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Boris Safonov and I-16

Was there an inscription 'For Stalin!' by Boris Safonov's plane

Boris Feoktistovich Safonov, Lieutenant Colonel

In 1941, the pilots did not like to show off. In the conditions of German air superiority, any non-standard painted aircraft was subjected to especially fierce attacks and the risk of being shot down increased many times over. Although there have been directly opposite examples. The squadron commander of the 72nd mixed regiment, senior lieutenant Boris Safonov, flew an I-16 with the inscriptions "For Stalin" and "Death to the Nazis" and had the highest victories in the north. Sergeant Surzhenko was a match for Safonov - on his "donkey" was the inscription "For the USSR" and "For VKPb". This was the official version and it was adhered to for a long time.

However, is it so? Yuri Rybin's analysis allows us to conclude that this is not the case.

The first four I-16 type 24 (No. 24P218-91, 24P218-100, 24P219-3 and 24P219-4) appeared in the Northern Fleet Air Force in early April 1941. On the basis of these four "donkeys" on April 10, a training group was formed as part of the 72nd SAP, which included 20 young pilots who had arrived in the Arctic the day before from various military schools. In fact, it was a training squadron in which young pilots mastered a new fighter for themselves.

The newly formed squadron was led by the 26-year-old senior lieutenant Safonov. By the way, this is where the myth was born that B. Safonov was the "father" of a large galaxy of North Sea aces. On April 16, during training flights on landing due to engine failure, I-16 # 24R218-91 (pilot junior lieutenant Zhivotovsky) crashed. Therefore, by June 22, three I-16s remained in service. On one of them on June 24, in the second combat mission since the beginning of the war, Boris Safonov shot down a Ju-88. Judging by the numerous articles of that period, it was on this day that the inscriptions "Death to fascism!". Appeared on board the first Safonov I-16 and "For the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks)!" ("Krasnoflotets" No. 149 dated June 26, 1941).

The example was contagious. The sides of the other two I-16s were also decorated with combat calls:

on the I-16 of senior lieutenant A.A. Kovalenko with tactical number "11" there were inscriptions "For Stalin!" and "For Communism!" ("Krasnoflotets" No. 235 dated September 20, 1941);

on the I-16 with the tail number "13", in the cockpit of which S.Surzhenko was photographed, the inscription "For the USSR!" (it is not known if there was any inscription on the other side of this aircraft).

On June 26, that is, even before the start of active hostilities in the Murmansk direction, the combat strength of the 72nd SAP was significantly replenished with twelve I-16 type 24. On June 29, on the first day of the German offensive in the Arctic, the regiment lost five I- 16 from this batch.

But already on July 10, the fighter aviation of the Northern Fleet was reinforced again - ten I-16s arrived in the 72nd SAP, half of which were of the 28th type. One of these cannon fighters was chosen by Boris Safonov - it was I-16 type 28 # 2821 3 95. On this plane, the North Sea ace fought from July 10 to October 3, 1941.

On July 10, Safonov made four sorties, and it is possible that some of them were carried out by him on the I-16 type 28 he just received. By the way, on the same day, the squadron commander of the 72nd Safonov was awarded the next military rank "captain" ...

From July 10 to October 3, Boris Safonov made 145 sorties, conducted 27 air battles and recorded 13 downed enemy aircraft on his combat account. Of these sorties, 109 were performed on the I-16 # 2821 3 95. Hence we can conclude that Safonov sometimes flew on other "donkeys" of the 72nd SAP.

Next, the question arises, whether Safonov "transferred" his military appeals to the "new" fighter? Absolutely everyone who knew Boris Safonov well said that he did not like ostentation. His character was characterized by seriousness and efficiency in everything. The euphoria of the first days, when it seemed that everything would end quickly, as in the pre-war forecasts, “with little blood and on foreign territory”, with the beginning of active hostilities on the ground and in the air, it quickly disappeared. The situation at the front by July 10, when Safonov "moved" to another I-16, was hardly conducive to taking up the brush again and "decorating" his fighter with spectacular slogans. Despite the fact that Safonov was repeatedly photographed after his first aerial victory throughout the summer, it seems strange that there is not a single photograph where he was captured at the I-16 with the words "Death to fascism!" or "For the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks)!" Most likely, when the newspaper needed a photo of the first North Sea ace, military correspondent Yevgeny Khaldey took pictures of Boris Safonov not from his plane, but from I-16 Alexander Kovalenko with a military appeal "For Stalin!" However, it can be assumed that there were inscriptions on Safonov's second plane, but could they have survived on the fighter after its owner moved to the Hurricane? On October 3, 1941, Boris Safonov took to the skies for the last time in his "donkey", having taken off as part of a flight of three I-16s for weather reconnaissance. The next sortie, on October 16, already during the formation of the new 78th Fighter Aviation Regiment, he made on the English Hurricane fighter.

Safonovsky I-16 was trusted only by the most experienced pilots of the regiment and, as a rule, it was flown by the commander of the "Ishakov" squadron, first Captain Adonkin, and then - Captain Ageichev, who replaced him.

North Sea ace Vasily Adonkin. From November 14, 1941 on June 13, 1942 was the commander of the I-16 squadron and flew in the Safonov "donkey". During this period, he wrote down three downed Me-109s to his personal combat account. (He died on March 17, 1944, when, during a combat mission, his Airacobra plane was iced up and went into a tailspin.)

Valentin Ageichev, from August 13, 1942 to June 05, 1943 was the commander of the 3rd squadron of the 27th IAP. From June 1942 to January 1943 he flew the Safonov I-16. During this period, he wrote down two shot down Me 109s on his personal account. On June 5, 1943, he died in an air battle on the Hurricane while covering transports in Motovsky Bay.

