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Soviet fighter aviation suffered terribly at the hands of the Jagdwaffe in the first year of the war in the east, and with the arrival of JG 51 and its Fw 190s on the Stalingrad Front in September 1942 things only got worse for the hard-pressed Red Army Air Force pilots. However, help was on its way in the form of the re-engined LaGG-3 fighter, which was fitted with a powerful air-cooled M-82 radial engine. Designated the La-5, the new fighter was capable of withstanding more punishment than the fragile LaGG-3, and it was also appreciably faster and had a greater rate of climb. It was more of a handful to fly, however, but the new generation of better trained pilots who were led into combat by the survivors of 1941-42 quickly found the La-5 (and, later, the improved La-7) very much to their liking. Arriving in the frontline in August 1942, the new Lavochkin fighters soon found themselves pitted into action on the Central Sector against the equally new Fw 190As of JG 51. The first clashes took place in November of that year, and from then on the Focke-Wulf fighter would regularly clash with its counterpart from Lavochkin.From the Trade Paperback edition.
Created by ex-Polikarpov designers Ivanovic Mikoyan and Mikhail Gurevich, the MiG-1/3 family of fighters was built to satisfy a Soviet Air Force requirement for an advanced, fast, high altitude fighter. Entering service in the spring of 1941, the problematic MiG-1 had its handling problems rectified with the hasty production of the MiG-3 - the latter had its Mikulin engine moved further forward, increased outer wing dihedral and a strengthened fuselage. As of 22 June 1941, Air Force manoeuvre units in the five borderline military districts could field 917 MiG-3s. Many of these were destroyed on the ground when the Germans launched Operation Barbarossa. Nevertheless, enough examples survived to allow pilots such as Stepan Suprun (Twice Hero of the Soviet Union), Aleksandr Pokryshkin (Thrice Hero of the Soviet Union) and Lev Shestakov (Hero of the Soviet Union) to claim a number of victories on the type. Early successes by units such as 23rd and 28th IAPs resulted in 35 aerial victories being claimed by MiG-3 pilots in the first eight days of the Great Patriotic War. Other units enjoyed similar levels of success, with MiG-3-equipped 15 and 31st IAP proving themselves to be the most combat-ready fighter units on the Northwestern Front. By the end of 1941, a handful of pilots had 'made ace' flying the MiG-3, despite the Soviet air forces having taken a fearful beating at the hands of the Luftwaffe. In 1942 MiG pilots actively participated in the defence of Leningrad, Moscow, Odessa, Kiev and Sevastopol, with still more aviators becoming aces as the year progressed. Amongst them was Aleksandr Pokryshkin, the second-highest scoring Russian ace with 59 victories to his name. He claimed his first five kills while flying a MiG-3 with 55th IAP. Stalin terminated MiG-3 production in October 1941, although the fighter remained in frontline service in large numbers until mid-1942. Surviving examples continued to serve with national air defence regiments until 1943.
Petlyakov's Pe-2 was the most numerous Soviet twin-engined bomber of World War 2, the aircraft being used as a dive-bomber, ground attack platform and dedicated reconnaissance type. The first examples entered service in August 1940, and by the time production came to end in late 1945, no fewer than 10,547 examples had been built. These equipped more than 80 bomber air regiments, and of the latter, two were accorded Guards Air Corps status, as were six air regiments. Amongst the former was the 2nd Guards Bomber Air Corps, which was commanded by the legendary General Polbin, who was twice made a Hero of the Soviet Union. Pe-2 bomber and reconnaissance versions (the latter in service with four Guards reconnaissance air regiments of the Air Force and one regiment of Naval Aviation) were extensively used from the frozen Arctic north to the balmy Crimea front. A number of Pe-2 also saw brief combat against Japan in the final weeks of World War 2.
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