The Abwehr and the RSHA against the NKVD, NKGB and ‘SMERSH’

‘SMERSH’ and counterintelligence personnel. Two of which are practicing choke holds.

The Russians, who had been waging total war since November 1941, immediately reacted to the increased activities of the Abwehr and the RSHA against the USSR. But this response was only to increase the number of agencies combatting German spies and saboteurs. On 14 April 1943, in addition to NKVD – the main Soviet security service – the People’s Commissariat of State Security (NKGB) was formed. The responsibilities of the new department included: intelligence against other countries, the fight against enemy intelligence, and the protection of the Communist authorities. Commissioner of State Security 1st Rank Vsevolod Merkulov was appointed its chief. He was a former officer of the Russian Imperial Army, who after the revolution joined the Bolsheviks. Merkulov worked for many years in the Soviet secret police and was a close associate of Lavrenti Beria – People’s Commissar (Minister) of Internal Affairs and Stalin’s chief executioner between 1938 and 1953.

However, Soviet paranoia did not end there. Stalin, who was terrified of German spies and doubted the quality of the work of his security services, continued to produce new, but equally ineffective, agencies. On 19 April 1943 the secret decree of the Soviet government on ‘The Basis of the Management of Special Departments of the NKVD’ established another special body of the Main Directorate of Counterintelligence to deal with agents and spies, ‘SMERSH’ (from smert schpionam – ‘death to spies’) of the people’s Commissariat of Defence of the USSR. Its chief was Commissioner of State Security 2nd Rank Viktor Abakumov. He began his career as a packer and worked for a long time in the Soviet trade system. However, soon his life changed dramatically and from knocking nails into wooden boxes, he moved on to knocking confessions out of all sorts of ‘spies’ and ‘traitors’. Joining the Communist Party, in 1932 Abakumov joined the OGPU (Main Political Administration) from where he went to work in the NKVD. But at first, his career in the secret police had gone badly. In 1934, Abakumov was discovered to have used the secret apartments of the NKVD to meet with his numerous mistresses. After that Abakumov was ‘exiled’ to work in the Main Directorate of Concentration Camps (GULAG). During the Great Terror of 1937–8 many vacancies were formed in the central office of the NKVD (most of Stalin’s executioners, responsible for the repression of millions of Soviet citizens, were also accused of treason and executed), after which Viktor Abakumov’s carreer abruptly took an upturn. The new chief of the NKVD, Lavrenti Beria, found in him a faithful companion and colleague. Beria also successfully combined the sadistic work of Stalin’s chief executioner with debauchery, using his post to flirt with numerous mistresses, preferring underage girls.

All these agencies (the NKVD, NKGB and SMERSH) did not have clearly defined areas of responsibility and, like the Abwehr and the RSHA, actively competed with each other. A consequence of strengthening the security services was even greater surveillance over the population. The Russian ‘leader’ Stalin, like all dictators, was very afraid of his own people, but he was also afraid of his own executioners. Therefore, he fully encouraged rivalry and enmity between them, thus ensuring his dominance and awareness of the tricks of the main executioners.

The Soviet security services sought to detain German agents ‘in hot pursuit’, that is, on the first day after landing. Every day of freedom increased chances of the saboteurs vanishing among the population, moving around the huge country. Rapid captures could be achieved only with the help of a properly-developed system of monitoring the terrain and airspace, and the rapid transmission of information. If the delivery of the next group remained unnoticed and its members could not be caught in the days that followed, some of the agents would manage to escape.

Next, we will give the most interesting examples of delivery of spies into the Soviet rear in 1943. Of course, the authors have information only about the German agents who were caught.

In January, in the Saratov region a group of soldiers who had undergone special training at the Breitenfurt intelligence school was neutralized. The members of the group, disguised as Soviet air force personnel, were to conduct reconnaissance of the aviation industry and energy facilities. Two radio sets, small arms, grenades, several sets of false documents and a large amount of money were captured with them. In the same region three months later, another specialized sabotage group was detained. Its participants had graduated from the Warsaw intelligence school and were assigned to collect information about the movement of military equipment by rail, paying special attention to the products of the Saratov aviation plant (where Yak-1 fighters were produced) and sabotage. From these two cases, the Russian security services concluded that German intelligence was showing great interest in aviation plant No. 292 in Saratov.

On 8 January a group of six Abwehr agents were delivered to the town of Novouzensk, 90km north-east of the Pallasovka railway station. They had a mission to monitor rail movements and to carry out sabotage. The next day one of the agents gave himself up to the local authorities and told them about his ‘colleagues’. The local istrebitelnij battalion conducted a mass round-up, during which all agents were arrested. Weapons, equipment and radio sets were seized.

It should also be noted that the German saboteurs had the indirect assistance of local thugs. In the midst of decisive battles on the Eastern Front, the social and criminal situation in the Volga region was difficult. The main focus of crime was the Stalingrad region. The ruined city and its environs were infested with criminals of all kinds, who armed themselves with weapons scavenged from the battlefields. In the first half of 1943 alone, in the Stalingrad region 18 gangs with a total of 916 members were eliminated, and more than 2,000 bandits and deserters were arrested, who had been responsible for terrorist acts, attacks on NKVD workers, soldiers and commanders of NKVD troops, and the looting of collective farms and state enterprises.

Another unexpected destabilizing factor was the German soldiers and their voluntary helpers (Ost Hilfswillige) trapped far behind Soviet lines without any help from the Abwehr or the SD. Although most of the soldiers of the German Sixth Army surrendered during the first days of February, some of them continued to hide out in Stalingrad and its suburbs in the following months. Despite regular raids, many of them managed to ‘live’ in the city for a long time, helped by the impassable rubble, piles of ruins and many surviving dugouts and shelters. In July 1943, six months after the surrender of Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus, a major operation carried out by the NKVD in the Stalingrad region resulted in the capture of a large number of German soldiers and officers and the usual criminals, from whom were confiscated almost 500 rifles, 25 machine guns, 14 assault rifles, 9 anti-tank guns and many other weapons. Some Wehrmacht soldiers and especially the Russian volunteers managed to avoid captivity by hiding in neighbouring regions. For example, in July, NKVD officers by chance arrested I.F. Shapkin, who previously served in the Wehrmacht (Sixth Army). He had lived for four months pretending to be deaf and dumb in the village of Ivanovka in the Saratov region.

In a letter of 17 June 1943 the Stalingrad regional office of the Communist Party announced to all the party organizations of the region that ‘the Enemy intensified its delivering to the Stalingrad region of parachutists, intelligence officers, radio operators, saboteurs and other agents for intelligence and subversive activities in our rear.’ In September, in the Ilovaysky district of the Stalingrad region, members of an enemy intelligence group voluntarily surrendered to the local authorities. The former saboteurs announced that another group that had been delivered together with them through the front line into the Balandinskaya district of the Saratov region also wanted to surrender.

Groups of agents were also delivered to neighbouring regions. The delivery of agents of different profiles to the neighbouring regions was actively carried out. In June, the istrebitelnij battalion of the Krasnoyarsk district in the Astrakhan region arrested five German agents who had been assigned to conduct reconnaissance of the movement of military units and equipment. During the arrest they seized machine guns, a radio set, maps and a large sum of Soviet money. In the same month in the Astrakhan region a group of five agents voluntarily handed over their weapons and reported another six-strong group near Lake Baskunchak. In October, in the vicinity of Astrakhan an intelligence group of five people was delivered, headed by a German military intelligence officer. They were to contact the bandits operating in the area. In addition, they were to collect intelligence on the deployment and movement of military units.

In June two agents landed near Penza oblast. In the morning, the drop of saboteurs from the plane was noticed by local residents and reported to the NKVD. Istrebitelnij battalions and militia officers were sent to the landing site. That morning a man in the uniform of a major of State Security entered the Kameshkirskijj District Office of the NKVD. He introduced himself to the duty officer as an employee of the ‘Regional Department’ and demanded a horse to search for parachutists. The attendant knew that the search was indeed underway. The arrival of such a senior figure of the ‘Regional Office’ in this backwater seemed suspicious to him. Came on foot all the way from Penza?! And only here, apparently tired after many kilometres of hiking, decided to continue the journey on horseback? This conversation also seemed suspicious to the duty officer. So he asked the major to wait, and then ran to fetch the militia.

In this episode, the police officer was taking a risk. If the stranger was indeed a major in State Security, it could have dangerous consequences. In the Soviet Union, ordinary citizens and rank-and-file militiamen were terrified of security personnel. The German intelligence services exploited this, putting agents in the frightening form of NKVD officers. On his arrest this ‘major’ was indignant and threatened trouble, but then admitted that he was a spy. On the third day after the delivery of the saboteurs, the local istrebitelnij battalion arrested a second agent, dressed in the uniform of a captain in the Red Army. As usual in such cases, the agent had a radio set with him, a large amount of Soviet money and false documents in the name of Rupasov.

Late on the night of 7 September, the VNOS post in the village of Bolschaya Dmitrovka in the Shiroko-Kurmyshsky district reported to the divisional area air defence headquarters in Saratov that a suspicious aircraft had been spotted. The headquarters of the istrebitelnij battalions immediately sent all his troops to search for the possible landing sites of parachutists in a 100km radius of the specified locality. Many hours of searching through forests and meadows soon yielded results, and several German agents were arrested. They were former soldiers of the Red Army, recruited after being captured. All of them were dressed in the uniform of Soviet pilots. When they were searched, several radio sets, large amounts of genuine money, and a wide range of fake stamps, seals, fake party and military documents, orders, medals and weapons were found.

