Military Review

On the reasons for the defeat of the Western Front air forces in the initial period of the war


About the reasons for the defeat of the Western Front air forces in the initial period of the war.

70 years have passed since the beginning of the Great Patriotic War, but disputes about the reasons for the defeat of the Soviet armed forces in the initial period of the war have not ceased. There are many such theories, the enumeration of which would take quite a lot of space in one article, but most of them agree that one of the main reasons was the defeat of the Soviet Air Force and the conquest of the domination of Lufvtwaffe in the air.
What is the reason for this defeat, because the ratio of the main types of aircraft of the Red Army and Lufwtwaffe airplanes before the start of the war does not at all indicate the superiority of the German side.
Aircraft type Zap OBO 2 Air Fleet Ratio
Twin-engine bombers SB, TB-3, Yak-2, Yak-4 (384 / 1 / 12 / 16) 413 He-11, Do-17, Ju-88 344 1,2 / 1
Dive bombers AP-2, Pe-2 (22 / 54) 76 Ju-87 307 1 / 4
Stormtroopers IL-2, Su-2 (8 / 89) 97 Hs-126 261 1 / 2,6
Total bombers and attack aircraft 586 912 1 / 1,56
Fighters И-153, И-15,И-15бис И-16, Миг-1, Миг-3, Як-1 |(269/35/64/417/37/201/20) 1043 (258 *) Bf-109, Bf-110 612 1,7 / 1
Scouts Rez, C-2, P-10, P-5, CCC (108 / 9 / 19 / 5 / 1) 142 Do-17, Ju-88 30 4,7 / 1
Total 1771 1554 1,12 / 1

* - New types

Of course, this table does not reflect the true aspect ratio, because does not take into account the quality ratio, but it was on the German side. It can be seen that the Air Force of the Red Army of the Western Front was clearly inferior to the enemy in shock aviation, but the situation with fighters cannot be called critical. True, the biplanes based on the I-15 are already completely out of date and some of them were transferred to attack aircraft. However, it is all the more strange that by the evening of June 22, 1941, the Air Forces of the Western Front were defeated and the so-called relocation of the remaining units began. When it comes to the Air Force of the Western Front, this is not abstract aviation, but rather specific parts 9, 10, 11 mixed aviation divisions (SAD) given to the state cover armies. borders and 43 fighter aviation division (IAD), 12 and 13 bomber aviation divisions (BAA). But it was precisely the defeat of 9,10,11 GARDEN given to the cover armies of 10,4,3 that led to the disaster of these armies. We will try to establish the reasons for the defeat of precisely these divisions on the very first day of the war. What does official Soviet historiography write on this subject:

“The aviation of the Western and Kiev special military districts, where the Nazi aviation on the first day of the war managed to destroy and damage 1015 airplanes, suffered especially great damage. The 9 Air Combined Air Division of the Western Special Military District of 409 has available 347 aircraft by the start of the war, the 10-I mixed aviation division has lost 180 aircraft from 231 and 11-I mixed aviation division - 127 aircraft from 199. On the second day of the war, these three airborne divisions, which were in the first echelon, proved to be incapable and were taken out for re-formation. In the air battles, the Western Special Military Air Force fighters shot down more 100 Nazi aircraft, scattered numerous groups of German bombers, but could not thwart their raids or at least limit the actions of enemy aircraft. During the day, the enemy destroyed the 387 fighter and the 351 bomber.

Large losses in the air force fleet of the border military districts occurred for the following reasons. The telegram of the People’s Commissar of Defense of the USSR, in which the commanders of military districts warned of the time of a possible attack by fascist Germany and ordered to alert the troops and disperse aviation on field airfields, was transmitted to the border military districts only 4 hours before the enemy invasion. In connection with the construction and reconstruction of many airfields, the maneuver of air units and air force units in border military districts was limited. The masking of airfields and their cover by means of air defense were insufficient. Some aviation commanders, with no experience in repelling sudden massed raids, could not take their units out of attack and organize a decisive rebuff of fascist aviation. Soviet pilots had to fight in unequal conditions. They were forced to fight for the most part on outdated fighters against an enemy armed with modern aircraft and outnumbered in numbers. ” (1977. The command and headquarters of the Soviet Army Air Force in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945 of page 23)

Much work has been done by I.D. Yegorov in his work “June 1941. The defeat of the Western Front, where he tried to collect all the available materials on each of the AAD and each regiment of these divisions.

