Imperial Russian Air Service

The Imperial Russian Air Service (Императорскій военно-воздушный флотъ, literally Emperor's Military Air Fleet) was an air force founded in 1912 for Imperial Russia.

The Air Service operated for 5 years and only saw combat in World War I before being reorganized and renamed in 1917 following the Russian Revolution.

It formed what would later become the Soviet Air Forces. At the beginning of World War I,

Russia's air service was second only to that of France (263 aeroplanes and 14 airships, although the bulk of its aircraft were too outdated to be of much use.

After the war began, aviators were rearmed with 7.63mm Mauser C96, because German semi-automatic pistols were more effective weapons than standard 7.62mm Nagant revolvers.

At least a few aviators were armed with carbines Initially,

Russia used aviation only for reconnaissance and coordination of artillery fire.

Later, several aeroplanes were armed with steel flechettes to attack ground targets (columns of enemy infantry and cavalry, campsites, etc.).

Later, aeroplanes were armed with air-dropped bombs.

On 8 September 1914, the Russian pilot Pyotr Nesterov performed the first aerial ramming aircraft attack in the history of aviation Later, Lt. Vyacheslav Tkachov became the very first Russian pilot who shot down an enemy aircraft with a handgun.

He attacked a German "Albatros" and shot the enemy pilot.

In December 1914 a squadron of 10 Ilya Muromets bombers was formed and used against the German and Austro-Hungarian armies.

17 January 1915 – The Ministry of War of the Russian Empire issued an order to arm aeroplanes with 7.62mm Madsen light machine guns and 7.71mm Lewis light machine gun]

In March 1915 naval aviation was established. The Imperial Russian Navy received two vessels and six seaplanes (one armed steamship "Император Николай I" which was converted into a seaplane carrier for five M-5 seaplanes and one cruiser "Алмаз" which was rebuilt and acquired place for one seaplane).

The naval aviation section was not merged into the IRAS, it became a part of Black Sea Flee

On 31 March 1915 the Russian pilot Alexander Kazakov successfully performed the second ramming attack, using a Morane-Saulnier G as his piloted projectile.

Summer 1915 – petrol bombs (glass bottles containing a flammable mixture of gasoline and mazut) were used by pilots to attack ground targets

In 1915 the Imperial Russian Air Service became a separate branch of the army directly under the command of the Stavka (commander-in-chief's HQ).

In 1916 the size and force of naval aviation was increased, the Black Sea Fleet had two seaplane carriers ("Император Николай I" and "Император Александр I") and fourteen M-9 seaplanes

During World War I, 269 Russian aviators were awarded the St. George military decorations (St George Sword, Order of St. George or Cross of St. George), 5 aviators were awarded the Chevalier's National Order of the Legion of Honour, 2 aviators were awarded the Military Cross, 2 aviators were awarded the Order of the White Eagle and many others were awarded medals.

26 aviators became flying aces of Russian Empire.

The most successful Russian flying ace and fighter pilot was Alexander Kazakov, who shot down 20 enemy aeroplanes.

However, the war was not going well for Russia and following significant setbacks on the Eastern front, and the economic collapse in the rear, military aircraft production fell far behind Russia's rival Germany.

Aircraft hangars for seaplanes of the Imperial Russian Air Service in Reval harbor, some of the first such structures to be made of reinforced concrete

] After the February Revolution of 1917 the Imperial Russian Air Service was reformed.

Following the October Revolution of 1917, the Russian Air Service was dissolved. more than 1300 aeroplanes became a basis of Workers' and Peasants' Air Fleet.

More than two-thirds of these aeroplanes were foreign-made.

More than 50% of all aeroplanes were "Nieuports", more than 15% of all aeroplanes were "Farmans" and about 9% of all aeroplanes were "Voisins".

Only 300–350 of these aeroplanes were used during Russian Civil War because of the lack of spare parts and maintenance problems.

Kolchak's white army received 65 aeroplanes and about 70 pilots.

Also, former members of Imperial Russian Air Service joined Denikin's white army.

After the start of the North Russia Intervention several former pilots of Imperial Russian Air Service joined the white forces in North Russia. 219 pilots who fought in Red Army during Russian Civil War were awarded Order of the Red Banner (16 of them were awarded twice). Almost all of them were former pilots of IRAS.

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