1943 year. Fracture during the war
In 1943, the survivability of the main strike force of the Red Army Air Force, the Il-2, reached 50 sorties. The number of combat aircraft in the army has passed for 12 thousands of cars. Scales have become gigantic. The number of Luftwaffe combat aircraft on all fronts was 5400 aircraft. This is another explanation for the large accounts of the German aces.
The fact is that combat losses can absolutely be avoided in only one way - not to fly at all. And the Soviet aviation flew. And flew a huge fleet on a huge front. And German aircraft flew a much smaller number of cars. Just because of the laws of mathematics, a single German fighter had a much higher chance of meeting a Soviet aircraft in a combat mission than his colleagues from the Red Army Air Force. The Germans worked with a small number of aircraft, constantly transferring them from one sector of the front to another.
This is confirmed by statistics. For example, the same Hartman, having made 1400 sorties, met with the enemy and led the battle in 60% of sorties. Rall - even more, in 78% of sorties had contact with enemy aircraft. And Kozhedub only in every third departure led the battle, Pokryshkin - in every fourth. The Germans achieved victory on average in every third departure. Ours - in every eighth. It may seem that this speaks in favor of the Germans - they more often ended the departure effectively. But it only if to pull out figures from a context. The Germans were really small. The attackers and the fighters covering them flew even when there was almost no German aircraft left on their front. Even from single German fighters, strike aircraft needed to be covered. That flew. Even without meeting the enemy in the sky - they flew, covering their attack aircraft and bombers. Soviet fighters simply did not have enough goals to achieve a comparable number of victories.
On the one hand, the tactics of the Germans make it possible to get by with a small number of aircraft, which is evident from them in reality. On the other hand, this is flight work without respite, an overstrain of forces. And no matter what the German pilot was, he could not break apart and be in several places at the same time. In compact France or Poland, this was unnoticed. And in the expanses of Russia on one experience and professionalism it was already impossible to win. All this is a consequence of the German strategy adopted at the beginning of the war: not to overstretch industry and quickly deal with the enemy with a small number and speed of actions. When the blitzkrieg failed, it turned out that for equal confrontation we need numerous air forces, which Germany did not have. The situation could not be fixed immediately: the USSR was preparing for a war of exhaustion in advance, and that was not fully ready. All that remained to do was to continue to fight as before, getting by with a small number of aircraft forced to work with doubled or tripled intensity. It was necessary to bare some sectors of the front in order to create superiority in other sectors, at least for a while.
The Soviet side, in turn, having a large fleet, had the opportunity to increase the concentration of forces, without exposing the minor front sectors and even keeping a significant fleet in the far rear with the aim of training pilots. In the 1943-1944 years, the Red Army regularly conducted many operations simultaneously on different sectors of the fronts, and almost everywhere the overall numerical superiority in aviation was behind us. Let the average level of the Soviet pilot be slightly lower, let the Soviet planes not be better than German ones, but there are many of them, and they are everywhere.
Statistics of aircraft production in Germany shows that the Germans partly realized their mistake. In 1943, and especially in 1944, there has been a sharp increase in aircraft production. However, it is not enough to release such a number of airplanes - one must also prepare an appropriate number of pilots. And the Germans didn’t have time for that - as it turned out, this numerous fleet was needed back in the 41 year. Pilots mass training 1943-1944 years were not at all asses. They did not have the opportunity to gain an excellent experience as the Luftwaffe pilots of the 1941 model of the year had. These pilots were no better than mass Soviet military pilots. And the performance characteristics of the aircraft on which they met in battles did not differ much. These belated actions could no longer turn the tide.
It can be said that, compared to 1941, the situation for the Germans turned exactly 180 degrees. Until now, the Germans won at the expense of the speed of their actions, managing to defeat the enemy before he managed to mobilize his army and industry. With small Poland and France, this was easily accomplished. Britain was saved by the strait and the stubbornness of the English sailors and pilots. And Russia was saved by open spaces, the resilience of the Red Army soldiers and the readiness of industry to work in a war of attrition. Now the Germans themselves had to launch the production of scarce aircraft and pilots with panic speed. However, such a rush inevitably began to affect the quality - as mentioned above, a qualified pilot must train more than one year. But time was sorely lacking.
