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P-40 Fighters in Soviet Aviation

Valery Romanenko

P-40 for USSR

In May 1942, the 126th IAP was re-equipped with the P-40E. After the retreat of the Germans, the regiment found itself in the deep rear and, in a calm environment, until the end of August, combined the development of the Kittyhawks with the tasks of air defense in Moscow and the Moscow region. At the end of the summer, escorts of government aircraft along the Moscow-Arzamas-Kuibyshev route were added to them.

Then the regiment was transferred to the most dangerous sector of the front - near Stalingrad. On August 28, the 126th IAP, formed according to the state of 015/174 (three squadrons), but having only 18 aircraft (No. 818-821, 830, 841, 842, 844, 979, 1014, 1018, 1027-1032, 1104 * ) and 50% of the prescribed technical staff, entered the 268th IAD and was located at the Solodovka airfield. The situation at Stalingrad was difficult, and in this hell a well-trained regiment burned like a match - in just a week. The start went well. On August 29, the pilots shot down Bf 109F, Ju 88 and FW 189 at the cost of losing one P-40E, on August 30 - 5 Bf 109F and 5 He 111 with the loss of 3 P-40E, the next day - 10 Bf 109F, 1 He 111 and 1 Ju 87 for 2 downed and 2 downed P-40Es. But the turning point came on September 5th. Two Messerschmitts and one Ju 88 were paid for by four Kittyhawks: two were destroyed in action and two collided in the air. On that day, the commander of the regiment, Mr. V.M., was shot down and seriously wounded. Naidenko. The remaining 4 aircraft had to be transferred to combat duty over their own airfield.

In total, until September 13, the 126th IAP carried out 194 sorties, and (a rare case!) All of them were accompanied by battles with the enemy. 163 flights were escorted by Il-2 attack aircraft. The pilots of the regiment conducted 29 group and 24 individual air battles, in which they destroyed 36 enemy aircraft (23 Bf 109F, 6 He 111. 3 Ju 88, 1 Bf 1 10, 1 Ju 87, 1 Hs 123 and 1 FW 189). Losses amounted to 13 aircraft, 7 pilots did not return from combat missions and 5 were injured. On September 18, the regiment was taken to the rear, where it was re-equipped with La-5s and subsequently fought only on Soviet types of aircraft.

The first unsuccessful experience of combat use of "Kittyhawks" was reported "to the very top". As a result, in a letter to Roosevelt dated October 7, 1942, Stalin gave the aircraft a very unflattering assessment: "It should be borne in mind that Kittyhawk aircraft cannot withstand the fight against the current German fighters" ...

The 154th IAP under the command of battalion commissar A.A. was the second in the Soviet Air Force to enter the battle on Tomahawks. Matveev. After retraining in the 27th ZAP and reorganization to the state 015/284 (2 squadrons, 20 aircraft), on November 26, 1941, he left for the Leningrad Front (Podborovye airfield). In December, the 159th IAP joined it. Both regiments became part of the Eastern Operational Group, which covered the air bridge to the besieged Leningrad. Transport aircraft PS-84 (Li-2) transferred food and other cargoes to the besieged city. Return flights took out women, children, the elderly, the wounded. People boarded planes in front of fighter pilots, hoping for their protection, so the fighting on the highway was extremely fierce. Transport workers defended to the last opportunity, up to the ramming of German fighters. The pilots performed real miracles. So, on December 17, 5 Tomahawks over Lake Ladoga repulsed an attack on the PS-84 by nine Bf 109Fs, while the leading Dr. P.A. Pokryshev (in the future twice GSS) shot down one of them. On the same day, squadron commander P.A. Pilyutov single-handedly covered nine PS-84s and repelled the attack of six Messerschmitts, shooting down two of them, although he himself was hit. And on January 23, 1942, after a stubborn 30-minute battle, Pilyutov shot down a Bf 109Fc tail number "19". A captured German pilot reported that he had 59 victories to his credit...**

