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The Romanian Royal Aeronautics
An IAR 39 from the 17th Observation Squadron
A Potez 633B2 from the 74th Squadron at the Don Bend on 14 November 1942
IAR-80Bs from the 6th Fighter Group on the Popesti-Leordeni airfield in November 1943
Effects of a USAAF bombardment of Ploesti
A formation of BF-109Gs from the 53rd Squadron prepairing to take off; note the unit's mascot, Mickey Mouse on a horse with a lance

On 22 June 1941, the offensive power of ARR (Aeronautica Regala Romana=Romanian Royal Aeronautics) was concentrated in the Combat Air Grouping (Gruparea Aeriana de Lupta). It was made up of four flotillas:

  • 1st Bomber Flotilla
    • 1st Bomber Group: 71st and 72nd Bomber Squadrons (S-79 B)
    • 4th Bomber Group: 76th and 77th Bomber Squadrons (P.37 B)
    • 5th Bomber Group: 78th, 79th and 80th Bomber Squadrons (He-111H3)
  • 2nd Bomber Flotilla
    • 2nd Bomber Group: 74th and 75th Bomber Squadrons (Potez 633B2)
    • 82nd Bomber Squadron (MB-210)
    • 18th Light Bomber Squadron (IAR-37)
  • 2nd Observation Flotilla
    • 11th Observation Squadron (IAR-38)
    • 12th Observation Squadron (IAR-38)
    • 13th Observation Squadron (IAR-38)
    • 14th Observation Squadron (IAR-39)
  • 1st Fighter Flotilla
    • 5th Fighter Group: 51st and 52nd Fighter Squadrons (He-112B)
    • 7th Fighter Group: 56th, 57th and 58th Fighter Squadrons (Bf-109E)
    • 8th Fighter Group: 41st, 59th and 60th Fighter Squadrons (IAR-80A)
  • 1st Long Range Recon Squadron (Bristol Blenheim Mk. I)

The Combat Air Grouping had a total of 253 aircraft, out of which only 205 were available for action on 22 June. Their mission was to gain air supremacy over Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina and then support the offensive of the Romanian 4th Army. After Besserabia was secured, the CAG assisted in the siege of Odessa.

The 3rd and 4th Army had their own recon and light bomber squadrons. The 4th Long Range Recon (Bristol Blenheim Mk. I), 19th, 20th and 21st Observation Squadron (IAR-39) and 115th Liaison Squadron (Fleet 10G) were assigned to the 3rd Army and the 3rd Long Range Recon (Bristol Blenheim Mk. I), 17th and 22nd Observation Squadron (IAR-39) and 114th Liaison Squadron (Fleet 10G) to the 4th Army. Also the 1st Armored Division had the 15th Observation Squadron (IAR-39) under its command.

Behind the front line, the territory of Romania was divided between the 2nd Air Region:

  • 3rd Fighter Flotilla: 43rd, 44th and 45th Fighter Squadrons (P.11f)
  • 4th Fighter Group: 46th, 49th and 50th Fighter Squadrons (P.11f)
  • 112th Liaison Squadron (Fleet 10G)

and the 3rd Air Region, which was covered by the 2nd Fighter Flotilla:

  • 6th Fighter Group: 61st and 62nd Fighter Squadrons (P.24 E)
  • 113th Liaison Squadron (Fleet 10G)

In Dobruja were stationed the:

  • 101st Seaplane Squadron (Cant Z 501)
  • 102nd Seaplane Squadron (SM 62 B and SM 55)
  • 16th Observation Squadron (IAR-39)
  • 53rd Fighter Squadron (Hawker Hurricane Mk. I)

The badly hit 5th Fighter Group was reduced to a single squadron (the 51st). The 52nd gave it its remaining He-112Bs and merged with the 42nd Squadron, forming the 42/52nd Fighter Squadron, which received new IAR-80As. The 8th Fighter Group was transferred back to the 2nd Fighter Flotilla, at the beginning of August. To bolster the ranks of the Romanian fighter force around Odessa the PZL equipped 4th and 6th Fighter Group were brought on the front. A few IAR-81 dive bombers were given to the 59th Fighter Squadron (8th Fighter Group), but flew only 2 missions against Soviet ships near Odessa.

In July, the 75th Bomber Squadron (2nd Bomber Group) transferred its surviving Potez 633B2s to the 74th Squadron and received new JRS-79B bombers. All available P.23Bs were assigned to the 73rd Bomber Squadron, which formed the 6th Bomber Group together with the 18th bomber Squadron, on 3 August. Also the 82nd Bomber Squadron (MB-210) was put under the direct command of the 1st Bomber Flotilla.

