Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Soviet Mixed-Power Fighters

The 1-153 M-63 was the last Soviet biplane fighter to enter full scale production. Production Chaika fighters were constantly under test at the NIl WS during 1939-40, with both ski and wheeled undercarriages. It was very difficult to improve performance because, on the one hand, the design was practically at the limit of its development, and on the other it was clear that high speeds could not be achieved with the biplane configuration. To increase speed, two ramjets designed by I Merkulov were mounted on the fighter, and in September 1940 flight tests were undertaken to test the installation. During one of its last test flights the 1-153DM with DM-4 ramjets attained a maximum speed of 273mph (440km/h) at 6,500ft (2,000m) – the ramjets increased top speed by 31.6mph (51km/h). In spite of their high efficiency, the mixed powerplant was not considered suitable for the biplane fighters.

In 1935 young engineers Alexey Borovkov and Ilya Florov proposed an original biplane fighter, and this was produced in 1937 as the ‘Type 7211’. Later, in 1938-39, new biplane fighter based on this machine and designated 1-207 (I – istrebitel, fighter, or literally ‘destroyer’) was developed. By the spring of 1939 the two prototypes had been built, the first powered by a 900hp (671kW) Shvetsov M-62 and the second by an M-63 of the same power. The third prototype, powered by an ungeared M-63, was ready by the autumn. The first two had a fixed under- carriage, while the third had retractable gear. All three had open cockpits. In the spring of 1941 the fourth 1-207 prototype, powered by a geared M-63 and fitted with an enclosed cockpit with a sideward-hinged canopy was completed. All of these aircraft had four 7.62mm ShKAS machine guns, and two 551lb (250kg) bombs could be carried beneath the lower wings. When tested, they bettered the Polikarpov 18 1-15 biplane and 1-16 monoplane in climb rate and service ceiling, and were superior in manoeuvrability to the 1-15 but inferior to the 1-16. During flight tests in 1940 the third prototype reached a speed of 301mph (486km/h) at 17,400ft (5,300m), which for that period was inadequate. Moreover the configuration was also out of date, and for these reasons the type did not go into production.

The ‘D’ was designed as a mixed power fighter with a piston engine and Merkulin ramjet booster operating in the same duct. A 1,500 kW (2,000 hp) Shvetsov M-71 engine was intended to be the main powerplant but it is unclear how the thermodynamic cycles of the two engines were to be linked. Similar aircraft were built later in the German-Soviet War using the main engine to drive a propeller and a compressor to supply air to a ramjet/afterburner booster, both the Su-5 and MiG-13 were produced in limited numbers but the performance gains were limited and soon eclipsed by turbo-jet engines. The ‘D’ was to have been a gull- winged monoplane with high set wing, of stressed skin construction with exceptionally smooth skin stabilised by underlying corrugated structure. A heavy armament of two 37 mm (1.457 in) Nudelman-Suranov NS-37 cannon and two 20 mm (0.787 in) ShVAK cannon was included, but all work was abandoned with the German invasion of 1941.
In order to augment the fighter’s speed when necessary, the designers decided to equip it with one of Valentin Glushko’s liquid- propellant auxiliary rocket motors, including 0 the RD-l, RD-l KhZ, RD-2 and RD-3 with nitric acid and kerosene pump supply.

The unit considered most suitable for the Su-7 was the RD-l , delivering 661lb (300kg) of thrust. In addition, metal plate on the wooden section of fuselage was lengthened to protect the structure from flames emitted by the turbosupercharger. During the flight tests, which began in late 1944, 84 RD-l engine starts were performed on the ground and in flight. From 31st January to 15th February 1945 18 engine test starts were made on the ground using an ether/air starting system, and from 28th Au- gust to 19th December that year the investigations were continued using the RD-l KhZ rocket motor.

Frequent failures of the RD-l prolonged the tests, but finally, in late 1945, flights conducted by test pilot Komarov showed that when the rocket was started at 20,600ft (6,300m) it increased maximum speed by 56mph (91km/h). However, the RD-l was underdeveloped and often failed, and after five changes of the liquid-propellant booster the designers decided to abandon it altogether. Nevertheless, the development and testing of mixed-powerplant prototypes was an important stage in the development of high speed jet aircraft.

The Mikoyan-Gurevich I-250 (a.k.a. Samolet N) was a Soviet fighter aircraft developed as part of a crash program in 1944 to develop a high-performance fighter to counter German turbojet-powered aircraft such as the Messerschmitt Me-262. The Mikoyan-Gurevich design bureau decided to focus on a design that used something more mature than the jet engine, which was still at an experimental stage in the Soviet Union, and chose a mixed-power solution with the VRDK (Vozdushno-Reaktivny Dvigatel Kompressornyi – air reaction compressor jet) motorjet powered by the Klimov VK-107 V12 engine. While quite successful when it worked, with a maximum speed of 820 km/h (510 mph) being reached during trials, production problems with the VRDK fatally delayed the program and it was canceled in 1948 as obsolete.


