4th Air Army
|4th Air Army (1942–98)
4th Army of Air Forces and Air Defence(1998–2009)
|Country||Soviet Union, Russia|
|Branch||Soviet Air Force, Russian Air Force|
|Size||World War II: several air divisions
2000s: ~ 10–15 air regiments
|Garrison/HQ||Rostov on Don|
|Engagements||Battle of the Caucasus
East Prussian Offensive
Battle of Berlin
2008 South Ossetia war
|Commanding Officer||Lieutenant General Igor Miroshnichenko|
The 4th Air Army (4 Vozdushnaya Armiya) was a Soviet Air Force formation and from 1992 to 2009 was part of the Russian Air Force. From 1998 the army was designated the 4th Army of Air Forces and Air Defence. It was first established on 22 May 1942 from the Air Forces of the Soviet Southern Front, and fought on the Eastern Front until 1945. In 1949 it was redesignated the 37th Air Army. It was reformed on 4 April 1968 in Poland, and was active there with the Northern Group of Forces for over twenty years, shifting to the North Caucasus Military District in August 1992. The arrival of the Sukhoi Su-24 drastically changed its tasking in the 1980s.
Second World War
Upon its establishment in May 1942 it had 208 aircraft and 437 crews and consisted of:
- 216th Fighter Division or 216th Mixed Aviation Division (commander V. I. Shevchenko)
- 217th Fighter Division (commander D.P. Galunov)
- 229th Fighter Division (commander P.G. Stepanovich)
- 230th Storm Division (commander S.G. Get'man)
- 219th Bomber Division (commander I.T. Batygin)
- 218th Night Bomber Division (commander D.D. Popov)
- one training regiment, seven separate mixed aviation regiments, one communication squadron, one long range reconnaissance squadron
In June 1942 one more regiment was added, the 588th Light Night Bomber Regiment (commander Ye.D. Bershanskaya), that became the first women's unit in the Soviet Air Force. In February 1943 it was reorganized into 46th Guards Night Bomber Aviation Regiment and in October 1943 it became the 46th Taman Guards Night Bomber Aviation Regiment. In 1943, the Army supported the Kerch-Eltigen Operation and assisted in the battle for air superiority over the Kuban. Two regiments that formed part of the Army, the 57th GIAP and 821st IAP, flew lend-lease Supermarine Spitfires in 1943 for a period. Alexander Pokryshkin was one of its members, and one of the most successful aces of WW2, as well as having the distinction of being awarded the Hero of Soviet Union three times.
In summer 1944 the Army covered the Separate Coastal Army during the Battle of the Crimea (1944). It was then reassigned to the 2nd Belorussian Front and participated in Operation Bagration, the East Prussian Offensive, the East Pomeranian Offensive, and the Battle of Berlin. Overall during the war it flew about 300,000 sorties. In July 1945 the army included the 8th Fighter Aviation Corps (Legnica, Poland), the 4th Assault Aviation Corps the 5th Bomber Aviation Corps, the 164th independent Guards Reconnaissance Aviation Regiment (Brzeg, Poland) with Pe-2R, and the 844th Transport Aviation Regiment (Swidnica, Poland) equipped with the Li-2.
After World War II the 4th Air Army remained in Poland, and appears to have been disbanded in the late 1950s, its units transferred to the 37th Air Army until 1968. On 22 February 1968, in accordance with a decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR the 37th Air Аrmy was awarded the Order of the Red Banner. On 4 April 1968 the 37th Air Аrmy was redesignated again into the 4th Air Army which the army had during the Second World War. However the army was again disbanded at a later stage, and reactivated on 21 August 1984 as the 4th Air Army of Highest Command together with the Higher Command of the Western Strategic Direction, and from 12 October 1989, the 4th Air Army of the Northern Group of Forces.
After the Su-24s started arriving, as part of General Nikolai Ogarkov`s reforms, 4 VA became an independent army with operative designation, subordinate to the HQ of Western Direction. The 24th Air Army of the South-Western Direction shared that status. Those were the only air force armies with Su-27 fighters, tasked with cover of the Fencers. From 1989 until the withdrawal from Poland the Army included the 164th Reconnaissance Aviation Regiment, 245th Mixed Aviation Squadron, 151 EW Regiment (Yak-28), 55th separate Sevastopol helicopter regiment (Mi-24, Mi-8), 19th separate communications and automated direction regiment (Legitza) and other smaller units of direct Army HQ subordination, and the 239th Fighter Baranovichskaya Red Banner Air Division, headquartered at Kluchevo and consisting of the 159th, 582nd, and 871st Fighter Regiments (Kolobrzeg – (Kołobrzeg-Bagicz Airport?)) and the 149th Bomber Aviation Division (HQ Shprotava) with the 3, 42nd Guards, and 89 Bomber Aviation Regiments (Su-24s) as its primary combat formations. Over the border in the Kaliningrad Oblast, but still part of the Army, was the 132 Bomber Sevastopol Red Banner Air Division at Chernyakhovsk.
