1943 - 1944
Initial Night-Fighter Trials
Finnish night-fighter trials were started at Flying Regiment 2 in 1943 by 3rd Flight / Flying Squadron 16 (3./Le.Lv.16) and were directed against the Soviet interfere bombers, R-5 bi-blanes. The fighters used were Gloster Gladiators (GL). The first score was claimed on 23.2.1943 by S.Sgt E. Pakarinen.
In April 1943 Soviets started a new series
of interfere bombings but used now bigger even up to
twelve plane formations instead of individual planes.
Despite of Soviet activity effective night-fighter
repulse could not be organized.
Temporary Night-Fighter Training Flight in Spring 1943
On 7.3.1943 Flying Regiment 3 (Le.R 3) was ordered to organize night-fighter protection for the capital city Helsinki and possible also for the city of Kotka. Six selected pilots from Flying Squadron 24 (Le.Lv.24) were gathered for a secret training course to Immola airbase to experimental Night-Fighter Training Flight [Yöhävittäjäkoulutuslentue] of Staff / Flying Regiment 3 (E/Le.R 3).
Initial training was started on 23.4.1943 using VL Viima trainers (VI-12 and VI-15). They were later also used as target planes for three Brewster "night-fighters" (since 20.4.- BW-384, 9.5.- BW-368, 30.5.- BW-387). The course was over at the beginning of June and temporary flight was moved back to Le.Lv.24 on 8.6.1943.
When the Commander of Le.R 3 was
changed on 9.6.1943 and regiment staff moved from Immola
to Suulajärvi night-fighter flight was suspended because
it was not seen necessary at all. Lt.Col. G.
Magnusson suggested that such training was better
done in Germany because of Germans' long experience on
this sector. Another aspect was that it was only the
waste of invaluable fuel in training night-fighter pilots
in Finland. Magnusson continued opposing night-fighter
training because he didn't want to lose his best pilots.
New Night-Fighter Plans in 1943
In the summer 1943 it was decided to order Messerschmitt Bf 110 night-fighters from Gemany but Germans informed Finns that planes couldn't be delivered before the later part of 1944. It was then considered to use Bristol Blenheim (BL) bombers or fast captured Petlyakov Pe-2 (PE) planes as night-fighters but the number of latter ones was too low and BLs were already too slow. It was also studied if Messerschmitt Bf 109G (MT) or Brewster B-239 fighters could be used as night-fighters instead.
Despite of the lack of proper aircraft
orders for obtaining equipment and radars for two night-fighter
squadrons and three night-fighter conduct companies (called
Radio Measuring Companies) were given to Germans
at the beginning of 1944. At the end of 1943 it was also
decided that Flying Regiment 5 (Le.R 5) and its Flying
Squadron 30 (Le.Lv.30) will become night-fighter
Night-Fighter Airbases in Finland
On 1.3.1944 Hyvinkää airbase north from Helsinki was ordered to be constructed and equipped suitable for night-fighters operations. For this 4th and 5th Staff Companies (4. & 5.EK) and 12th Airfield Company (12.Le.KenttäK) were subordinated to HLe.Lv.30 and moved to Hyvinkää. Airbase was not finished before the war ended.
Utti and Malmi airbases were ordered to be
equipped for night-fighters on 14.8.1944. Hollola and
Tampere airbases were also considered but these plans
never realized. Turku, Parola and Kymi airbases were to
be equipped for forced landings and temporary use.
German Night-Fighter Trainers in Finland in late Winter and Spring 1944
When Soviet bombers attacked Helsinki on 6./7.2.1944 there was no night-fighter protection in Finland. It seems only a partial coincidence that German Nachtjagd-Kommando Helsinki-Malmi (I./JG 302) with 12 brand new Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6/R-6 night-fighters arrived in Helsinki so soon after this first attack on 12.2.1944. German unit consisted of experienced night-fighter trainers.They had also one Arado Ar 66 trainer aircraft (NL+AG) in Finland in their own use.
