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Old 14th May 2005, 05:41
Six Nifty .50s Six Nifty .50s is offline
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Six Nifty .50s
Soviet air force losses 1941-1945

Earlier this month, the accuracy of Axis estimates regarding Soviet aircraft destroyed was questioned in another thread. It was interesting until the last few messages, when the moderator locked out the discussion because some readers continued with personal vendettas (not directed against me, but I still had to read them to find content buried amongst the insults). I would like to continue the exchange, this time without seeing personal remarks about our readers.

Originally Posted by Kari Lumppio
When you write about Soviet combat losses is it combat losses (=recorded expressly as such) or combat losses + "did not return" ?

He was quoting statistics from Grif Sekretnosti Sniat, edited by Colonel-General G. F. Krivosheev. The English translation was retitled, Soviet Casualties and Combat Losses in the Twentieth Century.

Table 95 shows aircraft losses by year, including total losses compared to combat losses. There are separate categories for combat aircraft and other planes used for transport, training, etc. The chart indicates that the total Soviet aircraft losses (all types) was 106,400 of which 46,100 were considered to be combat losses. The losses of 'combat aircraft' (Bombers, Ground-Attack, Fighters) was 88,300 of which 43,100 were identified as combat losses.

Table 97 repeats the above figures for losses of combat aircraft, but adds that these were "Irrecoverable Material Losses" -- I would intrepret that as destroyed, damaged beyond economical repair, or War Weary.

Originally Posted by Kari Lumppio
Juri Rybin has done extensive work of the Northern airwar. Valtonen's book gives numerous examples from late 1944 where German claims well exceed the real Soviet losses. The same is true vice versa and Rybin takes a lot of flak from his Russian colleagues because he has also written so. Mombeek's JG5 book uses (I guess) data from the same source and again there are many cases of german claims without real losses (or "no data found"). Was JG 5 the only Luftwaffe unit overclaiming? If II/JG54 did not overclaim then FinnAF nor Finnish AAA did not shoot down any Soviet plane during the Summer 1944 Soviet offensives. Should I believe that?

No, but the record from the Axis side is incomplete. If Krivosheev's numbers are accurate, about 45,000 Soviet aircraft were destroyed or badly damaged by enemy action, but I cannot find enough data to calculate Axis estimates. According to Musciano's Messerscmitt Aces, the Jagdwaffe was credited with 45,000 aerial victories -- with another 16,000 aerial victories credited to Germany's Allies. But, he neglected to consider aerial victories credited to German bombers (KG), destroyers (ZG), fighter-bombers (SKG), and reconnaissance aircraft. Also, he did not put a number to how many Soviet planes were credited as destroyed on the ground by Germany and her Allies, or the number credited to Flak gunners of the Luftwaffe, Heer, Waffen-SS, Kriegsmarine and Germany's Allies.

Undoubtedly, some planes shot down by Flak were never claimed because they crashed long after they passed beyond the view of the gunners.

Originally Posted by Kari Lumppio
"Did not return" inevitably contains also noncombat losses. My guestion of the Soviet losses stemmed from the fact that the "did not return" category losses are often of the same level as combat losses. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that more than half or so of the "did not return" were caused of loss of orientation, bad weather, loosing instrument in clouds etc.

Krivosheev does not show a loss subcategory for Aircraft FTR (Failed to Return) or Aircraft MIA (Missing In Action). The writers distinguished only between combat losses and noncombat losses. The explanation was brief:

"...In the air force over half of losses were non-combat losses. This was mainly because of inadequate pilot training and reduced training time, especially the time allowed for mastering new equipment, but also because of lack of discipline during flight training among aircrews and officers in charge of flying. Design and manufacturing faults in aircraft also contributed to the number of non-combat losses..."

Originally Posted by Graham Boak
Let's note that, as a general rule, accidents made up as many losses as aerial combat.

Krivosheev did not mention it, but some aircraft were lost because they were simply worn out from hard use. How many planes did expert pilots go through? Airframes became overstressed and damaged from violent manueuvering. War Weary planes were often stripped of usable spare parts and the rest was scrapped. Combat aircraft were designed for maximum performance, not longevity.

Last edited by Six Nifty .50s; 14th May 2005 at 05:46.
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