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Dmitry Alekseev and La-5FN

Andrey Sukhorukov's interview to Dmitry Alekseev


Dmitry Alekseevich Alekseev, Guard Lieutenant

<…> In August 1943, with the rank of junior lieutenant (before that, sergeants were released), I was released to the front.

- Do you think your college preparation was sufficient?

Of course, not enough. We never really mastered Lavochkin. On the first sorties I thought about only one thing: "How will I take off and how will I land?" What kind of air combat is there? May God not lose the leader. They did not know how to navigate, to look around in the air too. We shot somehow. In short, we were poorly prepared.

La-5FN as a whole, as a fighter, did you like it?

Yes, it was a very good fighter.

How many fighters did you replace during the war?

A lot. We can say that in our regiment there were no permanently assigned vehicles for the pilots. More precisely, there were, but they did not stay with us for a long time. It seems that you are just starting to get used to how something happens, and you change to another car. Usually it was like this - on which fighter you are ordered to fly, on that one you fly. Often the planes "changed". The basic principle in the distribution of aircraft was one: a newer aircraft - a leader, an older one - a slave. Transmitters were immediately installed on new aircraft.


Did the La-5FN cabin suit you with comfort and visibility?

The cockpit was spacious. No complaints. The view in the air from her was average. Good upward, good sideways - teardrop-shaped lantern. Up and down is bad. Forward - the engine is very large, it covered a lot, downward - the wing prevented "looking". The wing is straight - almost everything was covered. When looking back-up and just back - not bad, back-down - bad (gargrot interfered). Due to insufficient visibility, I had to constantly fly "snakes", "swaying" left and right. I can tell you that many of the lights were opened to improve visibility. I also flew most of the sorties with an open lamp.

Was the plexiglass transparency poor?

No, the transparency was normal, but when you look through it towards the sun, the "plex" gave glare, and this interfered, because the most dangerous enemy attack was from the sun. Sometimes the closed lantern fogged up, which is dangerous for the same reason for the reduced visibility. Well I was the wingman in most of the sorties. The wingman is the shield of the pair, therefore, the first attack of the enemy is for me. The follower must look with all eyes, use every opportunity to see the enemy first. So I used it - I opened the flashlight. As for comfort, I can say that then they simply did not think about it. You do something the whole flight, every minute work. Everything is mechanical, on rods. During the flight, the pilot constantly adjusted the cooling of the engine, these are the louvers in front, and even the side flaps, large and small. Plus - an oil cooler, there was also a flap. You go to the set - you twist it for cooling, if you go down - twist it back, you keep the heat. Plus - rudder and depth rudder trim tabs. Plus - you look around with all your eyes, which means "snake" and rolls, you also work with your hands and feet. And also - the propeller pitch, altitude corrector, throttle sectors. Not a single second of rest. And suddenly a respite is "formed", then you try to adjust the radio ... The engine roared violently, it was incredibly noisy. Everything vibrates, which also does not contribute to comfort. It cannot be said that the La-5 had a comfortable cockpit, but on the other hand, then all fighters had the same cockpits. Here "la" did not stand out in any way, neither better nor worse than any other.


What about the view on the ground?

Very bad. Forward - nothing is visible. The engine (two-row "star") closed everything. We were blind on takeoff and landing. They drove - only "snake" to at least consider something. There were many accidents on the ground and almost all of them were due to poor visibility. Now the plane will fly into the car, then the person, everything was. They chopped each other with screws - the leader would slow down, deviate slightly from the course, the wingman catches up with him and went to chop with his blades ... The "moment of rotation" on the "Lavochkin" was the strongest. If you did not compensate for it, then it skidded so that the chassis was snapped. On takeoff and landing, the La-5 was very difficult. In our regiment, either on takeoff, or on landing, or on taxiing, the regiment commander, and all squadron commanders, and all flight commanders, and almost all ordinary pilots, "broke" the planes. There were not only "breaks", there were also accidents. And I did not avoid it either - there was an accident during landing.

Can you tell us more?

There was no trimmer position indicator on the La-5. The pilot adjusted the trimmer according to his own feeling, and this feeling must be worked out. So, somehow, in April 1944, I "went through" the trimmer. Because of this, when landing, I made a so-called "goat", ie. the plane, having touched the ground with its wheels, sharply "jumped" (almost a meter), and "jumped" abruptly (I did not have time to react) went "to roll", well, fell on the wing. It was with this wing that I caught on the ground. (Everything overlapped here, and I got tired in flight, and Colonel Davidkov - for me a great authority - once said that when landing on the mud, he sets the trim tab "more".) Well, the flight before that was long, the fuel was almost completely depleted so there was no fire. On the sight with his forehead he put me thoroughly (I was fastened only with waist belts), so the scar "as a keepsake" remained.

