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Profile courtesy of Bogdan Patrascu

On this IAR-81C that belonged to the 2nd Fighter Group was equipped with Wfr. Gr. 21 for testing in April 1944

The 2nd Fighter Group was created on 1 October 1940. It was made up of the 45th and 46th Fighter Squadron, equipped with the obsolete P.11f and was stationed on the Tecuci airfield. In June 1941, it was split between other units and disbanded.

The 2nd Fighter Group was reformed during the winter of 1943/1944. It was made up of the 65th, 66th and 67th Fighter Squadron, all equipped with IAR-81Cs. In March it was assigned to the Ianca airfield.

On 4 April 1944 the 15th US Air Force started its air offensive against Romania. Fearing a Soviet offensive, the 7th Fighter Group was sent to reinforce the front in Moldavia. The 2nd Fighter Group with 34 IAR-81Cs was relocated to the Pipera airfield, near Bucharest, to replace it.

The first encounter with the American forces was on 21 April, when the group rose to meet them with 34 aircraft. The lack of experience of the pilots caused them to separate and attack individually. Only one squadron made contact with the enemy. They claimed 4 Liberators, but the price was very heavy: 5 airplanes shot down and another one damaged. Two pilots died and the other four were wounded.

They took off with 27 IAR-81Cs against the raid on 24 April. This time the results were a little better: 7 Liberators claimed (one probable) against one shot down and four damaged airplanes. On 5 May their performance improved: 9 Liberators claimed (3 probable) against one shot down and two damaged. The next day another raid and the group claimed another 14 (3 probable) Liberators for only one loss, the one of cpt. av. Grigore Goga. The 15th Air Force continued its attack on 7 May. The 2nd Fighter Group was again scrambled and sent 22 airplanes against the American formations. This time the pilots claimed only 3 B-24s (one probable). Four IAR-81Cs were damaged. The wreck and the body of cpt. av. Goga were also found this day, near Ploesti.

After 10 May the 2nd Fighter Group was split up. The 65th and 66th Fighter Squadron were moved to Petrosani and the 67th to Ianca airfield. On 18 May, they took off to engage the US formations for the last time. The 16 IAR-81Cs attacked again the bomber formations and claimed 3 (one probable) shot down for one loss: cpt. av. Gheorghe Stanica, the commander of the 66th Squadron.

The 7th Fighter Group was again assigned to the defense of the Ploesti area. On 28 May, the 2nd Fighter Group received the order to move with all the squadrons on the Gheraesti airfield and join the 1st Air Corps which was engaged in the battle with the VVS on the front in Moldavia.

The first missions were flown on 30 May, when the group made 44 sorties, mostly bomber escorts. Eight IAR-81Cs from the 67th Fighter Squadron engaged a dogfight with about 20 P-39s. One IAR-81 was lost, without achieving any victories. The next day there were another 36 sorties and a dogfight between 8 IAR-81Cs and 15 Soviet P-39s. One plane was lost and another damaged, without achieving any victories over the VVS aircraft. This demonstrated again that the IAR-81 was obsolete and that there was a need for better aircraft. While escorting some Ju-88A4s from the 5th Bomber Group, the pilots from the 2nd Fighter Group even had problems with keeping up with the bombers.

Picture from "Rumanian Air Force, the prime decade 1938-1947" by Dénes Bernád, Squadron/Signal Publications, 1999

Young peasants "guarding" an IAR-81C of the 2nd Fighter Group on the front in Moldavia in the summer of 1944

The first victory against the VVS came on 6 June 1944, when 4 IAR-81Cs that were protecting a Hs-129B2 formation engaged 2 P-39s. In the following dogfight, adj. av. Mihai Mihordea achieved his 12th victory.

The group was moved to the Tecuci airfield. Between 5 and 12 June 1944 it had flown 18 missions, totaling 113 sorties. After this period of intense combat came a pause in the operations, which lasted from 26 June to 3 July. After this came the usual bomber or HQ aircraft escort missions.

On 27 July, 16 IAR-81Cs flew to the Husi airfield from where they were supposed to escort Romanian Ju-87Ds from the 6th Dive Bomber Group. The German AA defense of the airfield opened fire on the Romanian formation and continued to fire even when they were landing. As a result, two IARs were damaged and lt. av. Mihail Bulat was wounded. The next day, the same thing. When the 14 IAR-81Cs arrived near the Chisinau airfield, where they had to meet the bombers they had to escort, the German AAA opened fire and another airplane was damaged.

Nevertheless, operations continued and they even managed to score some victories. On 10 August, adj. av. Vasile Stana claimed a P-39 and 18 August (the black day of ARR) slt. av. Franz Secicar shot down a DB-3.

On 20 August, the Red Army launched the "Jassy-Kishinev" (Iasi-Chisinau) offensive. All available forces were thrown against the Soviet attack, including the 2nd Fighter Group. On the first day they flew 36 sorties. They engaged in several dogfights with larger Soviet formations and lost 4 airplanes and another two were damaged. The Romanian pilots claimed three victories, of which two by adj. av. Gheorghe Bucur: 1 LaGG and 1 P-39 probable. The next day, however, brought two victories (La-7s) for one loss. On 22 August there were 9 missions and 52 sorties, mostly escorts for bombers, and lost 3 airplanes to AAA They also provided an escort for marshal Antonescu on his last visit on the front.

The events of 23 August caught the 2nd Fighter Group, under the command of cpt. av. Ioan Ignat, on the Matca airfield. They received the order to move al available aircraft to the Urleasca airfield, where the declaration of the armistice with the Allied powers found them. The group had 19 airplanes.

