The death of the transport "Armenia" on November 7, 1941. Aviation of the USSR and the Wehrmacht
True, in response to accusations from the People's Commissar of Morskoy fleet P. P. Shirshov already has a report from the People's Commissar of the Navy N. G. Kuznetsov, in which he substantiates the losses of transport ships:
This aviation operates not only near the coast, but also far from our airfields. Anti-aircraft artillery of ships without interaction with fighter aircraft is also far from a sufficient means to combat enemy aircraft.
If we consider that on the Black Sea there are no more than 2-3 cruisers and 7-8 destroyers in service at any given moment, then it is obvious that this insufficient weapon is available in very limited quantities.
We do not have patrol ships, that is, warships whose main purpose is convoying, on the Black Sea. When weather permits, boats are used.
However, since the boats have very weak anti-aircraft weapons and are not very seaworthy, their use does little to alleviate the situation.”
In general, a correct explanation. But at the same time, the future nature of combat operations on sea lanes began to appear during the war in Spain of 1936–1939.
And it became especially clear with the beginning of the Second World War, where the warring parties pay great attention to the destruction of the enemy’s transport communications at sea, for which they use not only surface and submarine combat ships, but also naval aviation, including torpedo-carrying aircraft. Apparently, the USSR was unable to draw the proper conclusions or simply did not have time.
As a result, the naval bases of the Black Sea Fleet at the beginning of the war had sufficient “ground” air defense. But the losses of the Red Army in aircraft and the critical reduction of the airfield network led to the overwhelming superiority of the Luftwaffe in the air, both due to the number, better tactical and technical characteristics of the aircraft, and due to combat experience.
As a result, the transport ships of the Black Sea Fleet suffered such monstrous losses, while there was not a single naval battle in the Black Sea theater of military operations during the entire war. The warships of the Black Sea Fleet, together with the flagship - the battleship "Paris Commune" - with its 12 305-mm main caliber guns, had no one to fight with at sea. But the fleet was unable to protect the transport ships either.
However, questions about military development strategy are no longer the competence of the commander of the Black Sea Fleet. Problems of the state of naval aviation (fighter, attack, missile-carrying units, aircraft for illuminating surface and underwater situations) are becoming increasingly relevant in our turbulent times.
After the death of the motor ship "Lenin" of the Fleet Command, Oktyabrsky convened a meeting at which he raised the question of the responsibility of those organizing the safety of navigation of transport ships and those responsible for it. The meeting was attended by Oktyabrsky himself, a member of the Black Sea Fleet military council Kulakov, the Black Sea Fleet chief of staff Eliseev, the head of the operational department of the Black Sea Fleet headquarters Zhukovsky, commander-operator Nesterov and the head of the Black Sea Fleet VOSO.
But instead of making organizational conclusions on personalities, analyzing mistakes made and ways to solve the problem at hand, it was decided to create a special department, calling it the “Communications Department”. Captain of the second rank A.G. Vasiliev was appointed head of the department.
This decision created even greater confusion, duplication of functions and responsibilities, which replaced qualified, specially trained officials of the VOSO department. Friction and confusion between these units of the Black Sea Fleet even reached Anastas Mikoyan, deputy chairman of the Council of People's Commissars, authorized by the State Defense Committee (GOKO) for supply.
But no proper decisions were made anyway. The issue itself was closed in the second half of 1942 after the cessation of the defense of Sevastopol, the retirement of transport ships, the practical cessation of military transport on the Black Sea and the reduction of fleet operations to raid and landing operations.
After the Germans broke through into the territory of Crimea, the convoy routes were moved closer to the middle of the Black Sea, parallel to Tuapse. Ships and transport vessels after passing the FVK (in Tuapse there were northern and southern ones) set a course of 270° and followed to the longitude of Yalta, with a further approach to the shore, determining their location by coastal landmarks and moving along the coastline with the entrance to the eastern FVK 1.
Single low-speed small transports, as a rule, followed without cover with the approach to Cape Sarych, with a call and further expectation of pilotage escort by OVR vessels. The average passage time at a speed of 8–10 knots was about 35 hours. Navigation difficulties were associated with a long, directionless passage in the open sea.
