Within the framework of the German concept of lightning war, shock aviation was considered one of the main tools designed to ensure the rapid defeat of the enemy. The tasks of destroying enemy troops (including armored vehicles) in the front line, on the battlefield and destroying enemy communications at the initial stage of hostilities were assigned to Bf 109E single-engine fighters, Bf 110 heavy fighters, Hs 123 attack aircraft and Ju 87 dive bombers. along the front line of the Soviet defense and objects in the rear, the German command often also used Ju 88 twin-engine dive bombers.
Attack aircraft Hs 123
In Soviet memoirs dedicated to the Great Patriotic War, there are rare references to the German attack aircraft and dive bomber Hs 123. Although these aircraft were built a little - only about 250 units, they actively fought until the second half of 1943 and even participated in the battles near Kursk. Archaic by the standards of the early 1940s, the biplane turned out to be in great demand, and the machines that survived the battles flew to the point of complete wear and tear.
The biplane Hs 123 did not look very presentable against the background of fast-moving monoplanes, but it had very good data in its class. With a normal takeoff weight of 2 kg, the Henschel carried 215 kg of bombs. The combat radius of action at the same time was 200 km - quite enough for a close air support aircraft and for operations in the near rear of the enemy.
In the case when it was necessary to work along the front line of the enemy’s defense, the bomb load could reach 450 kg (one 250-kg aerial bomb on the central hardpoint and four 50-kg bombs under the wing). Built-in weapons - two rifle-caliber machine guns. Air-cooled engine with a capacity of 880 liters. With. allowed to reach speeds of up to 340 km / h in level flight, which was close to the maximum speed of the Soviet I-15bis fighter.
The Hs 123 fuselage was made of duralumin, which made it more resistant to combat damage compared to the Soviet I-15bis and I-153 fighters, which were in service with ground attack aviation regiments in the initial period of the war. Although the Henschel pilot was initially protected by armor only from behind, the aircraft's combat survivability turned out to be so high that it earned a reputation as "indestructible". Compared to other close air support strike aircraft, the Hs 123 biplanes suffered significantly less losses from anti-aircraft fire.
The invulnerability of the assault biplane was explained not only by the all-metal construction of the airframe, but the air-cooled engine contributed to better survivability, which kept combat damage well and protected the pilot from bullets and shrapnel in front. In addition, in the initial period of the war, when German aviation dominated the battlefield, the anti-aircraft cover of the Soviet troops was frankly weak, and the main means of air defense in the front line were quadruple anti-aircraft installations based on the Maxim machine gun. The Hs 123 ground attack aircraft were valued for their ability to make sorties from muddy unpaved airfields, which other German aircraft could not do.
Under the control of experienced pilots, the attack "Henschel" proved to be a very effective strike aircraft. Due to its low flight speed and excellent maneuverability at low altitudes, the Hs 123 could drop bombs very accurately. He demonstrated the ability to equally successfully act as an attack aircraft and dive bomber. Cases have been repeatedly noted when the pilots of the Henschels managed to get 50-kg bombs into single Tanks. Although there were relatively few Hs 123s in relation to other types of combat aircraft operating on the Soviet-German front, infantry commanders of all levels noted the very high accuracy and effectiveness of their air strikes.
At the end of the summer of 1941, an attempt was made to improve the anti-tank capabilities of the Hs 123 by arming them with containers with 20 mm MG FF guns.
20-mm gun MG FF
With a relatively low weight - 28 kg, the rate of fire of the MG FF was only 530 rds / min. The initial speed of an armor-piercing incendiary projectile weighing 115 g did not exceed 600 m / s, which limited armor penetration and firing range.
Thanks to the use of high-explosive incendiary projectiles of the Minengeschoß type with a high explosive filling ratio, the upgraded 20-mm MG FF / M guns showed good effectiveness against air and ground targets that were not covered by armor, but were ineffective even against lightly armored vehicles. In all respects, except for mass, the German 20-mm cannon lost out to not the most powerful Soviet 20-mm ShVAK, and therefore, in the second half of the war, it was replaced by more powerful 20-30-mm aircraft guns.
