Soviet Air Forces

Военно-воздушные силы СССР

Voyenno-vozdushnye sily USSR

Air forces of the USSR (Soviet Air Force)

Soviet Air Forces (VVS)

Flag of the Soviet Air Forces

Active 24 May 1918
Country USSR
Available at Soviet Armed Forces
Submission Ministry of Defense of the Soviet Union
Headquarters Moscow, Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, Soviet Union
Strenght 10,000 aircraft
Participation in the
Red star

From 1918 to 1943

URSS Russian aviation red star

From 1943 to this day


The Soviet Air Force, officially known in Russian as Военно-воздушные силы or (in the Latin alphabet) Voenno-Vozdushnye Sily (literally, "Military Air Forces") and often abbreviated VVS (ВВС in Cyrillic) is the official designation of one of the air forces of the Soviet Union. The other was the Soviet Air Defense Forces. The Air Forces were formed from components of the Imperial Russian Air Force in 1917, faced their greatest test during World War II, were involved in the Korean War, and the Soviet war in Afghanistan. The main objectives of the Air Force was to air cover the Soviet Ground Forces and Soviet Navy , the direct destruction of objects and forces of the enemy, participation in special operations, aerial lift, as well as the crucial role in the conquest of the air. The basic structure of the Air Force were far ( YES ) , military transport ( VTA ) and the tactical aviation . Some parts of the Soviet Air Force entered the strategic nuclear forces of the country, which include the use of nuclear weapons.

On the number of personnel and number of aircraft at it's peak in 1991 was the largest air force in the world. By 1990 their composition was 6,079 aircraft of various types.

The Soviet Air Forces is the largest air force in the world with over 10,000 aircraft in active service. The Soviet Navy has its own air arm, the Soviet Naval Aviation (Russian: Aviatsiya Voyenno Morskogo Flota).


The All-Russia Collegium for Direction of the Air Forces of the Old Army (translation is uncertain) was formed on 20 December 1917. This was a Bolshevik aerial headquarters initially led by Konstantin Akashev. Along with a general postwar military reorganisation, the collegium was reconstituted as the "Workers' and Peasants' Red Air Fleet" (Glavvozduhflot), established on 24 May 1918 and given the top-level departmental status of "Main Directorate".

It became the Directorate of the USSR Air Forces on 28 March 1924, and then the Directorate of the Workers-Peasants Red Army Air Forces on 1 January 1925. Gradually its influence on aircraft design became greater. From its earliest days, the force mimicked ground forces' organization especially in the 1930s, by then being made up of Air armies, Aviation Corps, Aviation Divisions, and Soviet Aviation Regiments.

After the creation of the Soviet state many efforts were made in order to modernize and expand aircraft production, led by its charismatic and energetic commander, General Yakov Alksnis, an eventual victim of Joseph Stalin's Great Purge. Domestic aircraft production increased significantly in the early years of the 1930s and towards the end of the decade the Soviet Air Force was able to introduce Polikarpov I-15 and Polikarpov I-16 fighters and Tupolev SB and SB-bis and Ilyushin DB-3 bombers.

Air Forces of Russia

Russian Empire

Imperial Russian Air Force (1909–1917)

Soviet Union

Red Air Force (1918–present)

Soviet Naval Aviation (1918–present)

Soviet Air Defense Forces (1948–present)

Soviet Strategic Rocket Forces (1959–present)

Russian Federation

Russian Air Force (1991–present)

Russian Naval Aviation (1991–present)

Russian Strategic Rocket Forces (1991–present)

One of the first major tests for the VVS came in 1936 with the Spanish Civil War, in which the latest aircraft designs, both Soviet and German, were employed against each other in fierce air-to-air combat. At first, the Polikarpov I-16 fighters proved superior to any of the German Luftwaffe fighter aircraft, and managed to achieve local air superiority wherever they were employed. However, the Soviets refused to supply the plane in adequate numbers, and their aerial victories were soon squandered because of their limited use. Later German Messerschmitt Bf 109s delivered to Franco's Spanish Nationalist air forces secured air superiority for the Nationalists, one they would never relinquish. The defeats in Spain coincided with the arrival of Stalin's Great Purge of the ranks of the military leadership, which severely affected the combat capabilities of the rapidly expanding Soviet Air Forces. Newly promoted officers lacked flying and command experience, while older commanders, witnessing the fate of General Alksnis and others, lacked initiative, frequently referring minor decisions to Moscow for approval, and insisting that their pilots strictly comply with standardized and predictable procedures for both aerial attack and defence.

On 19 November 1939, VVS headquarters was again titled the Main Directorate of the Red Army Air Forces.

