Red Air Force

The Red Air Force was not an independent service and was controlled by the Red Army and the Red Navy. By 1936 Soviet factories were producing about 3,500 aircraft a year. The most important of these were the bombers Tupolev TB-3 and the Tupolev SB-2. By 1941 the Red Air Force possessed a total of 18,000 aircraft and employed 20,000 pilots and a further 180,000 personnel.

When Adolf Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa in June 1941, one of the main objectives was to put the Red Air Force out of action. On the first day the 3,000 Luftwaffe aircraft destroyed 1,200 Soviet aircraft, 800 of them being on the ground at the time.

As factories in the Soviet Union had to be moved to the east, it was not until the following year that the Red Air Force was able to build up its resources. A total of 8,000 aircraft were built in 1942. This was increased to 18,000 in 1943 and 30,000 in 1944.

New aircraft built during the Second World War included the fighters Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-3, Lavochkin LaGG-3, Yakovlev Yak-1 and the Ilyushin Il-10. Important bombers built during this period included Petlyakov Pe-2 and the Tupolev Tu-2.

Under the command of Alexander Novikov, the Red Air Force gradually gained air supremacy on the Eastern Front. With over 10,000 front-line aircraft, the Soviets easily outnumbered the Luftwaffe.

With the Red Army advancing on Berlin in 1945, the Red Air Force was able to employ 800 heavy bombers to join the Royal Air Force and the United States Air Force in attacking Nazi Germany.

A total of 45,000 Soviet aircraft were destroyed by the Luftwaffe during the Second World War. As well as building 81,000 aircraft the Soviets also imported 18,000 aircraft from the United States and Britain.