The Pe-2 was designed in a prison design bureau (sharashka); Vladimir Petlyakov had been arrested and imprisoned in 1937 for allegedly delaying design work on the Tupolev ANT-42 bomber. In the sharashka, Petlyakov was put in charge of a team to develop a high-altitude fighter escort for the ANT-42 under the designation VI-100. The first of two prototypes flew on December 22, 1939 and was a sophisticated aircraft for its time, featuring a pressurised cabin, all-metal construction, superchargers and many electrically actuated systems. It is said that Petlyakov and his team could see the VI-100 prototype from their prison as it was put through its paces for the crowds watching the annual May Day parade in 1940.
Just as production was ready to begin, the air force ordered a re-design of the aircraft. The value of tactical bombing had just been displayed by the Luftwaffe in the Blitzkrieg, and the need for such an aircraft suddenly became much more important than the need for a high-altitude escort fighter. Petlyakov's team was given 45 days to redesign their aircraft as a dive bomber. Cabin pressurization and superchargers were deleted, dive brakes and a bombardier's position were added, and other aerodynamic refinements. A fuselage bomb-bay was added, along with smaller bays in each engine nacelle. The aircraft was initially designated PB-100, but Joseph Stalin was impressed enough with Petlyakov to free him, and his name was permitted to be used in the aircraft's designation. The first aircraft flew on December 15, 1940, rushed through production without a prototype under severe threats from Stalin. Deliveries to combat units began the following Spring.
While the Pe-2's flying characteristics were generally favorable once it was airborne, it took a good amount of force to pull the elevators up to rotate the plane for takeoff. Russian night bombing missions often flew with female pilots and some of the women were not strong enough to get the airplane airborne by themselves. When such a situation occurred, the procedure was to have the navigator get behind the pilot's seat and wrap her arms around the control wheel and help the pilot pull the wheel back. Once the aircraft was airborne, the navigator returned to her duties and the pilot continued to fly the plane without assistance. Its armament was clearly insufficient, however. The dorsal ShKAS machine gun had a very high rate of fire; however, its 7.62 mm rounds proved inadequate against the armor protection of modern fighters as the war progressed. In addition, it often jammed. The mounting for the ventral Berezin UB had a very limited field of view and the gun was initially unreliable. To give more protection, another ShKAS was added that could be moved between sockets on both sides of the fuselage and, in an emergency, the gunner could fire upwards, but in this case he had to be quite strong to keep it in his arms. To improve the bomber's defences, a dorsal Berezin UBT 12,7 mm was mounted. This modification was reported to increase the life expectancy of a Pe-2 from 20 sorties to 54.
The aircraft did not show its true potential until the end of 1941, after the Soviet Air Force had a chance to regroup after the German onslaught during the Winter. The Pe-2 quickly proved itself to be a highly capable aircraft, able to elude the Luftwaffe's interceptors and allowing their crews to develop great accuracy with their bombing.
The records of the 16th and 39th BAPs of the Western Front Air Force note that the Pe-2s crews had the greatest success in repelling the attacks of enemy fighters in June and July 1941. On 1 July, for example, six Pe-2s fended off attacks by four Messerschmitt Bf 109s, shooting down two of them. A week later a group of Pe-2s was attacked by four Bf 109 and again brought down two of the attackers. On both occasions the Petlyakovs suffered no losses. On the southern front, a bombing mission against Ploesti, in Romania, by six Pe-2s, led by Capt. A. Tsurtsulin, was a great success: 552,150 lb of petroleum were burnt in the raid. The Romanian information agency claimed that at least 100 Soviet planes had bombed Ploesti. The Pe-2 regiments' operations were not always successful and the service pilots complained about insufficient defensive armament and survivability: there was a great risk of fire and insufficient armour protection, especially for the navigators and gunners. German pilots soon discovered the limited sighting angles of the ventral gun mounting and its poor reliability. The Ammunition belt of the UBT machine-gun often jammed after the first burst of fire when shooting in extreme positions. The navigator and the radio operator were poorly protected. On average, ten Pe-2 gunners were wounded for every pilot, and two or three were killed for the loss of one pilot. Throughout 1942 the design was steadily refined and improved, in direct consultation with pilots who were actually flying them in combat. Improved armour protection and a fifth ShKAS machine-gun were installed and fuel tanks modified. Despite anecdotal reports by Soviet fliers, which were often exaggerations and unconfirmed or "over claims" for which the Soviets were well known, Pe-2s were a daylight bomber, often crewed by comparative novices in the early years of the war, and took significant losses, even when well protected by fighters. In December 1942 General Turkel of the Soviet Air Force estimated the life expectancy of a Pe-2 was 30 combat flights. An example of loss rates after the Soviets gained the upper hand can be gained by the losses suffered by the 1st and 2nd BAK. The former started the month of July 1943 with 179 machines, and lost 52 that month, and 59 the next, ending August with 156 bombers after receiving replacements. The 2nd BAK started July with 122 Pe-2s, with monthly losses of 30 and 20, ending August 1943 with 114 Pe-2s after replacements arrived. Most of these losses were at the hands of the thinly stretched German fighter groups, which continued to inflict significant losses when present in strength, even in the closing months of the war. For example, in the Baltic where JG54, "the Green Hearts," were the main opposition, and greatly outnumbered, the Soviet 1st Gv BAK lost 86 Pe-2's shot down (another 12 to other causes), mostly to German fighters between July 23, 1944 and February 8, 1945. Western sources use mark Pe-2FT for production series after 83 (where FT stands for Frontovoe Trebovanie (Frontline Request)), although Soviet documents do not use this identification. Final versions Pe-2K (transitional version of Pe-2I) and Pe-2I were produced in small numbers, due to the unwillingness of Soviet industry to decelerate production numbers.