“Violent bombing and shelling by the Luftwaffe was subjected only to divisional subordination of the Soviet air regiments 12, of which eight were fighter, three high-speed bomber, and one assault, also equipped with fighters and biplanes I-15. Army aviation losses were more than sensitive: 659 aircraft. 9-I SAD lost 74 aircraft in air battles, 278 was destroyed on the ground, 352 was lost in total; 10 — 23 and 157 respectively, total 180 lost; 11-i - 34 and 93 respectively, total 127 is lost »page107

As you can see, Soviet aviation suffered the main losses on the ground. What are their main reasons? Let us disagree with the official Soviet version. Yes, the order to bring to combat readiness is late, but if you carefully review the collected material on 9 GARDEN (126, 129, 124, 41 ip, 13sbap), 10 GARDEN (74 cap, 123, 33 iap, 39, GARDEN (11 cap, 122, 127 iap, 16, 12 GARDEN (6 cap, XNUMX, XNUMX iap, XNUMX, XNUMX GARDEN (XNUMX cap, XNUMX, XNUMX iap, XNUMX sdn) (XNUMX, XNUMX iap, XNUMX sbap), then it turns out that only the bomber regiments (sbap) of these divisions were subjected to crushing blows of Lufvtwaffe in the very first hours and suffered losses that made them incapable, while the fighter regiments (iap) suffered from the first blows insignificant losses, some even met the enemy in the air and thwarted him nevertheless. However, the most interesting thing is that they were later crushed by strikes at aerodromes, but not as a result of the first massive raid, but by methodical, REPEATING strikes, and the enemy achieved this not by massing forces and quantitative superiority, but in groups of XNUMX, XNUMX and sometimes pairs of cars, but attacking with enviable persistence and regularity. How could this happen? After all, the first strikes were already repulsed and the losses from them were not great, it was clear that this was a war, and the fighters were still in abundance.

A more authoritative source of the Soviet period writes on this issue the following:

“The great losses of Soviet aviation were due to a number of reasons. The main ones were the following.

1 Firstly, when attacking our airfields, the enemy fully used the surprise factor. The telegraph order of the People’s Commissar of Defense to bring the troops on alert and disperse aviation on field airfields, sent on the night of June 22 (4 hours before the enemy invasion) was not promptly communicated to the air units. Therefore, the strikes of enemy aircraft caught most of the regiments off guard. Suddenness was also achieved due to weak vigilance and insufficient combat readiness of the district air force.

2 Secondly, due to the limited aerodrome network, the maneuver of units and formations of the Air Force was hampered. For the same reason, aviation of the border districts was based around 100-120 aircraft and more. Some airfields were located a few kilometers from the state border and were even fired upon by enemy artillery. At separate airfields, shelters for materiel and personnel were not equipped, aircraft at the stands did not disperse and were poorly disguised. At the same time, the home areas of Soviet aviation were poorly covered by air defense equipment.

3 Thirdly, Soviet pilots had to fight mainly against obsolete aircraft against an experienced enemy. This was also due to the lack of skills to repel massive strikes by enemy aircraft. For example, in the Baltic Special Military District (commander of the Air Force General A.P. Ionov), after the first raid of German aircraft, surviving aircraft were alarmed. But no one set specific tasks for the crews. After an hour in the zones, the planes were again landed at their own airfields, which the enemy took advantage of and struck again.

4 Finally, in the conditions of re-equipment to the new material part, a large concentration of aircraft was formed on many border airfields. Some regiments had two sets of combat vehicles: new ones, which were mastered by flight personnel, and obsolete, mothballed and prepared for sending to the rear. Because of the impossibility of evacuating a significant part of these aircraft was destroyed during the retreat of the Soviet troops. "
(1976. Operational art of the Soviet Air Force in the Second World War. Page 23)

Paragraph one of this statement repeats the first quotation and its consideration was given above.