No, I, of course, knew that there was a big accident rate in the Soviet Air Force, but that is so ...

The accident rate was outrageous. I will say more, on the ground to get into an accident, on the "la-fifth" could even the most experienced pilot. Once, Alexander Ivanovich Pokryshkin flew to our regiment, then already being Three Times Hero of the Soviet Union. He flew in to be captured in a newsreel on a Soviet plane. Pokryshkin flew on the American "Airacobra". So it was considered that the Three times Hero of the Soviet Union, on a foreign fighter, is ideologically unacceptable, it is necessary to be on "his own". Okay, Pokryshkin came to us, a bunch of reporters, our regiment commander went to them, the divisional commander flew in. I saw it all well, because that day I was on duty. The production of the film was organized at the highest level. They carried out the banner of our regiment, Pokryshkin stood against it, and in the background we were driving our La-5s. And I participated, drove. In a word, cinema. Okay, things are going further, they fitted Pokryshkin with a specially "painted" "la" - and the stars "for knocked down" on the sides "like this", and a guards badge, and bright, "fresh" camouflage. He flew on this "la", successfully landed, and when he began taxiing, we look, "la" - hop! and "squatted on his tail." We already knew what it was - the "Lavochkin" had such a feature, if you turn too sharply on it, then you can't hold it and, then, the rear wheel breaks out. Moreover, it could break out in different ways. If only the wheel fork breaks out, then this is nothing, so, a minor nuisance. But, the wheel could break out together with the reinforcing frame, to which the fork was attached, and the broken reinforcing frame, this is the failure of the entire fuselage, this is considered an accident. (The accident entails a serious investigation: How is it that a combat aircraft was lost outside the battle? Was there any intention of the pilot to disrupt the combat mission? Etc.) We look, wait for the result (our regiment engineer immediately ran there). Our engineer returns "blacker than a cloud": "An accident!" When Pokryshkin was told that he had made an accident, he swore, said that he was "this window dressing, that's where he saw it!" (and showed where), called Ut-2 and flew away. In general, as far as I know, Lavochkin was an unlucky plane for Pokryshkin, although Pokryshkiy, of course, was an outstanding fighter pilot (no matter what different “truth-lovers” would say about him now). In flight, the La-5 opposite was very simple. Easy to manage. If you get into a tailspin, let go of the handle and it will come out on its own, and without any delay. All combat maneuvers, too, without delay, abruptly.

I read that you had to put a lot of effort on the rudders?

No, nothing out of the ordinary. It was necessary to pull harder, of course, than on the "yak", but nothing particularly outrageous.

What was the armor protection?

There was bulletproof glass in front. This inspired us. Reliable glass, although not very large. We had cases when the bulletproof glass withstood the hit of a German 20 mm projectile from an air cannon. Somehow at the end of the war, a representative of the Lavochkin Design Bureau came to our regiment and began polling the pilots, on the subject of how to make the plane as light as possible? And he asked the question: “Do you need bulletproof glass? Maybe it's better to remove it? " Everyone, as one, said that the bulletproof glass should be left, if only for the sake of improving morale. The pilot had an armored back, 12 mm of armor steel. Very good, durable, protected reliably.

Was the cabin equipment adequate?

The equipment was the simplest. The usual set of flight instruments. What was bad - there was no radio compass. True, at the end of the war, we were supplied with equipment for direction finding, but it did not completely solve the problem of returning to the airfield, with a loss of orientation. There were a lot of losses due to the fact that they lost their bearings. They flew in the most different weather, and in the clouds, and in the snow. Sometimes, having flown off and you yourself do not understand - how did you stay in the ranks? Unclear. I lost my bearings too. Horror! Twice I lost the leaders in the clouds, one flew in. The laws were harsh then. If, you have lost the leader, and he entered the battle and died, then that's it, the tribunal is for you. But, I was lucky, my hosts returned normally. Our pilots fornicated a lot and the losses from this "fornication" were great. True, there was a magnetic compass in the cockpit, but there was practically no sense from it for orientation. Although they checked and verified the compasses periodically, all the same, the inaccuracy in their readings was great. Orientation was our trouble. We didn’t learn how to navigate in school. We flew in Azerbaijan, and so it is simply impossible to get lost - there is the sea, on both sides of the mountain, and the Kura River. We flew only in good weather. Easy to navigate. And at the front, they ended up in Ukraine - a plain, variegated, there are no normal landmarks, there is nothing to catch the eye. And the weather? Rain, fog, snow ... When they fought in Western Ukraine, they explained to us this way - if the fields are large, then the former Soviet territory (collective farm fields), and if there is a shallow patchwork, then the territories are annexed (private plots). At least to be guided like that, if it doesn't work out differently. Then, by order of the navigator of the Army, they did this, at some village they laid out a big letter "A", at another village - a "circle", at the third - something else, for example, a "cross". This is how, by making artificial landmarks, they made it easier for us.

