In a recent issue of the Red Star, the following article written by a Red
Army Staff Officer, describes some features of German air tactics during the
spring operations on the Eastern Front.
* * *
During the operations conducted this spring certain features of German
air tactics stood out very clearly. Great air battles fought in the Kuban area and
other regions of the front give many examples which characterize present tactics
of the German Air Force.
In the first place let us note the use of very strong concentration of planes
of all types for a blow on a chosen target. In order to achieve strong
concentrations of planes at a given time on a target, the Germans, besides considerable
regrouping of squadrons, use the following maneuver: groups of German
bombardment planes based on airfields at a considerable distance from the chosen target
take off according to a prearranged time schedule arriving over the target
simultaneously, or within a very short time of each other. For example, during one
raid in which several hundred bombers took part, the planes were over the target
only 20 to 25 minutes. These planes flew from airfields widely scattered in depth
and in front. Such a maneuver is often necessary as our [Russian] reconnaissance
planes usually discover large concentrations near the front lines in time for our
attack planes to disperse such concentrations. It is necessary to note that the
maneuver described above is not always successful. Organizational difficulties,
changes in weather conditions, and actions of opposing aviation often disrupt the
plans of the German command. In one particular instance where five groups
were to take part in a raid, only one reached its destination and was there
dispersed by our air defense.
Combining both the concentration of planes on airfields near the front
lines, and the air maneuver, Germans are often able to achieve strong
concentrations of air power on a given target. This is done in the following manner:
pursuit planes with limited gasoline capacity, and light bombers, are gathered
on the airfields in the vicinity of the chosen target. For this purpose the
Germans use squadrons trained for direct support of ground troops. The main force
of bombardment planes follows a time schedule, taking off from widely scattered
The character of the German air attack depends on the air situation and
the objective. If large numbers of fighter planes are available they arrive over
the target ahead of the bombers. They endeavor to drive from the air the largest
possible number of our fighter planes leaving the air over the target area
uncontested to the bombers and their fighter protection. If sufficiently large numbers
of fighter planes are not available, the bombers attack with almost no protection.
In the massed attack of fighter planes that precedes the appearance of
the bombers each group of fighter planes echelons vertically and in depth in such
a way that it can fight independently of the others. Missions of these groups are
varied. Some groups composed mainly of Me-109's and FW-190's engage fighter
planes, employing horizontal and vertical maneuver. Often during the course of
the battle Germans detach groups of four or six of the most experienced fighter
pilots in order to intercept our reinforcements. Other groups somewhat smaller
than the first endeavor to secure control of the air over the target.
The following example drawn from actual battle illustrates German methods
of attacking our bomber formations. A group of "Lagg 3" fighters was
protecting an echelon of "Ilushin 2" bombers which were operating over a battle field.
In the vicinity of the target our planes were met by German fighters. After trying
to separate our fighters from the bombers, German planes, for the most part
Messerschmitts, formed an "echelon in line ahead" on the right side of our
bombers while the fighter escort was echeloned on the left side. This maneuver
gave the German fighters certain advantages. It was difficult for our fighters
to intercept the attack against the bombers without subjecting themselves to fire
from succeeding enemy planes; each enemy plane was protected by the following
one; and enemy planes could take turns firing against the same target.
Germans have also changed somewhat their bomber formations. Typical
of the formations used recently is a group of 30 to 40 Heinkels or Junkers which
fly either in a wide formation or in groups of 9 to 12 planes "in line ahead".
On some occasions the number of bombers in group was increased from 60 to 80
planes. During daylight hours these attack in large groups, while at night they
attack singly or in small groups.
Against our ground forces Germans use low-flying or diving attacks made
with the improved Junkers-87 which they call Panzerjagdflugzeug. It is now
equipped with two automatic cannon, its speed is slightly increased (320 km/ph),
and its range is increased. In combatting these attacks our "Ilushin 2" which
has very strong armament is especially useful.