Arming the Hs 123 with MG FF guns did not greatly increase the anti-tank potential of the vehicle, but it did increase its effectiveness against trucks and steam locomotives, which made it possible to operate more successfully on transport communications.
At the beginning of 1942, the assault biplanes that remained in service were overhauled and modernized. At the same time, the cockpit was closed with a lantern and equipped with a heater, and covered with armor from below and along the sides. To compensate for the increased takeoff weight, air-cooled engines with a capacity of 960 liters were installed on the upgraded aircraft. With. 15-mm MG 151/15 machine guns were installed in the wing of some of the vehicles, after which the anti-tank capabilities of the attack aircraft increased significantly.
15 mm machine gun MG 151/15
The body weight of the MG 151/15 machine gun reached 43 kg. Rate of fire - 700-750 rds / min.
An armor-piercing tracer 15-mm bullet weighing 72 g was accelerated in the barrel up to 850 m / s. At a range of 300 m, it normally confidently pierced 20 mm armor of medium hardness. An armor-piercing 52-g bullet with a carbide core had even greater armor penetration. After leaving the barrel, it had an initial speed of 1 m/s and under the same conditions could penetrate 030 mm armor. However, due to the acute shortage of tungsten, cartridges with sub-caliber bullets were not often used.
In 1942, Hs 123s were used in combat even on a larger scale than a year ago. To increase their numbers at the front, the aircraft were withdrawn from flight schools and rear units. Moreover, biplanes suitable for further use were collected and restored from aircraft dumps. On the Soviet-German front, the Hs 123 actively fought until the second half of 1943. Good handling and high maneuverability allowed him, acting close to the ground, to evade attacks by Soviet fighters. By the middle of the war, due to the increased power of Soviet anti-aircraft artillery, Henschel pilots tried not to go deep behind the front line, their main targets were at the forefront.
Fighter-bomber Bf 109E
By June 1941, the best German fighters were the Bf.109F ("Friedrich"), and it was these machines that were primarily thrown to gain air superiority. Aircraft of earlier modifications Bf 109E-4, E-7 and E-8 ("Emil") were inferior in terms of flight data to new models, and therefore they were mainly focused on performing strike missions. However, such a division was largely arbitrary, although specialization still took place.
Bf.109E-4 with 250 kg bomb
However, by the standards of mid-1941, the Bf.109E-4 fighter, adopted by the Luftwaffe in the spring of 1940, was a completely modern and combat-ready machine. In horizontal flight, the Bf.109E-4 accelerated to 5 km/h at an altitude of 000 m. The bomb load could reach 580 kg. The built-in armament consisted of two 250 mm MG-7,92 machine guns and two 17 mm MG FF (MG FF / M) cannons.
Aviation 20-mm gun MG FF in the wing of a fighter
The Bf.109E fighter-bombers operating on the Soviet-German front had a 6-mm steel armor plate installed behind the tank and covering the entire section of the fuselage, armored glass and the armored back of the seat. Additional 109 mm armor plates were installed on part of the Bf 4E-8, which protected the pilot from below and behind. But the use of a liquid-cooled engine and the lack of armor protection on the sides of the cabin made the Bf.109E very vulnerable even to rifle-caliber bullets.
German pilots, realizing the vulnerability of their machines, tried to attack ground targets at high speed and, in the presence of anti-aircraft cover, did not make repeated visits. But the high flight speed sharply reduced the accuracy of bombing and made it difficult to aim when firing machine guns and cannons at ground targets.
With sudden attacks of transport columns, accumulations of unhidden manpower and railway echelons, the Emil in the strike version was not bad. But, despite the solid bomb load, the anti-tank capabilities of the Bf 109E were weak. After the failure of the "blitzkrieg" and the stabilization of the front line, the effectiveness of the Bf 109E in the role of a fighter-bomber dropped sharply, while losses, on the contrary, increased. As the Soviet military air defense intensified, the high flight speed no longer guaranteed invulnerability, and the Soviet infantry stopped panicking during an air raid and more and more often fired concentrated small arms fire. weapons against low-flying enemy aircraft.