By the end of the Second World War the USA and Great Britain had developed practical jet fighters, even if they came a bit too late to take part in the action. Germany achieved even greater success, using jet fighters operationally in the closing stages of the war. The Soviet Union had fallen behind in this area, which is due to the Soviet government's scant attention to jet aircraft development and the lack of indigenous jet engines. True, as early as 1939 the design bureau led by Nikolay N. Polikarpov (OKB-51) had begun working on mixed-power fighters; the lead was quickly followed by other design bureaux headed by Aleksandr S. Yakovlev (OKB-115), Semyon A. Lavochkin (OKB-301), Artyom I. Mikoyan (OKB-155), Pavel O. Sukhoi (OKB-134) and Semyon M. Alekseyev (OKB-21). (OKB = opytno-konstrooktorskoye byuro - experi- mental design bureau; the number is a code allocated for security reasons.) These fighters employed ramjets or liquid-fuel rocket motors to give them a performance boost as required, but for various reasons none of them achieved production and service.

Several rocket-powered fighters were brought out as well, including the BI developed by A. Ya. Bereznyak and A. M. Isayev, the '302' designed by A. G. Kostikov and the Mikoyan 1-270 (aka izdeliye Zh). (Izdeliye (product) such and such was a common way of coding Soviet military hardware). However, the dangers associated with the rocket motor running on corrosive and/or toxic fuels and oxidisers, coupled with the motor's limited operation time, meant this was not a viable powerplant for a high-speed aircraft. Early research and development work on turbojet engines in the USSR dates back to the late 1930s. In 1938 Arkhip M. Lyul'ka and a group of engineers who shared his ideas came up with the project of the RTD-1 turbo- jet rated at 400 kgp (881 Ib st). Approving the project, the People's Commissariat of Aircraft Industry (NKAP - Narodnyy komissariaht aviatsionnoy promyshlennosti) allocated funds for manufacturing a prototype engine; mean- while, Luyl'ka was transferred to Leningrad to continue his work on jet engines at SKB-1 (Special Design Bureau - spetsiahl'noye konstrooktorskoye byuro). The RTD-1 evolved into the RD-1 (reaktivnyy dVigatel' - jet engine) delivering 500 kgp (1,102 Ib st) In early 1942 the Council of People's Commissars, one of the Soviet Union's highest government bodies, considered several jet fighter projects, including Mikhail I. Goodkov's proposal to re-engine the LaGG-3 fighter with an RD-1 turbojet. Concurrently the jet engine development programme was dusted off in accordance with Iosif V. Stalin's personal orders. In reality, however, the work really got underway in 1944 when Lyul'ka was put in charge of the gas turbine engine R&D section at a newly-established institute specialising in propulsion research.

Jet aircraft and jet engine development became a priority task for the Soviet aircraft industry after the war. Huge resources were committed to this task; still, all the money in the world can't buy you time, and the research and development effort was certainly going to be a lengthy one, which meant the service entry of the first Soviet jets would occur rather later than desired. Therefore, to speed up the work the Soviet government chose to make use of Germany's experience in this field.

In order to augment the fighter's speed when necessary, the designers decided to equip it with one of Valentin Glushko's liquid- propellant auxiliary rocket motors, including 0 the RD-l, RD-l KhZ, RD-2 and RD-3 with nitric acid and kerosene pump supply.

The unit considered most suitable for the Su-7 was the RD-l , delivering 661lb (300kg) of thrust. In addition, metal plate on the wooden section of fuselage was lengthened to protect the structure from flames emitted by the turbosupercharger. During the flight tests, which began in late 1944, 84 RD-l engine starts were performed on the ground and in flight. From 31st January to 15th February 1945 18 engine test starts were made on the ground using an ether/air starting system, and from 28th Au- gust to 19th December that year the investigations were continued using the RD-l KhZ rocket motor.

Frequent failures of the RD-l prolonged the tests, but finally, in late 1945, flights conducted by test pilot Komarov showed that when the rocket was started at 20,600ft (6,300m) it increased maximum speed by 56mph (91km/h). However, the RD-l was underdeveloped and often failed, and after five changes of the liquid-propellant booster the designers decided to abandon it altogether. Nevertheless, the development and testing of mixed-powerplant prototypes was an important stage in the development of high speed jet aircraft.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Nuclear Submarine project.949A Antey

K-148 Orenburg (August 1985), K- 132 Irkutsk (March 1986), K-119 Voronezh(December 1987), K-173 Krasnoyarsk (January 1989), K-410 Smolensk ( December 1989), K-442 Chelyabinsk (January 1990), K-456 Viliuczinsk (December 1991), K-266 Orel (22 May 1992), K- 186 Omsk (8 May 1993), K-141 Kursk (May 1994), K-512 Tomsk (18 July 1995), K-530 Belgorod (May 1998)

Builder: Severodvinsk

Displacement: 14,700 tons (surfaced), 24,000 tons (submerged)

Dimensions: 505930 x 59980 x 30920

Machinery: 2 OK-650b pressurized water reactors, 2 geared steam turbines, 2 shafts. 100,000 shp = 15/30 knots

Endurance: 50 days

Armament: 24 x P-700 antiship missiles, 4 x 533mm torpedo tubes, 4 x 650mm torpedo tubes (all bow), total 28 torpedoes

Complement: 107

Notes: These boats were slightly longer than the earlier Project 949 submarines, to allow more extensive rafting of machinery in order to reduce their acoustic signature. Three additional boats were not completed. The Kursk sank after an accident on 12 August 2000 about 100 miles from Murmansk. By 2006 about six of the class remained in active service, with the remainder laid up in reserve.
Eleven Project 949A Antey submarines were completed at Severodvinsk, of which five were assigned to the Soviet Northern Fleet.

