Aeroplane: Polikarpov Po-2LNB
Bomber variant of Soviet aircraft ubiquitous in the first half of the 20th century.
Ever since the Bolshevik Revolution prevailed in Russia, the country remained in isolation. All commercial contacts with other countries collapsed. Soviet Russia was forced to rely on its own designs. In the 1920s, Soviet aviation suffered the lack of suitable training aircraft. The U-1, a copy of the Avro 504, which was in service at the time was already obsolete.
Thus, the design team of Nikolai Polikarpov constructed an aircraft which could answer the need. It was a single engine all-wooden biplane. The prototype was flown in January 1928 and after a few modifications the aircraft went into mass production as the U-2.
Many versions were built for different purposes and climate conditions, e.g. air ambulance, agricultural, transport, passenger and executive variants. In total, 33,000 U-2 and Po-2 aircraft were built in the Soviet Union. Due to its easy handling, flight safety and easy maintenance it remained in service in different versions for many years.
Following the German invasion of the USSR in 1941 there appeared one of the most interesting versions - a light night bomber. It was armed with a single machine gun and could carry a bomb load of up to 300 kg. Although the increase in weight reduced the performance of the plane, it became a successful weapon in night harassment of enemy troops. In 1944, the aircraft designation was changed to Po-2 and new military versions were designed.
Late in the war the Po-2 served with the aviation of Polish Army in the USSR. The first example of the Po-2 assigned to the Polish military was a three-seat, personal aircraft of general Zygmunt Berling, CO Polish Army. The night bomber variant served with No. 2 "Krakow" Night Bomber Regiment which went into action in September 1944 at Warsaw and subsequently fought in Pomerania and in Berlin Operation.
In 1947, a politically-motivated decision to buy the licence for this aircraft was undertaken in Poland. Responsibility for this project was placed upon the CSS (Centralne Studium Samolotów - Central Aircraft Study). In 1949 mass production under the CSS-13 designation started at the WSK Mielec (production ended in 1952) and at the WSK Okęcie Warszawa (production ending in 1955). The total output of the aircraft built in Poland exceeded 550 (together with 59 examples of the CSS S-13 air ambulance version).
The aircraft on display, construction number 641-646 was built in 1944 and flew with the "Krakow" No. 2 Night Bomber Regiment. After being withdrawn from service it was presented to the Museum of Communication's collection and in 1963 it was handed over to the nascent Aviation Museum in Krakow. This example of the bomber variant is unique in the world.