Eighty years ago, a war began - the largest in the history of our country, and indeed of the world as a whole. Germany attacked the USSR, and the huge Soviet air fleet was almost powerless over the much smaller German. Many explanations have been offered for this. They say that Soviet aircraft at that time were outdated - among them there were even biplanes! A thorough analysis of the real situation reveals a fundamentally different picture. In June 1941, Soviet aircraft were in many ways better than those that replaced them in 1941-1943. It sounds crazy, but in real battles the Il-2 turned out to be worse than the light biplane attack aircraft, and the Yak-1 was worse than the later modifications of the I-16. Why did it happen and what are the real reasons for the terrible defeats of the Soviet Air Force in the first summer of the war?
As of June 22, 1941, the USSR had 20 thousand combat aircraft, of which ten thousand were in the districts on the border with Germany. There were only 2, 6 thousand German combat aircraft against our country. Nevertheless, from the very first day of the war, air supremacy undoubtedly belonged to the German Air Force. By the end of June 22, they had lost 61 aircraft in battle - a record high for the German armed forces during the Soviet-German war.
How much the Soviet Air Force lost that day is unknown, since the war for them began completely suddenly, and there was no normal accounting of those shot down in the first day. However, these losses are unlikely to have been less than two thousand vehicles. Apparently, most of them were abandoned at the airfields during the retreat in the early days of the war: for example, due to light damage or a lack of gasoline or pilots near these machines at a time when they had to be ferried to new airfields so as not to be captured by the enemy.
The paradox is that the Soviet Air Force on June 22 made many more sorties than the enemy: about six thousand. Despite this, it is impossible to find the memoirs of the participants in the war (as well as documents), which would indicate that the red-star aircraft were able to turn the tide in ground battles.
A similar situation was in the subsequent summer days of 1941. There were 250 thousand Soviet sorties in the first three months of the war - that is, slightly more than the average daily in 1941-1945. The enemy's tank and motorized columns alone attracted 117,000 Soviet sorties. But in the reports of both Soviet and German troops of that time, German aviation dominated the air - not the USSR. Retreating Soviet columns are bombing, and there is almost no mention of stopping the advancing German columns under Soviet bombs.
Questions arise by themselves. Why did the numerous Soviet aviation suffer so much more losses than the enemy? Why did the greater number of its sorties not noticeably affect the battles on the ground? What happened in the air in the summer of 1941?
Version one: it's all about a sudden raid on the airfield
It was once extremely popular in the USSR, but today it is impossible to consider it seriously. Twenty thousand Soviet warplanes could not have been bombed at airfields on the first day. The Germans themselves believed that they had destroyed less than 1,500 Soviet aircraft on the take-off fields. It is well known that in the following days of the war the losses of aircraft at airfields for the Red Army fell many times over.
The reasons for this are well known: literally in a matter of days, Soviet airfields were camouflaged in such a way that it was sometimes difficult to find them even from the air by their own pilots. Here's an example from the summer of 1941:
“The estimated time has expired, but there is no airfield. He only saw a wide forest clearing, overgrown with low bushes and sparse trees. The planes are not visible. Did you come to the wrong place? The fuel is running out … And suddenly flares took off from the edge of the forest. People ran across the clearing, laid out "T" and pulled away from the landing strip … trees! This method of camouflaging the airfield was invented recently. Trees were stuck in pre-prepared holes immediately after the aircraft took off or landed."
The planes on them were covered in caponiers, where even a close explosion of a bomb did not harm them. The Germans could not kill 20 thousand aircraft by surprise strikes on airfields and never did. So the airfield version cannot explain their success that summer.
Version two: "you make us fly on coffins"?
This option is another relic of the Soviet era. According to him, the Soviet Air Force by the beginning of the war was technically very backward, which made it possible for the Germans to easily shoot down Soviet aircraft. They were slow, made of plywood and linen (which is why they supposedly burned steadily), had no radio communication, and so on. By June 22, the Air Force had almost no armored Il-2 attack aircraft, which is why the I-153 biplanes covered with fabric were sent to attack. Well, how could you not have a monstrous loss ratio? How could the German columns be stopped with this technique?
