The Petlyakov PE-2 Stalin’s Successful Red Air Force Light Bomber by Peter C. Smith
Peter Smith is well-known for his meticulously researched, comprehensive monologues covering a single aircraft series and its derivatives. This book does not disappoint, covering as it does the development history of the Pe-2 (Peshka), Pe-3 Pe-21 with sub variants and prototypes being fitted neatly into the story. This is not just a dry cataloguing of the aircraft though; the stories of the men and women who flew and fought the Pe-2 feature prominently throughout the book, and a vivid picture emerges of the bureaucratic friction and hazards of taking a largely unskilled workforce to build an advanced light bomber. The Author does not hesitate to highlight the evils of Stalin’s Regime or the astounding achievements and blunders that brought the Soviet Union to the verge of collapse, and which helped it survive.
The Author makes a convincing case for the Pe-2 having being written out of history by the West at the expense of the Shturmovik (sic) as the Peshka’s role as a dive bomber was not well understood, and did not accord with the UK’s and USA’s light bomber philosophy of the time. Against a background of high attrition as the Soviet Union battled conflicting demands on resources, the aftermath of Stalin’s purges and the relocation of factories lock stock and barrel further East, The Peshka went on to become a significant contributor to the Soviet Union’s victory in the east alongside the Shturmovik.
Chapters include camouflage, the role of women pilots, operational deployment of the Pe-2 and it’s use in foreign service. The development of operational and tactical use of the airframe as a reconnaissance, fighter, dive bomber and maritime bomber are covered in depth. Modellers will welcome detailed coverage of the appearance of various marks, including descriptions of the cockpit, down to the colour of markings on controls!
This book claims to be a definitive version of the Pe-2, and I have not yet seen a challenger to the title. The Author’s sometimes acerbic style and acceptance of Soviet claims unchallenged sometimes grate, but the matter of competing claims for kills has always been notoriously difficult to reconcile. Overall, it does not detract from an excellent book. Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in the Pe-2 or development of operational air power by the Soviet Union in World War Two.
Review Copy provided by www.pen-and-sword.co.uk £30.00 (currently on sale at £24.00)