Aviation of World War II
La-7. Combat Use, Part 1-2.
Combat Service of the La-7 Fighter in the Red Army Air Force
When arming with La-7 fighters, preference was given to regiments operating as part of the 3rd Belorussian and 2nd Baltic fronts. These fronts met with stubborn resistance from German troops in East Prussia, Lithuania and Northern Poland. It seems logical that the best aircraft received the best air regiments involved in the sector of the Soviet-German front, where enemy resistance was the most stubborn. In the air, Soviet pilots were opposed by one of the best fighter units of the Luftwaffe - JG-54 Grün Herz (Green Heart).
176th Guards Fighter Aviation Regiment
La-7 navigator of the 176th GIAP A.S. Kumanichkin. On board the fuselage are marks of 29 downed enemy aircraft. Until the end of the war, Kumanichkin won six more victories.
The first La-7 fighters re-equipped the 19th Fighter Aviation Regiment, renamed the 176th Guards IAP. This regiment was also known as the "Marshal". The unit was formed on the personal instructions of Chief Air Marshal Novikov, the most experienced fighter pilots, aces, were selected for the regiment. The regiment was intended to reinforce fighter aircraft on the most dangerous sectors of the Eastern Front. Colonel P.S. Chupikov was appointed commander of the regiment, he received the first La-7 in Moscow on June 16, 1944.
Pilots of the regiment fought their first battle on the new technology on June 24, 1944. In the battle over Baranovichi with ten Fw-190s, the guardsmen shot down two enemy aircraft without loss. The victory was won by Andrey Yakovlevich Baklan and Vladimir Petrov. It is possible that these were generally the first victories won on the La-7. Another air battle took place on July 7, 1944, also in the Baranovichi region. Two pairs of La-7s intercepted two Bf 109s during the “free hunting” flight; in the ensuing fight, pilot Viktor Ilyich Aleksandryuk shot down one Messerschmitt. September 22 I.N. Kozhedub, paired with Sharapov, flew to cover the river crossing between the settlements of Rameyki and Daksti. At a distance of 10-15 km from the crossing, Soviet pilots found two groups, four and eight, Fw-190, walking at an altitude of 3000 m. Kozhedub quickly attacked the leftmost pair of Focke-Wulfs and opened fire from a distance of 150 m. The German plane managed to drop bombs, after which it went into a chaotic fall and collided with the ground 15 kilometers from the village of Streltsy. The rest of the Focke-Wulfs immediately freed themselves from the bomb load and turned back. In one of the subsequent sorties to cover the crossing, Kozhedub discovered six Fw-190s at an altitude of 1500 m. This time, the leader of the group of German fighter-bombers was attacked. A short burst from a distance of 150 m, fired from Lavochkin guns, put an end to the combat career of a Luftwaffe pilot. Focke-wulf fell 8 km from the crossing. On the way back, the planes of Kozhedub and his wingman came under fire from anti-aircraft guns, the La-7 of the wingman was damaged. The next day, September 23, the La-7 four under the command of A. Baklan conducted an air battle in the Valmiera area; Savin, Aleksandryuk and Vasko shot down one Focke-Wulf each, Baklan damaged one German aircraft, which, dragging a plume of smoke, disappeared in the direction of Riga. In October, all fighters of the 176th regiment were equipped with photo-film machine guns.
Navigator of the regiment A.S. Kumanichkin on February 9, 1945, paired with his wingman S.M. Kramarenko flew out on a free hunt. In the Sukachev area, the pilots spotted a congestion of vehicles, and there was no anti-aircraft cover. A couple of Lavochkin stormed ground equipment with impunity twice. The pilots were carried away by the attacks of the ground troops and did not notice a pair of Fw-190s that went into a frontal attack. A projectile fired by the Focke-Wulf pierced the wing of the La-7 navigator, the fighter began to react poorly to handle deviations. At this time, the voice of the follower was heard in Kumanichkin's headset: "Commander, a couple of fokkers from behind." The situation has become much more complicated. Kumanichkin gave the command: "Let's go to the clouds." The fuel was running out, and another 100 km remained to fly to their airfield. Kumanichkin barely controlled the damaged fighter, maintaining a speed of about 300 km / h, Kramarenko covered the commander from possible enemy attacks. Both planes made it safely to base. After landing, the pilots were amazed to see that about a third of one of the propeller blades had been shot off, and there was a hole in the other blade with a diameter of 6 cm. Mechanics managed to replace the propeller and motor on the damaged aircraft in just one night. In the morning, the regiment's navigator's La-7 was ready to fly.