According to this version, the supply of new aircraft to the front - Il-2, Yak, LaGG, MiG fighters - soon changed the situation and allowed the Soviet Air Force to gradually wrest the initiative from the enemy.
This simple, straightforward and convincing version has only one flaw: it is completely wrong.
To determine the real qualities of Soviet technology, you can go in different ways. You can interview experienced (from a hundred flight hours) pilots who flew on it. But we will not even do this: the volume of the text will not allow us to bring the required number of memories in it. Let's check the version about "coffins" on the sparing of words, but very informative documents about losses. If the I-153 as attack aircraft were worse than the Il-2, they should have inflicted less damage on the enemy, or suffered greater losses, right? If the I-16s were so bad as fighters, they should have inflicted fewer losses on the enemy, and even more likely to be shot down by them than new fighters. Is it so?
In the summer of 1943, the second department of operational management of the Red Army Air Force headquarters drew up a document - "Conclusions from the preliminary analysis of aviation losses", which analyzed the losses of aircraft of various types during the first couple of years of the war. These "conclusions" have truly revolutionary significance for understanding the course and outcome of the entire air war on the Eastern Front - from its first to the last day.
They included the combat survivability that Soviet aircraft of various types showed in 138,183 sorties on the fronts from Mozdok to Murmansk. It turned out that the most tenacious Soviet fighters were I-16 and I-153. They made 128 sorties before the loss of the aircraft in battle for the I-16 (118 flight hours) and 93 sorties for the I-153 (91 flight hours). Here and below, the figures are given without losses at airfields, since they do not say anything about the combat qualities of the aircraft in the air. The number of sorties before loss is also called combat survivability, and this is the most important indicator for an aircraft in a war.
And what about the new types of Soviet fighters? The best survivability among them was shown by "aircobras" - that is, imported American fighters. At first glance, it is impossible to compare them with the I-16. They are all-metal (without plywood, like the I-16) much faster (up to 100 kilometers per hour difference), armed with a cannon and large-caliber machine guns, they have excellent radio stations and very serious armor: armor plates in places in two rows are radically better protection than one - the only armored backrest of the I-16.
But the "Aircobra" lived only 52 sorties (50 hours) per combat loss. 2, 36 times less than the I-16.This is especially impressive if you remember: many I-16s were produced back in the 1930s, and by 1941-1943 they were already physically much older than the "aircobras", which they began to make only in 1941. Old cars with worn-out engines show vitality several times higher than new ones, only if initially they were radically better than these new ones. The numbers are relentless: the I-16 is a much more tenacious machine than the Aircobra.
Perhaps, the reader will suggest, the I-16 pilots were so sure that their cars were "coffins", easily burning under the fire of high-speed "Messerschmitts", that they flew on combat missions purely formally, but actually cut circles over the fields in their own rear hiding from the enemy? Did the Aerocobr pilots really fly into the thick of it?
Alas, neither documents nor memories show anything like that. Take the 55th Fighter Aviation Regiment, the Pokryshkin Regiment. These people met the war on the I-153 and I-16, they switched to the MiG-3 only later. In 1942, there was a break in its use, and from the spring of 1943 until the end of the war, it flew just on "aircobras".
However, there is no trace of what he often shot down after transferring to the "Aircobras". According to documents, the largest number of sorties per day and the greatest number of damage to the enemy were recorded in 1941. The average sortie of the I-16 (excluding ground attack flights) in 1941 did not bring him fewer enemy aircraft downed than one Aircobra sortie in 1943. But what is there: it was for the successes of 1941 - and not at all for the period of flights on "aircobras" - the regiment received the rank of the Guards.
The situation is similar with other Soviet fighter regiments: nowhere is it seen that after the transition from the I-16 to new types, they began to shoot down more enemy aircraft.
How did the canvas biplane prove to be a more tenacious and accurate attack aircraft than the armored Il-2?
