Air Force (Ilmavoimat) - History - World War
The Air Force underwent the test of fire in the Winter War and Continuation War. The military preparedness, especially in the early stages of the wars, was poor, but high-quality personnel training did address the shortcomings. World War II began in September 1939, when Germany invaded Poland. During the autumn, the threat of war between Finland and the Soviet Union became more and more inevitable.
During combat missions, 182 aircraft and 160 flight crew members 24 were lost and killed in warfare. As many as 155 instructors gained air victories. Of these, 87 won more than five aerial wins to qualify for an ace. The number of Finnish flying aces is a world record relative to the population. Eino Ilmari Juutilainen, who won 94 aerial victories, and captain Hans Wind, who gained 75 aerial victories, became the first aces of the war.
There are many reasons for the good success of Finnish pilots in the Winter and Continuation War. One of the key factors is the development of air combat tactics and air defense leadership, initiated by Colonel Richard Lorentz and Colonel (Lieutenant General) Gustaf Erik "Eka" Magnusson in the 1930s and continuing during the war, which was internationally very advanced.
In accordance with the principles formulated by Lorentz and Magnusson, the fighter control system and snapshot had to be developed in such a way that a number of scanty fleet equipment could be flexibly used to achieve air command in the fight against a superior opponent. In addition, they emphasized the importance of high-quality fighter tactics and firing training in combat pilot training.
The Winter War began on November 30, and Finnish cities were bombed extensively. On the first day of the war, the fighters boarded combat flights, but the first air combat took place the following day, 1 December. At the outbreak of the Winter War, the Air Force was not in the best position to prepare for the war, with only a few up-to-date aircraft left in the line of an unfinished development program. Flying troops had to fight only slightly more than a hundred operational planes with fleet of more than a thousand, even more than two thousand fighter planes.
During the war, the Air Force's material condition improved with new purchases of aircraft (eg Brewster Model 239, Fiat G.50 and Hawker Hurricane) and donations (among others Morane Saulnier MS406). However, all new material, such as the US-acquired Brewster fighter aircraft, did not reach full utilization before the end of the 105-day war in March 1940.
During the Winter War, the Air Force was tasked with fighting air strikes with fighter jets, especially in the front and in the home area. In addition, bomber and reconnaissance aircraft carried out vital reconnaissance missions vital to the frontline and, in particular, air raids on the immediate surroundings. However, due to the poor machine condition, air strikes directly supporting the troops could hardly be made in the early stages of the war.
At the end of the war, however, the fleet situation was improved by the fighter and bomber replenishments of more than a hundred aircraft personnel obtained through self-purchases and donations. In March 1940, the Air Force's aircraft were successfully concentrated in the fight against ground troops in the Gulf of Vyborg and attacks in the Gulf of Finland.
During the Winter War, the Air Force achieved more than 300 air victories, with its own losses of 62 destroyed and 35 damaged aircraft. In addition, anti-aircraft won over 300 air victories. The total number of casualties and fatalities was 75.
In the Winter War, ten of the Air Force pilots achieved five or more air victories, which are internationally regarded as an ace. The most famous fighter pilot of the war was Lieutenant Jorma Sarvanto, a 13-victory Fokker pilot. On January 6, 1940, Sarvanto destroyed six Ilyushin DB-3 bombers in just four to five minutes of air combat, a world record in its kind.
During the Winter War, the Battle of Finland aroused great sympathy, and the Air Force received volunteer assistance from abroad, in addition to donations of material. For example, the Swedish F19 Fighter Squadron, made up of volunteers, made a significant contribution to the fight against fighter, bomber, and flight intelligence in northern Finland.
The Winter War, which ended in March 1940 with the surrender of the Territories, was followed by a truce, during which the Air Force's equipment was actively improved. The State Aircraft Factory repaired the damaged aircraft fleet and built new aircraft under license. Also aircraft types ordered during the Winter War but delayed were made available. In addition, Germany, which had been converging with Finland, supplied the Air Force with the aircraft it had received as war booty on various fronts.
