A-20B in Soviet service

Updated on February 22, 2022

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A-20B was a lighter and faster version, that resembled the DB-7A rather than the DB-7B, with light armor and stepped rather than the slanted nose glazing of previous versions and of British Boston III. It was moved by two R-2600-11engines, and featured a nose with glazing similar to DB-7A and an upgraded rear bomb bay with horizontal bombs layout that increased the accuracy of bombing. It was also possible to carry an auxiliary tank for ferry flights in the bombs bay. There were only two machine guns in the nose, the powerful Browning 12.7 mm; the same type of weapon was mounted in the dorsal position of the gunner, while the machine gun in the lower hatch was still of 7.62 mm as in earlier versions. They also retained the rear-facing 7.62 mm machine guns in the gondolas introduced on the DB-7B and A-20A, but these weapons were rarely installed on A-20B.

All these types were referred as B-3 or Boston in the Soviet Air Force and Navy; the U.S. name A-20A/B/C Havoc was never used In Soviet Union for early versions.

Right: the photo shows an A-20B (close) and a DB-7B/Boston III (on the background). They are distinguishable for the different glazing of the nose and for the different arrangement of the exhaust tubes, and for the presence of large blisters for 4x7.62 machine guns on Boston III (two for each side) where their vane was closed with a plate for one 12.7 mm machine guns for side on all U.S. versions.

Image from 'Bostony v Sovetskom Soyuze' of Vladimir Kotelnikov

Starting from late 1940, A-20B were produced by two companies: in Santa Monica they made A-20B-DO, and in Long Beach-A-20B-DL, which had slight differences in configuration.

In some respects, the A-20B was inferior to the A-20A which preceded it, since it was based on the DB-7A airframe rather than the DB-7B and hence lacked self-sealing fuel tanks and was not as well-armored. At the front, they were received by one group in Morocco and one reconnaissance squadron in England, but they were considered too vulnerable in combat.

Of 999 A-20B built, 665 were exported to the Soviet Union under Lend-Lease.


Right: typical US A-20B-DO.

Image from 'Bostony v Sovetskom Soyuze' of Vladimir Kotelnikov


The crew of the DB-7/Boston III/A-20A-B-C in England and the United States consisted of three people: a pilot, a navigator-bombardier and a radio operator-rear gunner that actioned both the dorsal weapons and the one firing through the ventral hatch.
In the Soviet Union, a further gunner was added for the ventral weapon, bringing the crew to 4 men. The dorsal and ventral 7.62 Browning were often replaced by a Browning 12.7 mm or UB.

In Soviet Union, many B-3s were rearmed with the UTK-1 turret with a Soviet UBT 12.7 mm machine gun with K-8T or PMP sight and a prominent side magazine with 200 rounds.

Right: UTK-1 turret with UBT 12.7 mm machine gun. Note the wide magazine on the right side of the gunner.


The primitive British Wimperis D-8 gunsight, which was put on export planes instead of the highly advanced Norden for secrecy reasons, was replaced by Soviet OPB-1R (daytime) or NKPB-4 or 7 (for night bombing) sights.

Link to Page 2 of USSR optical devices





'Blue 1' with albatross of 30 RAP



A-20B serial 41-3599 of 244 bad of the VVS, stationed in Romania and postwar also in Bulgaria. According to Red Star 4, instead, they were of 30 RAP (Reconnaissance air regiment) of the Black Sea Fleet after the arrival in Sofia, Bulgaria, in September 1944.

The emblems are interesting: the white albatross carrying a black bomb outlined in white was a regimental mark, and was panted on both sides of the nose in specular form. Under it, on the left side only, there is the slogan bogatyr' (hero), probably painted in red with white outlined letters.

A number 1, probably medium blue with white outline, is readable on both sides of the rudder, and is covered by the rear brace of the red star on the tail. The shortened serial 13599, in yellow, is painted on the fin.

