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The Soviet Union was the first nation to allow women pilots to fly combat missions. During World War II the Red Air Force formed three all-female units—grouped into separate fighter, dive bomber, and night bomber regiments—while also recruiting other women to fly with mostly male units. Their amazing story, fully recounted for the first time by Reina Pennington, honors a group of fearless and determined women whose exploits have not yet received the recognition they deserve.
Pennington chronicles the creation, organization, and leadership of these regiments, as well as the experiences of the pilots, navigators, bomb loaders, mechanics, and others who made up their ranks, all within the context of the Soviet air war on the Eastern Front. These regiments flew a combined total of more than 30,000 combat sorties, produced at least thirty Heroes of the Soviet Union, and included at least two fighter aces.
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When the USA launched a new battlefield attack aircraft program which eventually led to the development of the A-10 Thunderbolt II, the Soviet Union saw the need to create an equivalent. The Soviet aircraft industry had considerable experience in attack aircraft design to fall back on, dating back to the most famous of these types, the Ilyushin IL-2 Shturmovik of the World War II era. When a contest was called to produce a latter-day Shturmovik, the Sukhoi Design Bureau emerged as the winner with its T-8 project, beating competition from the Ilyushin and Myasiishchev bureaus. After a series of design changes the aircraft entered production and service as the Su-25. The book describes the Su-25's development history and its extensive combat career, starting with Operation Romb, when the then-experimental Su-25 received its baptism of fire in the Afghan War, to the conflicts in former Yugoslavia and the drug-busting operations in Peru. The type's Afghan War involvement receives extensive coverage, as does the Su-25's use in the Chechen Wars. A detailed list is given of the type's many operators, which even included a NATO country (Slovakia). In addition to the main versions up to and including the Su-25TM (Su-39) 'tank killer'. Due attention is paid to the latest programs to upgrade the Su-25 with modern requirements both in Russia and elsewhere. The book includes color artwork and detailed scale drawings in the usual Aerofax style.
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Born in the 1930s, the Soviet Air Force's long-range bomber arm (known initially as the ADD and later as the DA) proved itself during World War II and continued to develop in the immediate post-war years, when the former allies turned Cold War opponents. When the strategic bomber Tu-4 was found to be too 'short-legged' to deliver strikes against the main potential adversary – the USA, both Tupolev and Myasishchev OKBs began the task by creating turbine-engined strategic bombers. By the Khrushchev era in the mid/late 1950's the Soviet defense industry and aircraft design bureau set about adapting the bombers to take air-launched missiles for use against land and sea targets. In 1962 the DA fielded its first supersonic aircraft – the Tu-22 Blinder twinjet, which came in pure bomber and missile strike versions. The Brezhnev years saw a resurgence of strategic aviation with the Tu-22M Backfire 'swing-wing' supersonic medium bomber entering service in the mid-1970s followed in 1984 by the Tu-95MS Bear-H and Tu-160 Blackjack which were capable of carrying six and 12 air-launched cruise missiles respectively. Soviet Strategic Aviation in the Cold War shows how the DA's order of battle changed in the period from 1945 to 1991. Major operations including the air arm's involvement in the Afghan War, the Cold War exercises over international waters in the vicinity of the 'potential adversary', and the shadowing of NATO warships are covered together with details of Air Armies, bomber divisions and bomber regiments, including their aircraft on a type-by-type basis. More than 500 photos, most of which are previously unpublished in the West, are supplemented by 61 color profiles, color badges, and line drawings of the aircraft and their weapons, making this an essential reference source for the historian and modeler alike.
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Starting life in 1927, with Aleksandr Sergeyevich Yakovlev's first aircraft, the AIR-1, the OKB produced aircraft such as the Yak-4 light bomber, the Yak-6 light transport and the Yak-1 fighter. The latter paving the way for the highly successful Yak-3 and Yak-9. Post-war the Yak-15, -17 and -23 were fighters with a distinctive 'pod-and-boom' layout, the Yak-25 was first in a line of twin-jet tactical aircraft while the Yak-18 trainer, Yak-24 tandem-rotor helicopter, Yak-38 VTOL and Yak-40/42 airliners added variety.
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The I-15, I-16 and I-153 fighters were the world's first mass-produced fighters. A total of 17,000 Polikarpov fighters had been manufactured by the time their series production was terminated in 1941. Aircraft of the first series successfully operated in Spain with the Republicans during the civil war (1936-39), in Chinese hands against the Japanese (1937-38), and then with the Soviet Red Air Force again against the Japanese in Mongolia during the Nomonhan Incident (1939). Russian-flown fighter also saw action against the Finns in 1939-40 during the Winter War.
By the time the Wehrmacht launched its surprise attack on the USSR on 22 June 1941, more than 20 Soviet pilots had made ace in Polikarpov fighters during these various conflicts. Still more aces were created in the first months of the German invasion, although losses suffered by the Soviet Air Force's five borderline military district units equipped with some 4000 I-15bis, I-153s, and I-16s were astronomical. Despite being thoroughly outclassed by the Bf 109E/F, the Polikarpov fighters constituted the backbone of Soviet fighter aviation for the first six month's of the war in the east. Many future aces started their combat careers in Polikarpov fighters, and newly-winged pilots continued to train on the I-15 UTI-4 two-seater until 1944. I-153s and I-16s actively participated in campaigns throughout 1942 and, in certain sectors of the frontline, into 1943. Amazingly, a handful of Polikarpov fighters remained in service through to 1945.
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