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Operations
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 Stalingrad campaign - 1942

At the beginning of 1942, after the experience of last year's campaign, the ARR was reorganized. The Bloch MB-210 bombers were converted to transport airplanes, the PZL P.11s and 24s were retired from front duty. From Germany came some Ju-52s with which was equipped the 105th Transport Squadron and Fi-156s, which were used to replace a part of the Fleet-10G. But the main source of new airplanes was the Romanian air industry. The 3rd and 9th Fighter Group and the 52nd and 53rd Fighter Squadron were equipped with the IAR-80. Some IAR-80s were used to train the 4th Fighter Group. The 6th Fighter Group received the new IAR-81 fighter-bombers. The 2nd Observation Flotilla replaced all the IAR-38s with the newer IAR-39s.

The 102nd Seaplane Squadron was equipped with He-114C1. The old Italian seaplanes were all assigned to the 101st Squadron. In 1943, the 101st Seaplane Squadron also received the He-114C1.

In the first part of 1942, the ARR executed only recon, liaison and transport missions totaling 3439 sorties. Fighters were occasionally scrambled against VVS reconnaissance flights. This is reason why only 7 airplanes were claimed shot down and another 3 destroyed on the ground. The Romanian AA artillery claimed 111 VVS aircraft in that period.

In 1942 the main unit of the Combat Air Grouping was the Combat Aviation Command. It was made up of the:

  • The 2nd Fighter Flotilla
    • 7th Fighter Group: 56th, 57th and 58th Fighter Squadrons (Bf-109E)
    • 8th Fighter Group: 41st, 42nd and 60th Fighter Squadrons (IAR-80A)
    • 6th Fighter-Bomber Group:61st and 62nd Fighter Squadrons (IAR-81)
  • 2nd Bomber Flotilla
    • 1st Bomber Group: 71st and 72nd Bomber Squadron (JRS-79B)
    • 3rd Bomber Group: 73rd (P.23B), 74th (Potez 633B2) and 81st Bomber Squadrons (IAR-37)
    • 5th Bomber Group: 79th and 80th Bomber Squadrons (He-111H3)
  • 1st Long Range Recon Group: 1st (Blenheim Mk. I), 2nd (Do 17 M) and 3rd Long Range Recon Squadrons (Potez 633A3)

The Combat Air Grouping also had the 105th (Ju-52) and 108th Transport Squadron (RWD-13). To the 3rd Army were assigned the 11th, 12th and 13th Observation Squadron (IAR-39) and to the 4th Army the 15th, 16th and 17th Observation Squadron (IAR-39).

It started the war missions in September with the offensive in the Caucasus and towards Stalingrad. The CAC made about 5000 sorties until January 1943. The Romanian pilots claimed 39 Soviet airplanes shot down and 22 destroyed on the ground. It lost 26 airplanes to enemy fighters and AA artillery and 65 were left behind during the retreat or were destroyed in accidents. The AA artillery shot down 90 VVS, while assisting the 3rd Army at Stalingrad and others in the Caucasus, rising the total for 1942 to 199.

The Soviet counteroffensive had terrible consequences not only for the Romanian army, but also for the air force. Many airplanes and men had to be left behind. The 7th Fighter Group was completely surrounded on its airfield at Karpovka, but most of the pilots managed to escape with their planes and mechanics squeezed in the Bf-109Es. A lot of transport missions were flown in a futile effort to supply the Romanian and German troops caught in the different pockets. In December several squadrons equipped with Polish and French airplanes were sent home, followed soon by IAR-80/81 and JRS-79B squadrons. The remaining Bf-109Es and He-111H3s formed a mixed group, which remained on the front until February 1943.

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

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