In the second and fourth paragraphs, the information on the aerodromes and clusters of cars on them seems to be the main thing at the beginning, but here’s what I.D.Egorov writes about this:
“The legend that all the aircraft were assembled at a limited number of large air bases and therefore became easy prey for the Luftwaffe, on closer examination does not hold water. Unless, of course, the position of “one airfield is one regiment” and not “one airfield - one squadron” is considered crowded. ”P. 132

"But many field airfields were present with two sets of combat vehicles: the old ones, which were flying
and worked out the tasks, and the newest ones, which were just being mastered. Sometimes the novelties did not have camouflage coloring and stood as they were received from the aircraft factories, silver-gray, clearly standing out against the background of green grass (there is a photo of the Bobruisk airfield, where in the foreground stands a battered wooden biplane, and in the back - a whole unpainted Il -4). This created the appearance of crowding, although it lasted
the world is still two or three months old, dozens of the most worn would be transferred to training centers and newly formed divisions or written off. (Page 113 "June 1941. Defeat of the Western Front")

However, the 2 clause contains really important and truthful information about the cause of the defeat, in the last line it says, “At the same time, the home areas of the Soviet aviation were poorly covered by air defense equipment.” This is really very important and true information, since every 9,10,11 airfield SAD covered only the only quadruple ZPU "Maxim" on the chassis GAZ AA. This is little, very little, criminally little and not justified. Indeed, as part of the Western anti-aircraft artillery front there was:

Type of anti-aircraft guns Amount of guns Ammunition availability Thousands of pieces
37 mm anti-aircraft guns (31 K) 212 12
76,2 mm anti-aircraft gun pattern 1931 and 1938. 526 425,1
80 mm anti-aircraft gun Bofors 4 -
85 mm anti-aircraft gun model 1939g. 396 30

The table shows that there were not so few anti-aircraft guns, moreover, there were 37mm anti-aircraft guns to counter aviation at low altitudes, but the situation with ammunition was catastrophic especially for 37mm and 85mm guns, which made the presence of the latter useless. The slightly better situation was with the 76,2 mm anti-aircraft guns that had 800 projectiles on the gun. It remains only to guess why the airfields based iap and sbap were not completely covered by anti-aircraft artillery? Why was most of this artillery collected at the district training ground, for training camps, on the eve of the war and depriving the troops of the last opportunity to counteract enemy aircraft?

In the third paragraph, in addition to the eternal repetition about outdated aircraft, important information is also contained “After an hour in the zones, the aircraft were again landed on their airfields, which the enemy took advantage of and struck again.” This is very important, although it belongs to the North-Western Front, but This situation is repeated on all fronts. It testifies first of all to the absence or unsatisfactory work of the tracking service for enemy aircraft. Here we come to one of the main reasons for the defeat of 9,10,11 GARDEN of the Western Front - this is the lack of information about the air enemy, because the plane can not be in the air for a long time, an hour - maximum one and a half, and the plane should be landed, serviced, filled, repaired. Such a situation makes the quantitative superiority of the Soviet fighters senseless because it is impossible to keep many planes in the air, and it is almost impossible to lift them with an enemy raid and is associated with heavy losses! Who was responsible for detecting an air enemy?

“For the detection and notification of enemy aircraft by air defense forces and local anti-aircraft defense agencies, a VNOS (air surveillance, warning and communication) service was organized. It was based on observation posts. On the territory threatened by air attack, a network of VNOS posts was established. It consisted of frontal observation bands running parallel to the state border and radial strips running from the border into the interior of the country. The distance between the lanes was 60-80 km. Thus, a grid with squares of tens of kilometers was created, the distance between observation posts in it was 10-12 km.

The main element of the VNOS service, regardless of its combat use, was the observation post (NP), which usually consisted of seven people: a chief, a deputy and several observers. A telephone served as a means of communication and only in rare cases was a radio station. The NP also had to be equipped with binoculars, a listening device (sound pickup), a clock, a compass, and in some cases, primitive high-altitude and course tablets. The outfit of the post looked rather miserable, but our air defense did not have any other means. ”(Mikhail Zefirov, Dmitry Degtev, Nikolay Bazhenov Swastika over the Volga. Luftwaffe versus Stalin’s Air Defense

Only now the creation of a system of VNOS posts along the state border has been delayed:
“One of the important tasks that the Air Defense Forces of the country had to perform since the first days of the war was to ensure timely notification of enemy air strikes by units, formations and headquarters of all types of armed forces, as well as government bodies in the field and in the center. The significance of this function can hardly be overestimated, especially given that the military system of aerial combat operations before the beginning of the fascist aggression had not yet fully developed {TsAMO, f. 72, op. 12272, d. 2, l. 81}. (1979. Air defense troops of the country in World War II Page 10)

