Fighter aviation Air defense (IA air defense) due to its armament, maneuverability and offensive nature of operations during the Great Patriotic War remained the main striking force of the country's air defense forces. Interacting with various branches of the army, she covered large strategic centers, reserves, various front-line facilities, railway communications from air strikes, and performed a number of other tasks.
Together with anti-aircraft artillery (ZA), searchlight units and barrage balloons (AZ), fighter aircraft repulsed enemy air raids both during daylight hours and at night. Night conditions precluded the use of aircraft by warring parties in dense battle formations. That is why air battles at this time of day were conducted, as a rule, by single planes.
At night, fighter aircraft operated at distant and near approaches to covered objects. At the closest approaches to the IA Air Defense, zones of night air combat were outlined, and in the faraway approaches, free search zones.
Night combat zones were installed around the object, usually at a distance of no more than 20 km from the outer boundary of effective anti-aircraft artillery fire and at a distance of 15-20 km from each other. So, by the middle of August 1941, 16 of such zones was prepared in the Moscow air defense system. In the summer of 1942, at the approaches to Voronezh, at a distance of 15-20 km from the city, there were 4 zones of night combat. If the most notable landmarks were absent, the zones were marked with light signs (searchlight beams). They were planned in such a way that the fighter pilots could find the enemy plane and shoot it down before entering the ZA fire zone.
With the presence of illuminated searchlight fields (SPP), the latter were simultaneously the zones of night combat of fighters. Light maintenance of night combat for air defense fighters was created only with the defense of large centers. And the continuous ring of SPP was organized only around Moscow, and during the defense of other cities (Leningrad, Saratov, Gorky, Kiev, Riga, etc.), the light searchlight fields were created on separate probable directions of flights of the enemy aviation. Such areas were typical linear landmarks: railways and highways, rivers, banks of reservoirs, etc. The depth of the light searchlight fields, as a rule, did not exceed 30-40 km (5-6 min flight of an enemy aircraft at a speed of 360-400 km / h). If the target was illuminated at the leading edge of the spotlight's light field, then our fighters had the opportunity to make 2-3 attacks. In the light field acted one fighter regiment. Before 1942, each DSS had one waiting area for fighters. As a result, fewer fighters took off into the air than was required, as a result of which the combat capabilities of the air defense weapons were reduced. Thus, in the summer of 1941, during German air raids on Moscow, there were cases when the number of simultaneously illuminated enemy aircraft exceeded the number of air defense fighters in the SPP, and part of the enemy bombers crossed the light field unhindered.
Then, in subsequent years, changes were made in the use of the floodlight fields. A number of activities were carried out to increase the efficiency of mutual actions of searchlight and aviation parts. In particular, instead of one waiting area, three light fields were organized in each light field (two at the front edge of the DSS and one at the center). This made it possible to increase the number of vehicles simultaneously lifted into the air, and the likelihood of intercepting enemy aircraft increased.
To destroy enemy bombers on the distant approaches to the object to be covered (usually at a distance of 100 km from it, in the direction of the probable routes of the flight of the enemy aircraft), free search zones were created. In them, the fighters had to act without lighting.
What were the methods of action of the air defense IA in the dark? This - the duty at the airport and the duty in the air. The main of them was the duty at the airport, during which various levels of combat readiness were established for fighters.
Usually on the night duty stood up an hour before dark. The duration of the stay in readiness number 1 should not be more than two, and in readiness number 2 - six hours (during the day the readiness number 1 was no more than two hours, the readiness number 2 was all daylight hours). The success of fighter aviation sorties to intercept enemy aircraft from the “alert on the airfield” state depended on accurate and timely notification of air units and well-adjusted targeting of the enemy. Usually, when using this method, one downed enemy plane had several times fewer sorties than on air patrols. But the duty on the airfield was effective only when the defended object was at a significant distance from the front line, and the visual posts of VNOS and radar could detect enemy aircraft in a timely manner. Otherwise, the interception of enemy bombers was difficult to guarantee.
