The book was a bit disappointment. It has its good points and generally while the situation is much improved since 1980s there is still lack of books on the Soviet side of the Great Patriotic War as they call the WWII on the Eastern Front from 22 June 1941 onwards. The book shows that while Yak-1 or Yak-7 were not in par with Bf 109F-4, IMHO the best short-range fighter in the world from mid-1941 to mid-1942, they were good, if somewhat rudimentary equipped low- and medium altitude fighters during that timeframe.
The book gives as usual in this series the basic information on the versions of Yaks and Bf 109 up to mid-1942, the strategic background and the pilot training, combat tactics and organization of the respective air forces. The biographs given are those of Mikhail Dmitrievich Baranov, an ace with 24 individual aerial victories and Hermann Graf, 206 aerial victories according the book, 212 aerial victories according to the most sources I have seen, e.g. Bergström et. al. Graf biography and http://www.luftwaffe.cz/graf.html . There is empty space worth of 15 lines on the page allocated to the Graf’s biography which could have been easily filled by more facts from Graf’s long combat career and e.g. his father’s occupation, he was a farmer, later a baker who served as an artilleryman during the WWI, not simply an artilleryman as given in the bio. And while JG(r) 50 was a specialist unit JG 11 wasn’t. The book illustrated some battle formations used by the VVS KA (the Soviet Army Air Force), they were standard “vic” based formations used rather universally before a pair and its multitudes became the new norm. The Combat part is somewhat vague but includes some interesting quotes from pilots’ memoirs.
On the pages 58 – 59 there is a good analyse on the problems faced by the Soviet fighter formation leaders during the early part of the Great Patriotic War; lack of radios, poor communications generally, too strict orders which limited formation leaders initiative, obsolete formations etc. But I doubt the claim that Soviet fighters were invariably being outnumbered even in the initial stages of the fighting on the Eastern Front, front was simply so long and there were too few German fighters to give adequate cover to everywhere along it.
The authors give as the total number of Bf 109s ranged against the Soviet Union as approximate 820, not much over the usually given figure of 793 single-engine fighters of which 619 were serviceable.
There are three maps on pages 36, 40 and 41. The first one gives information on the Luftwaffe and VVS KA (Army Air Forces) fighter strengths on the eve of the Operation Barbarossa on the very early morning of 22 June 1941 on the Eastern Front from the Gulf of Finland to the Black Sea. The number of VVS KA fighters, 4,226 is smaller than that given in Tomasz Kopanski’s Barbarossa Victims on page 13, namely 4 730. On the other hand, the number of Bf 109s readying to attack the Soviet Union is given as 824 which is a little more than 793 given in Balke’s and Bergström’s books. The number of Yak-1s given is identical in both this and Kopanski’s book. The second map shows the Soviet fighter units in the Moscow area on 30 October 1941. Based on my very limited sources of Soviet air forces it seems that some of the 6 IAK (fighter corps) Moscow Region PVO fighter units are left out, e.g. 16 and 34 IAPs equipped with MiG-3s. The map reveals the bases used and the fighter regiments and also shows which fighter regiments had Yak-1s in their strengths but doesn’t give any strength figures for the Soviet units shown. The last one gives the disposition of the VVS-KA fighter units in the Stalingrad region in October 1942, giving the number of Yaks and the identity of the IAPs (fighter regiments) for each IAD and SAD (fighter and mixed air divisions) in the region. Also given is the number of Bf 109s in the region (both Bf 109F-4s of the JG 3 and the Bf 109E-7/Us of the SchG 1). The number of Bf 109 fighters is correct but according to the Michael Holm’s site (http://www.ww2.dk/air/jagd/jg3.htm etc.), most were in fact Bf 109G-2s, only III./JG 3 was still equipped with Bf 109F-4s. This is confirmed in the Prien’s & Stemmer’s Jagdgeschwader 3 “Udet” in World War II multivolume unit history. I./Sch.G.1 had exactly 28 Bf 109E-7/U-1s on 31.10.1942 plus Stab/Sch.G.1 had five more and on 1 October they have had 22+3 Bf 109E-7/U-1s according to Michael Holm’s site. So one can say that the number of Bf 109s given is the correct one but most of the fighters were in fact already Bf 109G-2s and F-4s were already a minority.