By the beginning of 1943, there were practically no Bf.109E left on the Eastern Front, and the Bf 109F and G fighters were not massively used to destroy ground targets.
Bf.110 twin-engine fighter-bombers
At the initial stage of hostilities in the east, twin-engine Bf.110 fighters were actively used to strike ground targets. The Luftwaffe command reclassified them as attack aircraft, after the inability of heavy fighters to compete with the Hurricanes and Spitfires became apparent in the Battle of Britain.
Aircraft prepared for strikes against ground targets received enhanced protection. The front cockpit had 12 mm armor and 57 mm bulletproof glass, the gunner was protected by 8 mm armor. 35 mm bulletproof glass was used on the side panels of the cockpit. The thickness of the armor from below was 8–10 mm.
"Distant hunter" had good flight data. At an altitude of 4 m, the Bf 000F modification developed a speed of 110 km/h. The practical range was 560 km. An attack aircraft with such characteristics could operate quite successfully in the initial period of the war without fighter cover. Having got rid of the bombs, he had every chance to get away from the Soviet fighters. At the same time, attempts by Bf.1 pilots to conduct active air combat with single-engine fighters often ended badly for them. The heavy twin-engine Messerschmitt with a take-off weight of 200 kg was hopelessly inferior to single-engine vehicles in rate of climb and maneuverability.
Impact capabilities were high. A twin-engine fighter-bomber could carry: 2 bombs of 500 kg each and 4 bombs of 50 kg each. When finalizing the suspension units, the aircraft was able to take even 1-kg bombs, while the weight of the combat load in the reloading version could reach 000 kg. When operating on areal weakly protected targets, 2-kg bomb containers turned out to be very effective, which were equipped with 000-kg fragmentation bombs and opened after being dropped at a given height.
By the standards of 1941, the Bf 110 had powerful small arms and cannon armament. For forward firing, two 20 mm MG FF cannons and four 7,92 mm MG 17 machine guns were intended. The tail was covered by a shooter with a 7,92 mm MG 15 machine gun.
With proper use, Bf 110s operated successfully and did not suffer heavy losses. The strong and durable airframe design, armor protection and two engines made the aircraft resistant to combat damage. In any case, it was difficult to shoot down a Bf 110 with a rifle-caliber weapon. The long flight range made it possible to operate at a distance of several hundred kilometers from the front line, and a significant bomb load made it possible to hit the entire range of targets, including armored vehicles.
However, for the confident destruction of medium and heavy tanks by the fire of the built-in offensive weapons, more powerful guns were required than the 20-mm MG FF. In the winter of 1941–1942, the first fighter-bombers armed with 30 mm and 37 mm aircraft guns began to appear.
30 mm MK 101 aircraft gun
Initial tests demonstrated that the 30 mm MK 101 aircraft gun could confidently penetrate the defenses of light tanks. This gun weighed 139 kg and had a rate of fire of 230–260 rounds per minute. An armor-piercing high-explosive 30-mm projectile weighing 500 g contained 15 g of explosives and had an initial velocity of 690 m/s. At a distance of 300 m along the normal, such a projectile pierced 25 mm armor of medium hardness.
In the first half of 1942, the production of a lightweight armor-piercing projectile weighing 455 g began, which left the barrel at a speed of 760 m / s, its armor penetration under the same conditions was 32 mm. The projectile, known as Hartkernmunition (German - solid-core ammunition), weighing 355 g with a tungsten carbide core, had a muzzle velocity of more than 900 m / s. According to German data, at a distance of 300 m, when hit at a right angle, it pierced 75-80 mm armor, and at an angle of 60 ° - 45-50 mm, which already made it possible to penetrate not only light armor, but also medium, as well as heavy tanks.
