with the fact that the price for the victory of the Soviet Union in the Great Patriotic War was paid very, very high. The victory in the air did not become in this regard some absolutely separate indicator. Judge for yourself.

If from the Red Army Air Force on the Soviet-German front 129,400 aircraft participated in the hostilities, which made 3.8 million sorties (29 on average per aircraft), then from the German Air Force - 48,450, which flew 1.8 million sorties (37 per aircraft on average).

During the war years on the Soviet-German front, the ratio of aircraft losses was 1 to 1.15. If the combat losses of the Red Army Air Force amounted to 46,100, and not combat losses - 60,300, then the German Air Force on the Soviet-German front lost 52,850 aircraft, and in total since 1941 - 85,650 aircraft on the Eastern and Western fronts.

According to Germany itself, losses in aircraft of the German Air Force, taking into account damage from 10% to the complete destruction of the aircraft, for the entire Second World War, from January 09, 1939, amount to 71965.

Moreover, if the aviation industry of the USSR produced only 122,100 aircraft from 1941 to 1945, then the German aviation industry - 100,749. According to other sources - 113,514. Therefore, we can talk about more aircraft produced and fewer combat losses by the Soviet Union.

However, we must not forget that Germany fought on two fronts: from 1939 - 64 months, and its non-combat losses were several times less than the losses of the Air Force of the spacecraft, which can generally indicate a high level of aircraft technology and no less the high level of training of the flight personnel of the Luftwaffe.

If the irretrievable losses of the flight personnel of the Air Force of the Spacecraft from 1941 to 1945 amounted to 48,158, including 28,193 pilots, then Germany lost more than 66 thousand people of the flight personnel on two fronts in the same period killed and missing. According to other sources, the Luftwaffe from 1939 to 1945 lost only about 24 thousand killed and 27 thousand missing.

Even based on these figures, one can imagine at what cost the victory in the air went to the Soviet Union during the Great Patriotic War.

The results of the combat operations of the Soviet Air Force in the initial period of the war were negatively affected primarily by the predominance of obsolete types of aircraft in their composition, the crowded basing of aviation units and formations, and the cumbersome and sluggish organizational structure of front-line aviation. In addition, the level of training of the flight crew did not meet the requirements of the war.

Forcing the growth of the number of aviation personnel occurred at the expense of the quality of their training, which, in turn, led to a decrease in the combat capability and combat readiness of air units and air formations. On the eve of the war, the commanding staff of the Air Force turned out to be unsure of itself. The flight crew was slowly retrained for new combat equipment, was poorly prepared for flights in difficult weather conditions, at night, for the combat use of complex types of maneuver. The combat experience gained in military conflicts of the interwar period did not fit well with the conditions of modern warfare, and, moreover, when generalized, led to incorrect conclusions, primarily in the tactics of aviation branches.

All this led to high losses of Soviet aviation in the first two years of the war, increasing the "price of victory" of the Red Army Air Force.

Despite the fact that the size of the aircraft fleet of the Red Army Air Force was constantly increasing due to the growth in the volume of aircraft received from the aircraft industry and under Lend-Lease, the composition of the German Air Force grouping on the Soviet-German front was actually consistently reduced. As a result, this led to a twofold or more numerical superiority of the air group of the Soviet Air Force starting from 1943 in all strategic operations. By the end of the war, the number of new types of aircraft increased to almost 97%.

During the years of the war, the Air Force of the spacecraft received a number of modern aircraft that were not inferior to similar aircraft in Germany. The Soviet aviation industry managed to seriously improve the combat qualities of aircraft without increasing their weight.

In addition, Soviet aircraft, born just before the war, had reserves for modification, while German aircraft, created much earlier, had actually exhausted such opportunities already at the beginning of the war. At the same time, shortcomings in combat use, organization of interaction and control of aviation in individual operations contributed to an increase in unjustified losses of spacecraft aviation and undoubtedly affected the cost of victory.

One of the reasons for the high losses can also be called the lack of centralized leadership of the Soviet Air Force. The division of aviation, before the creation of air armies, into army and front-line aviation prevented the massing of front-line aviation in the main directions.

A huge role in the Air Force personnel training system was played by the formation of reserve and training air regiments, the in-line pilot training system and the reduction of training periods in aviation schools and colleges. In essence, on the one hand, these measures were justified under those conditions. On the other hand, they can also be attributed to the factor of increasing losses.