Radio station - were you satisfied with the connection quality?

The radio station on La-FN was bad. It seems the RSI-3 was called. Yes, RSI-3M. I flew most of the flights as a wingman, which means "hearer." I didn’t speak, I listened. The connection was very bad, the interference was terrible, this RSI-3M “rattled” strongly. And in most of the flights, I only had a plane with a receiver. As we just didn’t sophisticated to improve communication. Once an American bomber, in my opinion, a "liberator", landed at our airfield. We were on the territory of Poland, and he was knocked out by German anti-aircraft guns. The Americans were overjoyed that they landed at the Soviet airfield (they got to their friends). While the Americans were talking to us, one of our pilots (and he understood something in the radio) climbed into the bomber with the Americans and pulled out all the earphones with throatphones that he could find (it's still a shame!). They say, while this plane is restored, by that time new ones will be brought. They put these headphones on us (and me as well), so what? All these "crackles" became even stronger and louder. In general, they stopped hearing anything. We threw away this American "good".

And your regimental communications service did not try to improve the quality of communication on its own, there, screen it again?

No, who would do it there? This RSI-3M required incredibly precise tuning, and in flight, the tuning was quickly lost due to constant vibration. As you arrive, the communications chief immediately runs to you: "Did you hear the radio?" "No". “Well, what to do with you? More precisely, it was necessary to adjust. " And when to adjust there? And so not a second of rest, so also "twist" the radio. Then I got tired of his reproaches so much that I constantly began to answer: "I heard" - regardless of whether I heard the radio or not. What helped us a lot was the fact that in 1944 fate brought us to the Brig airfield, near Breslau. The airfield is huge (there, the Germans had an aviation school, I think). We got a huge amount of all kinds of inventory. But, most importantly, we found a box of German headsets. Excellent headsets - the headphones are so soft (they fit tightly), and the helmet itself is made of strips of fabric reinforced with a nylon mesh (very good ventilation). I put on this German helmet, took off, and in flight suddenly heard clearly: "Alekseev?" - the host asks me. The clarity was so unexpected that I was a little confused. (I flew with this trophy headset on La-7 and La-9 until 1950, and did not know grief with communication.) Great, these headsets with communication helped us. I must say that on La-7, the radio station was a little different (it seems RSI-4) and worked much better, although it also “crackled” sensitively, but the connection was quite clear.

When did you receive the car with the transmitter?

In 1945, he began to fly as a leader.

How difficult was it to get out of the cockpit, did the flashlight drop at high speed, did it jam?

I did not jump, but, according to those who jumped, there was nothing difficult in leaving the cockpit if there was enough strength to get out, but it was necessary to get out and nothing else. The lantern, we even tried not to close it. And if the lantern is constantly open, why bother?

Constantly open lantern, didn't it slow down?

It was believed that an open canopy reduces speed by about 20 km / h. In battle, these twenty kilometers did not play a special role.

The literature describes that the temperature regime in the La-5 cockpit was very intense, the temperature reached 55° C.

Really? HM… It may have been, but with a closed lantern, and my lantern is constantly open, where does the "temperature" come from? Although, of course, there was a lot of heat from the engine. Still, there would be no heat when the temperature of the cylinder heads is 220 ° C. In winter, it even helped: when you freeze, cover the lantern, warm up quickly, open it again.

Was there any oxygen equipment on the La-5?

There was such a "miracle". We somehow scornfully treated it, because we practically did not use it. There were no flights above 5 thousand, so the mask was not adjusted (and it is difficult to put on an unsuitable one), oxygen charging was rarely checked. Once it let me down a lot. I had already flown on La-7 (the oxygen equipment on it was the same as on La-5), when I had to fly at an altitude of 6300 m. I hardly lost consciousness. The mask didn't fit, I couldn't put it on ... Then all day I walked around like a drunk. Our usual flight "to control the airspace with free maneuvering" (this is when the flight is not associated with the cover of attack aircraft or bombers), usually took place like this: we climb over our territory by 5 thousand, then we descend through the front line, so that over the combat orders of troops to be at an altitude of 3-3.5 thousand, with a good reserve of speed

Did you fly in fur overalls in winter? If not, what did you fly in?

They didn't fly in fur overalls, they limited their mobility. Who flew in what. The squadron commanders and "above" flew in American fur jackets. The rest of these jackets did not get. "Old", honored pilots, also in fur jackets, but usually domestic. They got it themselves. While I was "young", I flew in whatever I have to (I was robbed in Kharkov). Even in an overcoat. He also flew in a cotton jersey with a cut-off collar. Well, over time, I also got a fur jacket.

Have you used shoulder straps?

No, only belted. It is necessary to "twist", but you cannot "twist" with the shoulder.

Armament: how do you rate the cannons? Did the weapons work reliably?

