Initially, the Soviet air force was inferior to its rival Nazi Germany. But then, thanks to many bloody lessons and great efforts, they turned the situation around.

Nazi military forces entered the Soviet Union in 1941 under strong air support. At that time, an urgent need for the Red Army was to catch up with the Luftwaffe in terms of aviation technology. But this was not an easy mission.

In 1942, after suffering numerous setbacks in the early stages of the Patriotic War, Soviet engineers modernized their aircraft. They worked hard to overcome the basic technical weakness of Soviet aviation – the weak engine. The Soviet Yaks were comparable to the German fighters in terms of speed. However, the first battles in the skies over Stalingrad showed that it was too early to celebrate. New German fighters surprised Soviet pilots once again. The German Messerschmitt planes significantly pushed the game back to 1941.

Technological backwardness can be compensated by numerical superiority. According to the estimates of Soviet experts, one German aircraft could match two Soviet aircraft. The Soviet army significantly accelerated the production of fighters. At the same time, the Soviet Union continued to perfect the aircraft models that were their strengths and were participating in combat.

To overcome the weakness, the Soviet Union had to start building new aircraft in the third year of the anti-fascist Patriotic war. Finally, the introduction of the Yak-3 and La-7 fighters. However, structural defects remained and this caused the plane’s accident rate to be high. By the end of the war, more than 15% of the Soviet air force’s fleet was found to be defective. However, through trial and error, the Soviet Red Army finally solved the problem of quality backwardness.

In air combat, numerical superiority does not bring victory. In the sky, it is very difficult to crush an opponent with numbers alone. Which fighter is more modern, more maneuverable, will easily destroy enemy aircraft in a single battle. This explains the fact that despite overwhelming numbers in most of the major battles of World War II, the Soviet air force often suffered heavy losses. The Soviet command quickly recognized this fact and sought to remedy it. The organizational structure of the air force was reorganized. Aircraft were assigned to separate air units, attached to their respective armies and fronts.

The Air Force cooperated well with the army units. Radio communications between the squadrons were also improved. In the past, pilots needed to agree on how to coordinate combat while they were still on the ground. But when in the air there is almost always a need to improvise and change all tactical formations. In this respect the German pilots made radio communication to reorganize the formation in the air quickly. From 1942-1943 on, Soviet pilots began to do the same. This change quickly yielded positive results.

The air battles of 1942-1943 over the Volga and Kursk regions took place with varying degrees of success. The Red Army began to develop techniques of air combat, adjusting the way of communication and cooperation within the squadrons. In 1943 Soviet aircraft began to be equipped with new radios, which also acted as radars.

By 1944, the superiority of the Soviet fighter squadron reached the level of overwhelming the enemy. As a result, the Germans were forced to take measures such as significantly reducing the size of the bomber force and increasing the fighter force.

The Allies provided substantial support to the Soviet Union. American and British fighters were sent to the Soviet Union through the Lend-Lease program, amounting to 13% of the total number of engines produced in the Soviet Union respectively. Among them are famous aircraft such as Air Cobra and King Cobra. The hard work and the support of the allies paid off: By the end of 1944, the Red Army’s air force had taken control of the skies. This was the basis for the formation of one of the most advanced air forces in the world.


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