The question of whether the civil war in Spain (1937-1939) can be considered the rehearsal of the Second World War remains debatable, but one thing is certain - it was in the battles on the Iberian Peninsula that the latest types of military equipment of the USSR and the Third Reich first met and tested each other for strength . The experience of these battles had to urgently draw lessons, sometimes very bitter. Last but not least aviation.
The SB bomber (“High-speed bomber”), launched into serial production in 1934, was deservedly considered the pride of the Soviet aircraft industry. The SAT developed speeds up to 350 km / h, which made it almost invulnerable to the fighters of that time. However, this advantage did not last long. In Spain, the Security Council has a dangerous enemy - the German fighter Bf.109B - an early modification of the famous Messershmit. With the appearance on the battlefield of this fighter, the SB is suddenly outdated. Having inadequate defensive armament and having lost their advantage in speed and altitude, the squadron of the SB was virtually defenseless. Losses have dramatically increased, which, in turn, forced us to urgently start creating a fundamentally new machine with a fundamentally new tactic of application.
Bomber SB ("High-speed bomber")
In general, in the interwar years, all the aviation powers, as if by magic, rushed to develop dive bombers. The fact is that the classic, “horizontal” bombing from “safe” heights for an aircraft demonstrated a low accuracy, primarily due to the imperfection of aircraft sights and the lack of adjustable bombs. At the same time, anti-aircraft artillery did not allow bombing from low altitudes: during bomb dropping the aircraft must strictly maintain the combat course, which means to miss. Thus, flying in a straight line and not a maneuvering bomber was just a "school" target for gunners. The exit was found by the Americans who were the first to create a plane specifically designed for dropping bombs in a dive. As it turned out later, the decision was correct: during a dive attack, a bomber becomes a difficult target for anti-aircraft gunners, and the accuracy of bombing increases at the same time. The fighting over Poland clearly demonstrated the high efficiency of the new German dive bomber Junkers Ju 87 Stuka, initiated by the creation of the famous ace of the First World War Ernst Udet.
Ju 87 Stuka was rightly considered one of the most famous aircraft in the world. Despite the ridiculous appearance and mediocre flight data, it was a very effective bomber.
The birth of "pawn"
The development of the Soviet dive bomber on the basis of the high-altitude fighter 100 that did not go into the series began just at the dawn of war, in 1938, in the famous Tupolev Sharashka TsKB-29. It was one of the prison design offices that belonged to the Special Department of the NKVD. The entire composition of engineers consisted of convicted "enemies of the people", and the chief designer was formally someone Kutepov - Colonel of the NKVD, a former electrician. In fact, the head of the group of engineers involved in the new aircraft was Vladimir Petlyakov. The works were going at a very fast pace: only a month and a half was allotted to reworking the 100 fighter into a diving bomber. Since the new aircraft had to fly at low and medium altitudes, it was necessary to abandon the installation of the thermocabin and turbochargers provided for on the original aircraft. Nevertheless, during the first flights the aircraft showed very good performance. The reputation of the new car did not prevent even a few accidents that occurred during the tests due to engine failures. The military was in a hurry to launch a plane called the Pe-2 into the series. They were in such a hurry that the “reference” machine sample was released “in hindsight”.
The rush was not in vain: the Second World War began, and although the Soviet Union has not yet taken an open part in it, it was clear that the time to prepare for combat was estimated in months, but for the Soviet air forces the Pe-2 was really a step forward. The pilots immediately noted the fact that, compared with the sluggish SS, the flight characteristics of the Pe 2 were much higher: the new bomber had found the “golden mean” between stability and maneuverability. An important plus was the fact that the plane finally appeared reliable and convenient communication between the pilot, navigator and gunner. Pe-2 received protected fuel tanks (which significantly improved its survivability), and electric motors were widely used in controls, which greatly facilitated the piloting of the aircraft. Nevertheless, the Pe-2 was strict in control, especially at low speeds, and demanded attention and accuracy from the pilot (therefore, at the beginning of the Great Patriotic War, when the level of training of the flight crew was simply terrible, many young crews crashed during the landing). The bomb load was 600 kg, and when overloaded - a ton (many considered it insufficient for an aircraft of this class). The small weight of the bombs was primarily due to the fact that at the exit from the dive, the power elements of the Pe-2 design had to withstand enormous loads - a large safety factor had to be laid during the development. For this and donated part of the bomb load. To reduce speed when diving under the wings of the Pe-2, air brakes were installed - folding steel-tube grilles. Due to their deflection perpendicular to the air flow, effective speed quenching was achieved. The electric drive of the air brakes was controlled by the AP-1 “dive machine”. The pawn's defensive armament initially consisted of four 7,62-mm ShKAS aviation machine guns, two of which were mounted motionless in the nose of the aircraft. The rest of the machine guns were mounted in mobile pivot installations at the places of the navigator and gunner and had a limited sector of fire.