Even more interesting are the "Conclusions" figures in the stormtroopers section. In June 1941-March 1943, the I-153 (aka "seagull") had a survivability of 93 sorties (91 hours of combat flight), and the IL-2 - only 26 (27 hours of flight). A gap exceeding three times. The Il-2 did not reach the "Polikarpov" survivability of the I-153 at all - even in 1944-1945 it was below the level of the "seagull" in 1941-1943. And this despite the fact that the "seagull" worked in the sky, where German aircraft dominated, and the Il-2 at the end of the war worked in the sky, where the Soviet air force dominated.
Well, the reader will object, but the "seagull" took on board only 150-200 kilograms of bombs, and the Il-2 - 300-400 kilograms. It turns out that during the life of the Il-2, it managed to drop about the same number of bombs on the enemy as the pilots of the I-153. And if less, then not much. What is the particular advantage of the "seagull" as an attack aircraft?
To begin with, the pilots lived on it much longer than on the IL-2, which, whatever one may say, is an advantage. A pilot who has made three times as many sorties is elementary more experienced. But let's forget about this for a second and turn to other points.
Firstly, the Il-2 was not suitable for aimed shooting or bombing. The details have been revealed by a number of works on this topic, but in short they are as follows. The plane came out overweight and could not dive at a target steeper than 30-35 degrees in the hands of a standard pilot. However, when diving less than 40 degrees, the pilot, in principle, did not see the target - the engine hood covered it. Therefore, the pilot bombed blindly, according to the marks on the engine hood. Of course, you won't get into anything much like that. Even in field trials, attempts to hit the target 20 by 100 meters at the Il-2 ended in success only in one sortie out of eight. Over the battlefield, anti-aircraft guns are also shooting, and targets are less than 2,000 square meters - needless to say, the “Ilyushin” had even less chances of hitting them there. In the same way, the inability to see the target closer to ~ 400 meters due to its closure by the motor prevented the Il-2 from using both the cannons and the RS with precision.
I-153, according to the rules developed in the pre-war period, bombed from a steep dive - about 70 degrees. So in the USSR, it rarely even bombed the Pe-2: this twin-engine bomber was a monoplane, with much lower air resistance, which is why it accelerated on a dive to 720 kilometers per hour, much stronger than the I-153 biplane. As a result, the bulk of the Pe-2 bombing strikes took place from horizontal flight - again, in contrast to the I-153 "seagulls". In terms of the accuracy of bombing and missile strikes, the Seagull was the leader among all Soviet aircraft of the war period.
Yes, yes, we did not make a reservation: and missile. The quote is all from the memoirs of the pilot of the same Pokryshkinsky regiment:
“The black cross on the enemy tank was growing rapidly…. It's time! Two tailed comets escaped from under the wings and immediately exploded in the steel hull. Following Dubinin, I got out of the dive and could not resist - I looked down. Bomb explosions rumbled throughout the forest, and a huge black column of smoke rose up over the entire giant tornado - a direct hit from my shells. “One attack - one tank is on fire. And I have six more pieces under my wings, that is, three more attacks …"
Of course, even from a steep dive, it was not always possible to hit the RS-82 (with rockets of 82 mm caliber) exactly into the tank's hull:
“With a left turn, the leading flight dives into the dark boxes of tanks … below, below us, the“seagulls”lash the air with rockets. These "eres" are a strong thing: they smash everything that comes across on the way to smithereens. Several tanks were already engulfed in smoke. Others freeze motionless. On those who turned into a hollow to the forest, Pal Palych's link collapses, and immediately one box [tank] looses the field [that is, the tank spun in place, because after being hit, one caterpillar flew off from it, and the second is still spinning - A.B.], The second splits from [detonation] of its own projectiles [after being hit by the RS]”.
