Petlyakov Pe-2

The Petlyakov Pe-2 (Russian: Петляков Пе-2) was a Soviet twin-engined dive bomber used during World War II. One of the outstanding tactical attack aircraft of the war [2], it also proved successful as a heavy fighter, as a night fighter (Pe-3 variant) and as a reconnaissance aircraft.[3] In many respects it resembled the wooden British de Havilland Mosquito. The Soviets manufactured Pe-2s in greater numbers (11,430 built) during the war than any other twin-engined combat aircraft except for the German Junkers Ju 88 and the British Vickers Wellington.[3][4] The Pe-2 was fast, maneuverable and durable. Several Communist air forces flew the type after the war, when it became known by the NATO reporting name Buck. The Germans transferred six captured Pe-2s to the Finnish Air Force during the Continuation War of 1941-1944; the Finns gave them the serial code prefix PE- and the unofficial nickname Pekka-Eemeli (equivalent to "Peter-Emil").

Pe-2FT in the Central Air Force Museum, Monino, Russia
Role Dive bomber
National origin Soviet Union
Manufacturer Plant No.22 (Kazan), Plant No.39 (Moscow), Plant No.124 (Kazan), Plant No.125 (Irkutsk)
Designer V.M. Petlyakov Design Bureau
First flight 22 December 1939 (VI-100)
Introduction March 1941
Retired 1951 (Soviet Air Force), 1957 (Polish Air Force)
Primary users Soviet Air Force
Polish Air Force, Czechoslovakian Air Force, Bulgarian Air Force
Produced December 1940 - December 1945
Number built 11,070 (+ 360 Pe-3)[1]
Variants Petlyakov Pe-3

Design and development

The Pe-2 was designed in a prison design bureau (sharashka); Vladimir Petlyakov had been arrested and imprisoned in 1937 for allegedly delaying design work on the Tupolev ANT-42 bomber. In the sharashka, Petlyakov was put in charge of a team to develop a high-altitude fighter escort for the ANT-42 under the designation VI-100. The first of two prototypes flew on December 22, 1939 and was a sophisticated aircraft for its time, featuring a pressurised cabin, all-metal construction, superchargers and many electrically actuated systems. It is said that Petlyakov and his team could see the VI-100 prototype from their prison as it was put through its paces for the crowds watching the annual May Day parade in 1940.[5]

Just as production was ready to begin, the air force ordered a re-design of the aircraft. The value of tactical bombing had just been displayed by the Luftwaffe in the Blitzkrieg, and the need for such an aircraft suddenly became much more important than the need for a high-altitude escort fighter. Petlyakov's team was given 45 days to redesign their aircraft as a dive bomber. Cabin pressurization and superchargers were deleted, dive brakes, a bombardier's position and other aerodynamic refinements were added. A fuselage bomb-bay was added, along with smaller bays in each engine nacelle. The aircraft was initially designated PB-100, but Joseph Stalin was impressed enough with Petlyakov to free him, and his name was permitted to be used in the aircraft's designation. The first aircraft flew on December 15, 1940, rushed through production without a prototype under severe threats from Stalin. Deliveries to combat units began the following spring.

While the Pe-2's flying characteristics were generally favorable once it was airborne, it took a good amount of force to pull the elevators up to rotate the plane for takeoff. Russian night bombing missions often flew with female pilots and some of the women were not strong enough to get the airplane airborne by themselves. When such a situation occurred, the procedure was to have the navigator get behind the pilot's seat and wrap her arms around the control wheel and help the pilot pull the wheel back. Once the aircraft was airborne, the navigator returned to her duties and the pilot continued to fly the plane without assistance.[6] Its armament was clearly insufficient, however. The dorsal ShKAS machine gun had a very high rate of fire; however, its 7.62 mm rounds proved inadequate against the armor protection of modern fighters as the war progressed. In addition, it often jammed. The mounting for the ventral Berezin UB had a very limited field of view and the gun was initially unreliable. To give more protection, another ShKAS was added that could be moved between sockets on both sides of the fuselage and, in an emergency, the gunner could fire upwards, but in this case they had to be quite strong to keep it in their arms. To improve the bomber's defences, a dorsal Berezin UBT 12,7 mm was mounted. This modification was reported to increase the life expectancy of a Pe-2 from 20 sorties to 54.[7]

