After an original idea by Paul Freeman.
First published 7 Nov 2010. This collection of airfields is © 2010 - 2014 RonaldV
ru

Pillau-Neutief / Baltiysk (Балти́йск)

04-04-2012

27-04-2013

227

54°36'36"N 019°52'06"E

runway: 06/24 - 2000x00m - concrete
runway: 10/28 - 1180x00m - concrete
runway: n/a - water

Baltiysk airfield (Russian: Балти́йск, also known as (See-)fliegerhorst Neutief or (See-)fliegerhorst Pillau) was an airfield in the Russian exclave Kaliningrad.
It was located on the very end of the Vistula (or Baltic) Spit (Russian: Балтийская коса, German: Frische Nehrung). Construction of the airfield began in 1937 by Germany's Kriegsmarine in what was then East Prussia (Ostpreußen), Germany. The airfield was opened in 1939 and uniquely for a German airfield: it was not connected by any roads. All construction materials had to be brought in by boat or ferry and until 1938 there was no electricity at the base. Along with Jesau, Pillau-Neutief was the only German airfield in East Prussia with a hardened runway (two in the case of Pillau). Construction of the airbase was completed at the end of 1939. Two concrete runways, orientated at 45 degrees to each other, heading 53 and 98 degrees and forming a cross, greatly enhanced the airfields fighting ability. The length of each runway was about 1,000 meters, consistent with the standards of the time. To allow for the use of the airfield during winter the runway had a heating system to melt the ice and snow.
Pillau was home to Pilot School (Flugzeugführerschule) B17 and served as a replacement unit. Other units were 1./ and 3./Bordfliegergruppe 196 (See) (Naval Flying Group 196) and parts of 2./Aufklärungsgruppe (F)131 (See) (2 Sqn Naval Reconnaissance Group (F) 131).
Besides Kriegsmarine flying boats, fighter and transport aircraft were also operating from the airfield. Known aircraft types included Hе-59, Hе-60, Hе-114, Аr-196. Despite being one of the best equipped German airfields during the war, Pillau-Neutief took part in only 2 campaigns. It saw active combat during the occupation of Norway in 1940 and the Baltic states in 1941-1942.
Seaplanes and flying boats operated from a secluded bay which served as an aircraft parking. On the shoreline were the hangars (100x30m and the height of a 4-5 storey building). Takeoffs took place from the larger Vistula Bay.
During the war the runway was extended to allow all possible aircraft types to land at the base. Ongoing construction may well have caused the airfield to be the last one to be built for Nazi-Germany.

At the beginning of the war nobody could have predicted that Neutief was to become the last line of German resistance in East Prussia in 1945. Due to its favorable location and a powerful defense, the air base became the center of all air operations in the region, housing the command of the Luftwaffe "East Prussia" and base of the "Mölders" Geschwader. "East Prussia" was formed at Neutief at the end of January 1945, when the Red Army stood at the walls of Konigsberg.
With Neutief as a safe haven, the Luftwaffe performed the last territorial operations of the German forces in East Prussia during World War II. In the first 4 months of 1945 the airfield was heavily involved in the evacuation of East Prussia. These operations occurred to defend civilians and mililtary from the advancing Red Army. Small ferries were shuttling between Pillau (Batiysk) and Neutief airfield to allow refugees to flee to Danzig (Gdansk). Aditionally aircraft were flying refugees to Denmark and Schleswig-Holstein in Germany. East Prussia 'Gauleiter' Erich Koch used the Neutief harbour tug to flee the base from the Red Army in early 1945, leaving behind a vast number of refugees that he could have saved on the only half filled boat. Due to insufficient fuel supplies, night-fighters were withdrawn from East Prussia in late January. This left less than 200 aircraft to defend East Prussia from over 5,000 Soviet aircraft, both bombers and fighters.
The Mölders Geschwader (Engl: Wing) was slowly but steadily pushed back to Pillau-Neutief, with its final Staffel (squadron) arriving at the base in March in their Bf-109Gs after sustaining heavy losses near Danzig-Langfur. From 28 March the airfield came under constant artillery fire by the Soviets. At night, the airfield was bombed continuously by Po-2 attack aircraft, which enjoyed an evil reputation among the Germans, who called them "sewing machines" because of the characteristic noise of engines. Bomber strikes caused the remainder of the damage. As a result, Soviet intelligence believed by April 6 that of Neutiefs airwing, III./JG51 consisted of only 50 Bf109 fighters, II./JG51 consisted of 10 Bf109 and FW190 reconnaissance aircraft, and 12 transport and communication aircraft.
JG51 moved to Bryusterort in the first days of April, leaving only transport and reconnaissance aircraft. When Bryusterort fell to the Soviets on the 16th, Pillau-Neutief was left without air cover. Evacuations from the airfield, by sea and by air, continued however. In total the evacuations rescued over 2 million people. Of those, some 5000 heavily wounded were evacuated by an air bridge of two squadrons of Do-24 flying boats. Their crews took great risks, flying from ice covered waters with aircraft sometimes crammed with more than 90 children. In addition the group still managed to rescue 121 Allied aircrew who were shot down over the Baltic Sea.
Luftwaffe operations continued until 25 April 1945, when the Red Army captured Pillau, permanently ending German rule in East Prussia.

