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"Bostons" in the USSR

A-20 Boston over Berlin

A-20 Boston over Berlin

Medium bomber Douglas DB-7A (A-20A). The American plane was regarded by us precisely as a close-range bomber, and not as an attack aircraft. What was considered a medium bomber in the United States, by our standards, was already closer to our long-range bombers, and in terms of weight, crew composition and defensive armament, it went beyond this category.

Bostons have earned an excellent reputation among our pilots. These machines had good flying qualities at that time. They could compete with German technology in speed and maneuverability. " When the B-3s appeared on the Soviet-German front, they overtook our new Pe-2s. The American bomber was distinguished by good maneuverability and a large practical ceiling. Deep turns were easy for him, he flew freely on one engine. Considering the poor training of pilots who were quickly released from schools during the war years, the aerobatic qualities of the aircraft became very important. Here the Boston was excellent - simple and easy to handle, obedient and stable in turns. Takeoff and landing on it were much easier than on the domestic Pe-2.

The motors worked reliably, started well, however, during very intensive operation, they did not reach the prescribed resource. The seals supplied by the Americans had to be torn off and pistons, cylinders, piston rings and bearings had to be changed. But at the same time, it should be taken into account that the nominal resource of the "wrights" exceeded the resource of all domestic aircraft engines twice, or even three times.

The A-20 cockpits were spacious, both the pilot and the navigator had a good view, they were located in comfortable armored seats. The cabin was heated, which, after our frozen SB and Pe-2, seemed an unthinkable luxury.

But the first combat experience also showed the weaknesses of the American aircraft, primarily defensive weapons. The Bostons were vulnerable to attacks from behind, even earlier, suffering heavy casualties from German fighters. We quickly realized that the firepower of the Boston was insufficient and decided to take measures to increase it. The urgent development of projects for the rearmament of "Boston" began. The first such alterations were carried out directly at the front. Instead of the "Browning" they installed domestic UB large-caliber machine guns. The upper installation with coaxial machine guns, which had an insufficient field of fire, was changed to an MV-3 ​​turret with a ShKAS machine gun or to a UTK-1 with a UBT. The GKO decree of September 24 approved the rearmament scheme proposed by the design bureau of plant No. 43: two fixed UBC along the sides of the navigator's cabin, on top of the UTK-1 with UBT and one more UBT in the hatch on the installation from the Pe-2. All B-3s were subject to alteration (i.e. DB-7B, DB-7C and A-20C). The first 30 aircraft had to be re-equipped as early as September 1942. Indeed, in September "Bostons" with Soviet machine guns already began to operate at the front. At the same time, the aircraft's armor protection was strengthened, and improvements were made for winter operation.

On the A-20B there was a large-caliber machine gun on top, but in the same pivot mount. The bomb armament has not changed much for the better. We decided that this option also did not suit, and they also began to redo it. In December 1942, the simplest modification of this modification was presented for testing - the standard American bomb racks (the A-20B had six inside and four outside) were simply modified for our bombs. And in June 1943, a deeper processing was tested at NIPAV: our Der-21 cluster bomb racks, designed for a total of 16 FAB-100 bombs, were mounted in the internal bomb compartments, and Der-19P was installed outside for bombs with a caliber of up to 250 kg. Der-21 made it possible to insert cassettes of small bombs KMB - Pe-2 into bomb compartments under the bombs AO-2.5, AO-10, AO-25, ZAB-2.5 and ampoules AZH-2 (usually filled with a self-igniting liquid). Outside, a suspension of VAP-250 chemical pouring devices was provided. An ESBR-6 bomb release device, OPB-1R and NKPB-7 sights were mounted. As a result, the maximum bomb load (when taking off from concrete) increased to 2000 kg. A total of more than 600 aircraft, including several hundred A-20Vs, have undergone replacement bomb armament. Changes in the defensive armament of vehicles of this type were mainly reduced to the installation of the upper turret UTK-1. But in the turret was mounted not a Soviet UBT machine gun, but an American Colt Browning, removed from the standard pivot mount. On October 31, 1942, the Deputy Commander of the Air Force Vorozheikin turned to the NKAP with a request to urgently modify 54 A-20V according to this scheme.

In 1943, a new modification, the A-20G, began to arrive through Alaska and Iran (we usually call it A-20ZH, hence one of its nicknames - "Bug"). This was the next mass production version of the Boston. Before her, American designers created several modifications that were not put into mass production. The A-20D remained an unrealized project of a lightweight version of the A-20B with turbocharged R-2600-7 engines. Seventeen A-20Es were a rework of the A-20A with unprotected fuel tanks for training purposes. The experienced XA-20F was a further development of the XA-20B and had a 37mm cannon in its nose. The next massive (and ultimately the most massive - 2850 copies) modification of the "Havok" was the A-20C. It was a purely assault version. The bow was now occupied by a whole battery of cannons and machine guns. On the first series, A-20G-1, in the nose were four 20-mm M2 cannons with 60 rounds of ammunition each and two 12.7-mm machine guns. At the same time, they strengthened the armor protection, improved the aircraft equipment and sharply raised the bomb load (with an overload of up to 1800 kg), while lengthening the rear bomb bay. The vehicle became heavier (the weight of the empty aircraft increased by more than a ton), somewhat losing speed and maneuverability, and considerably in the ceiling, but its combat effectiveness increased. Almost all aircraft of the G-1 type were sent to the USSR. The cannons in the nose were soon abandoned. Starting with the G-5 series, six large-caliber machine guns were installed. On the G-20, the rear fuselage was expanded and an electrified Martin 250GE turret with two 12.7 mm machine guns was mounted there (this turret was first tested on one of the serial A-20Cs). The same machine gun now stood at the lowest point. The A-20G aircraft also externally differed in individual exhaust pipes on the motors instead of a common manifold, and a circular antenna of the MN-26Y radio compass on top. The A-20G-20 was tested at the Air Force Research Institute in October 1943. From series to series "Boston" was equipped with more and more effective weapons, raised the bomb load, improved armor protection, but the plane became heavier and heavier, losing in flight data. In speed, it was already inferior to the last series of Pe-2, but still remained a formidable front-line bomber.

The first A-20Gs appeared on the Soviet-German front in the summer of 1943.The A-20G became a truly multipurpose aircraft in our aviation, performing a variety of functions - day and night bomber, reconnaissance aircraft, torpedo bomber and mine layer, heavy fighter and even transport aircraft. He was little used only as an attack aircraft - for its main purpose! As already mentioned, the A-20G was very vulnerable to anti-aircraft gunners at low altitudes due to its significant size and weak armor cover. Only when surprise was achieved could one count on the relative safety of the Boston during the attack in the conditions of the well-oiled air defense of the Germans. Nevertheless, our pilots carried out assault strikes on convoys, trains and ships. The crews of the 449th regiment in such a situation usually attacked from a height of 300-700 m, diving at an angle of 20-25 degrees. After a burst of 20-30 shells followed by a quick escape on low level flight. The place of the attack aircraft in our aviation was firmly taken by the Il-2, and the A-20G was ousted into other areas of application. To perform functions that were not provided by the designers (or were not sufficiently provided for), the car had to be modified in one way or another. For example, for use as a bomber, the A-20G was inconvenient because of the lack of a navigator's seat.


  • Bostons in the USSR /Vladimir Kotelnikov/