Military Review

The combat work of the Baltic air reconnaissance

The combat work of the Baltic air reconnaissance

Combat experience aviation Our fleets during the years of World War II showed that its success, with other favorable conditions, depended largely on the completeness of the enemy’s and weather data available to the command. There were times when only intelligence aircraft were the provider of this data from remote areas.

The main aviation intelligence agency of the Baltic fleet throughout the war there was the 15th aviation regiment of the air force (from March 19, 1943 the 15th separate reconnaissance aviation regiment - orap), which consisted of four aviation squadrons by the beginning of hostilities, of which three were based on the lakes of the south coast of the Gulf of Finland near Leningrad and one in Vyborg.

The aircrew of the regiment was well prepared for conducting reconnaissance at sea, solving independently and jointly with the ships of the anti-submarine defense (ASW) missions in the basing areas of the fleet. All air reconnaissance aircraft had experience of flying in adverse weather conditions, and 70% also had experience at night. However, the initial period of the war was very difficult for them. The seaplanes MVR-2, with which the regiment was mainly equipped, were significantly inferior to the enemy fighters in combat stability. In solving the problems of PLO and reconnaissance, which at that time could only be carried out in daylight, they suffered heavy losses. By the end of 1941, mainly in air battles, the regiment lost 40 crews, 75 aircraft MBR-2 and 3 MDR-6.

Spring 1943 of the year made its own adjustments to the affairs of aerial reconnaissance aircraft. There were new tasks, the conditions for their implementation have changed, as a result, there have been changes in the organizational structure of the 15 operation. He re-armed. It consisted of two newly formed ground-based air squadrons: 44-I, consisting of Pe-2 and Bostons, and 43-I - from reconnaissance fighters Yak-7, replaced by the fall of the Yak-9.

In 1944, as a result of the successful offensive of our troops in the Baltic States, the operational area of ​​operations of the fleet aviation increased. Changed the location of all its parts. Significantly increased the need for information about the enemy from the areas of hostilities that covered almost the entire Baltic Sea.

By the end of the year, submarines entered the sea communications. Providing their actions with data on enemy convoys has become one of the constant tasks of aviators. In May, the regiment was joined by another Yak-9 reconnaissance fighter squadron, formed from experienced combat pilots of units of fighter aviation of the fleet. But even with this replenishment in the fifteenth regiment was not enough strength. In March, the 1945 was reinforced by a single Boston aviation squadron A-20G 30 orap of the Black Sea Fleet. So, reflecting the changes in the situation, the composition and structure of the 15 operap changed during the war.

It would seem, what, besides the sea, could be the direction in the fighting of the crews of the ICBM-2? Their native element is the sea. But the situation of the initial period of the war in the Baltics on the distant and near approaches to Leningrad, having changed everything abruptly, dictated new directions in their combat operations. They became two: sea and land. And by the end of the first half of July, the land became the main one. It was on the solution of tasks on it, acting as night bombers, that the main efforts of the 15-th orap were directed. The transition to night activities was necessary and justified, since most of the crews already had experience of such flights.

The situation in the Leningrad direction required round-the-clock support of troops by aviation. There was a lack of front-line aviation, and in combat operations on the land direction during the summer-autumn period of the 1941, almost all naval aviation was involved.

Starting from the second half of July, daily, from dawn until darkness, bombers and a significant part of naval fighters launched bombing attacks on troops and military equipment of the enemy, rushing to Leningrad, and at night they were bombed by the squadron MBR-2. This made it possible in the given directions to achieve continuity of aviation influence on the German troops on the approaches to the frontiers of our defense, such as Luga and others. The air strikes that did not stop day and night exhausted the enemy, slowed down the pace of its advance, and sometimes stopped, forcing them to dig into the ground. In order to carry out night strikes to the enemy in battles for Leningrad, in July and August, squadrons of the fifteenth air regiment made 862 sorties.