The first action against the Germans was carried out on 25 August, when an IAR-81C attacked a German resistance point at Tandarei and forced them to surrender. According to the German commander, after the air attack, only 27 out of his 80 men were still alive.

On 1 September 1944, the 2nd Fighter Group began its reorganizing on the Madias airfield. It absorbed the 4th Fighter Group and was suppose to have 3 squadrons: 65th, 66th and 67th and 45 aircraft. On 7 September, the new unit received the order to move to the front in Transylvania on the Turnisor airfield.

The first missions in the new theatre of operations were flown on 9 September. A very unpleasant surprise was that a Soviet AAA battery opened fire on a IAR-81C formation and damaged one. On 14 September, several of the group's airplanes attacked the Someseni airfield were they destroyed a Gotha transport glider. The next day the group moved to Balomir, after flying 63 sorties. On 16 September there was also the first encounter with the German fighters. Six IAR-81Cs were escorting a He-111 formation when they were attacked by two Bf-109Gs. Soon after that, adj. av. Iosif Ciuhulescu was going down in a spin. The following day they flew several other bomber escort missions. During one of it, the He-111Hs were attacked by German Bf-109Gs. Because of their low speed compared to the Messerschmitts, the IARs couldn't prevent the destruction of one of the bombers. One IAR-81C was also damaged.

On 18 September the group moved to the Medias airfield. It also took over the remaining 11 IAR-81Cs of the 6th Fighter Group. They started flying missions from the new base the same day and lost two airplanes to enemy AAA. The operations continued the following days with 24 sorties on 19 and 20 on 21 September. The fighting peaked on 23 September when 8 of the group's airplanes clashed with 8 Bf-109Gs over Turda. In the following air battle the 2nd Fighter Group lost 3 IAR-81Cs and two pilots. It was one of the few occasions when the IAR pilots managed to claim Luftwaffe fighters. One of them was adj. av. Andone Stavar from the 2nd Fighter Group, who shot down a Bf-109G.

The losses continued to mount the next days: 4 airplanes and 3 pilots on 25 September and 1 airplane and one pilot on 29. The morale was as low as it could get. The 2nd Fighter Group had lost 12 airplanes and 8 pilots died and 2 were wounded. Some pilots refused to fly on this obsolete airplane that stood practically no chance against the experienced and better equipped German Jagdfliegern. The latter also benefited from the fact that they knew very well the IAR-80 and how to exploit its weaknesses. Following these complains, it was decided that all the remaining IARs be assigned mainly to close air support missions. The 2nd Fighter Group, now under the command of cpt. av. Constantin Enea, received the airplanes of the 6th Fighter Group, which returned home. The 67th Squadron was practically disbanded. The Group now had only the 65th and 66th, with 26 airplanes.

In October it moved to the Someseni airfield and in November to Turkeve, in Hungary. In the meantime, the weather conditions made operations very difficult, thus the small number of sorties.

The first missions from the new airfield were flown on 17 November. They attacked the German columns they encountered. Lt. av. Gheorghe Mociornita destroyed a truck. Five days later, the same pilot destroyed another two cars, while adj. av. Mihai Momarla dispatched a AAA battery. Three airplanes were damaged during the low-level attacks and two of them crash-landed in friendly territory.

In December 1944, the group moved on the Miskolc airfield. On Christmas Eve, 3 IARs from the 2nd Fighter Group flew a reconnaissance mission towards Lucenec. They attacked the some Axis ground troops and were engaged by two Bf-109Gs. Adj. av. Dumitru Niculescu was killed in the dogfight, while adj. av. Nicolae Pelin crash landed in friendly territory.

On 12 January 1945, the group dispatched 8 airplanes to Debrecen, which were suppose to secure the city's air defense. At the beginning of February, the group received 13 new IAR-81CS, thus increasing the number of available aircraft. On 9 February, two airplanes from Debrecen intercepted a Romanian Hs-129 which was attempting to desert and shot it down. The pilot and the two passengers were wounded. The irony was that the two IAR-81 pilots and the one on Hs-129 had been comrades in the former 8th Fighter Group.

Picture from "Rumanian Air Force, the prime decade 1938-1947" by Dénes Bernád, Squadron/Signal Publications, 1999

n IAR-81C from the 2nd Fighter Group on the front in Slovakia in 1945

The missions flown throughout February and March were mainly close air support and attacks against German communication lines. These alternated with lulls in operations, because of the weather.

On 2 April, some of the group's IAR-81Cs attacked two trains north of Kremnitz and hit one of the locomotives and its railcars. Five days later they destroyed several cars and horse-drawn vehicles. On 21 April, the group profited of the improvement in the weather and flew 31 sorties and attacked infantry and artillery positions, as well as motorized columns. 11 cars and 2 carts were destroyed, but the group lost lt. av. Gheorghe Mociornita to a enemy AAA. 26 April was also marked by intense combat. The 2nd Fighter Group flew 24 missions with 68 sorties. Five cars, 16 carts, two guns and four machine-gun nests were reported destroyed. Also numerous casualties were inflicted to enemy ground troops. 23100 machine-gun rounds and 4140 cannon rounds were consumed. Adj. av. Constantin Prisacaru was shot down and killed by the German AA defense.

The last day of activity for the 2nd Fighter Group was 8 May, when it flew 24 ground attack missions. The same day the group suffered its last casualty: slt. av. Remus Vasilescu. The next day, the war ended.

Picture from "Vanatorul IAR-80, istoria unui erou necunoscut" by Dan Antoniu & George Cicos, MODELISM, 2000

IARs of the 2nd Fighter Group lined up for a post-war parade

Autor: Victor Nitu
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