Aviation of World War II

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Front Reconnaissance Aircraft



Reconnaissance Pe-2s were created on the basis of various series and, accordingly, inherited many characteristic features from them: various weapons, aerodynamic improvements, type of engines, and so on. But they also had common features. Factory-made reconnaissance aircraft (re-equipment of bombers into reconnaissance aircraft was carried out directly in the units, but there it usually came down to installing additional cameras) there were no brake grilles, they were mainly equipped with M-105RA engines, the aircraft finishing was carried out more thoroughly, sometimes the wing was polished up to a third chords. Accordingly, the flight data of reconnaissance vehicles turned out to be slightly higher than that of conventional bombers of the same series, and sometimes even exceeded the performance of experimental aircraft.

The scouts, as a rule, had an increased supply of fuel due to the placement of additional fuel tanks in the bomb bay, or, which was more often, they used suspended drop tanks (with a capacity of 335 liters each). The suspension of the tanks reduced the maximum horizontal flight speed by 30-35 km / h at all altitudes, and the ceiling - by 300-400 m. At the same time, the takeoff run was lengthened and the climb rate worsened, but the range increased by 450-650 km. After running out of fuel, the tanks could be dropped and the aerodynamics of the aircraft improved.

The reconnaissance's special equipment was somewhat different from that of the Pe-2 bomber. First of all, the AK-1 automatic course was installed on reconnaissance options - a gyroscopic device that stabilizes the aircraft relative to the vertical axis by acting on the rudder. AK-1 ensured heading with an accuracy of 1-2 °, relieving the pilot's attention. The machine gun could also make specified turns, for which the pilot and navigator had special controls. The dive assault rifle was removed from the scouts. In late 1941 - early 1942, only reconnaissance options were equipped with RPK-2 semi-compass. Sometimes at the front, radio equipment was improved by installing an SPU, through the subscriber panels of which all crew members had communication.

A version equipped with photographic equipment was also available for the Pe-3 fighter (sometimes it was called Pe-3R or Pe-3F). It should be noted that the crews of the reconnaissance aircraft preferred the Pe-3bis, which had a slightly longer range and was armed with a cannon. On these machines, cameras were not placed in bomb compartments (occupied by additional fuel tanks), but in the rear of the fuselages.

Pe-2R Specification
Crew 3
Length, m 12.66
Wing span, m 17.13
Wing area, m² 40.50
Weight, kg
Empty weight 6,200
Loaded weight 8,400
Engine 2 × PE M-105PF
Power, hp 2 × 1210
Maximum speed above the ground, km/h 475
Maximum speed at altitude, km/h 520
Service range, km 1,600
Service ceiling, m 8,000

Equipping with camera . In the first period of the war, in addition to the usual AFA-B camera for a bomber, in the cockpit of a radio operator on reconnaissance Pe-2, as a rule, two large AFA-1 planes were mounted in the bomb bay. They had two types of lenses - with focal lengths of 30 and 50 cm. It was allowed to install two identical or two different devices on an aircraft. When the AFA-1 was mounted, the bomb bay doors were replaced with new ones, more convex and having cutouts for lenses. The work of AFA-1 was controlled by a navigator. Instead of AFA-B, it was possible to put a special camera for night shooting NAFA-19. In this case, the shutter of the apparatus was triggered by a signal from a photocell located behind a transparent hatch in the rear of the aircraft and fixing the flash of the FOTAB lighting bomb. During night photography, 6-8 FOTAB-50-35 photobombs were suspended on the Pe-2.

In addition, the radio operator had a handheld camera AFA-27T-1 for perspective shooting through the cockpit glazing. In the stowed position, he lay in a special box on the left side. Since 1942, AFA-3C devices or American cameras obtained under Lend-Lease began to enter the combat units. In order to increase the area of ​​the terrain photographed in one run, sometimes they resorted to installing dual cameras. They also made original installations, for example, swinging ones, which doubled the width of the removed strip of terrain. A special fairing covering the lens made it possible to mount a large AFA-33 camera with a focal length of 1 m on the "pawn". The 72nd ORAP prepared a special Pe-2 with space for a fourth crew member and four additional devices for shooting Berlin. Pictures taken from it on April 7, 1945 by V.A. Tyomin, bypassed newspapers around the world.

In Detail


Training aircraft

In February 1941, two aircraft from the head series of plant No. 22 were equipped with a second control from the navigator's workplace. The need for a training version of the Pe-2 for pilots of combat units was not in doubt - the machine was noticeably different in take-off and landing characteristics from the previous main bomber of our Air Force SB aircraft, had insufficient longitudinal stability and a number of other features. One of the converted aircraft was transferred for testing to the Air Force Research Institute, and the second was sent to the 95th SBAP.

In July-August 1942 at the plant No. 22 produced two new training aircraft. One of them, with factory No. 1/102, transferred to the Air Force Research Institute for testing. The main difference between the new training glider and the serial combat one was the installation of the co-pilot's cockpit in place of the No. 1. The old workplaces of the pilot and navigator remained almost unchanged, however, the FT rifle installation was dismantled, and a plywood gargrot was attached on top of the fuselage behind the main cockpit canopy. Above the center section was the instructor's cabin, covered with a transparent canopy with a similar plywood fairing in the rear. This arrangement provided a solution to two tasks: it kept the jobs of the crew members of the combat vehicle almost unchanged and improved the visibility for the instructor. The entrance to the cockpit of the latter was carried out from above through the sliding part of the canopy.

Compared to the old training version, the design of the aircraft No. 1/102 was undoubtedly more successful. Since the fall of 1942, Pe-2 training units began to be produced in small batches at plant No. 22. Their monthly production initially amounted to 2-5 aircraft, and in March 1943, the Air Force ordered 100 Pe-2 aircraft in a training version with a production rate of 10 aircraft per month.

An interesting detail: the Pe-2 reconnaissance aircraft built in parallel, as a rule, had the first number in the series, and the training aircraft had numbers "10" or "20", that is, they closed the series or its first half. Due to the fact that the training Pe-2 was produced as if "inside" the series, then all its features, including the brand of motors (they tried, if possible, to put the M-105RA on the scouts), modified aerodynamics, placement of structural elements and individual units, corresponded to the parameters of a conventional combat Pe-2 of the same production period, and the machines themselves had similar flight characteristics.

In accordance with the GKO decree in June 1945, plant No. 22 discontinued the production of combat versions of the Pe-2 and completely switched to the production of the UPe-2, starting with the machine No. 5/492. In August 1945, a post-war production aircraft No.20 / 501 was tested at the Air Force Research Institute.


  • Pe2 with "Shvetsov's stars; / Vladimir Kotelnikov, Alexander Medved, Dmitry Khazanov /
  • Pe-2R dive bomber; / A.N. Bear, D.B. Khazanov /

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Pe-2R with outboard fuel tanks. At the bottom of the cockpit is the RPK-10 radio compass frame.