People and Machinery: Air Force
In the years prior to the World War II, the Soviet Union had created its own heavy industry, first of all metallurgy and power and machine building sectors. Some new industry branches had emerged, such as production of battle tanks and military aircrafts.
The Soviets within a short time designed, successfully tested and put in service new models of anti-tank gun, howitzer and others artillery systems. Soviet engineers created a 120-mm mortar. By 1943 it accounted for over a half of all artillery pieces of the Red Army. None of the contemporary armies had anything like that.
On the very eve of the war the group of scientists and engineers including Nikolay Tikhomirov, Vladimir Artemyev, Boris Petropavlovsky created a multiple rocket launcher, known as Katyusha.
The production of new medium tank T-34 (chief designer Mikhail Koshkin) and new heavy tanks KV-1 and KV-2 (chief designer Josef Kotin) started in 1940. New tanks had thick shellproof armour, powerful diesel engines, which replaced the gasoline ones used before. They were armed with 76-mm gun replaced with a more powerful one of the same caliber in early 1941. The gun was installed in the cast-armour turret. Such a turret itself was an important technological innovation. The tank production in February 1942 increased twofold comparing to January of the same year, in March increase was fivefold and tenfold in December. The Kharkov Factory, relocated to Ural Region in the beginning of the war, built 5684 tanks in 1942 alone. The production figure grew up to 7466 tanks in 1943, and in the next year reached 8421 ones.
The soviet engineers Vasily Degtyaryov and Sergey Simonov created anti-tank rifles in 1941, which helped to stop German tanks in the Battle of Moscow. Since 1942, the soviet industry produced on average up to 450,000 light and medium machine guns, over 3 million rifles and carbines, as well as about 2 million submachine guns annually. Germany on the contrary managed to produce just 1 million machine guns, about 8 million rifles and carbines, and less than 1 million submachine guns since the middle of 1941 through April 1945.
Almost 40% of all artillery systems used by the Red Army were created during the war. The period of their adaptation for combat use was reduced from 1-2 years to just a month.
During the war the Soviet tank industry built over 21,000 self-propelled guns. They were not produced before the war. The industry produced about half a million of artillery pieces of different kinds, including about 100,000 tank cannons.
The main task of the Soviet air force was the support of ground troops. That is why Il-2, the ground-attack aircraft, or Sturmovik, became the most mass produced military aircraft in the world. It was armed with two automatic cannons and two machine guns, aviation bombs and rocket projectiles, and attacked enemy’s tank columns, airfields and ground troops’ positions from an altitude of several hundred meters.
For airstrikes against enemy’s rear, its supply lines, storage depots and so on the day bombers SB, Pe-2, Tu-2 were intended. The long-range night bombers Il-4, Er-4, Pe-8 were used for airstrikes against the deep enemy rear, including the German territory. Surprisingly, the training biplane Po-2 was discovered as an effective light night bomber.
An important role played soviet fighter aircrafts. The machines designed by Alexander Yakovlev (Yak-1, Yak-3, Yak-7 and Yak-9) became the main type of fighters equipped with water-cooled engines. The fighters designed by Semyon Lavochkin (La-5, La-7) became the main type of machines with air-cooled engines.
During the first five-year plans the industry built for the Soviet Navy 311 vessels including 4 cruisers, 7 leaders, 30 destroyers, 18 patrol ships, 38 minesweepers, 8 river monitors, 206 submarines and 477 minesweeper boats.