At the beginning of 1942, after the experience of last year's campaign, the ARR was reorganized. The Bloch MB-210 bombers were converted to transport airplanes, the PZL P.11s and 24s were retired from front duty. From Germany came some Ju-52s with which was equipped the 105th Transport Squadron and Fi-156s, which were used to replace a part of the Fleet-10Gs. But the main source of new airplanes was the Romanian air industry. The 3rd and 9th Fighter Groups and the 52nd and 53rd Fighter Squadrons were equipped with the IAR-80. Some IAR-80s were used to train the 4th Fighter Group. The 6th Fighter Group received the new IAR-81 fighter-bombers. The 2nd Recon Flotilla replaced all the IAR-38s with the newer IAR-39s.

The 102nd Seaplane Squadron was equipped with He-114C1. The old Italian seaplanes were all assigned to the 101st Squadron. In 1943, the 101st Seaplane Squadron also received the He-114C1.

In 1942 the main unit of the Combat Air Grouping was the Combat Aviation Command. It was made up of the:

  • 2nd Fighter Flotilla:
    • 7th Fighter Group: 56th, 57th and 58th Fighter Squadrons (Bf-109E)
    • 8th Fighter Group: 41st, 42nd and 60th Fighter Squadrons (IAR-80A)
    • 6th Fighter-Bomber Group: 61st and 62nd Fighter Squadron (IAR-81)
  • 2nd Bomber Flotilla:
    • 1st Bomber Group: 71st and 72nd Bomber Squadrons (JRS-79B)
    • 3rd Bomber Group: 73rd (P.23B), 74th (Potez 633B2) and 81st Bomber Squadrons (IAR-37)
    • 5th Bomber Group: 79th and 80th Bomber Squadrons (He-111H3)
  • 1st Long Range Recon Group: 1st (Blenheim Mk. I), 2nd (Do 17 M) and 3rd Long Range Recon Squadrons (Potez 633A3)

The Combat Air Grouping also had the 105th (Ju-52) and 108th Transport Squadrons (RWD-13). To the 3rd Army were assigned the 11th, 12th and 13th Observation Squadrons (IAR-39) and to the 4th Army the 15th, 16th and 17th Observation Squadrons (IAR-39).

In December 1942 several squadrons equipped with Polish and French airplanes were sent home, followed soon by IAR-80/81 and JRS-79B squadrons. The remaining Bf-109Es and He-111H3s formed a mixed group, which remained on the front until February 1943.

In the spring of 1943, a new reorganization started. All the Polish, French, Italian and English airplanes were retired from service, because they were obsolete and their maintenance was very difficult due to the lack of spare parts. They were replaced mainly by Romanian and German planes.

The 4th Fighter Group (45th, 46th and 49th Squadrons) was equipped with the IAR-80C and the 9th Fighter Group (43rd, 47th and 48th Squadrons) with the IAR-81C. The newly created 1st Fighter Group (63rd and 64th Squadrons) and 2nd Fighter Group (65th and 66th Squadrons) were also equipped with the IAR-81C. The 2nd Bomber Group (82nd and 83rd Squadrons) was also created and had JRS-79B1s.

The Air Corps received modern German airplanes. The 2nd Long Range Recon Squadron replaced the Do-17Ms with the Ju-88D1s. The 7th Fighter Group got Bf-109Gs, the 5th Bomber Group Ju-88A4s, the 3rd Bomber Group the Ju-87D3s and D5s and changed its name to 3rd Dive Bomber Group and the 8th Fighter Group received the Hs-129B2 and changed its name to 8th Assault Group. A part of these planes were only loaned by the Germans to the ARR. This meant that the maintenance and replacements were done by the Luftflotte IV. The majority of the Romanian built airplanes were regrouped inside Romania and received defensive tasks. The 3rd Fighter Group, equipped with the older IAR-80A, was transformed into a training unit.

In the second half of 1943, 3 new units were created: the 107th Transport Squadron (Ju-52), the 109th Squadron (IAR-39), which towed the DFS-230 transport gliders and the 1st Night Fighter Squadron (Bf-110C1 and C3).

In June 1943, the reorganization of the ARR ended. The 1st Air Corps, which was in the front line, was made up of the:

  • 1st Fighter Flotilla:
    • 7th Fighter Group: 56th, 57th and 58th Fighter Squadrons (Bf-109G)
    • 9th Fighter Group: 43rd, 47th and 48th Fighter Squadrons (Bf-109G)
    • 8th Assault Group: 41st, 42nd and 60th Assault Squadrons (Hs-129B2)
  • 3rd Bomber Flotilla:
    • 3rd Dive Bomber Group: 73rd, 81st and 85th Bomber Squadrons (Ju-87D3 and D5)
    • 5th Bomber Group: 77th, 78th and 80th Bomber Squadrons (Ju-88A4)
    • 6th Bomber Group: 74th, 86th and 87th Bomber Squadrons (Ju-88A4)
  • 2nd Long Range Recon Squadron (Ju-88D1)
  • 105th Transport Squadron (Ju-52)
  • 115th and 116th Liaison Squadron (Fleet-10G)

It had about 200 airplanes, which had the mission to support the German troops in southern Ukraine. It was one of the most effective periods of ARR during WWII.

