A-20G in VVS service

Updated on January 13, 2022

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The first A-20G became operative in Soviet Union in the summer of 1943, where it was known as 'A-20 Zh', no more B-3 or Boston as previous versions.

The first series, G-1, were armed with an offensive armament of 4 x 20 mm guns and 2 x 12.7 mm machine guns in their nose, and had not a turret, but a 12.7 mm machine gun in dorsal position and a 7.62 mm one in ventral position. The guns were scarcely accurate and deemed unsatisfying by USAAF; nearly all A-20G-1 were sent to Soviet Union; many were used as night fighters or night intruders by the ADD (Long Range Aviation).

Starting with A-20G-5 series (for some reasons, series were numbered 1, 5, 10, 15, 20 etc.), the 20 mm guns were replaced by 12.7 mm Browning machine guns, well distinguishable because much less protruding. The machine gun in ventral position still was a 7.62 mm Browning, unless Soviet replaced it with a more powerful weapon.

In Soviet service, the original dorsal machine gun position was often replaced by an UTK-1 turret armed with a UBT.

On the G-20 series, a power-driven Martin 250GE turret fitted with two 12.7 mm machine guns was fitted, with the fuselage15 cm wider in its upper part around the turret, and the ventral tunnel gun changed from a 7.7 mm to another 12.7 mm Browning. The engines were two 1,600 hp R-2600-23.

The A-20G was delivered from February 1943 and became quickly the most common version of this plane in Soviet service, with 1447 delivered to Soviet Union on 2850 totally built between late 1942 and 1944.

After A-20G, 30 A-20H were delivered in 1944. They were visually similar to late A-20G, but equipped with the 1,700 hp R-2600-29.

In U.S., this version with solid nose with strong fixed armament and crew of 2 was considered as a ground attack plane, and part of them were utilized in this way in S.U. too, ex. by 449 BAP.Anyway, Il-2s were considered preferable for this role because they were much more armoured and less vulnerable to German ground fire, that was very accurate.

So, the VVS used the A-20G mainly as bombers.


A-20G modified to add a navigator cockpit

The lack of a navigator was a severe handicap for the use as a bomber. In U.S, derivatives of the A-20G with a cockpit for a navigator fitted in a newly shaped glazed nose, A-20J and K, were built in limited number and foremost used as leader planes in bombing units equipped with A-20G, that dropped bombs when the leader ordered. Such versions would have been welcome for the uses that Soviets made, but they were supplied late, in 1944 and 1945, and in limited numbers.

So, A-20G were often modified in Soviet Union to obtain a cockpit for a navigator, both in the Air Force and in the Navy service. The crew of such planes was of four men: pilot, dorsal gunner/radio operator, ventral gunner and navigator/bomber.
According to a research of Aleksandr Ruchkovsky, the installation of a navigator's cabin in A-20G was made in at least three different ways in the Air Force. Similar, but not identical, conversions were made for the Navy.


Air Force, modification 1

In October 1943, at factory No. 456, one A-20G as fitted with a small navigator's cockpit in the bulkhead of the forward bomb bay; the partition separating it from the pilot's cockpit was partially removed, and the sides were closed by plywood giving a small space of about 70x70 cm. The navigator was sitting on a folding seat, while the parachute didn't fit properly. Next to it was an OPB-1 bomb sight, an ESBR-6 bomb reader, a compass, a board with basic instruments, and an oxygen device KPA-3bis. Some windows were cut into the sides and the top of the fuselage.

Aside we see some images where both the windows cut on the side and those on the top are visible. Three small windows were opened on each side, and eight windows were opened on the top, on the access panel.

This solution was very poor due to the lack of space, visibility and of emergency escape. Some A-20G were modified in this way, but many of them were soon furtherly modified with a new cabin installed on the nose, often preserving the glazing of the rear of the pilot.


Air Force, modification 2

The second solution of the Air Force was far better, removing the upper four weapons from the nose and making space for a cabin that wasn't too different from that of the earlier versions of A-20/Boston (B-3), but with less glazing. The pair of machine guns in lower position were preserved.

Three windows were opened on each nose side, and one in ventral position.

The front cupola vaguely resembles that of B-3 and was characterized by a pentagonal flat glass on its lower half.

Many, but not all, the planes that received this type of nose had already received the unsuccessful navigator cockpit behind the pilot; the glazing on the rear was preserved even if the rear cockpit was no longer used.


The photo of Plane 8 of 453th bap shows the same variation of the nose seen from the left side. Again, the image shows the windows of the first attempt to create a navigator's place behind the pilot, and then the second conversion on the nose. Note the artwork on the side, possibly showing an eagle that has kept a snake.

The left side of the nose seems symmetrical to the right one visible on the photo above.


Air Force, modification 3

The third variant of the modification was similar to the second one, but differed for the presence of 4 windows instead of 3 on each nose side, and for the different frames of the front cupola, with a smaller and curved flat window, instead of pentagonal, on its lower part. Again we can see a flat window below the nose.