Duty in the air at night, in contrast to the actions of the IA during the day, was to patrol fighters in specially prepared and designated areas (zones of night combat, free search areas), in order to intercept and destroy enemy aircraft. The number of fighters patrolling in the air depended on the degree of importance of the object to be defended, the air situation and the distance of the object from the front line, as well as the availability of trained crews for night operations. For reliable air cover of the most important objects, patrols were built in the 2-3 tier (Moscow air defense, Leningrad). The minimum elevation between patrols was 500 m (in the daytime, from 1 to 1,5 km).
If the enemy sought to penetrate the object through only one (two) zone, then air defense fighters from neighboring zones were sent there (depending on the number of enemy bombers). Moreover, heights were indicated at which the duty was carried out in the air in the zone where the reinforcement was directed. When there were light fields in the air defense system, patrol zones were installed in 8-10 km from the front edge of these fields, which enabled the pilots to use the full depth of the searchlight field in combat. Departure of fighters for patrols in the searchlight field was carried out at the command of the commander of the aviation regiment (division). The duty in the air during the day and at night required a lot of effort for the aircrew and entailed a considerable consumption of fuel and motor resources. Therefore, since the summer of 1943, as soon as the high-speed aircraft equipped with more advanced radio communications devices arrived at the air defense unit, as well as a sufficient number of detection and guidance radar stations, they resorted to patrolling the objects by patrols when the fighters took off “On duty at the airfield” for any reason did not ensure timely meeting with the air target (proximity of the front line, lack of radar, etc.).
For each departure, pilots, nightlights carefully prepared. This training consisted in a firm knowledge of the boundaries of their own and neighboring zones of the night battle, free search, waiting areas, and also zones of fire FOR. For each pilot, a flight path to the waiting area was plotted. The entrance (exit) gates of this zone were indicated. The altitude and the patrol method were assigned, the interaction signals between the IA, FOR and the searchlight parts were studied. In their area, the crews had to clearly know the boundaries of the PPS, light reference points, firing positions of the ZA batteries and alternate aerodromes in case of a forced landing.
The material part was being prepared for night activities. In particular, the mode of operation of the engine was pre-regulated so that the emission of exhaust gases in flight was the weakest. Instruments and their night lighting, aircraft armament, etc. were also checked. Such training was carried out, for example, in 11, 16, 27, 34, and other 6 air defense fighter regiments.
Tactical actions of air defense fighter aircraft were carried out with and without light support. In the first and in the second periods of the war, in the presence of light, the provision of the air defense IA operated as follows. Finding aerial targets, illuminated by searchlights, the fighters approached them and started a battle. Attacks pilots produced, in most cases, from the rear hemisphere (top or bottom) depending on the position when approaching. The fire was fired from the shortest possible distances without much risk of being shot down first, since the crews of the enemy bombers were blinded by searchlight beams and did not see the attacking fighters.
Here are two examples. On the night of July 22 1941, the Nazis made their first massive raid on the capital. It used 250 bombers. The first groups were noticed by VNOS posts in the Vyazma area. This made it possible to bring air defense weapons, including the IA, into readiness to repel a raid. German planes were attacked even on the distant approaches to Moscow. To repel an air strike, 170 6 and Air Defense Fighters were involved.
Active air battles took place in the light searchlight fields at the turn of Solnechnogorsk-Golitsyno. Among the first in the air, the commander of the 11 squadron and air defense system Captain K.N. Titenkov and attacked the leader of the German bombers Non-111. First, he struck the air gunner, and then he set fire to an enemy plane from a short distance. On this night, the air defense fighters conducted 25 air battles, in which 12 German bombers were shot down. The main result was the breakdown, together with the forces of the ZA, an air strike on Moscow, only single aircraft could break through to it.