In 1941, after the outbreak of the Continuation War, Finland purchased six war booty Pe-2 aircraft from Germany. These arrived at State Aircraft Factory facilities at Härmälä in January 1942, where the airframes were overhauled and given Finnish serial numbers. The seventh Pe-2 was bought from the Germans in January 1944, and it was flown to Finland at the end of the month.
It was initially planned to use these planes as dive bombers in the 1st flight of LeLv 48, which began to receive its aircraft in July 1942, but during the training it was found out that this caused too much strain for the engines. Thus, the role of Pe-2s was changed to fly long-range photographic and visual reconnaissance missions for the Army General Headquarters. These sorties began in late 1942, and were often flown with two 250 kg (551 lb) bombs for harassment bombing and in order to cover the true purpose of missions.
By the time the Soviet Fourth strategic offensive started in June 1944, the secondary bombing role had already ended and the surviving Pe-2s began to be used solely at Karelian Isthmus in escorted (normally by four FiAF Bf-109 Gs) photographic reconnaissance flights in order to find out enemy troop concentrations. These vital missions were flown successfully, allowing artillery and Finnish Air Force and Luftwaffe's Gefechtsverband Kuhlmey's bombers to make their strikes against the formations preparing for attack, which had an important impact on the outcome of the Battle of Tali-Ihantala, where the Soviet advance was halted.
During the Continuation War, three Pe-2s were lost in accidents or technical failures, one was destroyed in bombing of Lappeenranta airfield, one was shot down by Soviet fighters and one went missing in action. In the Lapland War the only remaining machine flew a single reconnaissance sortie in October 1944. On average, the aircraft flew some 94 hours per plane during the war.
The Finnish Air Force also operated one Petlyakov Pe-3 (PE-301) that had been captured in 1943.
PE-301 and PE-215 were destroyed when Soviet aircraft bombed the Lappenranta airfield on 2 July 1944. PE-212 went down in 1943, PE-213 was destroyed in an emergency landing in 1942. PE-214 was destroyed in a failed take-off attempt at Härmälä on 21 May 1942: as Härmälä airfield was quite short, the pilot had to try to lift off with too little speed, which caused the aircraft to stall and crash, killing the crew. PE-217 managed to shoot down a Soviet fighter in 1944. PE-216 was destroyed in a forced landing in 1944. PE-211 survived the war and was removed from FAF lists in 1946. It was still standing beside the Kauhava airfield in 1952, but further information on its fate is unknown.
