A world war is when almost the whole world is at war. In the First, it so happened that neighbors grabbed each other’s throats with and without it. And in World War II, there was also a practice when states that pursued their goals entered the war.
So it happened with Romania. Now I will not evaluate the plans of Antonescu and his puppet king Mihai, but it is a fact: Romania got into the war on the side of Germany against the USSR and naturally got in the horns.
But the brave Romanian warriors seemed to have fought. The Romanian Air Force also fought. In general, about what the flying gypsy camp, proudly called the Romanian Royal Air Force, was like, is the topic of a separate and very humorous article. And now we will talk about the plane, which was the highest achievement of Romanian design thought and fought the entire war, from bell to bell.
Naturally, his fate was not easy. This fighter fought against the allies, and against all: Soviet, American and British pilots. And after the coup, he fought quite normally against the German and Hungarian.
In short, just that shot, which ripened everywhere. Of course, before the “Dewuatin D520”, about which I wrote earlier, he was far away, the Frenchman managed to fight simultaneously on both sides of the front, but the Romanian plane also did quite well.
But when it comes to battles in the air, 95% of the audience remembers Messerschmitts, Focke-Wulfs, Yakovlevs, Lavochkins, Mustangs, Zero. But in fact lesser-known models fought in the sky.
We will talk about such a brainchild of the Romanian aviation industry, the IAR-80 fighter.
It is clear that Romania of those years (we are simply silent about the present) could not be attributed to the leading aviation powers. However, they themselves designed and built the aircraft.
Developed – this, of course, is a little far-fetched, because the Romanians simply adapted something already invented for themselves. That is, they bought licenses and then tried to build something themselves.
Basically, Romanians were friends with the French (aircraft engines) and the Poles (everything else). At their huge by those standards (5,000 people) plant in Brasov, the Romanians quite normally built airplanes in this way, covering half of the country’s needs for aircraft. The rest was bought, since the oil-bearing country had no money problems.
In general, licensed Polish fighters of the PZL company were built in Brasov, until they realized that they were not just lagging behind, but catastrophically lagging behind.
And when the concept came, the decision was born to build a modern fighter on its own: a monoplane with retractable landing gear.
For the Romanian design school – a real feat.
A group of designers, Ion Grosu, Ion Cochereanu, Gheorghiu Zotta and Gheorghiu Vilner, accomplished this feat. And the plane was designed and built.
The heart was a real hot Romanian engine IAR-K14-II, 14-cylinder, air-cooled, take-off power of 900 hp. with. Only a specialist could tell the difference with the French Gnome-Rhone 14K “Mistral-Major”, which was produced under license from the IAR firm. But such is the fate of all good motors – to be copied.
Then the fun of the Romanian designers began.
To protect two fuel tanks with a total capacity of 403 liters and an oil tank of 18 liters, the Romanian designers placed them behind the engine. Yes, a double star is a good additional protection, I agree.
But the cockpit with the pilot was so far removed from the tail that the pilot could hardly see anything in front of him. And the most difficult thing in piloting the IAR-80 was … taking off!
But in fact, the landing gear was made retractable into the wing, the struts were covered with flaps, the tail crutch was not retractable. The shock absorbers were oily.
Of course, the Romanian team did not bother with the development or purchase of synchronizers. A rather thick and durable wing was designed, in which they could accommodate four Belgian FN Browning machine guns of 7.92 mm caliber with 2440 rounds of ammunition per barrel. For 1937, it was quite enough “for life”.
While engineers and designers were working on the project, the state decided to nationalize the IAR firm itself. What was done in 1938 is no less graceful than the French squeezing their airlines. There was someone to learn from, I agree.
The new company became known as RAIAR, and Vizir Grossa was appointed director. By the way, no one really protested, because money flowed from the budget, and this, as you know, is only welcome.
And in April 1939, the IAR-80 made its maiden flight. And he showed quite decent results for that time: at an altitude of 4,500 m, the plane accelerated to 510 km / h, gained an altitude of 5,000 m in 6 minutes, and the maximum flight altitude was 11 km.
Military pilots were very positive about the aircraft, with the exception of takeoff. The review was really just disgusting, which led to several unpleasant incidents.
However, both at the plant, in the design bureau, and, most importantly, in the Ministry of War, they understood perfectly well that the rearrangement of the engine, tanks and cockpit is in fact the construction of another aircraft. That is, to start everything from the beginning.
Therefore, the Romanian chiefs decided to make a knight’s move: to invite the most experienced French pilots as testers.
Test pilot Michel Detroix, known as a participant in many racing competitions, arrived from France. Detroit worked as a test pilot for the Moran-Saulnier company and the Moran-Breguet-Vibault association. A very experienced pilot, by the way, the only foreigner who won the US national championship in 1936.
In the first flight, Detroit could not take off and crashed the IAR-80, rolling out of the runway. After the repair, the Frenchman managed to curb the Romanian horse and make several flights.
Noting the simply creepy review, Detroix still gave a relatively positive review, since the plane was really high-spirited and had good maneuverability. That is, according to the French expert, the IAR-80 was a modern aircraft with one big drawback – visibility and a not very powerful engine.
The Romanian command acted simply. Having decided that all aircraft with a similar layout have such problems, the military decided to ignore the review. In addition, at that time, a more powerful IAR-K14-III C-36 engine with a takeoff power of 930 hp was already ready. with.
In addition, the wing was slightly enlarged and strengthened (by 0.5 m2), the tank capacity was increased to 455 liters, and the canopy was made lockable.
And by the end of 1940, the new aircraft began to enter the troops. The first batch consisted of 50 machines, on which the retraining of the Romanian pilots began.