Researchers of the losses of the Air Force spacecraft point out that many of them were due to significant shortcomings in the theory and practice of the combat use of the Air Force. The lack of initiative in the SC Air Force in the initial period of the war led to its huge losses. In addition to errors in the theory of the construction and use of the Air Force, one can also pay attention to the neglect of the experience of the war taking place in the West. This is especially true for air supremacy and the practice of distributing the main efforts of the Luftwaffe according to tasks.

The most important is the fact that the fight against enemy aircraft was carried out, as a rule, by the forces of fighter aircraft, while covering the most important groupings of front troops and providing other branches of aviation.

At the same time, for a number of reasons, such active actions as hunting, blocking airfields, imposing air battles, unlike the enemy, were extremely rare. It can be said that almost completely in Soviet aviation there were no radar sights and electronic warfare equipment, which, in turn, imposed significant restrictions on the use of the Air Force both at night and in difficult weather conditions. And this also led to unjustified losses ...

Thus, it can be argued that the Red Army Air Force suffered significant combat losses and even more significant non-combat losses.

N. Bodrikhin considers the amazing results of the Luftwaffe aces untenable. He writes: “After all, the results of the combat work of more than 40 thousand fighter pilots alone who fought on the side of Germany during the Second World War are described by the law of normal distribution, and if we assume that the best of them really won the declared number of victories ( 352 - E. Hartman, 301 - G. Barnhorn, 13 more pilots - more than 200.88 - more than 100, etc.), then the total number of aircraft shot down in air battles will exceed the actual number several times." He claims “that the loss of Allied aircraft in World War II, according to American data, consisted of non-combat losses (40-50%), losses from anti-aircraft artillery fire (15-20%), the number shot down in air battles (20-30%) and lost at airfields (7-12%).

In this case, the loss of aircraft of the countries of the anti-Hitler coalition in air battles in the European theater should not exceed 30-35 thousand aircraft, and the estimated number of Luftwaffe shot down by pilots exceeds 60-80 thousand.”

Of course, patriotism is a good and necessary thing. Today it is just not enough. But as for the historical past, in this regard, the truth is still more expensive. Studies show that Germany, by the nature of the losses of the Air Force, lost 57% in air battles, or 30125 aircraft on the Soviet-German front, 17% were the losses of aircraft at airfields (8984) and 26% - from anti-aircraft artillery fire.

Therefore, in this case, the American data are not suitable for assessing the loss criterion for both the German Air Force and the Red Army Air Force.

It should be noted that the method of destroying enemy aircraft in the air was most widely used during the war years. This method accounts for 96% of all sorties carried out by Soviet aviation in the struggle for air supremacy. In this case, the Luftwaffe pilots during the Second World War could well have won about 70,000 victories, including 25,000 on the Western Front and 45,000 on the Eastern. However, some researchers claim that the real numbers of victories for Luftwaffe pilots are 19,000 on the Western Front, and about 32,000 on the Eastern. In total, about 5,000 German pilots had five or more victories to their credit.

The list of Soviet aces includes more than 2,000 names, of which about 800 pilots achieved 15 or more victories, another 400 - from 10 to 15, and about 200 pilots shot down 20 or more enemy aircraft.

In no case should we forget that after the First World War in the young Republic of Soviets, and then in the Soviet Union, there was no continuity of generations in the field of fighter aviation. There was no school... We started from scratch. In Germany, on the contrary, much attention was paid to the training of fighter pilots. They perfectly understood their value in a future war, which means they valued them. And the question of succession as such was not raised at all. It is not surprising that in this case the German ace was primarily an individualist and, if you like, a "hunter". He was not afraid of improvisations in tactics in the name of air victory.

The smallest number of sorties was carried out in the SC Air Force for "hunting". For example, in the 28th IAP, in which I happened to serve as a lieutenant after school, only 86 sorties were made for this task (in 1944 - 48, in 1945 - 38). Of the 14,045 sorties, this is only 6%.

According to the authoritative opinion of the Hero of the Soviet Union, General G.A. Baevsky, “the Luftwaffe was not only a group of outstanding pilots, they, and the leading aces of Germany A. Galland and E. Hartman agreed with this, also had “thousands of young, unknown German pilots who died without winning a single battle!"