Of course, the IL-2 could not do anything like that. I-153 dived steeply and therefore hit the roof. Not a single German tank then had it thicker than 18 millimeters. The most massive of them in World War II - Pz. IV - it was only 10 millimeters at all. Therefore, fragmentation RS-82s could penetrate it. IL-2 could not dive abruptly, and hit tanks in the side and stern armor. Its thickness for most German tanks is not less than 30 millimeters, fragmentation RSs could not take so much in principle.
In other words, the I-153 not only more accurately bombed the enemy's infantry and artillery, but could also hit his tanks - and the Il-2 was practically powerless in this regard until the appearance of the PTAB in 1943. However, it is doubtful that after 1943 he was much better than the "seagulls" in this respect. The pilots of the Il-2 did not see the target during the bombing strike, therefore, the PTAB dropping could give a high probability of hitting the tank only when dropping a couple of hundred bombs at once, the entire supply of the attack aircraft in one run. The I-153 carried 8 RS, and therefore could - as noted by Rechkalov, cited above - make up to four attacks on a tank in one sortie.
Why were “outdated” Soviet fighters better than new ones?
With the reasons why the I-153 hit targets more accurately than a new type of attack aircraft, everything is clear - the first could dive abruptly, the second could not. But how to explain the fact that the I-16 was many times more tenacious of new types of fighters, including imported ones?
The version suggests itself that the whole point is in its air-cooled motor. "Aircobras", "Yaks", "Laggi" and "Migi" had water-cooled motors. Even one bullet, piercing the water cooling jacket, could jam the engine. I-16 and I-153 had air-cooled motors, where there is no such jacket. Even if a 20-mm projectile pierced one of its cylinders, the rest would completely deliver the pilot home.
Alas, this version doesn't work. In the "Conclusions" of the Soviet staff officers it is noted that the survivability of the La-5 (air-cooled engine) until March 1943 was 33 hours before the combat loss - one and a half times worse than that of the "Aircobra", and 3.5 times worse than that of I-16. And this despite the fact that the La-5 flew much faster than the I-16 (and even the "aircobra"), with speeds of about 600 kilometers per hour. We repeat: the much faster La-5s were 3.5 times less tenacious than the old, worn-out I-16s, since they finished production long before the La-5 began. That is, if we were to compare new cars with new ones, the gap would be even greater.
Enough of the riddles, though. To understand why the I-16 was so good, it is enough to flip through the materials published a long time ago. In the instruction of 1943 "Air combat with fighters, features of combat with them" everyone can read:
“The I-16 aircraft is, of course, inferior in speed to the Bf.109, but in maneuvering it is better than the Bf.109.The I-16 cannot impose a battle on a Messer who does not want to fight, but the I-16 is able to deal with an enemy going into battle perfectly. The I-16 can always dodge the attack of the Bf.109, if only the pilot of the I-16 noticed the enemy in a timely manner … The I-16 located above can attack Bf.109 from behind due to the reduction … The excellent maneuverability of the Seagull [I-153] makes it invulnerable to the clumsy Bf.109, if only the pilot of the “Seagull” has a good look around. I-153 can always dodge the attack and meet the enemy with fire in the forehead. At the same time, it often turns out that the I-153 can fire at Bf.109, but he does not have time to turn on the “Seagull” …"
It is worth recalling that the maneuverability of an aircraft consists of vertical and horizontal. In the vertical plane, the main factor is the rate of climb, the time it takes for the plane to reach the desired altitude. In the horizontal direction - "agility", the time during which the plane can make a turn, turn around so as to go into the tail of the enemy attacking it.
In terms of vertical maneuverability, the latest modifications of the I-16 and I-153 were extremely close to the Bf.109 (5, 2-5, 5 minutes up to 5000 meters). On the horizontal I-16 and I-153, the turn was performed in no more than 18 seconds, and for the Bf 109 the same thing faster than 19-20 seconds was unrealistic. Soviet fighters of new types had vertical maneuverability, often even worse than that of the latest types I-16 and I-153 - and even inferior to them in horizontal maneuverability. What did this mean in practice? A word to the German pilot:
“South of Stalingrad, where the Volga makes a sharp loop to the southeast, twenty or thirty Soviet Rata fighters [as the I-16s were called by the German pilots] and even aircraft of even more outdated models flew with a howl like a swarm of irritated bees. … We were never able to find out what they were defending down there on the ground, since the Russians were recognized masters of camouflage. Therefore, it made no sense for us to attack these restless insects. They flew too low under the cover of light anti-aircraft guns, and they were also too nimble for our high-speed machines. The risk far exceeded the potential benefit. But since we did not find other opponents in the sky [the author on the same day earlier successfully hunted for new types of Soviet fighters - approx. Ed.], we still had to attack that swarm below several times.
