Petlyakov Pe-3 Long-Range Heavy Fighter / Night-Fighter Aircraft
The Petlyakov Pe-3 heavy fighter / night fighter variant developed from the successful Petlyakov Pe 2 line.
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The Petlyakov Pe-2 was an original Soviet twin-engined aircraft design emerging in the late-1930s, becoming one of the most important aircraft of the Soviet effort during World War 2 (1939-1945). Initially conceived of as a dive bomber in the mold of the successful German Junkers Ju 87 "Stuka", the Pe-2 graduated to undertake a myriad of battlefield roles including fighter-bomber, light bomber, close support, reconnaissance and night fighter. For the heavy fighter/night fighter role, the aircraft was designated separately as the "Pe-3" and this version served in the Soviet aviation inventory until the end of the war in 1945. While the Pe-2 managed the astounding production total of 11,427 aircraft, the specialized Pe-3 was seen in just 360 units. Introduction was marked in 1941 with manufacture spanning from 1941 to 1944.
The Pe-2 naturally served as the basis for the Pe-3 sans its dive bombing capabilities and three-man crew. First flight was recorded on August 7th, 1941 and the aircraft's arrangement was largely faithful to the original. The crew of two sat back-to-back under a revised, framed canopy with the rear crewman serving as a dedicated machine gunner/observer. The bomb bay was outfitted with additional fuel stores to increased the aircraft's operational range. Armament was made up of 1 x 20mm cannon in the nose assembly coupled with 2 x 12.7mm UBK machine guns in fixed-forward firing mountings on the fuselage. The dorsal turret contained 1 x 12.7mm UBT machine gun while a tail unit was given a 7.62mm machine gun installation. A bomb load of up to 1,500lbs was possible as well, allowing for fighter-bomber strike sorties. Structurally, the Pe-3 followed the Pe-2 with its low-mounted wings, split rudder tail fin and wholly retractable "tail dragging" undercarriage.
Power was served through 2 x Klimov M-105RA V12 liquid-cooled inline engines of 1,100 horsepower each driving 3-bladed propellers. Maximum speed was 330 miles per hour with an operational range out to 930 miles. Its service ceiling was listed at 29,860 feet and could reach 16,400 feet in under seven minutes.
Production of the new aircraft began in the summer of 1941 to which deliveries ensued in August. As the Pe-3 was born of the Pe-2, they shared production lines and Pe-3s were simply modified for their heavy fighter/night fighter roles where they lay. The initial production version was designated simply as "Pe-3" and appeared in 207 examples. The Pe-3bis was an improved, upgraded form appearing in 1942 and seeing production reach 152 units. Subtle variations in the design ultimately produced the Pe-3M of 1944.
Beyond the Soviet Air Force and Navy, the Pe-3 was utilized through one sole captured example by the Finnish Air Force and never offered for export. Its operational use ended with the end of World War 2 and the subsequent arms and budget drawdowns that followed.