But the book has its problems. It is a bit misleading to compare the number of Bf 109s with the number of Yaks in service because in 1941 Bf 109 was the only single engine fighter in service with the Luftwaffe on the Eastern Front while Soviet air forces had, besides the huge number of older fighters, three types of modern single engine fighters in service. The most numerous of these in June 1941 was the MiGs, around 1,000 in service compared to 200+ Yak-1s. Those LaGG-3s which were with first–line units were with Moscow and Leningrad PVOs or in Far East. I don’t have exact number of LaGG-3s with first-line units, but the number of the modern single-engine fighters produced by 22 June 1941 was 2,030 (1,309 MiGs, 399 Yak-1s and 322 LaGG-3s). And even during the last six months of 1941 both MiG-3 and LaGG-3 productions were twice as high as the Yak production. Only in 1942 Yak became the most produced Soviet single engine fighter.
Bf 109E-3 was powered by a DB 601 A, not by a DB 601Aa.
On p. 22 there is a typo and a mistake in the last chapter, M-105P/PA produced 1,100 metric hp/ps/л.с. (1,085 hp) at 2,000 m alt. and 1,050 metric hp/ps/л.с. (1,036 hp) at 4000 metres. M-105PF produced 1,260 hp/ps/л.с. (1,243 hp) at 700 m, 1,180 hp/ps/л.с. (1,164 hp) at 2700 metres. So the full throttle/rated altitudes were lower than claimed in the book.
In Bf 109Fs its 7.92 mm MG 17s had 500 rpg, not 300 claimed in the book. Probably the error is because from Bf 109G-5/-6 onwards the two MG 17s with 500 rpg were replaced by two 13 mm MG 131s with 300 rpg.
The maximum speed of Bf 109F-4. The DB 601 E was initially restricted to 1,200 PS (1,184 hp) at 2,500 rpm; however, the full rating of 1,350 PS (1,332 hp) at 2,700 rpm (Start und Not that means Take-off and Emergency, allowed only for a short duration of 3 minutes) was cleared for service use by February 1942. With 1,184 hp Climb and Combat power maximum speed of a Bf 109F-4 was 660 km/h at 6,200 m according to the Datenblatt 109 F4 Augsburg, den 29.11.41. I don’t know if the speed is with or without compressibility correction, often German performance figures are given without compressibility correction. At that speed and altitude, the compressibility correction should IMHO reduce the attained speed about 15 km/h. In this case I think that the figure is without the compressibility correction because the maximum speed with 1,184 hp Climb and Combat power was given as 635 km/h at 6,000 m in the Datenblatt 109 F4 Augsburg, den 1.7.42. Anyway faster than 610 km/h given in the book and of course during 1942 even faster with Take-off and Emergency power, which gave extra 150 hp for maximum of 3 minutes. Also the ranges given to Bf 109 F-2 and F-4, 580 km and 560 km respectively, seems to be too short. A British test, dated 3rd Dec 1944, gave the maximum tactical range of Bf 109G (no information on subtype) with greater displacement DB 605 engine and the same amount of fuel as 615 mls/990 km without the 300 litres drop-tank and 1145 mls/1682 km with it. It also gives the fast cruise range of 450 mls/724 km without and 795 mls/1280 km with a drop-tank for the Bf 109G. Finnish experience was that the practical maximum range of Bf 109G-2/-6 was c. 750 km without a drop-tank because when flying lower, more economical speeds there were problems with spark plugs soothing and exhaust leakage into the cockpit. The Soviet data I have seen gives 650 km range for Bf 109F-4. Also the specification given in the table on the page to Yak-1b are the same but for the armament as given to normal high-back Yak-1 powered by a M-105PF tested at NII VVS in June 1942 in the Gordon’s book. According to Gordon Yak-1B was a bit lighter and 19 km/h faster than given in the table of this book. The information given on Yak-7B in the table and in Gordon’s book are almost identical.