Workers 'and Peasants' Red Air FleetEdit

Main article: Workers 'and Peasants' Red Air Fleet

Ilya Muromets flying

The legacy of the Russian Empire, the young Soviet air fleet went to one division of C-22, "Ilya Muromets"

The Air Force created the first Soviet state with the Red Army . Guide their construction was carried Commissariat for Military and Naval Affairs . It consists of 2 January 1918 National Board was established to manage the fleet of Air, whose chairman was appointed K. Akasha B. . Transition to the construction of the regular Worker-Peasant Red Airforce was launched in accordance with the order № 84 of People's Commissariat for Military and Naval Affairs, on 25 January 1918 , which required "to keep entirely to the working people of all air units and schools." 24 May 1918 , the National Board was abolished and formed Defence Worker-Peasant Red Airforce (Glavvozduhoflot), headed by a Council of Chief Commissioners and two Glavvozduhoflota . For the management of combat operations aviation units on the fronts of the Civil War in September 1918 at the headquarters of the Revolutionary Military Council of the Republic was created Field Aviation Administration and ballooning of the army (Aviadarm). At the end of 1921 due to the liquidation of fronts Aviadarm was abolished. Single body aircraft management has become the main control of the Air Force.

By November of 1918 in the air force was 38, in the spring of 1919 - 61, and by December 1920 - 83 Squadron (including 18 marine) . Only during the Civil War at the front at the same time there were up to 350 Soviet aircraft . At the disposal of the High Command was also RKKVF Division airships " Ilya Muromets " .

Air Force Red ArmyEdit

After the end of the Russian Civil War was reorganized RKKVF. In the 1924 decision of the SNK Worker-Peasant Air Fleet renamed the Air Force of the Red Army , and the General Directorate of Air Fleet - the Office of the Air Force . In the same year formed bombers as a separate genus of aviation, when new reorganization provided for the formation of legkobombardirovochnyh and Heavy Bomber Squadrons . Changed the correlation of types of aircraft. Became more and more fighters and bombers and less intelligence. By the mid- 1930s, the Air Force, many new types of aircraft, which had an impact on the structure. After joining the armed F-6 have cruiser squadron, when in 1936 the factories received the first Sat - high-speed bomber, but with the beginning of the development of the DB-3 in 1937 - long-range bomber. Has been a rapid proliferation of the Air Force. As in 1924 - 1933's fighters came into service [Polikarpov I-2]] , Polikarpov I-3 , Polikarpov I-4 , Polikarpov I-5 , scouts R-3, heavy bombers TB-1 and TB-3 . By the mid-30s for service were also taken fighters Polikarpov I-15 , Polikarpov I-16 , I-153 , bombers Sat , DB-3 . Fleet Red Army Air Force from 1928 to 1932 has increased by 2.6 times, and the number of imports decreased by fighter planes from 92 to 4%, the bombers - with 100 to 3% .

As in 1938 - 1939 Air Force were transferred from the Brigade organization regimental and divisional. The basic tactical unit was the regiment, consisting of 4-5 squadrons (60-63 aircraft, and Heavy Bomber Regiment - 40 aircraft) . In accordance with the purpose and objectives of the Air Force changed the proportion of different types of aircraft in the Air Force: bombers and attack aircraft to the 1940 - 1941 was 51.9%, fighter - 38.6%, intelligence - 9.5% . However, many types of aircraft on the main tactical and technical data has yielded the same type of aircraft of the capitalist states. Growth of technical equipment the Air Force, their numerical increase demanded significant improvements affairs training command, engineering and aircraft technicians. In 1938 for flight and technical personnel for the Air Force in 18 flight and technical schools .

In the early 1930's began innovations in the structure of the army. In the Air Force from 1932 included Soviet Airborne Troops . Later, they got their aircraft - transport and reconnaissance aircraft. In September 1935 in the Red Army appeared military ranks. All pilots, by modern standards, were due to the officers. Flight schools let them in the rank of "Lieutenant" .

In the late 1930s the Air Force Red Army raised a wave of repression . Many commanders of the Red Army Air Force, among which there was a lot of pilots with that obtained in Spain , People's Republic of China , Finland, military experience, were repressed.

For the period from 1924 to 1946 the Red Army Air Force pilots participated in the armed conflict in the Spanish Civil War , in Halkin-Gol , in the Winter War , and in the air battles of World War II .

The Spanish Civil WarEdit

Main article: Spanish Civil War

In February 1936 during the elections in the impoverished, backward, Spain, came to power, left the Popular Front , and after five months of the nationalist forces, supported by the new Nazis, rose in open rebellion, civil war. On the support of loyal Soviet republican government in Spain began arriving Soviet pilots volunteers. The first air combat with Soviet pilots took place on November 5 1936 , and soon the number of fights has increased significantly .

