At the fall of 1917, the Russian aerial fleet consists of 14 air divisions, 1 naval division, 91 air squadrons,
1 air ships squad (4 combat squadrons), 87 ballon and dirigible squadrons, 32 hydro squadrons;
and also schools, bases, train-workshops and so on.
During the world war I, some Russian squadrons were united in 'combat air groups' (BAG):
1BAG (2KAO, 4KAO, 19KAO)
2BAG (3KAO, 7KAO, 8KAO)
3BAG (1KAO, 11KAO, 22KAO)
4BAG (5AOI, 13AOI, 15AOI)
Ilya Murometz (the 1st flight in 1913 !)
was a 4-engined tractor biplane of gigantic size designed by Sikorsky
and built by Russo-Balt factory in Riga, Russian Empire. It was an excellent aircraft for long-range recon
and bomb (starting from V version, which had the bombsights installed) missions.
Ilya Murometz's endurance equaled 4..5 hours with the bombs or 10 hours for reconnaissance.
The bombload consisted of multiple small bombs or several big bombs
(160, 240, 400 and even 640 kg i.e. 300, 400, 750 and 1200 lbs).
The bombsights accuracy was excellent with 60..90% of the bombs hit a targets.
Another instruments were very good too, ones allowed even to perform night operations from the begin of the war.
Defensive armament was upgraded during the war and consist of 3..8 machineguns and automatic rifles).
Details (data and photos)
Starting from G-series IM had the spherical area of defensive fire.
That was quite enough to hold the enemy fighters away: only one IM (the commander - lt. Maksheyev)
was shot down by the interceptors during the war, and Germans lost 3 planes of 4 in this battle (Sept. 12, 1916).
In total the IMs have shot down at least 12 German and Austrian planes. The 1st air combat of IM was on 19th July 1915, when the plane of lt. Bashko
was attaked by 3 Branderburgs and shot down 1 of them. The IM was damaged, but landed with only 2 engines working.
in June 6, 1915 alone Ilya Murometz was attacked by 3 Heinkels and shot down 2 of them.
In June 1916 Ilya Murometzs of capt. Lavrov was attacked by 4 Fokkers and shot down 3 of them and damaged
the 4th one. IM took some damage too, and one of his engines was quit, but
the plane managed successfully return to the homebase.
On 8th May 1917, IM of capt. Klembovskiy had a battle with 3 Fokkers and shot down 2 of them.
a modern replica of Ilya Muromets - click to enlarge
In 1914 "Squadron of Air Ships", the 1st world group of
heavy strategic bombers was created and served during whole War. This group consisted of several platoons of IMs
and support (recon and escort) planes that have served all around German and
Austrian fronts. Few other squadrons (ex: 14KAO) had IMs too.
During the war the IMs accomplished about 400 combat flights,
and lost only 2 planes (1 by flak fire on 5th Novenber 1915).
Most of the flights were performed by single IMs, but sometimes were group
operations: for example 4th September 1916 four IMs destroyed German hydroplane base at Angern lake.
Though there were some more Russian-designed combat planes, but the bigger part of Russian WW1 air forces consist of the foreign
designed planes. Mostly ones were built by Russian factories (example: Duks, Anatra, Lebed, RBVZ Russo-Balt, Schetinin PRTV Gamayun),
also were purchased in France, GB, Italy.
Also captured German Albatros B, C; Rumpler; L.V.G.; Brandenburg C; Aviatik; Roland;
Flying boats Fridrichsgaven-49c, Brandenburg-Hanza, GW, W-12, W-25, W-32, Sablatnig-5;
Austrian Berg; Bristol; Schneider;
British and French R.E.8; Avro 504; D.H.4, D.H.9; Breguet 14; Salmsom 2a; LWF V Wilson-Sturtevan were used.
There were even some sqds, completely equipped with a captured planes.
And a number of Russian improved version of the captured German Albatros C "Lebed XII" was built.
Russian white Nieuport, Sopwith and Voisin planes of Russian white Kuban army
During Civilian War and Intervertion a number of foreign planes were captured and used:
British Sopwith Pup, Camel, Snipe; S.E.5a; Fairy
German Fokker D.VII, D.VIII (E.V); Albatros D; Halberstadt C, D; Austrian Oefagg D.III;
Italian Balilla; etc.
Nieuport and Farman-30 aircrafts of Russian white Don army