Under interrogation, the spies confessed that they were to sabotage aircraft at airfields, and to identify the locations of reserve aviation regiments around Balanda, Rtischevo and Atkarsk. As it turned out, from March to September 1943 they had been trained at German intelligence schools near Warsaw and Königsberg. On 3 September they were taken to Zaporozhye, where on 7 September, the group took off in an He-111 in the direction of Saratov and at 23.00 were dropped near the village of Dmitrovka. According to the testimony of the agents, it was found that the same aircraft delivered two more agents near the village of Krasny Yar in the Stalingrad region, who were arrested on 9 September by the NKVD.

In November the Saratov NKVD district office received a report from the village of Talovsky in the Novouzenskiy district that a German agent had turned himself in at the collective farm office, saying that five other spies had been dropped from a plane in the area. Immediately the alarm was raised with the istrebitelnij battalion, which began to search the area, with the result that on the same day two German saboteurs were detained in the village of Kurilovka, and cargo parachutes were found in the fields. The next day two parachutists were arrested to the north-east of the town of Novouzensk, and another in the village of Novo-Repinskoy.

In the central regions of the Soviet Union, the struggle between Stalin’s security services and German spies was also in full swing. For example, on 14 May a German agent was arrested in the city of Yaroslavl. A former commander of a platoon in the Red Army, he had graduated from the Warsaw intelligence school. After his arrest he worked under the control of counterintelligence and regularly reported to the Germans about his alleged ‘work’. The next day another graduate of the Warsaw school was arrested in the neighbouring town of Rybinsk, and also worked for the NKVD. In October, in the Poshekhonsky district of Yaroslavl oblast two German agents, Kuthysov and Nikitin, were dropped, who were soon detained by the NKGB.

On 13 July, the German spy Alexander Kryzhanovsky was arrested in the Bogorodsky district, located south-west of Gorky. He was a typical double agent. Back in 1941, he was recruited by the Germans and sent to the city of Krasnodar (Kuban), where he surrendered to the NKVD. Russian counterintelligence turned Kryzhanovsky and sent him on a mission back to the Germans. But there he modestly kept silent about his ‘failure’, and reported on his mission. Throughout 1942, the agent remained in the German rear, then enrolled in the Warsaw intelligence school and graduated with honours. On 12 July Kryzhanovsky, with false documents in the name of Tkachenko, was delivered from Smolensk to the Gorky region. But the region at that time was not a ‘safe haven’. The Luftwaffe’s massive air attacks on Gorky had just ended, and the activities of the security services and istrebitelnij battalions had been greatly intensified. Kryzhanovsky was quickly caught shortly after landing, then convicted and shot.

On the night of 24/25 August 1943, a group of six agents was delivered to the area of Sergach, a large railway junction located 125km south-east of Gorky. One of them broke his leg during the landing. Four, S.M. Chechetkin, I.I. Anichin, V.T. Popov and B.M. Papushenko, surrendered to the NKVD. The fifth, by the name of Zabolotny, did not want to surrender to the authorities and managed to escape.

This delivery is interesting because after landing the members of the group were to split up and go to different regions of the huge country, which explains why they were landed near a major railway junction. The agents revealed that the group had several tasks. Yershov, Anichin and Zabolotny had to go to the Urals, and then to settle in the city of Sverdlovsk (now Yekaterinburg), to collect information about the local tank factories and other industries evacuated there from Moscow and Leningrad in 1941. The mission also included gathering information on the mood of the local population, the location of airfields and transport operations. Chechetkin and Popov were to go to Sarapul (a city in Udmurtia on the banks of the Kama river) to collect intelligence about local factories. Papushenko alone had to go to Gorky, where he had to collect information about tank production at the GAZ automobile plant and the Krasnoye Sormovo shipyard (which also produced T-34 tanks). The agent was instructed to find out whether specialists from England and the United States were working at these factories.

Another group of three agents was arrested in the Semenovsky district of the Gorky region on the night of 9/10 October. The two agents had a mission to settle in Gorky and collect information about the military factories, transportation by rail between Moscow and Gorky and fortifications in the region. The third agent was to go to Kirov and ‘work’ there.

Similarly, there was a ‘career’ resident of the Crimean city of Yevpatoria 21-year-old Vladimir Sidorenko. At the very beginning of the war, on 3 July 1941, he was captured and then sent to a prisoner-of-war camp in Germany. After about a year, in May 1942 he expressed a desire to serve the Germans and agreed to become a spy. After that Sidorenko was sent to Berlin, then to the Warsaw and Königsberg intelligence schools of the Abwehr, where he was extensively trained as a ‘scout-radio operator for industrial facilities’. October 1st 1943 was the turning-point for Sidorenko. Being a particularly capable agent, he received a whole range of responsible missions from his ‘handlers’. He had to collect information about what enterprises were in the Gorky region, paying special attention to aviation plant No. 21 (which produced LaGG-3 and La-5 fighters). He was also instructed to find out the extent of the damage caused to the Gorky plant by the Luftwaffe air raids, whether there was enough electric power for the population and the state of its morale. Other than that, the lone agent had a mission to find out whether there was an agreement for American aircraft to be manufactured in the Soviet Union.

To fulfil this complex mission, the agent was provided with a radio set, false documents and 45,000 roubles (equivalent to thirty-seven times the monthly salary of a professor or fifty times that of a worker in an armaments factory). On the night of 19/20 October Sidorenko was flown from Pleskau (Pskov) to the Gorokhovetsky district of the Ivanovo region. After landing, the agent hitchhiked to Gorky and found accommodation. But he didn’t manage to begin his mission because on 6 November he was arrested.

In this case, the reason for the failure was neither the unreliability of the agent (he was not going to give himself up to the NKVD), nor a bad cover story, nor that someone noticed the flight of a German aircraft. All this was carried out in perfect secrecy. The reason for Sidorenko’s capture turned out to be Soviet spies embedded in the Abwehr itself! They had passed on full information about the agent and his intended missions. Unlike most of his colleagues recruited by the Germans, Sidorenko lived up to the expectations of his ‘masters’. He refused to cooperate with Soviet intelligence. Soon the agent was transported to Moscow, where he was executed.

Antonov An-32

The Antonov An-32 (NATO reporting name: Cline) is a turboprop twin-engined military transport aircraft.

An-32 is a twin engine, tactical light transport aircraft designed and manufactured by Antonov Design Bureau of Ukraine for the Indian Air Force (IAF). Its Nato reporting name is Cline. The An-32 is derived from the An-26 transport aircraft.

The IAF awarded a $400m contract to Antonov in June 2009 to overhaul its existing 105 An-32 fleet with advance avionics, communication equipment, and landing aids. The upgrade will increase the lifespan of the aircraft by 15 to 40 years.

The first 45 An-32s were modernised before 2015 at the Military-Industrial Complex of Ukraine, while the remaining 60 are being overhauled at the BRD-1 aviation plant of the IAF in Kanpur. Ukrainian special export company SpetsTechnoExport (STE) was responsible for providing spares as part of the agreement.

The first batch of upgraded aircraft and the equipment required to establish aircraft repair facilities in India was delivered to the IAF in June 2011. The second batch of ten upgraded aircraft was also delivered by the end of 2011.

An IAF An-32 aircraft went off the radar after taking off from Jorhat Air Force Station on 3rd June 2019. The missing aircraft’s wreckage was found in Arunachal Pradesh and the remains of the 13 IAF personnel were recovered.

An-32 development details

The An-32 prototype took its maiden flight in July 1976. Its engine was replaced with AI-20DM engines and development of the three pre-series An-32 aircraft was completed in October 1982 at the Aviant Plant in Kiev.

The state acceptance tests started in 1983. The first production An-32 aircraft completed its maiden flight in June 1983 and entered into service with the IAF in July 1984.

The Soviet Air Force procured 25 An-32s in 1987. Four An-32s were delivered to Libya in 2005, while the Afghan Air Force also received four in 2008.

As of July 2019, the production of the An-32 has been suspended. Antonov is currently testing a demonstrator aircraft, An-132D, which is a prototype of the An-132. The An-132D will be the successor of the An-32. It has been designed for flights in hot climates and mountainous terrain.

An-32 design and features

Designed to suit both military and civil operations, the An-32 can take-off and land on rough airfields and dirt runways. The aircraft is designed to manoeuvre day and night in tropical and mountainous regions, even in hot climatic conditions (up to 55°C).

The aircraft features a high mounted wings design consisting of engine mounts over the wing. Its fuselage is tubular with a rounded nose section and stepped cockpit. The empennage is unequally tapered, featuring blunt tip and angular fairing.

The aircraft can transport either 7.5t of cargo, 50 passengers, 42 paratroopers, or 24 patients and three medical crew over domestic and international air routes.

An-32 features advanced cargo handling devices and a cargo door fitted with a ramp to ease the loading or unloading of freight. It is also incorporated with an upper cargo handling device to load and unload 3,000kg of payload.

The packed cargoes are placed on the pallet by a demountable roller.

Semi-automated locks fitted in the roller equipment detach the pallets and decrease the aircraft’s idle time. The pressurised cabin of the aircraft carries heavy cargoes, automotive wheeled vehicles, and cars.

Cockpit and avionics The air-conditioned glass cockpit can accommodate two pilots and a navigator. It has space to accommodate an additional seat and a flight engineer workstation when required.

An-32’s cockpit is equipped with a Garmin GMX-200 multifunctional display, a Chelton 4 Tube electronic flight instrumentation system, a Collins VHF-22C or CTL-22C communication system, a Collins VIR-32 or CTL-32 navigation system, a ART-2100 radar sensor, and a Bendix or King KHF-950 high- frequency system.