Operational service

The aircraft did not show its true potential until the end of 1941, after the Soviet Air Force had a chance to regroup after the German onslaught, during the Winter. The Pe-2 quickly proved itself to be a highly capable aircraft, able to elude the Luftwaffe's interceptors and allowing their crews to develop great accuracy with their bombing. It could give German fighers fits when it could outrun them, at time reaching over 400 mph.[2] The records of the 16th and 39th BAPs of the Western Front Air Force note that the Pe-2s crews had the greatest success in repelling the attacks of enemy fighters in June and July 1941. On 1 July, for example, six Pe-2s fended off attacks by four Messerschmitt Bf 109s, shooting down two of them. A week later a group of Pe-2s was attacked by four Bf 109 and again brought down two of the attackers. On both occasions the Petlyakovs suffered no losses. On the southern front, a bombing mission against Ploiesti, in Romania, by six Pe-2s, led by Capt. A. Tsurtsulin, was a great success: 552,150 lbs of petroleum were burnt in the raid. The Romanian information agency claimed that at least 100 Soviet planes had bombed Ploiesti. The Pe-2 regiments' operations were not always successful and the service pilots complained about insufficient defensive armament and survivability: there was a great risk of fire and insufficient armour protection, especially for the navigators and gunners. German pilots soon discovered the limited sighting angles of the ventral gun mounting and its poor reliability. The Ammunition belt of the UBT machine-gun often jammed after the first burst of fire when shooting in extreme positions. The navigator and the radio operator were poorly protected. On average, ten Pe-2 gunners were wounded for every pilot, and two or three were killed for the loss of one pilot. Throughout 1942 the design was steadily refined and improved, in direct consultation with pilots who were actually flying them in combat. Improved armour protection and a fifth ShKAS machine-gun was installed and fuel tanks modified. Despite anecdotal reports by Soviet fliers, Pe-2s were a daylight bomber, often crewed by comparative novices in the early years of the war, and took significant losses, even when well protected by fighters. In December 1942 General Turkel of the Soviet Air Force estimated the life expectancy of a Pe-2 was 30 combat flights. An example of loss rates after the Soviets gained the upper hand can be gained by the losses suffered by the 1st and 2nd BAK. The former started the month of July 1943 with 179 machines, and lost 52 that month, and 59 the next, ending August with 156 bombers after receiving replacements. The 2nd BAK started July with 122 Pe-2s, with monthly losses of 30 and 20, ending August 1943 with 114 Pe-2s after replacements arrived. Most of these losses were at the hands of the thinly stretched German fighter groups, which continued to inflict significant losses when present in strength, even in the closing months of the war. For example, in the Baltic where JG54 Grünherz were the main opposition, and greatly outnumbered, the Soviet 1st Gv BAK lost 86 Pe-2's shot down (another 12 to other causes), mostly to German fighters between July 23, 1944 and February 8, 1945. Western sources use mark Pe-2FT for production series after 83 (where FT stands for Frontovoe Trebovanie (Frontline Request)), although Soviet documents do not use this identification. Final versions Pe-2K (transitional version of Pe-2I) and Pe-2I were produced in small numbers, due to the unwillingness of Soviet industry to decelerate production numbers.[8]

Finnish Air Force

In 1941, after the outbreak of the Continuation War, Finland purchased six war booty Pe-2 aircraft from Germany. These arrived at State Aircraft Factory facilities at Härmälä in January 1942, where the airframes were overhauled and given Finnish serial numbers. The seventh Pe-2 was bought from the Germans in January 1944, and it was flown to Finland at the end of the month.

It was initially planned to use these planes as dive bombers in the 1st flight of LeLv 48, which began to receive its aircraft in July 1942, but during the training it was found out that this caused too much strain for the engines. Thus, the role of Pe-2s was changed to fly long-range photographic and visual reconnaissance missions for the Army General Headquarters. These sorties began in late 1942, and were often flown with two 250 kg (551 lb) bombs for harassment bombing and in order to cover the true purpose of missions.

