Aviation of World War II

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"Americans" in Russia

In total, during the war, the Soviet Union received 14,126 American-made aircraft (namely, American-made, since both the Americans and the British supplied them). Is it a lot or a little? Most publications indicate that during the war years, the Soviet Union produced 136,800 aircraft. The share of American technology in this case is slightly more than 10% (for the British Air Force this figure is much higher — 22%). True, in this case, when calculating domestic production, 1941 and 1945 were taken into account in full, so that the real percentage will slightly increase. But still it is not much.

Now let's look at the ratio by aircraft class. Most of the imported aircraft were fighters. 9,690 American fighters arrived (and you can add about a hundred A-20s, which have been converted into night fighters in our country). Over the years of the war, we have produced more than 57 thousand of our cars of this class. As a result, every sixth fighter in our aviation was American. Due to the specific features of overseas vehicles, their share in air defense and naval aviation was much higher than in the air force.

If we perform similar calculations for bombers, we get 19%. those. every fifth bomber received by our armed forces was manufactured in the United States. In the mine and torpedo aviation of the western fleets (Baltic, Black Sea and Northern) by the end of the war there were more American A-20s converted into torpedo bombers than Russian Il-4s.

For some categories, this ratio is even higher, for example, in transport or seaplane. But we built 37 thousand attack aircraft and did not import a single one from abroad.

All these indicators are average. The supply of equipment from the United States has been very uneven over the years. During the period of validity of the very first delivery protocol (from October 1, 1941 to July 1, 1942), called Moscow, the Soviet Union received 267 bombers and 278 fighters from America, which is respectively 30% and 31% of the figures recorded in it. By the middle of 1943, about 4,300 American aircraft arrived in our country, and over the next two years, about twice as many.

By the beginning of the Battle of Moscow, less than 1% of foreign aircraft were at the front. Further, its share increased steadily. The rate of supplies from abroad outstripped the growth of domestic production. The increase in the production of combat aircraft in the USSR in 1943 relative to 1942 was approximately 1.3 times, and the increase in deliveries from SITA was approximately 2.5 times.

It is necessary, however, to say that not all of the aircraft received went into operation during the war. Most of the P-63s ended up in the regiments after the end of hostilities.

Six types of aircraft accounted for the lion's share of all American deliveries: Bell P-39 Airacobra fighters (4952 units). Bell P-63 "Kingcobra" (2400). Curtiss P-40 "Warhawk" (we have better known under the English names "Tomahawk" and "Kittyhawk" - 2134), Douglas A-20 "Havok" bombers (we also called "Boston" - 2771 in the English manner) and North American B-25 Mitchell (861) and Douglas C-47 Skytrain transport aircraft (708). In smaller quantities, Republican R-47 Thunderbolt fighters (195), PBN-1 Nomad flying boats (137), PBY-6A Catalina amphibians (48), short-range scouts Curtiss 0-52 Owl (19), AT-6 Texan training aircraft (74), North American P-51 Mustang fighters (10). In addition, the Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bomber and the C-46 Commando transport Curtiss arrived — one each. With the cruiser Milwaukee (Murmansk), our sailors received a pair of Vout 0S2L Kingfisher ejection scouts. Several other types of machines entered our country unofficially — they were picked up after forced landings in Europe or interned in the Far East.

An interesting aspect of the supply of aircraft under Lend-Lease was the mass familiarization of Soviet pilots, engineers, designers with foreign equipment that differed in design concepts, design traditions, and other, often more advanced, technology. All types of machines that entered our country were carefully studied in order to borrow everything new and interesting. Some aircraft were specially ordered in small quantities or single copies for testing.

Our specialists went abroad to get acquainted with the new aircraft. Many vehicles that were not supplied to the USSR for various reasons — Martin B-26, Lockheed A-29, Boeing B-17 and others — passed through the hands of Soviet testers. At the end of 1941, I.I.Sikorsky offered his R-4 helicopter: P.V. Kondratyev made a familiarization flight on it. True, samples of the most modern fighters and bombers could not be obtained. Categorical refusals were received for requests to provide Lockheed R-38, Boeing B-17 aircraft, the first American jet fighters Bell R-59 and Lockheed R-80.

Working in calmer conditions, the US industry had much greater opportunities than the Soviet one. She was less worried about the problem of lack of metal, she had reserve capacities for mastering new types of machines, she could afford more complex and expensive technology. During the war, American military equipment absorbed all the previous achievements of civilian industries, moving to a qualitatively new level.

Familiarization with foreign aircraft drew attention to those areas where there was an obvious lag behind the West — radio equipment, crew facilities, navigation equipment. Many elements of the equipment of American aircraft were subsequently diligently copied by Soviet designers. This often served as an impetus for the development of new materials and technologies by our industry. The pinnacle of this process can be considered the story of the B-29 bomber. copied to the smallest detail and put into production in the Soviet Union as the Tu-4.

Unlike Great Britain, American engines, weapons, components and assemblies were not used on Soviet aircraft. The only exceptions are Yak-9DD radio stations and Bendix wheels, which were supposed to be installed on the Tu-2, but were actually installed by domestic ones. But the supply of raw materials, materials, equipment for our aviation industry and related industries played a big role. The import of aluminum, which began in the spring of 1942 and compensated for the loss of enterprises in the territory occupied by the enemy, should be considered especially significant. Rolled metal, alloy steel, cables, instruments, radio components, photographic equipment and much more were also imported from the USA. The supply of machine tools compensated for the decrease in their production in the USSR — our factories made weapons. The growth rates in the import of machine tools and tools for aircraft factories far exceeded the growth in the supply of aircraft proper. All this largely contributed to the growth of aircraft production in the Soviet Union.


  • Americans in Russia / V.R. Kotelnikov, G.F. Petrov /