The avionics suite installed in the aircraft encompasses a Bendix or King KRA-405B radar altimeter system, a Bendix or King KDF-806 ADF system, an L3 Skywatch HP TCAS I system, a NAT N301A audio system, and an Artex C406 ELT with navigation interface.

Engine and performance

An-32 is powered by two Ivchenko Progress AI-20DM single shaft turboprop engines with each producing 3,864kW of output power. The engine was designed and manufactured by Ivchenko Progress.

The length and width of the engine are 3.09m and 8.42m respectively, while the height is 11.8m. The dry weight is 1,040kg and the engine’s lifespan is 8,000 hours.

An-32 can fly at a maximum speed of 530km/h and its cruise speed is 470km/h. The range and service ceiling of the aircraft are 2,500km and 9,500m, respectively. The aircraft weighs around 16,800kg and its maximum take-off weight is 27,000kg.


    An-32: Twin-engined transport aircraft

    An-32A: The first civil variant, the majority of the 36 aircraft built were delivered to various government factory enterprises, for use in transporting assemblies between plants.

    An-32B: Improved version

    An-32B-100: Modernised version of the An-32B. Maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) increased to 28.5 tons, payload increased to 7.5 tons.

    An-32B-110: New avionics allowing aircraft to be operated by two crew members. Metric (Russian) avionics variant.

    An-32B-120: Imperial (non-Russian) avionics variant of An-32B-110.

    An-32B-300: Version fitted with Rolls-Royce AE 2100 turboprop engines, providing 4,600 hp each.

    An-32LL (Letayushchaya Laboratoriya flying laboratory): The An-32 first prototype was equipped with a large SV-36P eight-bladed propeller and D-236 engine on the port side for testing, in place of the standard engine and propeller. The increased noise produced by the experimental installation (115-120 dB) outweighed the modest gains in performance.

    An-32MP: Marine Patrol version.

    An-32P Firekiller: Aerial firefighting version. Special category type certificate granted on 10 March 1995. A total of eight tons of liquid can be discharged from the two external tanks simultaneously or one after the other. Drops are conducted at 40–50 m above ground level and 240 to 260 km/h. Can be used as a cargo aircraft when not fighting fires.

    An-32V-200: A tactical transport/cargo aircraft outgrowth from the An-32B-100, with more modern avionics allowing two crew operation. Intended for export; despite reasonable interest few have been sold.

    An-32 RE: Modernised version of the An-32B. MTOW increased to 28.5 tons, payload increased to 7.5 tons. New avionics.

Specifications (An-32)

General characteristics

    Crew: 4

    Capacity: 42 paratroopers/50 passengers/24 Casualties on stretcher with three medical personnel / 6,700 kg (14,771 lb) max payload

    Length: 23.78 m (78 ft 0 in)

    Wingspan: 29.2 m (95 ft 10 in)

    Height: 8.75 m (28 ft 8 in)

    Wing area: 75 m2 (810 sq ft)

    Empty weight: 16,800 kg (37,038 lb)

    Max takeoff weight: 27,000 kg (59,525 lb)

    Powerplant: 2 × ZMKB Progress AI-20DM turboprop engines, 3,812 kW (5,112 hp) each

    Propellers: 4-bladed constant speed propellers


    Maximum speed: 530 km/h (330 mph, 290 kn)

    Cruise speed: 470 km/h (290 mph, 250 kn)

    Range: 2,500 km (1,600 mi, 1,300 nmi) with 3,700 kg (8,160 lb) payload, no reserves

    Service ceiling: 9,500 m (31,200 ft)

In the Northern Wastes

He 115C-1 ‘8L+IH’ from Ku.Fl.Gr.906. On 8 October 1942 it participated in the evacuation of Estonian saboteurs from Russian territory.

On 5 November 1942, two long-range Pe-3 fighters from the 2nd Squadron of the 95th Special Naval Aviation Group took off from the temporary airfield near the village of Pona to escort a Soviet convoy going to Arkhangelsk from Belushya Bay. Leading was Lieutenant A. Ustimenko and his wingman was Senior Sergeant W. Gorbuntsov. An hour and a half later the Pe-3s of Lieutenants Constantine Usenko and Sergei Nogtikov took off to relieve them, but one of Nogtikov’s engines failed and Usenko continued alone. His rendezvous with the first took place in the designated area, near the convoy, which was on its way to the entrance of the White Sea. Ustimenko and Gorbuntsov handed over to him and turned to the south-west. When Lieutenant Usenko completed the mission and landed back at base, it turned out that they never came back…

Forty-seven years later, in 1989, searchers have found in the tundra, in shallow swamp, the remains of a twin-engined aircraft. On closer inspection it turned out that this was one of the aircraft that disappeared in November 1942, the Pe-3 No. 40415 of Lieutenant Ustimenko. In the cockpit were the remains of three crew members. The most amazing thing was that both sides of the aircraft were riddled with cannon and machine-gun fire. Many of the holes of large diameter, not less than 30mm. It remains unknown what kind of plane it was that so effectively shot down a heavy Pe-3 fighter so far from the front.

Later, in the remote tundra to the east of Arkhangelsk another place was discovered, which amazed the searchers. Near Lake Okulov there was a large sandy area with a runway formed of densely-laid metal sheets on it. It was a secret German airfield deep behind Soviet lines! On the edge of the airfield were rotting wooden buildings, in which items of Luftwaffe equipment and radio spares were found. Then barrels of aviation fuel with German labels were found nearby.

But this was not the only one. Secret airfields were also found near the village of Megra on the White Sea coast, 76km north-east of the town of Upper Zolotitsa, near the village of Pogorelets (on the shore of Mezen Bay) and in the Leshukonsky district on the Mezen river, 250km east of Arkhangelsk.

This proved that during the war a network of secret Luftwaffe airfields was established in the deserted northern regions of the Soviet Union. It is clear that they were not intended specifically to intercept Soviet aircraft, which did not pose any threat to the Germans. Probably the twin-engined fighters just came across some secret mission by chance.

Secret German air bases existed not only in the far north, but also in the Vologda region. This area was also sparsely populated, being made up dense forests combined with impassable swamps and wastelands. Therefore, it was not difficult to hide an airfield there. All of them were established for the purposes of sabotage. Through the Vologda and Arkhangelsk regions passed the most important railways, which were delivering Lend-Lease supplies to the central regions of the USSR from the ports of Murmansk and Arkhangelsk, coal from the Vorkuta basin and the like. Therefore, in the second half of 1942 the Abwehr and RSHA began the large-scale deployment of sabotage groups in these areas.

In June 1942, in the deserted region of Vologda and Cherepovets groups of agents between four and twelve men strong were landed by Ju 52s. Among them were saboteurs from the ‘Brandenburg’ Regiment. They were deployed there to attack the railways. The Cherepovets-Vologda divisional air defence posts recorded thirty-eight flights of unidentified aircraft at night in that month alone. They were mostly planes carrying agents and saboteurs.

On the night of 28/29 August, two groups of saboteurs were landed near the railway lines to Murmansk. The tracks were simultaneously blown up in two places. In early September, the Luftwaffe delivered a sabotage group to an area 80km north-west of Syktyvkar, to blow up the railway bridge over the Vychegda river, which was the only link between Vorkuta and the central regions of the country. Initially the mission was successful, the saboteurs managing to kill the bridge guards without losses on their side. But they did not have time to blow up the bridge. Some prisoners from the nearby GULAG camp were working nearby. It would seem that the saboteurs had a wonderful opportunity to replenish their ranks with the released prisoners. However, something happened that the German agents did not expect. The exhausted ‘enemies of the Soviet people’, despite their resentment of the regime, not only did not help the saboteurs, but, on the contrary, attacked them and killed them with picks and crowbars!

From 24 August to 29 September 1942, Ju 88 bombers from KG 30 ‘Adler’ carried out six massive raids on the city of Arkhangelsk. As a result, businesses and residential areas were severely damaged, and port facilities were almost destroyed. This made it difficult to unload ships with American and British military equipment and to send it onwards. To finally knock out this Lend-Lease route, the Germans decided to deliver a sabotage group of thirteen Estonians serving in the Finnish army to the Arkhangelsk–Vologda railway.

The air drop was carried out on 1 September near Konosha station. The landing was successful, and all the saboteurs quickly disappeared into the woods. After that, for two months the Estonians, divided into small groups, blew up the railway tracks. Trains with American and British tanks, fuel, rations and other goods were regularly derailed. In parallel, the Estonians were destroying communications lines. After each mission, they always managed to escape. The saboteurs regularly transmitted radio reports of their successful missions.

Soon the Soviets concentrated army units stationed in the Arkhangelsk and Vologda regions in the Konosha area. Together with istrebitelnij battalions they combed the tundra, but to no avail. The only success by the NKVD was the interception of radio traffic between the saboteurs and their HQ. Radio direction-finding showed that the transmissions were from remote swampy areas. Russian intelligence was able to decipher some of the messages. From them it became known that the Germans had decided to evacuate the group. To do this, the Estonians were instructed to arrive at Lake Lacha, located 80km north-west of Konosha. The Russians accordingly set up several ambushes on the shores of this large lake.

The early autumn morning of 22 October at first did not promise anything interesting. Over the water was foggy, frozen soldiers of the NKVD and cadets from a military school nervously examined the beautiful surroundings, thinking about how to warm up. Suddenly the silence was broken by the faint roar of engines. Everyone grabbed for binoculars and weapons.