On page 33 the ammunition load for the 20 mm MG 151/20 in Bf 109F-4 was given as 200 rounds. That is what could be loaded into a F-4 but at least Finns found out with their Bf 109Gs that the 200 rounds 20 mm belt was too heavy and often produced a breakage of the ammunition belt approximately halfway. When modifications didn’t eliminate the problem and Finns heard that Germans used to load their 109Gs only with approximately 130 rounds, Finns began to load the MG 151/20 of their 109Gs with 155 rounds (130 in the ammo box and 25 on the loading tray). Still more 20 mm rounds than in a Yak.
DB 605A engine didn’t immediately bring more power to Bf 109 because the use of the 1.42 ata boost which was needed for the 1,475 PS (1,455 hp) take-off and emergency power was banned most of the time up to autumn 1943, before that but some intervals maximum allowed boost was 1,30 ata producing maximum take-off power of 1,310 PS (1,292 hp). So at low and mid altitudes most of time before autumn 1943 Bf 109G had less power that Bf 109F-4 with heavier engine, only above circa 5,250 m DB 605A produced more power at 1.30 ata than DB 601E at 1.42 ata because the former had higher full throttle height but that was more important against the Western Allies than on the Eastern Front.
The book gives a bit too good picture on the pilot training in the Luftwaffe. Even if the Luftwaffe fighter pilots got some training on instrument flying, that wasn’t good enough for bad weather operations as the Luftwaffe learned in the West during the winter 1943/44.
On the page 43 the figure given as the Luftwaffe total losses between 1 May and 31 August 1942, 4,460 aircraft, is IMHO odd, the Quartermaster Generals Loss Returns gives the total losses of that time period as a little under 3,000 and that is the figure for all fronts plus a little under 2,400 damaged. According to Williamson Murray’s Luftwaffe p. 107 Table XXV, 53,7 % of the Luftwaffe total losses between 1 June and 31 August happened on the Eastern Front. So the figure in the book doesn’t seem to fit the information from the Quartermaster Generals Loss Returns and Murray’s book. It may well be that the authors had access to better sources than I but according to the sources I have access the figure seems odd. And the number given as the number of German single-engine fighters in the frontline, 554, must be that of on the Eastern Front. A right figure but maybe the definition “on the Eastern Front” would have been nice to be added to that sentence.
On the page 52 the authors claim that ”The highest homogenous tactical fighter unit was the Luftflotte. As a rule, every Luftflotte consisted of three combat geschwader, the Luftflotte HQ, a HQ detachment and a Communication Company…” I’m totally lost with that. To my understanding a Luftflotte was area based and was flexible in size and number of subordinated units, and its size changed depending on need. And it was heterogeneous, usually consisting fighter, bomber, reconnaissance etc. units. The main Luftflotten in the East in 1941 (1, 2 and 4) were all more powerful than three Geschwadern, 2 and 4 significantly so. And on 27 July 1942 Luftflotte 1 was about the size of three combat Geschwadern but Luftflotte 4 was massively more powerful, some 11(+) combat Geschwadern. Same to Luftflotte 2 in Mediterranean area (over six combat Geschwadern). In West Luftflotte 3 had almost worth of five combat Geschwadern.
While on the page 57 the numbering of the items in the Bf 109F-4 cockpit colour drawing is sequenced logically that isn’t the case in the Yak-1B cockpit colour drawing on the page 56. I notice that the clock is missing from the Bf 109F-4 cockpit colour drawing, should be in the right top corner.
On the page 70 the claim of 45th IAP seems odd if the date isn’t a typo. The text gives an impression that the regiment claimed eight Bf 109s while losing only a single Yak-1 on 11 July 1942 while part of the Sevastopol air group but most of the air group including all flyable fighters had been evacuated on the night of 30 June/1 July to Kuban and the city itself had fallen on 1 July and the last bigger Soviet formation had surrendered on 4 July even if some scattered resistance to the south of the city continued until 9 July. Or maybe that combat happened after the unit was evacuated from Sevastopol, but in that case it would have been nice to be told by the authors where the combat took place.
The information given in the table “Leading Yak-1/7 Bf 109 killers 1941 – 42” on the page 75 is different in several cases from that given by Mikhail Bykov. e.g. the scores of Sultan Amet-Khan and Schirov are somewhat different and there is bigger difference in I. I. Kleschev’s case, namely 16 individual + 15 shared vs 13 + 10 and in this book it is claimed that K. S. Alekseyev and M. Avdeyev/Advdeev served with the VVS of the Red Banner Baltic Fleet when in fact they served with the VVS of the Black Sea Fleet.
