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The Bessarabian and Odessa campaign -1941
The Stalingrad campaign - 1942
The Ukrainian campaign - 1943-44
The home defense campaign - 1944
The anti-Axis campaign - 1944-45
The Bessarabian and Odessa campaign -1941

On 22 June 1941, the offensive power of ARR (Aeronautica Regala Romana=Romanian Royal Aeronautics) was concentrated in the Combat Air Grouping (Gruparea Aeriana de Lupta). It was made up of four flotillas:

  • 1st Bomber Flotilla
    • 1st Bomber Group: 71st and 72nd Bomber Squadrons (S-79B)
    • 4th Bomber Group: 76th and 77th Bomber Squadrons (P.37A & B)
    • 5th Bomber Group: 78th, 79th and 80th Bomber Squadrons (He-111H3)
  • 2nd Bomber Flotilla
    • 2nd Bomber Group: 74th and 75th Bomber Squadrons (Potez 633B2)
    • 82nd Bomber Squadron (MB-210)
    • 18th Bomber Squadron (IAR-37)
  • 2nd Observation Flotilla
    • 11th Observation Squadron (IAR 38)
    • 12th Observation Squadron (IAR 38)
    • 13th Observation Squadron (IAR 38)
    • 14th Observation Squadron (IAR 39)
  • 1st Fighter Flotilla
    • 5th Fighter Group: 51st and 52nd Fighter Squadrons (He-112B)
    • 7th Fighter Group: 56th, 57th and 58th Fighter Squadrons (Bf-109E)
    • 8th Fighter Group: 41st, 59th and 60th Fighter Squadrons (IAR-80 & A)
  • 1st Long Range Squadron (Blenheim Mk. I)

The Combat Air Grouping had a total of 253 aircraft, out of which only 205 were available for action on 22 June. Their mission was to gain air supremacy over Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina and then support the offensive of the Romanian 4th Army. After Besserabia was secured, the CAG assisted in the siege of Odessa.

After several weeks of action, the badly hit 5th Fighter Group was reduced to a single squadron (the 51st). The 52nd gave it its remaining He-112Bs and merged with the 42nd Squadron, forming the 42/52nd Fighter Squadron, which received new IAR-80As. The 8th Fighter Group was transferred back to the 2nd Fighter Flotilla, at the beginning of August. To bolster the ranks of the Romanian fighter force around Odessa the PZL equipped 4th and 6th Fighter Group were brought on the front. A few IAR-81 dive bombers were given to the 59th Fighter Squadron (8th Fighter Group), but flew only 2 missions in October against Soviet ships in Odessa harbor.

In July, the 75th Bomber Squadron (2nd Bomber Group) transferred its surviving Potez 633B2s to the 74th Squadron and received new JRS-79B bombers. All available P.23Bs were assigned to the 73rd Bomber Squadron, which formed the 6th Bomber Group together with the 18th Bomber Squadron, on 3 August. Also the 82nd Bomber Squadron (MB-210) was put under the direct command of the 1st Bomber Flotilla.

The 3rd and 4th Army had their own Observation and light bomber squadrons. The 4th Long Range Recon (Blenheim Mk. I), 19th, 20th and 21st Observation Squadron (IAR-39) and 115th Liaison Squadron (Fleet-10G) were assigned to the 3rd Army and the 3rd Long Range Recon (Blenheim Mk. I), 17th and 22nd Observation Squadron (IAR-39) and 114th Liaison Squadron (Fleet-10G) to the 4th Army. Also the 1st Armoured Division had the 15th Observation Squadron (IAR-39).

Behind the front line, the territory of Romania was divided between the 2nd Air Region:

  • 3rd Fighter Group: 43rd, 44th and 45th Fighter Squadrons (P.11f)
  • 4th Fighter Group: 46th, 49th and 50th Fighter Squadrons (P.11f)
  • 112th Liaison Squadron (Fleet-10G)
and the 3rd Air Region, which was covered by the 2nd Fighter Flotilla:
  • 6th Fighter Group: 61st and 62nd Fighter Squadrons (P.24E)
  • 113th Liaison Squadron (Fleet-10G)

In Dobruja were stationed the

  • 101st Seaplane Squadron (Cant Z.501)
  • 102nd Seaplane Squadron (S.62B and S.55A)
  • 16th Observation Squadron (IAR-39)
  • 53rd Fighter Squadron (Hurricane Mk. I)

Their mission was to defend the Prahova Valley oil installations, the capital, the Constanta port, the railroad bridge over the Danube at Cernavoda and other strategic locations, against Soviet air raids.

ARR fielded 672 airplanes at the beginning of Operation Barbarossa. These totaled 17,386 sorties during this campaign, out of which 7,857 were done by CAG airplanes. In 217 air engagements, the Romanian pilots claimed 332 VVS airplanes shot down (out of which 257 belonged to the CAG) and another 150 destroyed on the ground. The AA artillery also claimed 115, rising the total number to 597. However this seems to be an overclaim, since the Soviet loss records don't show that many losses in that part of the front. The CAG lost 40 airplanes in battle and 83 KIA and 26 MIA, but the ARR total number of losses in this campaign, including accidents and enemy AAA, is 136.

Because of the many types of airplanes serving in the ARR, most of which were already obsolete, there where a lot of maintenance problems. This and the lack of airfields close to the front lead to modest performances of the ARR in the campaigns of 1941. Air superiority was gained by the 7th and 8th Fighter Group and by the 53rd Fighter Squadron. These were equipped with superior fighters to the Soviet I-16, which made up the bulk of the VVS forces in the area. Romanian veterans considered that the main threat was the Soviet AAA and not the Soviet fighter force.

The first campaign ended with the capture of Odessa by the Romanian 4th Army on 16 October 1941. The squadrons assigned to the 3rd Army, followed it in its advance in the Ukraine and then into Crimea.

Author: Victor Nitu
Sources:
Antoniu D., Cicos G. Vanatorul IAR-80, istoria unui erou necunoscut, Editura MODELISM, 2000

Bernád D. Rumanian Air Force, the prime decade 1938-1947, Squadron/Signal Publications, 1999

AIRMAG Hors Serie, no. 1 Les Messerschmitt Bf 109 roumains

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