During the Great Patriotic War, the Soviet aviation in the Arctic, it solved almost the entire spectrum of the variety of combat missions. At the same time, the fighting in the North was distinguished by a number of features, due to the nature of the tasks performed, the geographical location of the area and the uniqueness of natural conditions.
In Norway and Northern Finland, a separate German army, Norway, was deployed, which had the task of capturing the city of Murmansk, as well as the main base of our Northern fleet - the city of Polar, the Rybachy Peninsula and the section of the Kirov Railway, located north of Belomorsk. With the beginning of the offensive by the fascist leadership, it was planned to carry out major naval operations in the Barents Sea, aimed at destroying Soviet ships and seizing the naval bases of the Northern Fleet, blocking the sea coast and ensuring control over allied sea lanes. In addition, the fleet had to provide support to its ground forces.
In Norway and Finland, the Germans concentrated more than 240 aircraft that were part of the 5 air fleet. They were assisted by Finnish aviation, numbering more than three hundred combat aircraft. The flight crew had combat experience; moreover, many pilots received special training for operations in northern conditions.
The defense of the Murmansk and Kandalaksha areas was carried out by our 14 Army. In the initial period of the war, its air support was provided by the 1-I mixed aviation division under the command of Colonel M. M. Golovnya, which included the entire 125 of serviceable aircraft. The air force of the Northern Fleet deployed 114 aircraft. They were commanded by Major General A.A. Kuznetsov. As you can see, the Soviet Union was able to concentrate on the north direction of the entire 239 aircraft. In addition, overwhelmingly, these were machines of outdated designs that were inferior to the German ones in almost all tactical and technical data. New models of aircraft and aircraft parts stationed in the North began to arrive after the start of the war. Thus, enemy aircraft in the Arctic had at that time a significant quantitative as well as a qualitative superiority.
In the conditions of the Arctic, the main task of the aviation of the belligerents was the conquest of air supremacy. Although this task was paramount on all fronts, but it was in the Arctic that it acquired particular importance. This is explained as follows. In the treeless tundra, the possibilities of providing camouflage for ground forces and objects are limited, there is no developed network of roads, which often causes crowding on the existing roads of troops and equipment. During air raids, it is impossible to drive off many roads passing through marshy soil or mountainous terrain. As for our air force, the insufficient number of airfields, the difficulty of their construction forced them to base aircraft crowded, and this made it difficult to conceal and increased the danger of destruction. It was even more difficult to organize a disguise and protect ships and ships from air strikes. From this it is obvious that the provision of reliable cover for the ground forces, strategic facilities and naval forces directly depended on the conquest of air supremacy and its retention.
In the initial period of the war, the enemy tried to destroy our planes at their bases. True, 22 June 1941, the German aircraft did not conduct massive strikes on the Soviet northern airfields, and the advance of the ground forces here began a week later than in the western directions of the Soviet-German front. Thanks to this feature, our aviation units were able to better prepare for the fight against the air enemy and to preserve their fleet as much as possible. However, since June 23, the intensity of the actions of the enemy Air Force has increased every day. They were particularly active in the first war month, which accounted for 75% of all airfield attacks during the 6 months of 1941. During this month, our aviation on earth lost 20 aircraft from 26, which were destroyed in the first half of the year.
The Nazis inflicted blows on the airfields in the future, but their effectiveness decreased due to improved organization and increased air defense of airfields, more careful disguise and dispersal of aircraft, redirecting the main efforts of enemy aviation to solve other tasks and, finally, winning air supremacy in the air summer 1943 of the year.
The basis of the struggle for air supremacy was air battles. They were used by both our and German aircraft, as a rule, when carrying out various combat missions by aircraft. Therefore, it is advisable to consider them in inseparable conjunction with them. Attacks on enemy airfields were inflicted both in the course of daily combat with enemy aircraft and in the implementation of special air strike operations. So, to weaken the enemy’s northern grouping, our aviation 25-30 in June 1941 conducted a successful operation to destroy enemy aircraft on Finnish and Norwegian airfields. Its peculiarity was that, due to the large removal of enemy air bases (200-350 km), only part of our fighters participated in the operation. Bombers had to operate in unusual conditions of the polar day. And although, in general, the operation was very efficient (for 6 days, our pilots disabled the 130 order of the German and Finnish aircraft), it was not possible to make a radical change in the air situation in the northern theater.