Golodnikov Nikolai Gerasimovich: “In 1943, the majority of German pilots were inferior to us in a maneuverable battle, the Germans began to shoot worse, they began to lose in tactical training, although their aces were very“ tough nuts ”. The German pilots became even worse in the 1944 year ... I can say that these pilots did not know how to “look back”, often they openly neglected their duties to cover the troops and objects ”.
Front war expands
In 1943, the chances of meeting in the sky a German plane for Soviet pilots began to decline even more. The Germans were forced to strengthen the air defense of Germany. At the same time, many analysts have made a terrific conclusion that the Germans had everything in the East so well that it allowed them to withdraw some of the forces from the front and without any tension start a serious battle in the West. Basically, this version is based on the statistics of the loss of the Luftwaffe in foreign (English, American) literature.
About how well the Germans had everything on the Eastern Front, says the almost threefold increase in the number of combat missions of the Red Army air force on the impact tasks in 1943 year. The total number of sorties of Soviet aviation exceeded 885 000, and the number of departures of German aviation fell to 471 000 (from 530 000 to 1942). Why, under such unfavorable conditions, did the Germans begin to transfer aircraft to the West?
The fact is that in 1943, a new front of war opened - the air front. This year, heroic allies of the USSR - the United States and Great Britain - emerged from anabiosis. Apparently, realizing that the USSR had survived and a turning point was coming, the Allies decided to start fighting in full force. But the preparation for the landing in Normandy will take another whole year. In the meantime, the operation is being prepared, it is possible to increase air pressure through strategic bombardments. 1943 year is the year of sharp, spasmodic growth of the bombing of Germany, the year when these bombings became really massive.
Until 1943, the war for the Germans was somewhere far away. Speech is about the citizens of Germany. Yes, sometimes planes fly, sometimes they bomb. Somewhere fighting the Wehrmacht. But at home - peace and quiet. But in 1943, the trouble came almost in every German city. Civilians began to perish en masse, factories and infrastructure began to collapse.
When they demolish your house, you don’t think much about capturing a stranger. And then there are the factories that make military equipment for war in the East. The Allied offensive was airborne. And it was possible to fight with him only with the help of air defense and aviation. The Germans have no choice. Fighters are needed to protect Germany. And in this situation, the opinion of the Wehrmacht's infantrymen, who were seated under the Il-2 bombs in the trenches, is of little concern to anyone.
German aviation in the East was forced to operate with overvoltage. The norm was to make 4-5 sorties per day (and some German aces generally claim that they made up to 10 sorties, but we will leave this to their conscience), while the average Soviet pilot flew 2-3 times a day. All this was the result of underestimation by the German command of the spatial scope of the war in the east and the real forces of the Red Army. In 1941, on average, 1 German aircraft in the East accounted for 0,06 sorties per day, in 1942 - already 0,73 sorties. And in the Red Army aviation, a similar indicator in 1941 was 0,09, in 1942 - 0,05 sorties. In 1942, the average German pilot made 13 times more sorties. He worked for himself and for 3-4 non-existent pilots whom the Luftwaffe did not bother to prepare in advance, counting on a quick and easy victory over the USSR. And then the situation began to worsen. By 1944, the total gross number of sorties in the Luftwaffe had fallen - the Germans did not pull such a load. There were 1 flights per 0,3 plane. But in the Red Army Air Force the same indicator fell to 0,03 sorties. In the Red Army Air Force, the average pilot still made 10 times less sorties. And this despite the fact that Soviet aviation increased the total number of sorties, while the Germans, on the contrary, experienced a 2-fold fall from 1942 to 1944 - from 530 thousand sorties to 257 thousand sorties. All these are the consequences of the “blitzkrieg” - a strategy that does not provide for overall numerical superiority, but the ability to achieve such superiority in a narrow key sector of the front. In the Red Army Air Force, aviation was often assigned to the front or fleetThe maneuver between them was quite rare. And they rarely maneuvered along the front — pilots should know “their” locality and their troops. For the Germans, on the contrary, maneuvering took place constantly, and in the directions of the main attacks they usually achieved serious numerical superiority, even in the middle of the war. This worked perfectly in a cramped Europe, where the spatial scope simply did not provide for the possible existence of two or more “main directions” at once. And in the years 43-45 on the eastern front there could be several such main directions at the same time, and it was not possible to close all the gaps with one maneuver at once.
