In the first weeks of the German invasion of the Soviet Union, the Russian air force was nearly wiped out on the ground by the Luftwaffe, leaving Stalin with very few aircraft to fend off the German onslaught. The American and British allies rapidly sent fighters to help the Russians. British Hurricanes and American Aircobras were rushed into service defending Soviet airspace over the broad Russian steppe. Even a squadron of Free French pilots fought alongside their Soviet allies.
The involvement of the Western allies in the air wars over Russia during Hitler’s “Operation Barbarossa” is a little-known facet of World War II history. Intriguingly, many think that unfettered access to the “cream” of Western fighter technology led to the development of some of the best Soviet planes, including the famous “YAK” series of fighters.