In the 1941 year, when German and Finnish troops were active in offensive operations, the destruction of enemy aircraft took place mainly in the air. The pilots of the 14 Army Air Forces, 103 th AD this year shot down an 124 aircraft and destroyed 37 vehicles at the airfields.
From the autumn of 1942 to October 1944, there was a relative lull in the activity of the ground forces, which also affected the nature of the combat work of the aviation. The German command, not having sufficient forces to seize Murmansk, switched its aircraft to the task of disrupting sea and railway communications, which carried out the communication of the USSR with its allies and the supply of troops on the Karelian front and the Northern Fleet.
Cover from the air of Murmansk and Arkhangelsk, the Kirov Railway and the Allied convoys depended directly on the possibility of achieving air superiority. The peculiarity of this struggle was that all types of aviation (long-range, front-line, air defense and sea) and all types (bomber, assault, fighter, reconnaissance) participated in it in close cooperation with each other. During periods in the path of the Allied convoys, in order to prevent enemy aircraft from departing, our bombers usually intensified strikes on its bases.
In the summer of 1943, our aircraft managed to gain dominance in the northern sky. The balance of power was already in our favor. The 7 Air Force, organized in November 1942, and the Northern Fleet air forces had more than 500 aircraft, and the enemy less than 400, and its aircraft fleet decreased every month. By the beginning of the Petsamo-Kirkenes operation (in October 1944 of the year), the Nazis in northern Norway had only 160 aircraft (in the depth of Norway they were based over 300 intended for operations against allied maritime communications). At this time, the 7 Air Force, with air connections attached to it, had 747 airplanes, and the Northern Fleet air forces had more than 700.
In the course of the Petsamo-Kirkenes operation, our pilots fought exclusively for the preservation of air superiority previously won. The situation was complicated by the fact that in the harsh northern conditions, the Soviet troops could not ensure the timely construction of new airfields in the liberated territory, and therefore our aviators had to act with the old ones. In the course of the offensive, the distance from the contact line to the airfields based on our aircraft increased, while in the Germans, on the contrary, it decreased. This caused an increase in the danger of the sudden appearance of German aircraft over Soviet troops.
In order to detect enemy aircraft in a timely manner, in addition to using radar equipment, they began to successfully apply the following method: away from German airfields, but not beyond visual visibility, they constantly patrol a pair of our fighter aircraft, and the pilots openly informed the radio command of the actions air enemy.
To maintain air supremacy, enemy planes continued to be destroyed in the air and at airfields. Only 9 of October 1944 of the 7 Air Force pilots conducted 32 aerial combat, as a result of which our fighters shot down 37 of enemy aircraft. It is characteristic that most of these battles took place over enemy territory, which indicates the offensive tactics of Soviet aviation. This success was secured on October 11 by a powerful bombing and attack attack on the German airfield Salmijärvi, on which the aircraft 33 was destroyed. In general, in a few days the Germans lost the order of 100 machines, after which they noticeably weakened their resistance. In total, for the period of the Petsamo-Kirkenes operation, the Nazi 181 aircraft was destroyed.
In the course of the fight against enemy aircraft, many pilots distinguished themselves. The best-known ace in the Arctic became the double Hero of the Soviet Union, Lieutenant Colonel B. F. Safonov. He performed about three hundred combat missions, in which he personally and 41 destroyed an enemy aircraft. They became Heroes of the Soviet Union in the sky of the North and such pilots as: V.S. Adonkin, N.A. Boky, I.V. Bochkov, P.S. Kutahov, L.A. Galchenko, P.G. Sgibnev, G. V. Gromov, P. D. Klimov, A. S. Khlobystov A. A. Kovalenko, P. I. Orlov, E. A. Krivosheee, S. G. Kurzenkov, and many of our other pilots.