However, the armored damaging effect of carbide cores, even in the event of penetration of tank armor, was very modest. As a rule, everything ended with a hole of a small diameter formed in the armor, and the tungsten carbide core itself crumbled into powder after breaking through. In addition, due to the chronic shortage of tungsten, few carbide-core projectiles were produced.
Due to the imperfection of the 30 mm MK 101 gun and the lack of armor-piercing shells with hard alloy cores, the stake was placed on the 37 mm VK 3.7 gun.
37 mm VK 3.7 aircraft gun
This gun was created on the basis of a 37 mm 3,7 cm FlaK 18 anti-aircraft gun and was loaded with a 6-round clip. Since the 37 mm projectile weighed twice as much as the 30 mm, this made it possible to obtain high armor penetration even without the use of a scarce tungsten carbide core.
Tank destroyer Bf.110G-2/R1 with 37 mm VK 3.7 gun
The layout of the Bf.110 aircraft made it possible to reload the 37 mm gun in the air. In this case, the responsibility for reloading the gun was assigned to the onboard gunner. Theoretically, the Bf.110, armed with 30- and 37-mm guns, could make good anti-tank attack aircraft. But in the middle of 1942, the Germans began to feel an acute shortage of night fighters in the aviation units that defended Germany from British bombers, and therefore it was decided to repurpose the remaining Bf.110s to solve air defense tasks.
Ju 87 dive bombers and tank destroyers
In the spring of 1937, the first Ju 87A-1s entered combat squadrons. It was a two-seat, single-engine, inverted-gull-wing monoplane with fixed landing gear. The Ju 87 is also known as the Stuka (short German Sturzkampfflugzeug), a dive bomber. Because of the non-retractable landing gear with large fairings, Soviet soldiers subsequently nicknamed him "Lapteznik".
The design of this dive bomber had a number of significant innovations, and compared to the Hs 123 biplane, it looked much more advantageous. The plane was a two-seater, the pilot and gunner, who protected the rear hemisphere, were sitting in a closed cockpit. To limit the speed of the dive, the wing had “air brakes” in the form of a grid that rotated 90 ° while diving, and the pilot’s combat work was greatly facilitated by the “dive automatic”, which, after dropping the bombs, ensured the automatic exit of the aircraft from the dive.
Subsequently, an altimeter was included in the automatic withdrawal scheme from the dive, which determined the moment of withdrawal, even if the bomb was not released. The search for the target was facilitated by the presence of an observation window in the cabin floor. In order to make it easier for the pilot to control the dive angle relative to the horizon, a special graduated grid was applied to the cockpit glazing.
The aircraft of the first production version of the Ju 87A were crude, and their flight data left much to be desired. In the fall of 1938, mass production of the Ju 87B-1 ("Berta") began with a 1 hp liquid-cooled engine. With. With this engine, the maximum horizontal flight speed was 000 km / h, and the bomb load was 380 kg (in overload 500 kg). Significant changes were made to the equipment and armament. More advanced instruments and sights were installed in the cockpit. The tail was protected by a 750 mm MG 7,92 machine gun in a ball mount with increased firing angles.
Offensive armament was reinforced with a second 7,92 mm MG 17 machine gun. The pilot now has an Abfanggerat device at his disposal, which ensures safe dive bombing. After entering the dive, a frequent signal was heard in the headphones of the pilot's headset. After passing the pre-set bomb drop height, the signal disappeared. Simultaneously with pressing the bomb release button, the trimmers on the elevators were rearranged, and the angle of installation of the propeller blades changed.
In December 1939, the construction of the Ju 87В-2 bombers with an 1 hp engine began. with., with a new screw and other changes. The maximum speed of this modification has increased to 200 km/h. And a 390-kg bomb could be suspended in overload.
By the middle of 1941, the Luftwaffe had worked out very well the system of aviation control over the battlefield and interaction with ground forces. All German attack aircraft had high-quality, reliable radio stations, and the flight crew had good skills in using radio in the air for control and guidance on the battlefield. Aircraft controllers who were in combat formations of the ground forces had practical experience in organizing aviation control and guidance on ground targets.
