We’ve already talked about how the great bulk of Soviet air power was destroyed in vast quantities at the start of the War in the East.
But of course there’s far more to the story than that. Let’s take a look at the modern face of Soviet air power in the later part of the War.
The Soviets classified this aircraft as a dive bomber. And indeed it does have dive brakes under the wings. But it was not a true helldiver like a Stuka or Dauntless. It was more of a fast attack aircraft like an A-20 Havoc or de Havilland Mosquito.
How it came to be is complex story. Vladimir Petlyakov was another talented aircraft designer who ran afoul of Joseph Stalin and from 1937 was working for the Prison Design Bureau. He was ordered to start work on a heavy fighter to compare to Messerschmitt’s Bf 110. The prototype flew in 1940 and was very modern with supercharged engines, all metal construction, electrically actuated systems and crew pressurization.
But as events of 1940 unfolded, especially the Battle of Britain, the VVS (Soviet Air Force) came to feel the whole heavy fighter concept was flawed. Petyakov was ordered to scrap that aircraft and design a tactical bomber, preferably a fast dive bomber. He was given 45 days. Apparently he was a smart enough man to realize his basic design was sound and would fit the new mission just fine with just a few fitting changes. That started with removing pressurization and supercharging, and adding a bomb bay and dive flaps.
Stalin was well enough pleased to release Petlyakov from prison and allow the new plane to carry his name as a reward.
The new aircraft had two 1200 hp engines, 4 x 7.62 mm machine guns (two in the nose, plus one dorsal and one ventral for defense), a crew of four and could carry over 2000 lbs of bombs (half in the internal bomb bay, half under the wings) at 350 mph. It was fast and flew well, except it was heavy to unstick on take-off so a procedure was devised for smaller pilots (especially the large number of women pilots flying combat for the VVS) where the Navigator stepped up behind the pilot and helped pull back on the yoke to get airborne.
A small number had entered service by June 1941. Of course those were quickly destroyed like so much Soviet air power. But it was a priority type that remained in production through the War. Several changes were made during the War. First, the forward firepower was found to be inadequate so the nose machine guns were replaced with 12.7 mm types. Likewise, the dorsal and ventral guns were similarly upgraded. A mid position was also added for the radio operator, a single 7.62 mm machine gun was added that could be moved between three mid-section mounts as needed. Crew armor was also improved.
The aircraft remained vulnerable to fighter interception. Service life rarely exceeded 30 missions and the Soviets rarely provided much fighter escort. Over 11000 were built during the War.
It remained in service post-War with Soviet and Eastern Bloc air forces.
This aircraft was attached to the 12th Guards Regiment. I don’t have specific information on where it fought or who flew it, beyond the observation that the “Guards” label was attached to units that had distinguished themselves.
This is the Zvesda kit. I have a few of this brand in the stash, no shock this Ukrainian company specializes in Soviet hardware. But I believe this was the first of theirs I’ve built. It mostly fit well and is very nicely detailed. But I had previously considered ICM kits to be a little fiddly and tricky. Well, oof. The parts break down on this kit is insane. there were several pieces I could hardly see, never mind manipulate in any way whatsoever. The ventral machine gun (see it down there?) was composed of over a dozen pieces. Seriously, the problem with this goes beyond just getting things in place and correctly aligned. You end up with very little strength to the build. There were parts I tried two or three times to align correctly, before loosing them entirely.
Now for all that I’m mostly pleased with the end result. Its a decent representation of a nice looking attack plane. I will be willing to tackle other Zvesda kits in the future, but not too soon I think.
An excellent account of a little known aircraft. Reading about the upgrades to the defensive armament made me think that it might have been the next step in the story of Bristol Blenheim type aircraft. Given the Blenheim’s extremely patchy record, it would be interesting to see a statistical breakdown of how all the Pe-2s were lost, and whether they were significantly different to the Boston.
Incidentally, the next time I think back to my various bosses with thoughts of poisoned coffee, I will remember Mr Petlyakov and realise that things could have been worse.
It is amazing to me that the Russians got such good results from such harsh policies.
The Blenheim is a good parallel size-wise, but the Pe-2 was much faster. The wastage on Pe-2s was horrible in the early years. They were shot down in droves. Comparisons with the Sturmovik would be interesting too, I’m really struck by how close they are in size.
But the big thing is how comparatively crude Soviet tactics, training and doctrine were. They just went in fast and low, with little or no escort regardless of the defense.
The Russians are coming Dave!
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More complex than ICM? I will pass on this one Dave. I am still recovering… Enjoying the MiG-15 and the IL-2 is next.
Yes, and a lot more itty, bitty parts! I think the kit designers were sadists!
Over-engineering is problem many manufacturers share, and it is sometimes sufficient to kick all the fun out of the build. I’m finding it more enjoyable to add detail to a basic but strong kit than to wade through a detailed, high parts count but structurally weak one.
That makes a lot of sense. It is a problem for many Soviet types that are only done by the Ukrainian companies. Although I feel like I’m getting more confident with ICM, but Zvezda is brutal!
Well I gotta say this is not a plane I ever heard of, or knew anything about, but it appears to have been an impressive weapon, even if not on quite the same level as the Mosquito, et al.
I guess it will be a feature for a long time that the real history and effectiveness of soviet weapons and units is not going to be something that comes easily.
I thought you were all over the Eastern Front stuff!
It was certainly a capable and modern type. Apparently that “Prison Design Bureau” thing worked out pretty well!
A few aspects of the eastern front were of great interest to me, but overall I know far less about it than the western allies fight. And certainly not the air war, mostly the armor and the big battles like Kursk.
No doubt the big tank battles are what the East is known for.
It’s a good job Petlyakov knew his stuff otherwise it would have been the front for him or even worse! Coming out of the Bf 210, 410 etc box it certainly had potential even given its high losses to start with. Like it’s German counterparts did it ever have a larger anti-tank gun fitted do you know? I don’t recall ever seeing one, but can’t say for certain.
Not a bigger gun that I know of, but there was also a Pe-3, night fighter variant, that had heavier forward firepower.