From 1942 – 1945 the United States and Soviet Union ferried nearly 8,000* warplanes** from Great Falls, Montana to Krasnoyarsk, Russia under the Lend-Lease program, including:
*Figures recorded at Ladd Field just east of Fairbanks, AK
** Sources: Wikipedia, and BRAVO 369 historians
The Bell P-39 Airacobra was one of the principal American fighter aircraft in service when the United States entered World War II. It was used with great success by the Soviet Air Force, which scored the highest number of kills per pilot attributed to any U.S. fighter type.
Designed by Bell Aircraft, it had an innovative layout, with the engine installed in the center fuselage, behind the pilot, and driving a tractor propeller via a long shaft. It was also the first fighter fitted with a tricycle undercarriage. Although its mid-engine placement was innovative, the P-39 design was handicapped by the absence of an efficient turbo-supercharger, limiting it to low-altitude work. Together with the derivative P-63 Kingcobra, the P-39 was one of the most successful fixed-wing aircraft manufactured by Bell.
Bell P-39 Airacobra
The Bell P-63 Kingcobra (Model 24) was a United States fighter aircraft developed by Bell in World War II from the Bell P-39 Airacobra in an attempt to correct that aircraft’s deficiencies. Although the aircraft was not accepted for combat use by the United States Army Air Forces, it was successfully adopted by the Soviet Air Force.
The P-63A’s armament was to be the same as that of the then-current P-39Q, a single 37 mm (1.46 in) M4 cannon firing through the propeller hub, two 50 caliber (12.7 mm) machine guns in the upper nose firing through the prop, and two 50 caliber in (12.7 mm) machine guns in underwing gondolas. The trajectory of the 50 caliber guns was far flatter than that of the cannon.
The first version to be supplied in quantity to the USSR was the P-63A-7 with a higher vertical tail, and reinforced wings and fuselage. The fuselage proved to require strengthening, consequently in October 1944, a reinforcement kit for operational P-63s was developed.
The Soviets developed successful group aerial fighting tactics for the Bell fighters and scored a surprising number of aerial victories over a variety of German aircraft. Low ceilings, short missions, good radios, a sealed and warm cockpit and ruggedness contributed to their effectiveness.
Bell P-63 Kingcobra
The Curtiss C-46 Commando is a transport aircraft originally derived from a commercial high-altitude airliner design. It was instead used as a military transport during World War II by the United States Army Air Forces as well as the U.S. Navy/Marine Corps under the designation R5C. Known to the men who flew them as “The Whale,” the “Curtiss Calamity,” the “plumber’s nightmare,” and among ATC crews, the “flying coffin,” the C-46 served a similar role as its counterpart, the Douglas C-47 Skytrain, but was not as extensively produced. At the time of its production, the C-46 was the largest twin-engine aircraft in the world, and the largest and heaviest twin-engine aircraft to see service in World War II.
Not built in the same quantities as its more famous wartime compatriot, the C-47 Skytrain, the C-46 nevertheless played a significant role in wartime operations.
Curtiss C-46 Commando
The P-40 saw the most front line use in Soviet hands in 1942 and early 1943. Deliveries over the Alaska-Siberia air route began in October 1942. It was used in the northern sectors and played a significant role in the defense of Leningrad.
The most numerically important types were P-40B/C, P-40E and P-40K/M. By the time the better P-40F and N types became available, production of superior Soviet fighters had increased sufficiently so that the P-40 was replaced in most Soviet Air Force units by the Lavochkin La-5 and various later Yakovlev types. In spring 1943, Lt D.I. Koval of the 45th IAP gained ace status on the North-Caucasian front, shooting down six German aircraft flying a P-40. Some Soviet P-40 squadrons had good combat records.
While Soviet pilots became aces on the P-40, not as many as on the P-39 Airacobra, which was the most numerous Lend-Lease fighter used by the Soviet Union. However Soviet commanders considered the Kittyhawk to significantly outclass the Hurricane, although it was "not in the same league as the Yak-1".
The Douglas A-20/DB-7 Havoc was a family of American attack, light bomber and night fighter aircraft of World War II that served with several Allied air forces, principally those of the Soviet Union, United Kingdom, and United States. The bomber aircraft was known as Boston among British and Commonwealth air forces, while the Royal Air Force night fighter variants were given the service name Havoc. The United States Army Air Forces assigned the DB-7 the designation “A-20” and gave it the popular name “Havoc”.
