Speed and Power: Bombers From USSR

Update 2.0.6 adds a new branch of aircraft to the extensive arsenal of World of Warplanes, the Soviet medium bombers. These Tier III-VI warplanes can boast strong bomb loads and impressive speed characteristics.

Arkhangelsky/Tupolev SB

The Arkhangelsky SB (ANT-40) bomber was the most mass produced aircraft designed in the Tupolev bureau. Its first flight took place as early as October 1934, however, it entered mass production only in the spring of 1936. Such a long delay was caused by numerous improvements to airframe and powerplant that were needed to make the bomber ready for mass production. In general, the bomber proved itself during the tests, gaining high speeds at low and mid altitudes where it was intended to operate. The SB was capable of carrying up to 600 kg of bombs in its bomb bay located in the fuselage’s center. It was noted that the aircraft was able to effectively resist the fighters of its time by simply outrunning them at speed and defend using its three gun posts. One post was placed in the navigator's cockpit and was fitted with twin ShKAS machine guns, while the other two defensive machine guns were mounted in the radio gunner's compartment. One machine gun was fitted in the turret and covered the upper rear hemisphere, the other was extended through the hatch protecting the lower rear hemisphere. 

The SB was upgraded and improved as part of its mass production. By 1938 its deployment to active duty regiments began. The mass-produced models were fitted with the advanced Klimov M-100 engine. This modification of the bomber was sent to Spain where it was tested in battles against the German- and Italian-produced modern fighters. Later the SB was also sent to China where it fought against the Japanese. Experience gained in those battles determined the areas for improvement in the bombers: increasing the engine power and bomb load, improving the turrets. 

Overall there were 6830 SBs of all modifications produced in 1936-41. The aircraft was used extensively over all the fronts in the opening years of Great Patriotic War (Eastern Front of World War II), but by 1941 it was already largely obsolete and regiments equipped with Arkhangelsky SB suffered heavy losses.

 

In World of Warplanes, the Arkhangelsky/Tupolev SB is a Tier III bomber in the Soviet Tech Tree. Its main strengths are high speed characteristics for its tier and type, a powerful arsenal of six 100 kg bombs dropped one at a time, and decent defensive turrets. Tactics for the SB involve bombing from horizontal flight at mid and high altitudes. When descending to the ground, the aircraft significantly loses speed. The low maneuverability and large dead zone in the rear hemisphere will not allow the SB to repel fighters at close range. Therefore, chasers should be escaped by boosting away. Nevertheless, the powerful front turret can make trouble for both pesky light planes and careless bombers.

Arkhangelsky Ar-2

The Arkhangelsky/Tupolev SB, the main tactical Soviet bomber in those years, was being actively upgraded and improved during 1940-41. Main effort was put into further increasing speed, improving defensive capabilities with new turrets, improving pilot’s and navigator’s visibility. As a result, the SB-RK was born. It was fitted with the new M-105 engines. Speed at 4700 meters reached 512 km/h which was much higher than the regular SB was capable of. Bomb load was also increased.

Another important upgrade added new capability to Ar-2: it became a dive bomber. The aircraft had extendable dive flaps and the automatic pull-out mechanism. The SB-RK, redesignated the Ar-2 in December 1940, was able to carry up to three 500 kg FAB-500 bombs, six FAB-250 bombs, or twelve 100 kg bombs. Despite being capable of dive bombing, the Ar-2 rarely ever used in such a role, mostly conducting bombing from horizontal position.

The Arkhangelsky Ar-2 did not enter mass production: another promising bomber—the Petlyakov Pe-2—entered mass production in 1941 and substituted the older design. There were only 200 Ar-2 built, they were flown actively in the summer of 1941 along with the SB, and the vast majority of these bombers were lost by the end of autumn 1941.

In World of Warplanes, the Arkhangelsky Ar-2, like the Tier III bomber, is a fast aircraft designed for mid and high altitudes and bombing from a horizontal position. Compared to the SB, the vertical bombing angles are slightly increased, however, the Ar-2 will not be a full-featured diver. Its eight 100 kg bombs are loaded in the bomb bay, while historically, it was possible to drop bombs in deep dive only from external mounts or through the bomb bay door if special racks were available. There is no such equipment on the in-game modification. In terms of the flight characteristics, the Ar-2 is very similar to the SB: it is a large aircraft with low maneuverability and its survivability is based on high speed, good altitude performance, and defensive machine guns. The defensive armament of a stock aircraft is slightly weaker, compared to the SB (one ShKAS in the frontal turret against two ShKAS on the SB). However, in the top configuration, the front turret is changed to a large-caliber machine gun that, in capable hands, can be used as offensive armament. The rear hemisphere of the Ar-2 is protected by a pair of ShKAS with slightly inconvenient firing angles, therefore staying under the fire of pursuing fighters in the hope of feeding them to the Tail End Charlie is not worth it.

Petlyakov Pe-2

The most mass-produced Soviet bomber in World War II was designed along with the Arkhangelsky Ar-2. The Ar-2 entered limited production before the promising Pe-2 because it was a deep modernization of the proven SB. However, the Ar-2's design had become significantly obsolete by that time, the aircraft was difficult to control, the maneuverability left much to be desired, and the defensive armament was insufficient. Pe-2, on the other hand, showed better flight characteristics during testing and had a lot of room for further improvement. 

