Next comes a survey of the Lend-Lease aircraft (78 pages) and the last one is of the Soviet pilots in the Great Patriotic War (29 pages), it concentrated almost entirely on fighter pilots and included three tables of the top Soviet fighter pilots; the official list of Soviet aces as of November 1967(the top 50), the top 10 Soviet aces of Great Patriotic War Variant 1 (information gleaned from the Internet in 2007) and the top 16 Soviet aces of Great Patriotic War Variant 2 (information gleaned from the Internet in 2007). The text of this last chapter has very strong Soviet era atmosphere.
Usually the technical descriptions of the planes are fairly informative but of course in a book on so large subject there are some points where a reader would have hoped a deeper analyze. E.g. Yermolayev Yer-2 article is a bit unsatisfactory especially on the last, diesel powered bomber version. The maximum bomb load of the type isn’t given, the only information on the subject is that the prototype DB-240 could carry 2,000kg of bombs internally and 1,000kg externally, that is all. There isn’t for Yer-2 the specifications in tabular form as there are for almost all other types. But in the older Yerim Gordon’s and Dmitri Khazanov’s Soviet Combat Aircraft of the Second World War Volume Two gives the same information in its text but gives in its tables the following maximum bomb loads: for the prototype 4,000kg, same for the first two production versions and for the last, the ACh-30B diesel engine powered version, 5,000kg. The Yer-2 wiki article, which seems to be one of the better ones, gives the bomb load of the prototype as same as Gordon in his text but says that the ACh-30B engined last version had the maximum bomb load of 5,000kg carried in an internal bomb-bay. Nowhere is information how the bomb-bay was modified to allow carrying 2½ times more bombs in it or was the reason that e.g. armour piercing bombs took less room than high explosive bombs of the same weight. Also e.g. Lavochin La-5 development could have been told with more technical details about e.g. how exactly was the inadequate oil cooling in the prototype solved and how different subtypes (37, 39 and 41) differed from each other. After all the differences between Type 37 and Type 39 are given in Gordon’s earlier Lavochkin’s Piston-Engined Fighters book.
IMHO the best in the book are the analyses of the flight characteristics of the planes based on Soviet flight tests made during the war. These tests not only gave information on maximum speed, rate of climb etc. but also quantitative information on turning times, how much height was achieved during a combat turn (chandelle) etc.
Comparisons with comparable German aircrafts are usually fair but the fact that new Soviet planes are compared with the planes the Luftwaffe already had fairly common use in the Eastern Front because those were types on which Soviet technical intelligence had more or less accurate information. Usually the Soviet information was accurate but their data on different Focke-Wulf Fw 190 versions is worse than the data given by German and Western Allies sources. However e.g. on page 303 where IL-10 is compared with a Fw 190 attack version (the exact version isn’t specified) Gordon claimed that at low altitudes IL-10 was only 15 – 20 km/h slower which is in line with the Soviet figures on the speed of the Fw 190Fs, but when compared with information from German and Western Allies sources, Fw 190F-8, which entered into service some 10 months earlier than IL-10, was appr. 40 – 45 km/h faster than IL-10 at lower levels. More odd is the claim that the normal bomb load of a Fw 190 attack aircraft by the end of the war was 150 kg when in fact Fw 190F-8s from 1./SG 5 carried 250 kg or 500 kg bomb loads when they operated in Finland during summer 1944, 250 kg bomb load being somewhat but not significantly more common. Same is true for III./SG 3 during its operations in White Russia and in Baltic states in summer 1944, and Lt. Helmut Wenk, flying the closer IL-10 contemporary Fw 190F-9, operated usually with 500 kg bomb loads at the end of April 1945, his bomb loads during the last days of war varied from 250 kg to 700 kg. Gordon rightly pointed out that IL-10 was surprisingly maneuverable for a big armoured 2-seat attack aircraft and that it was clearly better armoured than Fw 190 Fs with more powerful cannon armament and a rear gunner with a heavy 12.7mm machine gun. But contrary to the Gordon claim that the bomb load of Fw 190F was lighter than that of IL-10 they were fairly similar (450 – 700 kg normal and some 1000 kg maximum for Fw 190F-8 vs 400 kg normal and 600 kg maximum for IL-10), so in fact Fw 190F-8 was capable to carry somewhat heavier bomb loads but that was a downside of the better and much heavier armour protection of IL-10.
