Aviation of World War II
Neman R-10 (KhAI-5). Combat Use
The biography of the use of R-10 aircraft in combat units of the air force dates back to the 43rd Aviation Brigade of the Kharkov Military District, which was commanded by Hero of the Soviet Union N.P. Kamanin. The first, at the end of 1937, to master the new reconnaissance pilots were the pilots of the 20th ORAE, who had previously flown P-5 aircraft at the airfield in Sokolniki. The study of the R-10 took place directly at the plant, in the workshops, where the serial production of aircraft had just begun. In 1938, another squadron of the brigade, the 24th ORAE, was rearmed on the P-10.
It was decided to show the new aircraft at the May Day parade in Moscow. To do this, in April 1938, the 20th ORAE flew to Moscow, to the Central airfield in full force (18 R-10 aircraft). The parade was supposed to be opened on the P-10 by the Deputy Chief of the Red Army Air Force Ya.V. Smushkevich. From factory No. 135 he was overtaken by a brand new, silver-painted aircraft, on board of which the inscription shone in red paint: "Commander of the May Day air parade, Hero of the Soviet Union, Corps Commander YV Smushkevich." But literally the day before the parade, the unexpected happened ... Technician G.I. Chepurny:
"When I was on the wing of my plane, a silver R-10 swept over us from the side of the aircraft factory. Then the pilot took a steep slide, turned around and went to the second pass. During the secondary slide, the plane's engine jammed, and he fell behind At the border of the airfield in a small grove, Ya.V. Smushkevich was supposed to lead the air parade on this aircraft.
And the following happened. When Smushkevich got into his P-10, his technician went to another car. Suddenly the technician heard the engine of his plane start to work. He ran up and, seeing that the pilot was in the cockpit, quickly climbed into the navigator's seat without a parachute and flew with Smushkevich. When the plane fell, the technician managed to jump out at a height of about thirty meters, hit the branches of trees and survived, having escaped with minor bruises. And Smushkevich was seriously injured. As it turned out later, the cause of the disaster was an ordinary oil line valve, without opening which the engine should not start. Due to the imperfection of the crane design, Smushkevich was able to start the engine without a technician. In turn, the technician considered that if the engine is running, the crane is open ... And our squadron was not allowed to the parade. "
In 1938, based on the experience of battles in Spain and China, it was decided to transfer the Air Force to the regimental system. In August, on the basis of the 43rd brigade, three aviation regiments were formed - the 4th, 9th and 135th LBAP. The squadrons flying the P-10 were introduced into the 9th LBAP under the command of Major P.I. Mironenko. The 20th ORAE (commander Major M.I.Gorlachenko) received number 1, and the 24th ORAE (commander Major Skripnik) - No.2. On January 1, 1939, there were 25 R-10 aircraft in the regiment. Among the first who mastered the new aircraft were two women - pilots Captain M.G. Mikhaleva and senior lieutenant E.I. Zelenko. Before flying on a new reconnaissance aircraft, it was necessary to complete a certain program on a two-seat training aircraft UTI-4. Having mastered the technique of piloting on it, the pilots easily transferred to the P-10.
R-10 was remembered by pilots as a light, well-controlled aircraft that could perform all aerobatics. Elements such as takeoff and landing were simple and accessible. The safety margin exceeded eight-fold overload and made it possible to perform a rapidly changing maneuver both horizontally and vertically. R-10 steadily kept on deep bends, allowed combat turns with a large roll and steep hill, freely kept on hinges, immelmans and other figures. To bring the plane into a tailspin, it was necessary to reduce the speed to 70 km / h, and here it, swaying slightly, began to spin. It was enough to let go of the handle, as he easily took a stable position and freely came out of the spin. When landing with a crosswind, there were breakdowns of the tail wheel attachment. It was enough for the pilot to press the brake, as the "dutik" left his nest, and the plane suffered an accident. During the flight on the R-10, there were several cases of detachment of the anti-flutter load on the aileron, which jammed the control, and the pilots hardly brought the plane to the airfield.
At the end of 1940, the R-10 in the 9th regiment gradually began to be replaced by more advanced Su-2 short-range bombers. In the flight book of the flight commander of the 5th AE of the 9th LBAP st. Lieutenant S.M. Popov noted that he flew the P-10 from 1939 to 1941, made more than 600 flights on it and flew 358 hours without a single breakdown. The second region of application of the P-10 was the Far East, where a military conflict with Japan was brewing. January 3, 1938 plant No. 135 shipped 15 aircraft on a special government assignment. On January 24, 2 more P-10s were sent there. All major defects were eliminated in the aircraft that arrived in the Far East, and the armament kit included a new MV-3 machine-gun turret.