After a while, a seaplane appeared from the north-west, on which German crosses were clearly visible. It landed on the water and stopped near the shore. It was He 115C-1 ‘8L+IH’ of 1./Ku.Fl.Gr.906, flown by Karl Helf. This aircraft had already performed several missions for the delivery and evacuation of agents from Russian territory. After a while, the elusive Estonians appeared from the undergrowth along the bank. The inexperienced cadets were positioned in ambush here, and seeing the plane and the saboteurs moving towards it, the young men opened indiscriminate fire with rifles and machine guns. But the shooting was inaccurate. Five saboteurs were able to jump into the plane, while the rest again disappeared into the dense thickets on the shore.

Helf, seriously wounded in the course of the attack, was still able to start the engines. The He 115 went to take off and, despite the intense machine-gun fire from the shore, rose into the air. But it turned out that the oil tank of the left engine was punctured. Flying about 30km, the plane made an emergency landing on Lake Jung. After that, four Estonians and an aircraft mechanic disappeared into the woods. But they did not get far, and soon the group was surrounded by NKVD troops. The German airman did not want to surrender to the Russians and shot himself, but the Estonians preferred to raise their hands. Soon a few more saboteurs were caught heading west towards the front line. But some Estonians still managed to escape into the deep woods and evade their pursuers.

The Abwehr’s War in the Caucasus

The ‘Lenin’ oil refinery in the city of Grozny.

Even before the Second World War, the Deputy Führer Rudolf Hess formulated the Nazi concept of ‘total espionage’. It consisted of three fundamental precepts: ‘Everyone can be a spy’, ‘Everyone should be a spy’ and ‘There is no secret that cannot be known’. These ideas became particularly relevant in early 1942, when Hess himself was already in a British prison. After the failure of Operation ‘Barbarossa’, the Third Reich found itself in a total war. Now it was necessary not only to collect intelligence in the vast area from the Arctic to the Caucasus, but also to organize sabotage operations in the rear areas of the Soviet Union. The leadership of the Security Service of the Third Reich (RSHA) believed that the Abwehr could not cope with these missions and decided to take the matter into their own hands.

By order of the Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler a special intelligence agency code-named ‘Zeppelin’ was established on 15 February 1942. It was entrusted with the mission to weaken the military and economic potential of the USSR by organizing sabotage, acts of terror and uprisings behind Soviet lines. Its management was entrusted to Walter Schellenberg, the SD’s chief of foreign intelligence. Otto Skorzeny, the master of sabotage, was involved in planning specific operations and missions. The Abwehr was ordered to provide full support to the ‘Zeppelin’ project.

The initial manpower for this system of ‘total espionage’ was to be tens of thousands of volunteers from among Russian prisoners of war. In all camps there were offices and recruitment points for ‘Zeppelin’, whose employees closely studied the available personnel. As a result of vigorous work, according to German sources about 15,000 men had been recruited by the end of 1942. All of them were trained in the network of sabotage and intelligence schools established by ‘Zeppelin’ in that same year. There were sixty such schools in all, the largest being near Warsaw, Breslau, Yevpatoria (Crimea), Smolensk and Pskov.

‘The Age-Old Russian Yoke’

Germany’s attack on the Soviet Union was enthusiastically welcomed by many inhabitants of the Caucasus. This mountainous region had been ruled by the Russian Empire since the seventeenth century, but always remained rebellious. At the slightest weakening of Russian control, uprisings broke out. At the same time, the highland people themselves were constantly at war with each other, literally cutting each other’s throats with daggers. Both the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union used this mutual hostility to govern the Caucasian provinces by ‘divide and rule’. Supporting one group against another, the Russians secured control over this breakaway region. The Soviet leader Joseph Stalin also came from the Caucasus. He knew the local ‘customs’ and brutally suppressed any opposition. But even the bloodthirsty Stalin failed to completely eliminate Caucasian separatism!

Operation ‘Barbarossa’ was seen by the Caucasian rebels as a chance to throw off the ‘age-old Russian yoke’. The centre of the ‘liberation struggle’ was Chechnya, where nationalist sentiments were particularly strong. The leader of the Chechen fighters, Hassan Israilov, was a legendary figure. He was born in 1903 in one of the mountain villages of Chechnya, and his family clan had an illustrious history. His grandfather Israilov was Naib (deputy) to the legendary Shamil, who led the uprising against Russia in the nineteenth century. Israilov’s father had ‘heroically’ died in the robbery of the Treasury Bank in Kizlyar. From his early youth, Israilov followed in the footsteps of his ancestors, continuing the ‘family business’. He was arrested four times and sentenced to 10 years in prison and even to death, but his relatives regularly paid bribes to have him released. All this did not prevent the proud Highlander from joining the Communist Party!

In 1933, Hassan Israilov suddenly ‘repented’ and promised to serve the Soviets from then on. For a short time he worked as a correspondent and party investigator (!), wrote poetry and studied at the Communist workers’ ‘Stalin’ University. At the same time, Israilov formed a gang and robbed a bank. The bandits killed two guards and, cutting off their hands, folded them in the form of two letters ‘M’. This meant ‘Mecca’ and ‘Medina’, the names of holy cities for Muslims.

Soon Israilov was arrested again and sent to prison in Siberia. The Soviets were lenient with bandits and thieves. While political prisoners and completely innocent citizens suspected of opposing views were brutally tortured and executed, bandits and murderers received soft sentences and were kept in normal conditions. Israilov fled the camp, killing a guard and two dogs. He cut ‘steaks’ from them, which he ate while wandering on the Siberian taiga. Returning home to Chechnya, Israilov organized terrorist attacks, sabotage and the destruction of collective farms (kolkhozes).

In 1940, Hassan Israilov headed the ‘Chechen National Liberation Movement’. The uprising was successful, and soon in the mountainous part of Chechnya Soviet power was virtually eliminated. Deserters and local residents joined the army of the ‘second Shamil’. The attack by Nazi Germany gave the rebels new strength, and on 23 June 1941 they even declared war on the Soviet Union.

In September 1941, Israilov together with his associate Basayev organized a major uprising in the Shatoy district. In November, in anticipation of the imminent arrival of the Germans, mass uprisings began in Kabardino-Balkaria, North Ossetia and Dagestan. The NKVD were powerless against the mountaineers, and a number of senior officers, particularly the head of the NKVD of the Chechen-Ingush ASSR Albogachiev and the head of Department on struggle against gangsterism Aliyev, went over to Israilov.

The Main Sponsor of the ‘Rebels’ Comes into Play

The German secret service soon became aware of the ‘liberation movement’ in the Caucasus. In 1941, theAbwehr did not have the resources to support the warlike highlanders, but things changed in 1942, when the Caucasus region with its rich oil fields became the target of a new Wehrmacht offensive. By supporting the rebels, the Germans hoped to undermine the rear of the Red Army, and ensure the rapid capture of the oil fields and refineries to prevent their destruction by the retreating Soviet troops.

Under the auspices of the RSHA and the Reichsministerium für die besetzten Ostgebiete (RMfdbO – Reich Ministry of the Eastern Territories), several ‘national committees’ were created, which played the role of ‘governments in exile’. Among them were Georgians, Armenians, Azerbaijanis, Kalmyks and many other nationalities. They were instructed to recruit volunteers from among the prisoners, defectors and emigrants to conduct subversive activities behind Soviet lines.

In April 1942 under Einsatzgruppe ‘D’ special group ‘Zeppelin’ was formed in Simferopol (Crimea). Agents were recruited in the local PoW camps, with preference given to ‘persons of Caucasian nationality’. In neighbouring Yevpatoria, in the former NKVD children’s sanatorium, the Germans created a reconnaissance and sabotage school to train agents in two main roles: ‘scout-saboteurs’ and ‘organizers of rebel movements’. A total of 200 recruits in five classes were trained for a period of four months. The first graduations took place in August, and soon a group of six Ossetians flew to the North Caucasus.

With the help of Caucasian agents, the Wehrmacht seized an oil refinery in the Maikop area. German paratroops prevented its destruction. In the summer and autumn of 1942, an ‘air bridge’ operated for the delivery of agents into the Caucasus. From the airfield at Saki in the Crimea transport planes flew almost every day with new groups, loaded with radios, weapons and other equipment.

In August, the First Panzer Army launched a rapid offensive in the Caucasus. By 21 August, German mountain troops hoisted the Nazi flag on the top of Mount Elbrus, and the XL Panzer Corps, quickly crossing several rivers and capturing Voroshilovsk (now Stavropol), reached the banks of the Terek river. In Chechnya, the rebels were expecting massive Luftwaffe attacks and landings of airborne troops. But the sky over the Caucasus remained surprisingly calm. This was due to the fact that on 11 August, the commander of Luftflotte 4, Generaloberst Wolfram von Richthofen, reported that the ‘Russian southern army’ had been destroyed. Then he began to concentrate the main forces of the Luftwaffe against Stalingrad. On 23 August, the German Sixth Army reached the Volga, and the city itself, named after Stalin, was subjected to continuous heavy air raids. Originally only III./JG 52 under Major Gordon Gollob was sent to Terek. As of 20 August, the group had forty-three Bf 109s, of which twenty-eight were operational. On 23 August, the first flight of a Bf 109 was recorded near Grozny, the capital of Chechnya.