Directly to accommodate the air controllers, special radio-equipped armored vehicles or command tanks were used. In the event that enemy tanks were discovered, they were often subjected to an assault bombing attack, even before the German troops had time to attack. In the absence of strong anti-aircraft opposition, bombing accuracy was very high, and an experienced Stuka pilot often achieved a direct hit with an aerial bomb on a tank.
"Laptezhnik" was an ideal battlefield attack aircraft in the initial period of the war, when German aviation dominated the air, and the ground-based Soviet military air defense was very weak and disorganized. At the same time, German dive bombers often suffered heavy losses even when meeting with old Soviet I-16 and I-153 fighters. In order to get away from them, the speed data of the Ju 87 was not enough, and weak armament and low maneuverability for air combat did not allow effective defense in air combat. In this regard, Bf 109s had to be assigned to escort the dive bombers.
Already in the fall of 1941, the German command noted a serious increase in Ju 87 losses from anti-aircraft fire. With a shortage of specialized air defense equipment, the Soviet command organized training for the personnel of line infantry units in firing small arms at enemy aircraft. In the defense, for light and heavy machine guns and anti-tank rifles, special positions were equipped with home-made or semi-handicraft anti-aircraft devices, on which dedicated crews were constantly on duty.
This forced “amateur activity” gave a certain effect. Taking into account the fact that the Ju 87 dive bomber did not have special armor protection, often one rifle bullet that hit the engine radiator was enough for the plane not to return to its airfield. With intense ground fire, dive bomber pilots tried to increase the height of their bombs and reduce the number of approaches to the target, which, of course, could not but affect the effectiveness of air strikes.
As the Air Force of the Red Army became saturated with new types of fighters and the anti-aircraft cover was strengthened, the effectiveness of the actions of the “laptezhniks” fell sharply, and the losses became unacceptable. The German aviation industry, up to a certain point, could make up for the loss of equipment, but already in 1942, a shortage of experienced flight personnel began to be felt.
Taking into account the experience of combat use, an attempt was made to improve the security and flight data of the Stuka. The Ju 87D ("Dora"), which entered the front in early 1942, was equipped with an 1 hp engine. With. The maximum speed after that increased to 500 km / h, and the bomb load in the reloading version reached 400 kg. To reduce vulnerability to anti-aircraft fire, local armor was strengthened.
The Ju 87D-5 modification aircraft had an assault specialization. On this model, the total weight of the armor exceeded 200 kg. In addition to the cab, reservations were made for gas tanks, oil and water coolers. The maximum bomb load was limited to 500 kg, instead of machine guns, 20 mm MG 151/20 guns appeared in the elongated wing, and the air brakes were dismantled. On external units under the wing, containers with six 7,92 mm MG 81 machine guns or two 20 mm MG FF cannons could be additionally suspended. The rear hemisphere was protected by the "spark" MG 81Z caliber 7,92 mm.
The aircraft of the Ju 87G-1 and G-2 ("Gustav") modifications had a pronounced anti-tank orientation. These attack aircraft were usually created in field workshops by conversion from Ju 87D-3 and D-5, but a number of new vehicles were built at the factory.
The main purpose of "Gustav" was the fight against Soviet tanks. To do this, the attack aircraft was armed with two long-barreled 37-mm VK 3.7 guns, which had previously been used on Bf.110G-2 / R1 “hunters”. To increase the capacity of ammunition on the Gustavs, the guns were loaded with clips for 8 and 12 shots. However, 87 mm MG 2/20 wing cannons were preserved on part of the Ju 151G-20.
Despite the increased firepower, aircraft armed with 37 mm guns were not popular with the flight crew. Although long-barreled large-caliber guns, combined with a low flight speed, good stability and the ability to attack armored targets from the least protected side, made it possible to deal with armored vehicles, the increased frontal resistance and the separation of a heavy load across the planes made the aircraft more inert, and the maximum speed fell by about 40 km / h.