The effectiveness of ground support for leading defensive and offensive operations depended on the success of our aviation in the struggle for air supremacy. At the beginning of the fascist offensive in the Arctic, its aircraft, which had a large quantitative superiority, carried out attacks on Soviet troops by large groups from 12 to 40 aircraft. In the absence of the necessary countermeasures against air defenses, enemy bombers were most often rearranged in a circle and from dives from 600 to 800 m, with a dive, attacked ground targets with single planes.
With the increased activity of the German ground forces, who sought to seize Murmansk, our aviation provided increasing support to the 14 Army. This is noticeable by the fact that before September 1941 of the year, in order to interact with the troops of the 14 Army, the aircraft made 43% of sorties, but in the next three months - 62%. During this period, the main task of the Northern Fleet aviation was to support the ground forces. In the first four months of the war, when the enemy conducted offensive operations in the Arctic, the air forces of the 14 Army carried out 7979 sorties, the Northern Fleet 8131, of which more than 3000 were used to support the actions and cover of the ground forces.
In September, the 1941 of the 14 Army had 10 day bombers. They mainly struck the enemy rear. And over the battlefield acted mainly fighters, performing the role of attack aircraft. In particular, they used such tactics: the I-153 conducted ground attack of ground targets, and the I-16 covered them. After the assault group consumed up to 70% of ammunition, the cover group proceeded to the assault actions, and its task was performed by the first group.
In the period of stabilization of the front in the Arctic, widespread "free hunting". And this, too, was due to the peculiarities of the North. In the fall and spring there are short days there, and therefore it is necessary to strike the detected target immediately, without waiting for our planes to arrive at the call of the air reconnaissance and the pilots will find the enemy. In February 1943, a special meeting was held among the “hunter” pilots of the 7 Air Army, at which it was pointed out that it was necessary to intensify the actions of the “hunters” and to popularize their experience more widely. After the meeting, the “free hunt” was still widespread.
Soviet aviation, acting in the interests of the ground forces, breaking through the enemy’s defenses and leading the offensive, destroyed enemy strongholds, suppressed artillery batteries, stormed manpower, covered ground forces, conducted constant reconnaissance of the battlefield and German rears. Aviation of the Northern Fleet was of great help to the naval landing forces that were landed on the 10 night of October 1944 on the shore of the Malaya Volokovaya Bay and to the 24 clock on October 12 - in the port of Linahamari.
It is characteristic that in the harsh polar conditions at a high rate of attack of the troops of the 14 Army, artillery units often lagged behind the rifle, and their tasks were assumed by the bomber and assault aircraft, which acted upon by the combined arms units.
The following data convincingly testifies to the effectiveness of aviation operations in providing support from ground forces from the air. During the operation, the aviation forces of the Karelian Front and the Northern Fleet destroyed several thousand enemy soldiers and officers, more than 800 vehicles and a large number of other military equipment, eliminated 40 various military warehouses, to 30 dugouts and dugouts, suppressed fire around 150 artillery batteries.
During the periods of maritime convoys, the bombers, as indicated above, acted on the enemy's airfields. Fleet air reconnaissance aircraft were searching for enemy submarines, and fighter aircraft covered convoys from enemy aircraft operations.
Providing the wiring of each convoy required a lot of effort. For example, in May, 1942 in the interests of the English convoy PQ-16, consisting of 34 transports, 19 surface escort ships and 2 submarines, our pilots made over a thousand sorties, of which more than 130 - to attack German airfields , 730 - to cover ports, about 250 - for the purpose of reconnaissance and fighter cover ships. During the war, in order to provide convoy escort, the crews of the Northern Fleet aviation performed 11326 sorties, or 20% of all sorties.
The enemy made great efforts, trying to disable the seaports in Murmansk and Arkhangelsk ports, especially during periods when the Allied convoys were in them. But thanks to the organization of powerful air defense, the interaction of the pilots and the ground-based air defense system, the enemy’s attempts to disrupt the work of these ports were unsuccessful, and since May 1943, the raids on them have ceased.
