Aviation of World War II

Aviation of World War II

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The Struggle of a Fighter Unit for Air Supremacy

Colonel A. Sidorov

In the plans for the preparation and conduct of combat operations in the summer of 1944, a prominent place was given to the task of covering our ground forces from enemy air strikes, on the one hand, and ensuring unhindered work in the offensive of our attack aircraft and bombers, on the other. This task could be successfully accomplished only under the condition of complete dominance of our aviation in the air over the entire battle area, and especially in the main directions of the proposed offensive.

That is why the aviation command paid special attention to the organization of combat operations of our fighters in these operations. The results of this are now known to all: thanks to well-thought-out and timely measures, our aviation, as a rule, was the undivided master of the sky, and enemy aviation was either completely expelled from the combat areas, or, by the actions of our fighters, turned out to be tied up and incapable of counteracting our offensive in any effective way.

In these operations, many fighter formations of our Air Force have accumulated rich experience in the struggle for air supremacy. This, in particular, is evidenced by the practice of solving this problem in the Bobruisk operation. Without going into an assessment and a detailed analysis of the actions of the fighters in this operation, we would like to highlight here some questions of the preparation and organization of the struggle for air supremacy, which are of interest from the point of view of experience that can be used in the future.

The air situation before the start of the Bobruisk operation in the area of ​​the proposed breakthrough was characterized by the fact that the enemy systematically observed our rear, stubbornly trying to fix the slightest movement, troop maneuver or aircraft basing. Aircraft "He-111", "Me-109" and "FW-190" conducted continuous reconnaissance, sometimes even with combat.

From this, naturally, followed the requirement of especially strict observance of secrecy in the concentration of forces for the operation and in the preparation of the airfield network. To this we must also add the very strict terms of preparation for the operation dictated by the moment.

Despite this, the concentration of fighter units intended for participation in the operation on new forward airfields was carried out at the appointed time and in such a size that provided us with numerical superiority over enemy aircraft in the sector of breaking through the enemy defenses. The pilots of the fighter units of the compound by this time already had combat experience. Many of them had previously participated in major air battles.

Organization of Control of Fighter Aviation

Having received the airfield base network, the operational group of the aviation command went to a new location for the deployment of units, where, having carefully studied the airfield hub, it made the necessary instructions on completing the airfields, expanding them, on improving the caponiers and embankments. The airfield network was accurately mapped on a large scale, which was of great practical importance for the pilots. After the issues related to the new base became clear, advanced teams were sent here. The staffs arriving after that immediately set about organizing work to prepare for the reception of units.

Drawing 1

While the airfields intended for the new deployment were preparing to receive units, a system of measures was developed at the headquarters of the fighter aviation formation to combat enemy reconnaissance, which was put into effect even before the arrival of the main forces of fighter aviation, which ensured dominance during the operation. At the advanced airfields being prepared (mostly 2-3 airfields per air connection), fighter units landed, which carried combat duty here from sunrise to sunset. The commander of each such link, while in the aircraft, had a direct connection with the detection station, which worked at the main airfield. For this purpose, the wires of the existing communication lines of the fighter air hub were used with the ends connected to them for the duty link. In order not to discharge the aircraft battery, while the duty commander, sitting in the aircraft, listened to the station, the onboard battery was connected.*

For a better orientation of the fighters taking off to intercept, on the flight map of the pilots of the 500000 scale, squares were numbered, respectively, with the same air defense map.

A commander was on duty at the guidance station throughout the daylight hours, who had the right to independently resolve all issues of combating enemy reconnaissance. Thus, the station turned into a kind of command post for combating enemy reconnaissance units: a loop of wires was connected to it from army VNOS equipment and from other airfields where fighter units were on duty.

The advantage of such a joint operation of the detection station and fighter pilots can be traced to the example of the fighters of the Guards, Major General of Aviation Dzusov, who skillfully organized the fight against enemy intelligence officers in the Bobruisk operation.

