1. I haven’t looked through a PU(?) in a while, but I’m thinking the field of view is a might narrow for that application, at least in terms of individual aircraft. A formation of He-111s or Ju-88s? Maybe. The NVA did the same thing, but with open sights, which would probably achieve better results. Supposedly with large enough formations of shooters they managed to shoot down a U.S. plane or two.

    Seems much more like a propaganda shot to me.

    • They’re 4x scopes shouldn’t be too narrow.
      They’re also aiming all over the place…
      Propaganda photo.

  2. Its gotta be propaganda. I can’t keep my flight cap that neat when I’m standing up! Look at how perfect all their covers are!

  3. Ze Red Baron bought it via small arms fire from the ground apparently, obviously he was piloting a WW1 era aircraft at the time. But this lot might have been able to get a hit on say a Stuka pulling up from a dive or something, or a similarly low altitude/speed maneuvering aircraft.

    • Lewis Gun fired by Australia soldiers, last I read the angle of the bullet meant he could only have been hit from below and at an angle which points to ground fire, but the research seems to swing back and forth so I’m not sure where it’s settled at the moment.
      I also remember reading somewhere that one of the things that led to the Stuka becoming obsolete as a dive bomber was that it could apparently be brought down by small arms fire by well disciplined troops, once they’d gotten used to the initial shock of the tactic.

      • I haven’t heard that story. After 1941 the Soviets manufactured and deployed very large numbers of 37mm AA guns, which made life for German attack pilots increasingly dangerous. Also, what does small arms fire mean, exactly? If it includes quad Maxim, triple PV-1 AA machine guns or even single Maxims on a Vladimirov mount in AA mode, I have no difficulty believing the story, but bolt-action rifles and SMGs sound much more implausible (the Sokolov mount for the Maxim had no AA mode).

        • I would bet that main reason why Stuka become obsolete was development of newer, faster fighters. Ju 87 proved be to effective weapon, if the air domination can be guaranteed.

          • I would say that the Stuka was never very good if fighters were present. The losses during the Battle of Britain were extreme. Still, in Russia they proved to be quite effective again, since until summer 1943 the Luftwaffe usually had air superiority. Even later they could still do real damage when sufficient fighter escort was provided or the Russians simply did not detect them in time.

            What Iggy was referring to, I believe, was the fact that the Stukas were increasingly used as conventional ground attack aircraft rather than dive bombers. G model with the 37mm guns was a dedicated tank destroyer and while it could still carry bombs, it did not have dive breaks. Even the D-5 model, which was the main production variant after 1942, had two 20mm cannons as standard armament and was typically used for shallow dive strafing and bombing rather than steep dive bombing attacks. Sometimes the dive breaks were even removed to save weight.

        • The impression I got from the book was that it was especially vulnerable once it went into a dive, so it made a fairly easy target (for an aircraft) for /anyone/ with a gun on the ground. Machine gun fire would probably account for the majority of successes. But the impression I got was there were a few success’s with massed rifle fire.
          It’s half remembered information, but the jist of it was when in dive you didn’t need specialist anti-air weapons to bring down a Stuka, just discipline and a bit of luck (also apart from damage I can imagine having ton’s of bullets skipping all around the cockpit would have all but the most experienced pilots a bit jumpy (not a good thing if in dive)).

          • I understand what you are saying, but aircraft pilots would not see the incoming bullets unless tracers were used. Although not impossible in priciple, riflemen were rarely issued tracers, but dedicated AA guns were always issued with them when available. Standard infantry machine guns were sometimes issued tracers as well for low light shooting, so they might be available for shooting at aircraft.

    • Small-arms fire even from individual weapons is probably more dangerous to Close Air Support aircraft now than it was then. A piston engine can survive several hits from .30 cal. or less rifle rounds and still get you RTB.

      By comparison, a jet engine defines a rifle-caliber bullet in the intake and on into the turbine wheels as serious FOD. At which point it tends to undergo what RAE Farnborough used to call “catastrophic self-disassembly”.

      When the clearance between blades spinning at up to 20,000 RPM is measured in fractions of millimeters, and you’re moving at over 400 knots TAS yourself, a projectile 7.62mm across and up to 20mm long might as well be a sixteen-pounder cannon ball, regardless of its own velocity.

      The same can be said for an average-sized duck or goose. There’s a reason pilots do not regard “birdstrike” as funny. Especially not in an engine.



