SB in Finnish Ilmavoimat: brief general history

Updated on November 1, 2017

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The Finnish Ilmavoimat utilized 24 Soviet-built SB bombers from 1940 up to 1945.

The first eight of these planes were captured during the Winter War (30 November 1939-13 March 1940) after having forcedly landed in Finnish territory because of combat damages or other problems.

Aside: Soviet SB 'yellow 9' of 41 SBAP was shot down by a Finnish Fokker D.XXI fighter at Tainionkosky on 1 December 1939.

The first plane, recoded as VP-10, was overhauled at the VL (Valtion Lentokonetehdas, State Aircraft Factory), then it was delivered to the Ilmavoimat on 13 august 1940; On 15 October 1940, it was assigned to the Lentolaivue (LeLv, Flying Squadron) 6 at Nummela.

Further planes were coded from VP-2 to VP-8; VP-10 was re-coded as VP-1 in June 1941.

On 25 June 1941, few days after the German aggression, the Soviet Air Force attacked Turku, starting the Continuation War, the access of Finland into the Second World War allied aside the Germans.

The codes VP were changed into SB in September 1941, leaving the numerical suffixes of the planes unchanged.

Aside: VP-10 after repairs and a first partial repainting of the damaged parts.

Other SB were captured by German during the Operation Barbarossa in summer 1941; 16 of them, all SB-2M103, were sold to Finland.

The first of these 6 planes (SB-9 to SB-14) arrived in Finland on 5 november 1941; another batch of 5 (SB-15 to 19) arrived in April 1942, the last batch of 5 (SB-20 to 24) were delivered in August 1942. All the planes were refurbished at VL; there, some planes were equipped with new auxiliary carburetor air intakes on the engine cowling sides.

Aside: Soviet SB-2M103 of 35 SBAP captured by Germans on a Soviet airfield.

All Finnish SB were equipped with M-103 engines.

All 16 planes bought by Germany were assigned to three flights of LeLv6 at Nummela. They were utilized as bombers, reconnaissance and anti-submarine planes.

Below: a map of Finland in late '30s, with the air bases of Turku and Nummela put into evidence. They were the main bases involved into the service of the Finnish SBs.

Some infos about confirmed losses by Russians:

28.05. 42. SB-1 pilot Virtanen. Submarine M-95 destroyed

24.06. 42 SB-4 pilot B.Ek Submarine SC-405 destroyed

14.7.42. SB-5 pilot E. Vuorio Submarine SC-317 destroyed

14.10. 42. SB-10 Pilot E.Palosuo Submarine SC-302 destroyed

Besides submarines, the planes sank merchant ships and smaller boats.None Finnish SB was lost due to enemy fire in 1941-44, but 6 SB were destroyed because of accidents.



A detail of the emblem of 2/LeLv6, a white duck carrying a black bomb, inscribed into a thin yellow circle. This emblem wasn't on all Finnish SB.

The victories painted on the rudder are collective of all the unit.


the VL Valmet factory where the Soviet bombers were refurbished.

Here we see four grey SB, two silver DB-3 and a Pe-2.

The Pe-2 has already wartime marks, so the photo can be dated after the start of the Continuation War.

The closer SB has still the original red star on the fuselage, but it is already equipped with the radio mast on the windshield; this was a characteristic of Soviet original late production SB, later refitted on all the Finnish SB.


In 1942, Finnish SBs were modified by a sliding hood with well visible rails and a foldable windshield on the navigator's hatch.


the early dorsal defensive position of SB was closed by a sliding hood and armed with a ShKAS 7.62 machine gun.


A close detail of the MV-3 ball turret, armed with a ShKAS 7.62 machine gun.

The wide gap between the turret and the fuselage makes clear that the plane hadn't come out of the factory with the turret, but it was updated in a second time (unclear if by Soviets or Finns).

Image: SA-Kuva archive

Color image of the cockpit of a Finnish SB.

Image: SA-Kuva archive


inflight image of the right engine cowling. The straight demarcation between the black-green uppersurfaces and the light blue undersurfaces makes clear that the plane has the later camouflage (splinter) adopted in mid 1942.

Image: SA-Kuva archive

The legendary photographer Nils Helander is shown in the navigator's position of a Finnish SB. He flew on board on every bomber, including German Stukas.
He got killed when he was filming an IL-2 raid on Immola airfield in summer 44.


color image of SB (4 or 7, it seems to be on the fuselage) still with the old camouflage. Note that it is fitted with radio mast, sliding hood for the navigator and, probably, MV-3 turret.

Image: SA-Kuva archive




Finland had to sign an armistice with Soviets on 4 September 1944; then it started to fight against Germans to pull their force outside the country in what was called the Lapland war.


two Finnish SB 1n late 1944. Note the deletion of the yellow bands denoting their alliance with Germans.



On a total of 24 SB, 6 were lost due to accidents and none to enemy fire; so, 18 of them survived the war. All them were written off and storaged on February 1945.

Here we see many Soviet-built old Finnish planes on the Tampere Härmälä airfield 1946. Being close to State Aircraft Factory (VL), it was the main depot of Finnish Air Force 1939-45.

Many planes were scrapped here after the war.

On the photo we recognize many SB, I-15bis, I-153, Pe-2, LaGG-3, P-40.

Image from http://www.geocities.ws/finnmilpge/fmp_faf_depots39_45.html via Jasu Terava.




Photos of Finnish planes are nearly all from Suomen ilmavoimien historia 9: "Venäläiset Pommittajat" of Kalevi Keskinen, Kari Stenman, Klaus Niska.

Other photos and informations are from Tupolev SB in action, by Hans-Heiri Stapfer, Squadron/Signal publications.

Other photos are from SA Kuva archive (usually marked on the images)

Some other photos and informations are from:

Warpaint- Finnish Air Force Colors - Finnish Air Force Series # 23 of Keskinen, Stenman http://www.amazon.com/Warpaint-Finnish-Air-Force-Colors/dp/9519875166

Suomen Ilmavoimien Historia 24: LER 5 of Keskinen, Stenman https://www.booky.fi/tuote/keskinen_kalevi/suomen_ilmavoimien_historia_24_ler_5/9789519875170




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.

Should this be unacceptable for them, or for other authors, we apologize and we eventually provide to remove the photos.