On the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Poland, the 159th Fighter Regiment moved to Besovets air base and joined the 6th Air Army, and the 871st Fighter Regiment moved to Smolensk and eventually disbanded. The 151st EW Regiment moved back to Shchuchyn in the Belorussian SSR in August 1989 and definitely disbanded in 1992, with its aircraft being broken up at the 558th Aircraft Repair Facility at Baranovichi.
Following withdrawal from Poland from 1992 it became the aviation component of the North Caucasus Military District. On 22 August 1992, the headquarters of the 4th Red Banner VА (VGK) was relocated to the city of Rostov-on-Don and relieved from assignment from the VGK. Headquarters 1st Guards Bomber Aviation Division arrived from Lida in Belarus in 1993 and headquarters 16th Guards Fighter Aviation Division was moved to Millerovo from Damgarten, DDR, on 30 October 1993, and became part of 4th Air Army that day. On 16 June 1997 the President of the Russian Federation signed the decree "About prime measures on reforming Armed forces of the Russian Federation and perfection of their structure". According to that decree, on the basis of the 4th Air Army and the 12th Separate Corps of the Air Defence Force the 4th army of the Air Forces and Air Defence was formed on 1 June 1998.
The 10th Bombardment Aviation Division, headquartered at Yeysk with up to 90 Su-24s in three regiments (296th BAP at Marinovka, 559th BAP and 959th BAP) was part of the army during the 1990s. At some point between January 2001 and September 2005 the division headquarters disbanded. Yeysk airfield (ru:Ейск (аэропорт)), the previous home of a training aviation institute directing around three regiments of L-39s, was turned over to Russian Naval Aviation in September 2009.
In February 2004 regional command staff trainings took place in Kabardino-Balkaria. 02.2006 comd staff exercises jointly with the 58th Army of the North Caucasus Military District. 8 Su-25 took part in Peace Mission 2007 joint Russia-Sino exercises. The commanding officer of the 4th Air Army from February 2007 was Lieutenant General Igor Miroshnichenko. In August 2007 command and staff exercises were held. 11.2007 Caucasus-Rubezh -2007 comd staff exercises. 03.2008 flight tactical training.(Warfare.ru)
In 2009 the Army was disestablished and Russian Air Forces units in the Caucasus grouped under the 4th Air and Air Defence Forces Command.
- Headquarters 4th Army of Air Forces and Air Defence – Rostov on Don
- 1st Guards Composite Air Division – Krasnodar
- 559th Bomber Aviation Regiment – Morozovsk – Su-24 in service. Previously based at Finsterwalde in East Germany with the 16th Air Army;
- 959th Bomber Aviation Regiment – Eisk Airport – operates the Su-24 and L-39C;
- 368th Assault Aviation Regiment – Budyonnovsk – Su-25;
- 461st Assault Aviation Regiment – Krasnodar – Su-25;
- 960th Assault Aviation Regiment – Primorsko-Akhtarsk – Su-25;
- 51st Air Defence Corps – Rostov on Don (disbanded and reorganised in 2009 as 7th Brigade of Missile-Space Defence)
- 3rd Fighter Aviation Regiment – Krymskaya (ex 562nd) – Su-27; (1.12.09 renamed 6972nd Guards Aviation Base)
- 19th Fighter Aviation Regiment – Millerovo – MiG-29; (disbanded 2009 and reorganised as 6969th Aviation Base)
- 31st Fighter Aviation Regiment – (ru:31-й истребительный авиационный полк) Zernograd – MiG-29. Previously based at Falkenberg in East Germany with the 16th Air Army. Disbanded 2009.
- SAM Regiments
- 1st Guards Composite Air Division – Krasnodar
- 11th Independent Reconnaissance Air Regiment – Marinovka – operates the Su-24MR. Formerly based with 16th Air Army, Welzow, East Germany;
- 535th Independent Composite Air Regiment – Rostov on Don – Mi-8, An-12 and An-26 in service;
- ex Army Aviation component
In addition to the above forces, Russian aviation forces in Armenia, probably within the ambit of 4th Air Army, comprise 18 MiG-29 fighters of the 426th Fighter Squadron [426 Istrebitel’naya Aviatsionnaya Eskadril’ya (426 IAE)] and the 700th Air Traffic Control Center, both at the 3624th Air Base [3624 Aviatsionnaya Baza (3624 AB)] at Erebuni Airport outside Yerevan.
