At the Airfields that Seemed to Be Asleep
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“At the dawn of June 22, 1941, the main forces of the Soviet AF were defeated in the airfields by a sudden knockout of German aviation”. From all the myths about WW2 history, this one turned out to be the most viable. And it’s not accidental. Absurd invention about “aviation, defeated by a sudden knockout” was beneficial to Soviet propagandists: first of all, such statement ideally corresponded to the key image, common for the whole Soviet mythology, of a “peacefully sleeping Soviet land”, the government of which, allegedly, didn’t think about. Secondly, it allowed for to avoid the need to discuss the really important issue: why the numerous Soviet AF which outnumbered many times the enemy in quantity, couldn’t influence in any way the course of the combat actions during the first days and weeks of the Soviet-German war? The absurd hypothesis about “aviation, defeated on the peacefully sleeping airfields”, being completely unfounded, except for endless senseless repetitions, outlived its authors and was totally accepted by Western historians and journalists as a “solid historical fact”.
Mark Solonin became the first who dared to say: “But the emperor has no clothes!” The very first step, the simplest comparison of the number of airplanes, announced as being destroyed on land (800 units), with the total number of Soviet AF, deployed on the Western USSR borders (more than 8.500 units), as well as a comparison of the number of airfields being attacked (66) with the total number of airfields in the Western military districts (613), knocks over like skittles. However, the content of a 600-page long research "At the Airfields That Seemed to Be Asleep” is much deeper; questions which the author is asking, are much more complex than unmasking of obvious nonsense.
The book, written by M.Solonin is a solid historical research, written by professional aeronautical engineer (the author for years had worked in a secret aeronautical design department). Just that very circumstance defines the unique advantages of the book, since without a deep understanding of the substantive, technical side of the issue, it is impossible to reconstruct the history of aviation’s combat use in an authentic way.
First of all, M.Solonin suggests to the reader to define the terms, definitions, categories of aircraft building, to understand why the airplane flies, what defines its flight characteristics, how they are interconnected, how they influence (or do not!) the results of airplane's combat use. This section (which takes up more than a quarter of the whole book) is an unprecedented example of how the most complex issues of aerodynamics or the strength theory could be explained in a simple language, available to every curious high-school graduate, without losing the scientific certainty.
Having finished the "short course on technical education", author takes the reader to Moscow of 1939, to the offices of heads of Soviet aviation industry, to the test sites, to “prison experimental design offices” (a unique invention by Stalin and his henchmen) as well as to the runways of secret airfields. The history of a brutal fight between competing groups close to Stalin, had paradoxically defined the course of Soviet aviation industry development during the prewar years. “King of rats and “King of fighters” - is the title of one of the book’s parts; such a somber title easily corresponds to the history of real events which ended up not only with the death of few test pilots, but with another wave of repressions which annihilated before the beginning of Soviet-German war almost the whole highest command staff of Soviet AF in just a few days.
The third, the most solid and important part of the book is devoted to the description and analysis of the course of combat actions which took place in the air of summer of 1941. What did happen in the reality at the border airfields in the early morning of June 22, 1941? Why do the results of Luftwaffe’s attack on Soviet airfields in various sectors of East Front differ so much (dozens of times!) Why the counter-attacks of the Soviet AF on Luftwaffe’s airfields were so ineffective? Why, having the overwhelming majority, the Soviet AF couldn’t defeat the oil field in Romania, i.e. to reach the goal it was preparing for years? And, finally, why the German aviation couldn’t get the vast air superiority, despite the common wrong belief?
The author looks for persuasive answers to these (and many other) questions together with the reader. One can build a picture from hundreds of documents, combat reports, fragments of memory of those who participated in the events; the picture much more complex than the myth of “destructive first attack”, but at the same time paradoxically and discouragingly simple. The author reaches the following conclusion in the last pages: "Having done a long and sometimes exhaustive journey, we arrived to a result, being so simple, that I, frankly speaking, feel a bit of confusion – did I really need to spend so many words? The reasons for Soviet AF defeat became to be completely the same, as the reasons for Red Army defeat in general. The Armed forces of the USSR were part of an indestructible as seen from outside, but a society deeply ill from inside. The tinsel of slogans and banners disappeared under the strikes of military storm; and one had found the truth about the Soviet nation and its army, being unprepared to defend such country, such regime and such “chief”…
In the Annex to the book the author presents his statistical tables (number of Soviet and German AF groups, losses of the parties, structure of such losses, losses of the airplanes and air crew, ratio of real losses and claims, etc). The book contains illustrations of many photos of aircrafts, drawings, diagrams and graphs.
Table of Contents
PART 1. AIRCRAFTS
Chapter 1. 250.000
Statement of a question, overview and critique of well-established views of the problem. Can one say that Luftwaffe “got the vast majority in the air”, if during the first three months of the war the Soviet AF were able to make 250.000 operation flights?
Chapter 2. Why do the airplanes fly
The main terms of aerodynamics and flight dynamics. Why couldn’t the fighters of 1930s reach the bomber? Can the lightest fighter be the best? Were the Soviet airplanes the “dummy” ones? Comparative advantages and disadvantages of engines with air and liquid cooling. Different construction arrangements, or why did the metal substitute the wood.