On Further Reading, almost all of the Russian books are unknown to me but according to my understanding Bykov’s book is highly regarded as are Prien’s JG 53 book and his, Stemmer’s, Rodeike’s and Bock’s Die Jagdfliegerverbande der Deutschen Luftwaffe series, even if the latter series is almost purely based on German documents and so has almost purely the German point of view. But I’m surprised that Nowarra’s (in the book typed as Novarra) Die 109 is in the list. IMHO it is obsolete and unreliable source. I have used Willy Radinger’s and Walter Schick’s Messerschmitt Me 109 Alle Varianten: von Bf (Me) 109A bis Me 109E (1997) for information on the early Bf 109 versions, on the later ones I have used a bit old Prien’s and Rodeike’s Messerschmitt Bf 109 F, G & K Series (1993). It doesn’t have specifications, so those I have usually checked from copies of documents and en.wikipedia pages, wiki’s Bf 109 pages are good ones.
IMHO the conclusions are mostly correct, the main problems of the VVS were inadequate training, organisational and control problems and obsolete combat tactics. Yaks, while not equal to Bf 109F-4 were still fairly well-matched to it at lower altitudes, which were the main combat altitude band on the Eastern Front, and had its strong points, e.g. being able to turn tighter. And as always in combat it was vital to try to use own strengths against opponent’s weaknesses.
the Quartermaster Generals Loss Returns
Kennblatt für das Flugzeugmuster Bf 109 Baureihe F-1 und F-2 mit DB 601 N Motor Berlin 1941
Ladeplan Me 109 F-4/Z
Datenblatt 109 F4 Augsburg, den 29.11.41
Datenblatt 109 F4 Augsburg, den 1.7.42
L. Dv.T. 2109 F-2 und F-4/Wa Bf 109 F-2 und F-4 Bedienungsvorschrift - Wa
Balke, Ulf, Der Luftkrieg in Europa. Die operativen Einsätze des Kampfgeschwaders 2 im Zweiten Weltkrieg,
Teil 1 (Koblenz: Bernard & Graefe , 1989).
Bergstrom, Christer, Barbarossa - The Air Battle: July–December 1941 (London: Chevron, 2007).
Bergström, Christer, Mikhailov, Andrey, Black Cross / Red Star Air War Over the Eastern Front, Volume 2,
Resurgence January–June 1942 (Pacifica, California: Pacifica Military History, 2001).
Bergström, Christer, Antipov, Vlad, Sundin, Claes, Graf & Grislawski—A Pair of Aces (Hamilton MT: Eagle
Gordon, Yefim, Soviet Air Power in World War 2 (Hinckley: Midland Publishing, 2008).
Khazanov, Dmitriy and Medved, Aleksander, MiG-3 Aces of World War 2 (Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2012).
Kopanski, Tomasz, Barbarossa Victims. Luftwaffe kills in the East (Redbourn: Mushroom Model Publishing,
Mellinger, George, LaGG and Lavochkin Aces of World War 2 (Oxford, Osprey Publishing, 2003).
Mellinger, George, Yakovlev Aces of World War 2 (Oxford, Osprey Publishing, 2005).
Murray, Williamson, Luftwaffe (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1985).
Pitkänen, Mika ja Simpanen, Timo, 20 mm Suomessa - Aseet ja ampumatarvikkeet ennen vuotta 1945 / 20
mm in Finland - Weapons and Ammunition prior to 1945 (Tampere: Apali, 2007).
Prien, Jochen & Stemmer, Gerhard, Jagdgeschwader 3 “Udet” in World War II Vol. I: Stab and I./JG3 in Action
with the Messerschmitt Bf 109 (Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing 2002).
Radinger, Willy and Schick, Walter, Messerschmitt Me 109: das meistgebaute Jagdflugzeug der Welt.
Entwicklung, Erprobung und Technik. Alle Varianten: von Bf (Me) 109A bis Me 109E (Oberhaching: Aviatic
Raunio, Jukka, Lentäjän Näkökulma II (Kuorevesi: Jukka Raunio 1993).