Frontal Aviation

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Frontal Aviation


(also, frontline aviation, tactical aviation), a branch of air power in an air force. The term “frontal aviation” is used in the USSR; “tactical aviation” is used in variousforeign countries, such as the USA and Great Britain.

Frontal aviation is designed to fulfill missions in general combat and in operations of the ground forces, air forces, and, along coastal axes, naval forces. The individual combat arms of frontal aviation include fighter, fighter-bomber (tactical fighter), bomber, attack, reconnaissance, and auxiliary aviation.

Frontal aviation, or aviation controlled by a front, originated during World War I. In the Soviet armed forces it was formed in 1918, and its organization consisted of separate aviation detachments that were part of the district directorates of the air force, which in September 1918 were reformed into front and army field directorates of aviation and aeronautics of the staffs of the fronts and the combined arms armies. In June 1920 the field directorates were reorganized as staffs of the air forces and were directly subordinate to the commanders of the fronts and armies. After the Civil War of 1918–20, the air forces of the fronts became part of the military districts. In 1924 the aviation detachments of the air forces of the military districts were combined into uniform aviation squadrons of 18 to 43 airplanes each; they in turn were reorganized into aviation brigades in the late 1920’s. In 1938–39 the aviation of the military districts was transformed from brigades into an organization of regiments and divisions. The basic tactical unit became the aviation regiment of 60 to 63 airplanes.

By the beginning of the Great Patriotic War (1941–45), the frontal aviation of the military districts consisted of separate bomber, fighter, and combined (attack) aviation divisions and separate reconnaissance aviation regiments. From May to November 1942 air armies were created out of army and frontal aviation; they consisted of separate aviation divisions of fighter, bomber, and attack aviation, as well as separate aviation regiments of reconnaissance and auxiliary aviation. The air armies were subordinated to the commanders of the fronts and had a special link with the commander in chief of the air forces of the Red Army. The creation of air armies facilitated the concentrated employment of frontal aviation along the main operational axes of the front.

In the autumn of 1942 the aviation regiments of all arms of aviation had 32 airplanes each. In the summer of 1943 the number of airplanes in attack and fighter aviation regiments increased to 40. During the Great Patriotic War, frontal aviation, in fulfilling its missions, lost 35 percent of its combat aircraft sorties in the struggle for air supremacy, 46.5 percent in ground forces support, 11 percent in the conduct of air reconnaissance, and 7.5 percent in the performance of other missions.

Modern frontal, or tactical, aviation is armed with supersonic aircraft equipped with cannon, missiles, and bombing weaponry and outfitted with radio and radar instruments and systems. It can operate by day or night under any weather conditions; intercept and destroy at distant approach high-speed (supersonic) air targets; protect its own forces and rear installations; coordinate with ground forces in their operations—that is, strike enemy aviation, missile, and ground-forces groupings; search out and destroy small moving targets; and conduct air reconnaissance.


Sovetskie Voenno-Vozdushnye Sily v Velikoi Otechestvennoi voine, 1941–1945. Moscow, 1968.
50 let Vooruzhennykh Sil SSSR. Moscow, 1968.