Aviation of World War II
Petlyakov Pe-2R. Combat Use.
One of the first to receive the reconnaissance Pe-2 was the 38th reconnaissance squadron of the Western Front Air Force, created in July 1941. In the fall of 1941, the 2nd and partly 1st April (reconnaissance aviation regiment) of the SC High Command, as well as seven separate reconnaissance squadrons, were equipped with "pawns". In 1942, each air army received a reconnaissance squadron; most of them deployed to separate reconnaissance air regiments (ORAP) at the end of the year. The headquarters of the Supreme Command, starting in April 1942, was provided with reconnaissance information from three specialized regiments (sometimes they were called the "intelligence division of the Supreme Command," although they were all separate). At the end of 1944, there were four such regiments. At various times, "pawns" made up from 50 to 90% of the ORAP aircraft fleet and were the backbone of reconnaissance aviation to the same extent that Pe-2 bombers were the backbone of front-line bomber aviation.
Among those flying on these machines are the guards units: 47, 48, 98 and 99th ORAP; some of them also became Red Banner. During the war years, almost all reconnaissance regiments received honorary titles. Aviators of the 118th and 15th Guards Aviation Regiments of the Navy have earned wide fame and respect for their feats of arms. The role of reconnaissance aviation units in carrying out various operations of the Red Army is very great. For example, before the start of the counteroffensive at Stalingrad, aeronautical photographic reconnaissance was able to prepare and reproduce a detailed photographic diagram of the location of enemy troops, on which several thousand objects were plotted - machine-gun points, pillboxes and bunkers, mortar and artillery positions, tanks in trenches, etc. Gavrilov from the 99th Guards. ORAP, 10 days before the start of the Battle of Kursk, filmed an area of 625 km² in 20 sorties.
In general, the Pe-2 as a scout showed high efficiency and survivability. For example, in the 3rd Air Army in 1943, one reconnaissance aircraft was lost per 82.5 sorties, which is a fairly good indicator. When performing their missions, their main enemy was German fighters, since anti-aircraft artillery fire posed an insignificant danger to a single aircraft free to maneuver. Scouts, as a rule, tried to evade a battle with enemy fighters, using clouds, sun, terrain. In most cases, using weapons and maneuvers, the Pe-2 avoided interception with a single Messerschmitt or Focke-Wulf, but if several enemies attacked it, the chances of salvation turned out to be small.
In this regard, the combat units received proposals aimed at increasing survivability and defenses, especially important for a reconnaissance aircraft operating alone. So, it was proposed to improve the neutral gas system, install transparent armor at the navigator's firing point, replace the left ShKAS with a second fixed UBK, mount PCs for firing backwards, and so on. The Pe-2 of the late series in the reconnaissance version also had such a drawback as the too small glazing area of the lower front part of the fuselage. The reports from the regiments also noted purely manufacturing defects in the photographic equipment, which required the adjustment of individual parts. So, in the reconnaissance department of the headquarters of the 3rd Air Army, they noted that AFA-1 protrude beyond the doors of the bomb bay, creating additional resistance. Nevertheless, no fundamental changes were made to the reconnaissance versions of the Pe-2 in the series, limiting themselves to making the same improvements that were carried out on the bombers moving in parallel along the conveyor belt. In total, about 800 Pe-2 reconnaissance aircraft were released in different years, taking into account the vehicles converted in units.
Since 1943, the number of American A-20 and B-25, which had more powerful weapons, has increased in the reconnaissance regiments, and then domestic Tu-2s appeared, surpassing the Pe-2 both in defense capability and in flight data. Reconnaissance Pe-2s were in service with our Air Force until the same time as bombers. After the war, they were quickly replaced by more advanced Tu-2R .