Near Leningrad, the most successful air battles were conducted by the 7 and Air Defense fighters in May-June 1942, when the Nazis launched an operation to mine the fairways in the area of Fr. Kotlin. Success was achieved due to the timely detection of enemy bombers and the guidance of our fighters using radio equipment to the aerial targets illuminated by searchlights, and, besides, the tactically competent actions of our pilots who approached the enemy, remaining unnoticed, and fired from small distances, mainly from the rear top hemispheres. Only 9 enemy planes were shot down, but the enemy’s plan was foiled.
In their initial performance during the initial period of the war, our planes were mostly inferior to the Germans, and the pilots, having spent their ammunition, were forced to use ramming to prevent the bombardment of important objects (Lieutenant P.V. Yeremeyev, Junior Lieutenant V.V. Talalikhin, Lieutenant A.N. Katrich and many others). This tactical technique was carefully developed and demanded heroism and skill. Soviet pilots destroyed enemy planes, often saving their planes for new battles. Gradually, due to the quantitative as well as the qualitative growth of fighter aircraft, improved weapons and the acquisition of tactical skill, air ramming began to be used less and less, and by the end of the war they practically disappeared.
From the second half of 1943, after the rapid advance of the Soviet Army, the enemy could no longer raid large centers deep in the country. Therefore, the fighting in the illuminated searchlight fields of the IA Air Defense Force almost did not lead. Searchlight parts provided mainly fighting FOR.
Air defense fighters with 1944, in the absence of the SPP, used lighting bombs (SAR). The greatest success was achieved by pilots 148 iad under the command of Colonel A.A. Tereshkina. Consider briefly the night battle of this division with the use of SAR. The aircraft were usually echeloned in three tiers. In the first, fighters patrolled at the height of flight of enemy bombers, in the second - above them on 1500-2000 m; in the third - higher on 500 m second tier. Radar and VNOS posts detected an airborne enemy. When the enemy’s aircraft were approaching the waiting area, the fighter, patrolling in the second tier, received a command from the command post: “Reset SAR.” After this, the fighters of the first tier searched and attacked the lighted aircraft. The pilot who dropped the SAR immediately went down, searched, and also entered into battle. And the fighter that patrolled in the waiting area of the third tier, watching the situation. If the enemy plane was trying to leave the lighted zone, he dropped the SAR, strengthening the illumination zone, and attacked the enemy himself. Otherwise, the tactical actions of the anti-aircraft defense without light support were carried out.
On a lunar night, during patrols, the fighters kept somewhat lower than the probable height of the enemy’s flight, so that the silhouette of the enemy plane could be seen against the background of the moon or thin clouds through which the moon shines through. It was noticed that when searching above the clouds, it is more profitable to hold, on the contrary, above the enemy in order to see him from above against the background of clouds. In some cases, it was possible to detect an enemy bomber by the shadow cast by it on the clouds. So, on the night of June 15 1942, captain I. Moltenkov on the MiG-3 fighter flew to intercept the bombers, which were reported by the VNOS service. In the Sestroretsk area at a height of 2500, the captain noticed two Ju-88 bomber. Their silhouettes were clearly visible against the bright sky. Moltenkov quickly deployed the plane, went to the enemy in the tail and got close to the right leader Ju-88 to the distance 20 m, keeping a little lower than him. The crew did not know about the approach of the fighter and followed the same course. Captain Moltenkov equalized the speed and almost point-blank shot the enemy. The Junkers caught fire, turned into a corkscrew and fell into the Gulf of Finland. The second plane sharply turned towards the dark part of the horizon and disappeared.
