Monday, August 18, 2014

Petlyakov Pe-2 : 1942.09.04

1942.09.04
SA-photo

Petlyakov Pe-2

Finnish Air Force

In 1941, after the outbreak of Continuation War Finland purchased six war booty Pe-2 aircraft from Germany. These arrived at State Aircraft Factory facilities at Härmälä in January 1942, where the airframes were overhauled and given Finnish serial numbers. The seventh Pe-2 was bought from the Germans in January 1944, and it was flown to Finland at the end of the month.

It was initially planned to use these planes as dive bombers in the 1st flight of LeLv 48, which began to receive its aircraft in July 1942, but during the training it was found out that this caused too much strain for the engines. Thus, the role of Pe-2s was changed to fly long-range photographic and visual reconnaissance missions for the Army General Headquarters. These sorties began in late 1942, and were often flown with two 250 kg (551 lb) bombs for harassment bombing and in order to cover the true purpose of missions.

By the time the Soviet Fourth strategic offensive started in June 1944, the secondary bombing role had already ended and the surviving Pe-2s began to be used solely at Karelian Isthmus in escorted (normally by four FiAF Bf-109 Gs) photographic reconnaissance flights in order to find out enemy troop concentrations. These vital missions were flown successfully, allowing artillery and Finnish Air Force and Luftwaffe's Gefechtsverband Kuhlmey's bombers to make their strikes against the formations preparing for attack, which had an important impact on the outcome of the Battle of Tali-Ihantala, where the Soviet advance was halted.

During the Continuation War, three Pe-2s were lost in accidents or technical failures, one was destroyed in bombing of Lappeenranta airfield, one was shot down by Soviet fighters and one went missing in action. In the Lapland War the only remaining machine flew a single reconnaissance sortie in October 1944. On average, the aircraft flew some 94 hours per plane during the war. The sparse usage was due to difficulties with obtaining spare parts.

The Finnish Air Force also operated one Petlyakov Pe-3 (PE-301) that had been captured in 1943.

PE-301 and PE-215 were destroyed when Soviet aircraft bombed the Lappenranta airfield on 2 July 1944. PE-212 went down in 1943, PE-213 was destroyed in an emergency landing in 1942. PE-214 was destroyed in a failed take-off attempt at Härmälä on 21 May 1942: as Härmälä airfield was quite short, the pilot had to try to lift off with too little speed, which caused the aircraft to stall and crash, killing the crew. PE-217 managed to shoot down a Soviet fighter in 1944. PE-216 was destroyed in a forced landing in 1944. PE-211 survived the war and was removed from FAF lists in 1946. It was still standing beside the Kauhava airfield in 1952, but further information on its fate is unknown