The Russians … dived and made loops around us. Then they turned around and pointed their planes straight ahead. The lights of machine-gun bursts immediately flashed in front of us, and we almost collided with my enemy. After another such duel, I sent my Messerschmitt after one of the Raths, from whose fabric-covered wings my shots had already knocked out rather large pieces. And then I suddenly felt the smell of some kind of burning coming from the side of the screw. On the right side of the cooling radiator, a trickle of liquid was drawn …
I tried to reach the front line. Miniature Russian cars flew past one after another. Their shots hit the steel tail of my plane like peas on the roof. I bowed my head and tormented the control handle, trying to get out of the line of fire."
It is not important for us that Heinrich von Eisindahl was captured as a result of that battle. It is important that both he and his colleagues steadily avoided attacking the "Ratu" - I-16 - if there were new types of Soviet fighters nearby. Because the latter could not get away from a German pilot comparable in skill. Bf 109 were corny faster. It was very difficult for the new types of machines to maneuver the Messers: in terms of horizontal maneuverability, even the Yaks were comparable to German fighters, and did not surpass them, like the I-16s.
So it turned out that those, in the presence of a skilled pilot, "made loops around" the German fighters, attacking them. Yes, if the Germans decided to break away, they would break away. But what is the point of fighter flights if, when meeting with enemy fighters, he will flee? As a result, they had to engage in battles with "rats" - battles in which, as Aizindal accurately noted, "the degree of risk far outweighed the possible benefit."
The trouble with the Soviet aviation was that it had many new types of fighters - easy prey, all other things being equal, unable to "make loops" around the "Messers". And it is these fighters that make up the bulk of the accounts of the German aces.
Why agility attack aircraft
The same story explains the phenomenal vitality of the "seagulls", which the IL-2 could not achieve in the last year of the war. The point here is not only that "The excellent maneuverability of the Seagull [I-153] makes it invulnerable to the clumsy Bf.109, if only the pilot of the Seagull has a good look around." This assessment of the instructions of 1943, although correct, helps only in combat with fighters attacking the assault gulls.
No less important was the fact that it was very difficult for the "seagull" to shoot down with anti-aircraft fire - despite the fact that it only had an armored back for protection. And the reason is still the same: the outstanding maneuverability of the aircraft designed by Polikarpov, both "donkeys" and "seagulls".
Anti-aircraft guns of that era shot down planes in a completely different way from how we shoot at a target in ground combat. After all, getting into a single plane is especially difficult - it is fast and maneuverable. If the plane is at least 300 meters away, the anti-aircraft projectile will fly to it for a third of a second. During this time, the plane will fly at least 30 meters: the point where you were aiming will not be at all where the target plane will be. And even giving a lead will not help if the pilot has changed course even slightly.
Recall the statistics: although the firing performance of the fighters was noticeably higher than a typical German automatic anti-aircraft cannon, they could not shoot down an aircraft of any size beyond 300 meters. For example, the report of the Airborne Rifle Service Directorate of the Red Army Air Force for four months of 1945 reports that such cases in our Air Force during this period were not so registered. Moreover: even at a distance of 200-300 meters, it was possible to shoot down only 5, 2 percent of all the enemy aircraft hit. As we can see, further than 200 meters, aiming fire at an aircraft of any size - and all German aircraft in 1945 are much larger than a seagull - is almost useless during World War II.