The fighters of this formation were equipped with a map at a scale of 500,000, on which a pre-designed digitized square grid scheme was applied. The essence of the grid is as follows: the first row of squares was assigned the numbers 10, 11, 12, the second - 20, 21, 22, the third - 30, 31, 32, etc. Such rows were practically required to cover the interception area no more than 5-7. The grid of squares (each of which had an area of ​​20 X 18 km) was quickly assimilated by the pilot and allowed both him and the commander located at the detection station to quickly calculate for an encounter with the enemy and carry out a rough one (within 10-15 km. i.e. . within the square) aiming. The exact aiming of the fighter at the enemy aircraft (especially in bad weather) was carried out by an additional indication of the station at the moment the pilot entered the given square.

The advantage of such a system is that the pilot only needs to know eight points. Heading in the air and time are not transmitted to him. Only the altitude, the number of aircraft, the square of the aircraft's location and the square of the direction of its flight are transmitted. For example: "A group of bombers up to 20, H = 4,000, square 10-21." This phrase should be understood as follows: "Actual reception time, altitude 4,000 m, up to 20 enemy bombers heading 135, place - according to the square map" (Scheme 1).

Using this method of dealing with enemy scouts, our pilots more than once inflicted sensitive blows on them. So, for example, on June 8, a pair headed by Lieutenant Colonel Panov flew out to intercept two enemy reconnaissance fighters flying at an altitude of 1,500-2,000 meters from Bykhov to Propoisk. The station brought it together with the enemy and in the area of ​​the Bokhon metro station, it overtook two FW-190s. A fight ensued. Having dropped the hanging tanks, Guards Lieutenant Colonel Panov shot down one FW-190 from the very first attack on the catch-up: the second FW-190 was damaged.

After a series of similar encounters and battles, the activity of enemy scouts dropped sharply.

It must, however, be noted that the experience of such actions strongly emphasizes the need to have specially trained fighter units for this purpose, at least one unit per squadron. Experience has also shown that in an attempt to evade detection, the enemy seeks salvation in flight at low altitudes. This must be taken into account when organizing the struggle for air supremacy.

Fighter control from the forward command post was organized as follows.

Part of our ground army took up defensive positions and concentrated along the eastern bank of the river. Drut in a dense forest. Therefore, observation towers in the forest were equipped for the advanced command post. It was decided to install ground-based guidance radio stations on the advanced NPs of the army troops, by whose forces the indicated observation towers towering over the forest were built for aviation. Operational communication between the headquarters of the ground army and the corps was also made available to aviation.

For radio stations, niches in the ground were dug in advance, and on the night of the day before the operation, the stations were brought to combat positions and prepared for work.

The advanced OP of the commander of the air formation was organized together with the advanced CP of the commander of the ground army. The point had a special observation tower and could have auxiliary means of communication for the ground army.

At the forward command post, the advanced NP of the commander of the anti-aircraft units, who covered our troops and interacted with fighters, was also taken out. Here, at the forward NP of the commander of a fighter formation, the train of the head of the VNOS service of the ground army was brought up.

Thus, a complete interaction of FA, EA and VNOS was achieved, which fully justified itself in practice.

At the same time, direct communication was provided by wire between the advanced command post of the aviation commander and the headquarters of the ground army. The headquarters of the aviation and ground commands were also connected by telephone wire. The communication system allowed the aviation commander to give orders to the guidance stations, as well as receive information from them not only by radio, but also by wire. He also had the opportunity, being at the forward command post, to call both by radio and by wire aircraft from the reserve and thus build up forces during the battle. Special units were allocated to the reserve of the aviation command, in which there were always groups of fighters in readiness No. 1.

The system of aiming at the enemy over the battlefield and over enemy territory was organized according to the same principle as in the fight against scouts, i.e. by the system of squares. Pointing at the enemy artillery spotters was also facilitated by ground troops, who, by firing rockets in the direction of a flying enemy spotter, showed his location.

* - probably here we are talking about an external battery, or an airfield cart with batteries connected on board (approx. admin.)

Preparing for the Operation

The headquarters of the fighter air formation assigned to the guidance station, in addition to its direct duties, the task of informing about weather conditions and helping pilots in restoring orientation. They were given coded maps, as well as coded phrases most commonly used in the meteorological service.