      • IIRC during WW2 the most vulnerable to enemy fire device in a aircraft was radiator not the engine, the air-cooled engined airplanes was hence considered more resistant to enemy fire. Additionally the radial engine was considered more resistant that V-engines, IIRC radial engine can work even with few cylinders “knocked-out”.

      • “Keep shooting! Maybe we can hit his funny bone!”
        Just hope these guys won’t try to hit a Henschel HS. 129 which may or may not be armed with a 75 mm Bordkanone (which is designed to one-shot tanks, by the way…). And with regards to turbines being vulnerable to FOD, try telling that to an A-10 Thunderbolt II (rather than most jet planes, which will get downed by a rock thrown into the engine). I think the “Wart Hog” would argue back with its main gun.

        You may ignore the following text if you wish.

        Whoever organized this photo probably thought the same ideas as the fictional idiots who designed some aircraft in the Japanese light novel Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta (roughly translated as “A Certain Pilot’s Love Song”), which was later turned into a 13 episode anime. In the hero’s country, fighter planes are two-seater tilt-rotor aircraft with the gunner doing all the shooting from a ring-mounted MG. The pilot in the fighter plane has no guns (save for a flare gun) at his disposal. The attack bombers of the same air force (with the same generic configuration) have no defensive guns at all. And trainees in their unarmed two-seater planes are expected to down targets (including hostile fighters later on) with five-shot bolt-action rifles (the kids are not even taught to snipe the enemy cockpit). The opposing country’s air force consists mostly of fixed-wing single-seat fighter planes resembling a cross between a Bf-109 and a Fw-190 and attack bombers that are obviously Stukas! Do the military math here and you will find that the tilt-rotors with no forward-firing guns will almost always lose to the conventional prop fighters due to the heavy emphasis on tight formations and the pilot’s dependence on the guy in the back seat to do the killing. Honestly, I think the tilt-rotor planes in this anime would have lost dogfights with the Boulton-Paul Defiant and the Blackburn Roc.

        As said before, you can ignore the anime portion of this post if you wish.

        • Andy,

          The aforementioned anime had flying battleships, having flying battleship gun duels, and you’re complaining about the fighter combat being unrealistic?

          Also those trainees -kind- of ended up getting slaughtered.

          • Yeah, you just had to mention the airships. Those were NOT Zeppelins, but flying naval vessels running on metal-hydride batteries. If nothing else, the opposing team had a better understanding of how to build small combat aircraft. VTOLs might be versatile, but without pilot-operated guns, they fall prey to anyone smart enough to kill the gunners first. When the gunner’s dead, what does the pilot do, scream mommy? And if anyone was smart enough to put two-and-ninety-three-and-a-half together, you would think that somebody at least provide one fixed machinegun for the pilot of that tilt-rotor just in case somebody-else headshot the guy in the turret.

            And one rule of aerial engagement for fending off groups of conventional fighter planes if you are in a “turret trainer:” don’t bunch up. The kids got slaughtered because they stuck close together to concentrate gunfire, hovering in a very stiff formation while the other team used “boom and zoom” attacks to pick off tilt-rotors here and there. If you could have designed any replacement aircraft for the kids in the anime, what would you do? [if you don’t want to answer, feel free to skip to the next section]

            Similar to the fictional turkey shoot example above, the Bristol F2’s initial deployment was a disaster. The British pilots left the fighting to their gunners early on and then got massacred by the Red Baron himself. Back to the rifles of the day-the guys in this photo may as well have used anti-material rifles for anti-air shooting. They still wouldn’t get Hans Rudel.

      • For a typical “fast mover” (fighter-bomber) that is probably true. They just rarely venture inside the effective range of rifle-caliber weapons and even if they do, they will come and go so fast that hitting them in the vulnerable parts is very difficult and requires either a lot of luck or a massive amount of weapons fire. The Soviets concluded already in the 1950s that their 14.5mm AA machine guns were rapidly losing effectiveness against the jet fighter-bombers despite having about twice the effective range of rifle-caliber weapons.

        Then there are the dedicated attack aircraft like the A-10 and the Su-25. The A-10 was specifically designed to survive several hits by Soviet 23mm AA guns. The Su-25 is not quite as well armored, since NATO countries used “only” 20mm light AA guns (armoring an aircraft against the 35mm and 40mm AA guns used by some countries would have been impractical). To compensate it is faster and otherwise quite sturdy. In Afghanistan one landed with a Stinger tail section still lodged inside one engine. The warhead completely destroyed the engine, but the armored firewall between the engines saved the other one.