It is not clear if this variation of the nose work was an earlier or later variant of the second one; on the available photos it is never associated with the glazing behind the pilot's cockpit, this suggests that it could be a later variation.

The plane was of 244 bap. Another photo of the plane is available here:



Another image of the same nose configuration. One can see that the fixed 12.7 mm machine guns in lower position on the nose were retained when the front of the plane was converted.

The nose seems repainted in Soviet green or light brown after the modification.

The plane was probably of 277 bap.



Image: archive Zaika via Aleksandr Ruchkovsky


The same type of converted nose is seen from the left side.

The first photo seems to shows that the upper part of the frontal glazing was not interrupted by any frame, but the second shows clearly a longitudinal frame in central position. Seems that both variants did exist.


In addition to those modifications, some late A-20G received a small cupola on the fuselage back instead of the flat rectangular window, so the ventral gunner could have given his contribute to the surveillance of the horizon. Differently from the Navy use, this conversion wasn't accompanied by cutting further windows on the rear fuselage sides.



'Winged prop and Kremlin star' of 48 bap


Two photos of A-20G-15 DO bombers of 48 bap, Tula March 1944.

The closer plane, serial 42-54255 (only 254255 is written on the tail) shows two interesting marks: a kremlin star (the black areas seem limited to the braces, not to the centre of the kremlin star) and a winged propeller, probably the marks of a unit commander. Other colorful marks are on the rudder trim tab and on the cap, probably painted red.

The plane features a Soviet-made UTK-1 turret armed with UBT 12.7 mm machine gun, the same of Il-4s. The nose armament was made with 6 12.7 mm machine guns starting with the type G-15; earlier G had a heavier gun armament.

The livery is the usual US one in OD/NG, probably with Medium green dots on the tail and wings.

The most interesting characteristic is that this plane is a rare example of the first attempts of the Soviets to add a navigator cockpit.



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




'Yellow 9' of 452 bap



Two photos of A-20G 'Yellow (?) 9' , s/n 42-53931, probably of 452 bap.

The plane has the usual olive drab/neutral grey, probably with the usual medium green blotches on the tail and wings and the usual mess of retouches, mostly noticeable those around the turret area and behind the pilot's canopy.

The plane shows three Soviet-made conversion works: the UTK-1 turret with UBT machine gun, the navigator's cockpit behind the pilot (recognizable from the windows on the open top panel of the photo above) and the definitive navigator's cockpit inside the nose, made with the 3 side windows style.

We see the white cap and the white band around the fuselage, and probably a red trim on the rudder.

Surprisingly, both photos show an Hs-129 abandoned by Germans.






Photo of similar plane 'white 5', possibly of the same unit. Again we see the navigator's glazing both behind the pilot and in the nose.

image: Goskatalog.ru



'White 4' of 260 bap




A-20G "White 4", s/n 43-21370 of 260 bap, presumably in 1944, southern front.

The plane has the usual messy look: faded olive drab, medium green blotches on tail, wings, dark repaintings on the fuselage sides with lighter repaintings, probably in Soviet green, to delete the U.S. markings; the nose area seems light, it could be faded olive drab or it could have been repainted with Soviet A-21 light brown. The white band on the rear of the fuselage is noticeable.













"Red 56" of 640 BAP




The A-20G bomber number 56 of the commander of the 640 BAP Lieutenant Colonel Yakov Vasilievich Polishchuk. This unit utilized A-20G from the end of October 1943.

The planes of the unit were characterized by colored caps on the tail, white for this plane. The serial is hardly readable, only the final 4 is clear. The front area appears darker, probably repainted with Soviet dark green.




'White 90' of 277 BAP

A-20G 'White 90' (s/n 43-9284) of 277 BAP. Note the white area on the fin, a regimental marking.

Being a plane of late production, it is likely that the nose was of the type with 4 windows for each side, as the plane 'White 1' of the photo below.





A-20G 'White 1' (s/n unknown) of 277 BAP. Again we see a white area on the fin.




'Yellow 5' of 260 bap


A-20G-20 'Yellow (?) 5, s/n 42-86687 of 260 bap, has sometimes been interpreted as 'Yellow 9', until a photo was published showing better the number on the rudder.

The plane looks to have a normal olive drab livery very faded, with medium green blotches on the tail and wings and a mess of repaintings. A worn white band passes on the rear of the fuselage.

Almost surely, it had a glazed nose with the 4 windows for side style. The small cupola behind the turret is noteworthy.







The third photo, probably of the same plane, shows small bombs suspended under the wing racks.








The fourth image shows the nose of a similar plane of the unit, not necessarily the same one, with a broken arrow emblem (presumably red with yellow outline), bringng two awards: the Order of Kutuzov III degree (award of the regiment) and Bohdan Khmelnitsky II degree (award of 244 bad). It is very possible that plane 5 had such emblem painted on the fuselage sides in some timeframe.




Images from Scalemodels.ru



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.