The Last Chapter

        My dear reader, our story finally comes to its end. Having made a long and tiresome journey, we've come to a result so simple and - what's most important - so predictable, that I even feel somewhat unsure - was it really worth so many words?    

         Reasons for the Soviet air forces having been defeated in the summer of 1941 were identical to the reasons of the general defeat of the Red Army. Armed Forces of the USSR were part of a seemingly invincible, but at the same time a deeply sick society, and air forces were only part of the army (although a rather special one) created as a working tool of an aggressive totalitarian regime. Myriads of slogans, banners, cheerful songs and reports of amazing victories fell down like autumn leaves struck by the hammer of war - and the truth came out. Some rather poor-looking facts telling that not all Soviet people were ready to defend such a country with its regime in common efforts... Tragedy of year 1941 had been prepared by our "effective managers’ Best Friend", and it was only even more terrible cruelty, wickedness and stupidity of Hitler’s regime, vast lands and plentiful resources of our country, as well as help from powerful democracies of the West which helped us to gain back what we had lost in the first months, to overcome the enemy and to finish the war in Berlin.  

         As to pure aviation and technical issues and conclusions, one can formulate them as follows:


1. A pilot is the key element of an "airplane-pilot" system. This is true even today, when computers onboard and self-guided missiles are reality. And this is even more truthful in the context of combat aviation of the 1940ies.

2. Combat training of a pilot is a firm allow combined of skills and wish. Wish to fly, shoot, bomb, find, evade - and being ready to sacrifice one's own life for the sake of a common victory – victory of a squadron, army or country. Situation in Stalin’s army was equally poor with both these elements of combat training. This resulted in combat readiness of Armed Forces (air forces among them) being surprisingly low: lack of motivation was complemented by low skills in flying, shooting and tactics.

3. For the "aircraft-pilot" system to be effective in combat one needs an aircraft with characteristics comparable to those of enemy airplanes. The "comparability" range is rather wide. A slight (10-15%) advantage (or drawback) in a specific parameter does not play a significant part and can be virtually always compensated with actions tactically correct. 

4. Performance and efficiency of the Air Force system as a whole depend on aircraft characteristics even less,

while combat TACTICS in separate components of the system, their interoperability and interaction with land troops are even more important here. Communications and surveillance services, ground technical services, quality of airfields and, what is most important, competent command play a great role in air forces' efficiency in combat.

Almost all these things cannot be bought, stolen or duplicated. That’s what has to be created inside of the country and the army. Whether it is all possible, is mostly dependent on what is called a "human factor".

5. Stalin (in order to be brief, we’ll call these name all highest military and political Soviet official) concentrated (from the middle 30ies, not later) all his efforts - together with the resources of the richest country in the world - at comprehensive preparations for the coming war. One of the purposes was to create the most powerful military air forces in the world.

6. The subtask to create material and technical resources for the war had been solved most successfully. Namely, they succeeded in creating aircraft industry capable of producing aircrafts in quantities absolutely unreal for any of the European countries, as well as multiple research and aircraft design institutions. The main reason for the success was the unequalled concentration of material and financial resources, as well as amazing short-sightedness of Western politicians who allowed Stalin to turn financial resources he seized into newest war technologies.  

7.  This resulted in Stalin having at his disposal by 1939 a terrifying (times greater than any of the participants of the World War that started that year) number of aircrafts which at least equaled the world best combat aircrafts by their characteristics.

8. Issues related to the creation of the military aviation system were being resolved significantly harder. And there were plenty of reasons for that. One can hardly combine systematic approach with Marx’s and Lenin’s vision of reality which is based upon absolutization of separate particulars.

The common education and cultural level of our collective "stalin" was also extremely low. Finally, the quality of human resources was also quite different: presence of "socially hostile" out-of-the-Party specialists, true engineers and scientists of the old Russian school was possible in research and design institutes, but absolutely impossible in the command of the army, air forces and military industry by the end of the 30ies. Stalin’s "protégées" could at best be capable of very intensive – but still absolutely inefficient work. At worst they were ignorant crooks, intrigants and parvenus which would not be consigned to commanding a team of garbage collectors in a normal society.   

9. Thus, the situation by the start of the Second World War was absolutely paradox and almost impossible to describe in normal human language: many aircrafts, many pilots, many airfields, many air factories, many flight schools and colleges. At the same time, refuellers, tubes, funnels, batteries, auto-starters, radio stations and telephone wires were in deficit everywhere. Newest rapid-firing anti-aircraft guns – with no shells for them; unique fuel-tank pressurization systems – with no nitrogen on airfields; a great flying stock – with no tractors to clean snow out from the airfields; a huge network of flight schools –  with their students doing marching exercises and unloading carriages; petroleum production greatest in Europe - with no high-octane aviation petrol... In other words, there was virtually everything - but actual combat capabilities of air forces were extremely low.

