Soviet SBs in Far East before the GPW

Updated on March 26, 2018

back to VVS research index
go to the SB family page


Soviet units in Far East started to receive SBs in late 1937.


SB 2M-100 s/n 2287 in Soviet Far East during the winter 1937/1938.

It was damaged because of a collision with another plane during a takeoff.

This plane appears painted in overall light grey; this paint wasn't as glossy and durable as the AE-9 utilized in 1939-40, but was matt and prone to scratching; this obliged to frequent retouching of the planes, that soon assumed a non uniform and patchy look.


(from TUPOLEV SB, M.Maslov, ed. Ikarus)





Another early SB 2M-100 c/n 2270, in Soviet Far East, after a belly landing in winter 1937/38. The plane featured a (yellow?) 2 on its rudder, and looks painted in light grey.

(from TUPOLEV SB, M.Maslov, ed. Ikarus)




The SB s/n 2282 yellow (?) 7 of 60th Aviation Squadron flown by B.M. Andreev at Voskresensk Airfield, January 1938. Its look is interesting because of the disuniformity of the colors, although it is unclear if this is due to repaintings, to alteration of the color or what else.

Note the unpainted frames of the nose windows.

(from TUPOLEV SB, M.Maslov, ed. Ikarus)



In summer 1938, the tension between the Soviet Union and Japan broke into a brief war in the Lake Khasan area, near to the Soviet-Korean-Manchurian border. The will of the Soviet headquartier was mainly to demonstrate their combat readiness, more than to mantain the control on that small contended territory.

The Air Force of the Red Army had 1292 combat planes, of which 256 SB, not including those of the Pacific Fleet.

In late July, there were some clashes and artillery fire.

The Soviet Air Force entered into action on August 1. The units involved were the 25th Aviation Brigade (36 and 55 SBAP) and 53 (47 SBAP), for a total of 159 SB. They made some actions in massive groups.

The operations ended on10 August, after the loss of one SB hit by AA fire, one for the blast of his bomlets load while dropping, and some other ones that suffered minor damage.



SB s/n 2581 flown by A.S. Zaporozhchenko made a forced landing after having been damaged by Japanese AA fire over the Lake Khasan area.

(from TUPOLEV SB, M.Maslov, ed. Ikarus)


A much wider conflict broke out in in May 1939 in eastern Mongolia, near the Khalkhin-Gol river; it is also known as Nomothan accident.

The 57 Spoecial Army Corps consisted of 70 IAP with 24 I-16s and 14 I-15bis, and the 150 SAP (Combined Aviation Regiment) with 29 SBs and 15 R-5s. The 150 SAP had received just the new SBs, and had yet to become familiar with the type.

The 38 SBAP, with 59 SBs, arrived in the area by June, and was combined with 150 SAP to form the 100th Aviation Brigade.

On 2 July, massive Japanese forces crossed the Khalkhin-Gol river by night. On 2-5 July, the Soviet bombers started massive raids with fighter escort.

They clashed with Japanese fighters Ki-27 (called I-97 by Soviets) shooting down some of them, but losing about 12 SB.

On 5 July, Japaneses retreated to their previous positions.

After this, both the sides reinforced their forces: the 100th Brigade received further SB and the addition of 56 SBAP.

A Soviet flight of SB was equipped with AFA-13 aerial cameras and employed for a massive recognition on the Japanese positions.

Soviet bombers attacked Japanese railroad junctions, communication lines and reserves.

On 20 August, Soviets started a wide offensive, that defeated Japanese forces. Combat ended on 15 September 1939.

The Soviet Air Force lost 45 SBs, of which 34 shot down by fighters (one of which because of friendly fire), 10 by AA fire, 1 destroyed on the ground by an attack, and 7 written off after accidents.

The high rate of accidents can be explained by the high intensity of operations and to problems to the oxygen system; it was reported that two air gunners died for failure of their oxygen masks.

Operations were conducted forthemost in daytime, because crew were not trained for night operations.

A difficulty was due that many flights were made with mixed formations of SB built in different times, with M-100, 100 A and M-103 engines; this obliged the whole formation to take the speed ofthe slowest planes, 280-300 km/h.

The fuel delivered was of poor quality, often with octane rate below the 70 required; this was resolved by adding some alcohol to the fuel.

Japanese fighter pilots learned that the rear gunner of SB employed some time to pass from the dorsal to the ventral postations, and employed a trick: at first they attacked briefly from below, then, when the gunners moved into the ventral postations, they quickly raised and completed the attack from above before the gunners could move back into the dorsal postations.

Soviets remedied by attaching wires to the triggers of the ventral machine guns; so the gunners could pull it and fire the machine guns from the upper positions, giving the illusion of having been moved on the ventral postations to the Japanese pilots; instead, they were still in the dorsal postations, ready to hit the fighters as soon as they raised.



SB 2M100A during the Nomothan incident. The plane seems painted in light grey overall, with green field camouflage on the upper surfaces and white spinners. Strangely, the frames of the windshield seem painted green or black.

The absence of the trasparent raising on the windshield marks that this plane was older than the plane 'red 2' shown below.

Note the shadows projected by the low sun, that could give the wrong idea that the plane had black undersurfaces.

(from TUPOLEV SB, M.Maslov, ed. Ikarus)


Another SB 2M100A of 150 SAP. Looks more or ess similar to the plane above, with a green field camouflage over the light grey base.

(from TUPOLEV SB, M.Maslov, ed. Ikarus)


SB 2M103 of 34 SBAP made a belly landing in Mongolia.

The plane was of recent type, probably with engines M-103, with two circular windows on each side, with raised windshield and three-blades propellers.

The finish was in aluminum paint AE-8, oversprayed with green field camouflage. The number 2 was probably red, perhaps with a tiny black outline.

The red stars with black outlines conformed to the prewar standard: they were located on the fuselage sides, and above and below each wing.

(from TUPOLEV SB, M.Maslov, ed. Ikarus)







SB 2M-100 yellow (?) 3 of 162 SBAP, 5th Squadron, flown by pilot lt. Tikhomirov, navigator Lt. Brazhnikov, gunner Bogdanov.

The accident happened at Shaikovka airfield on 07.06.1940. Photo from Russan State Military Archive.

The plane is well representative of early SB, with a matt and not uniform grey livery, two blades propeller, only one circular window on the sides. The only update to the early standard looks the upwards extension of the windshield covering a mirror.






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.

Not all images report the source. This is not to deny any credits, but because they were collected from many persons that no longer remember where they found them.

Should this be unacceptable for anyone having rights on the photos, we apologize and we eventually provide to remove or credit them.