Due to the relatively low intensity of hostilities in the winter of 1941-42. the losses of the 154th and 159th regiments were small. Therefore, the rearmament to the P-40E, which began in March, took place gradually and right at the front: they simply replaced the downed Tomahawks. For example, the 154th IAP on March 12 had 7 Tomahawks and 7 Kittyhawks. Another 5 "Tomahawks" stood without motors. But already in May, the picture changed - almost all aircraft had exhausted their engine life! Since spare Allisons did not arrive, and fighters were urgently required, the regimental commander, Mr. A.A. Matveev proposed to install on the P-40E ... Soviet engines M-105P and M-105R! At the 1st aircraft repair base of the 13th VA, more than 40 fighters were converted in this way, and at the same time several aircraft were converted into doubles. Naturally, the installation of a less powerful engine led to a deterioration in the performance of the aircraft. Thus, the maximum speed of the P-40E with the M-105P and the VISH-61P propeller decreased from 477 to 465 km/h. Gradually, the regiment began to receive new P-40s, so the converted aircraft were hastened to be transferred to another air unit - the 196th IAP.

The 154th IAP fought on the P-40E until November 1942. From the spring, it mainly performed air defense tasks. In the summer they were supplemented by ground attack and bombing flights - usually one FAB-250 bomb was hung under the fuselage. The greatest losses (6 Kittyhawks; Nos. 809, 842, 863, 866, 311, 1134) the regiment suffered in September. For combat successes on November 22, 1942, the 154th IAP was transformed into the 29th Guards, and in December it began to be re-equipped with the Yak-7B.

The P-40s were most widely and intensively used in the Arctic. They began to arrive here in January 1942, when the "northern gate" for Lend-Lease convoys had to be moved from Arkhangelsk to the port of Murmansk, which does not freeze for the winter. Since the transfer of aircraft from Soviet factories to the Far North was difficult for a number of reasons, a unique case took place here - the replenishment of the Soviet Air Force was entrusted ... to the Western allies! Up to 95% of the British and American aircraft arriving at the Murmansk port were assigned to the air force, air defense and naval aviation units operating here. In 1942-43. the relative number of foreign fighters reached 80% of the total composition.


ZAP - Zapasnoy avia polk - Reserve Aviation Regiment

VA - Vozdushnaya Armiya - Air Army

GIAP - Gvardeyskiy istrebitel'nyy aviatsionnyy polk - Guards Fighter Aviation Regiment

Kuibyshev - new (old) name - Samara

The dynamics of the P-40 arrival in Murmansk is as follows: January 11, 1942 (convoy PQ-7) - 4 aircraft; January 20 (PQ-8) - 15; February 10 (PQ-9) - 2; March 12 (PQ-12) - 44, and in total for 1942 - 272 To-mahawk and Kittyhawk. In 1943, 108 P-40s arrived (with convoys SW 52.54 and 55). The last 111 Kittyhawks were delivered to the port of Murmansk from February 29 to April 5, 1944 by convoys SW 56, 57 and 58 ***.

The nomenclature of "Tomahawks" included 4 different models: PA, IV, P-40C and even exotic P-40G. The latter were obtained by refining the first P-40 model: in August 1941, 44 vehicles were returned to the Curtiss company, where wings from the Tomahawk IV with protected tanks and 7.62-mm machine guns were installed on them, as well as booking the cockpit . 76 Tomahawks were received from the USA, including 49 IV models, 10 P-40Cs and 17 P-40Gs (including the XP-40G prototype, on which this upgrade option was tested). In 1941, 24 Tomahawks and 147 IW models arrived from Great Britain.

Virtually all Tomahawks (even those shipped directly from the US) and some of the Kittyhawks came "on account of the British delivery" - i.e. were considered English lend-lease, along with the Hurricanes and Spitfires. This is because P-40s were ordered from the US for the Royal Air Force, but their mass deliveries began when the Battle of England was over, and the RAF, which had a sufficient number of more advanced fighters, willingly diverted P-40s to the USSR. The British Lend-Lease was initiated by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, even before a similar decision was made by the Americans. In one of his first letters, I.V. Stalin, received on September 6, 1941, he wrote: “In the first paragraph of your message, you used the word“ sell ”. We do not look at the matter from this point of view and have never thought about payment. It would be better if any assistance we have given you rested on the same partnership basis on which the American loan-lease law is built, that is, without formal monetary settlements.