In February 1939, the fleet of P-10 aircraft located in the 1st OKA (OKA - Separate Red Banner Army) consisted of 45 aircraft. During the battles on Khalkhin Gol in the summer of 1939, they were part of the 1st army group of brigade commander A.I. Gusev. The planes were delivered to the battlefield by rail. The P-10 was received in the desert area of Tamtsak-Bulak by teams of factory assemblers specially arrived from Kharkov. They were instructed, as soon as possible, to prepare the aircraft for hostilities. The unbearable heat and lack of water at the airfields created great difficulties, but despite this, by May 28, the machines were ready to fly. The selfless labor of the workers and technicians of the plant No. 135 was marked with gratitude from the command of the Red Army.
September 17, 1939, according to the Ribentropp-Molotov pact, by order of Stalin, the introduction of Red Army units into Poland began. Aviation was commanded by corps commander Ya.V. Smushkevich.
“Before the start of the Polish campaign in August 1939,” recalls ID Kravchenko, head of the plant’s KO, “I and the chief military representative of the plant Alekseev were summoned to Leningrad, to the district air force headquarters. From there we urgently flew to Pskov, where large aviation units were located. It turned out that about 150 R-10s had accumulated at the airfields, on which massive defects were found. Cracks appeared in the skin, in the transition between the fuselage and the keel. On many machines, there were failures in the chassis brakes. We dealt with the cracks very simply. The cracks were only in the bend of the top layer of veneer and did not touch the other eight layers. They were quickly putty and painted over. But to replace the brake system of the chassis, hardened springs were required. Such parts were made only in the factory. But since a few days later the P-10 had to take part in combat, we organized the production of springs in regimental workshops, where aircraft mechanics twisted springs on ordinary workbenches " ...
In the Polish campaign, the use of the P-10 was limited. They mainly carried out loitering, reconnaissance and communications on assignments of ground forces rapidly advancing to the west. In 1939 - 1940. several P-10 regiments were involved in combat operations in the "winter" war with Finland. Here the pilots had to operate in extremely difficult conditions. For three and a half months, there was only 24 days of flying weather. It was necessary to fly to reconnaissance and attack the Mannerheim Line in low cloud cover, frost down to minus 50 °, snowstorms and arctic winds.
After the war with Finland, the glaring lag in the technical equipment of Soviet aviation became so obvious that the report on the military operations of the Air Force on the Karelian Isthmus indicated: exceptions to the types of aircraft. Hence, we must draw a conclusion about the urgent acceleration of the construction of high-speed aircraft ".
The same shortcoming was noted by the commission of the Central Committee of the party in May 1940 in connection with the transfer of the affairs of the People's Commissariat of Defense to SK Timoshenko to KE Voroshilov. The commission's act stated: "The material part of the Red Army Air Force in its development lags behind the aviation of the advanced armies of other countries in terms of speed, engine power, armament and strength." The number of vehicles subject to urgent replacement included the P-10. However, quite unexpectedly, the planes of I. G. Neman found a new application. The deployment of the Air Force was accompanied by a sharp increase in the number of aviation schools. Their number was brought to 62 in 1940, and to 111 by the middle of 1941. Obsolete P-10s began to be transferred en masse to the newly organized aviation schools and flight schools, where they were used for training and the transition to more modern Su-2 and Yak-4.
In the pre-war years, pilots and navigators were trained on the P-10 at aviation schools in Vasilkov, Melitopol, Voroshilovgrad, Odessa, Poltava and at the Chuguev Military Aviation School of Pilots. They were used in the Kirovograd reserve aviation regiment for retraining for new materiel of combatant personnel. A number of R-10 aircraft were in the aviation of the NKVD border troops on the border with Germany and Romania. Pilots, navigators and technicians for them were trained by the aviation department of the 2nd Joint Border School of the NKVD in Kharkov.
By June 22, 1941, in combat aviation units located on the territory of the border and internal military districts of the European part of the USSR, there were up to 180 combat-ready R-10 aircraft that were part of the Air Force of the combined arms armies and corps air squadrons of military aviation (ORAE). In the process of retraining, many of them stood without crews, and in the very first days of the war they were destroyed at the airfields of the Western and Kiev special military districts. The units remaining in service on P-10 aircraft from the internal military districts were transferred in the summer of 1941 to the most dangerous sectors of the front.