The general painting is the usual messy one with olive drab uppersurfaces, neutral grey undersurfaces, possibly medium green blotches on the tail , wing and engines and retouches with Soviet green or what else. The fabric-skinned movable surfaces appear lighter than the other surfaces, as often seen on U.S. planes.


Below: a photo of the planes in formation and taken while dropping bombs seem to confirt that they were of a bomber regiment and not a reconaissance one.

The same plane photographed in flight in Budapest area in February 1945. One can see better the numbers on the tail, and see that the red star under the wings was without white outline and stayed over a light blue circle.

The planes on the background are interesting too.

Plane 4 is an A-20G converted with a navigator's position into the glazed nose; repaintings are visible on its tail and nose, and the serial, if any, can't be read.


http://www.vif2ne.ru/smf/forum/files/Ar/a20group1.jpg Via A. Ruchkovsky

Plane 9 is, again, an A-20B. It shows repaintings, even on the nose side, where some emblem could have been deleted.

http://www.vif2ne.ru/smf/forum/files/Ar/a20group2.jpg Via A. Ruchkovsky

This plane of 30 RAP (s/n 41-2937) carried a personalized bird on the left side of the nose. It's likely that the emblem on the other side was the standard regimental albatross with black bomb. The slogan says 'Za pobedu!' (For victory!)




'Blue 8' of 367 BAP


A-20B-DL s/n 41-2682 of 63 BAP.

On the photo, we see Capt. HSU S. P. Dejneko on the left and future HSU Sn. Lt. N.L. Arsenyev on the right, in December 1943.

Dejneko died on 15 February 1944, when he directed his hit plane on a German ship in the port of Kerch, on the Black Sea.

The plane has a number 8 painted possibly in light blue (it appears darker than the white cap on the tail). The number 12682 in yellow and 12 on the nose, probably in yellow too, can be read.

The basic painting is in olive drab and neutral grey, eventual medium green blotches are not recognizable.

Some darker repainting, possibly in darker and fresher olive drab, are visible on the rear fuselage sides. A strange oblique line is painted on the rudder under the number 8, it is unclear if it is a distinctive band or, more likely, a repainting of a previous one.

The original blue disk of the US insignia was deleted by brush, possibly using Soviet green.

The photos were taken by night, and powerful lights projected shadows that could give a wrong idea of the painting of the plane.

The in flight image, although poor, isn't affected by strange light conditions and suggests that both the engine cowlings and the oblique band on the rudder were painted with a fresh semigloss paint, possibly black. The fuselage appears very faded when compared to the closer plane, that has interesting but unclear emblems painted on its tail.

Images from Red Stars 4 of Geust and Petrov and from waralbum.ru





'White 15' of 8 GBAP



A-20B 'White 15', s/n 41-3522 of 8 GBAP, 221 BAD, 16 AK, 1st Belorussian front.

The crew was made by: pilot Lt. Alexander Mikhailovich Suchkov, navigator j. lt. Alexey Nikolaevich Shalyutin, radio operator sgt. Ivan Iosifovich Mikhailov, gunner sgt. Ilya Arsentievich Popugaev.

On December 15, 1943, the crew made a reconnaissance flight and was attacked by 6 Me-109. The plane was heavily damaged and the gunner was heavily wounded, but managed to shot down an enemy fighter. Despite the difficulties, the crew didn't leave the hardly controllable plane and landed to the airport.

The crew was awarded for this mission on 16 December.


This heavly damaged plane shows a Guards emblem on the rear of the fuselage. This emblem could have been on both sides, and could have been common to other planes of the unit. The photo is underexposed due to the snowy back ground, so few details of the painting are visible. The general look of the plane, where not visible, was guessed as typical of Soviet A-20B.



'White 25' with lion of 8 GBAP




A-20B of 3 sq of 8 GBAP, 221 BAD, 16 AK, 1st Belorussian front in 1944.