Initially the 9th Fighter Group wasn't sent to the front, because it was training to fly on Bf-109Gs. It replaced the 7th Fighter Group in October 1943, also taking over its best pilots and airplanes. The exhausted 7th Fighter Group was brought back home for rest and refitting. It had been fighting since March, when it was part of JG 3 Udet. The 5th Fighter Group (52nd and 53rd Squadron) was reorganized in the second half of 1943 and equipped with Bf-109Es and Gs. The 52nd Squadron (IAR-80Cs and later Bf-109Es) was assigned to coastal defence, while the 53rd (Bf-109G) was part of the mixed German-Romanian group (I/JG 4), which was defending the oil fields and refineries at Ploesti.

The 5th Bomber Group arrived on the front in August and replaced the badly hit 6th Bomber Group, which began training for transition to the Ju-87Ds.

In the winter of 1943/1944, the air defence was insured by the 3rd Fighter Group (44th and 50th Squadrons), equipped with IAR-80Bs and IAR-81As, stationed on the Ghimbav-Brasov airfield, the 6th Fighter Group (61st and 62nd Squadrons), equipped with IAR-81Cs, stationed on the Popesti-Leordeni airfield and the 7th Fighter Group (56th, 57th and 58th Squadrons), equipped also with IAR-81Cs, stationed on the Pipera airfield. The seaside was protected by the 5th Fighter Group and 4th Fighter Group (45th and 46th Squadrons), equipped with IAR-80Cs.

Because of the losses of 1943 and spring of 1944 and the fact that the Red Army was threatening the national territory, a new reorganization was necessary. The old IAR-37 was brought back into service in the 17th and 18th Observation Squadrons and the Nardi FN-305, P.11c and PWS were equipped with bomb launchers.

In May 1944, the 6th Bomber Group (74th, 86th and 87th Squadrons) was equipped with the Ju-87D3 and changed its name to 6th Dive Bomber Group. With the personnel of the 49th Squadron (4th Fighter Group), which left its airplanes in Crimea, was organized the 67th Squadron (IAR-81C), from the 2nd Fighter Group.

In the summer of 1944, the 1st Air Corps was made up of the:

  • 3rd Fighter Flotilla
    • 2nd Fighter Group: 65th, 66th and 67th Fighter Squadrons (IAR-81C)
    • 4th Fighter Group: 45th, 46th and 49th Fighter Squadrons (IAR-81C)
    • 7th Fighter Group: 53rd, 57th and 58th Fighter Squadrons (Bf-109G& IAR-81C)
    • 9th Fighter Group: 46th, 48th and 56th Fighter Squadrons (Bf-109G)
  • 1st Bomber Flotilla
    • 3rd Dive Bomber Group: 73rd, 81st and 85th Dive Bomber Squadrons (Ju-87D5)
    • 6th Dive Bomber Group: 74th, 84th and 86th Dive Bomber Squadrons (Ju-87D3)
    • 8th Assault Group: 41st, 42nd and 60th Assault Squadrons (Hs-129B2)
    • 5th Bomber Group: 77th, 79th and 80th Bomber Squadrons (Ju-88A4)
  • 3rd Army's Air Liaison Detachment: 116th Squadron (Fleet-10G and Fi-156)
  • 4th Army's Air Liaison Detachment: 112th Squadron (Fleet-10G and Fi-156)
  • 15th, 19th and 21st Observation Squadrons (IAR-39)
  • 2nd Long Range Recon (Ju-88D1) and 108th Transport Squadron (RWD-13)
  • 115th Squadron (Fleet-10G and Fi-156)

On 1st April 1944, the 2nd Air Corps was created. It consisted in the:

  • 2nd Fighter Flotilla:
    • 1st Fighter Group: 43rd (IAR-80B and IAR-81A), 66th and 67th Fighter Squadrons (IAR-81C)
    • 45th Fighter Squadron (IAR-81C)
  • 2nd Bomber Flotilla:
    • 1st Bomber Group: 71st and 72nd Bomber Squadrons (JRS-79B)
    • 2nd Bomber Group: 82nd and 83rd Bomber Squadrons (JRS-79B)
    • 4th Bomber Group: 76th (P.37B) and 78th Bomber Squadrons (He-111H6)
    • 7th Bomber Group: 17th and 18th Light Bomber Squadron (IAR-37 modified to carry small bombs)
  • 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 16th and 22nd Observation Squadrons (IAR-39)
  • 101st and 102nd Seaplane Squadrons (He-114)
  • 1st Squadron (Blenheim Mk. I)
  • 109th Squadron (IAR-39), which towed DFS-230 gliders
  • 114th Liaison Squadron (Fleet-10G and Fi-156)

To the 1st Army were assigned the 111th Squadron (Fleet-10G) and the 20th Obervation Squadron (IAR-39).