Chapter 3. The most important aviation
Bomber forces – tasks, tactics and strategy of use, requirements for technical specifications of bombers.
Chapter 4. Working wars in the air
Tactical bombers of the first days of WWII – history of development and combat use, aircraft performance characteristics
Chapter 5. Ground attack planes
German dive-bomber “Junkers" Ju-87 and Soviet armed destroyer Il-2: two discriminative approaches for creating the airplane to fire support the ground troops.
Chapter 6. The best of the best
The German bomber “Junkers” Ju-88 and Soviet bomber ANT-58 (Tu-2). Why could these two airplanes be considered as the best tactic bombers of WWII?
Chapter 7. How do the fighters fight
Main tactical schemes which the fighters perform. The actual distribution of combat flights based on types of the tasks. What was more important – the quantity or the quality (performance characteristics) of the fighters?
Chapter 8. Air fight: End limits
The real performance of fighters during the WWII. Why half of the American fighter pilots couldn’t knock down a single German plane?
Chapter 9. Find and destroy
Armament of fighters during the WWII: technical problems and solutions. What is better: a lot of machine guns or one powerful cannon? Quantitative evaluation indicators. Overview of armament systems of German, French, British and Soviet fighters in the beginning of 1940s.
Chapter 10. Technology and tactics
Can the tactics of air fights compensate insufficient technical advantage of a airplane? Dynamic flight modes, energy management during the air fights. Tactics of the group and single fight.
PART 2. The Day Before
Chapter 11. “Triumphal marching” with figures
May-June 1940, air fight in the Western front. Luftwaffe’s “Pyrrhic victory” in France
Chapter 12. Minimum and Maximum
Air “Battle of Britain” – Hitler’s first strategic failure. How and why could the British fighters counter the strike of superior Luftwaffe? British Spitfire and Soviet I-16: The history of creating and performance characteristics of the two legendary aircrafts
Chapter 13. King of rats and “King of fighters”
Aircraft designer Polykarpov and his aircrafts. The mystery of Chkalov’s death.
Chapter 14. Big races
January 1939, Stalin decides to personally lead the rearrangement of Soviet AF and Soviet aviation industry. “The competition of Twelve” and defeat of Polykarpov's design department. Sylvansky's trickery. Kaganovych clan forms its own aeronautical design department
Chapter 15. Quicker than anybody else
How the brother of secretary of Central Committee unexpectedly for himself became a prominent aircraft designer (the history of creating the MiG-3 fighter). Who and why suggested to Stalin that speed is the most important advantage of bombers? Yakovlev’s trickery with BB-22 aircraft. Why the winner of “Comrade Stalin’s award” was the “semi-bomber” Pe-2, created in the prison experimental design offices?
Chapter 16. Farther than anybody else
Why did Stalin need a bomber with the flight range of 5000 km? The history of creating the Er-2 bomber and its sad finish. Unsuccessful tests of MiG-3 give rise to anger of “Mikoyan clan”, triggering the new wave of repressions.
Chapter 17. Fatal works
The results of “Stalin rearrangement” in the aviation industry. Why did Soviet AF enter the war in June 1941 with airplanes of the 1936 line up?
Chapter 18. Kamikaze airplanes
How many Soviet pilots were killed by their own planes?
PART 3. WAR
Chapter 19. Right to life
Martyrology of reprisals victims from the highest command staff of Soviet AF
Chapter 20. At the boundary
On the eve of the showdown. The structure of Soviet and German AF groups
Chapter 21. Airplanes and people
The problems of preparing the Soviet AF flight crews – myths and reality. Why the USSR – the European leader on oil production – stayed without aviation gasoline?
Chapter 22. Airstrike on airfields – theory and practice
Airstrike on enemy’s airfields: the “magic wand” or the most difficult and risky operation of air forces? Experience of combat actions in Spain. May 10, 1940 on the airfields in France, lessons of Perl Harbor, “six-days war” of 1967 on Middle East
Chapter 23. “And if a seasoned foe would approach us…”
Was the airstrike of the German air forces an unexpected one? The last orders and directives of the Soviet command, issued on the eve of June 22, 1941.
Chapter 24. The way it happened – 1
The combat actions of the first days during the Soviet-German war on the North (Polar region and Finland) and South (the Black Sea and Romania) flanks
Chapter 25. The way it happened – 2
The combat actions of the first days during the Soviet-German war in the air over Ukraine and Baltic states.
Chapter 26. The way it happened – 3
Defeat of the Soviet air forces in the Western Byelorussia – a chronology of events
Chapter 27. Devastating “relocation”
The first conclusion – the main losses of Soviet air forces took place not in the air, but on the ground. The cause for this was not the actions of enemy, but a panic “relocation” of aircraft units. Soviet air forces was swept away by retreating Red Army, flowing in disorder.
Chapter 28. Air superiority
The war continues. Why could the Soviet air forces preserve its superiority in numbers over Luftwaffe? The ratio between the real losses of the parties. Could the German air forces reach a vast majority in the air? A strange structure of losses for Soviet air forces and dynamics of its changes during the period of 1941 to 1945.
Conclusion. Results and findings in 17 theses
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