The German invasion of the Soviet Union on 22nd June 1941 has to be regarded as one of the most predictable events of the Second World War. Hitler had indicated his desire to capture large areas of Soviet territory, to further his expansionist ideals and to secure valuable resources for his war machine. In the weeks leading up to the invasion, Luftwaffe reconnaissance aircraft had been plotting Soviet troop concentrations, airfields and supply depots and reports soon began to circulate about large numbers of German troops amassing on the Soviet border - the Russians did nothing, not wanting to provoke the Germans into an attack. When the invasion came, it was devastating – catastrophic for Soviet forces and ruthlessly effective for the Germans, who brought the full fury of Blitzkrieg to bear.
Central to the success of Operation Barbarossa would be command of the air by the Luftwaffe and the destruction of their Soviet opposition. The Soviet Air Force was the largest in the world at the time of the invasion, but many of its aircraft were obsolete and the force suffered from poor organisation. Critically, the lack of a coordinated early warning system meant that most of their available aircraft were destroyed on the ground within the first few hours of the attack, with advancing German ground units actually overrunning airfields before they could organise a counter offensive. The Luftwaffe gained complete control of the skies by the end of the first week of operations, destroying an astonishing 4,614 Soviet aircraft in the process.
View a selection of Airfix models below from the era and also on our Corgi website (*exact liveries not necessarily represented).