Scheme of vessel movement according to coordinates from the Logbooks
Museum of the Black Sea Shipping Company, Odessa
Studying the logbooks of minesweepers and destroyers of the Black Sea Fleet, I was struck by the practical absence of mandatory records of the ship's movement (course, speed (propeller revolutions), coordinates of the ship's location). These records appear only when a shift is handed over/accepted, and then in rare cases.
In one of the log books, the newly arrived commander of the ship writes in red pencil a remark to the watch officer for poor discipline in keeping the ship's log, sends him to the beginning, where there are rules for keeping it, and threatens him with all sorts of punishments. Several watches are recorded as expected, even the strength and direction of the wind are recorded. Then again there is confusion and a red pencil, which, apparently, is soon running out, or it (the pencil) is simply thrown overboard.
The personnel of the boats and ships were poorly prepared to repel air attacks; they practically did not know how to shoot at diving aircraft. The 45-mm 21-K cannons available on ships and transports did not meet the air defense requirements. Even with the timely detection of aircraft and before the end of the attack, the crews of the ships had time to fire only 5–8 shots with good training.
Merchant fleet ships did not wear camouflage; they began to be used only in 1943. The transport captains had no practical experience of sailing as part of a convoy, and were completely unaware of the rules of maneuvering in formation and evading torpedo and aircraft attacks.
Most of the transports were slow-moving. Steam ships such as “Tashkent” and “Kommunist” had a speed of 4–6 knots. The faster Shakhtar and Kursk, having a speed of 6–7 knots, following an anti-submarine zigzag as part of the convoy, lost 1,5–2 knots, as a result of which the general speed of the convoy was reduced to 4 knots.
The mast of most merchant ships was very high, and the vehicles of transport ships smoked heavily, which made them good targets for enemy aircraft.
The personnel of the Airborne Surveillance Warning and Communications Service (VNOS) at the beginning of the war had low qualifications, due to the small number of exercises in the pre-war years and insufficient provision of material and technical means (albums of silhouettes of enemy aircraft, powerful high-aperture binoculars).
Detection of aircraft was initially carried out by ear, then visually using field binoculars. The visual detection range of aircraft, under favorable weather conditions and the proper elevation of the post, averaged 18–20 km. As a result, a large number of enemy aircraft were not identified not only at night, but also during the day. There were frequent cases of air defense systems targeting their own aircraft.
The low qualifications of the ship's air defense posts, the presence of radio transmitters only on the flight commander's aircraft (the wingmen had only receivers), and insufficient interaction between ships and the Black Sea Fleet aviation often led to ships and vessels firing at their escort aircraft. Which prompted the cover planes to stay at a considerable distance from the protected ships.
At the beginning of July 1941, two RUS-2 Redut type radar stations arrived in Sevastopol, one of which was redeployed to the Caucasus in December.
The accuracy of the target coordinates provided was insufficient, especially at night.
According to technical indicators, the target detection range is up to 100 km with an accuracy of 1 km, the total operating time of the station could not exceed 18 hours a day. Therefore, she worked with short starts, making half-hour stops between them. The station operated until the last day of the defense of Sevastopol and was destroyed by its crew.
At the beginning of the war, the 62nd Fighter Aviation Brigade of the Black Sea Fleet Air Force was based on the territory of Crimea. Consisting of the 8th, 9th, 32nd air regiments with the main aircraft in service I-16 (one hundred and nineteen units), I-15 and I-153 “Chaika” (ninety units), MIG-3 ( fourteen pieces). At the same time, a large percentage of aircraft and their weapons had significantly exhausted service life, which hampered the combat work of brigade units. There were 221 pilots, of which 87 had permission to fly at night.
There is a depressing practice of frequent transfers of aircraft and pilots from one air unit to another, often several times. This led to pilots’ ignorance of the features of piloting and armament of the assigned aircraft. The new additions to the brigade had low theoretical knowledge and little flight hours. There is an example when out of 60 pilots who arrived, only 49 were able to somehow carry out a combat mission, both during the day and in simple conditions. The qualifications of the technicians also left much to be desired.
The core of the I-16 and I-153 air brigade was inferior to the enemy in armament (the most popular I-153 series was produced with four ShKAS machine guns with a 7,62 mm rifle cartridge), speed and rate of climb. As a result, fighters were not always able to gain altitude in a timely manner, catch up and destroy the enemy, which contributed to the very low efficiency of Black Sea Fleet aviation.
