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Interceptor Aircraft - 1945-1955 - Requirements

From the outset, it is essential to disregard the contemporary U.S.-conceived dichotomy between strategic and theater defense. It seems clear that the Soviet aviation establishment in the early post war period conceived of fighters and bombers. Fighters were further broken down into interceptors and ground attack. Among interceptors there was a separate category of "barrage" or area defense aircraft. Otherwise, an interceptor was an interceptor whether it was assigned to PVO Strany or to the forward area. As is conveyed in the strategy chapter, PVO Strany and the integrating concept of air defense operations evolved some 15 years and a world war after the patterns of weapons creation were established. A dichotomy between frontal and defense aircraft evolved as PVO Strany evolved, but that was well after the program of post war aviation modernization was well under way.

It is clear that there was a plan which governed the development of jet aircraft. Such a plan would have coincided with the decision cycle of the Fourth Five-Year Plan. Despite what may seem to Westerners to be virtual obeisance to "the Communist Party's and Soviet Government's concern and attention for aviation," a high priority was set for aviation development and a political consensus supported it. Throughout the period of the Fourth Five-Year Plan (1946-1950), either three or four programs were instituted to compete against each interceptor requirement. In addition, a multitude of prototypes continued to be developed in the course of ongoing design bureau activities - these aside from the formalized requirements cycle. It is no coincidence that Stalin's attitude changed to "no intention of creating new fighters in the immediate future" at the same time as the Fifth Five-Year Plan.

It is clear also that this type of long-range plan evolved in the industrial and design establishment. Military participation was negligible except within the Central Committee. Military participation came in the formal requirements cycle which gave priority to certain specific types of aircraft already being developed. In the case of the MiG-19, La-200B, and YAK-25, it is evident that the requirements were formalized between Stalin and the designers, with pernicious participation by Beria and separate perfunctory staffing by the air force.

A Soviet text for industrial engineers in the aviation industry states the following: "The basic task of the technical preparation of production is the creation of designs . . . whose quality is not worse than the best world models, and the period of their development and introduction into series production is minimum" (emphasis added). Yakovlev's personal motto was "Be Ahead." Mikoyan's Bureau slogan is said to be, "Speed and Altitude." Stalin, at the 1947 Tushino Show enjoined the aviation industry to create aircraft which would "fly higher, faster, and farther" than any in the world. This slogan harks back to a speech to the Eighteenth Party Congress (1939) which stated: "We will henceforth fight to increase quantity, improve quality and decrease the cost of our aircraft so that our pilots can fly higher, farther, and faster than anyone in the world." An even earlier precedent is a July 1929 Party Central Committee Decree which includes: "We consider the greatest challenge in building the Red Air Force to be the improvement of its quality as fast as possible to the level of the foremost bourgeois countries . . . "

While the list of these slogans can be extended, it is evident that throughout postwar interceptor decisions they represent a set of lenses through which the Soviet aviation industry saw the world and which "colored" their perceptions. These perceptions profoundly influenced the menu of weapons from which Soviet planners built their post war strategic defensive force. Such a contention goes a long way toward explaining that Soviet interceptor aircraft were not designed against the early U.S. bomber threat. Instead, they were designed in technological competition with foreign interceptors.

On the other hand, the 1948 attempt at an all-weather prototype confirms that there was a perceived need among the air forces for an all-weather interceptor and that it had matured to the point of a "requirement." That the requirement resulted in a less-than-satisfactory weapon is evident. An interim solution was arranged, the MiG-15P, and the design process continued without regard to the night and all-weather threat. A more appropriate weapon awaited an engine design breakthrough and Yakovlev's initiative. The 1948 requirement also coincides with the emergence of PVO Strany as an independent force. It is inferred that this type of two-engine, long-range aircraft is what the PVO wanted. Instead, it got the short-range MiG-15P. Either aircraft would have been equipped with a short-range radar. Thus, planning attention in aviation was directed to the engine and the airframe; other element of a weapons system were added on-if it was technically convenient.

Throughout the 1950s the Americans repeatedly tested the strength of the Soviet air defense system, performing reconnaissance flights over the territory of the USSR or near its borders. On the night of April 28-29, 1954, an RB-47 reconnaissance aircraft at an altitude of 11-12 km passed along the Polotsk-Vitebsk-Baranovichi-Minsk-Grodno line. Fighters went up to intercept him along the entire route, and in the Minsk region they even shot from the KS-19 100-mm anti-aircraft guns, which “reached” only 11 km altitude. Then the scout was never shot down. There was not one example when a Soviet reconnaissance aircraft flew over a certain part of the United States during this period.

And the U-2 high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft was specially created to carry out such flights, taking into account the revealed “holes” in the Soviet air defense system, as the “specialty” of American aircraft construction. It turned out that the USSR did not have at that time a single combat complex capable of "getting" the U-2 flying at an altitude of 21-22 km. The famous Powers flight ended May 1, 1960 with the destruction of an airplane and the capture of a pilot,

So, the Soviet leadership had indisputable reasons for concern about the state of air defense and took decisive measures to eliminate the threat from the air. These measures include the rearmament program for fighter aircraft of the Air Force and Air Defense. At the same time, the first domestic anti-aircraft missile systems were created.




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