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Petlyakov Pe-3 Heavy Twin-Engine Fighter.

When the Great Patriotic War began in the summer of 1941, the Air Force of the Workers' and Peasants' Red Army urgently needed a patrol/interceptor aircraft to fight the enemy's bombers and scouts. But with a war in progress, troops could only quickly receive a twin-engined fighter if it were based on some plane currently in production. The older Pe-2's fighter design fit this need perfectly.

In August 1941, the Petlyakov Design Bureau was instructed to design a fighter version of the Pe-2. The first prototype Pe-3 fighter, redesigned from the production Pe-2 bomber, series 16, flew for the first time on August 7, 1941. Only seven days passed between the order for the aircraft and its delivery for trials!

Structurally, the Pe-3 fighter differed from the Pe-2 in the layout of its forward and middle fuselage and its armament. Additional fuel tanks were put in the plane's fuselage, with one located in the bomb bay and two others replacing the gunner's cockpit. The plane was modified to be a two-seater.

The fighter had increased offensive armament. The nose weapon mount of the prototype Pe-3 model consisted of two 12.7mm Berezin BK machine guns with 150 rounds each and one 7.62mm ShKAS machine gun with 450 rounds. The TSS-1 upper mount in the navigator's cockpit consisting of a 7.62mm ShKAS machine gun with 750 rounds was kept unchanged from the Pe-2. Since there was no one to provide fire from the lower rear of the aircraft, a fixed tail mount with a 7.62mm ShKAS machine gun with 250 rounds, which had been tested before on the VI-100 high-altitude fighter, was installed.

The plane's bombing armament was drastically simplified. Only four bomb racks remained from the Pe-2: two in the engine nacelle bomb bays and two (external) under the fuselage. The total bomb capacity was reduced to 400 kg for standard load and 700 kg (two 250-kg bombs and two 100-kg bombs) when overloaded. The brake covers under the wings were removed together with the gears, and, as a result, the ability to perform dive bombing was gone.

Production Pe-3s had the ShKAS nose machine gun removed, but the magazine capacity of the BK machine guns was increased up to 250 rounds each.

During armament testing of the nose mount, it was found that the Plexiglas fuselage nose section could not withstand the muzzle gas pressure, resulting in its destruction. Plexiglas was first replaced with duralumin and then with steel. The aircraft glazing was reduced when large observation blisters and the upper glass hatch of the gunner's cockpit were removed.

The heavy fighters were delivered from the factory to the front lines with equipment corresponding to the main production Pe-3 aircraft. The total number of Pe-3s built in 1941 was 196; 11 more planes were assembled from available stocks of parts in April 1942.

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