So here, the deployment of VNOS was not a priority for the Soviet command. And this after the defeat of France and the successful battle for England in 1940 showed the presence of such a system a prerequisite for successful air defense. I especially want to dwell on the English experience, where the double line of the radar station and the abundance of VNOS posts on the coast of the Channel, allowed the British to use their not numerous fighter aircraft very quickly and practically to thwart the air war against Great Britain. All the more strange that this experience remained unclaimed by the Soviet Air Force. Of course, the radar was then in short supply, the 30 RUS-1 and 10 RUS-2 available in the USSR were primarily used in the air defense of Moscow, Leningrad and Baku. But, even a suitably organized VNOS service could have prevented Lufvvtvaffe’s almost unpunished daytime raids on the SAD Soviet airfields.

Point four does not need comments, it is very sad that the rearmament took place in this way. It should also be said that just the newest planes, not yet mastered or even not commissioned, were left and destroyed. Who is to blame for collecting and commissioning them near the border? As we can see, the Soviet sources also contained sufficiently truthful information about the causes of our severe defeats during the initial period of the war.

Let us now sum up the brief results of what caused the defeat of the Air Force of the Western Front.

1) The enemy on the eve of the war was able to reveal the composition and deployment of the Air Force of the Belarusian Military District.
“In their unreasonable confidence that war can be avoided, the main thing is not to give a reason for it,
the enemy intelligence created "preferential" conditions, and during numerous reconnaissance flights over the western regions of the USSR, it not only revealed almost all the airfields of army and military aviation, but also conducted constant "monitoring" of their condition. Therefore, 22 June attacked only those of them where the planes really were
In total, 9, 10 and 11 air divisions had, according to my calculations, at least 30 airfields, including ambush sites for duty fighter units. "(2008 June 1941. Defeat of the Western Front. Yegorov D. N. Str. 113)

2) The main reason for the defeat of the Soviet Air Force was the lack of information about the air enemy, as a result of the unsatisfactory organization of the VNOS service. They could not promptly react to the actions of Lufvvtwaffe and in the end could not even protect the airfields based on their IAPs, which led to the defeat and redeployment of the AAD divisions attached to the armies of cover.

3) The presence of antiaircraft cover of airfields could still somehow fix the situation and provide an opportunity to repel enemy raids, but it was not. It also became the main cause of the damage.

4) The main reasons for the defeat should also include the loss of control of the Western Air Force command. I would like to dwell on this reason. It must be admitted that the enemy was able to conduct one of the first successful operations of electronic warfare against us. All communication frequencies were opened to control the 9,10,11 SAD regiments, and although all the aerodromes of Iap and Sbap had radio stations, at a crucial time, their frequencies were suppressed by the enemy (it was not clear why the backup frequencies were not used or they were not agreed at all). He was also able to calculate the location of the headquarters of the Air Force and to strike at them, as well as destroy auxiliary aircraft, thereby making it impossible to communicate with parts of the AAD even by sending communication delegates. This led to a lack of interaction and support between the AAD regiments, which did not allow organizing a fitting rebuff to the aggressor.

“The office of 9-th GARDEN was located in Bialystok itself, on the main street, in a beautiful mansion with a turret. In the first minutes of the war, it lost all of the wired communications, and the operating ranges of the divisional short-wave stations (the headquarters used the 5-AK radios) were tightly clogged with interference. In the building, all the windows flew from close explosions, General S. A. Chernykh, as former headquarters radio operator G. P. Krainik recalled, jumped out onto the porch and shouted to someone: “Give me a plane” [76, letter of personal correspondence]. ” (2008 June 1941. Defeat of the Western Front. Egorov D.N. page xNUMX)
There were other reasons either leading to the defeat or increasing its consequences. These include: the unsatisfactory condition of the aerodrome service, the presence of a double set of fighters on advanced airfields, the close proximity of airfields near the border, restraining orders “Do not succumb to provocations”, crew inexperience, lack of radio communication on most aircraft, etc., but they were not basic .

