AirWorld's The Petlyakov Pe-2

Author: Peter C. Smith




$42.95 from Casemate


Scott Van Aken

Notes: 436 pages, hardcover, ISBN 978-1-5267-59306

Probably one of the best dive bombers that the world has rarely heard of, the Pe-2 was an aircraft that had a somewhat convoluted development and an equally convoluted operational career. It was designed by one of many of Stalin's designers in prison. The purpose was to build a modern and fast bomber than was also an accurate dive bomber.

Not surprisingly, when a leader decides to imprison his most talented people, it took a while for the design to leave the drawing board and into testing. Several glitches were discovered, some of which were fixed and others not. For instance it was rather unstable in yaw. It's landing gear was such that the plane easily 'bounced' when landing (this was never really fixed). It also had major issues with engine cooling and the engines themselves were fairly unreliable and did not produce the needed power to fully meet requirements.

Still, it was put into production just prior to the start of the war so some actually made it into service where the accident rate was high. The plane took a long time to get off the ground and had to be 'flown' in for landings rather than just coast in like other planes. With the Germans closing in on its plant near Moscow, everything was uprooted and moved to the Urals, further delaying production.

Testing had shown that the aircraft was fast, fairly well armed and was a very accurate dive bomber. However, it took a pilot of some skill to properly fly the plane and skilled pilots were not what most bomber units got. As a result, most missions were level bombing and ground attack. However, its speed was perfect for a reconnaissance unit and the aircraft served well in that mission. It was even developed into a straight fighter version, the Pe-3. Like the Bf-110, it was not good against single engine fighters, but it was fairly heavily armed and again, was useful in the ground attack mission.

When you combine a plane that needed a skilled pilot, unreliable engines and generally shoddy construction, it is not surprising that many airplanes were lost. However, Stalin's look on the whole thing was that planes and crews were highly expendable and when lost were fairly easily replaced. Like the rest of Soviet industry during it war, it eventually ramped up to speed and produced sufficient to meet the needs, even if it was fairly poorly constructed and not used to the best of its design abilities.

The author has obviously done a lot of research into this aircraft. As usual with things Russian, not all the information you'd need was available for various reasons. Yet we are provided with an excellent book that provides the design, development and use of the subject aircraft. All of the myriad prototypes and special use aircraft are covered and there is a goodly section of its use throughout the war. This section includes a fair number of biographies of luminaries as well as the pilot stories that we have come to enjoy in books such as this. While some color profiles would have been appreciated, we are given a goodly number of period photos. There is a chapter on color and markings that brings to light information previously unknown on the aircraft. A section is also provided on the few surviving airframes and there is a part on the Pe-2s use in foreign service post war.  Appendices includ Pe-2/3 units, unit commanders, some pilot biographies, and a list of aces.

In all, it is the best book yet written on the type and is well worth picking up.

July 2020

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