During the ceasefire, anti-aircraft equipment was also upgraded, airframe equipment improved and air defense command conditions improved. The Air War of 1941 began with the German invasion of the Soviet Union on 22 June and the launch of air operations on Finnish territory, where its air troops had been stationed since the beginning of June, with Luftflotte 5 being wholly responsible. Soviet Air Force bombed targets in Finland, and Air Force fighters fought the first air battles of the Continuation War.
The Air Force went on to continue the war with a new organization whose body consisted of two fighter air regiments and one bombing air regiment. In addition, one Winter War air regiment was broken up into three cooperative fleets subordinated to Military Commanders, and one Marine Intelligence Fleet was established under the command of the Navy for submarine combat. The main types were the Brewsters, the Fiat, the Fokker D.XXI, the Morane MS 406, and the Curtiss Hawkit, the reconnaissance and bomber bombers, the Fokker CX and the bombers, Bristol Blenheim. The total strength of the Air Force was 550 aircraft.
During the advancing phase of the Continuation War, the Air Force could concentrate on supporting the battle of the Field Army as it progressed to the Karelian Strait, Syvär and Maaselä Strait, as the air threat to the homeland was less severe during the Winter War. Also on the front, air superiority was clear as the Soviet Air Force had to divide its forces to combat the German-led operation Barbarossa in its southern areas. By the end of December, the front had stabilized, and a two-year war of war began. During that time, the Air Force changed its organization to a new situation.
Mixed units consisting of fighter flight and reconnaissance fleets were formed on the Aunuska Strait, the Ääninen and Maaselä directions and the Karelian Strait, as well as long-range and bombing squadrons. In addition, one flight regiment was formed to protect southern Finland and the Gulf of Finland.
During the Continuation War phase, the Air Force conducted reconnaissance flights and supported the fighting of all branches of the defense, including bombing, air raids, and transport of remote patrol units. At the same time, it protected the fight of its own troops and the home area against fighter jets. Quieter air activity gave the Air Force a valuable opportunity to develop its operations. At that time, among other things, the management system for fighter operations was improved.
During the Continuation War, new equipment was also deployed, with German-made Dornier Do 17 and Junkers Ju 88 and Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter jets. It was necessary to replace the fleet as aircraft of the beginning of the Continuation War began to remain at the foot of the Soviet Air Force, which was improving in number and performance. In addition, the State Aircraft Factory did a significant amount of development work on the existing fleet and designed and executed small-scale custom aircraft designs such as Brewster's wood-wing replica Humun and full-scale storm and hurricane fighters.
The Continuation War ended on June 9, 1944, with a major offensive by the Soviet Union, during which the Finns withdrew in the Strait, the Strait of Aunus and East Karelia. The Air Force was involved in countering the attack with round-the-clock anti-aircraft missions and attacks by dozens of machine-strong bombers. The battle for air defense was supported by a significant contribution from Kuhlmey, the German Luftwaffe Air Force, operating from Immola with fighter, fighter bomber and dive bombers.
The attacker was stopped in the Karelian Isthmus from 25 June to 9 July. in the Battle of Tali-Ihantala, as well as the attempted attack over the Vyborg Bay and the attack on Vuosalmi, which continued until July 17. During the Continuation War, which ended in the September 1944 truce, the Air Force fleet achieved 1,600 air defeats and dropped more than 3,000 tons of explosives. Anti-aircraft destroyed 1,030 aircraft and the Navy destroyed 75 aircraft.
The World War II decision was, with regard to the Air Force, a war in Lapland that began in October 1944, where German troops, mainly based in northern Finland, were expelled from Finnish territory by military means. A special fighter and bomber unit was set up in northern Finland to assist the Army in the fight against fighter jets, air reconnaissance and bombing flights. The operation was demanding due to long distances, bad weather, sparse base network and shortage of personnel due to the repatriated troops. In addition, the German fleet was good in number and quality.
In April 1945, the Special Department lost as many as ten of its 60 aircraft. Sixteen crew members fell and two were captured. The War of Lapland and the last World War II flight were made by the Dornier bomber, who carried out a photographic flight in the Air Force on April 4, 1945.
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