Friday, March 15, 2013
Practice Makes Perfect
Since the end of the last war the Soviet VVS had been on a training mission. Every pilot, gunner, mechanic and armorer had been put back into specific training programs designed after the US and RAF flight training schools. Many of the instructors had been trained in the US and Britain as an exchange program since 1944. They learned the techniques used by their former allies and now they had brought them back home to the motherland. Gunnery school for the gunners and fighter pilots had increased their hit ratios dramatically. Much like Richard Bong the Yankee’s highest scoring ace the Red pilots had improved their aerial shooting skills by leaps and bounds. Bong had admitted that he was a lousy shot as he racked up 28 kills to surpass Rickenbacker to become America’s Ace of Aces. He used to say that he would stick his guns into the enemy’s cockpit and pull the trigger he was such a bad shot. When he rotated back to the states for some R&R he went through gunnery school. We he got back to shooting down Japs he no longer had to put himself at risk. The combination of his improved shooting skills and his unsurpassed piloting abilities garnered him another 13 kills to end up with 40 total before he was shipped home to die in an YP80 jet fighter crash as a test pilot. His death was a huge tragedy for the nation yet he was not given his due because the day he died was the day they dropped the bomb on Hiroshima. The headline that should have been displayed in page filling type was lost amid the exuberance of Japanese mass destruction.
The Soviet pilots improved in all categories from flying in formation for the bombers to how to counter the speed and height superiority of some RAF and USAAF planes. Using the captured and Lend Lease planes they learned what maneuvers and counter maneuvers were needed to negate an enemy attack slashing in from a high altitude into your formations at a high rate of speed. It was surprisingly easy for a practiced pilot to counter this kind of Boom and Zoom attack and practiced they became. Time it right and you just turn into the enemies attack from above and he would either have to drastically alter his speed or over shoot you. If he was arrogant he would try and turn inside of you and this is when he would die. No one outturns a Yak3 and no Mustang outturns a Yak9 or La7. Plus at 5 to one odds if you slow down to try and get into a turning fight you will lose. The Red pilots were taught how to counter and defeat the Mustang and the Spitfire.
The bomber pilots and their gunners were schooled as well. Being already skilled flyers they learned a new set of tactics and maneuvers that they prayed would stead them well. At middle and low altitude the Mustang and Spitfire were very beatable and the new tactics and lessons learned from the US and RAF instructors themselves would save many a bomber crew’s life.
The Tu2S was far from helpless losing only 71 in combat out of the original 2000 since 1943. It was considered by many as the best medium bomber of the war. 3 rear and side firing .23mm cannons and 2 front firing meant a warm welcome for any fighter that strays before the planes sights. It was a tough, fast flying machine not seen by the US and RAF in combat. Some very surprised NATO pilots were sure to fall before the guns of the Tu2S Bat. Their numbers now stood at close to 3500 and growing. Both pilots and machines were pouring out of the improved training schools and factories in numbers second only to the Yankees in 1944. They themselves had produced 40,000 planes in 1944 and were on pace to produce 60,000 this year.
Meanwhile the NATO nations had not only cut back on production of new planes but had curtailed pilot training and destroyed thousands of late war planes that will be sorely missed. The British has gone so far as to simply dumb planes into the ocean off Ireland and jammed them down mine shafts in Scotland. Thousands were just left to rot throughout the world. Left were they ended their last mission. They were left to decay into an ignominious pile of aluminum and rubber. The planes that had swept the skies of the Axis powers were considered useless and shoved down mine shafts or dumped into the Irish Sea.
We were flying an interesting but not very glorious mission in our practice raids. When signaled in by our controllers we would fly along a route calculated to cover gaps in a smoke screen. These kind of hole filling missions were considered very dangerous but we had done them before. We had flown a number of smoke screen missions against the Germans with great success. We knew we could do it but it was still a very freighting mission fraught with danger. They all knew about the proximity fuse of NATO and had even seen demonstrations of it from captured supplies. It was not a threat to their low flying IL10s however. The British only used the fuse in their 3.7” AA gun which was a long range gun and not used for low altitude.
The fuse couldn't even get itself armed. The machine guns and even the 20mm were not that much of a threat. A well aimed 20 mm could bring you down but it was not likely. The only real threat to the Beast was the Bofors 40 mm gun. They had to really respect this weapons system. Luckily they were not controlled by radar and even if they were the IL10 flew too low on most missions. Direct line of sight was needed by the Bofors and that line of sight was what their mission was all about.