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Russian Air Force - Great War Fighters

Russia can be considered the birthplace of creative reflection and justification of the concepts of "winning air superiority" and "air combat." Russian aviators and aeronautics were among the first in the world to put forward the idea of ??creating special airplanes for solving these tasks. These airplanes were reduced to fighter squadrons, fighter squads and fighter groups. So 85 years ago, a new genus appeared in the Russian military aviation - fighter aviation.

In 1908, an article entitled “Military Use of Airplanes” was published in the newspaper “Russkiy Invalids”, where the idea of ??a sruggle “for state domination in the air” was first put forward and to perform this specific task it was necessary to create a special type of aircraft - a fighter. After the maneuvers of the St. Petersburg Military District in August 1913, as well as from the experience of the 1st Balkan War of 1912-1913. openly the question arose of the need to form fighter aviation in the Russian army. At the same time, the view was strongly expressed that weapons should be armed with automatic weapons to fight enemy reconnaissance aircraft. Made up in the Aeronautical Part of the General Directorate General Staff.

On August 15, 1913, the Chief of the General Staff, cavalry general Ya.G. Zhilinsky approved the “Brief Guidelines for the Use of Airplanes as a Means of Intelligence and Communication, and Their Combat Use.” The adopted document can be considered the first official instruction in combat aviation in Russia, which, along with the use of airplanes as a means of reconnaissance and communications, is indicated the mission of special detachments of "combat airplanes assigned to armies". The main purpose of these airplanes is the destruction of the enemy's aerial reconnaissance agents, i.e. his reconnaissance airplanes and airships, for which they are supplied with machine guns and bombing devices.

In connection with the start of Germany’s active use of its military airships (zeppelins) to conduct reconnaissance and bombing to destroy targets and manpower in the frontline zone, the command of the Russian army decided to start forming air defense of important military administrative and industrial centers in the active army area and deep in the rear. The basis of the air defense was artillery means, as well as the air detachments or individual crews allocated for these purposes. Among the first on the Eastern European front, the air defense of the city of Warsaw was organized, playing a key role in the theater of war during the years 1914-1915. For the first time, air formations were used to cover this important military and administrative center from the air.

In September 1914, Germanic airships began to appear over the territory of Finland. This forced the military command of Russia to urgently create air defense of the capital of the state. By secret order of the commander-in-chief of the 6th army No. 90 of November 30, 1914, a special instruction was put into effect, which determined the involvement of various means of dealing with enemy aircraft. 3 crews from instructors of the Gatchina Aviation School were recruited as aviation aviation of Petrograd. In May 1915, “Instruction No. 2 for the operation of airplanes in the fight against an air enemy” was put into effect, which was the first guiding document for the actions of aerial defense aviation.

In addition to the instructions, special planes were also needed. And in Russia, work began on the creation of special fighter aircraft. The most successful was the project of a talented Russian aircraft designer I.I. Sikorsky, developed in October 1914. Finally, the S-16 fighter was finalized and put into operation only at the end of next year. According to its characteristics, it met all the requirements of the air combat of that time.

In early September 1915, the head of aviation in the current army, Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich, was presented to the Headquarters of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, “The project of the new organization of aviation units”, which determined the development of Russian aviation in the near future. It took into account the proposals of many Russian pilots. Thus, the head of the 20th Corps Aviation Squad V.Tkachev rightly made proposals for the creation of fighter aviation detachments. The proposed project was approved by the Supreme Commander and recognized as a new plan for the further development of Russian aviation. But the available scarce possibilities for supplying the front with aviation equipment and weapons did not allow in 1915 to begin the formation of fighter aviation in Russia.

The following year, the intensity of the air confrontation on the East European Front increased markedly. This required the Russian military command to speed up the elaboration of the program for the creation of fighter aviation detachments.

Combat squadrons and zeppelins markedly increased the number of raids on the front-line cities and towns, as well as groups of troops of the Russian army. So, on January 6, 1916, German aircraft used incendiary bombs over Minsk in order to cause big fires in the city. The German High Command conducted active studies on the possibility of delivering an air strike on the Russian capital.

Under these conditions, the Supreme Commander’s Headquarters came to the conclusion: it is no longer possible to delay the creation of fighter aircraft in Russia. And on March 25, 1916, the Chief of Staff of the Supreme Commander General of Infantry, MV Alekseev, signed Order No. 329, according to which, in the 2nd, 7th and 12th armies, the formation of the first full-time fighter aviation units began, respectively 2nd, 7th and 12th.

April 16, 1916, Second Lieutenant I.A. Orlov, the commander of the 7th Fighter Squadron, reported to Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich that the first Russian fighter aviation squad had been formed and ready to go to the front. It can be considered the first fighter aviation detachment of the Air Force; for this purpose, there were already fighter squadrons for air defense tasks. On May 25, 1916, in addition to the previously formed and defending aviation detachments, the military council decided to create nine more, assigning them a numbering - 1,3,4,5, 6, 8,10 and 11th fighter detachments.

The armament of the first fighter units consisted of both single and double seat aircraft "Nieuport-X", "Cordon" and others. The pilot-observer on such aircraft served as an air gunner.

With the beginning of the offensive of the Russian troops on the Eastern Front, by the summer of 1916, the intensity of air battles increased markedly. On the German side, to prevent the flights of Russian reconnaissance planes, special "aviation departments to fight enemy pilots" were used, which included from 4 to 6 Fokker-type airplanes equipped with one to three machine guns.

In this connection, on July 3, 1916, the head of the aviation of the army in the army, Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich, made a report in which he once again justifies the need to create fighter aviation and defines the tasks that it must solve. The Supreme Commander-in-Chief, Emperor Nicholas II, agrees with the proposed arguments. And finally, on July 20, 1916, as an immediate organizational measure, an order was issued by the Chief of Staff of the Supreme Commander No. 918 to change the staff of the corps aviation detachment by introducing into it a fighter squad of two-flight personnel.

This day can be considered the day of the final formation of the fighter aviation of the Russian army.

In August 1916, on the basis of the South-Western Front, it was decided to establish a combat aviation group. It consisted of 2.4 and 19th corps squadrons, which were armed mainly with high-speed two-seater aircraft, equipped with machine guns. The unification of several detachments into a group on a separate sector of the front was of an experimental nature. The candidacy of the famous Russian pilot-ace of the staff-captain A.A. Kozakov, the head of the 19th corps aviation squad was considered to the position of the commander of the air group. The entry of the fighter air group into the struggle for the conquest of air supremacy marked the transition to a new stage in the development of aviation of the active army. In September 1916, the air group performed 88 combat sorties, conducted 40 air battles.

By the autumn of 1917, fighter aviation as a type of aviation of the acting army was represented by fighter squadrons of a two-aircraft structure in corps squadrons, fighter squadrons at armies and front-line fighter air groups, which accounted for 40.1% of the total composition of the Military Air Fleet. During the period from July 1916 to October 1917, they shot down 188 enemy aircraft on the Eastern European Front.

The actions of fighter squadrons in the interests of air defense during the First World War were much more modest. At the same time, thanks to their presence, until the very end of the war, German aviation and military airships were afraid to strike at important military, administrative and industrial centers of the interior of Russia.

Thanks to the courage and courage of the Russian pilots, from the very first steps of her existence she declared herself as a formidable force, which the enemy had to reckon with. Subsequent generations of Russian aviators multiplied the glory of fighter aircraft and forced to talk about it with great respect.

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Page last modified: 20-10-2018 18:44:01 ZULU