The crew was made by: pilot Lt. Alexander Mikhailovich Suchkov, navigator j. lt. Alexey Nikolaevich Shalyutin, radio operator sgt. Ivan Iosifovich Mikhailov, gunner sgt. Ilya Arsentievich Popugaev, the same of plane 15 described above.


The prominent characteristic of this plane is the lion painting on the left side of the nose. We can also see a number 25 and a red star with white outline on the tail, while the serial of the profile was guessed. .

The photo shows the plane with its front completely repainted, probably in Soviet AMT-4 green, up to the wings leading edge, the engine cowlings and nacelles; the rear part of the plane appears lighter, and was probably left with the original US camouflage, eventually with blotches of Medium green and retouches with Soviet green. The reconstruction of the look of the rear fuselage is inspired to plane 15 of the same crew, that had small Guards marks on the rear of the fuselage. The serial was guessed in the same range.

Images from waralbum.ru






An interesting photo of another plane of 8 gbap, showing the emblem of an eagle and a broken arrow attacking the fuehrer.

Image: bellabs.ru




'White 11/606' of 454 BAP

A-20B White 11 (or II, Roman 2 according to other interpretations), white 606 on the nose, of 454 th BAP, 334th BAD, Voronezh front, 26 april 1943.
The serial s/n 41-3276, painted in shortened form on the tail, had been hidden by the winter paint, but it could be deducted on the base of the 606 readable on the nose, by adding 12670 = 13276.

The livery of the plane was probably olive drab and neutral grey, possibly with medium green blotches. The colors appear dark for the underexposition of the photo due to the snowy ground.

The Soviet-made drop radome for the Soviet radio compass was added.

Image from Red stars 1& 4





Right: a detail of the movable shutters plate built in Factory 2 for winter operations and installed on a similar plane (but not identical; you can compare and note the difference in the air filter above the engine cowling). the Crew of Senior Sergeant A. Volodichev posed in front of it.

Image from 'Bostony v Sovetskom Soyuze' of Vladimir Kotelnikov

Photo of a similar, if not the same, plane from the same photo session. It shows two bomb racks under each wing, and the absence of the UTK-1 turret that was installed on many other Soviet B-3s.

Image from 'Bostony v Sovetskom Soyuze' of Vladimir Kotelnikov

A detail of a plane from the same photo session shows the details of the original US Browning 12.7 mm while loading the ammo belt. Note the unpainted ammo box.

Image from 'Bostony v Sovetskom Soyuze' of Vladimir Kotelnikov



'Big 4' of 13 GDBAP VVS ChF

A-20B 'Big 4' (s/n 41-2705) of 13 GDBAP (Guards Detached Bomber Air Regiment), former 119 DBAP of the Air Force of the Black Sea Fleet, flying over Crimea in spring 1944. The unit was made Guards on 22 January 1944.

The plane looks painted in olive drab of different shades, with some dark repaints. The red paint of the star appears faded and probably turned to an orangeish shade.


Images from Red Stars 4, of Geust and Petrov, ed. Apali.




'White 29/Gvardia'





A-20B-DL (s/n 41-2954) White 29 "Gvardia" at NII VVS, probably in summer 1942. Probably the plane was there to evaluate an alternative to the UBT-armed UTK-1 turrets: factory No. 43 supplied the UTK-1 with a Colt-Browning 12.7 mm machine gun with a K-8T sight. In this case, the ammunition consisted of 12 magazines of 30 rounds each.

The plane seems to have a faded olive drab finish, with neutral grey undersurfaces and repaintings both in fresher olive drab and in Soviet green. The original unit is not known.

Images from Red stars 4 of Geust and Petrov, ed. Apali


Plane numbered 5 of 325 orae /16 odrap had the very same slogan of plane 29. It also had a visible repainting on the rudder on the very same position of the previous 29, so it could have been the same plane after having been moved to another unit and renumbered. The date could be the spring of 1943.

Right: this detail suggests that the slogan was painted on both sides.