Polikarpov I-16-Spain (clipped and decolored)

Polikarpov I-16 with the identification marks of the Spanish Republic . Soviet pilots on these machines performed well in combat with German biplanes and before the Messerschmitt Bf. 109 were the kings of the air


Heavy bomber TB-3 , draw attention distinguishing marks

At the beginning of the Soviet air combat fighter pilots on the new Polikarpov I-16 were able to achieve significant air superiority over the pilots of Luftwaffe flying in the beginning of the war on biplanes Heinkel He-51 . It was agreed that in Spain the latest Messerschmitt Bf.109 . However, their debut was not very successful: all three delivered a prototype to one degree or another, suffered technical flaws . In addition, they all have design differences, so their maintenance and repairs caused big problems. After a few weeks, and not taking part in hostilities, the aircraft were sent back. Then help the Franco regime were sent the latest Messerschmitt Bf.109V . As expected, the modernized "Messerschmitt" far superior Soviet fighters Polikarpov I-16 . German planes were faster in level flight, had more combat ceiling and were significantly faster in a dive. However, it should be noted that the I-16 surpassed its competitors in agility, especially at altitudes below 3,000 m .

Some Soviet volunteers after their return home quickly advance in employment, in large measure due to a purge of senior officers, who at that time began to Joseph Stalin . Therefore, many of those who fought in Spain, after the German invasion in June 1941 became colonels and even generals. Recently advanced officials lacked experience in flight and the team, while the team is older lacked initiative, often sending small requests to Moscow for approval, and insisted that their pilots strictly comply with standardized and predictable aerobatic maneuvers during the flight, wanting thus reducing the accident rate in the Air Force.

19 November 1939 Air Headquarters was reorganized as General Directorate of the Air Force of the Red Army, the chief of which was Jacob Smushkevich .

Fighting in Halkin-GolEdit

Main article: Fighting in Halkin-Gol

Khalkhin Gol Soviet Polikarpov I-16 1939

After transfer to the Soviet Far East pilots had combat experience in the skies of Spain , and the upgraded Polikarpov I-16 , managed to grab control of the air Halkin-Gol

The Soviet Air Force has played a crucial role in the armed conflict, which lasted from the spring to the autumn of 1939 the river Halkin-Gol in the Mongolian People's Republic , near the border with Manchuria, between the USSR and Empire of Japan . The sky turned the air war. Already the first collisions at the end of May the advantage of Japanese aviators. Thus, over the two days of fighting Soviet fighter regiment lost 15 fighters, while the Japanese side has lost only one machine .

Soviet command had to take drastic action: May 29, from Moscow to the battle group of pilots flew aces, led by Deputy Chief of the Red Army Air Force James Smushkevich . Many of them were hero of the Soviet Union pilots, who had combat experience in the skies of Spain and China. After that, the air forces of the parties are roughly equal. To ensure air supremacy in the Far East were sent new modernized Soviet fighter Polikarpov I-16 and Polikarpov I-153 "Chaika" . Thus, in the result of the battle on 22 June, which is widely known in Japan (during this battle was shot down and captured by the famous Japanese flying ace Takeo Fukuda, who became famous during the war in China), was provided by the superiority of the Soviet aircraft over the Japanese and managed seize control of the air. All in aerial combat with 22 to 28 June, the Japanese air forces lost 90 aircraft . Soviet aircraft losses were much lower - 38 cars .

Fighting continued until 14 September 1939 . During this time it is gained 589 aerial victories (real losses in Japan totaled 164 aircraft from all causes ), the loss amounted to 207 aircraft, 211 pilots were killed. Several times pilots who ended ammunition, went to the ram. The first such attack conducted July 20 Skobarihin Witt .

The War with FinlandEdit

Main article: Winter War Some practical combat experience had been gained in participating in the Spanish Civil War, and against Japan in the Far-East. Shortly before the start of war with Germany a Soviet Volunteer Group was sent to People's Republic of China to train the pilots from the Republic of China Air Force for the continuing war with the Japanese. However, these experiences proved of little use in the Winter War against Finland in 1939, where scores of inexperienced Soviet bomber and fighter pilots were shot down by a relatively small number of Finnish Air Force (FAF) pilots. The VVS soon learned that established Soviet air defence procedures derived from the Spanish Civil War, such as forming defensive circles when attacked, did not work well against the Finns, who employed dive-and-zoom tactics to shoot down their Soviet opponents in great numbers. The effects of the Great Purge in 1937–38 on the Red Army's officer corps undoubtedly played a role in the slow reaction of the VVS and its command to the new realities of air combat. The Soviet Air Force as well as the Soviet aircraft industry would eventually learn from these combat experiences, though not before the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941.

Leadership of the Soviet Union began to look for ways to best prepare the country for the coming war. One important task was to optimize the defense of frontiers. In this area, there were problems: the north border with Finland ran 20-30 miles from Leningrad , a major industrial center of the country. In the case of the territory of Finland to attack the city would inevitably hurt, there is a very real possibility of losing it. As a result of failed diplomatic negotiations and a number of border incidents, the Soviet Union declared war on Finland. November 30 1939 , Soviet troops crossed the border.

