Excerpt (2) from Volume 3 of Black Cross Red Star: Air War Over the Eastern Front:
"Slowly, the VVS Started Improving in the Skies Over Stalingrad"
Volume 3 of Black Cross/Red Star has the subtitle Everything for Stalingrad. It presents the result of a painstaking research into the air war during the German summer offensive on the Eastern Front from 28 June 1942; the subsequent fierce air battles over Voronezh, Rostov, and the Caucasus; the Luftwaffe's onslaught on Convoy PQ-17; the hard air war over the Central and Northern combat zones, when the Soviets launched their relief offensives in the summer and fall of 1942; and, mainly, the huge Air Battle over Stalingrad.
As an example of Volume 3, we publish a few short excerpts from the manuscript below. Please notice that the photographs are not from the book. All photographs in the book--many of which are in color--will beprinted in very high quality.
This is the second excerpt.
. . . Slowly, the VVS started improving. In order to improve command and control systems, General-Mayor Vasiliy Zhdanov organized a radio network for target control within 16 VA. This target control network was similar to the network that had provided RAF Fighter Command with success during the Battle of Britain, only that the Soviet early warning consisted of visual spotting instead of radar. However, by organizing a network of radio stations for target control along the frontline, plus a central radio station at the 16 VA headquarters and stations in aviation divisions and regiments-all of which had direct radio communications with fighter pilots in the air-the VVS improved its target control system considerably.
The C-in-C of the VVS, General-Mayor Aleksandr Novikov, also instructed the fighter aviation "to create conditions for increasing the victories of outstanding pilots," who were to be "encouraged and given command posts, replacing incompetent commanders." A new Soviet fighter doctrine was adopted by organizing some of the most experienced pilots into special "hunting groups" within each fighter aviation regiment. These Zasada-- "ambush"-fighters were deployed to small advanced airstrips. Operating normally in the new two-plane Para formation according to the Luftwaffe's Rotte system, these Zasada fighters were relieved from the normally restricted area patrolling that hampered VVS fighters in their interception of enemy aircraft, and instead actively searched out approaching German bombers and reconnaissance aircraft.
One of the main targets for the Zasada fighters was the German Fw 189 tactical reconnaissance aircraft, which constantly circled above the Soviet immediate rear lines. Hero of the Soviet Union Mayor Aleksandr Semyonov, who served as a fighter inspector in Stalingrad, wrote:
"The Rama--the Fw 189 twin-fuselage reconnaissance aircraft-was very troublesome to our ground troops. Usually operating at high altitude it was unattainable to our small-caliber antiaircraft guns. Our troops knew that whenever a Rama appeared, they could expect to be subjected to artillery shelling. Our fighters were permanently demanded to give highest priority to the destruction of these Fw 189s. But this was no easy task. The Fw 189 proved to be able to sustain much battle damage, it was very maneuverable, and had a top speed that wasn't bad at all. The destruction of a Rama was much higher estimated by our pilots than the shooting down of any Junkers or Messerschmitt."
Since the opening of the German summer offensive in late June 1942, NAGr 7 had lost only a single Fw 189 to hostile action. But on September 7, the Zasada composed by 4 IAP's Mladshiy Leytenant Ivan Stepanenko, and Leytenant Sultan Amet-Khan caught an Fw 189 escorted by two Bf 109s. The two Yak-1 pilots immediately attacked. Stepanenko went after the Bf 109 Rotte, and reportedly shot down the leading escort fighter and drove away his wingman. Meanwhile, Amet-Khan blew the Fw 189 out of the sky. NAGr 7's 4.(H)/10 filed an Fw 189 shot down by fighters while I./JG 53's Feldwebel Wilhelm Budke bailed out of his blazing Bf 109 G-2.
Fw 189--the feared Rama.
© Christer Bergström 2004 - 2006.
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