Shortly after the memorable battle, Kumanichkin and Kramarenko had an air battle with two Bf 109s over Odra. The duel lasted ten minutes before Kumanichkin managed to catch the leading rotte in sight. A line of two guns literally tore the Messerschmitt to pieces, the plane fell apart in the air. The second Bf 109 immediately retreated from the battlefield.
Ivan Kozhedub took part in the air battle on February 12, 1945. He flew out on a free hunt paired with Viktor Gromakovsky, Alexander Kumanichkin and Sergey Kramarenko, Orlov and Stetsenko took off with a minimum interval. All three pairs of fighters maintained mutual radio exchange. At this time, up to thirty Fw-190s fell out of the clouds above the front line. The Focke-Wulfs began to line up in battle formation, preparing to strike at the Soviet troops. Kozhedub decided to attack the enemy. He descended to the very ground and attacked the leader of the enemy group from behind. Cannon bursts fired from a distance of 100 meters pierced the Fokker's belly. There is one! Exit from the attack up, roll over and dive on the next enemy aircraft. Under the reliable protection of Gromakovsky, who insured the "tail" of the commander, Kozhedub shot down another Fw-190. After the loss of two aircraft, the German pilots were not up to the attack of the ground forces and they began to reorganize the battle formation. Meanwhile, a couple of Kozhedub also took position for the next attack. At this time, the rest of the hunters of the 176th regiment approached the battlefield. Kumanichkin immediately shot down the leader of the nine Fw-190. Attack La-7 was swift. All Soviet fighters closely interacted with each other, the Focke-Wulf pilots could not withstand the onslaught and began to leave the battle. Kozhedub shot down one fokker leaving the battle. Six Lavochkins in a fleeting battle destroyed eight enemy planes: Kumanichkin, Stetsenko and Orlov shot down one each, two - Gromakovsky and Kozhedub chalked up three. Orlov died in the battle.
On February 14, Kumanichkin, together with the regiment commander Chupikov, met in the air with an unusual aircraft. The guards tried to attack the enemy, but the German aircraft unexpectedly quickly broke away from their pursuers. After developing the film of the photo-machine gun, it became clear that the pilots of the 176th GIAP met with the latest Me-262 jet fighter. This was the first meeting of the pilots of the 176th GIAP with the Luftwaffe jet technology, the first, but not the last.
One of the most memorable battles Kozhedub fought on February 19, 1945 (sometimes the date is February 24). On this day, he flew out on a free hunt paired with Dmitry Titarenko. On the traverse of the Oder, the pilots noticed an aircraft rapidly approaching from the direction of Frankfurt an der Oder. The plane was flying along the riverbed at an altitude of 3500 m at a speed much greater than the La-7 could develop. It was Me-262. Kozhedub instantly made a decision. The Me-262 pilot relied on the speed qualities of his vehicle and did not control the airspace in the rear hemisphere and below. Kozhedub attacked from below on a head-on course, hoping to hit the jet in the belly. However, Titarenko opened fire before Kozhedub. To the considerable surprise of Kozhedub, the premature firing of the wingman was beneficial. The German turned to the left, towards Kozhedub, the latter had only to catch the Messerschmitt in the sight and press the trigger. Me-262 turned into a fireball. In the cockpit of the Me 262 was Sergeant Kurt-Lange from l./KG(J)-54.
On March 18, 1945, south of Morin, Kozhedub and his wingman conducted an air battle with German fighters attacking an American bomber. Kozhedub shot the FW-190 from a distance of 80 m. The Focke-Wulf crashed to the ground 8-10 km north of Kustrin. The second ace plane was shot down in a frontal attack, an enemy fighter fell 6 km northwest of Kustrin.
