PILOT’S TECHNICAL BRIEFING
The Polikarpov PO-2 was designed twenty years ago as a sturdy utility aircraft. It is slow, stable, and tough as nails. A skilled pilot can put one down almost anywhere, including village streets and muddy wheat fields — remember this, because it can save your life. The PO-2 is a pilot’s plane – you literally cannot put this aircraft into a spin accidentally, and if you enter one by choice it will level out automatically if you release the stick. You can almost turn within your own wingspan, and the controls are very responsive.
The PO-2 can be repaired with simple tools when it needs to be repaired at all. The airframe is a lattice of wood and steel, with fabric-covered twin wings, and is agreeably easy to work with. PO-2’s serve as trainers, liaison aircraft, artillery spotters, air ambulances, crop dusters, and even loudspeaker-equipped “voices in the sky”. They also serve the Motherland as light bombers in the PO-2LNB configuration, which is what you will be flying from now on. Welcome to the 588th.
In addition to yourself and your navigator, your PO-2 is rated for a 200 kilo payload. Happily, our light weight as females allows us to increase this to 250 kilos. The aircraft can be loaded in a variety of configurations, but most of the time we will be dropping FAB-25 gravity bombs.
Your PO-2 is your home now, so treat it well. You will be in that seat from dusk until dawn every night, flying sorties from forward airbases less than ten kilometers from the front. With care, your plane will give you everything you ask of it, and more.
This is not a technical point, but it bears mentioning — we are the hope and pride of Soviet women everywhere. All eyes are on us, including those of Marina Roskova herself. You’ve been assigned aircraft by tail number. Dismissed.
NAVIGATOR’S TACTICAL BRIEFING
Our mission is harassment. Let the high-value targets go to our sisters in the 587th Day Bomber Regiment. We want to drop our bombs where they won’t be expected. We want them to fear us. It’s true that your job is to get your pilot to the target and home again, but it’s also to rein her in and keep her from trying to be a hero.
I’m not going to lie to you — these are good planes, but they are obsolete. You’ll have to work to get even 100 horsepower out of the Shvetsov M-11 engine, and it is deafening in flight, which makes surprise attacks somewhat challenging. You will not out-run or out-fight any plane in the German arsenal. We work around these difficulties. Some of these disadvantages we turn into strengths.
First, we fly at night. The PO-2 is small and not easily observed in the darkness, from the ground or from RADAR-equipped night fighters. Night flying is dangerous and stressful, and you will need to be accurate and efficient in your navigation. You won’t have enough fuel for mistakes, and your pilot will have her hands full keeping you in the air. And we fly slowly — by necessity, but this curse is also a blessing. We can’t even reach the stall speed of a Messerschmidt 109. At our best, we’re flying at 150 kilometers per hour, and they are too fast to catch us. The Germans can fly circles around us, but they can’t disappear into a fire break like we can, only meters off the ground.
The Shvetsov engine is loud, but that’s easily remedied — we turn them off and glide to the target. It takes some getting used to, but the silent approach sows fear and uncertainty. Do you know what they call us? Night Witches. Wear that name with pride, girls. Let them lose sleep listening for us. Let them die in terror. Let them view the wreckage we leave in our wake and say “the Night Witches have spoken”.
You’ve each been attached to a pilot; check your crew roster on the duty board. Good luck, girls. Dismissed.