Golodnikov Nikolay Gerasimovich: “The Germans very well maneuvered aviation. They concentrated a large number of aviation on the directions of the main attack, while at the same time diversionary operations were carried out on secondary directions. The Germans tried to surpass us strategically, in the shortest possible time to crush us in mass, to break the resistance. We must pay tribute to them, they very boldly transferred units from the front to the front, they almost did not have aviation units "assigned" to the armies. "
1944 year. Its end
By and large, the war was lost by the Germans at the very beginning of 1944. They had no chance to change the situation. Several world leaders - the United States, Great Britain and the USSR - set to work at once. On the buildup of efforts against the Air Force of the Red Army was out of the question. Soviet pilots were less likely to meet Germans in the air. Which, of course, did not contribute to a sharp increase in their effectiveness, despite the clear superiority in the air. Frequently began flights on a free hunt. Mirrored 1941 year. Only the 1000 German aces in the 1941 had more than 10 000 targets in the face of numerous Soviet Air Forces. And in 1944, the 5 000 Soviet fighters had a total of 3-4 thousands of targets. As can be seen from this proportion, the probability of meeting with an enemy aircraft from a Soviet fighter pilot in 1944 was significantly lower than that of a Luftwaffe fighter in 41. The situation is not conducive to the appearance of aces with hundreds of victories in the Red Army Air Force, but the radical disruption of the entire system of armed struggle is obvious. And this scrapping is not in favor of the Luftwaffe.
The loss of IL-2 in 1944 year remained virtually unchanged, but the number of combat missions doubled. Survivability reached 85 plane flights. Only 0,5% of all sorties were intercepted by German fighters. A drop in the sea. It is not by chance that in the memoirs of the IL-2 pilots who fought in the second half of the war, the 20-mm anti-aircraft gun, not a fighter, is called the most terrible enemy. Although back in 1942, it was exactly the opposite. Only in the 45 year over Germany the danger of fighters will increase again, but this is primarily due to the collapse of the front to the size of a point on the map. At this point, almost all of the remaining German aircraft gathered around Berlin, which even with a shortage of pilots and fuel caused a certain effect.
And in the West, meanwhile, there was a massive destruction of the Luftwaffe, which surpassed, according to several Western sources, the total losses in the East. We will not dispute this fact (as well as the number of victories of the German aces). Many researchers conclude that this speaks of the high skill of British or American pilots. Is it so?
By a strange coincidence, the Allied pilots in the number of victories are inferior even to the Soviet aces. And German - all the more. How, then, did the Germans manage to lose such a significant part of their fleet in the West? Who beat them down?
The nature of the war in the air on the Western Front was completely different than in the East. It was not possible to make a "swing" with quick attacks on defenseless fighters from the rear hemisphere. Here it was necessary to climb into the tail of the bomber bristling with machine guns. Under the flying bullets in the face. One B-17 could launch a volley into the rear-upper hemisphere, like the six IL-2. Needless to say, what the attack of hundreds of American bombers in dense formation meant for German pilots was just a barrage of fire! It is not by chance that in the USAF the fourth most effective ace, who shot down the enemy's 17 fighters, is the B-17 side gunner. In total, the US Air Force side-gunners claim more than 6200 downed German fighters and about 5000 among the probable victories (damaged or shot down - not established). And it is only the Americans, and in fact there were also the British! If we add to this the victories of the Spitfires, Mustangs and other Allied fighters, the statement about the "unsurpassed" losses of the Luftwaffe in the west does not look so improbable.