At one stage it had been planned to develop a new fourth-generation follow-on to the Project 949A, but this plan was later scrapped.

The external differences between the two classes were that the 949A class is about 10 metres (33 ft) longer than its predecessor (~154 metres (505 ft) rather than 143 m (469 ft)), providing space for improved electronics and possibly quieter propulsion. Some sources speculate that the acoustic performance of the Oscar II class is superior to early Akula class submarines but inferior to the Akula II as well as subsequent (4. generation) designs. It also has a larger fin, and a seven-bladed propeller instead of a four-bladed one.

Like all post-World War II Soviet designs, they are of double hull construction. Similarly, like other Soviet submarine designs, Project 949 not only has a bridge open to the elements on top of the sail but, for use in inclement weather, there is an enclosed bridge forward and slightly below this station in the fin/sail.

A distinguishing mark is a slight bulge at the top of the fin. A large door on either side of the fin reaches this bulge. These are wider at the top than on the bottom, and are hinged on the bottom. The Federation of American Scientists reports that this submarine carries an emergency crew escape capsule; it is possible that these doors cover it. The VSK escape capsule can accommodate 110 people.

The Oscar Class is commonly referred to as Mongo by crews of US patrol aircraft in reference to their massive size.

In December 2012, construction began on a special purpose research and rescue submarine, designated project 09852, and allegedly based on project 949A (Oscar II class) submarines. The submarine is designed to carry smaller submarines. Some sources speculated that the boat being built/modified is actually the incomplete “Belgorod”. However, another source gave a different account stating that the boat is similar to AS-31 Losharik, a far smaller special purpose submarine.


Soviet Interceptors – Cold War

SR-71 Blackbird (two-seated training version in the photo) – one of the most amazing aircraft ever built and real engineering wonder that came out Skunk Works facilities under brilliant lead of Clarence “Kelly” Johnson. Predominance as strategic level reconnaissance airplane, among others, realized through high-altitude and Mach 3+ flying. (Photo: US Air Force)

Despite the fact that Blackbird was not seriously endangered by the Soviet air defense, thanks to its flight speed and high-altitude operations, SR-71 operated outside the Soviet borders. A typical mission consisted of flight near the Soviet border and collecting data from deep inside the adversary’s airspace thanks to high-tech radar, optical and sensor equipment installed onboard SR-71. Although details about the installed equipment never went into public, there are official claims by the US Air Force that SR-71 could cover in one hour the ground area of 260,000 km2. In order to secure the longest possible flight range, soon after being airborne SR-71 would go for air refueling. After returning from the zone of action one more refueling would be performed; all in favor to prolong the time of being airborne. During the mission the flight speed of SR-71 was limited to Mach 3.2 although the airplane could reach even higher speeds. Its predecessor, A-12, could develop top flight speed of Mach 3.56 and the operational ceiling of more than 27,400 meters. Although the flight speed and altitude granted safe operation, unobstructed from the enemy’s air defense, the interception of SR-71 was tried out many times, but without real success. Still, optimally deployed Soviet anti-aircraft missile systems or MiG-25 interceptors posed some threat. With introduction of Soviet MiG-31 Foxhound interceptors, this threat became truly realistic.

The American projects of different types of Mach 3 airplanes, triggered reaction on the other side of the Iron curtain. Soviet attention was focused on US B-70 and SR-71 projects. Both types of airplanes had their first flights in the first half of 1960s. Although B-70 remained at prototype level, the Soviet answer in the form of Mach 3 interceptor went into full scale serial production and was widely introduced into operational units. Soviet MiG-25 was a sober answer, in accordance with the doctrine and capacity of the Soviet aviation industry and as a result of arms race between the West and the East. The question of this race was who could build faster and higher flying airplane.

The first prototyped MiG-25 took off in 1964, and it was introduced into operational service in 1970. At that moment MiG-25 was unreachable regarding flight speed and operational ceiling to any western fighter or interceptor airplane. MiG-25 reflected practical simplicity. To be able to withstand thermal stress caused by high speed aerodynamic heating, the airplane, including wing spars and fuselage frames, was mostly made of stainless steel. The robust structure of MiG-25 was reliable and easy for maintenance.

The use of titanium instead of stainless steel was also an option, but this option was abandoned because of high price and unsolved problems related to material processing. The problem of the cracks inside welds of thin-shell titanium structures presented unsolvable issue. Finally it was decided that the main materials would be different steel alloys that would constitute 80% of the MiG-25 structure. 11% of structure would be made of aluminum and 9% out of titanium. Two powerful turbojet engines provided enough thrust; so theoretically, MiG-25 could reach the flight speed of Mach 3.2 at an altitude of 27 kilometers. However, the operational flight speed was limited to Mach 2.8 considering that at flight speeds higher than that the engine turbines tended to overheat, resulting in possibly damaging engines beyond repair.