The history of the Pe-2 is noted for the fact that initially Vladimir Petlyakov designed this aircraft as the VI-100 fighter. In 1938, he received instructions to modify it into a high-speed dive bomber—the PB-100. His team had only 45 days for this adaptation. The resulting aircraft kept some of the fighter features, particularly the fixed ShKAS machine guns in the fuselage nose that would have allowed the Pe-2 not only to deliver defensive fire, but also attack other enemy aircraft, namely bombers. 

Despite the weaknesses revealed during the tests and several accidents, the PB-100 was praised by testers and approved as ready for mass production, designated as Petlyakov Pe-2 in December 1940. 

A total of over 11,000 Pe-2s of different modifications were built. The aircraft was held in high regard among aviators and was extensively used on the Eastern Front by both the Red Air Force and Navy. The main strengths of the Pe-2 were its good speed characteristics at low and mid altitudes and excellent maneuverability. Along with good defensive capabilities from three gun posts (one at the navigator's position and two at the radio gunner's position behind the pilot's cockpit), these strengths allowed the Pe-2 to fulfill its missions even when enemy fighters held air superiority. It was not uncommon for the Pe-2 to take the role of a fighter itself, intercepting and successfully dispersing the formations of enemy bombers. The bomb load included up to 600 kg of all calibers used in the U.S.S.R. or up to 1,000 kg in an overload condition. Bombing was possible from both horizontal flight and when diving. 

The powerplant included two M-105 engines, which were later upgraded. The fuel tanks were covered with a rubberized fabric and were fitted with systems that fed inert gas (nitrogen in early series and cooled exhaust gases in late series). Thanks to this, the aircraft was not prone to fire and, according to the aviators, could return to the airfield riddled by the enemy but without catching fire. The Petlyakov Pe-2 was equipped with dozens of electric systems that actuated a significant number of mechanisms for the bomber. This facilitated the work of a pilot and other crew members, however, it made ground servicing of this aircraft a difficult task. 

The Pe-2 also had significant disadvantages. The excellent handling was available only at high speeds, while at a low speed, it was prone to stalling. This made takeoff and landing quite difficult for inexperienced pilots. 

Despite all this, the Pe-2 was successfully employed in battles from 1941 through 1945, including battles against Japan after the German surrender. The most successful tactics were both massive horizontal bombing and dive bombing. In a formation, these aircraft were capable of providing effective defensive fire and destroying even fortified positions by precision bombing. The Petlyakov aircraft became an irreplaceable tool in major battles of the later years of WWII. Raids on the enemy's rear destroyed supply lines, disrupted delivery airfields, and blew up bridges and crossings, cutting off the enemy from their escape routes. The bomber regiments successfully accomplished the most difficult tactical missions and thus supported the ground forces, ensuring the success of the key operations in World War II.

In World of Warplanes, the Tier V Petlyakov Pe-2 is quite an unusual aircraft. This medium bomber resembles a very heavy fighter in its flight characteristics. High maneuverability for its tier and high speed at any altitude allow it to not only conduct high-level bombing, but also deliver its arsenal of bombs from low altitudes directly on a target in hit-and-run attacks, and even engage in offensive combat against enemy fighters thanks to its forward-firing armament. The quite powerful rear turrets allow it to effectively fight against pursuers, while the excellent thrust-to-weight ratio gives it an opportunity to escape to a higher altitude.

Petlyakov Pe-2 M-82

In 1942, a serious complication arose when assembling the Pe-2 bombers: the M-105 engines were in short supply since they were also mounted on a number of mass-produced fighters. Therefore, there was an attempt to fit the Pe-2 with the new M-82 engines that were not in as high a demand. Due to the large weight of the new engine, the designers had to compensate the overbalance in the forward fuselage with an additional ballast in the bomber's tail and make changes to the airframe.

It was calculated that the M-82, which was superior to the M-105 in power, would increase the speed of the already fast Pe-2 and thus emphasize one of the main strengths of this bomber. 

On the one hand, the calculations proved correct: the M-82 indeed provided a significant increase in speed at mid altitudes, improved the turn rate, and reduced the takeoff run. On the other hand, major flaws in the engine design and quality surfaced. The aircraft could not enter service in such a state. As a result, only the Pe-2 modification with the updated M-82F engines was accepted into service, with the first 5 aircraft assembled in August 1943.

A total of 32 aircraft were built, and only 24 of them passed inspection and were deployed to frontlines. The limited number of aircraft in this series can be explained by the fact that by mid-1943 the M-82 engines also became a rare commodity after being adopted for new Lavochkin fighters. Additionally, flawed design placed significant restrictions on the operation of the Pe-2 M-82.

In World of Warplanes, the Petlyakov Pe-2 M-82 modification is an evolution of the basic Pe-2 and differs from it in its high speed and altitude characteristics and enhanced forward-firing armament. Instead of the large-caliber machine gun, the Pe-2 M-82 is equipped with a forward-firing 20 mm autocannon, and the turrets are fitted with more powerful 12.7 mm machine guns. The bombload is identical to the load of its predecessor in Tier V: four 250 kg bombs effectively do the job of destroying armored ground targets. Apart from that, the playstyle on this bomber is similar to the style on the preceding aircraft and allows for a variety of tactics, ranging from relaxed bombing from a safe altitude to intense near-ground aerial combat. 

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