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B.71 in German service

Updated on November 4, 2018

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B-71

 

 

When Germans inveded Czechoslovakia on 15 March 1939, they came in possess of 59 serviceable B-71s on Czechoslovak airfields. All these planes were of Soviet production, but with Czechoslovak-built engines, armament, radios and other equipments.

Left: an ex- Czechoslovak B-71 examined by Luftwaffe officers. It is not clear if it was already remarked with German markings.

 

 

Left: photo of a Czechoslovak B-71 partially remarked by Germans. The swastika on the tail was probably obscured by photoshopping.

 

Below: factory drawings of the Czech camouflage, from a Letectvi Kosmonautika of the '80s and colorized to match the available informations. Contrarily to what it has been drawn for years, the color zs (zelena seda) has to be the darkest of all.

This camouflage was common to nearly all the known B-71, although the accurate measures shown here weren't respected.

The most noticeable variation between planes was the height of the camouflage/light grey division line, that varies from mid to high, rarely low.

 

The planes were remarked with German crosses and swasikas over the original dirty green-dark brown-dark grey green camouflage with light grey undersurfaces. Some planes still had an uniform light grey livery.

Most of the planes were flown to Merseburg airfield, in Germany, where they were storaged.

One of the planes went to the Reichlin center of test and evaluation, where it was tested until June.

Left: plane numbered 9 with German markings. The ventral aerial is still the original one. The plane hasn't yet converted to successive German standard.

 

Some of the B-71s still had a light grey livery. On the background, we see one with a German four-letters code.

 

32 B-71s were sold to the Bulgarian VV (Vazdushni Voyski, Royal air force) in September 1939; they received German civil registration for the transfer flight, but preserved the original camouflage that was retained even in Bugarian service.

 

 

 

Left: this photos shows a B-71 in German civil markings, probably overall grey with red tail with a swastika on white circle. The prop blades seen to be painted with red stripes.

Below: profile of plane D-RVAC in German civil marks. The color was shown as the L 40/52 of many German airliners, close to RLM 03. It could also be the original Czechoslovak light grey.

 

 

 

3 B-71s were sold to the Slovak Vz (Vzdusne zbrane).

Image from Tupolev SB in action, Squadron/Signal publications

 

 

B-71 A

 

 

 

Germans decided that B-71 was well suitable in the target tug role.

At the date of the invasion, the license production at Avia was close to start. Germans ordered the production of 76 B-71A from Avia and Aero. In addition to this, the existing B-71s still in German hands were converted to B-71A standard.

The Avia factory in Cakovice built 41 B-71A (serials 152 to 191 plus 193), delivered between 21 July 1939 and 27 August 1940. Planes built or restored in Avia received codes starting with SE: SE+DL to SE+DZ, SE+EA to SE+EZ, SE+FA to SE+FY.

The Aero factory at Prague-Vysocany built 35 B-71A (serials 117 to 151); deliveries started on 22 May 1940. Planes built in Aero factory received four-letters codes starting with VG+B (and probably TB+P), somewhat larger in size than the one pained on planes by Avia.

Left: B-71 VG+BP and other ones in Aero facilities in Prague, converted to B-71A standard.

 

The B-71A differed from the Soviet-built B-71 because:

  • all armament was deleted;
  • part of the front glazing (the slot of the gun, and the panels aside) were replaced by a metallic plate;
  • a small circular window on each side of the rear fuselage was deleted;
  • the antenna under the fuselage was replaced by a fixed one above the fuselage;
  • an entry step was installed on the left side of the rear fuselage;
  • a fairing for the target towing was added under the fuselage;
  • a winch, a drum with 2.5 mm cable, and a 3 m long canvas target sleeve, all contained in the former bomb bay and rear fuselage.
  • a ballast of 240 kg in the former navigator's compartment in the nose, to compensate the change of the center of gravity.

 

The planes were remarked with German white-black crosses of relatively small size, and a swastika on the rudder.

In late 1940 the crosses became wider, and the swastika was moved on the fin.

The planes received German four letters codes.

Planes built in Avia factory received codes SE + DL to SE + DZ, SE + EA to SE + EZ and SE + FA to SE + FY.

Planes built in Aero factory received four-letters codes starting with VG+B, somewhat larger in size than the one pained on planes by Avia.

Most B-71A were assigned to Luftdienst Kommando 6, and employed in target towing and as meteo reconaissance planes.

