"Battle of Britain" and other major air wars of the XX century
The importance of military aviation and war in the air has been proven by the history of all conflicts of the 20th century. Victory in the sky became the most important factor determining the outcome of the war.
The bombing of the Ottoman Empire (1911-1912)
While the “great powers” were building up their weapons, conducting military reforms and preparing for a world war, other European countries participated in the “small wars”, solving their local problems. United Italy and independent Bulgaria, two young states, whose history at that time had only half a century, sought to take a worthy place in the system of international relations. It was they who became the pioneers of military aviation, having for the first time experienced all its strength, primarily psychological, on the Ottoman Empire.
The first airplane flotilla of Italy, which fought in Libya in North Africa, was commanded by Carlo Maria Piazza. It consisted of only 9 aircraft and 11 pilots.It was Piazza who was awarded the right to use his Blerio XI aircraft for military purposes for the first time in history, making a flight during the battle of October 2, 1911. Three days later he wrote: "In this battle, for the first time in military history, aviators took part in operations: they circled over troops at an altitude of 1,800 feet, lowered to convey information about the change of positions, timely advice helped artillery to achieve a more deadly».
And in March 1912, Piazza became the first to use reconnaissance aerial photography, taking pictures of the position of the Turkish army from his aircraft. The first bomber was Giulio Gavotti, who, on November 1, 1911, dropped four grenades on Turkish-Arab positions near Ain Zara. In total, over 700 sorties were made during the period of the Italian-Turkish war.
In Bulgaria, aviation began to take shape under the influence of the success of the Italians in the Italian-Turkish war. In the First Balkan War, Bulgarian aviation, consisting partly of hired foreign pilots, initially performed reconnaissance functions. But after the first bombing on November 14, 1912, the Turks signed a truce.At this time, the first aerial bombs of the construction of the engineer Gelgar, weighing 0.250 to 1.5 kg, were brought from Russia. Each reconnaissance flight was now accompanied by the bombing of various objects. In total, during the war, 76 combat sorties were made on 20 aircraft.
Bloody April (1917)
At the initial stage of the First World War, the pilots used personal weapons and grenades in air battles. By the beginning of 1915, the Entente states gained superiority in the air, having managed to mount machine guns on board their aircraft. Began the real race of air weapons. It reached its apogee by the beginning of 1917, when Germany introduced the new biplane fighters Albatros D.II and Albatros D.III into its air fleet. The new generation of Entente fighters SE.5, Sopwith Camel, SPAD S.XIII has not yet managed to enter service, so the Germans dominated the sky.
The culmination of the air confrontation was the period that went down in history as “Bloody April”. During this month, German aviation managed to destroy 275 aircraft of the British Empire (altogether, 365 aircraft were at the disposal of the Royal Air Corps at that time). Particularly distinguished German squadron under the command of Manfred von Richthofen.His "albatross", in which only in April alone, Richtofofen shot down 20 British aircraft, he painted red, receiving the nickname "Red Baron". By the end of the war, there were already 80 enemy aircraft shot down on his account — the best result of the entire military campaign.
Battle of Britain (1940)
The air attack on Britain, which began on August 10, 1940, was presented to the German command as a prelude in front of a large-scale landing on the island as part of Operation Sea Lion.
The 2nd and 3rd air fleets under the command of field marshals Kesselring and Sperl, based in the north of France, were involved. They numbered 875 conventional and 316 dive bombers, 929 fighters Me-109 and Me-110. The number of British fighter aircraft was only about 650 aircraft, but the Minister of Aviation Industry of Great Britain, Lord Beaverbrook, managed to increase the number only 2.5 times in the summer.
All in all, in 1940, England produced 4,283 fighters. For comparison, Germany for the same period - only 300 fighters. The main objective of the German raids were naval bases, airfields, aircraft factories and other strategic facilities.In September 1940, the Minister of Aviation Goring was sure that he had already practically achieved his goal - to crush the power of the British fighter aircraft and destroy the main bases in the south-east of Britain.
On September 7, almost 1,000 German aircraft began bombing London, abandoning virtually all of their other strategic objectives. This made it possible to restore the British air force and repel the blow of the enemy. Hitler had to abandon the operation "Sea Lion" and pay attention to the East. According to various estimates, the Germans lost during the battle from 1733 to 1887 aircraft, the British - from 915 to 1547 aircraft.
The Vietnam Air War (1965–1973)
The air war between North Vietnam and the USA began on August 5, 1964. US President Lyndon Johnson ordered air strikes at bases of North Vietnamese torpedo boats and at an oil storage tank. The cause of the conflict was the attack by Vietnamese boats of the American destroyer Maddox, which was allegedly in neutral waters.
A large-scale American operation, dubbed Thunder, began only in February 1965.About 330 US aircraft were deployed at the military bases of Thailand and South Vietnam, besides more than 200 fighter jets and deck-attack aircraft on two carrier groups.
The F-4 Phantom Fighter was the key American air gun. In the air, they were opposed by only 40-60 Vietnamese aircraft, most of them J-5 models (Chinese-made MiG-17). American aviation felt pretty calm in the Vietnamese sky until the MiG-21 entered the business and the D-15 and Neva C-75 air defense systems began to be used.
For the period from February 7, 1965 to February 7, 1966, about 460 US Air Force aircraft were shot down. In 1968, the US government decided to stop the bombing of North Vietnam, but resumed again three years later. Only in 1973, American troops finally left Vietnam. In total, during the air war (1964-1973), the USA lost 3,374 aircraft, while Vietnam lost about 200 aircraft that participated in air battles. The war in North Vietnam, ending with the actual defeat of the United States, went down in history as the largest aerial clash in the postwar period.
Operation "Desert Storm" (1990-1991)
“Desert Storm” can rightly be called the reference air war of modern times. An international coalition of 44 states led by the United States was supposed to protect the countries of the Persian Gulf from Iraqi aggression and push the troops of Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. It took the Coalition only 43 days, during which 2,600 aircraft, having made more than 116,000 combat missions, completed the task.
Together with them, about 2 thousand helicopter gunships operated in the skies over Iraq. The exact number of air forces involved by Iraq in this war is still unknown. According to various estimates, by the beginning of the war, Saddam Hussein had about 700-800 aircraft and nearly 500 helicopters at his disposal. According to experts, the ratio of combat aircraft was in favor of the multinational coalition - 13: 1. For combat helicopters even more impressive - 16: 1. The outcome of the war was predetermined.
At the expense of the Persian Gulf War, the US military leadership was able to check its latest weapons in action - the F-117A fighter bomber, Tomahawk cruise missiles, etc. The Iraqi air defense proved to be incapable, responding only with rocket attacks on Saudi Arabia and Israel.The coalition achieved the task, freeing Kuwait and eliminating the threat from Iraq, destroying up to 85% of the country's industrial enterprises and decommissioning up to 93% of oil wells. But relations between Iraq and the rest of the world have entered a period of prolonged crisis.