And comparing the performance of the SBB-1 prototype, the first flight in early 1941, to that of Bf 109E and not to that of clearly better early Bf 109F, is a bit misleading because Bf 109F was fast replacing the 109E in the combat units at that time. In fact when Germany invaded the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941, 75% of the Jagdgruppen participating the attack were already equipped with Bf 109Fs and only 25% still with Bf 109Es.
In the case of Pe-3 it is ok to compare the performance of the prototype with those of Bf 110 C but maybe it would have been fair to mention that the production of the clearly better Bf 110 F began only four months later, in December 1941 even if the first Bf 110 Fs were delivered to the Luftwaffe only in February 1942 because of the initial problems with their DB 601 F engines.
Gordon writes that Handley Page Hampden was slow, sluggish and had insufficient defensive armament. Now the last point is definitely true but Hampden should have been faster than its Soviet counter-parts, DB-3T and Il-4T, especially at lower altitudes which were where it really mattered for a torpedo bomber. On sluggishness, I first thought that that was also an error because I recall some British memoirs where the memoirists said that the cockpit of Hampden pilot was fighter like and that it could be flown somewhat like a fighter. While e.g. H A Taylor agree with that claim, Eric Brown is clearly more critical and noted that Hampden suffered from rudder overbalance which limited evasive manoeuvres. Much of the problem could have been overcome by good training but probably Soviet pilots, who had got the Hampdens unexpectedly, didn’t learn all the remedies. The VVS received only 20 Hampdens left behind by the 144 RAF and the 455 RAAF Squadrons after their brief deployment in Murmansk area so there was no urgent incentive to thorough testing of the type in the Soviet Union. So after all Gordon seems to be right on the sluggishness. And in Hampden part the Soviet sinking claims are checked against German sources, those made by the crews of the Soviet and US made torpedo bombers were not and are very overoptimistic.
What I missed in the ANT-42/TB-7/Pe-8 heavy bomber article was a description of the modifications needed to make the M-82 powered version capable to carry a 5,082kg bomb, Pe-8 was the only plane alongside the Avro Lancaster capable to carry such super-heavy bombs during the World War II in Europe. Gordon also clearly wrongly claims that in 1942 it was decided to use 1,850 hp Shvetsov M-82 radials to power new Pe-8s, Maslov rightly writes that when Pe-8 production was restarted in 1942 it was decided to power the bombers with 1,330 hp M-82 radials and only in later part of 1943 new build aircraft were powered by 1,850 hp ASh-82FN engines. Gordon’s ANT-42/TB-7/Pe-8 comparison with the B-17 is IMHO misleading. Gordon writes that B-17 was able to carry only sixteen 100 kg bombs and its turrets had only two machine guns while ANT-42 prototype could carry forty 100 kg bombs and its gun armament included two turrets with 20 mm cannon. B-17 prototype Boeing Model 299 could carry sixteen 136 kg bombs (USAAC/USAAF didn’t have 100 kg bombs in its inventory) or e.g. eight 272 kg bombs (altogether 2,177 kg) internally, one must remember that B-17 was designed as a medium, not a heavy bomber for the USAAC. In 1940 produced B-17Cs still had max 2,177 kg bomb load and was armed with four 0.50-inch and one 0.30-inch hand operated machine guns. It was the first version to see combat in July 1941 while serving in RAF. All these early versions had rather weak defensive armament when compared to the later B-17 versions from B-17E onwards (which was the first with power operated turrets, its first flight was made on 5 September 1941 and its first combat on December 1941, max. bomb load according to Freeman in The Great Book of World