On March 22, 1945, Kozhedub and his wingman carried out another sortie for free hunting. Over the Seelow Heights, they intercepted two groups of Fw-190s flying at altitudes of 3000 and 1000 m, respectively, for a total of thirty aircraft in two groups. The hunters entered from the direction of the sun and swooped down on the last four of the upper group. The commander and his wingman shot down one Focke-Wulf each. But the attack didn't end there. Kozhedub continued to dive, his target was now the planes of the lower group. From a distance of 180 m as opened fire and shot down another Focke-Wulf.
In the Kustrin area, on April 16, 1945, the couple Kumanichkin - Kramarenko distinguished themselves. Hunters attacked four Fw-190s. Before Kumanichkin opened fire, Kramarenko noticed another four Focke-Wulfs, and these aircraft were in a more vulnerable position. Kramarenko attacked the second four and fired a burst from 80 m straight into the Focke-Wulf motor of the leading rotte. The German fighter rolled over its wing, went into a dive and collided with the ground.
On the evening of April 17, 1945, Kozhedub and Titorenko carried out the fourth sortie of the day to the Berlin area. Immediately after crossing the front line north of Berlin, the hunters found a large group of Fw-190s with suspended bombs. Kozhedub began to gain altitude for the attack and reported to the command post about establishing contact with a group of forty Focke-Vulvof with suspended bombs.
The German pilots clearly saw how a couple of Soviet fighters went into the clouds and did not expect that they would appear again. However, the hunters showed up. Behind from the top, in the first attack, Kozhedub shot down the leader of the four fokkers that closed the group. The hunters sought to give the enemy the impression of the presence of a significant number of Soviet fighters in the air. Kozhedub threw his La-7 right into the thick of the enemy aircraft, turning Lavochkin left and right, the ace fired cannons in short bursts. The Germans succumbed to the trick - the Focke-Wulfs began to free them from bombs that interfered with air combat. However, the Luftwaffe pilots soon established the presence of only two La-7s in the air and, taking advantage of the numerical advantage, took the guards into circulation. One Fw-190 managed to get into the tail of the Kozhedub fighter, but Titarenko opened fire before the German pilot - the Focke-Wulf exploded in the air. By this time, help had arrived - the La-7 group from the 176th regiment, Titarenko and Kozhedub were able to get out of the battle on the last remaining fuel. On the way back, Kozhedub saw a single Fw-190, which was still trying to drop bombs on Soviet troops. Ace dived and shot down an enemy plane. It was the last, 62nd, German aircraft shot down by the best Allied fighter pilot.
Kozhedub's total score does not include at least two aircraft - American P-51D Mustang fighters. In one of the battles in April, Kozhedub tried to drive off German fighters from the American Flying Fortress with cannon fire. US Air Force escort fighters misunderstood the intentions of the La-7 pilot and opened barrage fire from a long distance. Kozhedub, apparently, also mistook the Mustangs for Messers, left the fire with a coup and, in turn, attacked the “enemy”. He damaged one Mustang (the plane, smoking, left the battlefield and, after flying a little, fell, the pilot jumped out with a parachute), the second P-51D exploded in the air. Only after a successful attack did Kozhedub notice the white stars of the US Air Force on the wings and fuselages of the planes he shot down. After landing, the regiment commander, Colonel Chupikov, advised Kozhedub to keep quiet about the incident and gave him the developed film of the photo-machine gun. The existence of a film with footage of burning Mustangs became known only after the death of the legendary pilot.
April 30, 1945 Kumanichkin and Kramarenko took off from the Schönifeld airfield to intercept a group of Fw-190s. Shortly after takeoff, the hunters approached a group of 16 Focke-Wulfs with suspended bombs. As soon as the Germans spotted a pair of La-7s, eight Fw-190s dropped their bombs, but the rest continued to fly towards the advancing Soviet troops. Eight Fw-190s, which had turned from bombers into fighters, tried to impose an air battle on the hunters. Kumanichkin was in a difficult position, but a wingman came to his aid and thwarted the attack. The leader broke through to the eight, which did not drop the bombs, and shot down one plane. Focke-wulf fell in the western suburbs of Berlin. It was the 36th and last victory of A.S. Kumanichkin.
Troop tests of La-7 fighters took place in the 63rd GIAP of the 3rd Guards Fighter Aviation Division of the 1st Guards Fighter Aviation Corps.