Equipment ammunition 37-mm guns VK 3.7
The plane no longer carried bombs and could not dive with high angles. The 37 mm VK 3.7 cannon itself, weighing more than 300 kg with a carriage and shells, was not very reliable, and the ammunition load was small. Due to the strong recoil during firing and the location of the guns, the aiming was knocked down by the emerging dive moment and the strong buildup of the aircraft in the longitudinal plane. At the same time, keeping the line of sight on the target during firing and introducing corrections into aiming were very difficult tasks, accessible only to highly qualified pilots. In case of failure of one gun, aimed shooting was possible only with single shots due to the strong turning moment.
Armored attack aircraft Hs 129
Along with dive bombers and fighter-bombers in Nazi Germany, work was underway to create specialized armored attack aircraft. The aircraft, designated Hs 129, first flew in May 1939.
At the time of its creation, the Hs 129 was better protected than other machines of a similar purpose. The front of the pilot was covered by 12 mm armor, the floor was the same thickness, the cockpit walls were 6 mm thick. The pilot was placed in a chair with an armored back and an armored head. The armored glass of the front of the lantern had a thickness of 75 mm. The cockpit in front was guaranteed to withstand shelling with armor-piercing rifle-caliber bullets and with a high degree of probability protected heavy machine guns and 20-mm cannons from fire.
The reverse side of the high security of the cockpit was the tightness of the pilot's workplace. The width of the cockpit at the level of the pilot's shoulders was only 60 cm. Due to the low position of the seat, the control stick had to be greatly shortened, which the pilots did not like. Due to the lack of free space, it was necessary to abandon the installation of a normal set of control devices in the cockpit. The visibility on the sides left much to be desired, and it was impossible to visually control the rear hemisphere.
The aircraft with a maximum takeoff weight of 5 kg was equipped with two French-made Gnome-Rһone 000M 14/04 air-cooled engines with a capacity of 05 hp. With. The maximum flight speed at low altitude without external suspension did not exceed 700 km / h. Practical range - 350 km. Built-in armament initially consisted of two 550 mm MG 20/151 cannons and two 20 mm MG-7,92 machine guns. A combat load with a total mass of up to 17 kg could be placed on the external suspension - including one 250-kg aerial bomb, or up to four 250-kg bombs, or bomb containers. Instead of a large-caliber bomb or fuel tank, as a rule, a container with a 50-mm MK 30 cannon with 101 rounds of ammunition, or a container with four MG 30 machine guns of 17 mm caliber was placed on the central node. Various options for interchangeable weapons made it possible to prepare an attack aircraft for a sortie, depending on the specific task.
Attack aircraft Hs 129 had a lot of shortcomings. The main complaints were tightness and poor visibility from the cockpit, insufficient thrust-to-weight ratio due to weak and unreliable engines, and low combat load. In the event of failure of one engine, the aircraft could not fly without reducing the remaining one. It turned out that the Hs 129 was not able to dive with an angle of more than 30 °, in this case, the load on the control stick during the withdrawal from the peak exceeded the physical capabilities of the pilot.
The pilots, as a rule, tried not to exceed the dive angle of 15 °. With large values, there was a possibility that a plane with bombs on an external sling might simply not go up and crash into the ground. Good stability at low altitude made it possible to accurately fire at the chosen target, but it was impossible to quickly change the flight path.
The refinement of the aircraft and the elimination of shortcomings dragged on, and aircraft of the serial modification Hs 129B-1 began to enter the specially created Sch.G 1 assault unit in January 1942.
The training of pilots was difficult, during the training process three attack aircraft were broken. In May 1942, Hs 129s were first used against Soviet troops in the Crimea. In general, the combat debut of German armored attack aircraft was successful. The cockpit armor withstood shelling from light small arms well, and the absence of Soviet fighters in the sky made it possible to act with impunity. Although combat sorties were carried out quite intensively, only one Hs 129 was lost from anti-aircraft fire in two weeks of fighting.