The beginning was laid on July 14, when the report of the 7th border detachment was transmitted to all squadrons of the regiment: “On the highway, in the area of ​​Lake Dolgoe, 100 south of Kingisepp, tanks, 120 motor vehicles, 100 motorcyclists ... moving towards the villages of Muraveino and Ivanovo. Border squad asks for help. " The command of the regiment, it was decided: with the onset of darkness with all forces to bomb German tanks and vehicles. As soon as it got dark, MBR-2s took off. The composition of the groups was determined by the weather in the area of ​​impact. One thing was common - the direction of flight. It led the crews of the ICBM-2 south. Where support was needed.

The summer of 1941 was ending. The nights became longer, the objects of the strikes of flying boats, as a rule, were located a short distance from the home airfields, and the crews made two or three departures per night. In August another task was assigned to the regiment - to provide intelligence, mainly about the weather, with our aircraft, which was attacking Berlin. On August 4, the crews of the BF air force 1 assigned to this, and a week later the crews of long-range aviation flew to Esel. Only from here on airplanes DB-3 could fly to Berlin.

The success of strikes in Berlin largely depended on the weather. Its dramatic changes in the Baltic Sea are known. Their cause is cyclones passing over the Baltic Sea. So, in August and in the first half of September, 1941 of such cyclones was 11. At this time, flights at high altitudes are impossible, since the passage through the clouds with a small thickness caused icing of the aircraft. Therefore, the weather along the flight route of the bombers had to be known by the end of each day. This task, as well as determining the direction and speed of the wind in the middle part of the Baltic Sea and approaching the coast of Germany, was assigned to the MDR-6 air squadron. Laid the beginning of its implementation and made the largest number of sorties to the shores of Germany was komesk
Captain F. Usachev.

Departing from the Ülemiste airfield in the morning, a pair of MDR-6 departed for the 8-hour flight, which took place along a given route to the southern coast of the Baltic Sea, in full radio silence. On their return, the scouts made a landing in Kihelkona Bay (Father Ezel). In the case of obtaining favorable weather data for the flight, the decision was made to depart. With the onset of twilight, DB-3 went to take-off, and went off to strike at Berlin.

When the last of them left Cahul, the scouts, who were by this time already in Kihelkone, taking off and clinging to the water, left at Ülemiste.

To assist the crews of DB-3, boarded the water, and to duplicate the departure of reconnaissance from Ülemiste, if due to weather conditions or other circumstances it could not take place at the estimated time, in the middle part of the Baltic Sea, in Kihelkone from the beginning of the flights to Berlin, permanently based two MDR-6.

By the end of 1942, the main efforts of the air reconnaissance regiment began to focus on the sea direction. With its rearmament on land planes, the main task of aerial reconnaissance has been reduced to providing information about the enemy, the weather and other tasks of organizing and conducting combat operations of naval aviation, submarines and surface ships. It was solved by systematic reconnaissance of naval bases, ports, search for enemy warships and its convoys on communications.

The tactics of their actions depended on many conditions and factors, the main ones of which include:

- the military-geographical features of the areas of operations in which the tasks of aerial reconnaissance were solved;
- the nature and degree of possible counteraction of enemy forces and means of air defense in areas, although this was largely determined and depended on the first condition;
- the tasks of the fleet forces, for the solution of which the air reconnaissance mined information about the enemy and the weather in the areas of upcoming hostilities;
- tactical and technical data of reconnaissance aircraft, their combat stability and the level of flight tactical training of crews.

By the beginning of spring 1943, the increased opposition of the enemy to the passage of intelligence officers at the mouth of the Gulf of Finland became noticeable. The data obtained by the Soviet pilots at that time spoke of an increase in the activity of boats and minesweepers on the approaches to Tallinn and Helsinki. In one of the Pe-2 sorties in the photographs of a group of ships approaching from the north to Tallinn, a network barrier was identified. So it became known about the work of the enemy on the equipment of the Western network of anti-submarine barriers.

Submarines were preparing to enter the communications of the Baltic Sea. When it became known that the Gulf of Finland at its mouth was blocked by anti-submarine networks, aviation was trying to break the nets with strikes of torpedo bomber and diving bombers and thereby ensure the submarines to break through on communications. But this was not achieved. Anti-submarine networks throughout the summer and autumn remained intact, closing the bay.

