Combat Actions of the 1st and 3rd Air Armies in the First Rzhev-Sychev Operation: Losses and Their Replacement

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Abstract


The article discusses the combat work of the Red Army air force (the 1st and the 3rd air armies of the Western and Kalinin fronts, respectively) during the Rzhev-Sychev operation, focusing on the role of field aircraft repair for the replacement of losses suffered in the battle, and for maintaining the overall combat capability of the air forces in the offensive zone. The author suggests considering the battle of Rzhev as one of the largest and longest aviation battles of the Great Patriotic War. The paper offers a comparative analysis of the number of forces involved in the Rzhev-Sychevsky operation with other large-scale air operations. Drawing on hitherto unstudied sources from the collections of the Central Archive of the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation and on statistical data, the author explains the tactical application of aviation in the Central part of the Soviet-German front in the summer and autumn of 1942, as well as the patterns and main causes of losses during the military operation. The author emphasizes the critical importance of field repair for an accelerated recovery of air force strike capabilities; this gave the Soviet units significant advantages over the German Luftwaffe in the region. As the paper shows, the command of the 1st and 3rd air armies were fully aware of the importance of field repair and gave it thoughtful consideration; already during the intense fighting, measures were taken to share the gained experience with other units.


Full text / tables, figures

Table 1

Available Aircrafts in the 1st Air Army and Army Aviation of the Western Front in July 1942

Aircraft type

1st Air Army

Army Aviation

Fighters

MiG-3

11 (1)*

0

Hurricane

5 (0)

0

Yak-1

87 (18)

8 (3)

LagG-3

37 (6)

33 (12)

I-16

0

6 (2)

I-153

0

5 (0)

Total

140 (25)

52 (1)

Scout planes

Pe-2

3 (4)

0

Pe-3

2 (1)

0

Total

5 (5)

0

Attack planes

Il-2

219 (36)

0

Total

219 (36)

0

Bomber aircrafts

Pe-2

59 (1)

0

SB, Ap-2

10 (0)

0

R-5

29 (0)

0

U-2

58 (0)

0

Total

156 (1)

0

Spotter planes

Su-2

0

8 (1)

Total

0

8 (1)

TOTAL

580 (85) – actually 530 of them could immediately perform combat missions

 

Note. * Hereinafter, in brackets, the number of faulty combat vehicles (not to be confused with completely non-combat vehicles).

Sources: TSAMO. F. 1-y vozdushnoy armii [1st Air Army]. Op. 3284. D. 53. L. 2–3.

 

Table 2

Available Aircrafts in the 3rd Air Army and Army Aviation of the Kalinin Front in July 1942

 

Airfield

Aircraft type

Number

209th Fighter Division

Ignatievo

LagG-3

45 (15)

210th Fighter Division

Gorozhino

Yak-1/Yak-7

31 (12)

211th Bombardment Aviation Division

Budovo

 

Pe-2

 

35 (15)

212th Strike Fighter Division

Pravaya Kamenka

 

Il-2

 

46 (3)

253rd Fighter Division

Dulovo

I-16/ Hurricane

8 (5) / 15 (5)

264th Strike Fighter Division

Krapivnya

 

Il-2

 

95 (12)

11th Separate Rocket Artillery Regiment

Esipovichi

 

Pe-2

 

2

Night Bomber Aviation Regiment, transport, air regiment, communications units

At forward airfields and pop-up platforms

 

 

U-2

 

 

 

103 (13)

 

TOTAL

 

53 bomber aircrafts, 166 attack planes, 137 fighters, 2 scout planes, 116 night bombers, etc. Total – 474 aircrafts

 Sources: TsAMO. F. 3-y vozdushnoy armii [3rd Air Army]. Op. 4495. D. 104–105. L. 3–4.