So, the 25th ORAE before the start of the war was based in the Donbass at the airfield of the city of Konstantinovka. The squadron was a fairly well-coordinated aviation unit, and its pilots and navigators had a high general and flying culture. From late June to mid-July 1941, the 25th ORAE took part in the battles on the Western Front. Due to heavy losses in technology, she was soon taken to the rear. On July 20, the squadron flew to the Rogan airfield, where it handed over its R-10 to the Kharkov Aviation School and began retraining on the Su-2. According to the memoirs of a veteran of the 317th RAP (reconnaissance aviation regiment) Hero of the Soviet Union V.F. Anisov, in this regiment in the first months of the war, in addition to SB aircraft, scouts R-10, R-5, Yak-2 were used.
Of particular interest is the combat path of the 7th ORAE of military aviation, which fought most actively on the P-10. The squadron met the war at the airfield of the city of Pavlograd, having in its composition 21 P-10 reconnaissance aircraft and 2 I-15bis fighters. Then it was transferred to Chernigov, where in mid-July it was included in the 62nd BAA (BAA - Bomber Aviation Division), which operated as part of the Air Force of the 5th Army of the Southwestern Front. The first reconnaissance flights of the squadron's planes made in the directions Mozyr - Turov - Novograd-Volynsky - Zhitomir, Slavuta - Shepetovka - Zhitomir - Novograd-Volynsky - Korosten and Ovruch - Korosten - Malin - Radomyshl - Korostyshev - Irpen. Particular attention was paid to the first direction, where the 21st Army operated, about which the 5th Army command did not have any data. The pilots completed the task successfully, reestablishing contact with the defending troops. One of the most productive in the 7th ORAE was the crew of Lieutenant K.B. Radenko and navigator Lieutenant M.M. Lobachev, who made about 50 sorties before September. Here are some episodes of their combat work.
One day they were instructed to photograph a column of tanks from Guderian's group that had broken through. Having passed over the convoy and having successfully photographed, the pilots gathered to bomb the moving tanks. However, the R-10 was damaged by anti-aircraft fire, and it was not possible to drop the bombs. Barely reaching their airfield, they had to make an emergency landing in the field. On the next flight, the pilots found a cluster of equipment at the crossing of the Teterev River. They managed to set fire to the car with machine-gun fire.
The troops of the Southwestern Front, despite desperate resistance, failed to stop Guderian's tanks. On July 20, 1941, the squadron received an order to fly to the Ovruch airfield. At the end of July, two crews on P-10 conducted reconnaissance in the Zarudye - Malin - Teterev station. Anti-aircraft artillery fire knocked out the plane of the pilot M.M. Gnut and navigator S.I. Demidov. The crew was killed in a fiery ram of a group of German soldiers near the village of Sadki.
In early August, the aircraft of the 7th ORAE discovered railway platforms with large-caliber artillery on the Zhitomir-Korosten stretch. An R-10 flew to destroy them under the control of Captain A.A. Troshkin and navigator B. Gavrikov. The pilots found the target at the Turchinka station. First they dropped the bombs, then they started adjusting the fire of our artillery against the platforms with guns. However, soon a four Me-109 appeared in the sky. In the ensuing air battle, the P-10 was set on fire. Troshkin was killed, and Gavrikov escaped with a parachute. By about August 10, only 3 R-10 and 5 MiG-3 fighters remained in the 7th ORAE. By September 15, all aircraft were lost, only 4 pilots and 3 navigators survived from the personnel. However, according to other sources, on September 16, the last surviving R-10 aircraft flew east from the Priluki airfield to the east.
The life of the P-10 aircraft in the navy developed somewhat differently. The P-10 began to enter the aviation of the Navy at the end of 1938, to the Black Sea and Baltic Fleets. They were used for their intended purpose as scouts and close-range bombers. The retraining of naval pilots for the new aircraft took place at the Yeisk Naval School named after V.I. S.A. Levanevsky. Over time, the R-10 became the main training aircraft at the school. With the beginning of the war, the school was transferred to Mozdok, and then to the village of Borovskoye near Kuibyshev. Here P-10s were located at eleven field airfields. They flew to the school until 1944, and several thousand pilots of naval aviation were trained on them.
