Friday, March 15, 2013
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.
The NATO designation for the Soviet Tu2S medium bomber is Bat. This plane was first sent into combat in 1943 is considered by many to be one of if not the best medium bomber of WWII. It saved Andrei Tupolev from prison with it’s brilliant design. Not even Stalin could ignore it’s genius. It was almost fast as some of the front-line fighters of it’s day and could carry up to 8,000 lbs for over a thousand miles. This was the equal to the normal load and range of the B-17 heavy bomber which carried 7,000 for a range of 800 miles. Now the Flying Fortress could be called upon to carry up to 17,600 lbs and could fly 2000 miles with 4500 lbs and had much more defensive armament thus the designation heavy bomber. The Tu2S Bat relied on being faster and more maneuverable. It was used as a heavy fighter and did attack other bombers with its 2 forward firing 20 mm cannons.
The initial mission for the Bats in the Second Battle of Britain was to lay down a smoke screen from on high. They had two models of smoke bombs that they were going to be using. One was base on the US E44 Smoke Bomb Cluster and other the German N C 50 Smoke Bomb. Now in today’s vernacular a smoke bomb does not sound very dangerous. These bombs will prove to be very dangerous to the light anti-aircraft guns all over Britain.
Some of the bombs would produce vision blocking smoke for up to 20 minutes. Special IL10 units were being trained to lay down “touch up” smoke screens as well . Smoke screens were used rather sparingly on the Easter Front but they were used and the IL2 Sturmovik came in quite handy in laying them down. Almost impervious to small arms fire and even heavy machine guns they actually cruised at low altitude between the enemy and their forces and put down smoke screens that blinded the enemy to the axis of attack. It worked quite well at times.
The main job of blinding the Bofors 40mm guns, the 20mm guns and heavy machine guns fell to the Bats and their smoke bombs. Once the smaller AA guns were blind other Bats and Beasts will be called upon to finish the job. At low level the 3.7” radar directed gun is not a threat to fast moving planes flying at under 100 feet spewing liquid flames and cluster bombs. The Sturmovik “Circle of Death” will make it self known over 10, 11 and 12 Group.
We had just got back from deep inside the Ukraine. Our mission had been very secret. We had tested the jamming capabilities of the American electronics that had been provided for us to install in our Lend Lease B25J bombers. For the first time we flew the jamming device turned on and it worked! They shot actual shells at us. 3.7” British made shells with the magic VT Proximity fuse attached. Needless to say before the first test we were very nervous despite the assurances of the scientists in their white coats and even after a speech by Novikov himself we were very skeptical to say the least. It worked, it really worked.
The magic shells were actually worse than a regular 3.7” shell because the jammer send out a signal that made them detonate far below us…a full thousand feet below us. It was very funny to see the crew jeer and shout insults at the gunners below. Now the strange semi dome formations made sense. Now the emphasis on the other planes staying as close as possible to us became clear. Now we knew our true mission. Now we were heartened at the prospects of our survival and the bombers that surrounded us. The months of practice would soon be demonstrated for all to see. Not for some parade but for a practical reason, a very lifesaving reason.
We were cautioned that we would have a very limited opportunity to use our jammers to their greatest extent. The RAF was sure to change their tactics and even the use of conventional fuses would spell the doom of many of our comrades. The first week of the Battle would be critical and the focus of our efforts were to be the 3.7” heavy AA guns and their crews. These guns were the only ones who could stop the first waves of TU2s Bats from completing their mission. We were to ignore enemy fighters or bombers and concentrate on finding and drawing out into combat the heavy AA guns that used the VT proximity fuse. These were our enemy and we had to make them show their positions so the IL10 Beasts and other forms of ground attack units could destroy them.
Only the heavy AA guns were radar controlled and could see in the night and clouds. Only the 3.7 AA ammo was equipped with the VT proximity fuse. Our mission was to draw them out to make them give up their positions to the waves of explosives and fire that would seek them out. Death from above meted out by our ground attack brothers and sisters to those who would end our existence.
The initial waves of Tu2S Bats that would be surrounding us had their own mission, but I will let them tell their story for themselves.