In addition, the headquarters provided for the issues of the movement of radio stations. Each of them was previously indicated the axis of motion. For this purpose, on a two-kilometer map located at the headquarters and at the guidance station, points or squares were encoded with a special code. Data on the progress of the station was transmitted to the forward command post, due to which there was no loss of communication with the guidance stations. The headquarters always knew exactly where the station was located.

All these issues were thoroughly worked out, summarized in special instructions for guidance stations, after which training sessions were held with the station personnel and personnel assigned to work on them with a practical loss of the upcoming work. The corresponding instructions were also sent to the regiments, where they were studied by all flight and command personnel.

Staff commanders, bringing the task to the flight crew, held a lesson in each regiment on the topic "How we will act and what every pilot needs to know in these specific conditions of combat operations."

Before the start of the operation, under the leadership of the high aviation command, the entire upcoming operation was lost within a day and a half in accordance with its plan.

After that, the commander of the air formation, which was entrusted with the task of fighting for air supremacy, convened an expanded meeting of the leadership of subordinate headquarters. At this meeting, according to the schemes drawn up by the chiefs of services, the idea and plan of the operation were explained to the commanders of the units, the combat order was handed over and specific tasks were set.

After the flight crew was acquainted with the new airfields, their size, approaches to them and the features of the upcoming flight in conversations held at the place of their former base, a flight of the flight crew along the route was organized in order to study it, as well as to familiarize with the airfield hub of the forthcoming basing.

Before relocating for a more confident flight, the group commanders preliminarily made the flight along the route themselves. At intermediate airfields, radio direction finders were set up by means of the air army, which made it possible to bring crews to a given landing airfield in the event of bad weather. This contributed to the fact that none of the crews lost their bearings.

From the airfields of the jump to the combat airfields, a preliminary flight of group commanders was also organized, and at different times. For the purpose of stealth from enemy radar facilities, the arrival at the combat airfield and the hub was carried out at low altitudes (100-300 m). The concentration was carried out in small groups, in most cases in the evening. By this time, a radio direction finder was working at the main airfield of the connection air hub, colored smoke was used. A fighter unit was also on duty here, taking off according to the data of the guidance station and the signals of the VNOS posts.

During the navigational training of the area, they proceeded from its features. Where the terrain of the patrol area was too colorful and did not have particularly characteristic landmarks, large arrows were laid out on the ground in the direction of the enemy. Patrol areas were marked with bonfires or smokes of different colors. In areas rich in water and highway boundaries, identification marks were laid out: letters 20–30 m in size or numbers.

Each airfield had its own smokes (a combination of smoke colors). Orientation was especially difficult in areas with a large number of plowing strips of the same type, which looked like a large multi-colored carpet from the air and made it very difficult to compare the map with the terrain. Under these conditions, the radio direction finder was the main means of driving to your airfield.

Organization of a Sortie and Methods of Covering the Battlefield

Due to the insufficient adaptability of airfields (poor rolling, small runways, etc.), it was necessary to accurately develop and strictly implement the taxi mode. Taxiing to the start and takeoff were carried out by a conveyor.

Gathering after takeoff took place in a circle, then the established battle order was engaged in the direction of the front line, after which the specified flight altitude was gained.

They returned to their airfield in the order of battle established during departure, and the landing was carried out in pairs, by conveyor, with a subsequent decrease in altitude. Those who remained in the air covered those who landed. On the ground all the time No. 1 was on duty, which, in the event of an enemy attack, flew out under the cover of the upper echelon of those who came from the mission and, thus, ensured the landing of the entire group.

For the landing of aircraft that could return from a mission shot down, a separate airfield was assigned or strips and places were prepared for landing on the “belly”. In order to quickly clean up aircraft that crashed during landing, an emergency team from the BAO was organized at each airfield. The team had a tractor with skids (a sheet of iron on cables), air bags for lifting aircraft and a team of technical staff for quickly towing the aircraft from the runway.

