Aviation of World War II
I-153 "Chaika" in the Great Patriotic War
In the summer of 1941, the I-153 "Chaika" along with another aircraft designed by N.N. Polikarpov - I-16, formed the basis of the fighter aviation of the Red Army Air Force. On June 22, 1941, there were 1,300 I-153 fighters in the western districts. In addition, about 300 "Seagulls" and I-15bis were part of the assault regiments. The distribution of I-153 fighters in the western border districts was as follows:
Air Force of the Leningrad Military District - 179 units in the 7th; 19th; 26th; 153rd and 154th cash.
Air Force of the Baltic Military District - 284 units in the 15th; On the 21st; 38th; 42nd; 49th and 148th iap.
Air Force of the Western Special Military District - 241 units in the 122nd; 123rd; 127th and 129th iap.
Air Force of the Kiev Special Military District - 454 units in the 12th; 20th; 23rd; 46th; 91st; 92nd; 149th; 164th and 165th iap.
Air Force of the Odessa Military District - 143 units as part of the 4th and 55th IAP.
Taking into account the I-153, available in the 61st; 62nd; 66th; 74th; 241st and 299th assault air regiments, the total number of "Seagulls" was close to 1500 and accounted for about 30% of all fighters concentrated in the western districts (4226 aircraft).
In addition, according to the archives of the USSR Ministry of Defense, 687 I-153 aircraft were included in the aviation of the Red Banner Baltic, Northern and Black Sea fleets. True, there were actually about 350 such aircraft in the ranks of the naval aviation - almost two times less. This discrepancy is due to the fact that many regiments were in the stage of formation, therefore, a larger number refers to the staffing level, and a smaller number refers to the actual number.
As of June 22, 1941, the KBF Air Force had 108 I-153 fighters (12, 13, 104 separate air squadrons and 71 iap), in the Black Sea Fleet Air Force - 76 I-153 (8; 9; 32nd IAP), in the Air Force of the Northern Fleet - 18 I-153 (72nd mixed air regiment and 147th IAP).
In addition to the above parts, I-153 fighters were available in flight schools, parts of the internal military districts and in the Far East. Most of these machines also had to take part in hostilities over time.
At the close of the shortest summer night in 1941, German aircraft attacked Soviet airfields. The main blow fell on the Western Special Military District. Here, on the strategic direction Minsk - Moscow, the German Army Group Center, supported by the 2nd Air Fleet with 1680 combat aircraft, began military operations. To destroy Soviet aviation on the ground, not only bombers were raised into the air, but also all available fighters. Although the attacking side managed to accomplish the main task, the most tragic day for the Red Army Air Force was also the day of the highest heroism and staunchness of Soviet pilots.
The Western District covered the 470 km border from Grodno to Brest inclusive. On its right flank, the regiments of the 11th mixed air division were based: the 122nd IAP with 75 I-16 and I-153 at the Skidel airfield, and the 127th IAP, which had 72 I-153, based in Avgustov (southeast of Grodno) ... Both regiments, which were well-trained units, raised the alarm at dawn to intercept German bombers. Aircraft that were found to be out of order were bombed and destroyed. The rest took the fight. Already in the first sortie, the pilots of the 122nd regiment managed to shoot down four enemy vehicles. The first meeting of the "Seagulls" of this regiment with the enemy took place in the area of the settlements Cherlena - Mosty - Grodno. Meeting a large group of German aircraft, the Soviet pilots destroyed seven aircraft, losing four of their own.
During the day, German aviation in groups of 10 - 30 aircraft repeatedly bombed all the airfields of the 11th garden. Air battles continued over the area until dusk. As a result, the pilots of the 122nd and 127th regiments shot down 35 fascist aircraft. The squadron commander of the 127th IAP, Lieutenant S. Ya. Zhukovsky, took to the air nine times during the day and shot down four enemy vehicles in nine air battles.
Zamkomeska A.A. Artemov shot down three planes in nine sorties, A.S. Danilov engaged in battle with nine Bf 110s, two of them shot down, and the third, having shot all the cartridges, rammed with his "Seagull".