The 63rd Guards Vilna Fighter Aviation Regiment arrived at the airfield near Tula to receive La-7 on July 26, 1944, and on August 20 the regiment was already at the front again. The regiment was based in Lithuania at the airfields of Siauliai and Purakai.
From August 22 to mid-October 1944, the regiment's pilots scored 55 confirmed victories, their own losses - four La-7s and three pilots. During this period, the pilots of the regiment made 116 group sorties: 55 - to escort bombers and cover ground troops; 22 reconnaissance flights; 20 to cover the actions of attack aircraft and 14 air combat flights. The pilots of the 63rd GIAP conducted 47 air battles, mainly with the Fw-190 (94% of all battles). In battles, as a rule, 8-10 aircraft took part. The regiment recorded 52 downed Fokke-Fulphs and only three Bf 109s on its combat score. Former bomber pilots often flew Fokkers, it is clear that they could not fight on an equal footing with veterans of the Guards Fighter Aviation Regiment, wise in combat experience. Below are brief descriptions of the air battles conducted by the pilots of the 63rd GIAP from August 22 to mid-October 1944.
Eight La-7, led by Major A.V. Pashkevich, on September 15, she performed a combat mission to cover ground troops. A group of 24 Fw-190s loaded with bombs entered the G8 patrol area. Pashkevich gave the order to attack as soon as he noticed the enemy. The Lavochkins struck from a dive. It was not possible to shoot down the enemy planes from the first attack, but Pashkevich, Skrypnik, Titov and Asia achieved success in the second run. The fighters of the 63rd regiment had no losses.
The next air battle took place on September 19, in which the pilots of Major Pashkevich again distinguished themselves, shooting down at least 11 enemy aircraft. Pashkevich himself replenished his combat account with four shot down.
On September 25, six aircraft, led by Major Voronkov, engaged 12 Fw-190s. Soviet pilots shot down seven Focke-Wulfs, losing one La-7.
On October 10, the ground guidance station guided the four of Senior Lieutenant V.A. Mordivnenko for a group of eight Fw-190s. From the first attack, Mordivnenko shot down a Focke-Wulf from the leading flight, and Lieutenant Sedoshkin - Fw-190 from the second schwarm. The surviving German planes hastened to leave the front line. Four Mordivnenko continued patrolling in the area of the air battle that had just ended. Lieutenant Skrypnik noticed seven Fw-190s storming ground targets. In a fleeting battle, the guards shot down three more Focke-Wulfs; victories were won by Skrypnik, Svetnoy and Tokarev.
On October 29, the four Mordvinenkos were covering ground troops in the Vainode-Prikule area, Latvia, and were attacked from a height of 2500 m by four Fw-190s. Mordivnenko evaded the diving German fighter and sat on his tail himself. The Focke-Wulf did not come out of the dive. The four Soviet fighters managed to gain a height of 2000 m and attacked another approaching Fw-190 link. In the ensuing battle, senior lieutenant Sedoshkin, led by Mordvinenko, shot down one enemy fighter. At this time, the Germans were attacked by another pair of La-7s, which secured Mordvinenko's four from above. Using the advantage in speed and height, La-7 shot down one Focke-Wulf in a dive, but the survivors piled on Mordvinenko. Sedoshkin, covering the commander, shot down another fokker, but the La-7 of the leader still got the bursts fired by the Fw-190 guns. The plane lost control and crashed in the vicinity of the village of Zadire, Mordvinenko died. The outcome of the battle - five downed Fw-190s, a valuable loss of one La-7.
Without a doubt, the choice of the 63rd GIAP to conduct military tests of the La-7 fighter was not accidental. Aces such as A.M. Chislov (21 wins), A.G. Voronko (20 wins), A.V. Pashkevich (20 wins), I.M. Berezutsky (18 victories). The legendary Aleksey Maresyev (11 victories) - a pilot without legs - also fought in the same regiment.