In 1941, for every one German plane shot down, there were up to 98 of our sorties; in 1944 there were only 45 sorties. To combat enemy aircraft on communications and protect our transports, as a rule, a flight of I-153s was allocated, which had a short duration of time in the air - 1,5 hours. If time and situation permitted, additional gas tanks were hung under the wings, which increased the total time in the air to 2,5–3 hours at a speed of 180–200 km/h (and this at a vehicle speed of 10–15 km/h).
According to the “Instructions for covering ships and transports during daytime crossings with fighters,” when an enemy attacked, additional tanks were dropped, and the task was set to divert the enemy aircraft from the combat course. Further persecution was strictly prohibited.
In 1942–1943 PE-2, PE-3, DB-3 bombers began to be used actively and more effectively to cover transports. Since they had powerful cannon and machine gun armament, good visibility, low speed, plus a large supply of fuel, which allowed them to stay in the air for up to 5–6 hours.
Of the total number of sorties, transport escorts accounted for about 15%. At the beginning of the defense of Sevastopol there were two airfields - “Kulikovo Field”, from which light aircraft operated, and “Chersonese Lighthouse”, suitable for all types of aircraft.
In accordance with the situation at the end of October - beginning of November 1941, all wheeled aircraft were consolidated into a ground aviation group (SAG). Guard Colonel Yumashev was appointed commander of the group.
The disadvantage of operational reports and intelligence reports, on the basis of which combat work was based, was the lack of data on the actions of ground troops, both the enemy and units of the Red Army. All combat orders to the SAG were received in the form of a combat mission for the day. The Group headquarters never wrote combat orders to departing aircraft due to lack of time.
Combat orders to cover the passage of ships and transports came, as a rule, from the Operational Duty Chief of the Black Sea Fleet headquarters to the headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet Air Force. The officer on duty assigned the task to the headquarters of the aviation regiment or directly to the commanders of the air squadrons allocated to perform the specified combat missions.
The squadron commander, having received the task, made calculations of forces and means, basing the calculation on the following points:
1) how many ships need to be covered;
2) at what distance from the coastline the escort took place;
3) length of escort.
Based on this, a schedule/table was drawn up for the overlap of the crossing, according to which the departures of replacement groups of aircraft were carried out, the time spent over security objects was established, and the daytime signal for the change of duty units was established. From the “Instructions for covering ships and transports during daytime crossings with fighters”:
Do not pursue enemy aircraft. While at a given altitude, conduct intensive surveillance of the lower sphere, from where torpedo bombers may appear.
Guidance of covering aircraft towards the enemy is carried out from a protected ship using a signal burst of tracer bullets and by radio. In case of engine failure, land on the water ahead of the ship."
When the escort area moved about 100 km or more from the home airfield, the cover of the ships became ineffective. Combat reports on the completion of the mission from the flight crew were obtained by interviewing the headquarters commander of part of the flying crews after landing, sometimes directly at the aircraft. Each crew was interviewed individually, and then a general combat report was compiled.
Radio communication with aircraft was not well established, with the exception of aircraft directly covering the Main Base (Sevastopol) and the airfield. Most often there was no communication with aircraft performing assault, bombing, and reconnaissance operations, with the exception of DB-3 and SB. All fighters were equipped only with radio receivers.
And the planes of flight and squadron commanders, regiment commanders and his deputies were additionally equipped with radio transmitters.
At the same time, the Germans usually listened to our radio conversations.
Condition of the Wehrmacht troops
At the beginning of the Great Patriotic War, units of the 4th German Air Fleet, numbering up to 450 aircraft, operated on the southern flank of the eastern front (land sector and the Black Sea). 150 fighters, mainly Me-109, 270 Ju-87 and Ju-88 bombers, 50 HE-111 bombers, about 30 seaplanes.
In September-October 1941, as the enemy troops moved east, the following airfields became home and operational: Nikolaev, Kherson, Bereslavl, Chaplynka, Vodopoy, Kulbakino, Ochakov, Shevchenko, Chernobaevka, Novaya Pavlovka, Maksimovka, Dorenburg, Askania-Nova, etc.