The Allied fighter pilots did not excel in the training of German or Soviet colleagues. Just the nature of the air war over Germany was such that the Germans did not have such freedom of action as in the East. They had to either shoot down strategic bombers, inevitably exposing themselves to the fire of the air gunners, or simply shy away from the battlefield, flying just for the sake of sight. It is not surprising that many of them in their memoirs recall the eastern front as easier. Light, but not because Soviet aviation is a harmless and weak opponent. But because in the East it was possible to engage in winding up a personal account of victories and to engage in any nonsense, like free hunting, instead of real and dangerous combat work. And the German ace Hans Philip equalizes the Eastern Front with the Battle of Britain, where you could also have fun with the Spitfires.
Hans Philip: “Fighting with two dozen Russian fighters or the English Spitfires was a joy. And no one thought about the meaning of life. But when seventy huge Flying Fortresses fly on you, all your previous sins stand before your eyes. And even if the lead pilot was able to gather his courage, then how much pain and nerves were necessary to make each pilot in the squadron cope with him, right up to the newcomers.
You have no idea how hard it is to fight here. On the one hand, we live very comfortably, there are a lot of girls and everything that we could wish for, but on the other hand, it is a struggle in the air, and it is extremely difficult. It is difficult not because the enemies are so heavily armed or numerous, but because of such conditions and an easy chair you immediately find yourself on the battlefield, where you look death in the face. ”
Excellent words, Mr. Philip! In them all your essence! And your attitude to the war. And recognition of how you are afraid to do your main work, dodging it to the last possible opportunity in a roundabout with Russian and English fighters. And about the fact that you have lost the former strength and are throwing newcomers into battle. And about the fact that cheating personal accounts with Spitfires is no more difficult than with Russian fighters. That is, in fact, you also had a “freebie” in the West. Until the massacre began with strategic bombardments. But for some reason you don’t remember the Russians Pe-2 or Il-2, nor the English Lancaster, Halifax and Stirling. These guys, who instill fear in you by dozens of contrails in the sky, actually fly to kill your wives and children, and you think about girls. It is a pity that there will be no answer, but I would like to ask - were you really going to win this war of survival with this attitude?
In the East, no one forced the Germans to constantly climb under the Il-2 feed machine guns. Do not want - do not go. The command does not require to shoot down Il-2 or Pe-2. It requires simply to shoot down as many “something” as possible. Shoot down the lonely LaGG-3 on a dive! No threat. Not the fact that at all someone will shoot at you in a combat departure. The commanders motivated them for such actions, and how the task was set was the result. The main mode of action of the Germans is “Free Hunting”. The scores are high, and the Soviet attack aircraft are bombing Wehrmacht infantry more and more. And in the West there was no choice - only one goal. And any attack on this target guarantees a tight return fire.
Golodnikov Nikolai Gerasimovich: “In those places where the fate of the war is decided, the pilot doesn't want to fly. They send him there by order, because the pilot himself will not fly there, and you can understand him humanly - everyone wants to live. And “freedom” gives the fighter pilot a “legitimate” opportunity to avoid these places. "Loophole" in the "hole" turns. “Free hunting” is the most profitable way of warfare for a pilot and the most disadvantageous for his army. Why? Because almost always the interests of an ordinary fighter pilot are fundamentally at variance with the interests of his command, as well as the command of the troops that aviation provides. To give complete freedom of action to all fighter pilots is the same as giving full freedom to all ordinary infantrymen on the battlefield — wherever you want to dig in when you want to shoot. It is nonsense".
At the same time, the scrupulous Germans also reduced the overstatement of victories. As stated above, victories are always overpriced. The pilot can sincerely believe in victory, but he cannot be convinced of this. The war in the East created the conditions for the inevitable overstatements - he shot at a single-engine plane, he began to smoke. And somewhere fell. Or did not fall. Somewhere in the vast country. Who will look for him? And what will be left of him after the fall? Burnt engine block? Little did they roll in the front line. Write - shot down. And in the West? B-17 - not a small fighter, not a needle, you just can not lose it. And he will have to fall on the territory of the Reich - in densely populated Germany, and not in the desert steppes of Donetsk. There is not much overstating the number of victories - everything is in full view. Because the number of victories in the West, the Germans are not as large as in the East. And the duration of the hostilities is not so long.