Another regiment of the 3rd Guards Fighter Aviation Division, re-equipped with the La-7, was the 32nd GIAP. The regiment covered itself with glory in the sky of Stalingrad, the most experienced fighter pilots served in it. On August 12, 1944, the 1st squadron of Major Vladimir Orekhov arrived in Tula for retraining on the La-7; On September 8, the squadron arrived at the front. The remaining two squadrons of the 32nd GIAP received La-7s and were retrained on them under the guidance of the pilots of the 1st squadron directly at field airfields. The retraining process was not particularly difficult, as the regiment had previously flown the La-5FN. La-7 in terms of piloting technique was somewhat different from its predecessor only in takeoff and landing modes.
The pilots of the regiment fought their first battle on the new fighters on September 15, but the first pancake, however, came out lumpy. In the evening, the Orekhov couple were tasked with covering ground troops in the Bauska region, Latvia. Two La-5FN eights from the 137th GIAP also operated in the same area. Immediately after takeoff, Orekhov and his wingman, Lieutenant P.I. Pavlov gained an altitude of 4000 m. Soon they noticed two Fw-190s and attacked them. Orekhov shot down one fokker with the first burst, the second fokke-wulf became a victim of Pavlov. Carried away by the attack, the La-7 pilots did not notice the presence of other Fw-190s and were hit. Orekhov managed to evade the attack, and Pavlov hesitated, falling under fire from a pair of Fw-190s as a result. The plane caught fire, but the pilot managed to bail out safely. Pavlov landed on the territory occupied by Soviet troops and soon reached the airfield safe and sound. The first sortie, however, could still be considered successful: two Fw-190s were shot down, but one La-7 was lost, Pavlov received severe burns to his face and both legs, after which he spent a long time in hospitals. The result, of course, could well have been more expressive.
4th GIAP Aviation of the Red Banner Baltic Fleet
One of the few naval aviation regiments that received the La-7 was the 4th GIAP of the KBF Air Force, commanded by VF Golubev. The regiment received 20 fighters on September 25, 1944 in the presence of S.A. Lavochkin. Until the end of the war, the regiment's pilots were able to conduct only a few air battles, since they flew mainly to escort transport aircraft and cover naval convoys from the air. At the beginning of 1945, the pilots of the regiment operated over East Prussia in the area of Koenigsberg and Pillau, and also flew over Liepaja. The fighters covered the bombers, which attacked the fortifications of the German defense. Until the end of the war, the pilots of the 4th GIAP won three victories, there were no own losses, but La-7s often received damage from enemy anti-aircraft artillery fire.
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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
La-7 of the commander of the 9th GVIAP, 303rd IAD, Major V.D. Lavrenkova, 1944-45.
At the end of May 1944, it was decided to re-equip one of the best regiments of the Red Army Air Force, the 9th Guards, handed over the American Bell P-39 Airacobra fighters that were in service and left for Moscow to receive new equipment. Regiment commander A.A. Morozov announced to the personnel that part of them would receive the latest La-7s. During June, the pilots attended a theoretical training course, and starting from July 3, they began flying on the La-5UTI. Since the "Cobra" was radically different from the fighters designed by Lavochkin, the pilots had to start from the basics - from taxiing. Experienced pilots quickly mastered new equipment, but before the completion of retraining for Lavochkin's aircraft, the regiment lost its commander. Lieutenant Colonel Morozov drowned on July 18 while swimming in the river. The deputy commander of the regiment A. Kovachevich became the leader of the training process. Kovachevich did not command the regiment for a long time, Marshal Khryukin appointed V.D. Lavrinenkov commander of the 9th GIAP, Alelyuhin and Plotnikov became his deputies. After completing the retraining on the La-5UTI, the pilots were given the opportunity to choose the La-7 they liked directly at the manufacturer.
Regiment commander Lavrinenkov settled on a fighter with tail number "17", all the planes on which he flew had just such a tail number; the number coincided with the date of birth of Lavrinenkov - a lucky number! Alelyuhin received a personal gift from the workers of plant No. 41 - La-7 with tail number "14". The plane with the number "24" went to Amet Khan Sultan, the fighter with tail number "23" was taken by Golovachev.
At the end of October, the 9th GIAP was transferred to the front, to Lithuania. Due to bad weather on the flight route, I had to land in Smolensk. On landing, two La-7 wheels hit unfilled bomb craters. It took two days to repair the planes.