Other ones were utilized by Ausbildungsgruppe 104, Jagdfliegerschule 4 and the secret bomber wing Kampfgeschwader 200.

 

 

A major question mark is the color of undersurfaces: was it light grey as on the Czechoslovak standard livery, that was preserved on the uppersurfaces, or yellow as many sources suggest?

Yellow and grey could appear undistinguishable on black and white photos.

Three color photos are available, but they don't give a definitive answer.

 

B-71B SE+FX in Prague in 1940.

The rare color photo is not perfect, and the first impression is of a green-green camo, but the pattern reveals that it is the usual Czechoslovak camouflage, just the photo doesn't show brown clearly. Rudder and elevators are undoubtedly yellow, while the front of the engines could be yellow or, less likely, white. The undersurfaces seem light grey, even if some yellowing is visible close to the codes on the fuselage, but could be a defect of the photo.

 

 

A color (or colorized?) photo of a B-71A VG+BQ.

The photo seems to show yellow undersurfaces, while the upper surfaces look camouflaged with a splinter camo, apparently compatible with grey 02 and black green 70.

On the other hand, there is no proof that this is a real color photo. One can only admit that no bw version of this photo is available around; so, if it was manually colorized, this was made a lot of time ago.

 

Another very sharp photo of a detail of VG+BQ.

In absence of sure guide lines, we'll assume that the planes were initially utilized with the original Czech camouflage and grey undersurfaces.

It is very possible that some, or all the B-71s received partial yellow painting in a second time, on all undersurfaces or on the tail, nose or engine cowlings only.

Some sources say that the planes were repainted with German colors RLM 70 schwarzgrun and 71 dunkelgrun with splinter pattern, but the most part of the photos show undoubtably the Czechoslovak camouflage, apart for some questionable exceptions.

 

 

B-71A TB+PE seems to have preserved the Czech camo and grey undersurfaces, but the front of the cowlings and the upper and sides of the nose seem crudely repainted yellow.

The protrusion under the fuselage, visible between the target towing fairing and the wheel, could be the original ventral aerial, usually suppressed on German planes.

Note that a thin metal stripe covers just the slot for the suppressed machine gun.

 

 

 

B-71A after a belly landing. The Czechoslovak factory camouflage and (probably) the grey undersurfaces were preserved, while the rudder seems crudely repainted, perhaps yellow.

Note the codes SE*?? under the wings, while it was not painted on the fuselage.

A detail under the left wing shows the landing torches under the right wing, just as on Soviet SB.

Image from Tupolev SB in action, Squadron/Signal publications

 

B-71A SE+EF seems to have received a wide overpainting on the nose and on the rear fuselage.

The closer plane has an uniformly light nose (yellow?) and a triangular mark.

Image from Tupolev SB in action, Squadron/Signal publications

 

 

 

B-71A SE+ED (n.170) at Celle airport, Germany, in 1941. It belonged to Luftdiens Kommando 2/11.

The plane looks to bear the original Czechoslovak camo.

The plane looks still unmarked on the upper face of the wings; probably the marking was completed in a second time.

Below: color profile of SE+ED, and the upper view of a typical B-71A.

Image from Tupolev SB in action, Squadron/Signal publications

Left: B-71 VG+BG in Aero facilities in Prague, converted to B-71A standard.

The deletion of the Czechoslovak cockade on the rudder is visible.

 

Below: profile of B-71A VG+BG.

 

 

 

A color (or colorized?) photo of a B-71A VG+BQ.

There is no proof that this is a real color photo. One can only admit that no bw version of this photo is available around; so, if it was manually colorized, this was made a lot of time ago.

Supposing that this was a real color photo, or at least colorized by someone that knew how the plane was painted, we can see that the undersurfaces were painted yellow and delimited by a sharp straight line. Part of the light grey of the original livery was retained. The same thing looks done on the wing leading edge, leaving to see some light grey under the undulated line of the camouflage.

It is likely that the Czechoslovak upper camouflage was retained too, even if one can see an area on the tail that could be interpreted as a German splinter camouflage. Anyway it could also be a local repainting.

A small triangular emblem is visible on the lower part of the rudder; it had a triangular shape as the most usual one, but with the vertex up instead of down. This mark has still to be identified.