Two guns ShVAK, 20 mm. They were shooting at 400 m. Were capricious. Sometimes they stuck. But, apparently, it depended on the ammunition, because if you suddenly stuck, reload, they work again. So that would "tightly" stuck, this was not. I think that two guns are rather weak, or rather the minimum sufficiency. Although the shells from these guns were powerful.

And how many shells did you have to hit an enemy fighter in order to be sure to shoot it down?

Even at the school we were given tables where it was said that for a reliable defeat (up to 0.9) of a bomber, it is necessary that 6-7 20 mm shells of the ShVAK cannon hit it. For a fighter, a reliable defeat provided a hit of 3-4 shells. At the front, these calculations were confirmed, usually hits of 3-4 shells "enough" even "Messer", even "Fokker". Sometimes they got confused by one. Well, that’s where it’s going.

Was the scope good? What was the name?

I don't remember the name. Collimator sight - reticle in space. A good sight, very comfortable, and provided good accuracy.

Cannons blinded when firing?

During the day not, but at night we did not fly.

One of the drawbacks of Soviet fighters is considered to be their small ammunition. The La-5 has a maximum ammunition capacity of 340 rounds for two guns. Is it really small?

Is 340 shells considered small? Hmm ... We usually have guns equipped with 40 (forty) shells per barrel, 80-ton "circle". More happened, but rarely.

Forty ?!

Yes, but why more? Only the extra burden to "carry". Well, think for yourself. One burst from a cannon - 5-6 shells, maximum 8. Those. 40 rounds per barrel is 5-8 rounds. How many times in battle will you have to shoot? Two or three times. More is unlikely, rather less. Including You won't even use up these 80 shells to the end. Do you have any idea what a fighter attack is? This is how my commander Lobanov attacked (I admired!) - he comes to the Messer from the sun and from 100-120 meters two short bursts - ta-dah! ta-dah !, and immediately rolls off! (You can't hang in the attack!) "Messer" screwed up and burst into flames! The consumption of shells in such an attack is 8-12 pieces, or even less. And then, it happens that my host will scroll through the whole fight and never shoot. The enemy does not give him the opportunity to open aimed fire. And if you fire without aiming, then at least give 1000 shells, they will still not be enough.

Cannon synchronizers fail?

No, but there have been cases with propellers. This usually happened at low engine speeds (when the synchronizer "does not provide"). This was due to the fact that the trigger on the handle was not very well placed on the "lavochkin". The trigger buttons were on the end of the handle, top-back. Therefore, it happened like this: the pilot manipulates the handle when taxiing or landing, abruptly takes it over himself and rests the end of the handle (and hence the trigger) in the stomach (there he stands up or the jacket is thick). If at that moment, for some reason, the fuses were turned off, shooting immediately followed.

Did your planes carry bombs or PCs?

Bombs are frequent, but there was no PC. We began to use bombs when it became clear that we had finally and irrevocably won air supremacy. At the beginning of 1944, a conference was held in our Air Army to summarize combat experience. On it, the question of how to increase the efficiency of the use of our fighters came up closely. There were a lot of sorties, which, although they were considered combat, but there was no battle in these sorties. It used to happen, when you fly to patrol or cover strike vehicles, the commander begins to ask: "Was there a meeting with the enemy?" "Did not have". "What happened?" "But there was nothing." And so day after day. We fly in idle, it turns out. And when this situation became permanent, it was discussed at the conference and our command issued an order that by the time we left the patrol area, it was allowed to find a ground target and use up ammunition for it. Further more. To strengthen the attacks on the enemy, they decided to hang bombs. They worked like this with bombs. We fly over the front line, we will bomb out in one go (the target was determined in advance) and already without bombs we fly to carry out the main combat mission - to control the airspace over our advancing troops. On the way back, if there was no meeting with the air enemy, they again retreated "to the side" and "shot" shells at the ground target. Of course, if they went to escort percussion vehicles, then the bombs were not suspended. On La-5 (and La-7, by the way, too) they had one bomb rack under each plane. Different bombs were used. When they just started, they bombed with bombs of 25 and 50 kg - FAB-25 and FAB-50. Then they flew, gained experience, took a chance - increased the caliber. We were supplied with such “interesting” bombs (I don’t remember their names, some “... fragmentation”) - converted artillery shells (a shell with a stabilizer attached to it). This "fragmentation" bomb had a weight of about 80 kg. We flew with them. Then they decided to take a chance again, and began to hang the usual "weave" - ​​FAB-100. "Sotki" was also used on the La-7.

So you bombed the La-7 too?

Well, yes. What's so strange about that? In this respect, La-7 was no different from La-5FN.

What targets were bombed and how successful were they?

