Petlyakov Pe-2

The Petlyakov Pe-2 was a Soviet Bomber used during World War II. It was regarded as one of the best ground attack aircraft of the war and it was extremely successful in the roles of heavy fighter, reconnaissance and night fighter. It was one of the most important aircraft of World War II, similar in many respects to the British de Havilland Mosquito. Pe-2s were manufactured in greater numbers (11,400 built) during the war than any other twin-engined combat aircraft except for the German Junkers Ju 88 and British Vickers Wellington. (Fourth in production numbers was the American Lockheed P-38 Lightning with 10,037 built.) The Pe-2 was fast, maneuverable and durable. Several Communist nations flew the type after the war, when it became known by the NATO reporting name Buck. Six captured Pe-2s were also transferred from the Germans to the Finnish Air Force during the Continuation War, with the serial code PE- and the unofficial nickname Pekka-Eemeli.

Petlyakov Pe-2
Class Aircraft
Type Bomber
Manufacturer Petlyakov
Origin Russia (USSR)
Country Name Origin Year
Russia (USSR) 1939
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
Bulgaria View
China View
Czechoslovakia View
Finland View
Hungary View
Poland View
Russia (USSR) 1941 1945 View
Yugoslavia (Serbia) 1941 1954 View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Petlyakov 11427 View

The Pe-2 was designed in a prison design bureau (sharashka); Vladimir Petlyakov had been arrested and imprisoned in 1937 for allegedly deliberately 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 very sophisticated aircraft for its time, featuring a pressurised cabin, all-metal construction, superchargers and many electrically-actuated systems. The prototypes proved so pleasing that production was ordered almost immediately. It is said[citation needed] 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.

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 and a bombardiers position were added, and other aerodynamic refinements. 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 if a Pe-2 did not fly by the end of the year. Deliveries to combat units began the following Spring.

While the Pe-2 generally featured favorable flying characteristics when 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. Its armament was clearly insufficient, however. The dorsal ShKAS machine gun had a very high rate of fire, however, its 7.62 mm rounds were proving increasingly inadequate against the armor protection of modern fighters. Moreover, it often jammed. The ventral Berezin UB had a very limited field of view and initially was unreliable too. 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 he had to be quite strong to keep it in his 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.

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.

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 Ploesti, in Romania, by six Pe-2s, led by Capt. A. Tsurtsulin, was a great success: 552,150 lb of petroleum were burnt in the raid. The Romanian information agency claimed that at least 100 Soviet planes had bombed Ploesti. A German pilot shot down by a Petlyakov over Bobruysk, Maj. A. Mudin of JG 51, affirmed that the Pe-2 was the best Soviet aircraft: "It is a fast aircraft, with good armament, and it is dangerous to enemy fighters." The Pe-2 regiments' operations were not always successful and crews 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 were installed and fuel tanks modified. Despite anecdotal reports by Soviet fliers, which were often exaggerations and unconfirmed or "over claims" for which the Soviets were well known, 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, "the Green Hearts," 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.

Role Bomber
Manufacturer Petlyakov
Designer Vladimir Petlyakov
First flight 22 December 1939
Introduction 1941
Retired 1954 (SFR Yugoslav Air Force)
Primary users Soviet Air Force
SFR Yugoslav Air Force
Air Force of the Polish Army
Czechoslovakian Air Force
Number built 11 427
Variants Petlyakov Pe-3

General characteristics

  • Crew: Three – pilot, navigator, gunner
  • Length: 12.66 m (41 ft 6 in)
  • Wingspan: 17.16 m (56 ft 3 in)
  • Height: 3.5 m (11 ft 6 in)
  • Wing area: 40.5 m² (436 ft²)
  • Empty weight: 5,875 kg (12,952 lb)
  • Loaded weight: 7,563 kg (16,639 lb)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 8,495 kg (18,728 lb)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Klimov M-105PF liquid-cooled V-12, 903 kW (1,210 hp) each


  • Maximum speed: 580 km/h (360 mph)
  • Range: 1,160 km (721 miles)
  • Service ceiling: 8,800 m (28,870 ft)
  • Rate of climb: 7.2 m/s (1,410 ft/min)
  • Wing loading: 186 kg/m² (38 lb/ft²)
  • Power/mass: 250 W/kg (0.15 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.
    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
    Some planes were also equipped with DAG-10 launcher, firing AG-2 parachute timed grenades.
  • Bombs: 1,600 kg (3,520 lb) of bombs

End notes