Polikarpov I-16 were involved in the conflict half a Soviet fighter aircraft, while the rest of the biplane Polikarpov fighters were, by modern standards obsolete. The first battle in the skies over Finland showed not enough embattled Red Army Air Force, especially the bomber . Seconded to the headquarters of the North-Western Front Corps Commander PS Shelukhin wrote Commissar of Defense:

"The state of combat training air units are at the lowest level ... Bombers can not fly and particularly maneuvering systems. Therefore, you can not create fire interaction and reflect massive fire attack fighters. This allows the enemy to put his insignificant forces telling blows. Navigation training is very weak, which leads to a lot bluzhdeny (so in the document), even in good weather and in poor visibility and at night - mass bluzhdeniya. The pilot, being unprepared for the route, and the fact that the responsibility for aircraft navigation is on observer-pilot, the flight be careless and lose orientation, hoping for a pilot observer. Mass bludezhki very deleterious effect on combat readiness units, as they lead to a lot of losses, without any influence of the enemy and undermine the confidence in their abilities in their carriages, and this in turn causes the commanders weeks to wait for good weather, sharply lower than the number of crashes ... Speaking of air operations in general, need the most to talk about her action or inaction mostly dry. For nothing else can explain the fact that our air with enormous superiority in almost a month could not help the enemy ... "

For the time of the Russo-Finnish War, the Soviet Union lost 627 aircraft of various types . 37.6% of them were shot down in combat or landing in enemy territory, and 13.7% were missing, lost 28.87% as a result of accidents and catastrophes, and 19.78% were damaged, are not allowed to return the aircraft in operation . At the same time, the Finnish side lost 76 shot down in combat and damaged 51 aircraft, although the official Soviet figures Finns lost 362 aircraft . Last war showed serious lag as the Soviet Air Force in the art, and in the organization and management of the fighting troops. On 1 January 1941, six months prior to Operation Barbarossa, (in the Air Force, there were 26 392 aircraft, of which 14 954 and 11 438 military training and transportation. Serving in the Air Force of the Soviet Red Army there were 363,900 people personnel, accounting for 8.65% of all military force personnel of the Soviet Union.

The first three Air Armies, designated Air Armies of Special Purpose were created between 1936 and 1938. On 5 November 1940 these were reformed as the Long Range Bombardment Aviation of the High Command of the Red Army (until February 1942) due to lack of combat performance during the conflict with Finland.

The Air Force was hit hard by the Red Army purges in 1941.

1930s aviation cultEdit

Between 1933 and 1938, the Soviet government planned and funded missions to break numerous world aviation records. Not only did aviation records and achievements become demonstrations of the USSR’s technological progress, they also served as legitimization of the socialist system. With each new success, Soviet press trumpeted victories for socialism, popularizing the mythology of aviation culture with the masses. Furthermore, Soviet media idolized record-breaking pilots, exalting them not only as role models for Soviet society, but also as symbols of progress towards the socialist-utopian future.

Positive heroismEdit

The early 1930s saw a shift in ideological focus away from collectivist propaganda and towards “positive heroism." Instead of glorifying socialist collectivism as a means of societal advancement, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union began uplifting individuals who committed heroic actions that advanced the cause of socialism. In the case of aviation, the government began glorifying people who utilized aviation technology instead of glorifying the technology itself. Pilots such as Valery Chkalov, Georgy Baydukov, Alexander Belyakov, and Mikhail Gromov—as well as many others—were raised to the status of heroes for their piloting skills and achievements.

Transpolar flights of 1937Edit

In May 1937, Stalin charged pilots Chkalov, Baydukov, and Belyakov with the mission to navigate the first transpolar flight in history. On the 20th of June, 1937, the aviators landed their ANT-25 plane in Vancouver, Oregon. A month later, Stalin ordered the departure of a second crew to push the boundaries of modern aviation technology even further. In July 1937 Mikhail Gromov, along with his crew Sergei Danilin and Andrei Yumashev, completed the same journey over the North Pole and continuing on to Southern California, creating a new record for the longest nonstop flight.

The public reaction to the transpolar flights was euphoric. The media called the pilots “Bolshevik knights of culture and progress." Soviet citizens celebrated Soviet Air Fleet Day on August 18th with as much zeal as they celebrated the October Revolution anniversary. Literature including poems, short stories, and novels emerged celebrating the feats of the aviator-celebrities. Feature films like Victory, Tales of Heroic Aviators, and Valery Chkalov reinforced the “positive hero” imagery, celebrating the aviators’ individuality within the context of a socialist government.

