The war between Nazi German and the Soviet Union was the largest land campaign of WWII and it involved millions of troops and tens of thousands of tanks and warplanes.
In the East the Luftwaffe played a vital role by establishing air superiority, supporting the ground troops at the front, bombing important targets deep behind enemy lines and keeping the enemy under constant observation with its recon planes.
The Red Air force suffered great losses in 1941-42 but in the period 1943-45 it was rebuilt and it managed to play an important role in the actual fighting.
Until recently studies of the air war in the Eastern front were hampered by the lack of adequate sources for both participants. Authors either had to rely on the surviving Luftwaffe records, which meant they would have to use German estimates of Soviet strength and losses instead of the actual data, or they were forced to use the official Soviet post war histories, which downplayed Soviet defeats and exaggerated German strength and losses.
Author E. R. Hooton has written several books on the Luftwaffe, specifically ‘Phoenix Triumphant: The Rise and Rise of the Luftwaffe’, ‘Eagle in Flames: The Fall of the Luftwaffe’ and ‘The Luftwaffe: A Complete History 1933-1945’.
Hooton’s books are different from other similar works due to their emphasis on statistical analysis of the Luftwaffe operations.
His new book ‘War over the Steppes: The air campaigns on the Eastern Front 1941–45’ covers the air war in the Eastern front and the main battles between the Luftwaffe and the Red Air force.
The book has the following chapters:
1. From friends to foes: Russian and German air power 1924 to 1941.
2. Invasion and retreat: June 1941 to April 1942.
3. The tide turns: May 1942 to February 1943.
4. The Russian advance: March 1943 to April 1944.
5. Red Star triumphant: May 1944 to May 1945.
The main strength of the book is the addition of detailed tables on the strength, loss and sortie statistics for both sides. After the fall of the Soviet Union the government archives were opened to researchers and new material on WWII has became widely available. Hooton was able to take this data and incorporate it into his book, thus offering detailed and most of all reliable information for both air forces.
I consider this book to be on the same level as ‘Stopped at Stalingrad: The Luftwaffe and Hitler's Defeat in the East, 1942-1943’, meaning it is essential reading for anyone interested in military aviation history.