Successful battles on moonlit nights were held by air defense fighters in repelling raids on the Volkhov, Smolensk, Kiev and other cities. On a moonless night, the search for the enemy was very difficult, but, as experience has shown, it is possible. The fighters kept a little lower than the height of the flight of enemy aircraft, whose silhouettes were visible only from close range. Often the enemy was given out and lights at the exhaust of engines. So, 27 June 1942 of the year in 22 h 34 min. Captain N. Kalyuzhny flew to a given zone in the Voronezh region. Being at the height of 2000 m, he found an enemy bomber on exhaust pipes, attacked him from a distance of 50 m and set fire to the right engine. The plane caught fire, fell to the ground and exploded.
It was also noted that at dusk and at dawn, the plane is well projected on the bright part of the horizon and is visible for a long distance. This skillfully used air defense fighters to search and attack enemy bombers in the implementation of air defense of Smolensk, Borisov, Kiev, Riga and other cities.
In the white nights the pilots operating in the North also achieved success. Thus, at night 12 of June 1942 of the year, foreman M. Grishin, patrolling in the zone of the night battle over the Gulf of Finland on I-16, noticed two Non-111 marching to the Kronstadt region. The silhouettes of the aircraft clearly enough stood out against the sky and clouds. Secretly approaching the enemy, Grishin attacked the leader from behind, fired 400-500 with two missiles from a range, and then fired from all fire weapons. The attacked plane went into a dive, trying to hide in the clouds, while the other made a U-turn on 180 ° and began to leave. Foreman Grishin caught up with the lead on the dive and made a second attack in the tail from the distance 150 m, however, this time without success. As soon as Non-111 came out of the upper layer of clouds, Grishin, for the third time, attacked him from above on the side from the 50 distance. The bomber was shot down. In that battle, it was possible to destroy the enemy only when fire was opened from close range and at a favorable angle of attack.
Often, fighter pilots found enemy bombers on the inversion trail, which aircraft leave behind them in flight at high altitude (in winter - at almost all heights). So, 11 August 1941, the lieutenant A. Katrich fighter MIG-3 shot down the bomber "Dornier-217", finding him on the inversion trail.
These examples show that the fighter pilots of air defense successfully mastered the tactics of night combat, both with and without light support, showed perseverance, decisiveness and achieved success. However, there were disadvantages. These include: poor use of radio, insufficient training of pilots in determining distances at night, which led to the discovery of fire from long distances, inept use of missiles, the shooting of which was often un aimed and ineffectual, etc.
During the war, the Air Defense IA was widely used to cover railway junctions and highways in the front line. Each aviation regiment was assigned a specific object or railway section, depending on the combat strength of the regiments, the importance of the section and the presence of airfields. Fighters had to repel enemy raids mainly at night, without light support. So, in July, 1944 of the 54 aircraft of the enemy, shot down by the IA of the Northern Air Defense Front, 40 aircraft were shot down in night battles. In the reflection of one of the raids on the railway junction Velikie Luki at the end of July 1944 of the year, 10 pilots 106 and air defense, acting competently outside the area of searchlights, providing fire FOR, shot down 11 enemy bombers.
In the actions of the air defense IA at night, the interaction of aviation with other branches of the military deserved special attention. The basis of the interaction of the IA and the anti-aircraft defense system at night, as in daytime conditions, was the separation of battle zones. The fighters acted on the distant approaches to the object to be covered, anti-aircraft artillery fired (accompanying) fire at the nearest approaches to it and above it. Unlike operations during the daytime, at night, searchlight shelves created light fields for fighters, and searchlight battalions created light zones for firing back. Fighters had the right to complete the attack to enter the light zone. Then the anti-aircraft batteries stopped firing and fired the so-called “silent shooting”. Entering the light zone FOR, the fighter was obliged to give a signal with a color rocket and duplicate it on the radio, on a predetermined wave of interaction.
