Thursday, April 5, 2012

Eastern Front Aircraft Strength and Losses 1941-45

Hard figures on the fighting in the East during WWII are hard to find. I have posted figures about manpower strength and losses for both Soviet and Axis side here.

In this post I will take a look at Luftwaffe and Red Airforce strength and losses during 1941-45.

My source for Luftwaffe strength is the ‘Luftwaffe Data Book’ by Alfred Price. I calculated the data for Luftlotte 1,6 and 4.For Soviet operational strength I’ve used this post in Axis History Forum.

For Luftwaffe losses I used this post in Axis History Forum (data probably comes from site ‘The Luftwaffe 1933-45’) .For Soviet figures I used ‘Soviet Casualties and Combat Losses in the Twentieth Century’ by Krivosheev.

For both sides the losses refer only to Combat incidents. Losses due to accidents are NOT included (the reason being that I don’t have that data for the Luftwaffe).


Comparison of strength:

Luftwaffe:


Jun-41
Jul-42
May-43
May-44
Jan-45

Fighters
782
659
454
390
383
Long Range Fighters
78
70
52

Night-fighters
0
0
9
104
94

Medium Bombers
893
829
509
427
101

Ground Attack
474
336
574
650
601

Night Harasment
0
0
0
276
225

Coastal
27
22
38
30
57

Recon
Short Range
325
90
91
126
215

Long Range
303
350
313
198
253

Transport
212
440
93
182
151

Combat
2,227
1,894
1,598
1,847
1,404
Total
3,094
2,796
2,133
2,383
2,080

Soviet Airforce:


Year 1941
Year 1942
Year 1943
Year 1944
Year 1945
Aircraft
1-Dec-41
1-May-42
1-Nov-42
1-Jul-43
1-Jan-44
1-Jun-44
1-Jan-45

Fighters
2,589
3,468
4,569
6,777
6,211
7,342
8,078

Ground Attack
154
331
1,915
3,505
2,751
4,066
4,991

Bombers
1,058
1,170
1,941
2,667
2,145
3,407
4,878

Recon
378
544
380
542
650
622
876

Others
219
1,349
2,805
3,166
4,197
4,519
3,798

Total
4,398
6,862
11,610
16,657
15,954
19,956
22,621





Luftwaffe vs Soviet Airforce:

By  taking the data from the tables presented so far we get the following table:






I have lumped all Luftwaffe fighters together and also added night harassment aircraft in the ground attack category. For 1941 Soviet strength I’ve used article ‘Summer 1941’ by Frankson from the Journal of Slavic Military Studies.



Comparison of losses:



Year
Luftwaffe
SU Airforce
Ratio

1941
2,800
10,300
3.68
1942
2,299
7,800
3.39
1943
3,128
11,200
3.58
1944
2,913
9,700
3.33

Totals
11,140
39,000
3.50



Comments:

Luftwaffe strength in 1941-42 stays close to 3,000 but in 1943-44 it goes down to ~2,200. This decrease in size is due to the withdrawal of units to serve In the West against the Anglo-American bomber offensive. At the same time the Soviet airforce manages to increase its strength by a huge factor.

The composition of the LW fleet also changes during the war. Early on the bombers make up a large part of the Eastern fleet but in 1943-45 their numbers are constantly decreasing while the ground attack aircraft make up the largest part of the overall force. Fighter strength also decreases each year.

For the Soviet force the huge numerical increase is concentrated on ground attack aircraft and fighters.

Regarding losses there is always a striking difference between the LW and the SU. The Soviet force always suffers more losses despite having a large numerical advantage in the period 1943-45. For both forces 1943 is the year of worst losses.

What is missing on the losses part is the losses per sortie statistic. Unfortunately I don’t have data for sorties in the East, with one exception. Historian Gröhler in "Stärke, Verteilung und Verluste der deutschen Luftwaffe im zweiten Weltkrieg" gives for the Eastern front in 1944 0,00703 losses per sortie with the equivalent number in the West being 0.0537.

Usually a loss rate over 5% means an airforce cannot continue to operate efficiently. On the other hand a rate of ~1% in 1944 when the Soviet airforce had such a quantitative advantage is very low. It definitely doesn’t paint a very good picture of the Soviet pilots.

Finally a word should be said about aircraft types. In 1941 the Soviet force is operating obsolete types like the I-16 fighter. However by 1943 the new fighter models Yakovlev 1,7,9 and Lavochkin 5 are able to fight well against the German Bf-109 and Fw-190 at least at low altitude.

For anyone who wants to learn more about the airwar in the East I can recommend the books of Christer Bergström.

2 comments:

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