Topic: Imperial Russia
Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich (1866-1933)
Established under the Romanov dynasty, the Russian air force marks its 100th anniversary this year. In 1912, Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich Romanov declared: “The Russian air force should be stronger than that of our neighbors. This should be remembered by everyone to whom the military might of our Motherland is dear.” Aviation schools were opened in Sevastopol and Gatchina. A summer training course for volunteer officers from various branches of the armed forces was set up in these schools, and the trainees were instructed in theoretical disciplines at the St. Petersburg Polytechnical Institute.
By the beginning of World War I, the Russian army had 256 warplanes and 250 military pilots, from which 39 corps and fortress squadrons were formed. When military operations started, the aircraft were mainly engaged in carrying out airborne intelligence and correcting artillery fire. The pilots began to shoot down and ram enemy Albatross planes in the air on their own initiative. In December 1914, the world’s first squadron of heavy aircraft was set up by the Russian air force using Muromets planes.
In 1916, Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich was appointed field inspector-general of the air force. Under his leadership, the separate corps and field aviation units were joined together in air combat groups. The tsar’s headquarters in Mogilev and St. Petersburg began to be protected from air strikes by planes and anti-aircraft artillery, and the rear support for the air force supplied it with everything it needed.
Sadly, the accomplishments of Russian aviation during the Great War were often forgotten in the subsequent chaos of the Russian Revolution and Civil War.
© Rossiskaya Gazeta. 15 August, 2012