By the time the Soviet Fourth strategic offensive started in June 1944, the secondary bombing role had already ended and the surviving Pe-2s began to be used solely at Karelian Isthmus in escorted (normally by four FiAF Bf 109 Gs) photographic reconnaissance flights in order to find out enemy troop concentrations. These vital missions were flown successfully, allowing artillery and Finnish Air Force and Luftwaffe's Gefechtsverband Kuhlmey's bombers to make their strikes against the formations preparing for attack, which had an important impact on the outcome of the Battle of Tali-Ihantala, where the Soviet advance was halted.

During the Continuation War, three Pe-2s were lost in accidents or technical failures, one was destroyed in bombing of Lappeenranta airfield, one was shot down by Soviet fighters and one went missing in action. In the Lapland War the only remaining machine flew a single reconnaissance sortie in October 1944. On average, the aircraft flew some 94 hours per plane during the war.

The Finnish Air Force also operated one Petlyakov Pe-3 (PE-301) that had been captured in 1943.

PE-301 and PE-215 were destroyed when Soviet aircraft bombed the Lappeenranta airfield on 2 July 1944. PE-212 went down in 1943, PE-213 was destroyed in an emergency landing in 1942. PE-214 was destroyed in a failed take-off attempt at Härmälä on 21 May 1942: as Härmälä airfield was quite short, the pilot had to try to lift off with too little speed, which caused the aircraft to stall and crash, killing the crew. PE-217 managed to shoot down a Soviet fighter in 1944. PE-216 was destroyed in a forced landing in 1944. PE-211 survived the war and was removed from FAF lists in 1946. It was still standing beside the Kauhava airfield in 1952, but further information on its fate is unknown.


In total, around 11,400 Pe-2s were built; a large number of minor variants were also developed.

Prototype of the Pe-2 modified from the VI-100 in 1940.
First production variant.
Standard bomber version from 1944.
Three-seat bomber version, powered by two VK-107A piston engines.
Main production variant. In Czechoslovakia known as the B-32. Improved defensive armament (7.62 mm machine gun in dorsal turret), removal of the dive brakes, and an uprated engine. Nose glazing was also reduced.[9]
Built in small numbers.
Improved version designed by Vladimir Myasishchev. VK-107 engines; revised wing profile; remote-controlled tail gun. Top speed 656 km/h (408 mph). Could carry 1,000 kg (2,204 lb) bombs. Five examples built.
Radial-engined version, small number built.
Pe-2K RD-1
One Pe-2K equipped with additional RD-1 rocket engine. The 300 kg (661 lb) Glushko RD-1 rocket engine was installed in the tail of the aircraft.
Variant of Pe-2I with heavier armament.
This version was armed with 20 mm ShVAK cannons and two 12.7 mm (0.5 in) in an underfuselage gondola, it also had one 7.62 mm (0.3 in) machine gun in the dorsal turret.
Three-seat photo reconnaissance version, with a larger fuel tanks and extended range. small number built.
Two-seat training version.
The PB-100 prototype was fitted with two 20 mm ShVAK cannons, and a single 12.7 mm (0.5 in) machine gun was fitted beneath the fuselage.
High altitude fighter version.
Pe-2UTI (UPe-2)
Dedicated trainer version, small number built. In Czechoslovakia known as the CB-32.
Pe-2 Paravan
Anti-barrage balloon version.
Long-range night fighter version.
As Pe-2 except with Klimov VK-105PF engines.


World War II
  • Czechoslovakian Air Force operated some Pe-2FT aircraft in the 1st Czechoslovakian Mixed Air Division in Soviet Union (1. československá smíšená letecká divize v SSSR). Aircraft were used operationally from 14 April 1945.
  • Finnish Air Force operated seven captured aircraft (given the Finnish serial numbers PE-211 to PE-217).
 Soviet Union
 People's Republic of China
  • Czechoslovakian Air Force operated 32 Pe-2FT and 3 UPe-2 between May 1946 and mid 1951. First aircraft arrived to Prague-Kbely airfield in April 1946 and formed two squadrons of the 25 Air Regiment in Havlíčkův Brod. Czechoslovakian aircraft were known under designation B-32 (Pe-2FT) and CB-32 (UPe-2).
 Soviet Union

In museums

Specifications (Petlyakov Pe-2)