German tanks halted on the bank of the Terek not because they met strong Russian forces there. They just ran out of fuel. For a month, the XL Panzer Corps simply ‘rested’, while the Soviets feverishly constructed a new line of defence in the area of Grozny. Only 40km away from the German tanks were huge reserves of oil and gasoline. Ironically, the Germans could not reach them because of the lack of gasoline …

In mid-September, the First Panzer Army was going to continue the offensive (Hitler promised to deliver gasoline). On 25 September, a mixed German-Chechen sabotage group led by Oberleutnant Helmut was landed near Grozny. After a brutal battle with the VOHR (private security) and NKVD guarding the ‘Lenin’ oil refinery, the group managed to capture the huge facility! Soon Chechen rebels came to the rescue and organized the defence of the plant.

The ‘Lenin’ plant was located on the outskirts of Grozny on the left bank of the Sunzha river. It was a huge facility, which included twelve refineries and a huge tank which held a million tons of oil. Around the plant there were many Soviet troops and several military airfields. However, they did not dare to immediately attack Lange’s group and the Chechens who joined them, fearing that a large-scale battle would destroy the plant. The Russians had orders from Stalin only to blow the plant up when German tanks were close. A few days later aircraft of 2./ Aufkl.Gr.Ob.d.L. delivered another unit under the command of Unteroffizier Schwaiffer to help Lange. One of its participants later recalled the drop: ‘The side door opens. And so the Legionnaires one after another rush into the darkness … the plane makes a second pass and drops by parachute containers. They contain weapons, ammunition and equipment for the rebels. Aircraft flashing signal lights and with a roar rushes back. Quietly and smoothly parachutes descend to the ground.’ As they came down the saboteurs were fired at from the ground, and only some of them were able to land unharmed and then get to the oil plant.

The German command promised Lange and his men that in the near future the XL Panzer Corps would reach Grozny. If the German tanks could break through by 30 September, Hitler would get the important plant undamaged, ready to supply fuel to all German military units on the Eastern Front. But the fuel promised by the Führer had not arrived. As a result, the Russians besieged the plant and drove out the saboteurs. Group Lange managed to escape into the mountains and join the Chechen rebels. By radio, the saboteurs reported their new location, and soon aircraft from the Rowehl Group delivered cargo containers containing 300 small arms, five machine guns and ammunition to them. After completing the mission, Group Lange after a while returned to the German lines. Two Chechens who formed the group’s rearguard were awarded the Iron Cross.

The Luftwaffe Comes to the Rescue

The German command soon realized that the attempt to capture the oil refineries and huge fuel tanks was going to fail. At the same time, they wanted to deny those reserves to the Soviets. As a result, it was decided to destroy the plant. On 9 October 1942 reconnaissance aircraft flew over Grozny three times at high altitude. The next day, from 12.40 to 14.00 several scouts again flew at high altitude over the city, including an Fw 189A.

The air defence of the Grozny was in the hands of the 105th Fighter Aviation Division (105th IAD PVO). It had been formed in early 1942 to protect the cities of Rostov and Bataysk. In July, this unit withstood a brutal and unequal battle with the Luftwaffe, which repeatedly bombed railway junctions and crossings over the River Don. When the Wehrmacht captured Rostov, the 105th IAD PVO was evacuated to Chechnya. In early October, the division consisted of four fighter regiments, which were based at the Grozny-5 and Grozny-8 airfields. In these units, there were forty-two serviceable aircraft (nineteen LaGG-3s, eight Yak-1s, five I-153s, four I-16s, four MiG-3s and two YaK-7Bs). None of these fighters even tried to intercept the German reconnaissance aircraft. The Russians were careless and did not suspect that these flights were the harbinger of the apocalypse!

At 14.02 on 10 October, Russian air surveillance posts reported that several groups of bombers, accompanied by Bf 109 and Bf 110 fighters, were approaching Grozny from different directions. A few minutes later, an ‘Air alarm’ was declared in the city, and already at 14.05 over the outskirts the first group of twelve Ju 88As were over the outskirts of the city. The bombers approached the target from the south-western direction, following the Sunzha river. German fighters soon arrived, which loitered over the target and within a radius of 30km of it. Bf 109s immediately intercepted the fighters of the 105th IAD, which took off to attack the German bombers.

The attack was mainly carried out by dive-bombing and was extremely accurate. The Ju 88As dived on the target at an angle of 30– 60 degrees, and then escaped at low altitude. According to the Russian rescue service, of the 400 bombs dropped, only 25 fell on the city, the rest on the ‘Lenin’ Plant and other facilities in the Stalin district of Grozny. As a result, the refinery, pumping station, power station and eighty fuel tanks, 200 installations in total, caught fire! The biggest oil tank with a million tons of oil blazed. Like lava from a volcano, oil flowed into the Sunzha river and the city. Burning oil melted even the tram lines and burned everything in its path.

Against the attack twenty-six fighters took off, including eight LaGG-3s of the 822th IAP PVO. However, this was barely more than a demonstration. Even the command of the 105th IAD recognized that the actions of the interceptors were ineffective: ‘Due to the small number of our fighters, it was impossible to provide effective counteraction to all echelons of bombers. Our fighters attacked the 1st and 2nd echelons and, having started a fight with bombers and enemy fighters, were not able to effectively attack the subsequent echelons of the enemy.’ In addition, attacking bombers over the city would have hindered the anti-aircraft fire. And yet Russian pilots claimed aircraft shot down (ten Ju 88s and one He 111), six of them by the 822th IAP. ‘Hero of the day’ was Sergeant G.K. Martys, who first shot down one of the Ju 88s at close range, and then rammed another bomber with his LaGG-3. Troops on the ground witnessed this.

But, according to German information, during the massive raid on Grozny (it had involved all the available bombers of Luftflotte 4) only a single plane was lost, Ju 88A-5 W. Nr. 8282 ‘V4+BH’ of 1./KG 1. Probably, this was the aircraft rammed by Martys.

The second raid on Grozny began at 18.47, which lasted with pauses until 00.10 on 11 October. It was carried out by He 111H-6s from I./KG 100. This time the Russian interceptors did not take off ‘due to lack of night flying experience’. The attack was opposed only by the anti-aircraft gunners, who at the end of the day claimed six aircraft shot down.

At 11.05 on 11 October in Grozny, the sky over which was thick with the smog from the huge fires, a pair of YaK-7Bs piloted by Senior Sergeants Kuzmichev and Smirnov of the 182th IAP intercepted and shot down a Ju 88 at an altitude of 5,500m (18,000ft). It was a Ju 88D-5 W. Nr. 430044 of 2.(F)/Ob.d.L, which had been sent to photograph the results of the bomb attack. The plane was damaged and made an emergency landing near Mariupol. Three members of the crew were injured.

At 20.25 on the same day the Luftwaffe carried out a third raid on Grozny, dropping another 100 large high-explosive bombs on the refinery. At 20.30m Captain Kovalchuk of the 182th IAP took off from the Grozny-8 airfield. Soon, at an altitude of 3000m (10,000ft) above the southern outskirts of the city, he saw an He 111, illuminated by searchlights. Approaching it at a distance of 300m, Kovalchuk gave a prearranged signal – a sequence of tracer bullets, meaning ‘attack’. Anti-aircraft artillery ceased fire, Kovalchuk brought his LaGG-3 to within 50m of the bomber and shot it down. The Russians reported that the burning bomber crashed 17km north-west of Grozny. Major Batik, commander of the 182th IAP, who took off in an LaGG-3 after Kovalchuk, tried to attack a German plane over the north-eastern outskirts of the city, the opposite side to Kovalchuk. But he was illuminated by searchlights and fired on by the anti-aircraft guns. They did not react to the signal ‘I am a friendly aircraft’, so Batyuk had to carry out evasive manoeuvre instead of attacking and return to base. Kovalchuk’s victory is not confirmed by German sources.

Operation Kutuzov

The direct aspect of that development began on July 11. It involved a still-overlooked operation that is arguably better evidence of the Red Army’s progress than the so frequently cited battle to the south. When all is said and done, Kursk, seen from a Russian perspective, was a traditional Russian battle. Echoing Zorndorf and Kunersdorf, Friedland and Borodino, it was a test of endurance intended to enable the Red Army to begin setting the pace. Operation Kutuzov, the assault on the German-held salient that began on July 12, was something fundamentally different.

The German and the Russian ways of war approached operational art from opposite directions. The Prussian/German army had developed its version of operational art as a response to the constraining of campaign-level tactics in an age of mass armies. The Russians came to it through a developing understanding of how Russia’s vast spaces could complement the metastasizing armies made possible by industrialization and bureaucratization. Large forces executing major attacks on a broad front, cavalry masses breaking deep into an enemy’s rear, field armies coordinating offensives over hundreds of miles—all were integrated into theory and practice between the Crimean War and the Revolution of 1917. The Red Army had added the concepts of deep battle, and had evaluated the use of mechanized forces to exploit initial breakthroughs and the value of consecutive operations: coordinated attacks all across a front that might cover the Soviet Union from Murmansk to the Caucasus, mounted in such quick succession that the enemy had time neither to recover nor to shift reserves from place to place.

Predictably, each of these concepts had their turns in the barrel and their time in the sun. The political infighting of the 1920s and the purges of the 1930s further complicated internal, professional disputes on force configuration and strategic planning. Operation Barbarossa caught the Red Army in the midst of a complex reconfiguration with many contradictory aspects. What David Glantz aptly calls its rebirth was a two-year process. But one thing that remained consistent was Stavka’s—and Stalin’s—commitment to consecutive operations. From the winter 1941 counteroffensive to the Stalingrad campaign, the USSR’s ultimate goal was on a grand strategic level: a series of timed, coordinated offensives that would turn Russia into the Wehrmacht’s graveyard.