All the more strange theories claiming that the reasons for the defeat lie in the “unwillingness to fight for Stalin and the USSR”, or that preparing for the “liberation campaign” of the Red Army was not ready for defense, the above facts do not confirm such statements. It cannot be said that the theory of weakening the army from repressions has its foundation. There is no explicit connection between the 37-39 cleaning and the data that if it were not for this cleaning, an effective VNOS service would be created, airfields covered by anti-aircraft artillery, deficiencies in communication and control were eliminated. It is also impossible to consider the outdated equipment and pilots inexperience as the main reason for the defeat, because they suffered the main losses on the ground or on takeoff while repelling enemy attacks in unfavorable conditions, due to the inability to meet him in the air at the approach to their airfields. In conclusion, I would like to recall Mark Solonin’s book On Peacefully Sleeping Airfields - Defeating 1941, where the author confuses cause and effect, stating that the redeployment caused a defeat. In fact, the losses on the ground were the cause of this relocation, when it turned out that the IAPs could not even protect themselves from the methodical raids of the Lufvtwaffe. Mark Solonin asserts the ineffectiveness of such strikes and cites 691 as an example for the aircraft lost by the Red Army Air Force for the rest of the war at airfields, but it must be kept in mind that Lufvtwaffe 22 June acted against previously reconnoitered targets, in daytime conditions, in the absence of counter-fire, almost like range, virtually without opposition to our fighters who rose into the air directly during enemy strikes.

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  1. makrus
    makrus 26 August 2011 13: 56 New
    In total, on the first day of the war, the Air Forces of the Western Front made 1896 sorties, approximately two for one combat vehicle. During the first hours of the war, many Soviet aircraft of the border districts managed to take off. They could not withstand the stress of the struggle throughout the day on June 22 and were deprived of the airfield maneuver. On each Soviet airfield on the first day of the war, 2 to 8 raids were carried out, with attacks lasting up to 40 minutes. If one or two attacks could still be repelled, then 6-8 inevitably led to heavy losses. The Red Army was confronted with the high intensity of the use of the Air Force, characteristic of the Luftwaffe, which largely compensated for the smaller numbers. In addition, in the ZapOVO strip, the balance of forces between German and Soviet aviation was almost equal. Only the air forces of the Odessa military district got off relatively easily, simply because this area was not a priority for the Germans.
    “George Zhukov: The King’s Last Argument”, Alexey Isaev
    In principle, the same thing, only in short. I would like to add from myself that at the beginning of the war our aircraft flew in triples, which looked very nice in parades. but in battle the link of the three planes fell apart at the same reversal. The Germans used couples and this practice has survived to the present day.
    1. His
      His 27 August 2011 13: 53 New
      It is all about the organization, or rather, its absence. Panic. And at first the army simply surrendered, they did not yet know that the Germans were coming, not the Nazis. We thought everything would be good, but the executioners came. If everyone at first knew what kind of beast was following us, I think that not a single bastard would have thrown his reed into the bushes and would have shot his left hand. But again, Russia saved everyone
  2. Petrol
    Petrol 26 August 2011 15: 38 New
    uh ... if only Chkalov was alive and I-180 and then I-185 went into production .... we wouldn’t have to have my classmate’s grandfather twice in the summer and in the winter at 41 with a parachute leave the plane .......
  3. makrus
    makrus 26 August 2011 16: 03 New
    Comrade Kozhedub on I-16 two mesers shot down in one attack. More precisely, the second he damaged the tail with ereses, after he cut off the first. Well, then I finished it.
    1. Petrol
      Petrol 26 August 2011 18: 01 New
      this is not an attack but a counter attack ... the Germans were almost always the first to attack the difference in ceiling speed because the Germans imposed battle conditions using the capabilities of their equipment ...
      1. makrus
        makrus 26 August 2011 18: 08 New
        and who is arguing? I led this to the fact that the i-16 was not so bad, it could turn around around the lamppost.
    2. Valentin
      Valentin 26 August 2011 19: 50 New
      Kozhedub flew on La 5 and La 7, like I 16?
      1. makrus
        makrus 27 August 2011 00: 22 New
        read more, the book was Drabkin from the series "I Fought ..." I don’t remember exactly.
  4. Dovmont
    Dovmont 26 August 2011 18: 02 New
    In my opinion, the main reason for our heavy losses in the initial period of the war is the miscalculation of the country's leadership. Our Armed Forces were preparing for offensive operations, moreover, on foreign territory. In command - staff and operational - tactical exercises of the western districts, only offensive operations were practiced. True, one illustrative case is known - before the outbreak of the war, headquarters exercises were held in the KOVO, where on the maps they worked out the reflection by the district waxes of the attack of a possible enemy commanded by Zhukov. The “aggressor” Zhukov won. No conclusions were drawn from the results of the exercises, although Zhukov’s actions largely predicted the actions of the Wehrmacht in June 1941.
  5. Superduck
    Superduck 26 August 2011 18: 17 New
    I think that the "optimization" of the army and its middle and senior command personnel generated a layer of commanders for whom initiative was tantamount to execution. Because aggressive and bold defensive and offensive operations can be counted on the fingers. Think about the same people, the same equipment, the same conditions, and he’s cutting the Germans like a partridge, while others are quietly waiting for loading into cars to the nearest concentration camp or even a ravine, the difference is only in the commander, he himself didn’t drift and the people infected with his courage and confidence. It is also worth remembering that the villagers, to put it mildly, were not as patriotic as the workers and officers towards the USSR, and if 40% of the rank-and-file deserts (surrenders, it doesn't matter) from the unit, this does not mean that the remaining 60% are fighting no matter how than never before, this means that morale is lower than the baseboard, another 20% of those remaining start to think how to get down and survive too (yet not everyone realized that most of those who surrendered will die the death of an unworthy man), and the unit as a result can not perform tasks on it entrusted and at best heroically perishes. Well, the fact that aircraft were hacked a lot at airfields only means that the combat readiness and camouflage regime was not respected, this is a clear sabotage, because preparations for the invasion are well known to everyone, even if it’s just a concentration of troops at our borders - it’s all the same an occasion to bring the necessary units into a state of increased combat readiness, even if it is a friendly army. So it turns out that by following the chain of orders for relocations, vacations, and other strange actions under such conditions, you can understand who the enemy was and who is friend in command. And whether this person was guided by malicious intent or was, for example, the least concern for me.
    1. makrus
      makrus 26 August 2011 18: 45 New
      SuperDuck, you, as always, write very brightly and emotionally about where a simple analysis is needed. I will answer more specifically later
      1. Superduck
        Superduck 26 August 2011 19: 27 New
        I probably say a little on a different plane of discussion, you are right here. But it’s hard for me to delve into the features of air combat, I honestly admit even in the IL2 attack aircraft a complete layman. However, I cannot but notice that in this matter the capabilities of technology do not solve everything.
  6. makrus
    makrus 26 August 2011 18: 37 New
    Quote: Dovmont
    Our Armed Forces were preparing for offensive operations, moreover, on foreign territory.

