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"Russian Attack Aviation" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following report on Russian ground attack aircraft and tactics appeared in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 27, June 17, 1943.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


The following is a condensation of an article by a Russian Colonel, published in the official Soviet newspaper, Pravda, January 5, 1943.

The tactical employment of attack aviation as described in this article appears sound, although overemphasis may have been laid on "dive-bombing." Employment of dive-bombers in the face of heavy ground fire and strong enemy interceptor opposition has proven too costly to maintain in other theaters of operation. The Russian attack plane, the "Stormovik," or "Sturmovik," is, however, believed to be very heavily armored, and consequently may be fully capable of performing the function of attack aviation by purely dive-bombing methods. This plane is equipped with three racks under each wing which carry rocket bombs. These rockets, though not wholly perfected, are reported to have been particularly effective in knocking out German tanks by air action.

The article follows.

*          *          *

The Red Air Force standard attack plane ("Sturmovik") has proved highly successful and is improving with the development of each new series.

Attack planes operate under all weather conditions except fog. Rain, snow, ceilings under 150 feet, or visibility as low as 1 mile do not deter attack aviation from carrying out its missions. Under such conditions, bombers cannot operate and attack airplanes must be used to wipe out enemy personnel and materiel.

When enemy long-range artillery keeps Red Army units from moving up their reserves, the attack planes search out the enemy positions and silence his guns. When Soviet infantry cannot move through narrow, exposed defiles, the attack planes bomb the enemy mortar positions and machine-gun his personnel. Off the battlefield, the attack plane is employed principally as an assault weapon against enemy infantry and motorized columns. Attack planes usually operate with a fighter escort, but, when the ceiling is low, they operate independently at low altitudes. Close formation flying and good radio communication are important factors in providing mutual protection against enemy fighters.

In the beginning of the Soviet-German war, attack planes operated only at low altitudes. The more conservative senior officers concentrated mostly on the advantage of surprise attack. They thereby automatically excluded one of the most powerful air weapons, bombs of all calibers with instantaneous fuzes, since with this type of fuze it was impossible to gain the necessary altitudes before the bombs detonated. On the other hard experimenting in combat, it was ascertained that bombing from too high an altitude affected accuracy. Dive-bombing by attack planes proved to be the successful solution. In other words, it is necessary to change to air tactics which prove successful, and to leave conservatism behind.

Because of the variety of missions assigned to attack aviation and the fact that the pilot flies alone, he must be versatile. He must be able to fly his plane, navigate to his target, drop his bombs, fire his cannon and machine guns on small targets, and return to his airdrome. He must know the organization and dispositions of his own troops, as well as the terrain over which he operates. In addition he must have perfect knowledge of the plane in order to control it close to the ground against the heaviest antiaircraft fire and against surprise attack by enemy fighters.

The attack pilot must therefore possess the courage of a pursuit pilot, the aim of a bombardier, the experience of a qualified navigator, and the skill of a long-range reconnaissance pilot. No aviation school can train a student to be expert in all these lines; thus, it is necessary for the pilot to augment his flying education in combat. Experience has proven that the axiom "the more difficult the training, the easier the combat" is especially true of attack pilots. It is imperative that experienced officers keep close check on new pilots. If one of the later demonstrates any particular weakness, he must be given additional training along that line. If he bombs poorly, he must be immediately put on the "polygon" bombing course; if he has trouble orienting himself in a certain region, he must fly in a training or observation plane until he is thoroughly familiar with the terrain, etc. He must be taught to change his tactics quickly when necessary, by drawing on experiences of his own and of others.


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