However, when bombing in a tight closed formation, used by the Il-2, it was impossible to maneuver freely - so as not to destroy the formation and not to drop bombs far to the side. When a slow convoy of stormtroopers goes to a target on a combat course, you don't even need to aim at it. It is enough to set up a defensive fire in the direction of its movement. The rear rows of attack aircraft will themselves crawl over the explosions of anti-aircraft guns.
This was best summed up by GM Ryabushko, pilot of the 828th Assault Aviation Regiment: “But as a“combat course”, you cannot maneuver, you have to aim there. Here, on the "combat course", the anti-aircraft gun hits you. And although the combat course does not last long - 8-12 seconds (or even less), this time was quite enough for the anti-aircraft gunners. And not even to say that they were shooting accurately, they were just the squares along which the "combat course" passes, they shot in advance."
But with the I-153, this method practically did not work. A word to the future Soviet ace, and at that moment the novice pilot Rechkalov, describing the summer of 1941:
“… Don't forget about my partners. They stretched out in bearing [oblique line - AB]. This makes it easier to conduct individual aiming. Better prudence and freedom of maneuver prevent a sudden enemy attack. This system was worked out by the bitter experience of many days of battles."
"Stretch out in bearing" (the line stretched at an angle) is by no means a dense column of IL-2. The elongated and sparse formation of the I-153 and I-16 is more difficult to hit because the pilots in it do not drop bombs from a dense formation, but individually, each choosing his own target and turning on it independently. This means that their speeds and directions on the battlefield are markedly different from each other. From this, it is almost useless to put a barrage fire, and aiming more than 200 meters, as already noted above, in the Second World War is simply unrealistic.
The Il-2 also tried bombing with individual aiming, but from a rather close closed "circle". Why not from an extended formation, where the course of the aircraft can be different and where it is more difficult for anti-aircraft guns to work? Yes, because with a discharged formation, an armored attack aircraft became an easy prey for German fighters. After all, one on one, he could not maneuver it, like the I-153.
Because of this, the freedom of action of the "seagulls" during anti-aircraft fire was much higher. If the IL-2 on the course went "in one piece", then the "seagulls", noticing that they were being fired at, sharply maneuvered on different courses:
“We were suddenly surrounded by dark orange balls of anti-aircraft explosions. Dubinin abruptly maneuvered to the left and down. Zibin held wing to wing with Dubinin. I lagged behind: it’s easier to hold on and you can keep an eye on”. It is clear that the heavy armored Il-2 could not do that - the laggard would have been shot down, and the same sharp maneuvers at the "humpback" are unrealistic.
Why did they not listen to the pilots' requests to return the "donkeys"
If "donkeys" and "seagulls" were so good, then why were they systematically replaced by "yaks" and Il-2 in the USSR? After all, the survivability of "yaks" reached the level of the I-16 only at the end of the war, when the Germans in the air became a rarity. And the survivability of the armored Il-2 never reached the level of the linen "seagulls". Why did the Soviet pilots not ask to return the production of seemingly outdated, but obviously more effective Polikarpov fighters?
In fact, they asked. At least one case is known for certain when a major Air Force commander had enough directness and courage for this. This was done by Armenak Khanferyants, who in the Soviet period was designated as "Sergei Khudyakov" (this name was in the documents of the red commander, which Khanferyants removed from the corpse during the Civil War in order to better hide from the authorities).
Under the guise of "Khudyakov", he successfully served in the Red Army and in 1942 led the Air Force of the Western Front. This "stranger among his own" not only knew how to command aviation, but also possessed a rather critical mind, allowing him to see what was not obvious to others. It was his proposal, favorably received by Stalin, that we owe the formation of the air armies in 1942.
And already on September 26, 1942, the same Khanferyants wrote to Air Force Commander Novikov: “The pilots complain about the insufficient flight data of our fighters and many express a desire to fly the I-16, which, like our modern fighter, cannot be caught up with., but on the other hand, in a defensive battle, the likelihood of shooting down the enemy is greater, and of being shot down yourself is less … serial aircraft Yak-7, Yak-1 and Lagg-3 do not have the flight and tactical data that are attributed to them in the official press. " It is not known about any reaction of Novikov to whom this document was sent.
