an arm of frontline aviation of the air force, in the USSR also a combat arm of the National Air Defense Forces. It is designed for the destruction of airplanes and unmanned weapons of the enemy in order to gain air supremacy, for the provision of cover for troops and rear areas, and for support of combat action by other arms and branches of aviation. It can also be used for action against ground and naval objects and targets and for air reconnaissance. Modern fighter aviation uses supersonic jet airplanes. Its chief weaponry consists of guided missiles and rapid-fire cannon. Its main methods of combat action are interception of air targets by fighters on alert status on the ground and on alert in the air. Sometimes the independent search method is employed. Radio electronic devices and systems are used for the control of fighter aviation and for guiding the airplanes toward the targets.
Fighter aviation arose in World War I (1914–18). At that time small special fighter planes armed with machine guns were built for warfare with bombers and reconnaissance planes. In 1917–18 fighter aviation became very important in all the air forces of the belligerent states. In the Russian Army in May 1917 it made up more than 50 percent of the entire air force; in November 1918 it made up 41.5 percent of the French, British, and US air forces and about 37 percent of the Austrian and German air forces. By 1939 the development of bomber aviation greatly decreased the ratio of fighter aviation in the air forces of the capitalist states; it dropped in Great Britain to 28 percent, in France and Italy to
|Table 1. Ratio of fighter aviation in the air force (in percent)|
|Great Britain ...............||28||32||43.5|
30 percent, in the USA to 25 percent, and in Germany to 22 percent. During World War II (1939–45) fighter aviation increased both in absolute and relative numbers.
In the Soviet Air Force fighter aviation made up 56.2 percent of the air force at the beginning of the Great Patriotic War (1941–45) and 42 percent by the middle of 1944. In the battles of Moscow and Stalingrad, Soviet fighter aviation repulsed the attack of the fascist German aviation and returned crushing blows. It gained air supremacy during the counteroffensive in the winter of 1942–43 and in the air battle over the Kuban’ in the spring of 1943, definitively consolidated this supremacy in the battle of Kursk in 1943, and firmly maintained it until the end of the war.
M. N. KOZHEVNIKOV