  4. Насколько мне удалось разузнать фотография обозначена как :
    “Снайперы подразделения старшего лейтенанта Ф.Д. Лунина ведут залповый огонь по самолетам противника. 1943”
    По моему мнению это пропаганда. Во-первых, на это указывает отличное качество фотографии. Во-вторых, 20 снайперов в одном месте
    в бою встретить не возможно. Это противоречит тактике и военной доктрине СССР в период Второй Мировой Войны.
    Скорее всего, на фотографии курсанты школы снайперов, которые просто позируют для фотокорреспондента одной из газет.

    As far as I was able to find out the photo is marked as:
    “Snipers division lieutenant F.D. Lunin lead volley fire on enemy aircraft. 1943”
    In my opinion this is propaganda. Firstly, this indicates excellent picture quality. Secondly, 20 in one place sniping
    meet in battle is not possible. This is contrary to military doctrine and tactics of the USSR during World War II.
    Most likely, in the photo school students snipers who just posing for a photographer of a newspaper.

    • A friend from my Ft. Knox days was an Armor officer in the New Jersey Army National Guard. He was an ethnic Kalmuck.

      His father had started the war in the Red Army and finished it in the Wehrmacht.

      Unlike the Cossacks who had the misfortune to mostly fall into the hands of the Brits, who turned them over to Stalin for execution or imprisonment, most of the Kalmucks fell into U.S. hands. Many of them were resettled in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

      My friend had a hard time getting a security clearance since he had relatives simultaneously serving in the Red Army.

  5. I agree with the assessments about this being a posed propaganda scenario. The uniforms are too clean and pressed, there is too little variation among individual soldiers’ dress ( in an active combat zone, variations in individual accoutrements is almost inevitable ), and the village / landscape in the background might be old and somewhat delapidated, but certainly does not show any signs of actual battle damage.

  6. I’d agree that this is a posed picture (I know the recoil from the 7.62x54R with the poor stock design of the Mosin Nagant can be a but stiff but to flatten all of those guys …).

    However, the Russian attitude is that ammunition is cheap, aircraft are expensive so all riflemen are ordered to shoot at low flying aircraft and helicopters. If only one or two bullets hit, then it’s worth it. particularly since the Russian supply system will forward only two tems to its ground troops – ammunition and fuel.

  7. My problem with the reality of the photo is that if you enlarge it the rifles are clearly aimed in several different directions as is shown by the differences in angles which brings into question if they are using concentrated fire or are being attacked by a swarm of horseflies. The paradigm of concentrated small arms fire is for everyone to concentrate on one target at a time.

  8. The theory behind this is that you do not aim at the aircraft but a given distance in its flight path. all you rifles fire at that point with the intention of creating a wall or mass of projectiles that the aircraft flies through. As for aircraft hit by rifle ground fire, it was rather common to have holes punched through even if they did no catastrophic damage. Of course a bolt action rifle will be less effective then an semi-automatic, then an automatic, then an MG…etc… The principle is the same with exploding ordnance such as flak and missiles which explode to create a cloud of shrapnel that the aircraft flies through. And this is obviously a photo taken at a training range for propaganda.


    • That’s exactly how it’s supposed to work. I don’t know how they practiced it in the Red Army during WW2, but in the Finnish Army the officer (platoon leader) calls out how much you are supposed to lead the target (in meters) and gives the fire command. Since people tend to evaluate both the lead distance and the flight path of the target differently, there will be considerable dispersion in the direction of the actual fire of individual soldiers. The main practical application of such AA fire is against helicopters, but in principle it can still be used against low-flying fixed wing aircraft and UAVs as well.

      As far as I know the Finnish Army did not practice or use personal weapons against aircraft during WW2. It was introduced in the late 1960 after the successes of the NVA in Vietnam proved that it could be useful with assault rifles.

  9. Definitely not a combat photo, but could be a training photo. Commander to pilot: “Comrade, you have been found guilty of crime against Motherland, pilfering General’s vodka. You may take bullet to head now or fulfill patriotic duty and fly patched-up I-15 over to range so sniper students may practice shooting at you. They are students, so might miss first time. Repeat exercise until they are successful.”

  10. Tactics of rifle “bulk fire” was still trained during my time of basic service and although it might look bit quaint, it was part of curriculum.

