Aviation of World War II
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In the Terrible Forty-First ...
Pe-2. Combat Use.
By the time of the German attack on the USSR, there were about 180 Pe-2 out of 391 in the ranks in the five border military districts. And in total, 490 new dive bombers had been released by June 22. On the scale of the Soviet Air Force, this was not much. It should be noted that before the war, about 60 regiments began to transfer to these machines, and the five-squadron bomber regiment of that time had more than 60 combat aircraft in its staff. Therefore, only a few Pe-2s managed to get into most of the regiments. Obsolete SB made up about 70% of the entire fleet of front-line bomber aviation. Only one regiment was fully equipped with the Pe-2. The Pe-2 was even smaller in naval aviation: only 10 aircraft.
Unfortunately, before the war, the Pe-2 did not have time to pass either operational tests or military ones, the order of which was issued by the Air Force command only in April 1941. The situation with retraining of flight personnel was even worse. If, in the Air Force as a whole, about 10% of the total flight personnel of combat units managed to retrain for new equipment, then in bomber aviation it is half that. Retraining programs have been simplified to the limit. The crews were not trained in the use of the Pe-2 from a dive, they were not ready to fly at high altitudes. Only individual commanders could work on "pawns" at an altitude of up to 7000 m.
On June 22, the Pe-2's activity was low. Nevertheless, the "pawns" were able to show their capabilities on the first day of the war. 17 Pe-2 from the 5th bomber regiment (bap) bombed the Galati bridge across the river. Rod. And soon their combat work became very noticeable at the front. The value of the Pe-2 increased due to the fact that this fast, sufficiently maneuverable and tenacious aircraft could operate during the day in conditions of enemy air superiority. "Pawns", especially without bombs, could both avoid interception and take the battle. Particularly effective were aircraft produced after the 13th series, armed with large-caliber machine guns.
German sergeant major A. Mudin from the 51st Fighter Squadron (JG51), shot down near Bobruisk in an air battle, said during interrogation that he considered the Pe-2 the best Soviet aircraft: “This machine has high speed and good fire protection, and is dangerous for fighters enemy ". And it is not surprising, because he himself was shot down by a Pe-2 shooter. It also helped that at first the Germans often mistook the Pe-2 for their Bf 110 and Do 17Z, which also had a two-finned tail, and did not attack these aircraft. True, it happened that they attacked and shot down an unfamiliar aircraft.
In combat conditions, all Pe-2s were used, even those that happened to be at hand. They mastered them rapidly, sometimes in 5-10 days! So, in July 1941, near Minsk, 30 Pe-2 were "stuck", which did not manage to get into the combat regiments. They were "seized" by the 13th mixed air division (garden) of F.P. Polynina. Having independently mastered unfamiliar vehicles, the division used them in battles in Belarus.
In the first months of the war, many glorious pages were written in the history of the Pe-2. A major success associated with the first experiments in using the Pe-2 on the southern flank was the raid on the town of Ploiesti of six aircraft from the 40th regiment of the Black Sea Fleet Air Force. After several days spent on mastering the newly received vehicles, the group under the command of Captain A. Tsurtsulin went on a combat mission. As a result of the blow, at least a quarter of a million tons of oil products were burned, the fiery sea raged for three days. The Romanian news agency said Ploiesti had bombed over a hundred Soviet planes.
For the initial period of the war, the fate of the 13th sbap, headed by Captain V. Bogomolov, was typical. Having begun retraining from SB to Pe-2 just before the war, the regiment on July 16 was thrown into battle in the area of Yelnya. The pilots then barely mastered circle flights, but quickly gained experience in the course of battles. The blow struck at the German airfield near the city of Smolensk at the end of July turned out to be especially successful. Of course, the regiment's combat operations were not always successful. Errors such as poor interaction with fighters and approaching the target by the whole group at the same height were revealed. For a month of fighting, the regiment lost 20 crews. Among the shortcomings of the Pe-2, the flight crew noted the imperfect fire defense of the aircraft, high fire hazard and insufficient reservation, primarily for the navigator and gunner.