Folkloric themes in aviation propagandaEdit

Soviet propaganda, newspaper articles, and other forms of media sought to connect Soviet citizens to relevant themes from daily life. For aviation, Stalin’s propagandists drew on Russian folklore. Examples of folklore mythology in Soviet aviation culture exploded dramatically following the successes of the transpolar flights by Chkalov and Gromov in 1937. Aviators were referred to symbolically as sokoly (falcons), orly, (eagles), or bogatyrs (warriors). Newspapers told traditional Russian narratives (skazka) of fliers conquering time and space (prostranstvo), overcoming barriers and completing their missions in triumph. Even the story of each aviator suggests roots in old Russian storytelling and narratives—virtuous heroes striving attempting to reach an end goal, encountering and conquering any obstacles in their path. By using folklore rhetoric, Stalin and Soviet propagandists connected aviation achievements to Russian heritage, making aviation seem more accessible to the Soviet population. Furthermore, the narratives emphasize the aviators’ selflessness and devotion to a higher socialist ideal, pointing to Soviet leaders as inspirers and role models.

Paternalism was also a theme that Soviet propagandists exploited in aviation culture. The media presented Stalin as an example and inspiration, a father figure and role model to the most prominent Soviet pilots of the period. When accounting stories of meetings between Stalin and Chkalov, for example, Soviet newspapers spoke of Stalin’s paternalism towards the young pilot. The paternal metaphor was completed with the addition of a maternal figure—Russia, the motherland, who had produced “father” Stalin’s heroic sons such as Chkalov. The use of familial metaphors not only evoked traditional hereditary pride and historic Russian patriotism, they were beneficial to Stalin’s image as a benevolent leader. Most importantly, paternalism served to promote the message of individual subordination to authority. Through his paternal relationships with Soviet pilots, Stalin developed an “ethos of deference and obedience" for Soviet society to emulate.

Aviation and the purgesEdit

The successful achievements in Soviet aviation also came during the worst of Great Purge. The transpolar flights in summer 1937 occurred following the arrest and execution of a large body of the Red Army officer corps. Fifteen of sixteen total army commanders were executed; more than three-fourths of the VVS senior officers were arrested, executed, or relieved of duty. News coverage of the arrests was relatively little compared coverage of aviation exploits, deflecting attention away from the arrests.

Early World War II aviation failuresEdit

1930s Soviet aviation also had a particular impact on the USSR’s military failures in the beginning of World War II. By 1938, the Soviet Union had the largest air force in the world, but Soviet aeronautical design was distinctly lagging behind Western technological advances. Instead of focusing on developing tactical aircraft, the Soviets engineers developed heavy bomber planes only good for long distance—in other words, planes that would be used for record-breaking flights like those of Chkalov’s. The Soviet government’s focus on showy stunts and phenomenal record-breaking missions drained resources needed for Soviet defense. When the Nazis attacked the Soviet border in June of 1941, it quickly became apparent that the Soviet Air Forces was not prepared for war. Poor planning and lack of organization left planes sitting on the tarmac at defense bases, allowing the Luftwaffe to destroy 4,000 Soviet planes within the first week. The Soviet’s disorganized defenses and technologically deficient aircraft were no match for the Luftwaffe, costing the USSR millions of lives early on in the war.

World War IIEdit

Main article: Air warfare of World War II

At the outbreak of World War II, the Soviet Armed Forces was not yet at a level of readiness suitable for winning a war: Joseph Stalin had said in 1931 that Soviet industry was "50 to 100 years behind" the Western powers. By the end of the war, Soviet annual aircraft production had rose sharply with annual Soviet production reaching to 40,241 aircraft in 1944. Some 157,261 aircraft were produced during the Great Patriotic War, of them 125,655 combat types.

Red star

Original star roundel in World War II

The main reason for the large aircraft losses in the initial period of war with Germany was not the lack of modern tactics, but the lack of experienced pilots and ground support crews, the destruction of many aircraft on the runways due to command failure to disperse them, and the rapid advance of the Wehrmacht ground troops, forcing the Soviet pilots on the defensive during Operation Barbarossa, while being confronted with more modern German aircraft. In the first few days of Operation Barbarossa the Luftwaffe destroyed some 2000 Soviet aircraft, most of them on the ground, at a loss of only 35 aircraft (of which 15 were non-combat-related).

The principal aircraft of the VVS during World War II were the Ilyushin Il-2 Shturmovik armored ground attack monoplane and the series of the A.S. Yakovlev-designed single-engined fighters, beginning with the Yakovlev Yak-1 fighter and its trio of successors in their many variants; for which the Il-2 became (at 36,183 aircraft) the single most produced military aircraft design of all time, with the four main versions (the Yak-1, -3, -7 and -9) of the Yak fighters being slightly more numerous, at a total of 36,716 aircraft, the two main types together accounting for about half the strength of the VVS for most of the Great Patriotic War. The Yak-1 was a modern 1940 design and had room for development, unlike the mature 1935-origin design of the Messerschmitt Bf 109. The Yakovlev Yak-9 brought the VVS to parity with the Luftwaffe, eventually allowing it to gain the upper hand over the Luftwaffe until in 1944, when many Luftwaffe pilots were deliberately avoiding combat with the last and best variant, the out-of-sequence numbered Yakovlev Yak-3. The other main VVS aircraft types were Lavochkin fighters, mainly the Lavochkin La-5, the Petlyakov Pe-2 twin engined attack-bombers, and a basic but functional and versatile medium bomber, the Ilyushin Il-4.

