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Russian Air Force - Early History

In the second half of the XVIII century, the level of development of science and technology, the economy and industrial production technology, and accumulated knowledge in the field of meteorology in the advanced European countries led to the beginning of the development of aeronautics.

In 1783, the first tests of pilot aeronautical devices of various types have been carried out in France. In the autumn of the same year, the Russian ambassador to Paris, Prince I.S.Baryatinsky hastened to acquaint the Empress Catherine II with these new French developments. The far-sighted policies objectively assessed the prospects in the military for an unprecedented opening time. In particular, he pointed out: "... there will be no fortress that would not have been possible to learn through threats by air machines throwing fire, that is impossible to put out."

Development of a new type of weapon caused great interest in Russian military circles, really appreciate the opportunity to balloons in future wars. In the summer of 1804 in Russia was given the start in the use of aircraft for scientific purposes. On board the balloon academician YD Zakharov has successfully conducted the first in the country's history upper-air observations.

The course of events demonstrated the seriousness of the intentions of the military department to use balloons in military affairs. They were allocated to the project of the German inventor-engineer F. Leppiha, offered his services to the Russian side. For this project, semi-controlled balloon with a crew of up to 40 people, a large bomb load and special powder rockets intended to include in the Russian army on the eve of the battle of Borodino (September 1812). According to the designer, dropping boxes of gunpowder "could break his falling on solids, overturn whole squadrons."

However, the balloon Leppiha built, due to serious design error, was unable to get off the ground, eliminating the possibility of using it in combat. After the war with Napoleonic France, the military interest in aeronautics decreased markedly. This only returned in the Eastern (Crimean) war (1853-1856.). The Russian balloonist I.M. Matsneva addressed to the Minister of War a memo titled "Draft application of balloons in the Crimean campaign", which proposed to establish under the Kronstadt and Sevastopol aeronautical observatory (observation station with a tethered balloon). Along with the tethered balloons, consideration was given to the use of free-flying balloons. In particular, with their help, it might be possible to bombard (with the wind) the fleet of the Anglo-French squadron in the Baltic Sea (1854). Emperor Nicholas I was forced to abandon the tempting idea, declaring it "not a chivalrous way of waging war."

Meanwhile aeronautics were developed in the course of the civil war in the North American states of America (1861-1865) and the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871). Subsequently, recognizing its prospects for military affairs, the leadership of the military departments of the leading European countries (England, France, Germany) started forming aeronautical units on a regular basis. Russia would not remain aloof. Already in the course of ongoing military reforms (1860-1870s) weree the prerequisites of creating a domestic Air Force.

At the end of 1869 a standing committee was formed under the chairmanship of the Engineer-General as part of the Chief Engineer's Office (SMI) to discuss the application of aeronautics for military purposes. For the Commission's work there were connected by representatives of the General Staff, specialists of engineering and gunnery, including those associated with the chemical scientific developments. When they participated, it was determined an exemplary organizational structure aeronautic service with the beginning of practical experience in the aeronautical field.

The result of the Commission's activities (1870-1876) was the primary accumulation of materiel and training for the future of the Air Force. A significant breakthrough in its construction took place in the mid-1880s. with the creation of the Defense Ministry on the application of the Commission's aeronautics, pigeon mail and watchtowers to military purposes (1884) and the formation of the first full-time staffing teams of balloonists (1885).

Since then, the military aeronautics was firmly fixed in the Russian army, solving various tasks in the interests of the Army and later the Navy. An invaluable contribution to its development made by representatives of the military establishment and the various scientific communities: Lieutenant General KJ Zverev, Major-General LL Lobko, MM Boreskov, NP Fedorov, colonel YD Mel'nitskii, II Yasnitsky, Lt. Col. NA Orlov, lieutenants AM Kovanko, Lieutenant AA Trofimov et al.

Creating a political and military alliance between Germany and Austria-Hungary demanded from Russia to take measures to strengthen its western borders with the placement of a specially formed serfs aeronautical offices in major strongholds.

The use of airspace for military purposes resulted in the development of a new direction in gunnery - anti-aircraft artillery. Based on international experience, the Main Artillery Administration in the summer of 1890 launched a polygon planned shooting at aircraft.

The first baptism of fire Russian balloonists received was during the Russian-Japanese War (1904-1905). In April 1904, by the decision of Emperor Nicholas II, was formed a special field division - Siberian aeronautic company (summer of 1905 transformed the battalion), who played a prominent role in the Far Eastern theater of war. At the end of 1904 at the disposal of His Majesty's viceroy in the Far East came the newly formed 1st East Siberian field aeronautic battalion under Colonel AM Kovanko, acting in the interest of the 2nd and 3rd Manchurian armies.

In subsequent years, Russia's military department paid great attention to the further development of military aeronautics and its technical equipment, relying primarily on the airships and airplanes. One of the first projects in the country's history of aircraft - "balloon projectile" was proposed by Russian naval officer Captain 1st Rank AF Mozhaisk. In the future, the creative ideas of the talented inventor received the development in the activities of a whole galaxy of Russian aircraft designers: AI Shabo, JM Gakkel, SV Grizodubova, DP Grigorovich, II Sikorsky, A. Shiukova, SA Ulyanina and many others.

At the basis of domestic science in the field of aerodynamics was a professor at Moscow University, corresponding member of the Imperial Academy of Sciences, NE Zhukovsky, whose work laid the foundations of later aeronautical science in Russia. In 1904, under his leadership Kutchino (near Moscow), from the personal funds of the industrialist, philanthropist and one of the founders of experimental aerodynamics DP Ryabushinsky, Europe's first Aerodynamic Institute was founded.

In the 1900s, Russia's active supporters of the nascent air force made balloonists officers: Colonel ES Fedorov, Capital SA Ulyanina, SA Nemchenko, Captain AI Shabo and others. Last-based Training aeronautics constructed a large model airplane (1907), later used as a training tool.




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