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Russian Air Force - Great War

By the beginning of the Great War, Russia had 39 detachments armed with 263 aircraft intended for military use. During the war years the aerial defense started structurally taking shape for covering the most important centers of the country. The aerial defense of the capital of Russia – Petrograd – and its environs was created on December 8, 1914 as one of the first. Organizationally, it included batteries of antiaircraft artillery, aircraft crews, a network of air observation posts. The names of creators of the «Russian school of air combat» P.N. Nesterov, Ye.N. Kruten’, A.A. Kozakov, K.K. Artseulov, N.A. Yatsuk were inscribed in the history of the War.

The outbreak of the first large-scale war in the XX century radically changed the views of military experts on the role and place of the air forces in the armed struggle. The main stake was made on military aircraft, structurally separated from the beginning of the war between the North-Western and South-Western Fronts. For the management of special positions were introduced Air Force - heads an organization of aviation business in the armies' fronts.

Subsequent expansion of the theater of military operations required centralized control of the army aviation. On the basis of the order of the Supreme Commander (HS) number 4 on January 18, 1915 was formed the head of the organization of management of aviation business in the army (Aviadarm, Head - Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich) with submission to his entire aviation and the two fronts of the Caucasus Army.

In December 1914, Emperor Nicholas II approved the decision of the Military Council of the Minister of War on the division of aviation on the subordinate staff to be used for the benefit of armies and corps of the army. The basis was a heavy air control squadron of airships (CG) "Ilya Muromets" under the command of Major-General V. Shydlovsky. Airships, performed as reconnaissance and bombing objectives in the deep rear of the enemy, in fact, were the reserve of the main command of the army.

During the campaign in 1914 bombers began to take shape as part of the air force of the army, along with intelligence. Russian pilots at first in Russian-German front began to bombing from the air and the positions of enemy targets. The most active aerial bombardment was carried out during the siege of the Austrian fortress of Przemysl (Galicia). Only ten days in November 1914 pilots of Brest-Litovsk and the 24th corps squadrons dropped on its installations and facilities 23 bombs with a total weight of 464 kg.

To protect the strategic centers and military facilities in theater and in the rear areas of the country from enemy air attack since the first months of the war, the military began to form air defense (IN). This was part of the army of its foundation was military aviation, field artillery and fortification. The rear parts of the country IN (within the boundaries of armies and military districts) incorporated various funds intended to fight against enemy aircraft. In November and December 1914 the primary structure of an air defense was deployed around the Russian capital - Petrograd and its immediate surroundings, as well as the royal residence in Tsarskoye Selo.

In the subsequent period under the protection of the threat from the air taken basic items, objects and military authorities of the army (including Headquarters WG), the Baltic and Black Sea fleets. During the war years created in the system significantly restricted the actions of enemy air forces in the Russian-German front.

In the autumn of 1914 and in the summer of 1915, as part of the air forces were formed the first fighter squadrons in the interests of air defense of important areas of the country (Warsaw, Tsarskoye Selo and others.). In the summer of 1916 began the process for the design of fighter aircraft in the air force as a separate type of aircraft.

The origin and development of fighter aircraft is inextricably linked with the names of famous pilots who laid the foundation "Russian Air Combat School": PN Nesterova, AA Kazakov, EN Kruten, NA Yatsuk, IA Orlov and many others. The commander of the 11th Corps Squadron Captain PN Nesterov initiated active forms of air combat. On September 8, 1914 he was the first in the world to destroy by air ram an Austrian reconnaissance plane at the cost of his own life. His feat of successfully repeated another Russian pilot - Lieutenant-Captain AA Kozak, acknowledged during the war as the most productive aviator of Russian Military Air Force.

During the period of summer 1916 - autumn 1917, fighter aircraft of the army in the Russian-German front claimed to have hit more than 200 enemy tanks.