MiG-25 was definitely for the West one of the greatest Cold War enigma. High flight speed was one of the NATO concerns, although, in reality, MiG-25 could hardly compromise the mission of, for example SR-71, first of all because of poorer avionics and also not being able to keep continuous flight speed above Mach 3. Inaccurate intelligence triggered general opinion in the West that MiG-25 was actually a highly maneuverable fighter airplane, instead of interceptor. The large wing surface was wrongly interpreted; as a matter of fact, MiG-25 needed big lifting surface because of maximum take-off weight (it was made of steel!) of more than 35 tons. The American response to wrong intelligence data was the initiation of a new program which would result in one of the best fighter-interceptors of the Cold War and the post Cold War era – it was McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle.

The shroud of secrecy around MiG-25 was removed in 1976. On September 6, Viktor Belenko, a Soviet Air Defense pilot, defected with his MiG-25P to the Japanese airport Hakodate. The airplane was practically newly produced and gave the Americans a chance to take a close look for the first time into the modern Soviet aerospace technology. The airplane was built around two massive and powerful Tumansky R-15(B) turbojet engines, each rated at more than 10 tons of thrust. Welding was partially manual and rivet heads were not flushed in the areas where this could not influence the aerodynamic drag. The airplane structure was mainly made of nickel steel and not of titanium as it was largely assumed in the West. The airplane g-load was limited to 4.5 g and the combat radius was just 300 kilometers. The scale of airspeed indicator was marked red at Mach 2.8 and the typical interception speed was at Mach 2.5; all in favor of extending the lifetime of engines. The majority of onboard avionics was based on vacuum tube technology. Although vacuum tube technology was obsolete it proved to be very tolerant to peak temperatures developing at Mach 3+ airspeeds. Other than that, vacuum pipes were much easier to maintain, from the Soviet standpoint, and they were resistant to electromagnetic pulse, for example after nuclear explosion. After 67 days of detailed analysis the Americans returned to the Soviets Belenko’s MiG-25; in pieces of course.

Although the results of MiG-25 technical analysis proved that the Soviet aerospace industry was behind that of the Americans, this fact could be deceiving. One must not forget that the philosophy of the Soviet war strategists, since World War II, was based on massive military production of reliable and easy-to-maintain systems, scarifying at the same time their sophistication. Through that context, the legendary MiG-25 should be observed. Until 1976, the Soviet Air Defense Forces (Russian: Aviatsiya PVO – Protivo–Vozdushnoy Oborony) had in its inventory more than 400 MiG-25 interceptors. In interception missions the Soviet interceptors relied heavily on their ground control. Guided by directions and parameters from the ground control, the task of the pilot was to take off as soon as possible, intercept an enemy’s airplane and shoot it down. For this kind of mission performances of MiG-25, like flight speed, operational ceiling and maybe most important the rate of climb, were more than satisfying.

In 1982, MiG-31 was introduced in operational service of Soviet Air Defense, conceived on the good bases of MiG-25. MiG-31 was characterized by properties which presented an upgrade of MiG-25. MiG-31 could fly supersonically at low altitudes, didn’t have to rely so much on ground control during interception missions, could engage several targets above and below owing to its look up and look down/shoot radar, and had bigger combat radius. The highest airspeed, much like in MiG-25, was limited in operational use at Mach 2.83, although engines had enough power to accelerate an airplane to Mach 3+. Initially, MiG-31 had two D30-F6 turbofan engines, each rated at 15.5 tons of static thrust using afterburner. It has to be noted that MiG-31 had maximum take-off weight of more than 46 tons, which puts it on the first place of the list of the heaviest interceptors in the world.

Designers of MiG testing and designing office soon realized that the performances of their MiG-25 were promising the setting of a whole range of airplane records, under the supervision of the International Aeronautical Federation. With that idea in mind, three specially designed prototype airplanes - Ye-155P1, Ye-155R1 and Ye-155R3 were prepared. The structures of prototypes were made lighter by removing, for the occasion, unnecessary equipment.

The first flight speed record was realized on March 16, 1965, for speed over closed circuit, without payload and with 1,000 kilos and 2,000 kilos payload. The test pilot Aleksandar Fedotov achieved an average flight speed of 2,319.12 km/h over a closed circuit of 1,000 kilometers.

On July 25, 1973, Fedotov reached the altitude of 35,230 meters with 1,000 kilos payload, and 36,240 meters with no payload. In the highest point of flight trajectory the airspeed of the airplane dropped to only 75 km/h. A few years later, on August 31, 1977, Fedotov set the absolute altitude record for turbojet-powered airplanes, reaching the altitude of 37,650 meters.

The climb rate records were demonstrated on June 4, 1973, when Boris A. Orlov climbed to 20,000 meters in just 2 minutes and 49.8 seconds. On the same day Pyotr M. Ostapenko reached 25,000 meters in 3 minutes and 12.6 seconds and 30,000 meters in 4 minutes and 3.8 seconds.

Overall, MiG-25 prototyped and prepared record breaking airplanes set 29 records, out of which 7 were absolute world flight speed, altitude and climbing records. Some of those still stand today

Monday, July 18, 2016

To Save Himself, Stalin was Ready to Give Hitler Ukraine and Baltic Republics and Possibly More, Archives Show

Lieutenant General Pavel Anatolyevich Sudoplatov

Staunton, June 19 – A few days after Hitler broke his alliance with Stalin and invaded the Soviet Union, the Soviet dictator used a diplomatic back channel to explore whether the Nazi leader would be prepared to end the war if Stalin agreed to hand over to German rule Ukraine, the Baltic republics and perhaps even more.