Theoretical training of the forthcoming Finnish night-fighter pilots of 2nd Flight / Fighter Squadron 30 * (2./HLe.Lv.30) called now on as Training Flight [Koulutuslentue] equipped with Messerschmitt Bf 109G-2 fighters started on 17.3. but ended already on 6.4.1944 because the promised about ten Arado Ar 66 trainer aircraft never arrived in Finland. Some of the trainers returned to Germany already at the end of March and the last ones by 15.5.1944. See more about Germans from the page German Flying Units in Central and Southern Finland 1941 - 1944.
* Former 2./HLe.Lv.34 attached to HLe.Lv.30
as its 2nd Flight on 6.3.1944.
Fighter Squadron 30 in Spring and Summer 1944
Between 14. - 26.2.1944 1st Flight / Fighter Squadron 30 (1./HLe.Lv.30) received ten obsolescent FIAT G.50 fighters from Fighter Squadron 26 (HLe.Lv.26) and started conversion training for faster fighters which continued in night-fighter training. Flight was also moved from Römpötti airbase in Karelian Isthmus to Utti. Pilots in conversion and basic training were at Utti and advanced night-fighter training for Bf 109Gs was given by Germans at Malmi.
On 26.3. HLe.Lv.30 received its first five Bf 109G-6 fighters from Germany and five more from depot. 2./HLe.Lv.30 gave now their old Bf 109G-2s to HLe.Lv.24. On 8.5. 1./HLe.Lv.30 received also three new specially equipped Bf 109G-6Y night-fighter variants. Additionally squadron received five VL Viima II elementary trainers for night training. Also ten pilots from Flying Regiment 3 (Le.R 3) (HLe.Lv.24 and 34) were trained at Utti and Malmi.
After Germans left Malmi airbase the task of fighter protection of Helsinki was taken by HLe.Lv.30. Finns carried out the first night-fighter mission from Malmi on 20.5. but without success. Bright summer-time and Soviet attack in Karelian Isthmus on 9.6.1944 meant the gap in night-fighter activity and training because both all available planes and pilots were more urgently needed there. On 10.6. HLe.Lv.30 had to relieve four planes with pilots to Fighter Squadron 34 (HLe.Lv.34). Planes were located at Kymi near Kotka but were moved to Immola on 15.6.
Eventually only two planes out of four working Bf 109G-6Ys (with Y-Gerät IFF device) of 2./HLe.Lv.30 were held in readiness for night activity at Malmi with external fuel tanks. In mid-June 1944 HLe.Lv.30 had a total of 26 pilots of whom 11 were fully combat-ready. Squadron's younger pilots flew new MT fighters from Germany to Finland. Planes were flown to Malmi airfield so that squadron could use newly arrived fighters up to a couple of days with German markings before they were moved to Field Flight Depot 1 (K.Le.V 1) which refitted new MTs for the Finnish Air Force at Utti.
On 22.7. HLe.Lv.30 was reformed at Malmi airbase now equipped with Bf 109G-6Y night-fighters. 1st Flight led by Lt. T. Kallio stayed at Malmi but 2nd Flight led by Lt. K. Karhila was soon moved to Kymi airbase on 6.8. At the end of July training for MT fighters was re-started at Utti with two planes.
On 14.8. the Commander of Flying Regiment 5 (Le.R 5) became also the "Night-Fighter Commander of Home Area" [Kotialueen yöhävittäjäkomentaja]. Protecting targets were initially the cities of Helsinki and Kotka on the southern coast of Gulf of Finland and the cities of Turku and Tampere were to be protected later. For each "Wilde Sau" target HLe.Lv.30 would have needed ten night-fighters and additional spare planes. In mid-August squadron received two Gloster Gladiator (GL) planes for type and target training flights.
On 15.8. Air Surveillance Battalion 1
(Iv.P 1) which was under the command of Naval Forces
Staff was subordinated operationally to Flying
Regiment 5 (Le.R 5) and Air Surveillance
Regional Center (Ivak.) at Helsinki was to be
expanded to a command place for Le.R 5. Night-fighter
activity started officially developing on 22.8. in a
meeting in Flying Regiment 3 at Kausala.