By the end of the Great War the air force aided intelligence and communications into an independent genus of ground troops. December 7, 1916 was established the post of a field inspector general of air force appointment at her Grand Duke Admiral AM Romanov. As the "face of the imperial family," he had the right to a personal report "Imperial Majesty in the presence of the Chief of the General Staff", which had a positive impact on the further development of the Military Air Force. At the headquarters of the commanders of the fronts and armies of the headquarters of the Caucasian Army introduced the post of aviation and aeronautics inspectors armies of the fronts (army), to give them greater autonomy and operational functions.

Centralization of leadership in the hands of front-line aviation Aviadarma significantly enlarged the aviation units, placing them on the basis of the air group and aviadiviziony. In turn, the free maneuvering aircraft units to the front, concentrating their efforts on the main axes, providing surprise air operations significantly expanded air force opportunities in the struggle for supremacy in the air.

The most productive on the number of air victories fighter pilots (aces) were recognized in the Russian aviation: AA Kazakov, N. Kokorin, EH Lehman, IV Smirnov, EN Kruten, DA Makienok, IA Orlov, Y. Gilsher, VI Yanchenko, EM Pulp (in French service), AM Pishvanov, IA Loikaw, VI Strizhevskiy, GE Suk, KK Vakulovsky, VG Fedorov, PV ARGE and others. At the final stage of the war the air force took part in all the major front and army operations, and had a significant impact on the nature of the fighting.

Sorties were carried out during the war aircraft air force Russia for a variety of tasks, including the only aircraft of the army (without taking into account the activities of CG "Ilya Muromets") made before the beginning of the February revolution of 1917, a total of 31,345 sorties. Of this amount, 38% of flights were spent on conducting aerial reconnaissance and artillery fire correction, 15% - on the implementation of the struggle for supremacy in the air, 12% - for the destruction of art and other objects of the enemy on the battlefield and in the immediate rear; 35% of flight hours amounted to costs of flights, departures on the liaison between headquarters and troops, as well as other tasks.

During the Great War, the once uniform aviation ground forces were structured as intended tasks on reconnaissance, bomber and fighter squadrons, laying framework for future types of aircraft. In 1917, the share of reconnaissance aircraft was 45.2%, the bomber - 14.5%, and the fighter - 40.3%. Most reconnaissance flights (80%) was carried out at the front in the tactical depth (up to 50 km), the territory occupied by the enemy. By November 1917 as part of the air force of the army had 13 aviadivizionov and 9 air bases; 4 combat air group; 38 hull, 2 Guards, Grenadier, Turkestan, 7 Siberian, 4 Caucasian, 11 Army, 15 fighter squadrons (502 aircraft and 443 pilot); 14 divisions aeronautical, aeronautic 87 units (including housing - 59, the army - 13, city - 15); 2 serfs aeronautic companies and 4 park (without rear units: 700 officers and 2800 enlisted men).

The structure of aviation units in the rear of the country included: aviadivizion Petrograd, Odessa, Revel and 1st Fighter squadrons. The total number of military air defense (including rear objects) was 150 battery (572 guns).

The Russian movement on the ground was considerably hampered by the excellence of the German means of obtaining information. The German airmen were everywhere in evidence, and displayed the greatest courage and daring in face of the Russian aeroplanes, which were mostly of the heavy Sikorski type. The latter, excellent machines though they are, were outmatched in point of speed by the German Taube machines, and were therefore unable to deal effectively with the menace from the air. The Russian countryside, too, was infested with spies. Every movement of the Russians was signalled to the defending forces.

In early 1916 Russian aeroplanes flying over Constantinople dropped hundreds of thousands of leaflets announcing in the Turkish, Armenian, Greek, Kurdish and Arabic languages that every Christian massacred by Moslems will be avenged by the execution of two Moslems.

The Russian failure in operations against the Germans was attributed to the disparity of the aviation services of the two belligerents. Germany had 1000 aeroplanes and an equal number of trained pilots at the beginning of the war. Russia had 800 aeroplanes, but only 400 pilots, most of the latter without experience in military work. Russian aeroplanes were of many types, so that pilots could operate only those machines with which they were familiar. The German pilots and the German artillery had had experience in aeroplane control of fire, while the Russians had had none. As a result the Russian aerial service was almost completely dominated by the German.




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