To monitor the ports of Libava (Liepaja), Vindava (Ventspils) and Memel (Klaipeda), the Yak-9 fighter reconnaissance aircraft were mainly used. These ports were viewed and photographed once or twice a day.

The route and flight profile of the Yak-9 and the tactics of port exploration were mainly determined by the weather conditions. The route was laid at a calculated point usually 15-20 km more seaward of the explored port, when approaching the scouts had a height of 4-6 thousand meters. When the port was shown at an angle of 80-90 ° to the flight direction, the crew sharply turned and led with a small lay down on the course of aerial photography. Departure from the object of intelligence was usually performed in the direction of the sun or towards the sea. Reverse flight in clear weather took place, as a rule, at high altitude. In case of bad weather (cloudiness 10 points, height of the lower edge 100-200 m, visibility not more than 5 km), the flight to the reconnaissance object was made at the height of 50-100 m, and the departure was directly below the bottom edge.

Koenigsberg (Kaliningrad), Pillau (Baltiysk), Gdynia, Danzig (Gdansk) exploration, as a rule, was also conducted by Yak-9 pairs. With a strong opposition - fours. The reconnaissance of bases and ports by the Pe-2 crews was rarely carried out during the day, and it was only in recent months that they began to systematically monitor and photograph the Swinemünde naval base using suspended tanks on an aircraft.

At night, reconnaissance of ports on Pe-2 aircraft was carried out from the side opposite to the moon's glow, which achieved the stealth of the approach and the best observation conditions, which made it possible to view the raid and the harbor on a light screen created by moonlight.

After completing the task, if the night fighters were out of action in the port area, the reconnaissance aircraft departed in the direction of the moon, making it difficult for searchlights to search. In moonless nights, light bombs (SABs) were used, creating a light screen with the duration of illumination of the object in 3-6 min. At the same time, a port harbor raid was fairly well viewed.

The pilots were not only systematically monitoring ports, but also coastal communications intelligence, which were called so, although they were far from coastal, as they passed 60-80 km from the coast (linking Libau and Windau with Memel, Pilla and the ports of Danzig Bay).

Violation of maritime transport between these ports and the ports of East Prussia, and then the ports of Danzig Bay, was assigned to fleet aviation and submarines. Providing their actions with information about the enemy in the southeast, and later on in the southern part of the Baltic Sea, became the main task of the 15 air regiment.

At the end of October, its main forces, consisting of two full-strength air squadrons (the first was the Pe-2 and the Bostons, and the second — the Yak-9 reconnaissance aircraft) flew over to the coastal Palanga airfield. The number of areas and the depth of aerial reconnaissance have changed significantly. Now almost all areas of the Baltic Sea, in which the enemy naval forces could be located, and all the routes of its sea transportation were under the supervision of our intelligence officers. It was conducted around the clock, and only non-flying weather interrupted him.

Special training required the performance of aerial reconnaissance at night. Night crews studied the explored areas to the smallest details using large-scale maps and aerial photographs. The pilots knew the memory and configuration of the large and small islands in them. Practice has shown that it is small islands that make it difficult to search and locate ships in the skerry areas. The most prepared crews were assigned to difficult areas and reconnaissance routes. Making systematic flights there, they studied them well, which greatly improved the quality of the search for ships and the probability of their detection. Even small changes in the situation in the surveyed areas did not go unnoticed by them.

The crews of the MBR-2, as a rule, who had a great pre-war experience of night reconnaissance of ships at sea, correctly estimated the natural illumination of the surveyed areas and, accordingly, selected the position of the aircraft relative to the possible location of the objects to be searched. On a dark night, reconnaissance was carried out at altitudes from 400 to 1200 m. When searching for ships from specified altitudes using the SAB, a better survey of the areas was provided. However, using these light sources on a dark night, especially in the skerry areas, this task was almost impossible. At the same time, ships at the crossings were quite well detected by the breakers. They also determined the marching order and the elements of their movement (course, speed). If there were several SABs on board the scout, they were dropped along the length of the order, since the ships at night most often walked along the wake. With one SAB, it was dropped over the center of the convoy. The calculation was made so that the light screen and the demolition of the SAB were directed toward the detected ships. Therefore, the accuracy of determining the direction of the wind during the night search for convoys received much attention.