The basis of the battle formations of fighters was a pair and a link. Patrol groups, as a rule, were built from 2, 4, 6, 8, 12, 16, 18, 24 aircraft, in most cases, separation in height. In one tier, less than four aircraft (flying link) were not assigned. Battle formations were usually echeloned in two tiers, again in ranks. Sometimes this was done in three tiers (patrol of 12 aircraft).

The best maneuverable patrol turned out to be a four (link), covered by a second four, operating in visual communication and necessarily echeloned in height.

When patrolling over the front line, the combat formation of the figure eight with the front, the reverse bearing with an excess in height from the sun, justified itself. The turn in this case was carried out according to the "all of a sudden" method without changing the bearing. Patrolling was carried out at 90 ° to the front line with a slight decrease in the territory of the enemy and with a subsequent climb over its territory. Behind the front line, outside the sphere of fire FOR the enemy, patrols were carried out along the front line itself by the method of screening or air ambush on enemy territory. It was in this zone that the main part of the patrol took place, in order to first of all beat the enemy bombers, meeting them on enemy territory and preventing our ground troops from reaching the combat formations.

So, when the front line was on the traverse Bol. Krushinovka, Folerichi, the city of Rogachev, our fighters flew into the Bobruisk area, that is, 40-50 km behind enemy lines.

The tactics of the fighters described and the measures taken to organize the struggle for air supremacy ensured the confidence and freedom of action of our advancing troops on the ground, and of attack aircraft and bombers in the air. - Aviation ensured the offensive of tanks and infantry, suppressed and destroyed the enemy in front of the front of our advancing troops, fired on the nearest communication centers of the Germans and their reserves. Our pilots showed maximum perseverance and heroism in battle. Maintaining contact with the ground forces, they continuously swooped down on the enemy's position, dropping bombs and firing at the enemy from cannons and machine guns.

On June 27, at 4 pm, our aviation discovered in the forests southeast of Bobruisk a large concentration of German infantry, up to 150 tanks, over 1000 guns, up to 6000 vehicles. The enemy launched fifteen counterattacks against our tanks near Titovka that day, trying to break through to the north. All this clearly indicated that the Germans were preparing on the night of June 28 to withdraw their troops from the encirclement.

In order to prevent the Germans from carrying out their plan, the front commander ordered aviation to immediately deliver a strong blow to the enemy grouping, which was preparing for a breakthrough. On the evening of June 27, over 500 of our attack aircraft and bombers continuously dropped a large number of bombs on the enemy for an hour and fired at him from a dive from cannons and machine guns. After the air strike, our infantry and tanks attacked the enemy. Realizing the hopelessness of their situation, the Germans began to surrender. On June 28 at 13 o'clock this group of Germans was completely eliminated.

Thanks to the described control and communications system, the aviation command quickly and in full accordance with the air situation raised cover fighters into the air, organized escort of its aircraft, interception, search and destruction of the air enemy.

The experience of the Bobruisk operation in organizing the struggle for air supremacy allows us to draw some conclusions:

1. Fighter aviation, assigned to fight for air supremacy, must be based as close as possible to the advancing advanced units (10-50 km). This measure, however, justifies itself only on the condition of the obligatory organization of fighter ambushes, in which, as experience has shown, it is best to assign modernized Yakovlev aircraft.

2. In the most critical periods of the operation (attack, the introduction of mobile troops into a breakthrough, the moment of crossing water barriers), air supremacy should and can only be ensured by direct cover of ground troops by forces of 8-12 periodically changing aircraft, and in combination with simultaneous the work of reinforced patrols-hunters. moreover, on the ground at this time there must be a reserve of fighters in readiness No. 1.

3. At a less critical time, you can and should save your energy as much as possible: instead of constant patrols, organize fighter sorties only on signals from detection and guidance stations. The obligatory conditions for this should be: strict coordination of actions with anti-aircraft artillery, a well-established air defense service, and finally, absolutely reliable, trouble-free wire and radio communications between the forward command post, the guidance station and the fighter reserve.


Покараем немецко-фашистских извергов за разграбление и разрушение наших городов и сел, за насилия над женщинами и детьми, за убийства и увод в немецкое рабство советских людей! Мщение и смерть фашистским злодеям!


  • Bulletin of the Air Fleet # 19-20. October 1944