Pe-2R of 47th GvRAP, Red Army Supreme Command, October 1944. A dedicated reconnaissance version of the Pe-2, `red 4′ served with the third squadron of 47th GvRAP. The aircraft bears the name `Borisovskiy’ (the regiment was honoured with this name for participation in the liberation of Borisov, after which it also received its Guards title), a Guards emblem and the sign of the Order of the Red Banner. In October 1944 ‘red 4’ carried out three aerial reconnaissance missions over German defensive positions in Eastern Prussia.
Most of the soviet WW2 planes could be the reconnaissance aircraft. No matter of what kind the plane was. Usually the letter “P” (in Latin alphabet it is “R”) means the “разведчик” – reconnaissance. Therefore you may find Tu-2R, Il-2KR, Yak-9R but also Il-4TK, R-12 Yak-7B. The Yak-7R is not the official name. It was the Yak-7UTI adapted to the AFA-IM camera installation in 1941. However at the end of 1943 Russian started trials for recce Yak-7B (aircraft no.1440) with the same camera installed in the back cockpit. It is said there were about 350 planes of the Yak-7B recce variant made. There were some Yer-2 used in that role as well for ultra-long-range missions. The early war Kharkiv KhAI-5 was used for recon though most were quickly shot down.
The Petlyakov Pe-2 Peshka was a multirole, three-seat aircraft developed and mass-produced during the Soviet Union’s Great Patriotic War with Nazi Germany. Production began in 1940 and ended in early 1945, with 11,427 units consisting of 1 prototype and 17 variants and subvariants. The Pe-2 served as a light bomber, dive-bomber, interceptor, night fighter, and recon aircraft. It was also one of the Soviets’ most successful ground-attack planes of World War II.
Vladimir Petlyakov began work on the Pe-2 light bomber while imprisoned in the Sharashka (Experimental Design Bureau) gulag near Moscow on false charges of sabotaging the Tupolev ANT-42 heavy bomber project in 1937. The initial Pe-2 design was for a high-altitude escort fighter (design VI-100) for the ANT-42. The first prototype flew in December 1939. With the Luftwaffe’s using tactical combat aircraft, such as the Ju 87 Stuka dive-bomber, during the blitzkrieg of Poland and France, the Soviets decided to change the VI-100 in development to a dive-/light bomber. Stalin gave Petlyakov 45 days to complete the transition to the new design, designated PB-100.
The Pe-2 was an all-metal, low-wing, twin-tail aircraft with primary armament comprising machine guns and/or cannon with up to 2,205 pounds (1,000 kilograms) internal and external bomb load. In addition to the internal bomb bay, the plane included an original design for an internal bomb rack in each engine nacelle capable of carrying one bomb of up to 220 pounds (100 kilograms). Initially powered by two Klimov VK-M107A inline V-12, liquid-cooled engines of 1,450 horsepower each, the aircraft was switched to the Klimov VK-M105PF inline V-12 (1,260 horsepower each), providing a maximum speed of 360 miles per hour (580 kilometers per hour). The cockpit with a navigator/bombardier seated behind the pilot, featured a raised canopy, while the radio operator/gunner operated in a separate compartment aft of the wing. A top hatch, two side windows, and a ventral gun position were major features of the aft compartment. The first production series included a glazed nose for the bombardier station but was changed to a hard nose on subsequent variants and fitted with machine guns.
Production of a reconnaissance version began in August 1941; ultimately, three variants were fielded: the Pe-2R, Pe-3R, and the upgraded Pe-2R. The first Pe-2R featured additional armor and lower nose glazing. It carried three to four cameras and three 12.7mm machine guns. Engines were either the 1,110 horsepower VK-M105RA or, as in the later version introduced in 1944, the 1,450 horsepower VK-M107A. The second series Pe-2R was armed with three 20mm cannons and powered by VK-107A engines. The typical camera package for daytime photo intelligence reconnaissance consisted of the AFA-B (standard in all aircraft), two AFA-1s, and one AFA-27T stationed in the radio operator’s compartment. The AFA-B was replaced by the NAFA-19 and up to eight FOTAB-50-35 photo flash bombs for night photo intelligence.
The Pe-3R was the photorecon variant of the Pe-3 bomber interceptor, with slightly different armament than the standard version. Bow armament consisted of either one 20mm cannon and two BK 12.7mm machine guns, or two 12.7mm machine guns and two 7.62 machine guns. A 12.7mm machine gun and one remote-controlled 7.62mm machine gun were located in the aft compartment. Additional fuel tanks attached to motorized gondolas and installed in the bomb bay gave the aircraft greater range. A pair of vertical/ oblique cameras installed in the tail section fulfilled the aircraft’s recon role. Some Pe-2s powered by Schvetsov M-82 engines with a maximum speed of 338 miles per hour (545 kilometers per hour) were sent to the 11th and 99th Special Reconnaissance Air Regiments.
Red Army Air Force (Voenno-Vozdushnye Sily, VVS) Long Range Aviation Reconnaissance Regiments, comprising four squadrons each, received PE-2Rs. The 15th Separate Reserve Reconnaissance Regiment formed in November 1941 was equipped with the PE-2. This regiment trained two sister regiments and six individual squadrons. The 742nd Reconnaissance Regiment conducted operations during the Caucuses Campaign of 1942–1943. Units assigned to the Continuation War against Finland were the 15th Reconnaissance Regiment, 13th Separate Reconnaissance Aviation Regiment, and 47th Long Range Reconnaissance Aviation Regiment.
Production of the Pe-2 ceased in early 1945, but the aircraft remained in service with the Soviets until replaced primarily by the Tupolov Tu-2. The Soviets exported the Pe-2 during the postwar years, with customers that included the Czechoslovakia Air Force’s 715th Independent Reconnaissance Squadron. Yugoslavia was the last nation to operate the model, retiring its remaining inventory in 1954.