Aviation Division

An Aviation Division (Russian: авиационная дивизия) was a type of formation of the Military Air Forces of the Red Army during the Second World War, the Soviet Air Forces, Soviet Air Defence Forces (PVO) and Aviation of the Military Naval Fleet, and since 1991 remain major formations within the Military Air Forces of the Russian Federation.[1]

Before the start of the Second World War, the aviation divisions formed parts of the Long Range Aviation (13.5% of aircraft), and Frontal Aviation (Military Air Forces of the Military Districts in peacetime; 40.5% of aircraft) of the Red Army Fronts, and units assigned to the Combined Arms Armies as the Army Aviation (43.7% of aircraft). There was also a Forces Aviation (2.3% of aircraft) flying liaison aircraft as part of the Corps and Armies' independent flights and squadrons.[2]

From 1942 the aviation divisions were combined into the Air Armies of the Red Army ground forces, assigned one to each Front, Air Defence Forces (PVO) Armies (including the 1st Fighter Army of the PVO), Soviet Naval Aviation and Aviation of the Reserve of the Supreme Command.

In organisational terms the aviation divisions were often combined into the aviation corps or an Air Army. In terms of combat assignment the aviation divisions were divided into the bombardment aviation divisions (BAD), assault aviation divisions (ShAD), fighter aviation divisions (IAD), mixed aviation divisions (usually one to a Combined Arms Army; SmAD) and transport aviation divisions (TAD).[3] Postwar, fighter bomber aviation divisions (IBAD or ADIB since 1976)[4] and heavy bomber aviation divisions (TBAD) were formed.[5] In 1956, the assault aviation divisions were converted into other units.[6]

The composition of the aviation divisions during wartime was not uniform or constant. Although many divisions begun the war with 3 – 5 aviation regiments, due to the heavy losses suffered in the initial period of the Summer-Autumn Campaign of 1941 (22 June – 4 December), during Operation Barbarossa, from August this was reduced to two with consequent reduction in aircraft from 150–180 to 40–50. However, commencing with Autumn 1942 the size of the aviation divisions began to increase again, and some had four aviation regiments, or five in the PVO and mixed divisions. However the number of mixed divisions, and expediency of 1942, was gradually reduced and from 1944 the Frontal Aviation divisions adopted a 3–4 regiment structure, with the 3 regiments being the more common occurrence in the bombing divisions with some 100 aircraft while the fighter and assault divisions were issued 124 aircraft. The mission profile was flexible depending on the target, with the aviation division deploying as part of the aviation corps, Air Army or independently, utilising the entire aircraft complement, or by regiments, squadrons, flights and even individual aircraft.

Bonn et al. wrote in 2005 that the Soviet Air Forces included 10 basic air divisions at the start of the war, 37 basic air divisions were formed during it, of which only three survived to the end. Seven mixed air divisions existed at the start of the war, and 44 were generated during it. Thirteen were destroyed and disbanded, and the rest converted into other types of divisions. Not a single mixed air division was active at the end of the war. Only one was raised to Guards status, and that, the 1st Guards Mixed Air Division, was converted to the 16th Guards Fighter Aviation Division after November 1944. Seven bombardment air divisions were active at the beginning of the war, with 66 created during its course. Twenty-seven of the 66 were destroyed, disbanded, or otherwise converted. Eighteen became Guards divisions.

Twenty-two specialist long-range air divisions were created during the war, though all were converted to bomber divisions. Forty-eight ground-attack divisions were formed during the war, of which two were destroyed or disbanded and eighteen which became Guards. Eleven fighter divisions existed at the beginning of the war. A hundred and nine in total were formed, of which eleven were destroyed or disbanded, fifteen converted, and 18 became Guards.[7]

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