The problem lay in implementation on the operational level: communications, logistics, coordination. To date, the Soviets’ greatest offensive successes had been achieved with assistance from the weather. Snow and cold, mud and rain, had been as important as the new generations of generals and weapons. At Kursk, the Red Army had demonstrated it could match the Germans in high summer when standing on the defensive. Now for the first time it would show that it could implement consecutive offensive operations when the days were long and the sun quickly dried storm-saturated ground.

Preparations for Kutuzov were overseen and coordinated by Zhukov, and by another Stavka representative: Marshal Nikolai Voronov, chief of artillery—the latter assignment an indication of the tactics to be employed. As at Kursk, the operation involved two fronts. On the left, General Vasily Sokolovsky deployed the Eleventh Guards and Fiftieth Armies in the front line, with 1st and 5th Tank Corps in support: more than 200,000 men and 750 AFVs. On the right-hand sector, General Markian Popov’s Bryansk Front had, from left to right, the Sixty-first, Third, and Sixty-third Armies, supported by two tank and a rifle corps—170,000 men and 350 AFVs.

The plan was for Popov’s Third and Sixty-third Armies to hit the front of the salient, with the Sixty-first Army conducting a supporting diversion on the right. Sokolovsky would go in where the northern bulge began, break through, and extend east toward Orel, coordinating as the situation developed first with the Bryansk Front and then with Rokossovsky’s Southwestern Front, which on July 15—at least in theory—would attack north out of its positions around Kursk. Behind the Western Front, as a second-wave exploitation force, Stavka concentrated the Eleventh Army and Fourth Tank Army, the latter with another 650 armored vehicles.

The senior command teams were solid. The tables of organization were complete. The men were relatively rested. The sector had been quiet for months, and the front commanders applied maskirovka comprehensively to keep Army Group Center unaware of what was concentrating against it. At the operational and tactical levels, arguably the major German advantage was flexibility: the ability to respond to Soviet initiative by organizing ad hoc blocking forces that on paper and on the ground seemed fragile but that time and again had proven all too capable of delaying or derailing the Red Army’s best-planned initiatives.

Timing was even more critical than surprise. Rokossovsky had to bleed and fix Model’s Ninth Army at Kursk to a point where it could not redeploy in time to do any good. But if Kutuzov jumped off too late, even by a day or two, the Germans might be willing to write off Citadel, cut their losses, and be in a position to counter each Soviet attack in turn. The possibility that the planned Allied invasion of Sicily might draw German troops westward does not seem to have been factored into Stavka planning. Even if the British and Americans finally chose to act, the prospect of a few divisions probing the remote fringes of “Fortress Europe” hardly impressed a Red Army that saw itself as fighting a war of army groups on its own.

In developing Kutuzov, the Red Army confronted an obliging enemy. In terms of force structure, the Germans obliged by treating Army Group Center as an inactive sector. This was more a matter of practice than policy. It had begun gradually, and months earlier: it involved replacing full-strength divisions with those worn down elsewhere, then increasing their fronts and lowering their priorities for replacements. It also involved transferring air assets and heavy artillery and reducing mobile reserves. Secondary defensive lines and fallback positions were constrained because neither the men nor the material to develop them were available.

The situation was exacerbated by the distractions occasioned because Army Group Center’s headquarters, itself physically isolated, was in late 1942 and early 1943 the locus of a serious plot to arrest and execute or kill Hitler when he visited in March 1943. Field Marshal Günther von Kluge was disgusted by Germany’s behavior in Russia and believed declaring war on the United States had been a disastrous mistake. Although ultimately refusing to support the conspiracy, he was sufficiently aware of it and involved on its fringes that making the best of his army group’s tactical situation took second place. Pressing the Führer for reinforcements scarcely appeared on the field marshal’s horizon.

Two years earlier, under Heinz Guderian, the Second Panzer Army had led the drive on Moscow. On July 11, that army confronted Operation Kutuzov with fourteen ragged infantry divisions, most composed of inexperienced replacements and recovered wounded, a panzer grenadier division, and, ironically, a single panzer division. All told, a hundred thousand men and around three hundred AFVs, with only local reserves available. The order of battle showed pitilessly how the balance of forces had changed on the Eastern Front. Divisional sectors averaging twenty miles and more made a “continuous front” that was no more than a line on a map; reality was a series of strongpoints more or less connected by patrols. As an additional force multiplier, the Soviets achieved almost complete surprise. In evaluating the Red Army’s maskirovka, it is appropriate to ask whether it was that good or German intelligence was that bad. By this time under Reinhard Gehlen, Foreign Armies East, as the German intelligence operation on the Eastern Front was called, was better at gathering information than at processing it, and not particularly good at either. Certainly Gehlen’s service failed to discover the Soviet concentrations on Army Group Center’s left and against the salient’s nose. As late as mid-May, Army Group Center and the Second Panzer Army increased alertness in the front lines and carried out extensive mine and wire laying, but only as a commonsense effort to improve its readiness. Aerial reconnaissance was limited by a lack of planes. The attenuated front lines inhibited aggressive patrolling in favor of something like a “live and let live” approach. Russian partisans and reconnaissance units were less cooperative and more informative. By mid-July, both Western and Bryansk Fronts’ assault formations had up-to-date information on what they faced where in the projected attack sector.

Kutuzov’s exact launch time was determined by the successful German advance on Oboyan and Prokhorovka. Early on July 11, patrols were replaced throughout the attack zone by battalion-strength strikes on German outposts. That night, Russian bombers attacked bases throughout the salient. Fresh rifle units took over the line at 3:00 A.M. At 3:30, the artillery barrage began: the heaviest and best coordinated in the history of the Eastern Front. Two and a half hours later, the first assault waves and their supporting armor took position and the initial bomber and Shturmovik strikes went in. At 6:05 A.M., the main attack began. On Second Panzer Army’s left, six Guards rifle divisions hit the previously reconnoitered junction between two German divisions, breaking through easily enough that by the afternoon, the Eleventh Guards Army committed its second line to expand the breach and the two reserve tank corps were readying to exploit southward.

Airpower played a major role in the shifting tide of battle. Believing the Western Front’s attack was only a diversion, the Luftwaffe kept most of its aircraft in Citadel’s sector, to the east. Initially, the Red Air Force owned the sky on Eleventh Guards Army’s front, and Shturmoviks hammered the Landser unmercifully. By the afternoon, when 1st Air Division began diverting sorties north, the Eleventh Guards’ leading elements were safely under the cover of heavy forests. But Stuka Gruppen hit follow-up elements to such effect that small-scale counterattacks mounted by 5th Panzer Division were enough to delay 1st Tank Corps. The Eleventh Guards Army doubled down and committed 5th Tank Corps. Its T-34S were more than six miles into the German rear by nightfall, when 5th Panzer managed to slow their pace as well.

With the Stukas concentrating on the few roads passable by tanks, the army commander decided against a further blitz and ordered a set-piece attack for the next morning. Ivan Bagramyan had had his ups and downs since June 1941. His vigorous advocacy of the abortive Kharkov offensive of 1942 had led to his temporary eclipse. Restored to favor and combat command, he led the Sixteenth Army so successfully that it was renamed the Eleventh Guards Army and given a key role in Kutuzov. Bagramyan had learned from experience that against the Germans, a closed fist was preferable to a broken arm. But his decision to trade time for shock reflected as well the processing of German radio reports, specifically from 5th Panzer Division, that stated that immediate reinforcements were required to avert disaster in the northern sector. The only source of those reinforcements was Model’s Ninth Army. Give Fritz a few hours to sweat, decide, and begin moving tanks. Then, Bagramyan calculated, strike before they reached the field.

In the salient’s nose, Bryansk Front found the going tougher. The Germans there belonged to XXXV Corps, under Major General Lothar Rendulic. Rendulic paid attention to intelligence reports and aerial reconnaissance that confirmed a concentration against the junction of his two frontline divisions. He redeployed his infantry, concentrated his artillery and antitank resources, and on July 12 made Bryansk Front pay yard by yard for its gains.

Fourteen Soviet rifle divisions on an eight-mile front seemed ample for the task of breaking through—especially when supported by heavy tanks. These were KV-2s: a prewar design, obsolescent by 1943 standards, underpowered and undergunned for their weight. But their fifty-plus tons included enough armor to make them invulnerable to any gun smaller than three inches. Instead, the KV-2s ran onto an unreconnoitered minefield. By day’s end, sixty Soviet tanks were destroyed or disabled. The Germans had been forced out of their forward positions but were still holding the main line of resistance. They owed a good part of their success to the Luftwaffe. German fighter pilots were consistently successful in separating the Shturmoviks from their escorts, then scattering the escorts. Stukas and medium bombers struck repeatedly and almost unopposed, with VIII Air Corps diverting more and more aircraft from Oboyan and Prokhorovka to the Orel salient. The price was familiar: further overextension of already scarce ground-attack aircraft and already tired crews. One dive-bomber pilot flew six attacks in twelve hours. That kind of surge performance could not be continued indefinitely.

It was correspondingly obvious from Rendulic’s headquarters to Kluge’s that the sector could not hold without immediate reinforcements on the ground. That meant panzers. And the nearest concentration of panzers was in Ninth Army. In two sectors in a single day, Kutuzov confronted the Germans with a game-changing situation and very little reaction time. Model responded to the new crisis with a rapidity his principal English-language biographer, Steven Newton, calls suspicious. Newton argues that Model and Kluge were both expecting a major Soviet attack in the Orel salient, especially after the failure of Ninth Army’s attacks in Citadel’s northern sector. Rather than challenge Hitler and the OKH directly, they agreed, with a wink and a nudge, to commit to Citadel armor that would be more badly needed elsewhere in a matter of days. Certainly the divisions Kluge offered deployed slowly. Certainly, too, Model did not push the attack of XLVI Panzer Corps in the Ponyri sector on July 11. Late in the afternoon of July 12, Model flew to the headquarters of the Second Panzer Army and assumed its still-vacant command without relinquishing command of the Ninth. He and Kluge had previously agreed on this arrangement, which made Model directly responsible for the Orel salient and half the Kursk reentrant. It also gave him as free a hand to transfer forces over as wide an area as any senior officer of the Third Reich could expect.