That is the conclusion of a Friday article by historian Nikita Petrov in “Novaya gazeta” an article that undercuts both Stalin’s carefully cultivated stance as someone who was prepared to fight the invader to the end and Vladimir Putin’s use of World War II as a legitimating and mobilizing tool in Russia today.

The history of these events is by its very nature murky and can be reconstructed only by a careful reading of Russian archival materials, Petrov suggests. But the basic facts of the case are these: In the first days after the German attack, Lavrenty Beria on Stalin’s order directed NKVD officer Pavel Sudoplatov to meet with a Bulgarian diplomat to explore what it would take for Hitler to stop his invasion of the Soviet Union.

Among the concessions Sudoplatov was authorized to discuss with the Bulgarian who Moscow believed would communicate his conversation to Berlin was the handing over to Hitler of Ukraine, the areas that Stalin had occupied in 1940-41 on the basis of the secret protocols of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, and perhaps more.

Such a sacrifice would constitute “a new Brest peace” but would save Stalin and his regime, Petrov points out by allowing the communist regime to continue to function beyond the Urals.

Obviously, discussing anything of this then or later was incredibly dangerous given that such things would have constituted in the clearest way treason, but information about them came out in the interrogations of Sudoplatov and Beria in 1953. And Petrov mines these sources for his article, even reproducing the key Sudoplatov declaration.

As many have pointed out, Stalin believed in Hitler and in his own ability to cut a deal right up to the moment of the German invasion. The archives suggest that he continued to believe in his ability to cut a deal with Hitler even after that time. In fact, however, Stalin was manipulated by double agents before June 22, 1941, and by his own fears after that time.

Nothing came as a result of Stalin’s feeler. Hitler was confident that his forces could defeat the Soviet Union and therefore ignored what was passed on by the Bulgarians. But there were consequences in the USSR for those most immediately involved because Stalin never forgot, Petrov continues.

Despite his regime’s presentation of him as the great military leader during World War II, Stalin remembered that “three people knew the secret of his cowardice and the depth of the collapse in 1941.” The Soviet dictator ordered Abakumov to arrest Sudoplatov, although Beria urged the secret police chief not to obey lest he and Beria himself be next.

And there was a third potential victim of Stalin’s malignant memory: Vyacheslav Molotov, who certainly knew about the meeting with the Bulgarian diplomat in June 1941 and Stalin’s willingness to sacrifice much of the country to save himself. Had Stalin lived, Petrov says, all three would have come to a bad end. But his death kept him from realizing his goal.

Soviet tanks in WWII: Correcting the errors of the first 2 years

Soviet soldiers in the Battle of Kursk. July 1943. Source: Fedor Levshin/RA Novosti

Following the German invasion of June 1941 it took a long time for the USSR to recover from the miscalculations made in the pre-war years, and it cost the country vast losses in infantry and materiel. But by the third year of the war many of the errors had been fixed, and the Red Army had got rid of its massive unwieldy machines, leaving it with a 100-percent modern mechanized force.

But while the tank divisions could now boast better motorization and better-trained crews, problems still remained, the most important of which concerned tactics for using the armored forces. Here the Soviet generals still had a lot to learn.

This was clearly demonstrated by the Battle of Kursk, one of the largest battles in world history, in which an unprecedented number of soldiers fought on both sides. One of the biggest tank clashes in history, the Battle of Prokhorovka, occurred near Kursk in July 1943. No one talked about the real results of that battle in the Soviet years. Everyone thought that it was an indisputable Soviet victory. But the truth was different.

The Soviet command's attempt to stop the German offensive with a frontal blow using tanks in a narrow part of the front in conditions of rough terrain and with the enemy having a definite advantage in terms of armament proved to be a failure.

The advancing Soviet units lost more than half of their tanks – 2.5 times more than the Germans. Only Soviet success on the other parts of the front saved the situation. But the Soviet command was now faced with the problem of how to use its tank forces.

New tactics, new results
In the second half of the war the Soviet generals finally understood that the tank is not a universal war instrument. It needs to be used correctly in order to realize all its advantages to their full potential.

There is no sense in having tank units storm the enemy's prepared fortifications: Modern anti-tank artillery can easily eliminate practically any armored advantage. Concentrating tanks in armored handfuls and using them in different sectors also has a series of shortcomings – primarily it leads to the dispersion of forces.

The tank is the modern equivalent of the cavalry. It is better to use an armored handful in a situation when the storming of enemy positions has already begun. In order to break through enemy lines it is better to use infantry reinforced with tanks. In the event of a successful tactical breakthrough in a narrow territory the tank turns into a threatening weapon of destruction.

In 1944-1945 the Soviet command confidently broke through enemy lines with their tank armies, expanding the breach, cutting the rear communications, throwing back the enemy's reserves and isolating its units, creating huge salients.