The 31st Bomber Aviation Regiment, equipped with Petlyakov Pe-2s and commanded by Colonel Fyodor Ivanovich Dobysh, was one of the first Guards bomber units in the Air Forces - the 4th Guards Bomber Aviation Regiment (Russian: 4-й гвардейский пикирующий бомбардировочный авиационный полк). The title was conferred on the regiment for its actions on the Leningrad Front in November–December 1941 during defensive operations and the Soviet counterattack near Tikhvin.

Alone among World War II combatants, the Soviet Air Force initiated a program to bring women with existing air training into combat air groups. Marina Raskova, one of very few women in the VVS prior to the war, used her influence with Stalin to form three all-female air regiments: the 586th Fighter Aviation Regiment, the 587th Bomber Aviation Regiment and the 588th Night Bomber Aviation Regiment (a.k.a. the Night Witches.) Because of their achievements in battle, the latter two units were honored by being renamed Guards units. Beyond the three official regiments, individual Soviet women sometimes served alongside airmen in otherwise all-male groups. Women pilots, navigators, gunners, mechanics, armament specialists and other female ground personnel made up more than 3,000 fighting members of the VVS. Women pilots flew 24,000 sorties. From this effort came the world's only two female fighter aces: Lydia Litvyak and Katya Budanova.

While there were scores of Red Army divisions on the ground formed from specific Soviet republics, there appears to have been very few aviation regiments formed from nationalities, among them being the 1st Latvian Night Aviation Regiment.

Chief Marshal of Aviation Alexander Novikov led the VVS from 1942 to the end of the war, and was credited with introducing several new innovations and weapons systems. For the last year of the war German military and civilians retreating towards Berlin were hounded by the presence of "low flying aircraft" strafing and bombing them, an activity in which even the ancient Polikarpov Po-2, a much produced biplane of 1920s design, took part. However, this was but a small measure of the experience Wehrmacht front-lines were receiving of the sophistication and superiority the Red Air Force had achieved. In one strategic operation alone, the Yassy-Kishinev Strategic Offensive, the 5th Air Army, 17th Air Army Air Armies and the Black Sea Fleet Naval Aviation aircraft achieved a 3.3:1 superiority in aircraft over the Luftflotte 4 and the Royal Romanian Air Force, allowing almost complete freedom from air harassment for the ground troops of the 2nd Ukrainian Front and 3rd Ukrainian Front.

As with many allied countries in World War II the Soviet Union received Western aircraft by Lend-Lease, mostly P-39 Airacobras, P-63 Kingcobras, Hawker Hurricanes, Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawks and A-20 Havocs. Soviets in P-39s scored the highest individual kill totals of any pilot ever to fly a U.S. aircraft. Two air regiments were equipped with Spitfire Mk. Vb in early 1943 but immediately experienced unrelenting losses due to friendly fire as the British aircraft looked too much like its German nemesis, the Bf 109. Lend-Lease aircraft from the US and UK accounted for nearly 12% of total Soviet air power.

The greatest Soviet fighter ace of World War II was Ivan Nikitovich Kozhedub, who scored 62 individual aerial victories from 6 July 1943 to 16 April 1945, the top score for any Allied fighter pilot of World War II.

See also: Soviet Air Forces Order of Battle 1 May 1945

The Great Patriotic War (Russian version)Edit

Main article: Great Patriotic War

The events of the summer of 1941 , showed that the measures taken to modernize the Soviet air force did not lead to significant results. During the military conflicts that took place in the 30s, Soviet pilots flew the aircraft Polikarpov I-15 , Polikarpov I-153 and Polikarpov I-16 , designed to KB Polikarpov . Not yielding the best aircraft in the rest of the world in 1936 , four years later, they have become obsolete, as the aviation industry in this period developed very rapidly . Sudden Attack, caved Luftwaffe on Sunday 22 June 1941 at the Soviet Air Force airfields, which were located near the western border of the USSR , caught by surprise as the Red Army and its air force.

Operation Barbarossa - Russian planes

Soviet airfield after a German air raid

In most cases, the advantage of the attackers was overwhelming, and a lot of aircraft, including some of the newest, was destroyed on the ground in the first hours of the invasion. For the first few days of Operation " Barbarossa " Luftwaffe destroyed some 2,000 Soviet aircraft, most of them on the ground .