However, while ensuring the interaction, there were also serious shortcomings. So, in June, 1943, in the course of repelling raids on Gorky, it turned out that the 142 pilots and air defense units did not clearly interact with the FOR. Either the fighters fell under the fire of anti-aircraft batteries, or they stopped fire prematurely to avoid the defeat of their aircraft. Searching for targets with searchlights was often unsystematic, the rays shone in different directions and therefore did not help the fighters to search for targets, and the signal of a fighter with a rocket - “go on the attack” - because of the searchlight rays, tracer bullets and projectiles were most often poorly visible from the ground; this he helped the enemy to find our fighter. The demarcation of battle zones at night by heights also did not justify itself. In the future, these shortcomings were largely eliminated.
Also, the air defense IA at night interacted with the barrage balloons on the principle of separation of coverage areas. AZ was used in the defense of the largest centers of the country, as well as in the squadrons and divisions in the defense of individual objects - factories, ports, power plants and large railway bridges. The statement of the AZ forced the enemy aircraft to raise the flight altitude, so the results of targeted bombing were reduced. In order to avoid collisions with aerostat cables, air defense fighters were strictly forbidden to enter the AZ zones. Fighter aircraft interacted with VNOS units. Having found the enemy aircraft, the VNOS posts were immediately transmitted by radio (wired communications) to the VNOS main post and in parallel to the aviation units. Radar stations and some VNOS posts equipped with radio stations not only detected enemy aircraft, but also served as technical means for targeting air defense aircraft to aerial targets. Special attention should be paid to the development of the tablet guidance method. Aviation representatives of IA units and connections carried out the guidance.
Air defense fighter aircraft gained experience of interaction not only with other branches of the country's Air Defense Forces, but also with the AA and FOR fronts. So, at night 3 June 1943, the 101 pilots of the air defense, together with anti-aircraft artillery and 16 fighter aircraft of the air army, reflected the raid on the Kursk railway junction. Enemy bombers dropped in from different directions with single planes and groups of 3-5 vehicles. In total, up to 300 aircraft took part in this night raid. The interaction of forces consisted in the separation of battle zones. The troop defense opened fire on enemy aircraft in its zone, front-line fighters on advanced airfields attacked German airplanes at the front line, air defense fighters struck fascist bombers at distant and near approaches to Kursk to the fire zone of the ZA of the country. This alignment of forces brought success: the raid was reflected in the heavy losses of the Germans.
In the future, the interaction was even more developed. Special attention was paid to the organization of the alert. In most cases, all of the company, battalion, and main posts of the VNOS of the Western Air Defense Front, had a direct connection with parts of the IA. Due to this, from January to April 1944, there was not a single sudden raid by enemy aircraft on railway junctions at night. At this time, in the southern part of the Left-Bank Ukraine and Donbass, a single system of radar support for the IA operations was in operation. The radar visibility areas mutually overlapped and formed a single continuous field for detecting enemy aircraft and targeting their fighters in a wide area.
The interaction between the IA and the ZA through the development of radio and radar facilities has improved significantly. An example is the reflection of 100 German bombers' raid on Darnitsa station at night 8 on April 1944. Found enemy aircraft posts VNOS and radar. Air defense aircraft operated mainly on the distant approaches to the city. Anti-aircraft artillery created a curtain of fire on the nearest approaches and over the city. Some fighters dropped lighting bombs over false objects on the route of German aircraft, which led the German pilots to mislead them. For control and guidance of our aircraft used radio and radar. The attack of the enemy was reflected.
In general, anti-aircraft fighter aviation actively opposed the enemy Air Force in repelling enemy night raids. In night air battles, air defense fighters shot down an 301 enemy plane or 7,6% during the war. of the total number of enemy aircraft destroyed by them. Such a small percentage is due to the lack of special equipment for night combat (airborne radars), as well as weak saturation of technical controls, guidance and support essential for successful combat of the anti-aircraft defense at night (powerful radio stations, anti-aircraft searchlights, radar, etc.). Nevertheless, it is important to emphasize that the relative effectiveness of fighter aircraft combat operations at night was three times higher than during the day: for each aircraft shot down at night, there were 24 airplanes, and shot down during the daytime 72.
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