The Petlyakov Pe-3 


side viewfront viewunder view

The Petlyakov Pe-3 design is derived from the Petlyakov Pe-2 design (see previous page). As you can see at the Pe-2 page, the Peshka was based upon the failed VI-100, a very advanced (and too complex) high altitude fighter. The Pe-2 became a multi-role attack bomber, used as a tactical weapon.
Soon after Germany invaded the Soviet Union (Operation Barbarossa, 1941) nocturnal bombing raids were carried out by the Germans on Soviet targets. Inadequate equipment and weaponry made clear that the Soviet Union needed an interceptor with good endurance, powerful armament, and a good view from the cockpit to be used during the night.
The way that the pe-2 performed was reason enough to believe that it had the breeding of an excellent night-fighter and interceptor. On August 2nd 1941 it was decided that the Pe-2 would be adopted for this role. 4 Days were alloted to Vladimir Petlyakov to make the necessary changes to the fuel system, armament and radio/electronic equipment, and another miracle was done by petlyakov. On August 7th the first prototype of the Pe-3 made it's maiden flight. The next day the production acceptance flight tests were completed, and the Pe-3 then went for the State flight tests.
Because of the need for more endurance additional fuel tankage was needed, and several tanks were placed inside the fuselage. this left no room for the third crewmember (gunner/radio operator).
The circle was round: Starting out a s a high-altitude fighter, the VI-100 evolved into the Pe-2, a tactical bomber. The Pe-2 in it's turn evolved further into a fighter again, the Pe-3.

One remark has to be made right here. A lot of sources claim that the Pe-3 was actually designed and built before the German invasion of the Soviet Union. All these sources have more or less the same description about the design proces, and claim the discontinuation of the Pe-3's production after the invasion. Only one source describes the proces of the design of the Pe-3 and it's production as on this page. Somehow I feel that the other sources must have based their claims on the same (erroneous) source. I believe that this must be the right description of the Pe-3's history, for it is the best match with the political and technical situation of the Soviet Union during 1941. So be warned, opinions may vary

Version list:

Further pictures:

Sorry, no picture available yet
Sorry, no picture available yet


Technical data on the Petlyakov Pe-3 (1941 standard)
Powerplant 2 × Klimov M-105RA Vee, rated at 1100 hp (820.04 kW) each Role during war
  • Fighter
  • (Ground) Attack Fighter
  • Fighter-bomber
  • Night-Fighter
  • Long range (attack) Fighter
Length 41 ft 6 inch Height 11 ft 2.6 inch
Empty weight 12632 lb Operational weight 15873 lb max
Wing Span 56 ft 2 inch Wing Aspect ratio 7.23
Wing Area 439.1 sq ft Service ceiling 29527 ft
Maximum speed 332 mph at 16400 ft Cruising speed unknown
Initial climb rate Climb to 16,405 ft in 9 min 0 sec Range 1242 miles typical
Fuel capacity internal 326 Imp gal (392 US gal) in wings, 153.9 Imp gal (184.8 US gal) in fuselage tanks Fuel capacity external -
Machine guns
  • 2 × 0.50 inch Beresin UBK fixed forward firing in the nose, 250 roounds each
  • 1 × 0.3 inch ShKAS fixed rearward firing in the tailcone, 250 rounds
Cannons -
Bomb load Up to 1.543 lb of disposable stores carried in two engine nacelle weapons bays rated at 220 lb each, and on two underwing hardpoints rated at 551 lb each. General disposables load consisted of:
  • 2 × 220 lb FAB-100 bombs in engine nacelles
  • 2 × 220 lb FAB-100 bombs under the wings, occasionally in an overload condition 2 × 551 lb FAB-250 bombs
Torpedoes/rockets -
Crew 2: pilot, navigator/bombardier Naval or ground based Ground
First flight (prototype) 7 August 1941 Operational Service 1941 - Early 1950's
Manufacturer Petlyakov Design Bureau Number produced 11.427 total including all Pe-3 variants, unknown number this version
Metric system
Length 12.65 m Height 3.42 m
Empty weight 5730 kg Operational weight 7200 kg max
Wing Span 17.12 m Wing Aspect ratio 7.23
Wing Area 40.79 m² Service ceiling 9000 m
Maximum speed 534 km/h at 4999 m Cruising speed unknown
Initial climb rate Climb to 5.000 m in 9 min 0 sec Range 1999 km typical
Fuel capacity internal 1.484 liters in wings, 700 liters in fuselage tanks Fuel capacity external -
Machine guns
  • 2 × 12,7 mm Beresin UBK fixed forward firing in the nose, 250 roounds each
  • 1 × 7,62 mm ShKAS fixed rearward firing in the tailcone, 250 rounds
Cannons -
Bomb load Up to 700 kg of disposable stores carried in two engine nacelle weapons bays rated at 100 kg each, and on two underwing hardpoints rated at 250 kg each. General disposables load consisted of:
  • 2 × 100 kg FAB-100 bombs in engine nacelles
  • 2 × 100 kg FAB-100 bombs under the wings, occasionally in an overload condition 2 × 250 kg FAB-250 bombs
Torpedoes/rockets -

Here is a quick overview of all different versions, without the full technical specifications:

Different versions of the Petlyakov Pe-3 
Petlyakov Pe-3 (1941 standard) The Pe-3 was a versatile aircraft, and one that was continually evolving. The first aircraft were like described in the Technical Specifications table, but soon improvements began to appear.
When the first combat reports were evaluated soon the armament was improved. The ShKAS guns that were operated by the navigator were replaced by 12,7 mm (0.50 inch) UBT machine guns, and ShVAK guns were installed in the nose. Some aircraft were equipped with 8 × RO-80 rockets, and some with 8 × RO-80 plus 2 × RO-132 rockets.
The Pe-3 could also be fitted with AFA-B cameras. In this way it could be used as a long range high-speed reconnaissance aircraft.
Number built: unknown.
Petlyakov Pe-2I Like you can see on the Pe-2 page, there were 2 different aircraft versions designated Pe-2I. This version was a conversion from the Pe-2 to a pure fighter type (Istrebitel means Fighter). The designwork was carried out by the staff of aircraft Plant No. 22. The Pe-2I had a ShVAK twin-cannon mounting installed in place of the bomb bay. The nose armament stayed the same: ShKAS and UBK guns.
Like the Pe-3 the radio operator/gunner positions was occupied by a fuel tank, rendering it a two-seater. The range of the Pe-2I was 1,242 miles (2.000 km). One major difference was the use of two external tanks, each of 39.5 Imp gal (47.4 US gal; 180 liters). The rearward firing gun was replaced by a UBT gun, but not in the tailcone like with the Pe-3, but in the fairing of the rear cockpit previously occupied by the radio operator/gunner.
Although the Pe-2I performed well, it never entered production.
Number built: unknown number of prototypes.
Petlyakov Pe-3 (1944 standard) This version was merely an continuously improved version of the original Pe-3. In the meantime the engines were replaced by 2 × VK-105PF, rated at 1,260 hp (939 kW) each. It was slightly smaller at a length of 40 ft 9.5 inch (12,45 m), same wingspan, and wing area of 435.9 ft² (40,5 m²). Weights had increased to 12,775 lb (5.795 kg) empty, and 18,231 lb (8.270 kg) gross. The speed at sea level was 288.8 mph (465 km/h), and 327.4 mph (527 km/h) at an altitude of 12,650 ft (3.850 m), a little slower actually. Frontal armament consisted of 1 × 20 mm ShVAK cannon, and 2 × 0.50 inch (12,7 mm) UBT guns.
Number built: unknown.
Petlyakov Pe-3bis The bis version was a derivative of the Pe-3 (1941 standard). Complaints from the front caused the Pe-3 to be changed, mainly in the armament area. Differences were:
  • 2 × UBK 0.50 inch (12,7 mm) guns, 250 rounds each in the nose
  • 1 × 20 mm ShVAK cannon replaced the lower UBK gun, 250 rounds
  • 1 × 0.50 inch (12,7 mm) UBT gun replaced the TSS-1 in the navigator's turret, 180 rounds
  • Automatic slats were installed to improve low speed stability
  • The cockpit canopy was shortened, and the anti-nose-over frame was moved 1 ft 6 in (0.48 m) forward.
  • Frontal pilot's armor was installed and the navigator's seat armor was reinforced. This increased the total armor weight to almost 300 lb (136 kg)
  • The nitrogen fuel tank filling system was replaced by a neutral gas system using engine exhaust gasses
  • A hood was installed in the cockpit to prevent the pilot being blinded. The aircraft was more or less identical to the Pe-3, a little more eight (396 lb, 180 kg), a little slower at altitude (329 mph, 530 km/h). Sea level speed was a little better at 278 mph (448 km/h).
    Number built: unknown.
Petlyakov Pe-3M This version was a two-seat fighter-bomber version of 1943, powered by 2 × Klimov VK-105PF Vee engines, and armed with 2 × 20 mm ShVAK cannon and 3 × 0.50 inch (12,7 mm) Beresin UBS guns. Disposables load was identical to the Pe-3, to a maximum of 1,5443 lb (700 kg).
Number built: unknown.
Petlyakov Pe-3R The 'R' in this name stands for Razvedchik, which means Reconnaissance. It was based on the Pe-3, and had 3 vertical and oblique cameras installed in the lower fuselage
Number built: unknown.

Operational remarks:

Like the Pe-2, the Pe-3 performed well from the first beginning. Partly this was also because the two aircraft were so similar, and a number of Regiments (squadrons) converted from Pe-2 to Pe-3.
The first operational combat sortie of the Pe-3 was performed by the 95th Air Fighter Regiment, which had converted from Pe-2's. In the beginning of October 1941 six Pe-3's took off to escort Douglas C-47's with a British military delegation which was en route from Vologda to Moscow. The Pe-3's fended off 3 German attacks without a single loss. On October 3rd the first kill was scored by the Pe-3, being a Junkers Ju 88 bomber.
The Pe-3 fared better against bigger aircraft then against single-engined fighters, in accordance with experiences elsewhere in the world. The early Pe-3 was vulnerable to the Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters, since it lacked adequate protection in the rear hemisphere, but soon this got improved. Nevertheless, it's maneuverability was less than that of modern single-engine fighters, so it always stayed more or less vulnerable.
Some Pe-3 were also used for long-range reconnaissance duties. The high speed and long range were definitely a pro, but it's weak defensive armament was a (small) drawback. The Pe-3 mostly relied on it's speed when it was intercepted by enemy fighters, but early warning was vital in that case. When noticed too late the enemy fighters could toy with their target, which could only escape with luck and a couple of clouds in the near vicinity.
Similar tasks were set aside for the Pe-3 operated by the Soviet Navy. The Pe-3 performed bombing and attacking sorties against German ships, sinking several of them and damaging others.
Notwithstanding all tasks of the Pe-3, it was used mostly and most effectively as a ground attack fighter, dropping bombs on the German troops and machine gunning them.




Got any comments?
Do you want to discuss this with someone else?
Post a message at the World War 2 Warbirds messageboard!!


© by Frans Bonné, 2000
Last revision: 9/23/01