War II Airplanes article was only 1905 kg, others say twelve 500 lb/227 kg bombs, or eight 1,000 lb/454 kg, or four 2000-pound/ 907 kg bombs, which means 3,629 kg maximum. The defensive armament was eight 12.7 mm + one 7.62 mm machineguns. So while it is true that TB-7/Pe-8 prototype ANT-42 could carry heavier bomb load and had heavier defensive armament than the B-17 version in production at that time, the B-17 versions used in combat in Europe by the USAAF were (B-17E was used in ETO as a combat aircraft only a few weeks by one bomber group) improved B-17F, which entered production in April 1942 and began combat operations in August 1942, which had max bomb load of 7,983 kg, of which 4,354 kg internally, but that was for a short range missions only and with armour piercing bombs as the internal load, which were suited only against heavy warships and other hardened targets. Normal maximum internal load for the B-17F and G versions was 2,722 kg HE/GP bombs, either twelve 500 lb/227 kg bombs or six 1,000 lb/454 kg bombs. In later Fs and Gs there was a possibility for carrying two heavy bombs (max 4,000 lb bombs) externally but that option was seldom used. Usually bombers could carry heavier bomb loads for shorter range and lighter bomb loads for longer range missions. Usually B-17Fs carried 1,814 kg to 2,268 kg bomb loads during their long-range deep-penetration missions in Europe. The defensive armament was 10 to 11 12.7 mm machineguns, I’d say more powerful defensive armament than that of the TB-7/Pe-8. During the early Great Patriotic War some TB-7s still had the one 20 mm and six 7.62mm gun defensive armament. Later the two 20 mm and three 12.7mm gun armament was the norm. The production run of the B-17E, the first version with the twin machineguns turrets was 512, which was clearly more than the 93 Pe-8s produced but definitely was not the main production model, the main production models were B-17F, 3,405 produced and B-17G (the same bomb load options as in B-17F but one extra twin mg turret), 8,680 produced. But it is true that TB-7/Pe-8 had bigger bomb bay and so had more options as possible bomb loads . During the 6./7. Feb 1944 bombing raid on Helsinki to which Pe-8s of the 45th Air Division participated, the 15 Pe-8s dropped 75 bombs, altogether 55,960 kg of bombs incl. two 5,000 kg bombs, that means on average 3,731 kg bombs per plane, the distance from their base SE of Moscow to Helsinki was some 900 – 950 km, about the same that from England to Berlin. The bombing altitude varied between 5,250 and 7,200 m. On 6 March 1944 474 B-17s dropped on average 2,134 kg of bombs/plane on Berlin. The bombing heights used by 8th AF B-17s were usually between 6,500 and 8,000 m. So about same time against targets about the same distance away Pe-8s carried on average over 50% heavier bomb loads but flied somewhat lower on average. Of course the massive daytime formations meant that B-17s had to spend considerable time circling over England during forming up, easily over two hours burning lots of fuel. All in all in 1941 TB-7 was clearly more capable than B-17C or the 1941 production model B-17D (which was in essence modified B-17C but had e.g. two more 12,7 mm machine guns), at least on paper. Performance figures for B-17C were 520 km/h at 7,620 m, service ceiling 11,278 m, range with 1,814 kg bomb load was 3,219 km and maximum range 5,472 km; for B-17E were 510 km/h at 7,620 m, service ceiling 11,156 m, range with 1,814 kg bomb load was 3,219 km and maximum range 5,311 km; for B-17F 481 km/h at 7,620 m, service ceiling 11,430 m, range with 1,814 kg bomb load was 3,219 km and maximum range 4,635 km; for B-17G were 462 km/h at 7,620 m, service ceiling 10,851 m, range with 2,722 kg bomb load was 3,219 km and maximum range 5,472 km. While with 2,000 kg bomb load and full fuel tanks the TB-7/Pe-8 powered by AM-35As, the most reliable and the most built