In the early days successful attacks by the Red Army's tank divisions would usually be stopped rather quickly by the Wehrmacht, and often with infantry alone. But towards the end of the war the Soviet tanks made it to the German rear, which basically meant the destruction of the whole front. In April 1945 the tank wedges of the two Soviet fronts united west of Berlin and sealed the fate of Hitler's capital.

Manchuria, China. Locals greet Soviet liberators after Japan’s surrender on Sept. 2, 1945, ending World War II in the Pacific. Source: Alexander Stanovov/TASS

The Manchurian Operation – Soviet military planning comes of age
The operations on the German front were often planned and realized "off the cuff" – there was just no time for thorough organization. But the Soviet offensive against the Japanese Kwantung Army in Manchuria in the summer of 1945 was a real masterpiece of operational art.

In its scale it was no less significant than the largest battles against the Wehrmacht. The Soviet army had to surround and destroy the enemy's well-armed million-strong army on an enormous territory. And here the protagonists were the tanks.

Carrying out the command's order, the Soviet tank army realized a maneuver unprecedented in its complexity. Having moved through hundreds of kilometers of Mongolian desert, surmounting mountain ridges, the army made it into the enemy's far rear, where no one had expected it.

The tanks immediately entered battle, obliterating three of the enemy's divisions, and encircling the entire Kwantung Army. Today the USSR's armored forces' actions in the Manchurian Operation are still considered a shining example of military strategy and are studied in military academies all over the world.

However, it took four years of heavy losses and mistakes this incredible victory.

Why did the Soviet Air Force fail in 1941?

On June 22, 1941 the German aviation went bombing Soviet cities. Germany started a war against the USSR. Source: RIA Novosti

The Second World War marked both the launch of Russian military aviation, and its most difficult period. In 1941, the Soviet Air Force suffered a devastating defeat. In the first six months of the war, it lost nearly 70 percent of its combat aircraft. On June 22, the day of the outbreak of hostilities, the losses amounted to 1,200 aircraft, more than half of which did not even manage to get airborne.

The Germans also suffered serious losses during the same period – almost 4,000 aircraft, which exceeded the Luftwaffe's losses in all previous campaigns. But, nevertheless, the balance was not in favor of the Soviet side. The June 22 losses were a great shock for Soviet generals. After flying around his devastated airfields, the Belorusian Military District's air force commander committed suicide in despair.

The German air force - the Luftwaffe - was rightly considered the world's best. Due to their high fighting qualities, the Germans turned a threefold superiority in the Red Army's aviation to zero by winter, achieving numerical parity, which, considering the Luftwaffe's general qualitative superiority put them on the path toward air supremacy.

German pilots located targets using properly functioning tracking stations, which neutralized the tactical superiority of Soviet aviation on various sectors of the front. The Red Army's pilots showed great heroism, frequently ramming enemy planes, but all this could not reverse the overall situation.

Reasons for defeat
The Red Army had widely varying air assets. They included both new (for example, the Il-2, dubbed the "Flying Tank") and outdated machines - three times as many as new. However, even modern models had significant drawbacks: the quality of Soviet aircraft engines left much to be desired; the aircraft had poorly functioning radio communication. Soviet fighter plane armor was so vulnerable that even relatively weak machine guns mounted on German bombers could pierce it.

The training of flight personnel was provided on a just-in-time basis: pilots barely had time to learn how to operate their new machines. Shortly before the war, Soviet pilot schools had worked overtime, producing thousands of new pilots. The volumes of graduates were such that many were not made officers, so as not to inflate staff levels. Not all of the young pilots were professionals. This had already become clear during the 1939-1940 Soviet-Finnish War, when a small Finnish air force caused serious problems for Soviet aviation, despite its overwhelming numerical superiority.

Deep-rooted problems
However, the question of why 1941 was such a tragic year for the Soviet Air Force is more complicated. It should be borne in mind that the creation of a fully-fledged air force in the USSR began just 10 years before the war.

Aviation plants were often built on greenfield sites and had neither sufficient materials nor the necessary number of qualified engineers and workers. In addition, aviation is one of the most technically complex types of modern weapons. Its creation requires a developed chemical industry, electronics and metallurgy. All this was also created in the Soviet Union on a just-in-time basis.

Designers studied largely by trial and error. Disadvantages of aircraft engines limited their freedom of action, and attempts to solve them in the short term led to grave consequences. The lack of qualified commanding staff was a major problem.

Stalinist repression did not create the problem, but it certainly exacerbated it. Training and combat experience of the Soviet pilots were not at a high enough level and they were still absorbing lessons learned during combat on the side of Republican forces during the Spanish Civil War a few years earlier.

Unique Soviet T-34 tank recovered from river in south Russia

A WWII T-34-76 tank is being pulled from the bottom of the Don River by Patriot Park specialists, servicemen of Russia's Western Military District and divers, July 14, 2016. Source: Kristina Brazhnikova / TASS

The solely survived Soviet T-34-76 tank produced at the Stalingrad Tractor Factory has been retrieved from the Don River in south Russia, a TASS correspondent reports from the scene.

The operation to recover the WWII Soviet tank was carried out near the village of Ukrainskaya Builovka in the Voronezh Region by specialists of Patriot Park in the Moscow Region, servicemen of Russia’s Western Military District and divers.