Although at the beginning of 1941 new aircraft began to arrive in the fighter units of the Soviet Air Force, by the beginning of hostilities not all pilots managed to master them. The 129th IAP from the 9th Garden, based at the Zabludovo airfield south of Bialystok, had two sets of vehicles on the day the war began - 61 MiG-3 and 57 I-153. The regiment's pilots had to fight on both types of aircraft.
The 123rd IAP from the 10th Garden, based at the Strigovo airfield, in addition to 61 I-153s received 20 new Yak-1 fighters at the beginning of summer. But the "Yaks" were assembled only on the 19th, three days before the fatal 22 June. The first destroyed plane was recorded by the regiment commander Major Surin on the account of the 123rd IAP. On the Yak-1, he shot down the first Bf 109 at five in the morning. In just four sorties during the day, Surin destroyed three enemy aircraft. The bulk of the pilots had to fight in the usual "Seagulls". At about 8 o'clock in the morning, four I-153s, led by Captain Mozhaev, covering ground troops in the Brest region, met 8 Bf 109. In an unequal battle, Soviet pilots knocked down three German fighters, losing one aircraft. In total, during this day, the pilots of the 123rd IAP destroyed about 30 German aircraft, losing 9 of their own.
Despite the heroic actions of the pilots, the losses of Soviet aviation on June 22, 1941 were very significant. Only the Air Force of the Western District (with the beginning of the war, transformed into the Western Front) lost more than 700 aircraft that day. Most of them died on the ground, and did not manage to rise into the air.
German aviation attacks on Soviet airfields continued in the following days. By the end of the month, the aviation of the Western Front, which had 1,900 aircraft on June 22, 1941, had lost about 1,200 aircraft.
The enemy until July 5, 1941 lost more than 800 aircraft, and the bulk of the losses was in the zone of action of the aviation of the Western Front. I-153 fighters also made a significant contribution to this combat score.
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IAP - Istrebitel'nyy aviatsionnyy polk - Fighter Aviation Regiment
GIAP - Gvardeyskiy istrebitel'nyy aviatsionnyy polk - Guards Fighter Aviation Regiment
IAD - Itsrebitel'naya aviatsionnaya diviziya - Fighter Aviation Division
IAK - Istrebitel'nyy aviatsionnyy korpus - Fighter Aviation Corps
PVO - Protivo vozdushnaya oborona - Air Defense
Chaika - Seagull
Already in the course of the fighting, air units began to arrive at the front from the deep rear. The 29th Red Banner Fighter Aviation Regiment, which was part of the 31st mixed air division based in the Far East, was armed with I-153 and I-16 fighters. In the second half of June, the unit received an order to relocate to the western border of the Soviet Union. We learned about the beginning of the war on the way. On July 3, near Sverdlovsk, the planes were removed from the railway platforms, assembled and sent by air to the place of the flaring battles. In early July, the 29th IAP, together with two bomber regiments of the 31st Garden, arrived on the Western Front, the entire division was concentrated in the area of the city of Bologoye. Fighting during this period was already fought on the approaches to Smolensk, and the Headquarters of the Supreme High Command made every effort to strengthen the front, pulling reserve armies here. By the end of July 6, the 29th IAP, which was still en route to the front, received a combat mission to provide air cover for the unloading and concentration areas of the 29th Army. The regiment, which was armed with 62 I-153 and I-16 fighters, was divided into two parts with bases at the Domoslavl and Yedrovo airfields.
At dawn on July 7, the Far East joined in combat work, operating in the area of the settlements of Vyshny Volochek, Bologoye, Andreapol, Selizharovo. Already in the first days, reconnaissance missions began, covering their units and attacking the advancing Germans. On July 18, the pilot of the 2nd squadron of the 29th iap, junior lieutenant Yukhimovich flew to intercept the Ju 88 and shot it down. This first victory in the regiment was achieved on the I-153 "Chaika".
The following days were also marked by military successes. On July 28, a pair of Seagulls from the squadron commander Captain Tormozov and Junior Lieutenant Dudin received the task of covering the crossing on the Lovat River near the village of Sevastyanove (Velikiye Luki region). The way was not close, we flew out with outboard tanks.