version of the type had a maximum range of 3,600 km. With M-40 and M-30 diesel engines its range was 5,460 km and with M-82s it was 5,800 km. Respective maximum speeds were 443 km/h, 393 km/h and 420 km/h. Service ceilings were 9,300 m, 9,200 m and 8,000 m. Maximum bomb load was 4,000 kg (but according to Wiki article 4,000 kg internally and two 500 kg bombs externally) but for the M-82 engined version 6,000 kg. Maslov also gives at which altitude the maximum speeds were achieved for the AM-35 and M-40 versions, 6,360 m and 5,680 m respectively. In practice TB-7 wasn’t ready to operations when it was pushed to combat service in August 1941 because of its engine problems. And B-17 was improved during the war more than TB-7/Pe-8. So B-17 was faster and could operate higher than contemporary TB-7/Pe-8 but the Soviet plane could carry heavier bomb loads and while the AM-35A powered version did not have significantly longer range with than B-17s the M-82/ASh-82FN powered late Pe-8s had. And the M-82/ASh-82FN powered Pe-8 was capable to carry the massive 5,082 kg bomb. Because TB-7s were used as night bombers it would have been better to compare them to the RAF heavy bombers. Lancaster, which entered combat in March 1942, carried at average appr. 4,000 kg of bombs during their night raids on Berlin and bombed from 6,000 m. Almost all Lancasters were B I and III versions, the maximum speeds for the bomb carrying Merlin XX engined early B. I were 462 km/h at 3,505 m and 435 km/h at 6,096 m. Range with 3,175 kg bomb load was 4,313 km, with 4,540 kg bomb load was 3,621 km, 2672 km with 6,350 kg bomb load and 5,070 km without bombs. The performance figures stayed more or less same during the production run. Besides slightly less effective Hercules powered B. II, of which 300 were built, there was B. VI with better performance but only 9 B. Is and B. IIIs were converted to B. VI standard by installing Merlin 85 two-stage supercharger engines, but these needed more maintenance and were less reliable in service use than the standard engines, so they were taken off front-line service in November 1944, a little later than the Pe-8 according to Gordon. Lancaster Mk VI maximum speed was 504km/h at 5,578 m. More exact contemporary to early TB-7s was the Avro Manchester, by the end of 1940 18 (only 12 according to Mikhail Maslov’s article) production TB-7s and 19 production Manchesters were produced plus two prototypes in both cases. Manchester’s max bomb load used operationally was 4,695 kg (it was modified to be able to carry its full designed bomb load of 6,350 kg during the summer of 1941 but there is no record of a load greater than 4,695 kg ever being carried on operations). By late summer of 1941 Manchesters were frequently operating at 4,267 m often with a bomb load of 3,629 kg. I didn’t find info on the loads carried to Berlin but its maximum ranges were 2,623 km with 3,629 kg bomb load and 1,931 km with 4,699 kg and its defensive armament was the same as almost all of the Lancasters, namely eight 7.7 mm machine guns in three turrets. The maximum speed of Manchester was 426 km/h at 5,182 m and service ceiling 5,852 m. In the summer of 1941, while its Vulture engines were not entirely satisfactory, many of the problems of Vulture were if not solved at least alleviated. So AM-35A powered TB-7 had clearly better performance than its contemporary Avro Manchester but the successor of Manchester, Avro Lancaster caught up, it was slightly faster but had somewhat shorter range than late Pe-8s but was fitted with much better navigational equipment.
In the book Gordon clearly indicates that the 255th IAP of the Northern Fleet would have used P-47Ds during the war but in his and Komissarovs’ US Aircraft in the Soviet Union and Russia the writers stated that this appears to be a mistake and the 255th IAP converted to Thunderbolts only immediately after the VE Day.