We tried to choose targets for bombing and assault so that the anti-aircraft fire was not very powerful. These are targets in the third or fourth echelons of the Germans' defense or small columns of troops. Bridges and railway stations were bombed several times. In my opinion, the bombing was quite successful.

At what angle did you dive, at what speed, at what height and at what altitude did you drop bombs?

Bombed only from a dive. Before diving, it was necessary to recognize the direction of the wind in order to correctly calculate the amount of lead. If there was an opportunity, then the approach to the dive was organized so that the wind was fair. We dived from a height of 2 thousand, dropping somewhere in a thousand. The dive angle was somewhere around 45-50 degrees. Dive speed? Up to 550-600 km / h. It was dangerous to go beyond the "maximum", it could be brought to the destruction of the aircraft. And the drawdown is increasing. Aim through their scope. There was a special guide on how to bomb from a fighter plane, we studied it well. Then they constantly practiced bombing at the range.

Why such a relatively small dive angle? And how was it introduced into a dive, was it just a dive or with a "half-turn"?

The dive angle was done exactly like this, because at large dive angles the "drawdown" is large, you can crash into the ground, at smaller angles - the accuracy drops sharply. And they dived like that, at first they dropped the speed to a minimum, probably up to 250 km / h. Then the car literally fell forward by itself, and we made a small half-turn to "capture" the target in the sight. Then, in a dive, the car picks up speed, faster and faster, you have already "caught" the target, "hold" it, then reset and immediately withdraw. At maximum speed. It was forbidden to watch the result of the bombing.

Was the drop height determined by the altimeter?

No, they were assessed visually, according to the "risks" of the sight. You cannot be distracted from the sight; during a dive, you need to keep the target in the sight at all times. Begins to demolish, immediately it is necessary to straighten. I even have gratitude in my personal file for the successful bombing. When our troops stormed the encircled Ternopil, our front was temporarily commanded by Zhukov (replacing the wounded Vatutin). We were given the command to bomb the Ternopil railway station (it seems that there was a congestion of something, it seems, trains). Well, we came in a group, the city was already tightly surrounded, there was not much anti-aircraft fire, and we bombed this station as if on a range. Then they even "shot". We arrive, sit down, the “commissar” (well, who is the political officer) comes to us, smiles: “Congratulations! Front commander Zhukov expressed gratitude to all the pilots who carried out the bombing! " - and I think: "Where was Zhukov if he saw how we bomb this station?" There was another case when we bombed very effectively, and along the front edge. This was already in Germany. At Konev, the left flank "slowed down" something. He arrived at the command post of the corps and immediately asked: "Why don't you attack?" He is told that they ran into a village, which the Germans turned into a stronghold. The corps cannot penetrate the defenses. I must say that the command post of the corps and the air guidance point were combined. Konev arrived with Krasovsky (the commander of our Air Army). Krasovsky immediately received an order from Konev to help the ground units with aviation. Somehow it so happened that there were no bombers and attack aircraft ready to immediately fly out to strike, and Krasovsky gave the order to our division commander: "Come on, Davidkov, strike with fighters!" Immediately there was an order that each fighter aviation regiment of our air division had to allocate six for bombing. In our regiment, I also got into this shock six. We were urgently hung up with bombs and flew. Arrived, our host receives guidance from the ground point: “Do you see the tree? Bomb and storm! This is your goal. " Well, we started. There were no German fighters, there was no anti-aircraft fire, one might say that there was no either. We are in close formation, in pairs and hit. The first run with bombs, and then three runs went from the cannons. We caught up with the fear of the Germans! Later, the divisional commander came to our regiment and said that when we just started bombing, the Germans were shooting, shouting, and they flew away - complete silence. Konev looked at this, then turned and said: "This is how one should work!" After the storming, ours crashed! We broke through the defenses and covered forty kilometers. I even once destroyed a warehouse with bombs. When approaching the target, I see, like a shed of some kind. Took him in sight and, like, right into him and hit. Such a strong smoke went - a column. Already 30 kilometers away, they flew away, and the column of smoke was still visible. Then I was told that I had destroyed the field storage of fuels and lubricants. Crossings were bombed three times near Chernivtsi. I still don't know if they got hit or not. We have only one control - the report of ground observers. It is impossible to see the result of your bombing itself, and it was forbidden to watch. They successfully bombed, since 1944 our regiment was already specially "sharpened" for bombing strikes. Often instructed. This is about the bombing. As for the attack, they stormed like this. If they accompanied the "silts", then sometimes the anti-aircraft guns stormed, helping the "silts". If they stormed without "silts", then they also tried to find the target, where the anti-aircraft cover was weak or not at all. For cars, mostly. On the highways. German airfields both stormed and blocked. It happened a couple of times. I remember that we stormed the Dresden airfield very well. This was already in 1945, at the very end of the war.

So, you tried to avoid those targets where there was strong anti-aircraft fire?