In the target area, the pair was attacked by four Bf 109s, however, in a retaliatory attack, Nikolai Dudin managed to set fire to one German fighter. The Germans, in turn, knocked out Tormozov's plane, his left outboard tank caught fire. Trying to knock down the flames and throw off the tanks, the squadron commander fell out of the battle in a deep slide. The three Bf 109 turned their attention to Dudin's Seagull. And in vain. Brakes, having coped with the fire, dropped the tanks and, turning around, shot down the second enemy vehicle. Another Messerschmitt was destroyed by Dudin in a head-on ram. The pilot himself landed by parachute at the location of our troops. Captain Tormozov returned safely to his airfield. Since the battle took place over its territory, the wreckage of downed German vehicles was found nearby. It turned out that all four Messers were shot down in this air battle.
For this and other air battles, Nikolai Dudin was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union in October 1941. In addition to him, four more most productive pilots of the regiment with ten or more victories received the title of Heroes. The 29th IAP did a very good job during this period on the distant approaches to Moscow. In just two months of fighting, the regiment's pilots shot down 47 enemy aircraft. At the same time, they were repeatedly involved in the execution of assault actions. On December 6, 1941, the 29th IAP, for its displayed courage, courage, perseverance and heroism, was awarded the title of Guards by order of the People's Commissar of Defense and became known as the 1st Guards Fighter Aviation Regiment. The regiment, leading a lineage from the squadron of the famous Russian pilot P. Nesterov, ended the war in Berlin and Prague.
On the night of July 21-22, German aviation began massive raids on Moscow. Created on June 20, 1941 for the defense of the Soviet capital, the 6th Fighter Air Corps numbered 783 combat vehicles in mid-July, among them there were 94 “Seagulls”, that is, about 12%. As the front approached, these aircraft were mainly used for striking ground targets. One of the most distinguished formations in this case was the 120th IAP, which was armed with I-153 fighters. Until the end of 1941, the pilots of the 120th Aviation Regiment repeatedly flew to attack the German troops. In December, when the regiment was based at the Central Aerodrome of Moscow, the I-153 pilots were the first to spot enemy columns retreating from the Soviet capital when conducting aerial reconnaissance. For successful combat activities, the 120th IAP in March 1942 received the title of Guards.
Active combat work was not easy and inevitably led to losses. At the end of December, 11 I-153 fighters remained near Moscow. A similar picture was observed in the air defense of another Soviet capital - Leningrad. In July 1941, out of 242 fighters, there were 38 "Seagulls" in the 7th fighter air corps of the Leningrad Air Defense Forces - in December there were only five of them. In total, the air defense aviation at the end of 1941 numbered 54 I-153s.
In the summer of 1942, unexpectedly many I-153 fighters accumulated in the air defense of the city of Baku. Many battered air regiments retreated here for reorganization, which, when receiving new equipment, left their seasoned, patched veteran vehicles. Baku supplied the country with oil, many defense enterprises were evacuated here, military supplies from the allies went through it. In the summer of 1942, the city was one of the most well-protected from the air facilities; in terms of the number of fighters located here, it was second, perhaps, only to Moscow. The 8th Air Defense IAK of Baku had 266 fighters in service, most of which were "Seagulls" - 141 aircraft. But this state remained short-lived, because just as in 1941 the I-153 stormed the Germans on the outskirts of Moscow, in 1942 they had to join the defense of the Caucasus. It was not easy that summer to fight in worn-out vehicles, but they fought, and sometimes quite well.
In mid-August, six I-153s from the 738th IAP, covering ground troops in the area of the village of Chervlenaya near Grozny, were attacked by a pair of Bf 110s and were shot down. A participant in this battle, pilot Alexander Lebedev (later he became one of the most famous polar pilots) in the last days of October 1942 flew to intercept the four Ju 88s that went to bomb the city of Ordzhonikidze. In his "Seagull" Lebedev shot down the leader of the enemy group in a frontal attack, and did not allow the rest of the planes to aim off the bomb.