One annoying trait in the otherwise good book is the combat history parts, these have distinct Soviet era atmosphere. Numbers of German planes are exaggerated as are Luftwaffe losses, e.g. there are pair of figures for the strength of the Luftwaffe units participating the Operation Barbarossa, one which is the correct one and the other which in fact is closer to the Luftwaffe entire strength and it is the latter one which is usually used in the book as the strength of the Luftwaffe attacking the SU on 22 June 1941 and when the strength of the Luftwaffe is compared to the strength of VVS in the Western SU, same on the Stalingrad campaign and Kuban campaign, the latter not well known in the West but seen very important by the Russians. Happily there are few exceptions, when also the real plane losses suffered by the Axis are told. In fact on the 21 April 1943 combat by Red Banner Baltic Fleet Air Force with the Finnish Air Force Gordon is overly pessimistic when he writes that while Soviet fighter pilots according to the Soviet sources shot down four Finnish aircraft according to Finns they lost none when in fact Finns acknowledge two Brewster B 239 losses , both pilots being also lost. Then there are some very strange claims as that the German statistics indicate that Soviet naval aviators sank three cruisers, seven destroyers etc. when all western, incl. German, sources say no cruisers, only one destroyer, Z 28, and even this is not totally sure because some sources say that it was sunk by the RAF, two torpedo boats, T 18 and T 36, of which the latter was almost the size of a contemporary Royal Navy fleet destroyer, the former a somewhat smaller than RN Hunt class escort destroyer plus one old and very small Romanian torpedo boat were sunk by the Soviet aviation as well as a number of smaller naval vessels and several merchant ships. The old Soviet story that Ivan Kozhedoob/Kozhedub shot down Walter Schuck’s Me 262 is repeated even if the shooter was in fact Joseph Peterburs/55th FS/20th FG flying a Mustang. Also those very optimistic Soviet claims on the achievements of the SPB Zveno, an ingenious combination of obsolete TB-3s and obsolescent I-16s armed with two 250kg bombs, operations against Romania during the late summer 1941 are repeated.
On the Soviet air attacks on 25 June 1941 on airfields in Finland Gordon repeats old Soviet era claim that ‛up to 30 enemy aircraft were destroyed on ground and another eleven German fighters fell to the Soviet guns’ when in fact only one Finnish bomber (a war-booty SB) was slightly damaged by bomb fragments and a couple of Finnish fighters were slightly damaged by bombers defensive fire. In Southern and Central Finland there were no Bf 109s at that time and the Soviet bombers were intercepted by fighters of the Finnish Air Force. And in fact Soviet aircrews claimed nine Me 109s and two Fokker D.21s shot down. Also no German fighters were lost in Lapland nor in Northern Norway where Soviet Air Forces also made bombing raids. But Gordon gives the right number (23) of Soviet losses to Finnish fighters and AA (FiAF fighters shot down 21 and AA two, one of latter being an I-153). In addition VVS lost one SB in accident and one was shot down in error by a Soviet fighter plus one I-153 which landed in error in Finland. And in Northern Norway and in Northern Finland they lost one U-2 and one I-16 to Germans, one SB in accident, one I-15bis to own AA and one I-16 to unknown reason.
Gordon writes that Tu-2s of 334th Bomber Division/BAD made a particularly devastating bombing attack against Vyborg/Viipuri railway yard on 17 June 1944, in fact while the bombing was fairly accurate, the results were not particularly devastating, in fact much more devastating attack against the yard was made two days earlier by Il-4 and Pe-2 units. Gordon also writes that during the first three months of large scale operations by Tu-2 bombers Luftwaffe fighters shot down 10 and German anti-aircraft artillery seven more. These figures probably included the two of the three Tu-2s lost during the first operations of 334th BAD with Tu-2s which were directed against Finns in early June 1944 (one to Finnish fighters, one to Finnish AA fire. The third failed to return from a mission, reason unknown).