Data from

General characteristics

  • Crew: 3
  • Length: 12.66 m (41 ft 6 in)
  • Wingspan: 17.16 m (56 ft 4 in)
  • Height: 3.5 m (11 ft 6 in)
  • Wing area: 40.5 m2 (436 sq ft)
  • Airfoil: NACA 23012 [12]
  • Empty weight: 5,875 kg (12,952 lb)
  • Gross weight: 7,563 kg (16,674 lb)
  • Max takeoff weight: 8,495 kg (18,728 lb)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Klimov M-105PF V-12 liquid-cooled piston engines, 903 kW (1,211 hp) each
  • Propellers: 3-bladed variable-pitch propellers


  • Maximum speed: 580 km/h (360 mph, 310 kn)
  • Range: 1,160 km (720 mi, 630 nmi)
  • Service ceiling: 8,800 m (28,900 ft)
  • Rate of climb: 7.2 m/s (1,420 ft/min)
  • Wing loading: 186 kg/m2 (38 lb/sq ft)
  • Power/mass: 0.250 kW/kg (0.152 hp/lb)


  • Guns:
    • 2 7.62 mm (0.3 in) fixed ShKAS machine guns in the nose, one replaced by a 12.7 mm (0.5 in) Berezin UB on later versions.
    • 2 rearward firing 7.62 mm (0.3 in) ShKAS machine guns.
    • From the middle of 1942 defensive armament included 1 Berezin UB machine gun in the upper bombardier's turret, 1 Berezin UB in gunner's ventral hatch and 1 ShKAS which could be fired by a gunner from port, starboard or upper mountings[13]
    • Some planes were also equipped with a DAG-10 launcher, firing AG-2 parachute timed grenades.
  • Bombs: 1,600 kg (3,520 lb) of bombs

See also

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era

Related lists



  1. Medved’, Khazanov 2007, p. 152
  2. Ethell 1996, p. 152.
  3. Angelucci and Matricardi 1978, p. 234.
  4. Guston 1980, p. 173.
  5. Pe-2 Guards Units of World War 2, Dmitriy Khazanov, Andrey Yurgenson, Aleksander Medved page 7
  6. "Interview with L. L. Popova, Navigator of the 125th Guards Bomb Air Regiment" (in Russian). Retrieved 12 September 2008.
  7. Williams and Gustin 2003, pp. 114–115.
  8. Gordon 2006, pp. 368–369.
  9. Błażewicz, Sławomir. "Samolot bombowy PE-2FT". Muzeum Wojska Polskiego (in Polish). Muzeum Wojska Polskiego. Retrieved 4 September 2017.
  10. Archived 19 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  11. "Wystawa plenerowa". Muzeum Wojska Polskiego (in Polish). Muzeum Wojska Polskiego. Retrieved 4 September 2017.
  12. Lednicer, David. "The Incomplete Guide to Airfoil Usage". Retrieved 16 April 2019.
  13. switching between the mountings was accomplished in flight in less than a minute


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  • Angelucci, Enzo and Paolo Matricardi. World Aircraft: World War II, Volume II (Sampson Low Guides). Maidenhead, UK: Sampson Low, 1978. ISBN 0-562-00096-8.
  • "From Sotka to Peshka:The Story of Petlyakov's Pe-2, Its Origins and its Derivatives". Air International. August 1979, Vol. 17 No. 2. pp. 76–83, 93–94.
  • Drabkin, Artem. The Red Air Force at War: Barbarossa and the Retreat to Moscow – Recollections of Fighter Pilots on the Eastern Front. Barnsley, South Yorkshire, UK: Pen & Sword Military, 2007. ISBN 1-84415-563-3.
  • Gordon, Yefim and Khazanov, Dmitri. Soviet Combat Aircraft of the Second World War, Volume 2: Twin-Engined Fighters, Attack Aircraft and Bombers. Earl Shilton, UK: Midland Publishing Ltd., 2006. ISBN 1-85780-084-2.
  • Gunston, Bill. Aircraft of World War 2. London, Octopus book limited, 1980. ISBN 0-7064-1287-7.
  • Gustin, Emmanuel and Anthony G. Williams. Flying guns: The development of aircraft guns, ammunition and installations 1933–45. Ramsbury (MA), Airlife, 2003. ISBN 978-1-84037-227-4.
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