The use of the I-153 in the air defense regiments led to a steady reduction in the number of these aircraft at the front. In the second half of November 1942, there were only 20 serviceable "Seagulls" left in the 8th Air Defense IAK of Baku. And in other parts of the air defense, there were a little more than 80 of them. The last year of using these fighters in air defense was 1943. In the next 1944, the old aircraft were completely replaced by modern machines.
To describe the combat activities of the I-153 at the front, let us return to the events in 1941. In the second half of August near Leningrad, an incident occurred that got into many Western newspapers. The position of the city at that time was becoming catastrophic. German troops, developing the offensive, bypassed Leningrad from the south and, crushing the flanks of the Luga defensive zone, sought to reach Lake Ladoga, thereby completing the encirclement of the former Russian capital.
On August 19, air reconnaissance reported the advance of a large German motorized convoy along the road from Volosovo to Krasnoe Selo. Marshal Voroshilov, who was at the front, personally ordered Air Force Commander Alexander Novikov to send planes to destroy the convoy.
Eight I-153 of the 7th IAP under the command of Senior Lieutenant Svitenko flew to strike. The attack on the enemy was successful, but during the second approach, Svitenko's car was hit by fire from the ground, and he made an emergency landing on a site dug by craters near the village of Klopitsy. Pilot commander's wingman Alibek Slonov landed nearby. Svitenko quickly jumped on the wing of the Slonov's plane and clung to the braces and wing strut. The car took off. Luck was this time on the side of the brave pilots, ten minutes later they were able to hug each other, landing at the airfield of naval aviation near Strelna.
It should be noted that the use of I-153 fighters near Leningrad turned out to be quite long and effective. Here, in the conditions of a stable line of defense, the "Seagulls" carried out various combat services: escorting transport and guarding the supply route of Leningrad, night hunting for searchlights, participating in counter-battery warfare.
The Leningrad episodes include a night battering ram committed by the pilot of the 26th IAP Alexei Sevastyanov. The 26th Aviation Regiment, which started the war near Brest, in the fall of 1941 fought as part of the 7th Fighter Air Corps of the Air Defense of Leningrad and was allocated specifically for night flights. The regiment was armed with fighters I-153, I-16, Yak-1 and LaGG-3.
On the night of November 5, Sevastyanov took off in an I-153 for night patrols over Leningrad. The city at that time was already under blockade for more than a month, the front was located so close that German planes reached the central quarters in a matter of minutes. The He 111 bomber discovered by Sevastyanov was going over the Neva in the direction of Smolny. The attacks of the Seagull pilot were unsuccessful, the ammunition load quickly ran out, the night hunt was clearly not going well. Not letting the enemy plane leave, Sevastyanov rammed the Heinkel and himself jumped out with a parachute. Debris from cars fell into the Tauride Garden.
In the summer of 1942, German aviation launched a series of massive raids on the Kronstadt naval base. Kronstadt was covered by the 71st IAP, which at that time had about 20 I-153 and I-16 fighters. In the period from May 28 to July 14, German aviation lost 24 aircraft in this area - the 71st IAP had no losses. During this period, the commissar of the regiment I. I. Serbia shot down three He 111 personally and one in a pair on the I-153. On the night of June 3, 1942, Serbia was in the waiting area at an altitude of 1000 m. Finding the enemy Heinkel, the Soviet pilot attacked it with Eres, after which it fell in the area of Mount Puhtola and exploded. Returning to its zone near the island of Kot-lin, Serbia found another He 111, illuminated by searchlights, and attacked it from a short distance. An enemy bomber fell into the water in front of the entire garrison of Kronstadt.
In the middle of 1943, I-153 fighters near Leningrad were mainly in the aviation of the Baltic Fleet. Several "Chaeks" were available in the 3rd, 4th and 10th Guards Fighter Aviation Regiments and the 7th Air Defense Aviation Unit. Up to ten aircraft until July were based on Lavensaari Island - these were mainly fighters of the 10th IAP. The intensification of enemy aviation in the summer of 1943, the difficulty of intercepting the German Ju 88 and He 111 bombers, the obvious inequality in the battles with the emerging Fw 190s led to the fact that Yak-1 fighters from the 3rd GIAP were transferred to Lavensaari, and the I-153 left secondary tasks.