The combat career of the Safonov I-16 ended at the very beginning of 1943. On January 24, four I-16s, led by the squadron commander Captain Ageichev, flew to the front line to "distract enemy fighters." At the 5th minute of the flight, the engine at the leading link began to fail. Captain Ageichev had to make an emergency landing on the fuselage outside the runway. In this case, the plane was badly damaged, and the pilot received bruises. A thorough investigation carried out immediately after the accident revealed that the pilot overheated the engine during takeoff, which was the reason for his failure. The plane was sent to the aviation repair shops (TsVMA, F.2385, op.1, d.5, l.13).

Here, under such circumstances, the combat activities of the second Safonov I-16 ended. By that time, I-16 No. 2821 3 95 had made 518 flights with the Northern Fleet Air Force, 109 times it was flown by Boris Safonov. A photograph of this wrecked I-16 has been preserved. The accident occurred during the polar night and the quality of the image leaves much to be desired, but, nevertheless, part of the side number and a star in a thin white edging located on board near the cockpit are clearly visible. It is also clearly visible that there are no inscriptions on the plane.

On March 11, 1943, in the newspaper "Red Fleet" it was noted that yesterday, March 10, his combat comrade-in-arms, technician-lieutenant Bondarenko, who was awarded the Order of the Red Star, finished assembling Boris Safonov's fighter. After the closure of the Moscow exhibition, the further route of the Safonov I-16 lay in the "northern capital" - Leningrad.

Only on July 28, 1946, on the Day of the Navy, the renovated Central Naval Museum reopened its doors. His new exposition “Actions of the Naval Forces during the Great Patriotic War. 1941-1945 " for B.F. There was no place for Safonov. Until the spring of 1946, it was disassembled, covered with a tarpaulin, stood under the columns of the exchange. In the same spring, another reconstruction of the museum's exposition began, during which the Safonov "donkey" was dragged through the window into the 6th hall of the museum. Before hanging the fighter on steel cables under the northern choirs of this hall, wings were attached to it and the engine was removed for relief.

On July 4, 1948, the same newspaper "Red Fleet" once again informed its readers about the placement in the exposition of the Central Naval Museum dedicated to the Great Patriotic War, the fighter B.F. Safonov with pitching No. 51 and 14 victory stars on board.

I-16 No. 2821395 Boris Safonov

Unfortunately, in Russia, each political power writes its own history. The political husk disappeared, and with it the political slogans from the sides of the fuselage. In the modern reading, the plane carries only the keel number 51.

I-16 No. 2821395 Boris Safonov in the Central Naval Museum in St. Petersburg

I-16 No. 2821395 Boris Safonov in the Central Naval Museum in St. Petersburg.

N.G. Golodnikov About B.F. Safonov

Andrey Sukhorukov's interview to Golodnikov

— What was your first impression of B.F. Safonov? What can you say about him as a fighter pilot and human?

— My first impression of Safonov is a very charming person. He knew how to win over people, he was a good psychologist. A very good analyst. Analyzed every event, every fight. After each fight, no matter how difficult it was, Safonov always gathered everyone and analyzed the actions of everyone, whatever they were. Sometimes, someone would bring a dozen holes, he would lead everyone to this plane and figure out how you got these “holes”. “These,” he says, “you got when you didn't see that they were shooting at you, and these — when you did this and that. But it had to be so and so, then there would be no holes. " Safonov "saw" great! He had such a talent. He knew how to take responsibility for himself. We were the first to fly as a “couple”. I always thought about improving technical capabilities, it was thanks to him that PCs were installed on the I-16. Putting PCs, cannons and "berezins" on "harrikeins" was also his idea. And when the British rustled at him: "Like, how ... without our consent ... new weapons ..." He just said: "Nonsense. The war will write off everything. Come on under my responsibility. "

He also had one quality, an important one - almost a teetotaler. I have never seen him drink vodka. In the evenings, when they were getting ready, he would drink 25-50 grams of red wine, and that's it.

I have not smoked. Very literate. Well-read. Cultural. He knew how to speak - beautifully, precisely, succinctly. He could and swear, you know yourself, people here often do not understand normal words, but he has a mat always on the case and the situation. Well, in battle it goes without saying - there is more swearing than words.

And to just swear at someone - it never happened.

Safonov considered the most important thing for a fighter pilot to be able to shoot. Moreover, to shoot "Safonov style" - for sure, "on rivets." Secondly, a maneuver. To be able to get close, to reach the shooting distance for sure. Thirdly - "watch!" Discretion is the foundation of everything. Saw - maneuvered, got close - opened fire - shot down! That was his formula.

As for his personal account, I think he shot down more than 22 German planes. Safonov was an excellent shot and, in one battle, he shot down two or three German planes. But Safonov had a rule - “I don’t write myself more than one shot down in a fight”. All the rest he "gave away" to the wingmen. I remember well one battle, he shot down three German planes and immediately ordered that one to him, one to Semenenko (Pyotr Semenenko flew as wingman at Safonov's) and one to someone else. Petya gets up and says: “Comrade commander, I didn't shoot. I’m not even shot through percale. ” And Safonov said to him: "You did not shoot, but I did shoot, and you provided me with shooting!" And Safonov had such cases more than once.


  • Fighter I-16. / Mikhail Maslov / supplement to the magazine "M-HOBBY", No. 2 1997
  • Reflections on I-16 Boris Safonov. / Yuri Rybin / magazine 'aviAMaster' No. 5 2003
  • I fought in a fighter / Artem Drabkin /