With a general tendency to deploy light aviation at a distance of 50–60 km from the front line, and heavy bomber aircraft at a distance of 100–150 km. Already in September 1941, cases of reconnaissance aircraft appearing even near Batumi were recorded.
A separate unit subordinate to the main headquarters (Luftwaffenführungsstab) of the Luftwaffe, bearing the name Löwengeschwader (“Lion Squadron”), was the 26th Bomber Squadron (KG 26), specializing in combat operations over the sea and consisting of both air groups of conventional bombers, and torpedo bombers.
Each group included three squadrons with continuous numbering and a headquarters squadron. For example, Group II included squadrons 4 to 6, with the 6th squadron being a torpedo-carrying squadron (Lufttorpedogeschwader - LT).
KG 26 was formed in 1937 in the cities of Lübeck, Lüneburg, Schwerin in northeastern Germany, and participated in the war in Spain. During combat service, partial reformations of regular Luftwaffe units sometimes occurred. This is how the torpedo-carrying 1./KG28 appears and disappears.
Henkel 111 Löwengeschwader, KG 26
During World War II, torpedo bombers operated in all naval theaters of military operations. The main areas of concentration of forces: the Northern, Norwegian, Barents, Mediterranean, Red Seas, the Suez Canal - that is, where the main transport communications of the anti-Hitler coalition passed.
The main torpedo bomber was the HE-111 in various modifications, from the end of 1940 it was the HE-111 H-5, in September 1941 it was the HE-111 H-6. The long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft was a modification of the HE-111 T5+XH. In addition to the Henkel, torpedoes were carried by Ju-88s and seaplanes.
The development of torpedo-carrying aviation in Germany took place in fierce competition with the navy (Kriegsmarine), which did not want to give up the privilege of using torpedoes. The confrontation even reached the point of selecting test sites for torpedoes.
As a result, the German aviation torpedo (LT) F1940 with a caliber of 5 mm available in 533, although it was mass-produced in several versions, suffered from numerous shortcomings. For example, a steam-gas engine left a clearly visible trail of exhaust steam bubbles.
The range of destruction directly depended on the speed, which was regulated by the set pressure in the working chamber. If it was adjusted to run at 40 knots, then the range was 2 m, and at a speed of 000 knots the torpedo could travel 24 meters.
It should be noted that the range of torpedoes varies greatly in different sources. Optimal drop parameters: height – no more than 40 m, water depth at the drop site – no less than 15 meters, aircraft speed – no more than 200–240 km/h. But even in this case, the torpedo could often fail to reach the surface or break upon impact with the water, especially due to rough seas.
The Germans did not have time to complete its development by the beginning of World War II, and in 1940 they had to buy a license from the Italian company Whitehead-Werft und Torpedofabrik from the city of Fiume. Italian F5b torpedoes at a speed of 40 knots gave 1,5 times greater range than German ones.
They were equipped with a wooden tail that could be discarded after entering the water, which increased the likelihood of a torpedo reaching the surface. At the same time, the main tactical and technical characteristics (according to the instructions, Freiburg archive): caliber - 450 mm, length - 6 mm, weight - 069 kg, explosive weight - 936 kg, range - 200 meters at a speed of 2 knots and set pressure in a steam and gas generator 500 kg/cm².
At first, the fuse was contact (later magnetic) and self-armed after the torpedo had traveled 500 meters. Both torpedoes had a device for setting the lead of the shot and the depth of travel, set by the crew in flight through a special hatch in the fuselage of the aircraft.
The torpedoes were suspended under the fuselage and fired by an electric drive. The low speed of the aircraft and the altitude above the level of the torpedoes, the need to maintain a straight and stable course and the pitch of the sea during release made the torpedo bomber a good target.
Given the large glass surface of the canopy for the pilot and navigator-gunner, the HE-111 needed to have very strong nerves to maintain its combat course and achieve the required torpedo release distance.
But even after this, great luck was required: when the aircraft left the attack line, the belly of the aircraft was practically exposed to the air defense fire of the attacked target, which, along with the imperfection of the torpedo design, made the torpedoing efficiency low.
Продолжение следует ...
- Alex Krymov
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