By June 1941, the X-NUMX of the Pe-904 was released, most of which, unfortunately, were soon irretrievably lost either on the ground or during poorly prepared sorties. The situation was aggravated by the fact that the pilots did not have time to fully master the zealous machine and, moreover, were practically not trained in dive bombing. Criticism was also caused by weak defensive armament: machine guns with rifle-caliber were clearly not enough against the new Messerschmitt Bf2G fighters capable of attacking bombers from a safe distance with impunity. Only in 109, the “pawn” finally received the powerful and reliable large-caliber machine guns of the Berezin system. At the same time, many design flaws that were discovered during operation were eliminated. The car has received new forced engines, while aerodynamics has also been improved. With such modifications, the “extermination past” of the Pe-1942 quickly made itself felt - now the “messer” (“thin”, as our pilots called it), recklessly left alone with the “petlyakov”, had every chance to be in the role of victim - some crews Pe-2 had already counted five downed aircraft! On the front, there were frequent cases when "pawns" who accidentally discovered a group of enemy bombers in flight took on the role of fighters ...
Chronicles of dive bombers: who is better?
Many historians have taken to compare Pe-2 and lapotnik Junkers Ju 87. Conclusions while doing the most diverse. But, despite similar tasks, comparing these planes is not entirely correct. It should be recognized that the accuracy of hitting Ju 87 was slightly higher than that of the “pawn”, since the Junkers dropped bombs from a height of just 600 – 700 m, unlike Pe-2, which bombed at least a kilometer. In such conditions, the pilot of the "Junkers" had the opportunity to aim almost "point-blank", taking corrections, based on weather reports, "by eye". In addition, the lapotnik swooped at a relatively low speed (around 600 km / h), and the pilot had enough time to correct the flight path.
But the low-speed "lapotnik" was a disadvantage. Junkers Ju 87 is not in vain considered to be one of the symbols of the "blitzkrieg" - it was intended for actions in the conditions of the enemy’s inadequately active air defense. Otherwise, the advantages of a slow and poorly protected “Junkers” were quickly reduced to a minimum. When the number of Soviet fighters and the level of training of their pilots began to grow, the losses of Ju 87 increased dramatically, forcing the Germans to bomb only from great heights and accompany the “Junkers” with good fighter cover, and the lack of on-board automation capable of introducing all the corrections necessary for an attack from a large heights, negatively affected accuracy. An error in the direction of the plane just one degree gave a miss in 50 m.
Soviet designers solved this problem by adding one more crew member to help the pilot. Thus, targeting the Pe-2 to the target was "double." The navigator measured the speed and direction of the wind (to determine the "demolition" of the bomb and the aircraft itself), calculated the "combat turning angle" and set the scope, while the pilot held the target at the crosshair and tried to withstand the maximum dive trajectory. It was due to this “division of labor” that the accuracy of the hit was 40 – 50 m (this was quite enough), and an experienced pawn crew could lay a bomb in a ten-meter circle. In addition, the faster and better armed Pe-2 is smaller than the Ju 87, it needed fighter cover and suffered less from anti-aircraft fire. By the way, in 1944, the Germans attempted to use the Focke-Wulf Fw190F fighter as a diving bomber, which was significantly superior to the Pe-2 and Ju 87 in flight performance. The main advantage was that, freed from the bomb load, this dive-bomber could easily fight back any fighter. However, experience has shown that the accuracy of the Fw190F hit was significantly lower than that of the “old” Ju 87. This was primarily due to the increased speed of the dive: the heavy and powerful Focke-Wulf accelerated rapidly during the dive, and even the high-class pilot simply did not have time to control the plane and aim. As time has shown, only the development of electronics has made dive-bombing quite comfortable for a single-person pilot.
Designed by Kurt Tank, still receives mixed reviews from military and historians. At the time of creation, the most advanced technologies were applied in this aircraft. The Focke-Wulf was very effective against bombers, but the strike version of this machine in the Luftwaffe did not take root. The depicted modification of the Fw190D - the "Long-nosed Dora" (with a star-shaped air-cooled engine) - was designed to combat the "flying fortresses"
Only at the end of 1944, the question arose of replacing the Pe-2 with the more advanced Tu-2 dive bomber, but the Petlyakov machine remained the main Soviet front-line bomber until the very end of the war. Most of the pilots who were tantalizing the quick "pawn" did not touch the soul on their plane, considering it to be the most perfect machine in its class.