At the front, the 9th GIAP reappeared in fact in November 1944. The regiment became part of the 303rd Fighter Aviation Division of Major General G.N. Zakharov. This division also included the French regiment "Normandie-Niemen", the 18th GIAP, the 139th GIAP and the 523rd IAP. The division took part in the final battles of the Great Patriotic War over East Prussia. The weather in Lithuania was disgusting - rains and fogs hindered the work of aviation so much that the pilots of the 9th GIAP did not make a single sortie in two months. The regiment was based at the Rutskiski airfield located in the vicinity of Kaunas. Flights resumed only at the end of December, the weather allowed the aces to adequately end the war.
On December 30, Captain P.E. Golovachev and his wingman Chernik intercepted a Ju-88 reconnaissance aircraft over Traeburg at an altitude of 9000 m. After a series of unsuccessful attacks and the ammunition was completely used up, Golovachev decided to ram the enemy aircraft. He took up a position so as to inflict maximum damage on the Junkers and, if possible, save his fighter. The pilot calculated everything correctly: as a result of a ramming strike, the Ju-88 lost control and went into an uncontrolled dive, at the same time Golovachev managed to land on a forced dive. La-7 received minor damage.
The pilots of the 9th GIAP quickly made friends with the French from the Normandy-Neman flying the Yak-3. The pilots discussed the capabilities of their combat vehicles more than once, and each one praised the type of fighter they flew. The guardsmen emphasized the good high-altitude qualities of the La-7 and a solid design, the French painted the maneuverability of the Yak-3. Once, the commander of the Normandy, Louis Delfino, suggested that Lavrinenkov conduct an air battle, firing at each other from photo-camera guns. The duel, however, did not take place - on January 13, 1945, the 3rd Belorussian Front went on the offensive, and the pilots were not up to the competition.
Squadrons of the 9th GIAP provided air cover for the advancing north of Gumbinen Tatsinsky Panzer Corps. Tyulenev's group, performing the task of covering the ground troops, entered into battle with 40 Ju-87 bombers and shot down four enemy aircraft. On January 18, six La-7s led by Amet Khan Sultan intercepted twenty Fw-190s flying at an altitude of 1500 m. The commander shot down the Focke-Wulf in the first burst. A moment later, two more Fokkers went down to the ground, shot down by cannon fire from fighters of Captain Pavel Golovachev and Second Lieutenant Ivan Makhlakov. On the same day, five La-7s under the command of Captain Golovachev entered the battle with 15 Fw-190s. The result was three more victories (two fokkers were shot down by Golovachev, one by his wingman Chernik), recorded on the regiment's combat score. On this day, the pilots of the 9th GIAP shot down 23 Luftwaffe aircraft - they won two thirds of the victories recorded on January 18 at the expense of the 303rd division. On this occasion, a gala dinner was held at the Wittenburg airfield, where the regiment was then based.
In February, the regiment flew to a new base, where the Normandie-Niemen was already sitting. It was a stationary Luftwaffe airfield, which had a concrete strip, it was possible to operate from it without fear of mudslides.
On February 16, 1945, the deputy squadron commander, senior lieutenant Nikolai Kireev, brought his plane to the airfield, being in an almost unconscious state. The fighter received a direct hit from an 88-mm anti-aircraft gun, the shell exploded directly in the La-7 cockpit. The pilot, after landing, could not even open the cockpit canopy, when his comrades did it, they saw that the entire cockpit floor was covered in blood. Soon, the Yak-3 from the Normandie-Neman got hit by an 88-mm projectile in the cockpit, the pilot Rivershon miraculously survived and managed to reach the airfield. In mid-February, the 9th GIAP lost two aircraft from enemy anti-aircraft fire, pilots Ivan Kovalev and Anatoly Plotnikov (led by Lavrinenkov) died. On February 26, 1945, the 9th GIAP moved to Friedland.
In two months, the pilots of the regiment made 385 sorties, losing two aircraft and two pilots shot down by anti-aircraft guns; The regiment had no losses from the air enemy.
In March, on the eve of the imminent end of the war, flight discipline fell in the regiment, evidence of which was the loss of Mikhail Khvostov's aircraft. Six La-7s under the command of Captain Boris Maslenikov were attacked by four Fw-190s. Tails failed to evade the attack and was shot down, he managed to jump out with a parachute and soon returned to the regiment.