The tank was successfully retrieved by a BREM-1 repair and evacuation vehicle based on a T-72 tank from the 7-meter depth. The armored vehicle that had stayed at the river bottom for more than half a century endured the operation well.

TASS reported earlier with reference to Head of the Patriot Park Department for Exhibits’ Search, Repair and Restoration Anatoly Kalemberg that all T-34 tanks produced at the Stalingrad Factory had been destroyed in battles during the first years of the Soviet Union’s Great Patriotic War against Nazi Germany in WWII.

Two versions exist about how the T-34-76 tank got into the river bed. The first version has been offered by local residents who say that the Soviet troops sank the tank during their retreat so that it would not get into the enemy’s hands.

However, as Kalemberg said, the tank’s armament was not removed, which speaks against this version.

According to the second version, the tank was moving along a pontoon bridge when it fell into the river. This version appears to hold true as the sunken pontoons, transport vehicles and small-size vessels stayed close to the tank at the river bed. As Kalemberg said, the tank was most likely lost in the summer of 1942.

Patriot Park specialists said earlier the tank weighs about 30 tons.
The unique T-34 tank recovered from the river has remained in a very good condition and can run again, Kalemberg said.

"If it is restored externally, this won’t be difficult and won’t take much time as it has remained in a very good condition. If we start restoring it to its running condition, this will take more time," he said, speaking about the time limits of the tank’s restoration.

"I hope we’ll restore it to the running condition," Kalemberg said.

According to preliminary data, there are neither munitions and other dangerous items nor crew remains inside the tank.


Monday, March 14, 2016


Gap Fillers: MiG Family Photo, models by R. Denham.

The MiG-15 first saw combat over Shanghai in April 1950. As with the Japanese Zero a decade before, Western observers were not paying attention, and the appearance of the MiG-15 over Korea in November 1950 was a shock. The MiG-15 and the North American F-86 Sabre were roughly an equal match, the MiG slightly better in climb at altitude and in maneuverability in the vertical plane, the Sabre faster in a dive, with better horizontal maneuverability. The MiG had better weapons, but the Sabre had the better gun sight. Success depended on the skill of the individual pilots and the specific tactical situation. None of the other U. S. or British aircraft really had a chance.

After Korea, the MiG-15 saw further combat in the Middle East and was widely sold to all the Soviet Union’s allies and to most of the newly emerging nations. Almost 10,000 were produced by the mid-1950s, including production by Poland and Czechoslovakia. In addition to the single-seat fighter, there was also a two-seat fighter-trainer, the MiG- 15UTI, of which about 6,700 were built. The MiG-15UTI was even more widely sold than its single-seat brother and remained in use in the Soviet Union until the end of the 1980s.

From 1951 to 1956, the MiG-15 was supplanted in production with a modernized version, the MiG-17. Neither the MiG-15 nor the MiG-17 was capable of supersonic flight, which was finally achieved by the MiG-19 series (in production from 1954 to 1961). Only 3,700 MiG-19s were produced; it was sold widely, but it had the misfortune to appear between the exceptional and long-lived MiG-17 and the equally successful MiG-21.

Gurevich retired from the bureau in 1964; he died on 12 November 1976. Mikoyan died on 9 December 1970 and was succeeded by Rostislav Apollossovich Belyakov (b. 1919), who had long been MiG’s chief designer. At this time, the MiG-23/MiG-27 family was entering production. Although the Sukhoi Su-17 was the first operational variable-geometry aircraft, the MiG-23 and MiG-27 were more distinctive, recognized first, and produced in greater numbers. From 1969 to 1982, 4,278 examples of the MiG-23, 910 MiG-27s, and 769 MiG-23UMs were produced. The MiG-23M and MiG-23P variants and derivatives were optimized for air combat and interception, respectively, and were distinguished by an ogival nose cone containing advanced radar systems. The MiG-23B variants and the MiG-27 were dedicated fighter-bombers, without air-to-air radar systems but with more flexibility for carrying bombs and rockets, and they had specialized ground targeting laser systems. These aircraft were distinguished by a sloping forward fuselage, which gave the type its Russian nickname,”Utkanos”(Ducknose).

Too late for combat over Vietnam, the MiG-23 family has participated prominently in all the conflicts since then in the Middle East and Africa and has been exported to dozens of nations. By 1982, when Syrian MiG-23s tried to fight over Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, they were flown by pilots less experienced than the Israelis and were pitted against F-16s and F-15s, fighters of an entirely later generation. Also during the 1980s, MiG-23s had the misfortune to duel Pakistani F-16s over the Afghan border, which proved it was not merely Israeli skill at work over the Bekaa. The MiG-23 was retired from Russian service on 1 May 1998 but continues in service with former Soviet republics and other countries around the globe.

Also entering service in 1969 was the MiG-25, a large interceptor capable of reaching Mach 2.8 at altitude. This aircraft was originally designed to counter the U. S. XB-70 and SR-71 and was produced in several reconnaissance variants. The MiG-25 (NATO code name “Foxbat”) achieved notoriety in 1975 when Lieutenant Viktor Belenko flew an example to Japan, which allowed the United States to examine it thoroughly, revealing a curious mix of very advanced and antiquated technology. As a consequence, the Soviets introduced a drastically improved version, the MiG-25PDS, in order to restore their secrets. About 1,190 MiG-25s of interceptor, reconnaissance, and combat trainer variants were produced by 1984. A further evolution of the basic MiG-25 design is the MiG-31. This aircraft is a highly modernized interceptor, with no reconnaissance or trainer variants included among the 500 or more produced between 1977 and 1986. In 1990, the further modified MiG-31M appeared, but the end of the Soviet Union and the decline of the Russian air force has prevented it from entering service.