In total, around 11,400 Pe-2s were built; a large number of minor variants were also developed.PB-100
Prototype of the Pe-2 modified from the VI-100 in 1940.Pe-2
First production variant.Pe-2B
Standard bomber version from 1944.Pe-2D
Three-seat bomber version, powered by two VK-107A piston engines.Pe-2FT
Main production variant. In Czechoslovakia
known as the B-32
. Improved defensive armament (7.62 mm machine gun in dorsal turret), removal of the dive brakes, and an uprated engine. Nose glazing was also reduced.Pe-2FZ
Built in small numbers.Pe-2I
Improved version designed by Vladimir Myasishchev. VK-107 engines; revised wing profile; remote-controlled tail gun. Top speed 656 km/h (408 mph). Could carry 1,000 kg (2,204 lb) bombs. Five examples built.Pe-2K
Radial-engined version, small number built.Pe-2K RD-1
One Pe-2K equipped with additional RD-1 rocket engine. The 300 kg (661 lb) Glushko RD-1 rocket engine was installed in the tail of the aircraft.Pe-2M
Variant of Pe-2I with heavier armament.Pe-2MV
This version was armed with 20 mm ShVAK cannons and two 12.7 mm (0.5 in) in an underfuselage gondola, it also had one 7.62 mm (0.3 in) machine gun in the dorsal turret.Pe-2R
Three-seat photo reconnaissance version, with a larger fuel tanks and extended range. small number built.Pe-2S
Two-seat training version.Pe-2Sh
The PB-100 prototype was fitted with two 20 mm ShVAK cannons, and a single 12.7 mm (0.5 in) machine gun was fitted beneath the fuselage.Pe-2VI
High altitude fighter version.Pe-2UTI (UPe-2)
Dedicated trainer version, small number built. In Czechoslovakia
known as the CB-32
Anti-barrage balloon version.Pe-3
Long-range night fighter version.Pe-4
As Pe-2 except with Klimov VK-105PF engines.World War II CzechoslovakiaCzechoslovakian Air Force operated some Pe-2FT aircraft in the 1st Czechoslovakian Mixed Air Division in Soviet Union (1. československá smíšená letecká divize v SSSR). Aircraft were used operationally from 14 April 1945. FinlandFinnish Air Force operated seven captured aircraft (given the Finnish serial numbers PE-211 to PE-217). Soviet UnionSoviet Air ForcePostwar BulgariaBulgarian Air Force People's Republic of ChinaPeople's Liberation Army Air Force CzechoslovakiaCzechoslovakian Air Force operated 32 Pe-2FT and 3 UPe-2 between May 1946 and mid 1951. First aircraft arrived to Prague-Kbely airfield in April 1946 and formed two squadrons of the 25 Air Regiment in Havlíčkův Brod. Czechoslovakian aircraft were known under designation B-32 (Pe-2FT) and CB-32 (UPe-2). HungaryHungarian Air Force PolandAir Force of the Polish Army (after 1947 Polish Air Force)Polish Navy Soviet UnionSoviet Air Force YugoslaviaSFR Yugoslav Air Force operated 123 Pe-2FT and 9 UPe-2 between 1945 and 1954.41st Bomber Aviation Regiment (1945–1948)42nd Bomber Aviation Regiment (1945–1948)43rd Bomber Aviation Regiment (1947–1948)Night Bomber Aviation Regiment (1948)88th Bomber Aviation Regiment (1948–1952)97th Bomber Aviation Regiment (1948–1952)109th Bomber Aviation Regiment (1948–1952)185th Mixed Aviation Regiment (1949–1952)715th Independent Reconnaissance Squadron (1949–1952)BulgariaBulgarian National Aviation Museum in KrumovoNorwayNorwegian Aviation Museum in Bodø.PolandMuseum of the Polish Army in Warsaw – Pe-2FTRussiaCentral Air Force Museum in Monino
General characteristicsCrew: Three – pilot, navigator, gunnerLength: 12.66 m (41 ft 6 in)Wingspan: 17.16 m (56 ft 3 in)Height: 3.5 m (11 ft 6 in)Wing area: 40.5 m² (436 ft²)Empty weight: 5,875 kg (12,952 lb)Loaded weight: 7,563 kg (16,639 lb)Max. takeoff weight: 8,495 kg (18,728 lb)Powerplant: 2 × Klimov M-105PF liquid-cooled V-12, 903 kW (1,210 hp) each
PerformanceMaximum speed: 580 km/h (360 mph)Range: 1,160 km (721 miles)Service ceiling: 8,800 m (28,870 ft)Rate of climb: 7.2 m/s (1,410 ft/min)Wing loading: 186 kg/m² (38 lb/ft²)Power/mass: 250 W/kg (0.15 hp/lb)
2 × 7.62 mm (0.3 in) fixed ShKAS machine guns in the nose, one replaced by a 12.7 mm (0.5 in) Berezin UB on later versions.2 × rearward firing 7.62 mm (0.3 in) ShKAS.From the middle of 1942 defensive armament included 1 Berezin UB machine gun in the upper bombardier's turret, 1 Berezin UB in gunner's ventral hatch and 1 ShKAS which could be fired by a gunner from port, starboard or upper mountingsSome planes were also equipped with a DAG-10 launcher, firing AG-2 parachute timed grenades.Bombs: 1,600 kg (3,520 lb) of bombs