Aviation of World War II
Navigator Service in Massive Air Force Operations in Breaking Through Enemy Defenses
(According to the experience of the summer campaign of 1944)
Operations to break through the defenses of the Germans by the Red Army in the summer campaign of 1944 near Vitebsk, Orsha, Mogilev, Rogachev and Lvov were carried out with the support of massive strikes by our aircraft. In these operations, the navigator's service played an important role, from which the very principle of the massive use of aviation demanded new forms of new content of work.
In the "normal" conditions of hostilities, when individual air units operate for different purposes, navigational support mainly ended in a regiment, less often in a division. In the case of concentrated strikes by several large air formations on the area of breaking through the enemy defenses and in a limited time, the center of gravity of navigational support was transferred to the highest aviation headquarters organizing this operation.
The chief navigator was required to outline the distribution of targets, time and maneuver between air formations, so that in the intended zone of breaking through the enemy defenses, only 12-15 km wide along the front and 6-8 km deep, in 1 - 2 hours of "aviation training "to ensure the maximum possible density of bomb and cannon fire from all aircraft involved in the operation, the number of which often exceeded a thousand.
The chief navigator began his calculations by studying the enemy defenses in the planned breakthrough zone in terms of the location and nature of the targets, mainly artillery positions, resistance centers and trenches. For this, photographic plates of the latest, specially conducted surveys and maps of large-scale targets (50,000 or 25,000) made from them were used. The identified objects were grouped into targets, numbered and subjected to a bombing calculation for the approximate number of required hits of bombs of the corresponding caliber, on the basis of which the required aircraft order was then determined. A haul of targets and bomber crews served as the basis for setting missions for air formations.
Following this, the chief navigator thought over and reflected on the diagram (map) the general maneuver of aviation in the target area. He proceeded from the requirements of the greatest destruction of targets and considerations about the position of the sun, the safety of the combat course for his troops, the exclusion of the possibility of a collision and falling under the bombs of his aircraft and into the zone of the trajectories of his artillery shells, taking into account, finally, the least exposure to the enemy. As a rule, all these requirements and considerations led to the appointment of a common fetal and exit gate and a common combat course.
Further, the chief navigator outlined a common checkpoint, located not far from the entrance gate, and determined the necessary time interval for the passage of the checkpoint by formations to achieve the required density.
Based on the time allotted for the passage of the checkpoint (or strike time), the commanders of the formations appointed their units flying from different airfields the timing of the departures and the intervals between them.
Then, depending on the condition of the base of the air formation (and it was extremely dense under the conditions of aviation saturation), the chief navigator determined the boundaries
Having calculated the time for collection, landing and flight along the route, the chief navigator drew up a time schedule for the first day of the operation. This schedule made it possible to simply transfer the moment of strikes depending on the change in "H" and convenient control over the actions of the formations in terms of time during the operation. The same time schedule was also used by the operational departments of the headquarters when compiling the combat order and the planning table.
Depending on the choice of the checkpoint, the axes of the routes and the basing of the units, the chief navigator clarified with the head of the AIA the arrangement of the AIA facilities and allocated a mobile AIA station at the checkpoint. On the ground. at the points indicated by the chief navigator, the rear service built and laid out additional AIA signs in the form of letters and numbers from improvised materials, clearly visible from the air and facilitating orientation for the flight crew, especially in areas poor in characteristic landmarks. Through the headquarters of the ground troops, the chief navigator clarified how the troops would designate our front line.
At the same time, according to the instructions of the chief navigator, measures were taken to provide meteorological support for the operation. Additional points of meteorological and balloon-pilot observations were organized in the area of the checkpoint, with the transmission of meteorological data through the driving radio station of the checkpoint. To illuminate the weather on enemy territory, special aircraft were sent - weather reconnaissance aircraft, transmitting the weather in established codes by radio to the meteorological service center.
The results of all these preparatory measures were included in the "Navigational instructions for the operation." These instructions contained: a) instructions for the preparation of units and formations for the upcoming combat operations in terms of navigation; b) characteristics of the flight area in relation to orientation; c) instructions on the methods of aircraft navigation, bombing and its control; d) the location and nature of the operation of the AIA facilities; e) climatological information about the area for the period of operations and the procedure for meteorological support of air units.