In the middle of 1944, trouble for the Germans fell one after another. To the bristling machine guns of the "fortresses" were added escort fighters - "Thunderbolts" and "Mustangs", which now flew from continental airfields. Remarkable fighters, well-established in production and well-equipped. Opened a second front. The position of the Germans since 1943 was disastrous. At the end of 1944, due to a combination of factors, it could no longer be designated a catastrophe - it was the end. All the Germans could do in this situation was to capitulate than to save thousands of lives of German, Soviet and American people.
As we see, there is nothing surprising in the initially contradictory known facts. They all stand in a single slender chain stories.
The key mistake of the Germans is the decision to attack the USSR, without changing the spent strategy, tactics and not transferring industry to the military regime. Everything that worked effectively in Europe, comfortable, well-maintained, compact, stopped working in Russia. To guarantee their success, the Germans had to arrange in advance the production of thousands of aircraft and prepare thousands of pilots. But they didn’t have time for that - such preparation would take a couple of years, during which the USSR managed to finish re-equipping the army and air force with a new technique and level a significant part of the prerequisites for the German victory. And most importantly, the Germans had no desire to sacrifice their measured and prosperous life for the sake of a war of attrition. Belief in the success of the blitzkrieg and in the weakness of the USSR, complemented by a reluctance to change the full life of Germany, led the Germans to defeat.
The actions of German aviation, focused on deep quality training of pilots and excellent equipment, were not balanced enough. In sacrifice to quality was brought mass. But in a compact Europe, mass was not needed. However, one glance at the map is enough to understand that in Russia everything will be different. There is not enough quality, but small air fleet. Here we need mass. A mass - contrary to quality. In any case, the task of making massive and at the same time upscale air forces with excellent equipment and asami pilots requires incredible efforts and a long time, which history has not let go either of Germany or the USSR. In such initial conditions, the defeat of Germany was inevitable - it was only a matter of time.
Golodnikov Nikolai Gerasimovich: “... when Muller was shot down, he was brought to us. I remember him well, of medium height, athletic build, red. When he was asked about Hitler, he said that he didn’t give a damn about the “policy” to the Russians, he was a “sportsman”, the result was important for him - to shoot more. He has a “cover group” fighting, but he is an “athlete”, if he wants - he will strike, he wants - he will not. I got the impression that many German fighter pilots were such “athletes”.
- What was the war for our pilots?
- For me personally, the same as with all. Job. Heavy, bloody, dirty, scary and continuous work. It was possible to withstand it only because you are defending the Motherland. Sports here and does not smell.
In conclusion, I would like to add that the format of the article does not provide for the disclosure of many very interesting sides of the war in the air. The topic of the characteristics of the combat equipment, the industrial potential of the parties, the subject of Lend-Lease, etc. are not covered at all. All this requires more thorough work than the modest work of a history buff. The same can be said about the quoted quotes. It is necessary to limit the scope of the words given by the direct participants in the events, limited to only a few witnesses. All those interested in this topic should contact the original sources in order to obtain a truly complete amount of knowledge.
Used Sources and Literature:
1. Drabkin A. I fought a fighter.
2. Drabkin A. I fought on the IL-2.
3. Drabkin A. I fought in the SS and the Wehrmacht.
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5. Krivosheev G.F. Russia and the USSR in the wars of the XX century: the loss of the armed forces.
6. Combat operations of the Luftwaffe: the rise and fall of Nazi aircraft "(translated by P. Smirnov).
7. Schwabedissen V. The Stalin falcons: an analysis of the actions of Soviet aviation in 1941-1945.
8. Anokhin V.A., Bykov M.Yu. All Stalin's fighter regiments.
9. Stormtrooper IL-2 // Aviation and Cosmonautics. 2001. No. 5-6.