The 147th IAP was the first in the North to receive Tomahawks. Since the fighting here was of a positional nature, retraining took place right in the operational zone. The regiment continued to fight on the I-153, in between battles mastering the Tomahawk IV and the Hurricane IV. The first Tomahawks arrived in early December 1941 (AK295. 296 and 318), and by the end of January 1942, retraining was completed. The development of Tomahawks was not easy: back in December, two cars were broken (AK318 - a fire in the air, AK296 - fell into a tailspin). And the first combat loss in the North was AK295, which was shot down in an air battle on February 1, 1942.

Until the end of April, the regiment fought on two types of fighters, and, for example, in the 1st and 3rd units of the 2nd squadron there were 2 Tomahawks and 2 Hurricanes each. On April 1, the regiment became the 20th Guards IAP, was reorganized to the new staff 015/134, by May 1 it had handed over Hurricanes and, in addition to the existing Tomahawks, IVs (AK170, 180, 194, 202, 205, 263, 267, 306, 339, 344, AN473, AN483) received P-40E (Nos. 583, 586, 600, 664, 787, 789. 796, 810-814, 823, 824.843, 849.860, 1101, 1108).

In general, the pilots liked the Tomahawks, like the Kittyhawks, especially for their survivability and flight range. The strength of the 5-spar wing of the aircraft became legendary after the air battle on April 8, 1942, when the flight commander, Lieutenant Aleksey Khlobystov, rammed German fighters twice! on the opposite side, and both times he rammed with the right console. The Messerschmitts crashed, and the Tomahawk landed safely at its airfield, and it was successfully repaired. Khlobystov, whose doctors did not even find scratches, was introduced to the rank of GSS and received a cash payment of 2,000 rubles for two destroyed enemy fighters.

The third ram, committed by Khlobystov on May 14, 1942, ended with a long stay in the hospital. He sent his Kittyhawk No. 812, damaged in battle, to the Messerschmitt, which tried to finish him off on a head-on course. Saved by chance - when hit, the Soviet pilot was thrown out of the plane ... Returning to service, Khlobystov continued to fight on the P-40. On December 13, 1943, on Kittyhawk No. 1134, together with his partner, Lt. Kalegaev (aircraft No. 1167), he pursued a German intelligence officer. Both were shot down by his gunner over enemy territory and did not return to the regiment.

The pilots of the 20th GIAP fought on the P-40 until the end of 1943, after which they received the P-39N Aircobras. General results for 1942-43 not survived, only losses are known: 28 P-40s of various models in 1942 and 26 in 1943, of which 14 were in accidents and disasters, 35 were shot down in air battles, 3 were by anti-aircraft artillery and 1 was bombed at the airfield. Judging by the descriptions of individual battles preserved in the Soviet archives, the Germans suffered at least no less damage.

From materials of interrogations of German pilots shot down in the North in 1942 from II. and III./JG 5 (A. Jakobi, H. Bodo, K. Philipp, W. Schumacher) it follows that they considered the Tomahawk a serious adversary (only Airacobras and their own Bf 109F were rated higher), and rather modest successes Soviet pilots were seen in their commitment to defensive tactics and insufficiently decisive attacks ...

* Control numbers (ctn - company test numbers) that did not match serial and factory numbers.

** This is obviously the commander of I./JG.54 Hauptmann Franz Eckerle. Although the date and place of the battle, according to Soviet and German data, do not match.

*** All figures are according to the results of registration in the Soviet port.

**** The first ram on the Tomahawk was made against a bomber on January 20, 1941. Pilot of the 154th IAP, Dr. A.V. Chirkov shot down Not 111 in this way.

Bibliography

  • Aviation and Time /# 2,3 2006/