Well, of course. Where there was strong anti-aircraft fire, either "silts" (they are armored) or "pawns" (they bomb from a great height) worked. It was better for us not to get involved with anti-aircraft guns, so if they were, then they interfered with us a lot. Especially automatic ones. The "kings of the storming", of course, were the "silts", this is really a "black death". The Il-2's assault capabilities were exceptional - bombs, RSs, cannons and machine guns. They began to "pick", almost nothing was left alive, only charred earth. I myself was an eyewitness how the "silts" walked through one village, where the Germans were holding their defenses. (Somehow I especially remembered this attack.) On their first call, they went through with bombs. The second is RSami. Then they turned around, and let's hammer with 37 mm cannons. The cannons are powerful (the barrels are long and thick like shafts). And then let's water it with machine guns, one after another. The "silt" of machine-gun cartridges had something about 1500 pieces, and until they shot everything to the last cartridge, they did not calm down.

In your opinion, is it realistic for a fighter-bomber to replace an attack aircraft (when attacking) and a dive bomber (when destroying point targets), provided that their impact load is comparable? Well, for example, if you had such a "superla" with four 20 mm cannons and 1000 kg of bomb load.

"IL" replaced by a fighter? What are you doing ?! Under no guise! Do you know what an attack is? This plane rushes above the ground at a low altitude, and at this altitude it is forced to stay for a relatively long time. At low, because during the attack, the specificity of the targets determines exactly this height of strikes. You can't get anywhere from cannons and PCs from 1000 m! It is necessary to descend at least 800 meters (or better 600 meters and below). And as you go down low, you are not like an anti-aircraft gun, an ordinary machine gun will knock you down. Look, when we attacked "our" targets, for firing from the cannons, we entered into a gentle dive at an altitude of 600 m, and we took them out almost over the tops of the trees. If the Germans had normal anti-aircraft cover, they would have chopped us into cabbage. No, on an unarmored vehicle, with a strong anti-aircraft cover of the target, you cannot storm it.

Can't you defend with speed?

Speed ​​won't help here. When defending against attack aircraft, anti-aircraft gunners set up barrage (this is the main method of firing at attack aircraft) and it does not matter how fast you pass through this zone of barrage. They will get there anyway.

Would you replace dive bombers?

It is, yes. At least in terms of goals, they would definitely be replaced. We also bombed from a dive.

What was the accuracy of your bombing?

Well, at the test site, hitting two bombs in a 100-meter circle was considered an excellent result. This is good accuracy. I, at the range, often got hit by two bombs.

What types of strike aircraft did you escort?

"Eli" and "pawns". There were no others. Anyway, I don't remember.

Did the La-5FN speed and climb rate suit you?

Yes, although in these characteristics a lot depends on the engine. In terms of the rate of climb, the La-5FN surpassed the Messerschmidt, not to mention the Fokker. If the “mass” tried to get away from us, they would catch up. And the steeper the "Messer" went up, the easier it was to catch up with it. The Fokker was heavier than the Messer, so they caught up with him even faster. In horizontal speed La-5FN was slightly faster than the Messer, and the advantage of La in speed over the Fokker was even greater. In level flight, neither the Messer nor the Fokker could escape the La-5FN. If the German pilots did not have the opportunity to dive, then sooner or later we would catch up with them. I must say that the Germans constantly improved their fighters and the Germans had a modification of the "Fokker" either "E" or "D" (I don't remember exactly), so he became vertical (and also in speed) with La-5FN flush. But, when this modification appeared among the Germans (and it appeared at the very end of the war), we already used the La-7 in full, incl. the advantage in the rate of climb and speed still remained with us. The Germans also had a modification of the Messer, which even surpassed the La-5FN in speed. It also appeared at the end of the war, sometime by the end of 1944. I have never met these "messers", but Lobanov did. I well remember how Lobanov was very surprised that he came across such "messers" that left his La-5FN on pitch-up, he could not catch up with them.

Acceleration dynamics of La-5FN compared to German fighters?

La-5 was very dynamic. In terms of overclocking characteristics, it was the same as the Messer and surpassed the Fokker.

Was the horizontal maneuverability comparable to enemy vehicles?

Almost the same. We were not afraid to turn into a turn during the battle.

What was the range of speeds at which the La-5FN fought?

In battle, you don't look at the speedometer, you “feel” the car. And the speeds were about the same. We started the battle at maximum, it is somewhere around 610-620 km / h. If we dived, then it is clear that the speed was even greater, about 30 kilometers. In the course of the battle, speed, of course, was lost. On a bend, sometimes you try to "twist" the enemy, so you make the roll more, and the speed is less. So on a bend and up to 200-250 km / h, the speed dropped, but nothing, they held on, did not break into a tailspin. “La” had a good feature, he started “shaking” before falling into a tailspin. As you “shake”, then you add gas.

