an arm of long-range (strategic) aviation, front (army) aviation, and naval aviation designed to conduct air reconnaissance to obtain information about the enemy in land and sea theaters. In the armies of the most developed countries, reconnaissance aviation includes manned airplanes and drones with special technical equipment for day and night reconnaissance by such methods as visual observation, photography, and radar detection.
In Russia, reconnaissance airplanes were employed for the first time during maneuvers of the troops of the Petrograd, Warsaw, and Kiev military districts in 1911. In World War I, reconnaissance aviation was reorganized into an arm of the air force; its main mission was tactical and partly operational air reconnaissance. In the Civil War of 1918–20 more than 70 percent of the Soviet Air Force was reconnaissance aviation. As the other combat arms of the air force grew, the proportion of reconnaissance aviation in the USSR dropped to 9.5 percent in 1939–40. By 1939 the reconnaissance aviation of most armies was composed of separate flights, detachments, and squadrons. It was classified as combat reconnaissance aviation, which was used for tactical reconnaissance and the adjustment of artillery fire; front reconnaissance aviation, for operational reconnaissance; and reconnaissance aviation of the high command, for strategic reconnaissance.
In World War II there was a drastic increase in the number of airplanes specially equipped for air reconnaissance and in the number of airplanes of other combat arms of the air force used for reconnaissance missions. Reconnaissance airplanes accounted for 12.3 percent of the German Luftwaffe and 18.2 percent of the British Air Force. In the Great Patriotic War (1941–45) the Soviet armed forces conducted air reconnaissance by day with the airplanes Su-2, Pe-2, Pe-3, Il-2, and Il-4 and by night with the airplanes SB, DB-3, R-5, and Po-2.
In postwar years reconnaissance aviation has been equipped with modern jet planes that have high-quality photo- and radio-electronic apparatus. In addition to the flying units, reconnaissance aviation includes ground elements with equipment for photographic-laboratory and photogrammetric operations.
M. N. KOZHEVNIKOV