Already during the war, the I-153 received an unexpected specialization. The night bomber regiments created at the end of 1941 on the U-2, P 5 and P-Z aircraft operated quite successfully during the first military winter. Until the onset of spring, the long dark nights remained a faithful ally of these "heavenly slugs." But in the spring and especially in the summer, night bombers began to suffer significant losses from German air hunters. It was decided to allocate fighters to protect the "night lights". "Seagulls", which had a short take-off and landing, were the best suited for this purpose.
One of the first in November 1941, on the basis of the 25th aviation school in the city of Nevinomysk, Stavropol Territory, the 654th night light bomber aviation regiment (nlbap) was formed on U-2 aircraft. In the spring of 1942, this unit received, in addition to two dozen "cornmen" a squadron of 8 I-153s, and became known as the 889th mixed air regiment. In the summer of 1942, the regiment successfully operated in the southern direction during the battles for the Donbass. On August 25, the regiment was taken to be reorganized to the city of Nasosny north of Baku. The "Seagulls" were transferred to the 8th IAK of the Baku Air Defense Zone, and the 889th Regiment during the winter and spring operated exclusively on the U-2. In the summer of 1943, during the intensification of fighting in the region of Kerch and Novorossiysk, the "Seagulls" were returned back. Now their main task was the suppression of anti-aircraft weapons and the destruction of searchlights. The I-153 of the Black Sea Fleet aviation was used in a similar way. The active use of biplane fighters at night in this sector of the front was noted throughout 1943.
At the beginning of 1942, the Soviet front-line aviation had a little more than two hundred I-153 aircraft. By the end of the summer season, the number of these fighters had more than halved. As of July 1, there were 83 "Seagulls" at the front, of which 42 were in the 5th Air Army.
Establishing the exact number of I-153 fighters seems to be difficult, because the losses were partially replenished by repairs and supply from rear units, many units "migrated".
So, at the beginning of August 1942, the 662th U-2 night bombers, operating in the zone of the 52nd Army in the Myasny Bor area, received a squadron of I-153 and I-16 fighters as a replenishment. The regiment was renamed as a mixed regiment and operated in this composition until the spring of 1943. In April the 662nd glanders were disbanded, the fighters were transferred to the regiment from the 14th Air Army.
In mid-1943, there were 36 I-153 fighters at the front. It was during this period in the units that the brochure "Tactics of Fighter Aviation" published by the People's Commissariat of Defense appeared. For the I-153, this "Tactics" in many ways was no longer suitable, but taking into account that it was developed on the basis of the experience of 1941-1942. and in many regiments it was fragmentarily brought in the form of numerous circulars, some of its provisions turned out to be very interesting. Moreover, the I-153 pilot was called not for defense, but for active (!!!) air combat: “The excellent maneuverability of the Chaika makes it invulnerable to the clumsy Bf 109, if only the pilot of the Chaika has a good look around. I-153 can always dodge the attack and meet the enemy with fire in the forehead. At the same time, it often turns out that the I-153 can fire at the Bf 109, but he does not have time to turn up to the "Chaika". " The instructions prescribed the use of fighters of the I-153 type at the lowest tier of possible combat collisions - at altitudes of 500 - 1000 m, in a battle formation called the "swarm of bees". However, the observance of such conditions was possible only if several pairs of I-153 fighters were available, in life this was already extremely rare.
In 1944, the remaining I-153 finally receded into the background. These aircraft no longer took part in the offensive operations of the Red Army; individual "Seagulls" carried auxiliary or patrol service. So, up to May 1945, I-153 of the Northern Fleet Air Force were guarded by the internal convoys in the White Sea. There were fighters of this type in 1945 in the Far East and Mongolia. By the beginning of hostilities against Japan in 1945, more modern combat vehicles arrived in the Far East, so the old aircraft, and the I-153 fighter undoubtedly belonged to them, were not used in battles.