And in 1941 the first modification appeared. A new IAR-K14-IV C-32 engine with a capacity of 1000 hp has appeared. True, it was heavier, it was necessary to strengthen the entire nose. All the IAR-80 fighters (95 units) produced at that time were returned to the plant in Brasov for re-equipment.
The more powerful engine made it possible to install two more machine guns in the wings, bringing the number to six. Plus, under the wing, behind each landing gear, a bomb rack for a 50-kg bomb was installed. Aircraft with such modifications were designated IAR-80A.
For Operation Barbarossa, Romanian pilots were preparing together with their German colleagues. In anticipation of the attack, the 8th air group (an analogue of our air regiment, only of three squadrons) relocated to border airfields and on June 22, 1941, began performing combat missions.
Further, the 7th air group joined the 8th, and as part of the 4th Luftwaffe air fleet, the Romanian pilots ensured the advancement of the 3rd and 4th Romanian armies, first through the territory of Bessarabia, and then across Ukraine.
On the Eastern Front, the IAR-80s fought until 1944, when they began to be replaced everywhere with the Bf-109G.
But most of the Romanian Air Force was engaged in the protection and defense of the main asset – the oil fields. This was done by the 1st, 3rd and 4th groups.
The war showed some weakness in the IAR-80’s armament, especially in operations against the Soviet Il-2. A rifle-caliber machine gun with a good stock of ammunition is good, but aircraft reservations have also grown.
“By popular demand” of the pilots, the firm created a modification of the IAR-80B, in which the pair of 7.92 mm FN-Browning machine guns closest to the wing root was replaced with large-caliber 12.7 mm machine guns. In addition, the aircraft were equipped with suspensions for two 100-liter fuel tanks. everyone. The flight range increased from 730 to 1030 km.
And the third, the last modification of the IAR-80C, which entered service in 1943. All the difference from “B” consisted in the fact that the 12.7-mm Belgian “Browning” was replaced by the 20-mm “Ikaria” cannon of Romanian production.
No, the miracle did not happen. “Ikaria” is a licensed MG-FF cannon, which did not shine in the German version, and even more so in the Romanian one. But it was the IAR-80S armed in this way that took part in their most famous battle.
In general, the Romanian pilots fought very well in their skies. And they caused inconvenience to the Allied aviation, which worked in the Ploiesti oil fields. In order to remove the Romanians from the sky once and for all, it was decided to smash the fighter base in Popesti-Leordeny to pieces.
On June 10, 1944, more than a hundred P-38J Lightnings of the 15th Air Wing, US Air Force headed for the Popesti-Leordens.
Once again, I must say. The Americans have long wanted to destroy this base, but they have never succeeded in catching the Romanians by surprise. It so happened that the Romanian pilots fought off each time quite successfully.
The Lightnings, which took off from the Italian airfields at night, planned to be over the airfield at around 8 am. And calmly bomb yourself. We walked at a very low altitude so as not to be detected. We walked confidently.
The whole trouble was that the Germans did not spare radars for the allies, and the German Freya and Würzburgs quite calmly detected the Americans. Quite confident that they were not found, the American pilots did not closely follow the sky. But in vain.
On the airfield that morning, 26 of the 38 aircraft were ready to take off.
All of them took to the air and, knowing about the course and altitude of the Americans, took an advantageous position. And then they staged a uniform massacre on the unsuspecting Yankees. 26 versus 100 is not too little if there is an advantage in height and stealth.
The Romanians shot down 24 Lightning at the cost of their three planes.
On August 1, 1943, IAR-80 and their pilots were virtually killed during Operation Tidal Wave. The goal of the operation was to destroy as many facilities as possible in Ploiesti and disrupt the supply of oil to the Axis countries.
228 B-24 Liberator bombers took off from the airfields in Italy and, accompanied by Mustangs, went to the targets in Ploiesti. However, a very strong headwind made its own adjustments, and the Mustangs of the escorts were unable to accompany their bombers by fuel until the end of the route.
53 downed “Liberators” and 660 dead crew members spoiled the already more than modest success of American aviation.
On August 20, 1944, Soviet troops crossed the Prut, and the dictator Antonescu was overthrown. Four days later, Romania declared war on its former ally, Germany, and the Romanian troops came under the command of the Red Army. The country’s air force became part of the 5th Soviet Air Army of the 2nd Ukrainian Front and, in fact, immediately began to fight against their now former allies.
When the war ended, the “victors” returned back to Romania.
And then, until 1949, IAR-80s of all modifications served as fighters of the air force of the now socialist Romania. Then they were replaced by La-5 and Yak-9 (you had to put them somewhere!), And it so happened that in the end not a single aircraft remained, even for history.
However, such an attitude was in the entire socialist camp, to my greatest regret. What is on display in the military museum in Bucharest is nothing more than a model, like our models in Monino. Alas.
A total of 220 IAR-80s of all modifications were built. Say a little? For Romania – a lot. And in general, where is Romania and where is the aviation industry?
Quite a decent result, let’s face it.
The plane, to be honest, turned out to be quite good. Yes, the sore spot is the takeoff review. Yes, “I blinded him out of what was.” But this machine quite fought with Soviet and American planes, shot down Fortresses (and you had to be able to do that!) And turned out to be extremely tenacious.
In general, a very, very worthy plane came out at the “Industry of Aeronautics Romania”.
Wingspan, m: 10.52.
Length, m: 8.97.
Height, m: 3.60.
Wing area, sq. m: 15.97.
– empty aircraft: 2 110;
– normal takeoff: 2 720.
Engine: 1 х IAR 14K III С32 х 1000 HP
Maximum speed, km / h: 485.
Cruising speed, km / h: 424.
Practical range, km: 730.
Maximum rate of climb, m / min: 670.
Practical ceiling, m: 10 500.
Crew, pers .: 1.
Armament: six 7.92 mm Browning FN machine guns.