About the peculiarities of the battle of La-5 with enemy fighters and bombers, what can you say?

In air battles, I met only with fighters - Messerschmidt Bf-109G and Focke-Wulf FW-190. When I started flying, the German bombers were gone. Units flew. It was happiness to meet the German "Bomber". Before the flight we “dreamed”: “If only we could meet the“ bast shoes ”!" I met the "couturier"; consider it, fate has given you the right prey. It’s a pity, but I didn’t meet. German fighter planes were strong. Fast, maneuverable, durable, with very strong weapons (especially "Fokker"). On a dive, they caught up with La-5, and they dived away from us. A coup and a dive, only we saw them. By and large, in a dive, neither the Messer nor the Fokker even caught up with the La-7. The Germans made good use of this. The pilots on the German fighters were very calculating, their favorite tactic was to dive, fire and dive away without engaging in aerial combat. Our task, accordingly, was not to miss this attack. Apparently because of their prudence, the Germans were not persistent in battle. As soon as we "squeeze" them, they immediately into a coup and a dive. The Germans entered into a maneuver battle very rarely and only when they considered it beneficial, usually when they were outnumbered and exceeded in height. And if the Germans got involved in a maneuvering battle, then they fought evil and skillfully. The Germans were well prepared. We after school, compared to them, were "yellow-mouthed chickens." If not for our "old men", the Germans would have knocked us down at once. The Germans loved to beat the laggards very much. If you have fallen behind, they will be sure to scramble. I've learned to keep up.

Let's summarize: if I understood you correctly, then at altitudes up to 5 thousand meters La-5FN surpassed almost all modifications of "Messer" and "Fokker" in horizontal speed and in vertical maneuver, and was practically equal with them on a horizontal maneuver, but inferior to enemy fighters in dive speed. This is true? And the La-5FN was catching up with everyone, even though it had an open lantern and bomb racks?

Yes. With an open flashlight and bomb racks, we still caught up with them. (Although, if a particularly nimble German is caught, then the lamp can be closed, but usually this was not required.) I repeat, German fighters could get away from us only by diving, in dive speed the La-5 was inferior to both the Messer and Fokker. We knew this, the Germans knew it very well. Therefore, they tried not to join the battle with the "Lavochkin". Dived - dived - shot - rolled over and left in a dive. Here is a diagram of them. If the Germans got involved in a maneuvering battle, they tried to conduct the battle in such a way that they did not lose height and be able to withdraw from the battle at any time. Our task, accordingly, was to press them to the ground, to prevent them from diving. So, it happened that the "Messer" was pressed to the ground and he had nowhere to go. There is only one way out - you need to gain altitude. There is nothing to do and the German runs the risk of throwing the plane to the vertical. Here we caught them. They caught up and shot. If you haven't caught up with the German on the vertical, he breaks away from you at the dive. Although, on a dive, there is a chance to catch a German. The German is in a dive, you follow him and here you have to act correctly. Give full throttle, and the screw, for a few seconds, "tighten" as much as possible. In these few seconds, the Lavochkin literally makes a leap. On this "dash" it was quite possible to get close to the German at a distance of fire. So they got closer and knocked down. But, if you missed this moment too, then really everything is not to catch up. In addition to the dive speed, the La-5 was inferior to the German fighters in terms of fire power, especially the Fokker. We were afraid of the Fokkers, because if he hits you successfully, the chances of staying alive are minimal. No joke, four guns. It is also not pleasant to go to the forehead, to the "Fokker". (I went in once, then I gave myself a vow never to do that again. I “watered”, you bastard, like from a watering can. It's good that the German had chickened me out earlier, turned me away.)

And what did the pilots call the German fighters among themselves?

"Messer" was called "thin", and "fokker" - "fokker".

In a maneuvering battle, in a "dump for dogs", which of the German fighters was considered more dangerous?

Yes, both are "not gifts", but "messer" was considered more dangerous. It was faster and more dynamic. The latest modifications of the Messer were almost equal in speed even with the La-7, and the La-5FN was superior.

When did the La-7s enter service with your regiment?

In the fall of 1944, we were already in Poland. I don't remember the month.

La-7 was better than La-5FN?

Certainly. He had significantly higher speed (50 kilometers) and rate of climb. Aerodynamically, the La-7 was more perfect than the La-5, in addition, the La-7 was lighter. Although in reliability, perhaps, the La-7 was slightly worse. At La-7, the oil cooler was moved from under the engine under the fuselage. This, firstly, complicated the oil cooling system, and secondly, when landing without a chassis, the oil cooler literally ripped off, which was not on the La-5.

Armament of La-7 - two or three cannons?

