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The Bessarabian and Odessa campaign -1941
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The home defense campaign - 1944

In the winter of 1943/1944, the air defense was insured by the 3rd Fighter Group (44th and 50th Squadrons), equipped with IAR-80Bs and IAR-81As, stationed on the Ghimbav-Brasov airfield, the 6th Fighter Group (61st and 62nd Squadrons), equipped with IAR-81Cs, stationed on the Popesti-Leordeni airfield and the 7th Fighter Group (56th, 57th and 58th Squadron), equipped also with IAR-81Cs, stationed on the Pipera airfield. The seaside was protected by the 5th Fighter Group and 4th Fighter Group (45th and 46th Squadrons), equipped with IAR-80Cs.

In April 1944, the 105th, 106th and 107th Transport Squadrons were used to supply the forces in Crimea and to evacuate wounded soldiers (about 3,000).

Because of the losses of 1943 and spring of 1944 and the fact that the Red Army was threatening the national territory, a new reorganization was necessary. The old IAR-37 was brought back into service in the 17th and 18th Observation Squadron and the Nardi FN-305, P.11c and PWS were equipped with bomb launchers. It was decided to create the 11th Assault Group (Hs-129B2), but because there weren't enough planes, only one squadron was organized: the 38th. The IAR-81C was by far outclassed by the P-51s and P-38s. The intention was to equip every fighter group with Bf-109Gs made in Romania, but after the US bombings of the airplane factories the production decreased and only 6 Bf-109G4s were delivered in August.

In May 1944, the 6th Bomber Group (74th, 86th and 87th Squadron) was equipped with the Ju-87D3 and changed its name to 6th Dive Bomber Group. With the personnel of the 49th Squadron (4th Fighter Group), which left its airplanes in Crimea, was organized the 67th Squadron (IAR-81C), from the 2nd Fighter Group.

In the summer of 1944, the 1st Air Corps was made up of the:

  • 3rd Fighter Flotilla
    • 2nd Fighter Group: 65th, 66th and 67th Fighter Squadrons (IAR-81C)
    • 4th Fighter Group: 45th, 46th and 49th Fighter Squadrons (IAR-81C)
    • 7th Fighter Group: 53rd, 57th and 58th Fighter Squadrons (Bf-109G)
    • 9th Fighter Group: 46th, 48th and 56th Fighter Squadrons (Bf-109G)
  • 1st Bomber Flotilla
    • 3rd Dive Bomber Group: 73rd, 81st and 85th Dive Bomber Squadrons (Ju-87D5)
    • 6th Dive Bomber Group: 74th, 84th and 86th Dive Bomber Squadrons (Ju-87D3)
    • 8th Assault Group: 41st, 42nd and 60th Assault Squadrons (Hs-129B2)
    • 5th Bomber Group: 77th, 79th and 80th Bomber Squadrons (Ju-88A4)
  • 3rd Army's Air Liaison Detachment: 116th Squadron (Fleet-10G and Fi-156)
  • 4th Army's Air Liaison Detachment: 112th Squadron (Fleet-10G and Fi-156)
  • 15th, 19th and 21st Observation Squadrons (IAR-39)
  • 2nd Long Range Recon (Ju-88D1) and 108th Transport Squadrons (RWD-13)
  • 115th Squadron (Fleet-10G and Fi-156)

On 1st April 1944, the 2nd Air Corps was created. It consisted in the:

  • 2nd Fighter Flotilla
    • 1st Fighter Group: 43rd (IAR-80B and IAR-81A), 66th and 67th Fighter Squadrons (IAR-81C)
  • 2nd Bomber Flotilla
    • 1st Bomber Group: 71st and 72nd Bomber Squadrons (JRS-79B)
    • 2nd Bomber Group: 82nd and 83rd Bomber Squadrons (JRS-79B)
    • 4th Bomber Group: 76th (P.37B) and 78th Bomber Squadron (He-111H6)
    • 7th Bomber Group: 17th and 18th Bomber Squadrons (IAR-37 modified to carry small bombs)
  • 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 16th and 22nd Observation Squadrons (IAR-39)
  • 101st and 102nd Seaplane Squadrons (He-114)
  • 1st Long Range Recon Squadron (Blenheim Mk. I)
  • 109th Squadron (IAR-39), which towed DFS-230 gliders
  • 114th Liaison Squadron (Fleet-10G and Fi-156)

To the 1st Army were assigned the 111th Squadron (Fleet-10G) and 20th Squadron (IAR-39).

On 30 June 1944, the 1st Air Corps was assigned to the "Dumitrescu Army Group", which included the 3rd Army. The 4th Army had air support from the Luftwaffe. On the same day the 2nd Air Corps was renamed the 3rd Air Corps and was given the mission to protect the seaside and the Danube Delta.

The 1st, 5th, 6th and 7th Fighter Groups and the 1st Night Fighter Squadron were engaged in the battle with the USAAF and RAF, which started on 4 April and lasted until 18 August 1944. They were occasionally joined by the 9th Fighter Group, which engaged USAAF airplanes flying to airfields in the USSR. They totaled about 30 Bf-109Gs and 70 IAR-80/81Cs and 60 German Bf-109Gs. They faced the superior numbers and airplanes of the 15th Air Force.

In April, the 53rd and 57th Squadron from the 7th Fighter Group were sent on the front in Moldova and the 2nd Fighter Group was brought in to protect the capital. The 58th Squadron (Bf-109G), which remained from the 7th Fighter Group was assigned to the 2nd Fighter Group. In June the number of enemy raids increased and the 7th Fighter Group was brought back and got the 58th Squadron. The 2nd Fighter Group was sent to the front in Moldavia. Following the death of cpt. Alexandru Serbanescu, the commander of the 9th Group, on 18 August it was decided not to engage the American airplanes. The 7th Fighter Group was sent on the front, again.

In the 4 and a half months of battle, the Americans lost 223 bombers and 36 fighters. 225 German and Romanian airplanes were shot down in this period. The ARR lost 80 fighters and many experienced pilots.

On 20 August, the Red Army launched the Iasi-Chisinau offensive, which practically destroyed the Romanian and German defensive line in Moldavia and caused Romania to request a cease-fire. The ARR aircraft flew numerous sorties against Soviet troops, but with little impact on the operations because of the numerical superiority of the Red Army. The VVS lost 111 airplanes during the offensive and the ARR about 25.

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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