10. Stalin extended his special methods of command upon the Air Force, air industry and science before the war - with administrative pressure, mass repressions, planting of fear, toadying and bloody intrigues. This resulted in well-formed scientific teams being smashed up, best specialists physically destroyed (or pushed aside from creative activities for a long time); the natural process of renewing Soviet flying stock had been pushed backwards 2 or 3 years before the war.

11. Stalin exterminated the most and probably the best part of air force command just a few weeks and days before the war against Germany. It proved to be impossible to find out the true reasons for the military aviation command turning into yet another victim of mass terror right in the spring of 1941. Results of this massacre – related to further demoralization of the Armed Forces – are obvious and need not to be explained.

12. By the 22nd of June, 1941 the part (approximately half) of Soviet air forces deployed on the territory of western military districts was times as great as enemy air forces in all quantitative parameters (number of aircrafts, crews, squadrons, home airfields). Technical conditions and combat characteristics of Soviet aircrafts were acceptable and generally conforming to requirements of war. Anyway, materiel of Soviet air regiments was not worse than that of the Western allies, which had made the Luftwaffe sustain terrible losses (France) or terrible losses combined with defeat (England).

13. The "sudden attack" myth which had been cultivated in Soviet historiography for years is fictitious from soup to nuts. Apart the fact that all field manuals effective in the air forces at that time provided a system of measures which made "sudden strike" at home airfields impossible, all the Western districts, all the troops of military air forces were ordered to get themselves fully operational before the war.

14. The very first days of war made it obvious that Soviet air forces were not capable of effective air combat. The great flying stock was being used "with the efficiency of a steam locomotive" - few air missions, lack of coordination and communications with land troops, unsatisfactory operation of the materiel and technical supply system, weakness and lack of will in the staffs. Panic rearward "re-deployment" started in the areas of the front (Byelorussia, Baltic states) where enemy land troops made their main blow – and it was actually mass desertion.

15. Lack of action (of stampede) of Soviet air forces let the enemy bomb formations of Red Army land troops almost unpunished, which was yet another reason for panic retreat - which, in its turn, gave air force commanders another impulse to make a decision for an urgent "re-deployment". That’s how a system with "positive feedback" formed with lightning speed, which finally resulted in most part of the flying stock at Western, North-Western (and partly South-Western) fronts being left on airfields.

16. Being roughly equal to Soviet air forces in numbers, the German Luftwaffe got its crucial advantage due to better skills and morale of the flying personnel, well-tested combat tactics and interaction with land troops, as well as blameless functioning of communications and command. It was only due to continuous increase of forces via transferring air troops from inner and Far Eastern districts and forming of endless new air regiments that command of Soviet air forces managed to counter-attack and provide minimal air cover for land troops.

17. The reason for the air "blitzkrieg" having failed was identical to that of the "land blitzkrieg": Germans simply did not have enough time to "crush" endless new enemy troops and replenish their increasing losses. On the other side, as discipline, order and control were being restored in Soviet air forces, as flying and command personnel gained combat experience, actions of Soviet air forces got more and more effective. It was probably by the autumn of 1942 that fragile balance of forces in the air came into life. However, resources spent by the Soviet Union and its air forces to maintain this balance were times as high as enemy costs and losses.  Soviet air forces remained a huge but hardly effective war mechanism till the very May of 1945.

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.
Every step, every try as well as a documented, fair and unprejudiced answer to these three issues lead the researcher to a deadlock of unsolvable, at first sight, contradictions. Why Stalins empire, after years of preparation for the Big War, having concentrated all resources of the richest country in the world, and, finally, having amassed the biggest army size in the world, suffered a crushing defeat in the summer of 1941? Why Stalin, who didnt believe his closest comrades, did believe to Ribbentrops signature in the non-aggression pact? Why the Soviet Union utterly militarized totalitarian empire found itself to be the only participant of the WWII, which started mobilizing its Armed Forces not before the start of combat actions (as did everybody else) and not even on the date of Hitlers invasion, but only on the second day of the war, on June 23, 1941? Why hours before the German invasion fighter regiments of Soviet AF received a day-off, while surface-to-air divisions were withdrawn to the far home front airfields? These are among the questions that will be addressed in my book.
Copyright Mark Solonin
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