Through Lend-Lease, Soviet forces received more than two-thirds of version A-20B planes manufactured and a significant portion of versions G and H. They were delivered via the ALSIB (Alaska-Siberia) air route. These aircraft were armed with fixed-forward cannons and found success in the ground attack role.
Douglas A-20 Boston / Havoc
The Douglas C-47 Skytrain or Dakota (RAF designation) is a military transport aircraft that was developed from the Douglas DC-3 airliner. It was used extensively by the Allies during World War II and remained in front line service with various military operators through the 1950s.
The C-47 differed from the civilian DC-3 in numerous modifications that included being fitted with a cargo door and a strengthened floor. During World War II, the armed forces of many countries used the C-47 and modified DC-3s for the transport of troops, cargo, and wounded. The U.S. Naval designation was R4D. More than 10,000 aircraft were produced in Long Beach and Santa Monica, California and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The Oklahoma City plant produced 5,354 C-47s from March 1943 until August 1945.
Douglas C-47 Skytrain
The aircraft chosen to be flown by the BRAVO 369 Flight Foundation for ALSIB 2015 and the "Warplanes to Siberia" project is the North American AT-6 Texan. The AT-6 is a single-engine, advanced trainer aircraft used to train pilots of the United States Army Air Forces, United States Navy, Royal Air Force and other air forces of the British Commonwealth during World War II and into the 1950s. It is known by a variety of designations depending upon the model and operating air force. The USAAC designated it as the AT-6; the United States Navy, the SNJ; and, British Commonwealth air forces, the Harvard, the name it is best known by outside of the US. It remains a popular warbird aircraft. Fifty-four AT-6 Texans were delivered to the Soviet Union via the Alaska-Siberia air route during World War II under the Lend-Lease Act.
North American AT-6F Texan
The North American B-25 Mitchell was an American twin-engine medium used by many Allied air forces, in every theater of World War II, as well as many other air forces after the war ended, and saw service across four decades.
The B-25 was named in honor of General Billy Mitchell, a pioneer of U.S. military aviation. By the end of its production, nearly 10,000 B-25s in numerous models had been built. The Mitchell was an amazingly sturdy aircraft that could withstand tremendous punishment. The U.S. supplied B,D,G and J type B-25 aircraft to the Soviet Union under Lend-Lease during the Second World War via the Alaska-Siberia ALSIB ferry route.
The B-25 Mitchell first gained fame as the bomber used in the 18 April 1942 Doolittle Raid, in which 16 B-25Bs led by Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle attacked mainland Japan, four months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The mission gave a much-needed lift in spirits to the Americans, and alarmed the Japanese who had believed their home islands were invincible by enemy forces.
North American B-25 Mitchell
The Republic P-47 Thunderbolt is believed to be the largest, heaviest, and most expensive fighter aircraft in history to be powered by a single piston engine. It was heavily armed with eight .50-caliber machine guns, four per wing. When fully loaded, the P-47 weighed up to eight tons, and in the fighter-bomber ground attack roles could carry five inch rockets or a significant bomb load of 2,500 pounds; over half the weight the B-17 bomber could carry on long-range missions (although the B-17 had a far greater range). The P-47, based on the powerful Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp engine, was to be very effective as a short-to-medium range escort fighter in high-altitude air-to-air combat and, when unleashed as a fighter-bomber, proved especially adept at ground attack in both the World War II European and Pacific Theaters.
The Soviet high command showed an interest in the P-47B. Three P-47D-10-Res were ferried to the Soviet Air Forces (VVS) via Alaska in March 1944. Two of them were tested in April–May 1944. Test pilot Aleksey N. Grinchik noted the spacious cockpit with good ventilation and a good all-around view. He found it easy to fly, and stable upon take-off and landing, but it showed excessive rolling stability and poor directional stability. Soviet engineers disassembled the third aircraft to examine its construction. They appreciated the high production standards and rational design well-suited to mass production, and the high reliability of the hard-hitting Browning machine guns. With its high service ceiling, the P-47 was superior to fighters operating on the Eastern front, yielding a higher speed above 30,000 feet (9,000 m). At low altitudes the Yakovlev Yak-9, Lavochkin La-5FN, Messerschmitt Bf 109G and Focke-Wulf Fw 190A outperformed the early model P-47 at low and medium altitude, where the P-47 had poor acceleration and performed aerobatics rather reluctantly.
Republic P-47 Thunderbolt