However, in conditions of high dustiness of the air, the unreliable operation of the Gnome-Ronn engines, which did not have air filters, was revealed. Dust also clogged the propeller hubs, making it difficult to start the engines. Very often, French engines did not give out full power, suddenly stopped or caught fire in the air. The vulnerability of protected, but not covered by armor, fuel and oil tanks was revealed.
In May 1942, the production of aircraft of the Hs 129V-2 modification began. Based on the results of combat use and taking into account the wishes of the pilots, in order to improve forward-downward visibility, the shape of the bow was changed. To improve reliability, changes were made to the fuel system and engines. Beginning in December 1942, the aircraft were equipped with petrol cabin heaters.
After their combat debut in the Crimea, Hs 129s were deployed near Kharkov, where they took part in repulsing the counteroffensive of the Soviet troops in May 1942. Here, anti-aircraft cover and fighter opposition were much stronger, and the losses amounted to 7 attack aircraft. At the same time, according to German data, with the help of 30-mm cannons, Henschel pilots operating in the Voronezh and Kharkov region managed to knock out 23 Soviet tanks.
In the second half of 1942, relatively few Hs-129 squadrons, armed with 30-mm cannons, became a kind of “firefighters”, which the German command, in case of a breakthrough by Soviet tanks, was transferred from one sector of the front to another. So, on November 19, 1942, after about 250 Soviet tanks broke through the defenses of Italian troops in the area between the Don and Volga rivers, six Hs 129B-1s were used against them. According to the data of the photo-machine guns, in two days of fighting, the Henschel pilots were credited with the destruction of 10 tanks. However, the German armored tank destroyers in this sector of the front could not influence the course of hostilities.
In the spring of 1943, Hs 129s were armed with suspended 30 mm MK 103 cannons to increase their strike capabilities.
Equipment ammunition 30-mm gun MK 103 on Hs 129
The rate of fire of the MK 103 gun was twice as high as that of the MK 101, and reached 400 rounds per minute. According to the complex of combat characteristics, the MK 103 can be considered the best German aircraft gun. This tool had a relatively simple design, low cost and was technologically advanced in production. The mass of the MK 103 was 142 kg, and the weight of the cartridge box for 100 shells was 95 kg.
Although carbide-core 30mm projectiles were used to a limited extent, Hs 129 pilots were able to achieve some success against Soviet tanks. During the fighting, an optimal tactic was developed: the attack was carried out from the stern of the tank, while the pilot slowed down and dived gently at the target, firing from the cannon until the ammunition load was completely used up. Due to this, the probability of defeat increased, but during the sortie it was possible to hit no more than one armored target.
Some experienced pilots allegedly achieved shooting accuracy, in which 60% of the shells hit the target. The timely start of the attack was of great importance, this required the presence of great experience, skill and intuition of the pilot, since during a gentle dive it was very difficult to correct the flight of a heavy machine. It is also worth saying that German attack aircraft could operate successfully when there were no Soviet fighters in the air or they were connected by an air escort.
To increase the anti-tank potential, the next step was the installation of a 129-mm VK 2 gun with 3 rounds of ammunition on the Hs 37B-3.7 / R12. However, the already low flight data of the attack aircraft after the suspension of the 37-mm guns fell. The pilots noted the more complicated piloting technique, more vibration and a strong dive moment when firing. Due to the low practical rate of fire, 2-4 aimed shots could be fired during one attack.
As a result, the large-scale construction of the Hs 129B-2/R3 with the 37 mm VK 3.7 gun was abandoned. Approximately the same practical rate of fire with a comparable weight had a 50 mm VK 5 gun, but it was not mounted on the Hs 129.
The largest-caliber gun installed on the Henschel was the 75 mm VK 7.5 cannon, but this will be discussed in the next article on German anti-tank aircraft that appeared in the second half of the war.
To be continued ...