On 30 June 1944, the 1st Air Corps was assigned to the "Dumitrescu Army Group", which included the 3rd Army. The 4th Army had air support from the Luftwaffe. On the same day the 2nd Air Corps was renamed the 3rd Air Corps and was given the mission to protect the seaside and the Danube Delta.

The 1st, 5th, 6th and 7th Fighter Group and the 1st Night Fighter Squadron were engaged in the battle with the USAAF and RAF, which started on 4 April and lasted until 18 August 1944. They were occasionally joined by the 9th Fighter Group, which engaged USAAF airplanes flying to airfields in the USSR.

In April, the 53rd and 57th Squadron from the 7th Fighter Group were sent on the front in Moldova and the 2nd Fighter Group was brought in to protect the capital. The 58th Squadron (Bf-109G) remained to face the American raids. In June the number of enemy raids increased and the 7th Fighter Group was brought back. The 2nd Fighter Group was sent to the front in Moldavia. Following the death of cpt. Alexandru Serbanescu, the commander of the 9th Group, on 18 August it was decided not to engage the American airplanes. The 7th Fighter Group was sent on the front, again.

At the beginning of September, the 1st Air Corps was moved to bases in southern Transylvania, from where it had to provide air cover to the Romanian and Soviet troops fighting the Germans and the Hungarians. The new situation demanded for reorganization. The 7th Fighter Group was absorbed by the 9th and the remains of the 6th Dive Bomber Group were included in the 3rd.

In September 1944, the 1st Air Corps consisted in the:

  • 2nd Fighter Group: 65th and 66th Fighter Squadrons (IAR-81C)
  • 6th Fighter Group: 59th, 61st and 62nd Fighter Squadrons (IAR-81C)
  • 9th Fighter Group: 47th, 48th and 56th Fighter Squadrons (Bf-109G)
  • 3rd Dive Bomber Group: 74th and 81st Dive Bomber Squadrons (Ju-87D5)
  • 5th Bomber Group: 77th and 78th Bomber Squadrons (Ju-88A4)
  • 8th Assault Group: 41st and 42nd Assault Squadrons (Hs-129B2)
  • 11th and 12th Observation Squadrons (IAR-39)
  • 2nd Long Range Recon Squadron (Ju-88D1)
  • Air Transport Squadron (Ju-52 and IAR-39, which towed DFS-230 gliders)

On 20 September several other units joined the Corps:

  • 44th Fighter Squadron (IAR-80B, IAR-81C and Bf-109G)
  • 85th Dive Bomber Squadron (Ju-87D5)
  • 60th Assault Squadron (Hs-129B2)
  • 14th and 15th Recon Squadron (IAR-39)

Because of losses and lack of spare parts, the number of available Ju-87Ds and Hs-129B2s decreased. In October 1944 the 6th Dive Bomber Group was reduced to the 74th Squadron, which was joined with the remnants of the 8th Assault Group (41st Squadron) and formed the 8th Assault-Dive Bomber Group. The remaining airplanes of the 77th Bomber Squadron (Ju-88A4) were transferred to the 2nd Long Range Recon Squadron (Ju-88D1). The 1st Bomber Group, in which had been included the remains of the 2nd Bomber Group, was also assigned to the 1st Air Corps. It was made up of the 72nd Bomber Squadron (JRS-79B) and the 82nd Bomber Squadron (JRS-79B1).

During the winter of 1944/1945, the 1st and 6th Group were refitted with the Bf 109 G. The 1st Fighter Group joined the Air Corps, which was now fighting in Hungary.

Author: Victor Nitu
Sources:
Scafes C., Serbanescu H., Scafes I., Andonie C., Danila I., Avram R. Armata romana 1941-1945, Editura R.A.I., 1996

Bernád D. Rumanian Air Force, the prime decade 1938-1947, Squadron/Signal Publications, 1999

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User Comments Add Comment
David Ileana Catalina  (31 March 2006)
Din noiembrie 1943 Grupul 6 Vanatoare amplasat pe aerodromul Popesti Leordeni a fost format din:
- Escadrila 59 Vanatoare comandata de capitan aviator Constantinescu B. Petre;
- Escadrila 61 Vanatoare comandata de locotenent aviator Posteuca George;
- Escadrila 62 Vanatoare comandata de locotenent aviator Dumitrescu Mircea.
In enumerarea data de dumneavoastra lipseste Escadrila 59 Vanatoare.