The MiG-29 was the last MiG to be produced. The end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union caused difficulties for most Russian arms producers, especially MiG. The political connections that earlier proved so advantageous now turned into a liability, as MiG was associated too closely with the old regime. At the same time, MiG was supplanted by Sukhoi, which experienced a flowering of design creativity and lacked the political baggage. In 1995, MiG was merged with the newly privatized aviation factories of the Moscow Area (Aircraft) Production Organization to become MiG-MAPO. A new design, the MiG-AT, has been offered in competition with the Yak-130 for the Russian air force’s Advanced Trainer requirement.

Developing Tactics for the Il-2

A sight feared by the Wehrmacht a flight of Il-2s race over the battlefield during a low-level attack in the autumn of 1941.

The Il-2 was central to VVS RKKA’s rearmament plans, with 11 attack aircraft regiments scheduled to be equipped with Shturmoviks within five frontline military districts by the end of 1941. Six other regiments deployed further from the front, and in the far eastern regions of the USSR, were to convert to the Il-2 by mid-1942.

In addition, eight short-range bomber regiments were to also have re-equipped with the type by early 1942. As of 22 June 1941, when Germany attacked the USSR, VVS RKKA attack aviation in the five military districts facing the invaders were operating 207 1-15bis and 193 1-153 fighters. These formations had received just 20 Il-2s by the time war broke out, five having been delivered to the Baltic Special Military District, eight to the Western Special Military District, five to the Caucasus Special Military District and two to the Odessa Military District. But not one had been included in the duty rosters of the units in what was soon to become the frontline. This was due to a lack of trained pilots.

4th BBAP (Blizhnebombardirovochniy Aviatsionniy Polk – Short-Range Bomber Air Regiment) of the Kharkov Military District was the only unit to have modern attack aircraft on strength on 22 June, having received 63 Il-2s, but its pilots had not yet fully converted onto the type. According to official sources, 60 pilots and 102 engineers had been trained to operate and maintain the Il-2 by 22 June, but none had returned to their frontline units by that fateful date.

And even if they had reached 4th BBAP prior to the German invasion, pilots had not received any instruction in Il-2 combat tactics since there was no manual to study! Pre-war tactics were totally unsuited to the Il-2, and did not exploit its capabilities to their fullest extent.

The fact was that the People’s Commissar of Defence had only signed the order for Il-2 combat tests on 31 May 1941. NII VVS (NauchnoIspitatelniy Institut Voenno- Vozdushnykh Sil- Air Force Scientific Testing Institute) issued the corresponding order on 20 June. By decree of the People’s Commissar of Defence, dated 17 May 1941, independent flight crews and flights of the Caucasus Special Military District were to complete Il-2 service testing by 15 July 1941.

In actuality, tactics for the Shturmovik had to be worked out in the crucible of war in the first year of the conflict in the east, with regiments bearing heavy losses in both pilots and aircraft during this period.

With all frontline Il-2 units attached to combined services armies, combined air divisions and reserve and attack air groups of the Supreme High Command General Headquarters, Air Force command was totally unable to maneuver its forces efficiently and focus its main efforts on the primary German lines of advance.

In the early months of the war, Il-2s operated in groups of three to five aircraft, with Shturmoviks attacking their targets one at a time from a minimum altitude of20-25 m (65-80 ft) up to 150-200 m (500-650 ft), using all their weapons in a single run over the target. Whatever the height at which they started their attack, pilots would always fire their guns and drop their bombs from low level. In the absence of enemy fighters or strong anti-aircraft defences, pilots would make two to three attack runs.

When operating at low level, Il-2 pilots could capitalise on the element of surprise to evade enemy fighters. Should they be intercepted close to the ground, invariably there was no room for effective combat maneuvering by the attacking fighters.

Low-level attacks were problematic for the Il-2 pilots as well, however, as they found navigating to and from the target area no easy proposition. The short time they spent over the latter also made it difficult for commanders to coordinate their individual attack runs effectively. Combat experience, and follow-up firing-range tests, demonstrated that low-level operations did not allow the Il-2 to capitalise on its capabilities. The fact was that such tactics were the wrong ones, and could only be justified by the small number of Il-2s then in service, and the poor organisation of escorting fighter units. Western Front Air Force headquarters put it this way in a directive dated 8 August 1941;
‘Il-2 attack aircraft suffer especially inept employment. Il-2 pilots are afraid of being shot down, and often unreasonably resort to low-level flight and lose their bearings, with the result that their missions fail.’

From August, therefore, in an effort to improve the effectiveness of attacks on small targets, groups of Il-2s were led by a mission controller in a Sukhoi Su-2, a Petlyakov Pe-2 or a fighter. They would designate the target by dropping bombs or AZh-2 incendiary spheres on it.