Thus, on the morning of July 13, 4th Panzer Division’s commander was ordered to cancel his planned attack, shift to defensive mode, and take over the positions of his neighbor, 20th Panzer Division, which was redeploying north. Recent communication between Model and Kluge had been carried out by unlogged telephone calls and confidential face-to-face meetings. Kluge, Newton asserts, could thus tell Hitler he had not ordered the abandonment of the offensive against Kursk. Model was just doing what he was recognized for doing: responding decisively to an unexpected development, living up to the reputation as a “defensive lion” he had earned in the crisis winter of 1941.

It all makes for another fascinating and unprovable story among the many spawned in the Third Reich. What the records show is that by the night of July 13–14, Ninth Army’s 2nd Panzer Division and 8th Panzer from the high command’s reserve were moving into Rendulic’s sector. The 12th, 18th, and 20th Panzer were backing the sorely tried 5th Panzer against Bagramyan. That simple statement had a backstory. Emergency German redeployments on the Eastern Front might have become routine, but the process was anything but. The 12th Panzer had spent a week vainly seeking a breakthrough in the direction of Kursk. At 12:45 A.M. on July 12, it was ordered to the Orel sector. The order was a surprise, and its timing could not have been worse for all those trying to catch some sleep in the four hours before sunrise. But by 1:00 A.M., the 5th Panzer Grenadier Regiment and the reconnaissance battalion were on their way—eighty miles on dirt roads pounded to dust by weeks of military traffic. An hour later, the leading elements were taking position around Bolkhov, the previously anonymous spot on the map where army headquarters deemed their presence most necessary.

The tanks took longer. So did the rest of the division. The 12th Panzer moved ad hoc, by small improvised groups each going all out, each eroding as fuel tanks emptied, transmissions failed, and engines quit. To drive with windows and hatches open was to choke on the fine dust. To shut them was to broil in the heat. Vehicles were loaded and dispatched almost at random. Rest stops were equally random. A company commander took an unauthorized twenty-minute halt in Orel to check on the well-being of his aunt, a nurse in the local soldiers’ home. Roads were blocked by collisions and breakdowns. Tanks, each hulled in its own dust cloud, lost contact with one another. Less than half of 12th Panzer’s original starters made the finish line.

Model, predictably, lost his temper with the regiment’s commanding officer—and just as predictably gave him command of one of the battle groups the field marshal and his staff officers were throwing in as fast as they could be organized. By this time, everyone in Second Panzer Army’s rear areas was seeing Russians everywhere, and 12th Panzer was risking dismemberment as rear-echelon officers demanded tanks and men to restore their situations and calm their nerves.

The 5th Panzer Grenadier Regiment had been on the front line from the war’s first days. Poland, France, Barbarossa, Leningrad: its men had seen as much combat as any in the Wehrmacht. So when its veterans spoke of Bolkhov as “the threshold to battle hell,” it was more than retrospective melodrama. The regiment reached its assigned sector around midnight on July 12, and began advancing at 9:00 A.M. on July 13. At first all seemed routine: a steady advance against light opposition. Then suddenly “all hell broke loose.” Bryansk Front had sent in the Sixty-first Army and its supporting 20th Tank Corps. The strength, intensity, and duration of the supporting fire exceeded anything the regiment’s veterans had experienced: a “fire ball” that enveloped the entire front. Under the shelling, the panzer grenadiers’ advance slowed, then stopped, then inched forward again. First the Stukas, then twenty or so of the division’s tanks, sustained the momentum for a time, until dug-in tanks and camouflaged antitank guns drove the infantry first to ground, then to retreat.

As in the other sectors of the offensive, there was no breakthrough, but limiting the Soviet advance nevertheless took its toll on the defenders. Thus far, they had held—but for how long could another large-scale tactical stalemate be sustained? The reports and the recollections of the divisions that fought first in Ninth Army’s attack on Kursk and then in the Orel salient convey an unwilling, almost unconscious sense that this time there was something different about the Russians. It was not only the intensity of their artillery fire. It was the relative sophistication. It was not only the depth of the defensive positions or the determination of their defenders. It was a more general sense that the Red Army’s mass and will were being informed by improving tactical and operational sophistication—the levels of war making most likely to influence and frustrate German frontline formations directly, and in ways impossible to overlook.


That the German front in the Orel salient held more or less together reflected in good part Model’s disregard of Hitler’s order that no secondary defensive positions be established. Even before Kursk, Model had initiated the preparation of a series of phase lines that by the time of Kutuzov were more than map tracings. Model handled his sparse reserves with cold-blooded skill, committing them by batteries and battalions in just enough force to blunt and delay Soviet attacks. The decisive tool in his hand, however, was the Luftwaffe.

The 1st Air Division mounted over eleven hundred sorties on July 18 alone, almost half by Stukas and ground-attack planes. The next day, Bagramyan’s lead tanks emerged from the forest and the Germans struck at dawn. The Stukas, Henschels, and Fw 190s bored in at altitudes so low that one Hs 129 pilot flew his plane into the tank he was attacking. By this time, experience and rumor had taught the Russian tankers all they wished to know about German attack planes. Some crews undertook random evasive maneuvers, scattering in all directions. Others simply abandoned their vehicles. The 1st Air Division claimed 135 kills on July 19 alone. Soviet records admit that by July 20, 1st Tank Corps had only thirty-three tanks left. The pilots credited themselves with preventing a “second Stalingrad.” Model, never an easy man to impress, wired congratulations for the first successful halting of a tank offensive from the air alone.

On July 19, Bryansk Front threw the Third Guards Tank Army into the attack. Over seven hundred AFVs, supported by the full strength of the Fifteenth Air Army, advanced almost eight miles by nightfall and kept hammering. Despite Stalin’s direct “encouragement,” what was projected as a breakthrough became a battle of attrition. Model used his aircraft to compensate for steadily eroding ground strength. Luftwaffe medium bombers were flying as many as five sorties a day, and 88 mm flak guns pressed into antitank service claimed more than two hundred tank kills. Russian and German fighters grappled for control of the air, with one Soviet report describing a pilot landing near a downed Me-109 and capturing the pilot himself. What counted was that as 1st Air Division’s planes were ruthlessly shifted and ruthlessly committed, pilot judgment diminished and aircrew losses increased. A disproportionate number of them were among the veteran flight and squadron leaders, correspondingly irreplaceable at short notice.

Night Air Operations 1943: Eastern Front

Since January 1943, partisan operations against the railroads in the rear of German Army Group Center had been disrupting troop and supply movements. On June 14, Stavka initiated a comprehensive “rail war” focused on the lines into the Kursk sector. Raids destroyed bridges, disabled rolling stock, and diminished train crews’ morale and effectiveness. They created traffic jams offering profitable targets to Red Air Force night bombers, who in turn were for practical purposes unopposed because night fighters, guns, and their supporting electronic systems were increasingly needed for the defense of the Reich itself.

Soviet air doctrine was geared to the ground war. Close support and interdiction were its foci. In the context of Kursk, that involved a campaign against German air? elds and railroads in the salient’s immediate rear by twin-engine bombers, as many as four hundred in a single raid. These were supplemented by the night light bomber regiments, composed of single-engine Polikarpov Po-2 biplane trainers-often flown by female military aviators (dubbed “night witches”). The planes’ distinctive engine sounds won them the nickname “sewing machines” from Landser regularly awakened by their pinprick strikes.

Initially, German air offensives into Soviet rear areas were small-scale efforts, focused on train busting. These operations also diverted resources from a more relevant target: the Kursk rail yards, central to Soviet logistics in the salient. Major German raids on May 22 and June 2-3, the latter a round-the-clock operation, met bitter resistance from superior numbers of fighters. Losses were heavy enough and damage was so quickly repaired that the Luftwaffe decided to suspend daylight operations against Soviet rear areas for the balance of Citadel. Night operations continued at a nuisance level-though one midnight strike unknowingly hit Rokossovsky’s command post. He escaped by “mere chance,” or perhaps intuition. Both would be riding with the Red Army in the coming weeks.

The Soviet air force had paid a high tuition since 1941 but had learned the Luftwaffe’s lessons of centralization and flexibility. Three air armies contributed directly to the defense of Kursk: the Sixteenth and the Second, attached, respectively, to the Central and Voronezh Fronts, and the Seventeenth from the Southwestern Front. The initial numbers totaled around 1,050 fighters, 950 ground-attack planes, and 900 bombers. Stavka had also assembled an impressive reserve force of three air armies with 2,750 planes. Intended to spearhead the attack projected to follow the German defeat, they soon joined in the fighting. Finally, more than 300 bombers from Long Range Aviation and 300 fighters from Air Defense Command were assigned for night raiding and point defense, respectively.

Hauptmann (captain) Sayn-Wittgenstein was moved to the Eastern Front in February 1943 after he had been appointed Gruppenkommandeur (group commander) of the IV./Nachtjagdgeschwader 5 (IV./NJG 5—4th Squadron of the 5th Night Fighter Wing) on 1 December 1942. Here Unteroffizier Herbert Kümmritz joined Sayn-Wittgenstein’s crew as his radio and wireless operator (Bordfunker).