102509003.jpg
RAF photo of the airfield, shot in August 1944 during Operation Crossbow (RCAHMS.gov.uk).

Bundesarchiv_Bild_146-1972-093-59%2C_Pil
Refugees fleeing East Prussia via Pillau-Neutief in 1945 (Bundesarchiv, via Wikimedia)

neutief-aerodrome-bombs.jpg
(russian-west.narod.ru)

neutief1945.jpg
In 1945 Do-24 flying boats were continuously collecting severely injured from Seefliegerhorst Pillau-Neutief, often under heavy fire. (photo Dornier Archiv, found on forum.kenig.org)

After the fall of East Prussia the Red Army took over control of the airfield. Little is known about the early years, except that the Russians renamed every German geographical name into Russian in 1946. The town of Pillau was renamed Baltyisk (Балти́йск), as was Fliegerhorst Neutief, which received the same name.
All remaining German citizens were expelled west of the Oder-Neisse border as a result of the Potsdam agreements. The entire area became a Soviet restricted military area and a Soviet Naval base in 1952.
Unfortunately I could not trace the airfields use in the 1950s. A single squadron of Be-6 'Madge' patrol aircraft was present at the airfield in the 1960s though. The aircraft were operated from the secluded bay and not from the hangars, as they were not the easiest aircraft to pull ashore. Around 1966 the Be-6 was replaced by the Be-12 Chaika (Бе-12 Чайка, NATO name 'Mail'). Over time the squadron received 12 aircraft, divided in 3 groups of 4.
The base used the former German hangars and its German electric cranes that were still present and functioning! The hangars even stil carried the 'RAUCHEN VERBOTEN' (smoking prohibited) texts on their walls.
The Berievs usually operated from land. An effort was made to operate from the water at least once a month. This required a low sea-state however. Until it closed in the early 1990s, it was the most westerly airfield in the Soviet Union/Russia.

neutief-aerodrome.jpg
The airfield after the Germans were expelled in the second half of the 1940s according to russian-west.narod.ru

bw2.jpg
The wreck of a Soviet 'Madge' in a hangar at the airfield in the early 1960s (Airforce.ru)

o2-2.jpg
A Be-12 'Mail' taking off from Vistula Bay with Bulk Island in the background (AviaDejaVu).

18-1.jpg
A 'Mail' on the water with one of the Neutief hangars visible in the background (AviaDejaVu).

The airbase was abandoned in the early 1990s. Much of it still remains, albeit in a serious state of disrepair. The Soviets used most of the German infrastructure, which means the airfield is more or less in the same state as by the end of World War II. Some of the barracks were converted into housing. From what can be gathered from on line sources (Google Earth, photo sites) the aviation related part of the site is derelict. The main runway needs cleaning and possibly resurfacing before it can be reused again. The shorter cross runway (if it ever was used as such) is unusable however.
In April 2012 the Russian Ministry of Defence announced it was considering reopening the air base. Russias Kaliningrad exclave, locked between NATO-members Poland and Lithuania, is considered to be in need of an update of its defenses. If they do proceed with the plan, the rebuilt air station will become home to a single squadron of 4 amphibious patrol aircraft.

neutief-north2009.jpg
Overview of the seaplane base at Baltiysk in 2009, showing 6 of the German hangars still at the location (Google Earth)

neutief-south2009.jpg
overview of the land plane base at Baltiysk in 2009, showing the 2 kilometer long runway and about 9 dispersals on the north side (Google Earth)

_DSC1680.jpg
The northernmost seaside hangars, the complete series can be viewed at deadpixels.ru



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