By all means the enemy aircraft sought to disrupt the work of the Kirov railway. The greatest activity of German aviation in this area in the period from December 1942 to the beginning of the summer 1943, especially in the area from the station. Kandalaksha to Art. Louhi In this direction, the enemy's airfields were closer to the railroad than the Soviet ones, and the flight route passed over the difficult wooded and swampy areas, where there were virtually no Soviet VNOS posts. This allowed the enemy to appear in the area of railway facilities suddenly. At the beginning of the war, raids were carried out mostly by groups of pre-12 bombers without fighter escort. But, encountering increasingly stubborn opposition in the air, enemy bombers began to fly under cover of fighters, and, moreover, in smaller groups. Attempts by the Germans to block our airfields were ineffective: the blocking aircraft suffered significant losses from the actions of ground-based air defense systems and our fighters.
Attempts by the enemy to bombard echelons at stations of the Kirov railway at night with single Ju-88 aircraft turned out to be completely ineffective. Then the enemy aircraft began to catch echelons en route. The situation on the railway was complicated. It was necessary to take urgent measures to strengthen the air defense of the road and the echelons themselves, which were accompanied by special air defense groups. To cover the road section of the Kandalaksha-Loukhi, 122-I fighter air defense systems and 19-th Guards IAP, who managed to provide effective protection of the transport line, were involved.
Our planes fought with the enemy’s sea posts. However, in the initial period of the war, these actions were ineffective due to the small number of the aircraft fleet, the involvement of naval aviation forces to ensure the actions of the ground forces and the lack of necessary experience. As they arrived at parts of the mine-torpedo aviation technology and the development of low torpedo combat by the aircrew, the attacks of the Northern Seamen became more and more effective. If in 1941, the 4 transport was damaged by aircraft, then in 1943, 21 transport, 2 vessel, 5 warships and 19 transports were damaged.
Even more intensified actions of our aviation in violation of enemy sea communications in 1944. In total, during the war, North Sea pilots made 13244 aircraft for action on maritime communications, which accounted for 23% of all sorties. Crews inflicted massive torpedo-bombing attacks on German convoys at sea and in ports, and also destroyed transports and ships during cruising flights. Most of the destroyed enemy transports were the result of the actions of torpedo-carrying aircraft, and the damaged ones - assault. The effectiveness of the attack aircraft has especially increased since the spring of 1944, when they began to use the top-mast method of bombing. The greatest success was achieved by the crews of the Heroes of the Soviet Union I.T. Volynkina, P.A. Galkina, V.N. Kisileva, S.A. Makarevich, D.V. Osyki, G.V. Pavlova, B.P. Syromyatnikova, E.I. Frantseva.
One of the main tasks of aviation was to conduct aerial reconnaissance. Given the conditions of the Arctic, its importance was especially great. Exploration by other means in the boundless tundra was either unacceptable or extremely difficult. Conducting aerial reconnaissance, in addition to countering fighter aviation and ground-based air defense systems, complicated the rugged coast of Northern Norway, the presence of numerous fjords, bays, islands, rocky terrain, polar night, and difficult meteorological conditions.
Giving serious importance to aerial reconnaissance, the Soviet command constantly strengthened its units with experienced personnel, new aircraft, more sophisticated photographic equipment, and improved the organization of the entire airborne reconnaissance service. If in the initial period of the war only a few small reconnaissance air units operated in the North, then already in the second period there was one separate reconnaissance air regiment in the 7 air army and the Northern Fleet air force. Aerial reconnaissance was conducted (tactical - within 100 km, operational - at a depth of up to 300 km) in two ways: by visual observation and by photographing. Her data were communicated to the commanders of the battalions and their peers. During the Petsamo-Kirkenes operation in the interests of aerial reconnaissance, there were up to 20 sorties per day.
Improved during the war and aviation management. This was facilitated by: departures of operational groups in the area of active hostilities, the development of communications, especially radio, which became the main means of controlling aviation. The interaction between aviation and ground forces was not clearly organized. Poor designation of the front line, unstable communication between aviation and combined-arms headquarters sometimes led to the fact that air strikes were inflicted on secondary targets and not at a specified time. The most perfect was the interaction between the types of troops in the Petsamo-Kirkenes operation. Even before it began, the command post of the commander of the 7 th air army was deployed along with the command post of the commander of the 14 army; KP commanders of 260 and 261 of mixed aviation divisions of Colonel G. A. Kalugin and Major General Aviation And D. Udonin - next to KP of commanders of 99 and 131 of rifle corps with whom they interacted. In each division of these corps there were aviation representatives with the necessary radio equipment for targeting combat aircraft to the target. In advance, a table was developed for signals of interaction between aviation and ground forces, designations of the front line, etc.