This photo, attributed to 48 ograp (48th guards separate air reconnaissance "Nizhnednestrovsky" regiment, former 40th bomber aviation regiment), seems to represent the same plane, just with a white outline on the red star that doesn't overpose to the slogan. So, this photo was shot after late summer 1943.









'White 21/94' of 15 ORAP VVS KBF



A-20 B 21/94 (apparently s/n 41-3024). According to A. Ruckovsky, the photo was made over Crimea so this is most probably 30 RAP ChF. According to Red Stars 4, instead, it is of 15 ORAP VVS KBF (Reconnaissance Regiment of the Baltic Fleet).

Strangely, the plane has two different tactical numbers, 21 and 94. This could be due to a repair with the rudder of another plane. Note that the 21 is a bit rotated.

A yellow number 354 could be painted on the nose sides (354 = 13024 - 12670 = shortened serial - fixed number)

The painting is unrecognizable, but it is almost certainly the usual one with olive drab base, neutral grey undersurfaces, medium green blotches and repaintings with Soviet green.

The stars with white or white-red outline were utilized after August 1943.

Image from Red Stars 4 of Geust and Petrov, ed. Apali



'White 2'




A-20B (s/n 41-2887), White 2 after a crash landing.

The plane had a standard finish with olive drab with neutral grey undersurfaces, probably with some medium green blotches on the tail and wings and some unclear Soviet repaintings. Note the UTK-1 turret, the prominent magazine for the UBT machine gun is recognizable.

Another visible Soviet installation is the drop-shaped radome of the radio compass



'White 12' on the Southern Front


A-20B (s/n 41-3106) 'white 12', Southern Front.

On the usual olive drab livery, with neutral grey undersurfaces and perhaps unrecognizable medium green blotches, we can see light traces similar to a badly washed off partial winter camouflage. If this is right, it is possible that the photo should be dated in spring 1943 instead of late 1942 as reportedly written.

Images: archive Zaika




'Red 9' with Gnejs-2 radar

In 1943, Gnejs-2 radars were tested on some B-3, both for aircraft and ship localization.

Gnejs-2 aerials appeared as rods disposed in trio:

  • one trio, vertical, over each wing in outer position for azimuth signal,
  • one oblique trio below the left wing and one oblique trio above the right wing, for altitude signal;
  • one trio over the nose, in front of the pilot's windshield.

From the few available photos, seems that other configurations were possible.


Right, above and mid: two images of a Boston III night fighter equipped with Gnejs-2 radar tested by Maj. Sakharov at NII VVS between 27 January and 20 June 1943.

Images from: Red army air force radar fighter


Right: A-20B 'Red 9' with Gnejs-2 aerials recognizable under the left wing. The number seems a red 9 outlined in white, the shortened serial on the tail seems 13498. Aerials on the nose are not visible, but one can assume they were.

Image: archive D. Linevich


Below: drawings showing the Gnejs-2 radar aerials on A-20G. The photos of A-20B and C tested at NII VVS seem similar if not identical.

Images from: Red army air force radar fighter




'White 29' with grey livery


After the war, A-20s remained in service for some years.

The VVS started to replace them with the superior Tu-2s. Part of the planes were returned to U.S. or destroyed under their control in 1946-47.

The Navy kept them in service some more years, as they were the main torpedo bombers in service; their replacement with Tu-2VS was not completed when all types were replaced by jet planes as Tu-14 in the early '50s.

Some Bostons were converted as target tugs, aerial photography, communications and some served up to the mid '50s.

Right: image of a A-20B-DL serial 41-3501 'white 29' presumably photographed after the war's end; it seems repainted with glossy light grey upper and side surfaces, apparently extending under the fuselage. The lower surfaces of the tail, wings and nacelles seem painted with a dark glossy color, presumably dark blue-grey.

Image from the web


Disclaimer: this work collects a lot of photos and drawings from many sources, not always identified and mentioned.
If someone has rights on the images reproduced here, please don't feel hurted, email to me and I shall provide to remove or to credit them.