The effectiveness of the combat work of the Pe-2 at the beginning of the war was assessed in the 58th SBAP, operating in the northwest direction. A specially created commission reported: “The general opinion of the flight crew is that the aircraft is too complicated in its piloting technique, especially during takeoff and landing. The operation of the aircraft requires pilots above average qualifications, an ordinary pilot masters it with difficulty. All this causes a very wary attitude. " In this regiment, the imperfection of armor protection was also noted: the pilot was poorly protected from the side, and the navigator and gunner were almost not covered by armor. Other comments were also made.
An important role in bringing the Pe-2 to "operational conditions" was played by the creation of the 410th special-purpose bap, formed from the testers of the Air Force Research Institute. The regiment was commanded by Colonel A.I. Kabanov, who before the war held the post of deputy head of the institute for flight operations. Under his leadership, dive bombing was practiced in July. The regiment immediately joined in combat operations in the battle of Smolensk. The regiment made its first flight with its full complement (32 crews) to bomb the crossings across the Western Dvina. The enemy suffered great damage.
But the regiment also paid dearly for it. From 5 to 28 July 1941, its losses amounted to 33 aircraft. Every third aircraft was lost not in aerial battles: three "pawns" suffered an accident, three were destroyed by German bombs at the airfield, two had to be burned, and a catastrophe happened during the retreat. The rest were shot down by fighters and anti-aircraft guns, making an average of less than 11 sorties.
The enemy quickly identified the pawn's weaknesses and changed the attack tactics. If earlier attempts were made to shoot down Soviet bombers on a collision course, then later German experts and, above all, the commander of JG51, Lieutenant Colonel V. Mölders began to recommend pursuing the Pe-2 from behind, firing in short bursts from long distances, and in the event of a cessation of retaliatory firing, approaching and shooting the central gas tanks point-blank with incendiary bullets.
In response to such tactics of the Germans, the flight crew of the 410th regiment began to search for adequate measures. In particular, it was proposed to immediately modify the hatch installation by changing the design of the flexible feed hose; mount a side firing point with the ability to move the machine gun from side to side; to introduce a remote installation in the tail spinner (it was developed by the designer Mureyev). All these improvements were adopted over time. However, the 410th regiment did not fight for long: in October 1941 it was disbanded, and the specialists were recalled to continue working in the rear.
The practice of war quickly tested the design solutions incorporated into the aircraft. The experience gained by blood has greatly accelerated the process of improving the machine, contributed to the introduction of changes in a number of components and assemblies. First of all, these changes were associated with weapons and systems for increasing the survivability of the vehicle. In the air regiments, the power supply system of the BT hatch machine gun was urgently altered by expanding the aircrafttridge box and shortening the feed sleeve. Approximately the same changes were made at serial factories in July-August 1941. At the same time, they even managed to slightly increase the angles of fire.
At the end of July, an additional, fifth ShKAS machine gun in the onboard ball mount appeared on the aircraft manufactured at Plant No. 22. It could be moved from one side to another, was supplied with three magazines with a total capacity of 225 rounds and allowed firing in a direction perpendicular to the axis of the aircraft and not covered by fire from the hatch and upper installations. In the event of the death or serious injury of the navigator, physically strong arrows fired from this machine gun in the upper hemisphere, placing its barrel on the edging of the upper hatch. From the 23rd series, such an installation appeared on individual Pe-2, and from the 27th series it began to be mounted on all machines produced by this plant.
Military specialists, analyzing the structure of the losses of the Pe-2 flight crews of the first series, easily made sure that the navigator and the radio operator were the most affected crew members. If the navigator was somewhat covered by a small rear armor plate, which, however, left his head and legs unprotected when attacking from behind, then the radio operator's place was reserved purely symbolically. The imbalance in armor protection ultimately led to the loss of the entire aircraft and its crew. The Pe-2 gunners, on average, were 10 times more likely to be wounded in the torso than the pilots, and died 2-3 times more often. I had to urgently strengthen his protection.