The organization of interaction between aviation units of the front, fleet, air defense and long-range aviation was constantly improved. An effective form of solving this task was the transfer of air force units to the operational subordination to the commander, whose formations in this period solved the main task. In 1942-1943 a number of aviation units of the Karelian Front, by order of the Supreme Command Headquarters, three times were under the operational control of the commander of the Northern Fleet Air Force. During the Petsamo-Kirkenes operation, a part of the Northern Fleet aviation, the 122-th Fighter Aviation Division and the 113-bomber division RVGK were under the operational control of the commander of the 7-Air Army
The meteorological features of the region and, in particular, the long polar nights had a great influence on the combat work of aviation in the North. Weather conditions were taken into account both at the planning stage of combat operations and during the performance of combat missions by air units. Thus, during the planning of the Petsamo-Kirkenes operation, the 7 Air Force headquarters developed two options for the combat use of aviation: the first for meteorological conditions that allow the use of all its deliveries, the second in case of bad weather that does not allow the use of bombers. In the Arctic, there were frequent cases of complete cessation of any kind of flights due to adverse weather conditions. During the polar night, there was also a significant decrease in the activity of the combat work of aviation. But in the summer, when there was a long polar day, there was a sharp increase in the voltage of combat work. For example, during the periods of passage of convoys and in the days of the summer offensive of the fascists in 1941, the Soviet pilots made up to 10 sorties per day.
With a lot of difficulties and features of operation and repair in the harsh conditions of the Polar region, the engineering and technical staff had to face. The work was complicated not only by the harsh weather, but also by the obsolete mate part, the underdeveloped repair network, the shortage of trained aviation specialists, and the acute shortage of spare parts in the initial period of the war. The result was the fact that in 1942, the air forces of the Karelian Front had on average 17-19% of defective machines. By the autumn of 1943, in the 7-th Air Army, in order to remedy the situation, mobile aircraft repair bases were created that could significantly improve the situation.
Many difficulties were created when servicing the aircraft fleet, the specific features of the basing of aviation units in the Arctic. Work from ground strips of field aerodromes caused rapid wear of the equipment, increased air humidity and strong temperature fluctuations caused the aggregates to corrode, and the technical staff had to carry out regular maintenance more often. Naturally, the heaviest car maintenance was in the winter. Cleaning the aircraft from ice, warming up the engines, which were constantly required to be ready for launch, draining fluids from the engine and systems after the flight, all this required a lot of time and effort, which in winter increased one and a half times compared to the summer period.
For aviation rear specialists, the tasks of aerodrome support of aviation units presented the greatest difficulty. To find one site for the airfield, it was necessary to examine the area of several thousand square kilometers. For these tasks used aircraft PO-2. The task was complicated in winter, when snow cover covered the ground, and the polar night reduced visibility. In this case, assistance was provided by rare locals and hunters who knew the surroundings.
The construction of airfields in the Arctic - is extremely time-consuming. Therefore, in the first period of the war, the airfield network was developed at the expense of those sites, the construction and reconstruction of which began in the prewar period. Already later began to build new ones. Subsequently, there was a need to reconstruct and expand the existing ones, due to the fact that the new construction aircraft that came into service required more lengthy runways.
A lot of difficulties fell to the share of signalmen. The wired connection, poorly developed by 1941, was regularly broken. Permanent lines of communication, which passed near the roads, with the strikes of enemy aircraft on highways failed. In the conditions of the Far North, radio became the primary means, but its use was hampered by the lack of equipment, especially at the beginning of the war, as well as by strong ionospheric storms, most often occurring in spring and autumn. The most difficult thing was to provide communications for the air unit when they entered the ice airfields.
But whatever the conditions and difficulties, even in the harsh Arctic, our soldiers and officers honestly carried out their combat work, bringing the common Victory closer.
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