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Deployment of the Luftwaffe and the VVS for Barbarossa

The map shows the deployment of the Luftwaffe and VVS (Soviet Air Force) in Western Russia on 22 June 1941, the start of Barbarossa.

The Luftwaffe arrayed four Luftflotten (1, 2, 4, and 5) with 3.415 aircraft on-hand. After Barbarossa started, German allies would add another 997 aircraft. 93% of the aircraft equipped the first three fleets.

Luftflotte 1 had two large forces, 1st Air Corps and Command Baltic (both in blue) deployed around the main air bases numbered 1 to 5. The former was earmarked to support 4th Panzer Gruppe while the later supported 18th Army.

Luftflotte 2 was composed of 8th Air Corps (supporting 3rd Panzer Gruppe) and 2nd Air Corps (to support 2nd Panzer Gruppe -the point of main effort-) distributed around bases 6 to 16.

Luftflotte 4 retained 5th Air Corps (helping 1st Panzer Gruppe) and 4th Air Corps (defending Ploesti oil fields and 11th Army) positioned around bases 17 to 23.

 The VVS deployed five air fleets in Western Russia’s border areas (identified in brown as VVS Leningrad, VVS Baltic, VVS Western, VVS Kiev, and VVS Odessa), plus four long-range bombing corps (1, 2 ,3, and 4) and one LR bombing division (18, all in green). They occupied the bases shown in red. If we add the fighter regiments allocated for city defense the VVS earmarked 9.995 aircraft for initial defense. Overall, the Luftwaffe deployed 39 Bomber and 23 Fighter Gruppen while the VVS arrayed 81 Bomber and 102 Fighter regiments. If we add the aircraft deployed by Soviet Fleets and the NKVD air force the total reaches 11.425 aircraft. These numbers exclude reserves.

The Soviets had another five air fleets in interior districts (three of which can be seen on the map: VVS Moscow, VVS Orel, and VVS Kharkov) and one in the Far East. These forces added another 72% a/c to the total.

The map shows two important lines numbered 1 and 2. Line #2 is drawn 400 km from the border. This is the depth of German air attacks to establish air superiority, so this is the danger zone. Line #1 is drawn 120 km from the border. This is the average distance Fighter Command sector stations were located from German lines. The British found it difficult to defend airfields closer to that distance even with radar and observers. The Soviets lacked radar on the front and their observers were at the border giving them almost no chance of detecting attacking German aircraft on time. This line should be considered the extreme danger zone. However, the Soviets deployed the bulk of the air forces in this zone, mostly in airfields 1, 7, K & R. These bases contained 206, 139, 253, and 409 aircraft respectively. The British found it prudent to base no more than two squadrons per sector airfield, while the Soviets based as many as 23 squadron-equivalents. This deployment is faulty for defensive purposes, but it makes sense for offensive reasons.

When deploying substantial forces near enemy borders with the capability to attack in depth, the risk of preemptive strikes increases manifold. The country that detects strong enemy forces at its borders must prepare for the worst.

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