Weapons Manual: Night Stalker-The Soviet's U-2 biplane | HistoryNet MENU
By war's end, most of the 588th Night Bomber Regiment's "Night Witches" had flown as many as 1,000 missions. (Photo: Nikolai Ignatiev/Alamy)

Weapons Manual: Night Stalker-The Soviet’s U-2 biplane

By Paraag Shukla
December 2017 • World War II Magazine

A SIMPLY DESIGNED AIRCRAFT, the U-2 (later dubbed the Po-2) Night Stalker proved to be one of the most versatile planes of the war. Although it was built as a civil and military trainer, the Soviets used it for supply, transport, liaison, medical evacuation, reconnaissance, and bombing duties. Starting in 1942 Polikarpov fitted the U-2 with underwing bomb racks for use as a night bomber—its most well-known role. When targeting bivouacked enemy troops, U-2 pilots often flew “low and slow,” approaching at treetop level before throttling back and gliding in over their targets. The abrupt attacks had a marked psychological impact on German soldiers resting well behind the lines; many units felt compelled to stay on guard through the night. The Soviet 588th Night Bomber Regiment, an all-woman squadron, famously used their U-2s to great effect on nocturnal harassment raids against the German rear. —Paraag Shukla

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Art by Jim Laurier

 

This column was originally published in the December 2017 issue of World War II magazine. Subscribe here.

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