Refusal of the Soviet Air Force to stay "annihilated" by Germany's Luftwaffe has brought about a complete reappraisal of Red Air Power by the allies as well as Hitler's staff.
Fifteen months of war have proved not only that the Soviets have aircraft of modern design and performance, but that they have a wide variety of operational types developed to work in close cooperation with ground forces.
Among the fighter planes the MIG-3 and the YAK-l have won high regard with pilots, the MIG-3 is of unusual construction, with the forward part of the fuselage and the wing center section of metal and the rear half of the fuselage and the outer wing panels of wood. The wing is of single spar construction, carrying split-type flaps and having fabric-covered metal ailerons. The YAK-1, a product of Alexander Yakovlev, is said to be an entirely new design, rather than a development of a previous type.
Prominent among the "workhorses" of the Red Air Fleet bombers are the DB-3, SB-3 and the PE-2 medium bombers, all of which also can and have been used for ground attack when necessary. The DB-3 is a three- or four-place, low-wing, twin-engine bomber designed by Sergei Ilyushin, one of Russia's most famous engineers. It was developed from the ZKB-26 which in 1939 made the Moscow-New Brunswick flight. A gun turret is located in the nose, below and in front of the pilot with additional armament supplied by a top turret behind the wing and a retractable belly turret just ahead of the tail. Construction is of alloy, stressed-skin type, with fabric-covered control surfaces. Engines are reported to be of about 1,000 hp, with two-speed superchargers. A modification, the DB-3F has a longer, more pointed nose.
The SB-3, designed by A N Toupolev, is a development of the SB-2 which was used extensively in both the Spanish Civil War and later in the drive against Finland, the main difference being installation of more powerful engines and better streamlining of the cowlings. Recently many of these ships have been equipped with dive brakes bearing a similarity to those utilized on the German Junkers Ju-88,
The PE-2 is three place, low-wing, and has the twin tail used on many modern planes. It is reported to be an exceptionally fast craft, powered by two engines of approximately 1,300 hp. The three-man crew is carried forward of the wing; with the pilot and rear gunner close together under the same canopy and the forward gunner prone in a compartment in the lower part of the nose.
Outstanding in the ground attack and cooperation group is the IL-2 the Stormovik dive bomber. Like other Russian aircraft, it appears to be of mixed construction, with the aft portion of the fuselage built of stress-skinned wood. Heavily armored, it has been used extensively against mechanized ground forces.
The YAK-4, another Yakovlev product, resembles the PE-2 in appearance except for a shorter nose, since it has the twin tail arrangement and twin liquid-cooled engines of 1,100 hp each. The wing is of mixed construction part steel tubular and part wood, and part plywood- and part fabric-covered.
The SU-2, a two-place general purpose plane is, in many respects, similar to the Brewster SB2 Bermuda dive bomber.
Among the water-based craft, the MBR-2 appears to typify many of the Russian flying boats developed from the Italian Macchi types, licenses for which had been acquired some years back, and is used mainly for reconnaissance work. Powered with a 700-hp liquid-cooled engine, its top speed is only about 140 mph, and its armament is confined to a nose turret and one atop the fuselage behind the wing.
(For further information on the Soviet military planes, see "The Soviet Air Force After A Year of War,"[ HTML ] radioed from Moscow by Lt Col Nikolai Denisov for Aviation, August, 1942.)
This article was originally published in the September, 1942, issue of Aviation magazine, vol 41, no 9, pp 100, 286.