From the first days of the war, the crews of the naval R-10, in particular, the pilots and navigators of the 25th Air Force Aviation Division of the Black Sea Fleet, took part mainly in actions against the ground forces and equipment of the enemy. In the summer of 1942, R-10 aircraft as part of the Black Sea Fleet aviation performed tasks to support the troops defending the Caucasus, actively assisted the 18th and 47th armies and the marines on the approaches to Novorossiysk and Tuapse. In August 1942, the 23rd Assault Aviation Regiment (SHAP) was transferred from the Kemla airfield to the Caucasus, which included three squadrons equipped with R-10 aircraft. Soon the 1st and 3rd AE of this regiment were sent to the Baltic.
Here are some episodes of the use of R-10 aircraft in the 23rd ShAP. On the night of June 20, 1943, the P-10 group attacked a detachment of German combat boats, forcing them to withdraw under the cover of a smoke screen. At dawn, seven Il-2 attack aircraft came to the aid of the R-10 under the cover of two fighters and sank three boats. The German boatmen called in their aircraft for help. In the ensuing air battle, P-10 and Il-2 were shot down. The enemy lost one Me-109. On July 14, two P-10s and five Il-2s took off to intercept a large enemy convoy, which consisted of 12 ships. As a result of the blow, a number of ships and boats were damaged.
On August 1, two P-10s and four Il-2s attacked German boats and barges in the area of the Zhelezinskaya bank, sinking one of them. On the same day, in the area of Cape Achuev, a group of P-10 attacked 6 boats and 10 barges. Sank 1 barge and damaged the boat. Later, the regiment's planes, together with coastal artillery, destroyed the boat and 2 seiners, damaged the barge.
Since August 27, for three days, the R-10 aircraft of the 23rd ShAP launched attacks by the German convoy in the area of the Krivaya and Beglitskaya spits, forcing the enemy to return to their starting points. In the afternoon of August 30, 1943, the regiment's aircraft made 32 sorties in the Taganrog region, sank 4 barges, 2 patrol boats, damaged 8 barges and one steamer.
In the aviation of the Baltic Fleet, the P-10 were in service with two squadrons of the 73rd BAP of the BF Air Force, operating on the Leningrad front. The 4th AE regiment arrived from the 23rd ShAP of the Black Sea Fleet Air Force to Leningrad on December 31, 1942 and was stationed at the Grazhdanka airfield. The 6th AE, previously also part of the 23rd ShAP of the Black Sea Fleet Air Force, was part of the 73rd BAP since January 7, 1943, flying from the Kamenka airfield near Leningrad.
In the 73rd BAP, the R-10 aircraft were mainly used as night bombers, and for their unsightly appearance and wear and tear they received the apt nickname "super-conscript". In preparation for breaking the blockade of Leningrad, the R-10 crews consisting of L. Kazakevich, G. Agafonov, K. Larionov, Yu. Botvinnik, A. Kaladze and G. Gordeev carried out strikes on the runways of enemy airfields in Gatchina and Siversky. Departures were carried out throughout the night on a crew basis, with a frequency of 10 minutes according to a strict schedule. These strikes made it possible to keep the German aviation in suspense.
While performing such a task in January 1943, the P-10 crew, consisting of pilot senior lieutenant G.I. Satsuka and navigator Captain S.I. Ulasevich. During a raid on the Siversky airfield, the enemy unleashed a flurry of anti-aircraft fire on the plane. Despite this, the crew made two runs and dropped several bombs. On the third approach, an anti-aircraft shell hit the plane. The car was seriously damaged, and the pilot was seriously injured. It was possible to go home, but the pilot, mobilizing all his will, under continuous fire came to the target for the fourth time, and the navigator dropped the last bombs. The way back was hard. The pilot's broken right arm sagged lifelessly, his strength was running out. However, he managed to reach his airfield and land the car. When the technicians who ran up opened the lantern, the pilot was already dead.
On January 16, 1943, pilot Sergeant T.A. Zhukov and navigator junior lieutenant B.I. Gorodilov. After completing the mission on the plane, the compass refused. R-10 got into thick fog, the pilot lost his orientation. When the fuel ran out, Zhukov made an emergency landing in Eastern Karelia, near the town of Pallajärvi, where they were captured by Finnish soldiers on the morning of January 17.
The last known to the author mentions of hostilities with the participation of P-10 aircraft are contained in the service records of the air aces of the Finnish Air Force. It follows from them that Senior Sergeant Emil Onerva Vesa shot down the P-10 on June 23, and Senior Sergeant Leo Agokas defeated the P-10 on June 30, 1944.