 

Table 3

Activity of Enemy Air Force by Type of Aircraft and by the Number of Flights over the Armies of the Western Front in August 1942

Army

Number of flights

Aircraft type

Number of flights

31-я

2923

Ме-109 / Me-109

2035

20-я

2338

Хе-113 / He-113

109

5-я

867

Ме-110 / Me-110

428

33-я

995

Ю-88 / Yu-88

6068

43-я

438

Ю-87 / Yu-87

1629

49-я

270

Хе-111 / He-111

2279

50-я

196

Хш-126 / Hs -126

555

10-я

650

Тип не установлен /
Type not identified

1810

16-я

1557

61-я

4679

TOTAL

14913

 Source: TsAMO. F. Kalininskogo fronta [Kalinin Front.]. Op. 2002. D. 834–510. Shot 41 (mikrofilm).

 

Table 4

Losses of the 1st Air Army Units in August 1942

Aircraft type

MiG-3

LagG-3

Yak-1

Il-2

Pe-2

SB

U-2

USB

Ap-2

 TOTAL

 

Shot down by fighter aircrafts

24

26

64

54

15

0

2

0

0

165

Shot down by antiaircraft artillery and antiaircraft guns

0

9

3

74

5

0

1

0

0

112

Destroyed at airfields

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

Failed to return from the mission

1

8

50

70

26

3

3

0

1

65

Total battle losses

25

43

128

198

56

3

6

0

1

443

Number of catastrophies

0

1

2

5

3

0

0

0

0

1

Number of accidents

0

5

3

22

1

0

7

1

0

43

Total non-battle losses

0

6

5

27

4

0

7

1

0

54

Sources: TsAMO. F. 1-y vozdushnoy armii [1st Air Army]. Op. 3284. D. 54–55. L. 25–26.

 

Table 5

Losses of the 1st Air Army Units in September 1942

Aircraft type

Yak-1

Yak-7

Lag-G-3

La-5

Aircobra

Hurricane

Il-2

Pe-2

SB

R-5

U-2

TOTAL

Shot down by fighter aircrafts

4

7

1

1

1

1

20

16

0

0

0

51

Shot down by anti-
aircraft artillery and
antiaircraft guns

1

1

0

1

0

0

7

14

0

0

2

26

Destroyed at airfields

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

1

1

3

Failed to return from the mission

3

4

2

2

1

1

29

2

1

1

5

51

Total battle losses

8

12

3

4

2

2

56

33

1

2

8

131

Number of catas-
trophies

1

0

0

1

0

0

1

0

2

1

1

7

Number of accidents

0

0

2

0

0

1

7

4

1

1

6

22

Total non-battle losses

1

0

2

1

0

1

8

4

3

2

7

29

 Source: TsAMO. F. 1-y vozdushnoy armii [1st Air Army]. Op. 3284. D. 56. L. 23–24.

 

Table 6

Losses of the 3rd Air Army Units during the Rzhev-Sychyovka operation (30 July – 1 October 1942)

Aircraft type

LaG-3

Yak-1/Yak-7

Pe-2

Il-2

I-16

Hurricane

U-2

TOTAL

Shot down by fighter aircrafts

33

15

35

37

3

2

0

125

Shot down by antiaircraft artillery and antiaircraft guns

3

7

8

48

0

0

2

68

Destroyed at airfields

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Failed to return from the mission

11

11

10

32

6

0

6

75

Total battle losses

47

33

53

117

9

2

8

259

Number of catastrophies

0

0

2

4

0

0

1

7

Number of accidents

3

2

8

12

0

0

10

40

Total non-battle losses

3

2

10

16

0

0

11

47

 Source: TsAMO. F. 3-y vozdushnoy armii [3rd Air Army]. Op. 4495. D. 104–105. L. 25.

About the authors

Ivan I. Mizerov

RUDN University

Author for correspondence.
Email: mizerchuk@mail.ru
6, Miklukho-Maklaya St., Moscow, 117198, Russia

Postgraduate student of the Department of Russian History

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