Leaving out some of the wartime stories of heroic deeds there would have been space to briefly describe e.g. how long the Su-2 was used in operations.
Contrary to the claim in the caption of a colour profile on the page 81 when the Junkers Ju 52 passenger and transport plane ‛Kaleva’ of the Finnish national carrier Aero O/Y was shot down by two DB-3Ts of the 1st MTAP/the Red Banner Baltic Fleet on June 14, 1940 over the Gulf of Finland it was on a normal scheduled flight from Tallinn to Helsinki and not operating for the Finnish Air Force. And at that time there was a peace between the Soviet Union and Finland. There was crew of two and seven passengers onboard including an American courier with the US Department of State with the American Embassy code books and other secret documents and two French diplomatic couriers with over 250 pounds of diplomatic messages. That was two days before the full-scale occupation of Estonia by the Soviet Union.
So, a book well worth of its price, especially strong in the flight characteristics of the aircraft dealt with. The book also gives useful information on VVS organizations, e.g. the combat aircraft TOEs of the VVS combat units during the Great Patriotic War which is important because these fluctuated greatly during the war period, e.g. that of a IAP(fighter regiment) between 20 and 77. IMHO the best single-volume all-round book on the VVS, the Soviet military aircraft and the Soviet aviation industry during the Second World War available in English.
Weaknesses are the lack of index which hampered its use as a handbook, more so because the aircrafts were not presented in alphabetical order. Also the complete lack of 3-view drawings. IMHO they are very useful aid and to my mind more important than the colour profiles, which are usually subjective interpretations from BW photos. There are numerous colour profiles in the book, they look good but how accurate they are, I cannot say. But the few colour profiles of the same planes as in the Osprey’s Combat aircraft series books on Il-2 and Pe-2 Guard Units of World War 2 and Osprey Aircraft of the Aces 102 MiG-3 Aces of World War 2 are different, some very different. Clearly Andrey Yurgenson who has made the colour profiles to Osprey’s books had interpreted differently the material than the artists who have made the colour profiles in the Gordon’s book, which is a bit odd because Yurgenson is one of the artists who. But Yurgenson’s colour profile number 2 in Rastrenin’s Osprey Combat aircraft 71 Il-2 Shturmovik Guard Units of World War 2 (2008) seems to me being closer the plane of Maj. N A Zub/Zoob on the photo on the page 31 in that book than the colour profile of Zub’s/Zoob’s plane on the page 290 in the Gordon’s book. The same photo is printed also in Gordon’s and Komissarov’s Il-2 and Il-10 book but in it the caption doesn’t identify it as Zub’s/Zoob’s plane. Of course it is possible that Zub/Zoob used two different Il-2s in the winter of 1941-42 with slightly different font in the slogan and with different sizes number. But the other colour profiles of same planes in the books mentioned above have at least clearly different shades of colours if not entirely different colours. So IMHO many of the colour profiles could have been replaced by 3-view drawings, but this is of course a matter of opinion.
Also some photos are clearly misplaced e.g. on page 143 there is according to the caption a photo of Yak-1 when in fact there is a photo of the Curtiss P-40M of VVS captured by Finns. The same photo with another wrong caption appears on the page 289 in place of an IL-2 photo and finally it can be found in its right place with the right caption on p. 438. Also on the page 303 in place of a photo of an early production IL-10 there is a photo of a DB-7B which reappeared with its right caption in right place on the page 464.
1./SG 5 Erfolgsmeldungen.
I./SG 5 Gefechtsmeldungen.
AN 01-20EF-1 Appendix II B-17F Flight Operation Data
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http://188.8.131.52/discussion.cgi?id=3051&article=31419 (The old now dead site of the Luftwaffe Discussion Group: 12 O’Clock High !) Rune Rautio Losses at the Artic front 25.06.41 11 Nov 2000.