Navigator's instructions were accompanied by a map with a maneuver scheme for targets, route axes and air formations muster limits, a map and a list of targets with bomber crews, a map and a list of AIA assets.
Based on the navigation instructions for the operation developed and approved by the commander, the chief navigator instructed the navigators of the formations, gathering them for this at one of the airfields.
Having completed the development of the operation in terms of navigation and bringing navigational instructions to subordinate formations, the chief assault with his assistants began to check in units and formations the progress and correctness of navigational preparation for combat operations.
Since most of the air units were concentrated in the area of the operation shortly before it began, their navigational training usually consisted of the following.
First of all, the area of upcoming flights was studied (on large-scale maps) and tests were taken from the flight crew on knowledge of the area.
Then, adhering to the given axes of the routes, the leading crews circled the area.
Shortly before the start of the operation, the leading crews were taken to our front line in front of the breakthrough zone, where they searched for and studied their targets and the outline of our front line on the ground and on sandboxes. Finally, if time and resources allowed, a tactical flight exercise of personnel was carried out according to the plan as close as possible to the operation being prepared.
Such training greatly increased the effectiveness of the first air strikes and excluded the possibility of hitting friendly troops.
Senior navigators of formations and navigators of units, on the basis of the navigational instructions received from the chief navigator, made calculations for their formation (unit), refined bomber calculations and aiming points within the targets assigned to them and compiled their navigational instructions (in units - navigation plans), which then studied by flight personnel.
The time remaining before the start of the operation was used to check the readiness of the crews in terms of navigation. At the same time, special attention was paid to knowing one's targets, drawing the line of contact with the enemy on flight maps, knowing the checkpoints, AIA data, the procedure for gathering and maneuvering, the method established by order for restoring the orientation and readiness of aircraft navigation equipment, especially the accuracy of compasses, PPK* and clocks.
Navigators of units and formations reported to higher navigators about the readiness of their units in terms of navigation.
As the experience of the operations carried out in the summer campaign of 1944 showed, such a procedure for the navigational preparation of massive attacks by our aircraft on enemy defenses in the zone of the planned breakthrough justified itself completely and ensured that our aircraft accurately completed the assigned tasks.
Experience has also shown that with the outbreak of hostilities, the chief navigator must be at the command post, i.e. he must be constantly aware of the ground situation, setting new tasks for air units, aware of the progress of their implementation in order to take timely measures for navigational support.
In the course of the operation, the chief navigator had to continuously monitor the change in the front line and control bringing it to the flight crews, because the safety of our troops from attacks by their own aircraft depended on this in the first place.
With the implementation of a breakthrough and a change in the ground situation, the chief navigator must develop new conditions for maneuver in the target area in a timely manner, avoiding a template, that is, changing the direction of approaches, and move forward the checkpoint, AIA facilities. designating it, to make calculations and support the tasks of night aviation, to study the final reports and photographs of the results of bombing for the day in order to identify shortcomings and take measures to eliminate them. In a number of cases, the chief navigator managed to stay for several hours at the forefront, from where he could observe the entire progress of the massive air strike and make further adjustments to its organization based on personal observation.
On the second day, in view of the fact that all work on setting tasks for units usually ended in the first half of the night, the chief navigator could visit one or two formations and check the progress of navigational preparations for departures, necessarily returning to headquarters by the end of the day to study the situation and taking action to meet the next challenges.
The following conclusions can be drawn from the foregoing.
Navigator crews and activities have a large share in the development and preparation of operations in breaking through the enemy’s fortified zone, and the chief navigator has a large role in the headquarters in this work.
Massive air strikes require a large centralization of navigational calculations, and the task of the navigational service in formations and units is to accurately fulfill the specified elements according to these calculations.
The success of massive strikes is determined by accurate navigational calculations and careful preparation of units and formations. The most important and obligatory measures in this preparation should be: studying the area, flying around the area, going to the front line (especially for attack aircraft), losing flights according to pre-developed navigation plans, and finally (if time and material resources permit) - tactical flight exercises of personnel according to the developed operations.
The experience of navigating support for the massed actions of the Air Force in the summer campaign of 1944 must be taken into account in the future combat work of aviation.
RPK - Radio polukompas - Radiokompas