Stalin’s Planned Air Offensive Was To Be Followed By An Assault Of Nearly 2 Million Airborne Troops.
Soviet aviation was designed to conduct one grandiose, sudden, aggressive operation to crush the enemy’s air force on the ground in one raid and obtain air superiority. Hitler’s preemptive strike prevented Soviet aviation from accomplishing its planned aggressive operations of unheard-of dimensions.
Soviet Aviation and Airborne Assault Troops
Stalin could have averted World War II by developing large quantities of the heavy high-speed, high-altitude TB-7 bomber. This bomber had a strong defense system consisting of 20-mm cannons and 12.7-mm heavy machine guns. The TB-7 was the most powerful bomber in the world; bombs of the largest caliber could fit in its large bomb compartment. However, the TB-7’s most remarkable quality is that it could fly at altitudes between 10,000 and 12,000 meters, where it was untouchable by anti-aircraft artillery and could not be reached by the majority of existing fighters. A Soviet delegation headed by Molotov in the spring of 1942 was able to fly over Germany in a TB-7 without being detected by German anti-aircraft defenses.
Stalin needed only to produce 1,000 TB-7 bombers and announce to selected countries that the Soviet Union would use these untouchable TB-7 bombers to destroy any country that attacked it. Suvorov says that Stalin signed the order to produce the TB-7 four times, and four times he canceled the order. Stalin was advised to direct all efforts of the Red Army not toward undermining the military and economic capabilities of the enemy, but toward taking the enemy over. The Red Army’s objective was to destroy the opponent’s armies. Soviet aviation was designed to open the road to Soviet armies and support their rapid advancement.
If Stalin was preparing for a defensive war, he should have ordered his plane designers to create the best fighters in the world, capable of defending the skies over the Soviet Union. But fighters did not interest Stalin. Stalin ordered his fighter designer to drop all his work on the creation of a fighter and start developing a light bomber, named the Ivanov originally, and later the Su-2 in honor of its creator, P. O. Sukhoi.
The ideal combat plane Stalin developed was a light bomber designed to operate free of enemy resistance. Record-breaking characteristics were not required; Stalin demanded only simplicity, durability, and firepower. Stalin planned to create a plane that could be produced in numbers exceeding all warplanes of all types of all countries in the world. Literally, Stalin planned to build as many light bombers as there were small but mobile horsemen in the hordes of Genghis Kahn.
Germany carried out a preemptive strike on Soviet air bases when it invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941. Hitler’s preemptive strike did not permit the Su-2 to do the work it was primarily designed to do. The Su-2 was ineffective and not needed in a defensive war. Production of 100,000 to 150,000 Su-2 planes had been planned for conditions in which the Red Army would deliver the first attack, and nobody would hinder production of the plane. Hitler’s invasion ruined Stalin’s plan. Production of the Su-2 was stopped, but the Soviet Union produced tens of thousands of planes later in the war that were much more complex in terms of production than the Su-2.
When Germany invaded the Soviet Union it could only send 2,510 airplanes, including many outdated planes and assorted aircraft used for transport, communications, and medical purposes. The Soviet Union had 2,769 of the newest models Il-2, Pe-2, MiG-3, Yak-1, and LaGG-3. The Soviet Union also had seven additional new types of planes: the Ar-2, Er-2, Su-2, Pe-8, Yak-2, Yak-4, and Il-4. Aside from the 12 newest models, the Soviet Union also had the “obsolete” TB-3 and SB bombers, and the I-16 and I-153 fighters.
The Soviet air force exceeded that of Germany both in plane quantity and plane quality at the start of the war. Suvorov asks:
Why then in the first stage of the war did the Soviet air force lose air superiority from day one?
The answer is that the majority of Soviet pilots, including fighter pilots, were not taught dogfighting. Soviet aviation was designed to conduct one grandiose, sudden, aggressive operation to crush the enemy’s air force on the ground in one raid and obtain air superiority. Hitler’s preemptive strike prevented Soviet aviation from accomplishing its planned aggressive operations of unheard-of dimensions.
Airborne assault troops were also part of Stalin’s plans. According to the official Communist Party newspaper, Pravda, on August 18, 1940, the Soviet Union had more than one million trained parachutists at the beginning of the war. Airborne assault troops can only be used in the course of offensive operations and only in conjunction with regular troops advancing against the enemy. In light of declassified documents, it is clear that Pravda lowered the number of Russian paratroopers to one million to calm fears of Soviet aggression. The actual number of trained parachutists in the Soviet Union at the beginning of the war was arguably closer to two million. Never before had the world seen such large-scale preparations for offensive war.
The Red Army needed an air armada of transport planes and gliders to deliver hundreds of thousands of paratroopers. Soviet factories started the mass production of cargo gliders beginning in the spring of 1941. On April 23, 1941, Stalin and Molotov signed an order to accelerate the production of an 11-seat glider with a deadline of May 15, 1941, and of a 20-seat glider with a deadline of July 1, 1941. The gliders that were produced in the spring of 1941 had to be used by the latest in the early fall of 1941. Gliders had light and fragile bodies and wings and could not be parked outdoors. Keeping a huge cargo glider outdoors during fall winds and rains would harm it beyond repair. Since all available hangars were already full with previously produced gliders, the mass production of gliders in the spring of 1941 meant that they had to be used either in the summer of 1941 or early fall at the latest.
Cargo warplanes are used to deliver assault forces with parachutists to the enemy’s rear. Soviet war-transport aviation used the American Douglas DC-3, which was considered to be the best cargo plane in the world at the start of World War II, as its primary cargo plane. In 1938, the U.S. government sold to Stalin the production license and the necessary amount of the most complex equipment for the DC-3’s production. The Soviet Union also bought 20 DC-3s from the United States before the war. In 1939, the Soviet Union produced six identical DC-3 aircraft; in 1940, it produced 51 DC-3 aircraft; and in 1941, it produced 237 DC-3 aircraft. During the entire war 2,419 DC-3s or equivalent planes were produced in Soviet factories.
The Soviet gliders and transport planes would be easy prey for enemy fighters if the Soviet Union did not secure complete air superiority. The Red Army had to begin the war with a massive air attack and invasion against the enemy’s air bases. Tens of thousands of paratroopers could then be dropped to seize and control key bases and strategic sites. Any other scenario was not viable. Instead, it was Hitler who carried out a preemptive strike, and Stalin’s strategy to strike the first blow was aborted. The Soviet Union’s carefully designed plan to mount a massive air offensive followed by an assault of airborne troops had to be abandoned in the desperate rush to fight a defensive war.
Suvorov discusses what happened to the Soviet airborne forces that could no longer be used in an offensive war. Ten air assault corps, approximately 100,000 to 150,000 men, had been originally sent to the trenches to help stop the German troops. The rest of the over one million paratroopers were kept in reserve and used as needed as regular infantry soldiers. These reserves were used to help stop German advances in the direction of the Caucasus, at Stalingrad, in the violent battle at Kursk, and in other crisis situations during the war.
 Suvorov, Viktor, The Chief Culprit: Stalin’s Grand Design to Start World War II, Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2008, pp. 32-33.
 Ibid., pp. 34, 38, 40.
 Ibid., pp. 64-65.
 Ibid., pp. 69-72.
 Ibid., p. 73.
 Ibid., p. 76.
 Ibid., p. 77.
 Ibid., pp. 77-78.
 Ibid., pp. 79-80.