On the Eastern Front again with I./Nachtjagdgeschwader 100 (I./NJG 100—1st Squadron of the 100th Night Fighter Wing) on 1 August 1943. While stationed at Insterburg, East Prussia, Sayn-Wittgenstein shot down seven aircraft on one day, six of them within 47 minutes (victories 36–41), in the area north-east of Oryol on 20 July 1943, making him an “ace-in-a-day”.

Sayn-Wittgenstein claimed three more victories on 1 August 1943 (victories 44–46) and three more on the night of 3 August 1943 (victories 48–50). Sayn-Wittgenstein was credited with 83 nocturnal aerial victories, claimed in 320 combat missions, including 150 with bomber arm. His 83 aerial victories include 33 shot down on the Eastern Front.

Sukhoi Su-11 (1947)

Since the Su-9 was first proposed as a TR-1- powered fighter, things had come full circle. The airframe and guns were unchanged from the Su-9, only the Su-11 ‘s engine nacelles and position on the wing had been altered to any visible degree. The Su-11 (also known as ‘Izdeliye LK’ for aircraft ‘K’ fitted with Lyul’ka engines) made its first flight on 28th May 1947, but the engines gave insufficient power, preventing the fighter from reaching its specified performance. In addition it suffered from a lack of longitudinal stability at high speeds plus several other problems, and so was soon abandoned. By the end of April 1948 the aircraft had been scrapped but its wing went to TsAGI for static structure testing. In flight the Su-11 showed only a slight increase in ceiling over the Su-9 to 13,000m (42,651ft) but took just 3.6 minutes to reach 5,000m (16,404ft).

ManufacturerOKB Sukhoi
Year of construction (s)1947
length10.55 m
Wingspan11.8 m
Wing area21.4 m²
drivetwo Lyulka TR-1
power12.7 kN each
Top speed925 km / h near the ground
940 km / h at an altitude of 800 m
Rise time3.2 min at 5,000 m
Service ceiling13,000 m
Range900 km
Empty weight4,495 kg
All-up weight6,350 kg
crew1 pilot
Armamenttwo 23 mm MK NS-23,
one 37 mm MK N-37 or
one 45 mm MK N-45


Sukhoi Su-7 BKL

NATO reporting names: Fitter-A and Moujik

Type Single-seat ground attack fighter.


The first prototype of this single-seat fighter, designated S-1, was flown for the first time by test pilot A G Kochetkov on 8 September 1955, and was displayed in prototype form in the flypast over Moscow in the 1956 Soviet Aviation Day. It was the first Soviet aircraft to have all-moving horizontal tail surfaces and a fore and aft translating air intake centrebody to adjust supersonic air flow. Power plant was, successively, an AL-7 turbojet and AL-7F; armament comprised three NR-30 guns. The S-1 prototypes were followed by a number of S-2s, embodying certain aerodynamic refinements and by a small number of preseries aircraft designated Su-7. After evaluation of these, a new prototype, known as the S-22, was built in fighter-bomber form. It was flown for the first time in April 1959, by Ye S Soloviev; and the S-22 was ordered into series production as the Su-7B Fitter-A fighter-bomber, air combat and reconnaissance aircraft.


Su-7BM: All now withdrawn. Su-7BKL (S-22KL = koleso-lyzhny, wheel-ski): Version with an ALF1-1-200 turbojet, a low-pressure nosewheel, small extensible skid outboard of each mainwheel.

Su-7BMK: Export version of Su-7BKL.

Su-7UM/UMK (U-22): Two-seat operational trainer version. NATO reporting name Moujik. One example remains in service in Russia as an ejection seat trials platform at the Zhokovsky Flight Test Institute. Operators The Su-7BMK is in service with the armed forces of North Korea (30) and Turkmenistan (3 with doubtful serviceability).

The following description applies to the Su-7BMK: Design Features Cantilever mid-wing monoplane. Wing thickness/chord ratio 8 per cent. No dihedral or anhedral. Sweepback 60º on leading-edges. Wing chord is extended giving a straight trailing-edge on inboard section of each wing. Two boundary layer fences on each wing at approximately mid-span and immediately inboard of tip. Two intake suction relief doors on each side of nose. Two slim duct fairings along top of centre-fuselage.

Flying Controls

Hydraulically powered spring-loaded ailerons. Large chord flaps over entire trailing-edge from root to inboard end of aileron on each wing. No slats or tabs. Two hydraulically actuated door-type airbrakes at top and bottom on each side of rear fuselage. The tail unit has hydraulically powered control surfaces, all-moving horizontal surfaces, with anti-flutter bodies projecting forward from tips. Conventional rudder with yaw damper. No tabs.


Conventional all-metal two-spar structure. The fuselage is a conventional all-metal semi-monocoque structure of circular section. Break point at wing trailing-edge permits removal of rear fuselage for engine servicing. The tail unit is a cantilever all-metal structure with 55º sweepback at quarter-chord on all surfaces.

Landing Gear

Retractable tricycle type, with single wheel on each unit. Steerable nosewheel retracts forward, main units inward into wings. Differential brakes on mainwheels. Twin brake-chutes in large container with clamshell doors, at base of rudder.

Power Plant One Lyulka AL-7F-1-100 (TRD-31) turbojet engine, rated at 66.64 kN (14,980 lb st) dry and 94.08 kN (21,150 lb st) with afterburning. Time taken for afterburner light up 6 to 7 seconds. Variable area afterburner nozzle.

Saddle fuel tanks in centre-fuselage and integral tanks between spars of inner wings.

Total internal fuel capacity 2,940 litres (776 US gallons; 647 Imp gallons). Gravity fuelling points above fuselage tanks and each wing tank. Provision for two drop tanks side by side under fuselage, with total capacity of 1,200 litres (317 US gallons; 264 Imp gallons); and two ferry tanks, total capacity 1,800 litres (475 US gallons; 396 Imp gallons) on inner wing pylons. Two SPRD-100 solid-propellant rocket units, each 29.4 kN (6,610 lb st), can be attached under rear fuselage to shorten T-O run.


Pilot only in pressurised cockpit, on KS-4 zero-altitude rocket-powered ejection seat, under rearward sliding blister canopy. Flat windscreen of armoured glass. Rearview mirror on top of canopy.


Main and standby hydraulic systems, with emergency pump, for actuating flying controls, flaps, airbrakes, landing gear, nosewheel steering and afterburner nozzle. Cockpit heating system. KKO-2 oxygen system. Pneumatic system adequate for engine starting and three afterburner engagements per sortie, with reserves. Electrical system includes navigation lights and retractable taxying light under nose.

Avionics and Equipment

Standard avionics include VHF/UHF radio, ILS, RSIU very short-wave fighter radio, ADF, transponder, SRO-2M (NATO `Odd Rods’) IFF, Sirena 3 tail warning radar, ranging radar in air intake centrebody, autopilot. Launcher for Very cartridges or chaff under starboard wingroot leading-edge. Provision for vertical and oblique cameras in belly aft of nosewheel bay.

Armament Two 30 mm NR-30 guns, each with 70 rounds, in wingroot leading-edges. ASP-5ND gyro gunsight. Six external stores pylons. Two underbelly pylons and inner underwing pylons each capable of carrying 750 kg (1,650 lb); outer underwing pylons each stressed for 500 kg (1,100 lb). Stores include UB-16-57U rocket pods (each 16 57 mm S-5, S-5M or S-5K rockets), S-24 250 kg concrete-piercing guided rockets, S-3K unguided rockets, and free-fall bombs (usually two 750 kg and two 500 kg), including nuclear weapons. When underbelly fuel tanks are fitted, maximum external weapons load is 1,000 kg (2,205 lb).

Dimensions, External

Wing span 8.77 m (28 ft 9¼ in)

Length overall, incl probe 16.80 m (55 ft 1½ in)

Height overall 4.80 m (15 ft 9 in)


Wings, gross 23.0 m2 (247 sq ft)

Weights and Loadings

Operating weight empty 8,328 kg (18,360 lb)

Normal T-O weight 12,000 kg (26,450 lb)

Max T-O weight 13,440 kg (29,630 lb)


Max level speed at 12,200 m (40,000 ft):

    `clean’ M1.6 (917 kt; 1,700 km/h; 1,055 mph)

    with external stores M1.2 (685 kt; 1,270 km/h; 788 mph)

Max level speed at S/L:

    without afterburning 460 kt (850 km/h; 530 mph)

    with afterburning 625 kt (1,158 km/h; 720 mph)

Rotation speed for T-O 195 kt (360 km/h; 224 mph)

Approach speed 195 kt (360 km/h; 224 mph)

Max rate of climb at S/L 9,000 m (29,525 ft)/min

Service ceiling 18,000 m (59,050 ft)

T-O run 2,400 m (7,875 ft)Combat radius 135-187 n miles (250-345 km; 155-215 miles)

Max range 780 n miles (1,450 km; 900 miles)

Fuel consumption with afterburning at S/L 360 kg (794 lb)/min

Sukhoi Su-7BKL `Fitter-A’Sukhoi Su-7B `Fitter-A’ fighter-bomber. No longer in service (Sukhoi)

Height (m): 4.80

Length (m): 16.80

Max Level Speed (kts): 460

Max Range (nm): 780

Max Rate Climb (m/min): 9000

Max T-O Weight (kg): 13440

Service Ceiling (m): 18000

T-O Run (m): 2400

Wing Span (m): 8.77