Union Of Soviet Socialist Republics
(Represented by Russian Federation)

At the outbreak of World War II, the Soviet military was not yet at a level of readiness suitable for winning a war: Joseph Stalin had said in 1931 that Soviet industry was "50 to 100 years behind" the Western powers. By the end of the war, Soviet annual aircraft production outstripped that of the German Reich; annual Soviet production rose to 40,241 aircraft in 1944. Some 157,261 aircraft were produced during the Great Patriotic War, of them 125,655 combat types.

The main reason for the large aircraft losses in the initial period of war with Germany was not the lack of modern tactics, but the lack of experienced pilots and ground support crews, the destruction of many aircraft on the runways due to command failure to disperse them, and the rapid advance of the Wehrmacht ground troops, forcing the Soviet pilots on the defensive during Operation Barbarossa, while being confronted with more modern German aircraft. In the first few days of Operation Barbarossa the Luftwaffe destroyed some 2000 Soviet aircraft, most of them on the ground, at a loss of only 35 aircraft (of which 15 were non-combat-related)

The principal aircraft of the VVS during World War II were the Ilyushin Il-2 Shturmovik ground assault model and the Yakovlev Yak-1 fighter in its many variants; each of which became the most produced aircraft of all time in its class, together accounting for about half the strength of the VVS for most of the Great Patriotic War. The Yak-1 was a modern 1940 design and had room for development, unlike the mature design of the Messerschmitt Bf 109. The Yak-9 brought the VVS to parity with the Luftwaffe, eventually allowing it to gain the upper hand over the Luftwaffe until in 1944, when many Luftwaffe pilots were deliberately avoiding combat with the last and best variant, the out-of-sequence numbered Yak-3.

The other main VVS aircraft types were Lavochkin fighters, mainly the Lavochkin La-5, the Petlyakov Pe-2 twin engined attack-bombers, and a basic but functional and versatile medium bomber, the Ilyushin Il-4.

31-Bomber Aviation Regiment dive bombers, equipped with Pe-2 (the regimental commander, Colonel Fyodor Ivanovich Dobysh), became the first bomber `Guards air force` unit in the Air Force Soviet Red Army. The title was conferred for the actions of the Leningrad front in November-December 1941 during a defensive operation and the Soviet counterattack nearby Tikhvin.

Alone among World War II combatants, the Soviet Air Force initiated a program to bring women with existing air training into combat air groups. Marina Raskova, one of very few women in the VVS prior to the war, used her influence with Stalin to form three all-female air regiments: the 586th Fighter Aviation Regiment, the 587th Bomber Aviation Regiment and the 588th Night Bomber Aviation Regiment (a.k.a. the Night Witches.) Because of their achievements in battle, the latter two units were honored by being renamed Guards units.

Beyond the three official regiments, individual Soviet women sometimes served alongside airmen in otherwise all-male groups. Women pilots, navigators, gunners, mechanics, armament specialists and other female ground personnel made up more than 3,000 fighting members of the VVS. Women pilots flew 24,000 sorties. From this effort came the world's only two female fighter aces: Lydia Litvyak and Katya Budanova. While there were scores of Red Army divisions on the ground formed from specific Soviet republics, there appears to have been very few aviation regiments formed from nationalities, among them being the 1st Latvian Night legkobombardirovochny [Light Bomber?] Rezhitsky Aviation Regiment.

Chief Marshal of Aviation Alexander Novikov led the VVS from 1942 to the end of the war, and was credited with introducing several new innovations and weapons systems. For the last year of the war German military and civilians retreating towards Berlin were hounded by the presence of "low flying aircraft" strafing and bombing them, an activity in which even the ancient Polikarpov Po-2, a much produced biplane of 1920s design, took part.

However, this was but a small measure of the experience Wehrmacht front-lines were receiving of the sophistication and superiority the Red Air Force had achieved. In one strategic operation alone, the Yassy-Kishinev Strategic Offensive, the 5th, 17th Air Armies and the Black Sea Fleet Naval Aviation aircraft achieved a 3.3:1 superiority in aircraft over the Luftflotte 4 and the Royal Romanian Air Force, allowing almost complete freedom from air harassment for the ground troops of the 2nd and 3rd Ukrainian Fronts.

As with many allied countries in World War II the Soviet Union received western aircraft by Lend-Lease, mostly P-39 Airacobras, P-63 Kingcobras, Hawker Hurricanes, Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawks and A-20 Havocs. Soviets in P-39s scored the highest individual kill totals of any pilot ever to fly a U.S. aircraft. Two air regiments were equipped with Spitfire Mk. Vb in early 1943 but immediately experienced unrelenting losses due to friendly fire as the British aircraft looked too much like its German nemesis, the Bf 109. Lend-Lease aircraft from the US and UK accounted for nearly 12% of total Soviet air power.

The greatest Soviet fighter ace of World War II was Ivan Nikitovich Kozhedub, who scored 62 individual aerial victories from July 6 1943 to April 16 1945, the top score for any Allied fighter pilot of World War II.

The above text has been extracted from: Wikipedia