Aviation of World War II

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Armament of Luftwaffe

At the beginning of the Second World War, the armament of the Yak and Bf.109 fighters remained approximately on par for some time - the armament of both the Yak-1 with a 20-mm motor-gun and the Messer up to the Friedrich consisted of a 20-mm engine -cannon (or faster - 15mm) and a pair of synchronous rifle caliber machine guns. However, for the Bf 109 there was the possibility of arming with additional cannons in underwing containers, but this modification was not particularly popular on the Eastern Front, since it reduced the speed and maneuverability of the aircraft. The increased firepower was required mainly in the fight against the four-engined Allied bombers. Up to 1943, no attention was paid to the strengthening of the built-in weapons - only when the production of the Bf 109G-6 modification began, the synchronous 7.92-mm machine guns were replaced with a 13.2-mm caliber.

In the USSR, a similar attempt was made a year earlier, when a pair of synchronous 12.7 mm machine guns were installed on the Yak-7b instead of ShKAS.

Alas, the enhanced armament of the "Yakovlev" fighters along the way of increasing the caliber, and hence the weight, was limited by the low power of the engines. As a result, the standard for the Yak-1b, most modifications of the Yak-9 and early Yak-3 series was a set of a 20-mm motor cannon and one 12.7-mm synchronous machine gun. Naturally, such armament was clearly insufficient - all fighters, both enemy and allies, and the Soviet Lavochkin La-5 and La-7 vehicles in 1943-1945 were more armed.

For comparison: the mass of a second salvo of the Yak aircraft, armed with one 20-mm cannon and one 12.7-mm machine gun, was 1,690 kg/s, and with a cannon and a pair of 12.7-mm machine guns (as on the Yak-7b and most Yak-3) - already 2.099 kg/s. At the same time, the "Messerschmitt" with one 20-mm MG 151/20 cannon and a pair of 7.92-mm machine guns, this parameter was 1.775 kg/s.

On the Bf 109G-6 modification with the MG 151/20 cannon and two 13.2 mm machine guns, the mass of the second salvo increased to 2.161 kg/s, and when two additional 20 mm cannons were installed in underwing containers (the Bf 109G-6/R6), this figure reached 5.054 kg/s.

Yakovlev, trying to compensate for the lag, went the way of not quantitative, but qualitative enhancement of weapons, replacing the standard 20-mm cannon with a much more powerful 37-mm. This option was tested on a small series of Yak-7-37, and then in 1943 introduced on the mass Yak-9T. An attempt to put an even more powerful 45-mm cannon on the Yak-9 was not very successful, and the Yak-9K armed with such a gun was built in 1944 in very small numbers. Large-caliber cannons were also installed on the Messerschmitt - from the second half of 1943, the Bf 109G-6/U4, G-6/U5 and G-6/U6 modifications were armed with 30-mm MK 103 and MK 108 cannons. were mainly sent to air defense units, and were relatively rare on the Eastern Front. But the Yak-9T was widely used at the front, and its weapons showed high efficiency not only against bombers, but also against fighters. The responses of front-line pilots about his 37-mm cannon are very indicative: "The entire personnel of the unit thanks the designers for the new weapon ..."

However, the standard for most Yak-3 set of 20-mm cannon and a pair of large-caliber machine guns fully ensured the defeat of even such armored and tenacious aircraft as Hs 129В and FW 190F/G.

On sighting equipment "yaks" were significantly inferior to "one hundred and ninth". Most of the Yak-9, for example, were equipped with the most primitive ring sight ("air sight") BB-1. The Yak-3 was equipped with a PBP-la collimator sight. And the Messerschmitts, starting with the Bf 109F, were equipped with an excellent Revi C/12C or C/12D collimator rifle scope with a mechanical backup.

Bf 109 significantly surpassed Yakovlev's fighters in the ability to carry additional weapons. Most of the "one hundred and ninth" variants, using a special field modification kit, were easily converted into fighter-bombers capable of carrying one 250-kg bombs under the fuselage or (using a special adapter) four 50-kg bombs. On the "yaks", such an opportunity was basically absent - because of the same low engine power, which limits the take-off weight. An episode remained an attempt to equip the Yak-1 with unguided RS-82 missiles - such aircraft were produced in late 1941 - early 1942.In the spring of 1942, the newly produced Yak-1 received underwing holders for a pair of bombs with a caliber of up to 100 kg, but with this the suspension of the aircraft became difficult to control, and in parts of these holders, as a rule, were removed. Not a single variant of Yakovlev's fighters provided for the possibility of suspension of additional fuel tanks - while on Messerschmitts such equipment was practically standard.