Commander of Le.R 5 Lt.Col. K. Ilanko
and Maj. E. Heinilä represented Flying
Regiment 5. Methods of acting and co-operation
between anti-aircraft units of Anti-Aircraft Regiment
1 (It.R 1) and day and night-fighters were agreed in
a meeting arranged by Flying Regment 5 on 30.8.
Training in Germany in the Summer 1944
On 10.5.1944 a group of Finnish Air Force officers led by Lt.Col. K. Ilanko travelled to Germany to get familiar with Germany's air defence. On 12.5. Finns visited for example in Luftflotte Reich at Berlin-Wannsee and its 1. Fliegerdivision at Döberitz following the repulse of the attack of Allied heavy bombers. In Nachtjagdgeschwader 5 heavy night-fighter Messerschmitt Bf 110G-4 was presented by Obl. Werner Rapp. Next day group visited in another night-fighter unit and saw in practice how night-fighters were conducted. Group returned back to Finland on 15.5.1944.
About a month later on 13.6.1944 FAF sent the first group of 10 pilots to Germany for a Night-fighter Course [Yöhävittäjäkurssi]. They were led by Capt. M. Kalima who was ordered to lead Finnish pilots in Germany. Another group of 10 pilots as well led by Capt. K. Ruuskanen followed later during the same day. The selected 20 pilots were:
Total losses during training were 10% (usually they were about 20%). On 17.8.1944 Sgt B. Ringbom missed during a training flight. Destroyed plane with a killed pilot was later found full of 20 mm cannon holes. On 20.8. 2Lt M. Tervo was killed and his plane destroyed completely when engine stopped during landing. On 18.8. one Bf 109G-6 was also damaged in landing accident. M.Sgt Y. Hakulinen's back was seriously injured during training and he was returned back to Finland at the end of August. In total 17 Finnish pilots finished the night-fighter course which ended officially on 24.8.1944.
Finland was negotiating of peace with USSR
and some pilots were hastily ordered to fly a few new Bf
109G-6 fighters and Junkers Ju 34
planes to Finland before Germans would stop further
deliveries. When the Continuation War ended on 4./5.9.1944
several Finnish pilots were still in Germany waiting for
new planes. All of them were initially interned but they
were released on 6.9.1944. On 7.9. last Finnish pilots
departed Odermünde by Finnish ship s/s Parma
and arrived in Mariehamn at Åland Islands on 14.9.
Fighter Squadron 30 in Autumn 1944
Everything changed suddenly almost before it had started when Finland signed the truce with USSR and hostilities ended on 4.9.1944. All flying was restrictred to save fuel and to avoid accidental conflicts. Finnish Army was demobilized gradually and reservists were disbanded. Fighter Squadron 30 was one of the suspended units. Already on 8.9. squadron relieved all its VI trainers to Air Combat School.
On 16.9.1944 all trained night-fighter pilots who had been in Germany were officially assigned to Fighter Squadron 30 (HLe.Lv.30) at Hyvinkää airbase but they were without planes. 2nd Flight returned back to Malmi on 21.9. and at the same day the whole squadron was moved to still incomplete Hyvinkää airbase. Four days later squadron was attached to Le.R 3. Radio silence in the radio network of Le.R 5 started on 23.9. and regiment was suspended on 11.10.1944. The last intercept and protecting flights of HLe.Lv.30 took place on 8.10. with four MTs.
On 31.10. GLs were relieved
to Air Force Depot. About a month later on 22./23.11.
MTs were flown to Vesivehmaa airbase and
Fighter Squadron 30 was suspended on 27.11.1944.
Personnel in regular service was moved to other
operational units. All fighters of former HLe.Lv.30
were given to Fighter Squadron 31 and 33
(HLe.Lv.31 & 33) on 4.12.
© 2003 - 20.12.2004 Harri Anttonen