On a bright night, the results of ship reconnaissance, usually carried out without the use of technical means of illumination of the surveyed areas, were generally good. The scouts, being in the dark part of the horizon relative to the explored area, even small ships were quickly detected on the water surface from the removal of 15-20 km, and as a rule, their class was accurately determined from the removal of 5-7 km.

During reconnaissance of ships on communications passing along the eastern and southeastern coast of the Baltic Sea, it was taken into account that in the first half of the night, when the moon shines from the southeast, it is better to go far into the sea so that the moonlight is at an angle 90 ° to the flight path scout In this case, the ships are well observed on the lunar path. Since the beginning of spring 1945, the situation in the south of the Baltic has become even more complicated for the enemy. The need to supply the cut off East Prussian grouping led to an increase in its maritime transport.

Immediately increased the number of sorties aerial reconnaissance. In the difficult weather conditions of March (8 flight and 9 for limited flight days), on 15, only 832 was taken out on a reconnaissance of communications, during which departure 129 convoys were detected in the southern regions of the Baltic Sea. In March, 47 transports, 17 battleships, tanker, 4 high-speed landing barges were sunk by naval air strikes. When, due to bad weather, it was difficult for the strike groups to reach the convoys, the scouts came to the rescue. More than 20, they led the attack group, dive-bombers, torpedo bombers and topmasters to the convoys using the lead method. Beyond the strike zone of the fleet aviation on convoys, i.e. to the west of them, submariners were active on communications. To ensure this, the depth of aerial reconnaissance increased and more frequent flights of “Bostons” of the 15 orap to the night search began.

On April 26, almost all of the 43-I fighter reconnaissance aviation squadron and most of the crews of the Pe-2 and Bostons from 44 flew from Palanga to Eastern Pomerania - to Kolberg. And immediately joined in monitoring the activities of enemy ships in the area of ​​the Pomeranian Bay and the south-western regions of the Baltic Sea.

There were the last days of the war. The voltage of the air reconnaissance was increasing. Only on 8 days in May, they carried out 400 sorties, delivering strikes in Pomeranian Bay with torpedo bombers, topmacht and attack planes who flew to Kolberg after us, as well as air strikes on convoys and warships in other Baltic regions.

The 16722 sorties for aerial reconnaissance, for bomb strikes - this is the result of the combat labor of 15 aerial reconnaissance aircraft. The regiment was awarded the Order of the Red Banner, the Order of Ushakov II degree. He was given the name of Tallinn, and the entire staff was awarded orders and medals. Nine pilots: Philip Usachev, Ivan Nemkov, Alexander Kurzenkov, Grigory Davidenko, Mikhail Tobolenko, Nikolay Shapkin, Alexey Grachev, Grigory Chagotsu and Vasily Gorin were awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union.

Matiyasevich L. Aerial Photography. Past present Future. M .: Polygon-Press, 2011 C. 48-87.
Monetchikov S. The All-Seeing Eye of Aerial Photography // Bratishka. 2013. No.1. C. 36-42.
Ermilov S. Fights began with intelligence // Sea collection. 1990. No.4. C. 48-51.
Matiyasevich L. Aerofotorazvedka: lessons of the new time // Red Star. December 10 2008 of the year.
Dear reader, to leave comments on the publication, you must to register.

I have an account? Sign in

  1. Alex_59
    Alex_59 12 November 2015 07: 45
    Why didn't Weinemäinen mention? It was a dashing operation, though it was not him that was sunk, but the Niobe. My grandfather - the chief of intelligence (rank - major) of the 9th IAP of the 47th ShAD BF ensured this operation, together with the "general" 15th ORAP. Immediately during the strike, the fighters of the 9th IAP provided cover for dive bombers and attack aircraft.
    This is just the case when the reconnaissance did not work out in the most successful way - the battleship was never caught. In war, as in war, the adversary also does not flap his ears.
    1. Volga Cossack
      Volga Cossack 12 November 2015 09: 49
      Yes with Vanya - Mania an omission. but the operation is dashing it is true !!!! and MBR - 2 is my favorite plane.
    2. The comment was deleted.