    Dovmont, there is no alternative to offensive action. A counterattack on the flank is the most powerful defense tool. Sitting in the trenches and waiting is not an option. It will be defeated in parts, even if the enemy is inferior in number, will create a strong fist on one side and that’s it.

    Quote: Dovmont
    True, one illustrative case is known - before the outbreak of the war, headquarters exercises were held in the KOVO, where on the maps they worked out the reflection by the district waxes of the attack of a possible enemy commanded by Zhukov. The “aggressor” Zhukov won.

    But Isaev wrote very well about this in the same book, “George Zhukov: The King’s Last Argument”
    As the main reason, it is indicated that Germany has preempted us in the deployment of troops. It became clear to our leadership that a war was inevitable in a few days and simply did not manage to create anything.
    Today, many people think that Stalin was not warned only by the lazy, but this is not so. Information about the beginning of the war came the most proverbial.
    1. Dovmont
      Dovmont 26 August 2011 19: 08 New
      Today, many people think that Stalin was not warned only by the lazy, but this is not so. Information about the beginning of the war came the most proverbial
      I am far from accusing only one Stalin of the disaster of the summer of 1941. As they say, victory has many fathers, and defeat is always an orphan. I think every critic of Stalin should at least once mentally put himself in his place. This only at first glance seems a trifling task!
      1. makrus
        makrus 27 August 2011 00: 25 New
        hold plus for constructive position
  7. makrus
    makrus 27 August 2011 00: 24 New
    hold plus for constructive position