Comparison of the Air Force and the Luftwaffe on 22 June can not be done on the basis of just the number of vehicles that would be more than twice higher BBC . Should be considered unfit for combat insecurity crews and aircraft parts. The most important was the German superiority as aircraft and crew training. German planes beyond our terms of flight performance and firepower. The vast, almost two years of combat experience of German pilots prejudge most air battles. Qualitative superiority of the Germans supplemented organizational advantages. While the Soviet air units were dispersed by military districts, armies and military units, and could not be used to concentrate, as a whole, the German planes were kept in air fleets, each of which consisted of up to 1000 cars. As a result, the Air Force operated a fragmented and focused for the Luftwaffe attacks on key sectors and in the most important moment. On 31 December 1941 the Red Army Air Force combat losses amounted to 21 200 aircraft .

Ilyushin Il-2s in the Battle of Berlin 1945

Ilyushin Il-2 - the most popular aircraft of the 1940s. In the photo - link stormtroopers flying over Berlin

The most popular aircraft in the Soviet Air Force during the Great Patriotic War began attack Ilyushin Il-2 fighter and Yakovlev Yak-1 , which accounted for almost half of the Air Force fleet. Single-engine Yakovlev Yak-1 was put into production in 1940 and had a great field for modernization in contrast to German Messerschmitt Bf.109 . Appearance at the front of the aircraft as the Yakovlev Yak-3 and Yakovlev Yak-9 brought to establish parity with the Luftwaffe, and in the end, and air superiority. On the arms of the Air Force received more fighters Yakovlev Yak-7 , Yakovlev Yak-9 , Yakovlev Yak-3 , Lavochkin La-5 , Lavochkin La-7 , double attack aircraft Ilyushin Il-2 (and in the summer of 1944 Ilyushin Il-10 ), bombers Petlyakov Pe- 2 , Tupolev Tu-2 , guns, bombs, radar, radio communication and navigation equipment, aerial cameras and other equipment and weapons. Continued to improve the organizational structure of the Air Force. In March 1942 the connection of distant aircraft combined in long-range aircraft with direct subordination to the Supreme Command ( SHAPE ). Established the post of commander of long-range aircraft, which was appointed Alexander Golovanov . Since May 1942 the frontline aviation aircraft were established operational formations - Air Army .
Lavochkin La-5 in the Battle of Kursk summer 1943

Air battles for Kursk showed high efficiency of Lavochkin La-5FN to fight with the best modifications of German fighters

Autumn of 1942 began to form separate air corps and reserve divisions of the Supreme Command, which allows you to quickly concentrate large numbers of aircraft on critical issues. High combat qualities of the Soviet Air Force especially evident in the battle of Moscow , battle of Stalingrad , battle of Kursk , in air battles in Kuban, in operations in the Ukraine, Belarus, Iasi-Kishinev, Vistula-Oder and Berlin operations. If the operations in 1941 participated 200-500 aircraft, in 1943-1945 - up to several thousand, and in 1945 the battle of Berlin - up to 7,500 aircraft .

For the period from 1 January 1939 to 22 June 1941 Air Force received from industry 17,745 combat aircraft, including 706 new aircraft types: fighters Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-3 - 407, Yakovlev Yak-1 - 142, Lavochkin-Gorbunov-Goudkov LaGG-3 - 29, Petlyakov Pe-2 - 128 .

Invaluable to help the Soviet Union was the United States in the form of Lend-Lease . Total for 1941 - 1945 of Lend-Lease was delivered 14,126 aircraft: Curtiss' Tomagauk "and" Kitihouk " , Bell P-39 "Cobra" , Bell P-63 "Kingkobra" , Douglas A-20 "Boston" , North -American B-25 "Mitchell" , Consolidated PBY «Catalina" , Douglas C-47 "Dakota" , Ripablik P-47 "Thunderbolt" . These supplies will certainly play an important role in the defeat of the common enemy. The volume of deliveries of aircraft from the U.S. and the United Kingdom accounted for almost 12% of the total number of Soviet aircraft .

During the war years were trained 44,093 pilots. Died in battle 27 600: 11 874 fighter pilot, 7837 pilot of attack aircraft, bombers 6613 crew, 587 pilots and 689 pilots scouts auxiliary aircraft .

The most effective fighter pilots of World War II and World War II by the Allies began Ivan Kozhedub (62 wins) and Alexander Pokryshkin (59 wins), three times awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.

Cold WarEdit

McDonnell F-4B VF-114 Phantom intercepting Tupolev Tu-16 1963

The main objectives of bombers Tupolev Tu-16 during the "Cold War" had been tracking and maintenance of carrier strike groups, U.S. . In the photo - Tupolev Tu-16 Flanker fighters F-4 Phantom the U.S. Navy. Pacific Ocean, 1963

After the Second World War, in which the Soviet Union and the United States were allies, there was redistribution of spheres of influence in Europe. In the 50's formed two major military-political blocs - North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Warsaw Pact , which for decades were in a state of constant conflict. Started in the late 40's " Cold War "at any moment could turn into a" hot " Third World War. Spurred by the politicians and the military arms race gave a strong impetus to the development of new technologies, especially in military aircraft .