This once again shows how difficult the profession of a fighter pilot is. The French fighter pilot Pierre Huystermann, in principle, shares this opinion: “There seemed to be no “middle” in the Luftwaffe, and German pilots could be divided into two quite clear categories.

Aces, making up 15-20% of the total number of pilots, really outnumbered the average Allied pilots. And the rest did not deserve special attention. Courageous, but unable to get the most out of their aircraft. The reason for this was primarily a hasty selection due to heavy losses in the "Battle of England" and in the Russian campaign. Their training was very short and not very well balanced; paramount importance was given to the education of morale, devotion to the great German idea and adherence to military theories, while underestimating technical instruction. From the end; In 1943, an acute shortage of fuel was added to these errors. So there was, gradually suffering huge losses in severe trials in the skies of Europe, the heroic detachment of "experienced people" of the Luftwaffe, real veterans with three or four thousand hours of flight behind them. These pilots, trained in the Spanish Civil War and surviving the successful campaigns of the Luftwaffe since 1940, knew their job thoroughly, in every detail - cautious and self-confident pilots, they were very dangerous.

On the other hand, there were young fanatics with high morale and bound by iron discipline, who could be sent into battle relatively easily in many difficult circumstances.

In general, in late 1944 and early 1945, the average standard of German fighter pilots was much higher than at any other time since 1940. This can be explained - in addition to the importance of combat morale and a sense of patriotism - by the fact that elite units fighter pilots had unsurpassed authority and primacy in everything - until the distribution of fuel and lubricants.

The 28th IAP during the war years destroyed only 511 aircraft and at the same time lost 56 pilots.

The 5th Guards IAP during the war years won 539 confirmed victories and at the same time lost 89 pilots (36 - in air battles, 23 - did not return from a combat mission, 7 - died from anti-aircraft artillery fire, 7 - during bombing, attack and shelling, 16 in accidents).

During the war, the 32nd IAP destroyed 518 enemy aircraft and lost 61 pilots.

The 9th IAP shot down 558 enemy aircraft in total.

The most productive regiment in the Red Army Air Force was the 402nd Red Banner Sevastopol IAP, which destroyed 810 enemy aircraft in battle.

So why couldn't the most successful Luftwaffe fighter squadron (52nd) destroy 10,000 aircraft during the war years? After all, you need to divide into three groups, in our opinion - into three regiments. And it will turn out more than three thousand per group, per regiment. At the same time, one squadron in the Luftwaffe was so productive, and not all. Why not agree ... For example, in another elite fighter squadron (Green Heart - 54th) from June 22, 1941 to 1945 from 416 pilots did not return from combat missions. In 1942, 93 pilots were lost there, in 1943 - 112, and in 1944 - 109. And in the very first month of the war in Russia, from June 22 to July 22, 1941, 37 pilots of this squadron (out of 112 included in it according to the list) were killed or went missing. That is, in each regiment or group, on average, more than ten per unit.

For example, in 1943, Major Hans Hann (108 victories) was captured from this squadron on February 21, Lieutenant Hans Beisswenger (152 victories) was shot down and died on March 17, Major Reinhard Seyler (109 victories) was also shot down on July 5, and Lieutenant Max Stotz (189 victories) jumped out with a parachute and was captured on August 19. We still believe that if a German pilot was shot down with so many victories, then he could not have had so many.

In the Soviet Union, only 2332 pilots were awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union. Of these, in fighter aircraft 810 (35%). Only twice - 61. Of these, 22 (36%) in fighter aircraft. Only three times - 2, and all in IA.

In Germany, 1730 pilots became holders of the Knight's Cross. Of these, 568 (33%) are in fighter aviation.

192 pilots were awarded the Oak Branch. Of these, 120 (63%) are in fighter aviation; "swords" - 41, including 25 (61%) in fighter aircraft; "diamonds" - 12, including - 9 (75%) in fighter aircraft.

And here we see a similar restraint in awarding aces pilots from both sides. And here and there they did not hang high awards to just anyone. This means that Goebbels' propaganda did not finish, since in the Third Reich Knight's crosses should have been poured several times more. At two or three! But no. In two countries, awards were usually given for a certain number of victories, and each victory, as you know, had a high price.