 

 

 

B-71A VG+BP. The plane still looks with the Czechoslovak camouflage, but a slight discontinuity in the color of the nose suggests that it could have received a sharp yellow repainting on the undersurfaces as VG+BQ of the photo above. This would encourage to believe that the color photo of VG+BQ is real.

Note the triangular unit emblem on the nose.

Image: LuftArchiv.de

 

B-71A VG+BX. The photo, although blurried, is interesting because the front part of the cowlings has light and dark sharp areas, possibly white and red.

All the nose is light, perhaps yellow, so one can hypothize that all undersurfaces were yellow. The upper part of the egine nacelles and wings shows the original Czechoslovak camouflage.

the triangular emblem is visible on the nose.

 

B-71A SE+DM

 

B-71A SE+ DJ or SE+EJ shows a glossy uniform livery; it could be painted in uniform gelb 04 (or red, or grey...).

Image: from the web

 

B-71A VG+DZ is interesting because it shows yellow undersurface, rudder, elevators and cowlings. The sides of the fuselage and fin could be grey 02 slightly mottled with green tiny stripes. The camouflage visible over the wings and central part of the fuselage is still the original Czechoslovak one.

The fin looks to have been photoshopped to hide the swastika.

Below: an interpretation of the painting of VG+DZ.

 

 

The B-71B was an improvement of the B-71A:

  • the target towing cable was extended to 1000 m;
  • the cable housing was redesigned and repositioned;
  • the back cockpit was moved forward, and fitted with a shorter sliding hood and, often, with a small windshield;
  • the triangular window on the nose sides was suppressed;
  • a long handle was added behind the rear canopy on the left side only;
  • the bomb doors were deleted;
  • the nose compartment exit hatch was relocated aft;
  • the oval windows on the rear fuselage were removed;
  • three pylons were installed under each wing: one inside the nacelle, two outside; they tere capable of a load of 35 kg (exercise bombs?);
  • the aerial mast received an unique T shape (not on all planes).

Aero factory built then B-71B (serials 107 to 116) delivered in October-November 1940.

Avia factory in Cakowice delivered 25 B-71B (serials 192, 194 to 217) up to April 1941.

Left: Avia B-71B SE+EX, n.192. The mast of this plane doesn't show a T-shape.

 

 

A B-71B (SE+FJ, n.202) seen side by side to a B-71A (SE+EF, n-172).

This allows to see some differences of the B in comparison to A: the different fairing for target tug equipment, the suppression of the triangular windows under the nose, the wider metal plate replacing the front glazing, 6 underwing pylons, the T-shaped mast.

The most apparent difference, the repositioning of the rear cockpit, is not visible from this perspective.

Image from Tupolev SB in action, Squadron/Signal publications

 

 

A front photo of a B-71B (perhaps SE+FJ) allows to see the plate replacing the front glazing of original S-71; a small rectangular window can be seen under the plate. The position of the underwing racks is very clear here.
Another photo of the same plane from the other side.

Left: Detail of the nose of B-71B SE+FJ. One can have an idea of the emblem.

The ballast inside of the nose vane is clearly visible; it served to balance the weight of the towing equipment and correct thecenter of weight.

Below: for comparison, here is a detail of a B-71A. One can see the narrower metallic plate closing the gun slot only. The ballast looks the same.

 

Left: B-71B SE+FX in Prague in 1940.

The rare color photo is not perfect, and the first impression is of a green-green camo, but the pattern reveals that it is the usual Czechoslovak camouflage, just the photo doesn't show brown clearly.

Rudder and elevators are undoubtedly yellow, while the front of the engines could be yellow or, less likely, white.

The undersurfaces seem light grey, even if some yellowing is visible close to the codes on the fuselage, but could be a defect of the photo.

Below: two color drawings of SE+FX.

 

 

 

 

In total, 135 B-71 of all the versions saw service with the Luftwaffe.

The planes were utilized up to late 1944, when the lack of spare parts made them unoperable.

 

 

http://www.revi.cz/cz/revi/30_1.html

https://www.asisbiz.com/il2/SB-2M/SB-2M-Mixed-German/pages/Avia-B-71-(SE+FX)-Prague-Czechoslovakia-1940-02.html

 

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Images from books and from the net were utilized without the intention of damage the rights of the owners or to have an economic gain for the authors of this page, but only to demonstrate that the drawings of Tapani Tuomanen on these subjects, present and future, are historically accurate.

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