Tuesday 30 July 2019


"Actions of ground attack aircraft against enemy tanks

During the Patriotic War against German invaders, the destruction of enemy vehicles as well as enemy personnel increased in importance. At this stage of the war, the most important thing was to destroy enemy tanks and SPGs, which then slows down the enemy and prevents his ground forces from advancing.

In addition to ground based methods, ground attack aircraft increased in importance, as they could defeat enemy tanks with cannon fire or special bombs.
When ground attack aircraft are given a target, it is necessary to describe the objective of hunting tanks separately in order to prepare a group of aircraft and arm them with anti-tank bombs. Groups of 4-8 aircraft should be dispatched to attack tanks, as this provides the best maneuver of the Sturmoviks above the target.

Against loose formations of tanks it is best to go in one at a time, as this allows for free maneuver. Attack from dive to a height of 150-200 meters. FAB-100, FAB-50M, fragmentation bombs, special PTAB anti-tank bombs, cannon fire and machinegun fire are used to attack tanks.

Of these methods, the PTAB is a universal bomb that has enough power to destroy tanks or any other armoured target on the battlefield. A tank is a small target that requires a direct hit to destroy it, which lowers the effectiveness of large caliber bombs. The PTAB is the most effective method of fighting against tanks.

Despite their small size, a PTAB burns through the armour on a direct hit, ignites fuel, and strikes the crew with splinters. The use of a PTAB greatly increases the odds of a direct hit on a tank, as the bombs cover a large area, creating a high density of explosions. When aircraft fight even loose formations of tanks, the latter take heavy losses.

Attacking tanks achieves a hit to morale and temporary disorganization of the enemy, as well as destruction of accompanying motorized infantry, and occasionally destruction of bases and interruption of command and control of the battlefield.

When fighting against enemy tanks on July 7th, 1944, a group of 8 Il-2 aircraft led by Captain Zanin, under the cover of 6 Yak-9, flew to assault a concentration of tanks and personnel on the eastern clearing of the forest that is 1 km south-west of Yenka.

At 16:50, from a height of 600 to 400 meters, the group made 5 dives from north-east to south-west and then subsequent attacks from a circle on a group of up to 5 tanks on the south-eastern clearing in the forest and up to 3 tanks in the ravine south-east of Stara Lupyanka village.

The first dive achieved surprise. The formation was 4 bearing right. FAB-100, FAB-50, AO-25, PTAB, and gunfire were used.

As a result of the sudden attack and precise dropping of bombs, up to 3 tanks and 30 enemy soldiers and officers were destroyed.

The ground based observation and direction station "Arrow-5" corrected the target and evaluated the work of Captain Zanin's group as excellent.

A group of 8 Il-2 airplanes led by Senior Lieutenant Vasilenko, under the cover of 6 Yak-9, flew to attack a concentration of enemy tanks on the south-western outskirts of Stara Lupyanka.

From 16:48 to 17:05 4 dives were made from 1200 to 600 meters from north to south, with following dives from a circle. Target: up to 8 tanks, 2 field artillery batteries on the south-western outskirts of Stara Lupyanka and up to 15 tanks 2 km south of Stara Lupyanka.

As a result of the sudden attack and precise dropping of bombs, up to 5 enemy tanks were disabled. FAB-100, FAB-50M, and gunfire were used. 

On July 8th, 1944, a group of 6 Il-2 led by Captain Simonenko flew out to assault enemy tanks and personnel near Stara Lupyanka. Upon approaching the front line, group leader Captain Simonenko contacted the "Arrow-5" ground direction station, who directed him to attack tanks south of Stara Lupyanka.

From 18:27-18:37 4 dives were made from 900 to 50 meters from north to south against loose formations of tanks on the southern outskirts of Stara Lupyanka with their barrels pointing east.

The first dive was done without firing to ascertain the correctness of the target. After the "false" dive, the airplanes formed a circle and began diving individually, destroying German tanks. "Arrow-5" reported that one tank was burning and one tank was hit, but did not burn, after the first dive. Captain Simonenko reported seeing one burning tank when he looked down at the ground.

3 more dives were made. The group observed 4 fires when they were departing from the target. "Arrow-5" confirmed that 4 German tanks were burned.

Chief of Staff of the 312th ShAP, Major Kaban
Deputy Chief of Staff, Reconnaissance, Captain Haidukov"


  1. Wonders of Soviet technology.
    Allied research made after seizing battleground revealed that real aircraft efficiency was less than 10% of declared numbers: http://www.operationbarbarossa.net/combat-aircraft-versus-armour-in-wwii/ (note sources).

    This is even funnier remembering WG decision to not merge WoT and WoWP in any way on same battlefield.

    1. Yes, claims from the air were greatly overstated, there's a great study by the US Army after the Korean war that revealed that the USAF claimed to have destroyed 8 time more tanks than were ever in theater.

    2. That said, the report mostly uses rather conservative language such as "disabled" and "reported burning" and takes some pains to refer to the proverbial second opinion of the forward observation team involved. (I understand Soviet military intelligence was as leery of aviator claims as everyone else's.) And if nothing else PTAB carpet bombing was probably among the more reliable period methods for *actually* doing Bad Things to AFVs from the air.

    3. Yes, I was surprised at how careful the wording is. It makes the report far more credible.

  2. That being said the Sturmovik's VYa-23 cannon was a brute worth more consideration. It worked much like the 14.5 mm on a enlarged scale.

    1. From what I remember reading of post-battle evaluations from eg. Kursk it didn't really do all that much to actually armoured stuff though. By way of comparison the Germans started mounting full-on cannon starting with 37 mm and ending with whopping 75 mm on *their* ground-attack jobs - and eventually more or less just concluded that low-altitude bombing runs did the job at least as well for less airframe performance penalty.

      But oughta shredded softskins just fine.

    2. Except in the case of German tanks at Kursk, it was simply enough to damage a vital component which would require recovery and shipment back to Germany for repair. Most likely the tanks were destroyed and abandoned by their own troops.

    3. That goes for pretty much any heavy equipement deemed impractical or impossible to recover so I'm not really seeing your point...

  3. Airforce ground attacks cannot be only measured by how many tanks they destroyed or disabled. Tanks do not act alone but along side infantry and numerous other support vehicles. Statistics are almost certainly misleading to the effect airforce had on the enemy in terms of disabled tanks, but to say their effectiveness is less then 10% is misleading as well. Even unsuccessful attack on a tank will have an effect. The crew will know that the enemy knows where they are and immediately change their behavior in planing and execution of tasks.