To repulse the enemy offensive on Moscow that began in October 1941, the Red Army, including aviation, required the greatest courage and heroism. The Luftwaffe continued to dominate forces, especially in daytime bombers. Each Pe-2 was counted, and for their better use, new aircraft began to be combined into new formations - air groups. By the beginning of defensive battles, the Air Force of the Western Front had 95 Pe-2, that is, 19% of all front-line bomber aviation. In the battle of Moscow, Petlyakov's bombers were assigned the most important tasks, and in the course of the battles new methods of application were born.
The deterioration of the navigational training of the flight personnel, combined with the typical autumn bad weather, led to frequent cases of loss of landmarks. The well-trained pilots and navigators of the 9th bap, based in the center of Moscow, were tasked with leading the units and subunits of fighters and attack aircraft that were newly arriving at the front.
Pe-2 with rockets were widely used near Moscow. Sometimes they were installed unusually for shooting, in the direction opposite to the direction of flight. Given the vulnerability of bombers when attacking from behind, the technician A. Pomazansky proposed to install several RO-82 rocket guns in this way. The sudden launch of shells, according to the inventor's plan, could disrupt the attack of enemy fighters. The main application of rockets was found in the fight against enemy tanks. The launch was carried out by a pair or four shells from a gentle dive. The initiative in developing a technique for using the PC-132 on armored vehicles belonged to the inspector for piloting techniques of the Air Force of the Moscow Military District, Major G. Karpenko.
During the counteroffensive of the Red Army near Moscow, which began on December 5, Pe-2 already played a significant role. 172 Pe-2 (of which 114 combat-ready) accounted for 29% of all bomber aircraft used in this operation. They carried out a variety of combat missions, but the main attention was paid to the defeat of Hitler's troops and equipment on the battlefield - this took more than three-quarters of all sorties.
At the beginning of 1942, the command of the Soviet Air Force summed up the first results of the use of the Pe-2. By this time, the flight and technical personnel had already mastered this bomber well, and the materiel in battle worked flawlessly and reliably both in summer and in winter. Airplanes appeared, in which the M-105R engines developed the required 100-hour resource. This was largely due to intense combat activities. So, in the 43rd Air Division, "pawns" made 3-4 sorties a day, being in the air for 4-5.5 hours.
Pe-2 found various applications, for example, they carried out close and long-range reconnaissance. But, of course, the main purpose of the aircraft was to bomb the enemy. The targets were most often mechanized units, railway stations, bridges, echelons, concentrations of ground troops, strong points. At the same time, dive bombing was practically not used. The technicians of the 603rd Aviation Regiment were the first to remove the brake grilles from the aircraft. This step was motivated not so much by the lack of experience among the crews as by the difficult meteorological conditions in late autumn and winter 1941, when the height of the pawns' approach to the target ranged from 200 to 1000 m. From a horizontal flight, the stretched columns of the fascists were dealt sensitive blows with small fragmentation bombs AO-8, AO-15 and AO-25. The standard bomb load was 600-700 kg, and the take-off weight of the Pe-2 ranged from 8100-8300 kg.
The shortage of bombers did not allow for continuous pressure on the enemy. In a somewhat better position than the neighbors were the air forces of the Western Front, numbering 44 Pe-2 at the end of November 1941 and 67 at the beginning of December. Since they were assisted by the reserve air groups of the Supreme Command (VGK), they could more massively and effectively support the advancing forces in the main directions. During this period, the Pe-2 crews operated exclusively during the day.
It is difficult to say how the future fate of the aircraft would have developed, but on January 12, 1942, V.M. Petlyakov died in a plane crash on the Pe-2. According to the testimony of A.M. Isakson, both designers decided not to wait for the next "Douglas", but to fly with accompanying bombers to combat units. The planes were sent to the 2nd drape. During the flight, visibility was poor: fine snow interfered with the view and orientation. It remained a mystery what happened to the Pe-2, which was piloted by Senior Lieutenant Ovechkin. He crashed into a hill near Arzamas. All crew members and Petlyakov were killed.
A.N. Medved, D.B. Khazanov