Regiments of the Army
The 11th Reconnaissance Aviation Regiment traces its history back to 19 July 1942, when it was formed at Goroshino airfield, 24 km west of Torzhok in the Kalinin Oblast. Holm states it was formed at Koplachki, Kalinin Oblast, from the 3rd independent long-range Reconnaissance Aviation Squadron and from parts of the 506th Bomber Aviation Regiment. Holm also says in November 1942 a third squadron was formed from the 320th independent Reconnaissance Aviation Squadron. The regiment was equipped with the Pe-2 reconnaissance fighter/bomber and joined 3rd Air Army, fighting in the Vitebsk-Polotsk operation and the defence of Vitebsk, for which it received the honour title 'Vitebsk' on 11 July 1944. After its participation in the Shyaulyay Offensive Operation? Shyaulyay-Mitava operation, it received the Order of the Red Banner on 10 August 1944. In 1952, the regiment converted to the Il-28 Beagle, based at Jekabpils and Krustpils in the Latvian SSR. It moved to Neu-Welzow in the German Democratic Republic in July 1954, joining 16th Air Army. In August 1968 it took part in the invasion of Czechoslovakia. In the early 1990s it was withdrawn from the former GDR to the North Caucasus.
The 368th Assault Aviation Regiment was formed on 12 July 1984, at Zjovtnevoye (Zhovtnevoye?) in Ukraine. In October 1986, the regiment moved to Chirchiq in the Uzbek SSR, where it prepared to join the Soviet effort in Afghanistan. Two weeks later it was relocated to Bagram Air Base, north of Kabul. From October 1986 to November 1987 the unit's aircraft fought in Afghanistan, with two squadrons operating from Bagram and the third from Khandahar, though aircraft were occasionally deployed to other airfields, including Shindand and Kunduz. The regiment was relocated to Kalinov, moving to Chortkov in Ukraine in May 1988. It then joined the 16th Air Army in East Germany in December 1988, moving to Demmin.
- Hans Nijhuis and Robert Senkowski, 'Farewell Poland!,' Air International, January 1993, p.15
- Russian Ministry of Defence, 4th Air Army History, accessed May 2008
- (Russian) 65-летие 4-ой Армии ВВС и ПВО
- Keith E Bonn, (ed.), Slaughterhouse: The Handbook of the Eastern Front, Aberjona Press, 2005, p.336
- Igor Zlobin ©, Translation by James F. Gebhardt ©, Spitfires over the Kuban, accessed September 2011
- Michael Holm, 4th Red Banner Air Army VGK ON, accessed September 2011
- Katspersky, Combat establishment of the 4th Air Army on 1 January 1989 (Russian), Forum-Avia.ru,
- Forum-Avia.ru, Combat establishment of the 4th Air Army on 1 January 1989 (Russian), Katspersky,
- http://188.8.131.52/forums/index.php?showtopic=2067&mode=threaded – Order of Battle 1992 (removed from site), but see also Feskov et al. 2004, p.140
- Feskov et al. 2004, p.140, Jane's World Air Forces, Issue 0, March 1996, and International Air Power Review, Vol. 13, Summer 2004, p.88
- ru:4-я воздушная армия (СССР), accessed on 14 May 2008
- Michael Holm, 16th Guards Fighter Aviation Division, accessed August 2011.
- Michael Holm, 31st Guards Fighter Aviation Regiment
- Warfare.ru (Undated). MIG-29/MIG-35 Fulcrum Counter-Air Fighter. Retrieved 16 February 2008.
- Anon. (22 May 2007). “Russian Military Bases”. Kommersant Vlast. Retrieved 29 December 2007.
- Frank Rozendaal, Rene van Woezik and Tieme Festner, 'Bear tracks in Germany: The Soviet Air Force in the former German Democratic Republic: Part 2, Air International, November 1992, p.251-252
- Frank Rozendaal, Rene van Woezik and Tieme Festner, 'Bear tracks in Germany: The Soviet Air Force in the former German Democratic Republic: Part 1, Air International, October 1992, p.210
- Kommersant-Vlast, 2005
- http://www.rg.ru/2007/03/13/reg-jugrossii/miroshnichenko.html (Ru) - Interview with Miroshnichenko
- http://www.ww2.dk/new/air%20force/regiment/bap/3bap.htm - 3rd Bomber Aviation Regiment