    From what I read on encounters with NATO or western civilian planes, accidentally or purposely strayed across the border, this method never stopped anything of value, nor was it tried. But, on paratroopers drop it might have some effect.

    • During the ’70s(?) there was a series of articles in “Soldier of Fortune” by an Englishman(?) who’d served in the French Foreign Legion. At the time, the French were still issuing the MAS 49-56. Needless to say, it was getting fairly long in the tooth and was considered by others, and even a lot of French, old and outmoded. In one of the articles, I believe the author related a French officer railing at the possibility of adopting a 5.56mm rifle, since the rifle was the “primary air defense weapon of the French army”, and the 5.56x45mm round would be ineffective in that role…

      • The French Army really had quite poor AD before the 1970s and the deployment of the Crotale and Roland missile systems. Before that the low altitude AAA of the entire French army consisted of 200 single-barrel towed 20mm systems (called M1953 or 53T1), which had the rather weak (for AA purposes) MG 151/20 (yes, ex-German) as the gun on a French designed carriage. For an Army as large as the French that was an incredibly low number of systems. Even the US Army, notorious for ignoring AD and relying on the Air Force, had better AD systems in the 1960s.

        It was not until 1977 they finally acquired 600 53T2 AA guns, which had a more effective GIAT M621 (a.k.a. F2) autocannon and modern electronic predictor sight. Compared to most other NATO countries even that number was low and the single barrel cannon was anachronistic, but at least at that point missile systems were picking up most of the slack.

  11. A somewhat related story I read some years ago – during the evacuation of Greece (maybe Crete) in WW2, a battalion or so of Australian infantry were aboard a cargo ship en route to North Africa when it was attacked by a German bomber. After some near misses, the Aussies moved 75 Bren guns to the side of the ship facing the bomber on its next run. Apparently the bomber came off second best, so I guess it depends upon the amount of small-arms fire you can put up.

    • 75 Brens is nothing to sneeze at. It’s the equivalent of 9 eight gun Hurricanes or Spitfires. How many He-111s, Do-17s or Ju-88s enjoyed the attentions of nine Hurricanes and still made it back to base? Not many, I’d imagine.

      • Actually, only equivalent to about 4.2 eight .303 Browning Mark II gun fighters, not counting magazine changes for the Bren 😉 The .303 Browning fired about 1150 rounds per minute, but the Bren only 520 RPM. The calculation also does not include the fact that the infantry Brens were probably not issued AP and Incendiary rounds*. Still, a lot of fire power directed at a single aircraft.

        * After the Battle of Britain the RAF concluded that only API bullets in .303 were really effective against German bombers.

  12. This is foolish of the USSR…

    Clearly, what they really need is the infallible AA sights the Japanese have on the Type 99 rifle! Now THAT is infantry AA tech!

  13. To go back to the JU87, IF I remember correctly: the JU87 had an early autopilot that would take over the pullout of a high angle dive if the pilot greyed out. Lazy pilots used the thing most of the time for pullout. The thing was quite rudimentary and it was easy to lead the A/C and ventilate the thing. As was described in the article I saw, ground gunners and fighters would make life unpleasant for the Stuka crews.

  14. The easy targeting of an an attacking dive bomber was the primary reason it was discontinued by everyone (except the Luftwaffe, where Hitler had a thing about it that seriously screwed up bomber development)
    Once established in its dive on target the aircraft became basically a zero deflection target itself (from the ground target POV that is) A determined enemy on the ground, which is to say anyone attacked more than once and given something to shoot back with, could be effective as there was no lead to worry about. If you weren’t THE target, it was more complicated, but the more bullets in the air, the less pleasant the pilot’s job is in any case.
    Also, while it is true Stukas (and IL-2s etc) carried a lot of armor, it is not possible to protect everything on an airplane. Shooting out a tire, or damaging the brakes is likely to result in a bad landing which could be just as bad as being shot down elsewhere. Ditto control cables, and any number other seemingly minor systems.
    Besides, shooting back beats the hell out of cowering, and it MIGHT be more effective

  15. I was told by a soldier who had gone to France in 1939 and in 1940 returned via Dunkirk that they had air sentries who would shout “enemy aircraft left” or whatever. The vehicles would stop and everyone got out, lined up on the left hand side of the road and blazed away with their .303 SMLEs. He said they did it once for real, after the first Stuka attack they debussed, got into the nearest ditch and kept their heads down.

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