In early April, the regiment again relocated, this time to the Heiligenbeil airfield located near the Baltic coast. From here, the pilots of the regiment carried out flights to intercept ships that were evacuating Germans from the Courland Peninsula.
On April 12, 1945, the operation to capture Pillau began - the last battle in which pilots of the 303rd Fighter Aviation Division, including pilots of the 9th GIAP, took part. Over Pillau, the regiment's combat score was replenished with five victories; one Fw-190 shot down Alelyuhin, Tarasov, Malkov, Aristarkhov and Pukhov. One pilot of the regiment was killed in aerial combat with Bf 109s.
The 9th GIAP again changed its base airfield - the regiment was transferred to the Berlin direction, to Reppen, a suburb of Frankfurt an der Oder. The first sortie from the new base was unusual even for the worldly-wise pilots of the 9th GIAP, several Luftwaffe pilots shot down by them landed right on the airfield.
The decisive offensive of the Soviet troops on Berlin began in April. The rapid advance of the Red Army again forced the 9th GIAP to change its base, the regiment flew to Fürstenwalde on April 24, and on April 25 to Berlin-Schonefeld (two squadrons) and Berlin-Tempelhof (one squadron). From these airfields, the pilots of the regiment carried out their last sorties in World War II.
On April 25, Lavrinenko lifted the squadron of Amet Khan Sultan into the air. The squadron was tasked with patrolling over Schoenefeld Airport. Visibility was limited by clouds with a lower edge at 2,000 m and thick smoke from shell explosions and numerous fires. Nevertheless, the La-7 pilots were able to detect a group of Fw-190s, which were under cover of Bf 109s. Amet Khan Sultan shot down a Messerschmitt in a short burst. A German pilot (later found to have been awarded the Iron Cross) parachuted out.
The first new La-7s intended for the 16th GIAP, commander of the 9th Guards Fighter Aviation Division A.I. Pokryshkin and his comrades G.A. Rechkalov, A.V. Fedorov and A.I. Work was received at the Moscow Aviation Plant No. 381 on October 21, 1944. The aircraft were built at the expense of fellow countrymen Pokryshkin; on the sides of the fuselages were inscriptions: "To Alexander Pokryshkin from the workers of Novosibirsk."
In the early morning of November 1, 1944, the pilots of the 16th GIAP started flying the La-7. The regiment was then based at the Ezov airfield, located 25 km from the Polish city of Staleva Wola. The flights were led by the regiment commander Major Rechkalov. The regiment reacted well to the new fighter (previously, the regiment was armed with American Airacobras). The fourth to the start was one of the best aces of the 16th GIAP Captain Klubov. Klubov took off, gained a height of two or three hundred meters and began to perform aerobatics. Pilots and technicians from the ground watched the perfect piloting of the aircraft on the edge of the possible, Klubov was deservedly considered a master of air combat, but he was also a great pilot with a special flair for flying. Completed aerobatics downward spiral, after which the aircraft came in for a landing. However, due to the failure of the hydraulic system, the flaps did not extend on the plane. On the second run, having landed with a small overshoot, the aircraft skidded off the runway at the end of the run and bogged down in soft ground and nosed over. Klubov died an hour and a half after the disaster.
What happened to the rest of the La-7s transferred to the Pokryshkinsky regiment is unknown. Perhaps the La-7 remained in the regiment and even took part in sorties. The tragedy that happened to Klubov had a fatal effect on the plans to rearm the regiment with Lavochkin's fighters. The pilots of the 16th GIAP ended the war on the Air Cobras.
One of the most productive regiments that received La-7 fighters was the 5th GIAP. Along with the La-7, the La-5FN continued to operate in the regiment until the end of the war. The famous Soviet ace Vitaly Ivanovich Popkov fought in the 5th GIAP. Day April 17, 1945 could well be the last in the life of Vitaly Ivanovich. In the vicinity of Berlin, Popkov collided in the air with a German aircraft. The pilot managed to jump out with a parachute and landed at the location of the artillery battery of the Red Army. IN AND. Popkov shot down 40 enemy aircraft during the war.