Over the decades passed military confrontation not only on land in the sea and under water, but first of all in the air. USSR was the only country in the Soviet Air Forces which were comparable to the United States Air Force . The main suppliers of fighters in the Soviet Air Force during the Cold War were the design bureaus Mikoyan and Gurevich and Sukhoi . Monopoly on heavy bombers had Tupolev . It specializes in the design of heavy bombers and transport aircraft.

F-14 Combat with Tupolev Tu-95 Bear

Soviet Tupolev Tu-95 escorted by US Navy F-14 Tomcat

Soviet Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25 Foxbat

An air-to-air right underside rear view of a Soviet Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25 Foxbat aircraft carrying four AA-6 Acrid missiles

Soviet Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29 Fulcrum

Soviet Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter aircraft in 1989

In the late 1940s and in the 1950s, the WPKA Army Air Forces became the Soviet Air Forces once again, and its capabilities increased. The force became one of the best services of the Soviet Armed Forces due to the various types of aircraft being flown and their capabilities and the strength and training of its pilots, and its air defense arm became an independent component of the armed forces in 1949, reaching full-fledged force status in 1954.

During the Cold War, the Soviet Air Force was rearmed, strengthened and modern air doctrines were introduced. At its peak in the 1980s, the Soviet Air Force was the largest air force in the world, it could deploy approximately 10,000 aircraft, and at the beginning of the 1990s the Soviet Union had an air force that in terms of quantity and quality fulfilled superpower standards.

In 1977 the VVS (Air Force) and the Soviet Air Defense Forces were re-organised in the Baltic states and the Leningrad Oblast, as a trial run for the larger re-organisation in 1980 covering the whole country.[40] All fighter units in the PVO were transferred to the VVS, the Air Defence Forces only retaining the anti-aircraft missile units and radar units. The 6th independent Air Defense Army was disbanded, and the 15th Air Army became the VVS Baltic Military District. Though the experiment was then applied countrywide in 1980, it was reversed in 1986, but then most of the Air Defense Forces's command and control duties and assests became part of the Soviet Air Force, as well as several educational and training institutions.

According to a 1980 Time Magazine article citing analysts from RAND Corporation, allegedly Soviet non-Slavs, including Jews, Armenians, and Asians were generally barred from senior ranks and from joining elite or strategic positions in the Air Force, Strategic Rocket Forces, and the Soviet Navy because of doubts regarding the loyalty of ethnic minorities. RAND analyst S. Enders Wimbush said, "Soldiers are clearly recruited in a way that reflects the worries of society. The average Russian citizen and Soviet decision maker have questions about the allegiance of the non-Slav, especially the Central Asian."

During the Cold War the VVS was divided into three main branches (equivalent to commands in Western air forces): Long Range Aviation (Dal'naya Aviatsiya or "DA"), focused on long-range bombers; Frontal Aviation (Frontovaya Aviatsiya or "FA"), focused on battlefield air defence, close air support, and interdiction; and Military Transport Aviation (Voenno-Transportnaya Aviatsiya or "VTA"), which controlled all transport aircraft. The Soviet Air Defence Forces (Voyska protivovozdushnoy oborony or Voyska PVO), which focused on air defence and interceptor aircraft, was then a separate and distinct service within the Soviet military organisation.

Yet another independent service was the Soviet Navy's air arm, the Soviet Naval Aviation (Aviatsiya Voenno Morskogo Flota or "AV-MF"), under the Navy Headquarters.

The official day of VVS was the Soviet Air Fleet Day, that often featured notable air shows meant to display Soviet air power advancements through the years, held in Moscow's Tushino airfield.

The origin of jet aircraftEdit

1980s fighter programsEdit

In the 1980s the Soviet Union acknowledged the development of the Advanced Tactical Fighter in the USA and began the development of an equivalent fighter.

Two programs were initiated, one of which was proposed to directly confront the United States' then-projected Advanced Tactical Fighter (that was to lead to the development of the F-22 Raptor/YF-23 Black Widow II). This future fighter was designated as Mnogofounksionalni Frontovoi Istrebitel (MFI) (Multifunctional Frontline Fighter) and designed as a heavy multirole aircraft, with air-supremacy utmost in the minds of the designers.

In response to the America BoeingX-32/F-35 Joint Strike Fighter project, the Soviet Union began the LFI program, which would develop a fighter reminiscent of the X-32/F-35 with a single engine, without the capabilities of a true multirole aircraft.

The Soviet Union would later change the designation of the LFI project to LFS, making it a multirole aircraft with primarily emphasized ground attack capability. During the 1990s the Soviet military cancelled the LFS projects and continued with the MFI project, with minimal funding, believing that it was more important than the production of a light fighter aircraft. Most recently, the PAK FA was planned, no advanced fighter successor to the Su-27 and MiG-29 family has entered service. Sukhoi won the latest Sukhoi PAK FA competition in 2002. The aircraft's first flight took place on 29 January 2010.

Forces in the late 1980sEdit