Khanferyants did not wait long, and already on September 28, 1942, in a letter to Stalin, he proposed to resume the production of "donkey" and "seagull". At the same time, he referred to the opinion of his subordinates-fighters. Caught by surprise by his proposal, Stalin summoned the commander of the Air Force, Novikov, from the front. He told the leader the following: “I-16 and I-153 are good in defensive combat, but not in offensive. And we are going to attack, to gain air superiority. Therefore, it is inexpedient to restore the production of I-16 and I-153. Stalin agreed with my arguments."
Novikov's argument was, calling things by their proper names, incorrect. Absolutely all production aircraft of the Red Army in 1942-1943 were no more suitable for offensive combat than the I-16. All of them were inferior in speed to the Bf.109. As the pilots of "Yaks" themselves noted after the war: "To say that the Yak-1 and Yak-9" one hundred and ninth "were superior, I will not turn my tongue. This would be an outright lie. Indeed, the speed of the Yak-1 never caught up with the Messer! What is the superiority here? " And Khudyakov not in vain wrote to Novikov: "You can't catch up with our modern fighter," Messer "either."
In 1942, all Soviet and Lend-Lease fighters were not faster than 600 kilometers per hour, and the German Bf 109F was faster than 615 kilometers per hour. The Bf.109G was even faster. No new serial Soviet or Lend-Lease fighter could neither catch up with the Bf 109F (and even more so the G), nor get away from it at speed.
Yes, the new types of fighters could catch up with the German bombers, but the I-16s (in most cases, the I-153s as well) could do the same.And because of the greater survivability of the I-16, more new fighters were also suitable for offensive combat. And the I-153 is more than the Il-2.
Why did Novikov not react to Khanferyants' letter? Most likely, the fact is that Novikov himself never flew fighters and therefore "did not feel" the advantages of certain types of aircraft as a pilot. After all, Novikov came from the red infantry commanders and he himself mastered flights only on relatively simple types of aircraft.
The imaginary Sergei Khudyakov was exactly the same appointee as Novikov, that is, he came not from the flying environment, but from the red commanders of the Civil War (although in his case, the imaginary red commanders). However, he was much more thoroughly familiar with the aviation department entrusted to him than Novikov. A word to the witness of the events V. Malofeev: “Few people know that Sergei Aleksandrovich was a born pilot … Until the end of his service he did not give up flying practice … Without any instructions, Air Marshal Khudyakov independently studied and mastered the new American combat fighter Kingcobra in four days. Seasoned and experienced pilots expressed the opinion that only highly gifted pilots fly on their own on a new plane without training flights with an instructor."
In addition, he did what a good commander should do: he was interested in the opinion of sane subordinates. For example, the commander of the fighter air division Nemtsovich, on whom the alleged Khudyakov relied in his letter to Stalin. It goes without saying that Khudyakov, who was flying fighters, found it easier to understand why, despite the lower speed, the I-16, as a fighter, was more tenacious of the "new" types and "Aircobra". But Novikov did not possess such an understanding. Because of all this, Soviet pilots flew the Il-2, with their insanely high losses and low accuracy of assault strikes. And equally on the "yaks", until the end of the war were inferior in speed to the "Messers", and the I-16 - in maneuverability.
Let's summarize. The main existing points of view on the collapse of the Soviet Air Force in 1941 are outdated, since they do not take into account real data on the combat survivability of Soviet aircraft. The reality was that before the war, the Soviet Air Force made a series of wrong decisions in choosing new aircraft, and during the war they could not eliminate these errors to the end - due to the fact that the aircraft were chosen not by the pilots, but by their superiors, who had never flown in difficult to fly machines.
This would be the very place to set out the real reasons for the catastrophe of the Soviet Air Force in the summer of 1941. But then the text would have come out too long, which is why it can only be done in the next part of it.
Upd.: the second part of this text is published here.