The armament is the same as on the La-5 - two ShVAK cannons. In terms of performance characteristics, the La-7 differed from the La-5FN for the better in that the La-7 was faster, was better on the vertical, accelerated better and had better radio communication. Otherwise, they were the same cars. La-7 surpassed all modifications of "Messers" and "Fokkers" (including the most recent ones) in horizontal speed and in almost all types of maneuvers, with the exception of dive speed. The Germans did not have a fighter, not only superior, but even equal in speed to the La-7.

So, as I understand it, according to the view from the cockpit, the La-7 did not have any advantages over the La-5FN?

None. And the engine was the same.

M-82 engine - resource, reliability?

The resource seems to be 200 hours. If the engine did not receive any damage, and the plane did not experience accidents, then the engine fully developed this resource. We had a rule that any breakdown accompanied by the breakage of the propeller - sat down "on the belly", "poked his nose" when braking, broke the chassis while taxiing or landing, chopping something while taxiing - necessarily requires a change of the motor, or rather a complete change of the propeller. motor group. It was explained simply, who knows what depth deformations the engine suffered as a result of such a shake-up? Therefore, in order not to risk, the propeller and the engine were changed. We had a case when a propeller came off in the air. But the pilot sat down successfully. Without a screw and chassis (on the belly). This plane was repaired, a new propeller was installed, but the engine was not changed. I even flew this plane. Everything is fine, but for some reason an army engineer ended up in our regiment and asked the question: "Where is the plane that the pilot landed without a propeller?" "Over there flies." "Have you replaced the engine?" "No". "Immediately!! Remove and replace the engine! " They took it off, replaced it. Then this issue was taken very seriously.

How often did the motors fail, if so, for what reason - wear and tear, poor maintenance?

Happened. Mainly due to combat damage. Sometimes they refused without combat damage. There were times when the oil pressure dropped unexpectedly. This was usually noted on engines that have exhausted most of their resource. Engines were changed frequently. The technical staff complained that it was a very dreary business to change the engine to the La-5. To remove it even more or less, but to put it on ... In the beginning it was like this - they mounted the motor mount on the airframe, and then the engine was installed on it. Then the design of the engine mount was changed, and it became possible to mount a motor mount on the engine, and then put everything “as a single unit” on the plane. The same is not easy, but still easier than it was. The M-82 had another unpleasant feature, on aerobatics, with a negative overload, it worked only 15-20 seconds. Then he stopped. Sometimes the pilot would “tighten” the hill, the engine would stop. But, a special launch mechanism was installed, just for such situations. I once had such a case (already on La-7, in peacetime), I activated this mechanism, and the engine started normally.

Maximum used engine mode - boost, rpm?

I don't remember anymore.

Time of engine operation at limiting modes (simply - when all the handles are up to the stop), what was the limit?

Everything was limited by the temperature of the cylinder heads - 220 ° С. If you managed not to exceed the temperature of the heads, i.e. do not overheat the engine, then on the "handles all the way", even if you spend the whole flight, nothing will happen. I had two difficult air battles, which I conducted just like this - the gas "all the way", the blinds were opened as much as possible, the screw made it as easy as possible, grabbed the handle with both hands and went to "write out" the "pretzel". And, until he left the battle, he did not take his second hand off the handle. And okay, nothing happened to the engine. And they did not shoot me down in these battles largely due to the fact that during the battle I was not distracted by anything in the cockpit. One fight, I remember 10-12 minutes, like this, at "full throttle", "spinning".

Was B-100 gasoline used? If so, did the engine operating modes change in the direction of increase?

I don't remember what kind of gasoline they used. But I also don’t remember that because of gasoline, the engine operating modes somehow changed.

How quickly did the engine wear out (lost power - not related to reliability)?

Everything depended on the intensity of sorties. And of course, by the end of the service life, the engine was losing power. Not much, but lost. If the engines overheated, then the engine was made "none" at all, it lost very much in power. They also tried to change such engines as quickly as possible. It was quite easy to overheat the engine, distracted, did not open the blinds in time and it was ready.

Was the combat survivability of the M-82 engine high?

Very much so. We had a case when on one of the cylinders of the first row, the head was literally demolished. And the pilot flew safely and sat down. Compared to the Yak's engine, the Lavochkin's engine was amazingly resistant to damage, so we flew to attack aircraft and bombed. The Yaks were not very good in terms of the attack. One bullet in the engine and that's it. "Gentle" was the engine on the "yaks", so we took the rap for them.

Screw: Was the pitch change management difficult?

No. There was a special lever, there were traction from it, nothing complicated. The setting of the step was guided by the amount of engine speed.

How reliably did wing mechanization work - slats, flaps?

The slats are normal, they are automatic, but the flaps ... Failures were quite frequent and almost all were caused by the hydraulic system. The hydraulic system had a large number of duralumin pipes. They often corroded from the inside and fistulas formed, the liquid naturally leaked out. It happens that you put the landing flaps "on release", but they are not released - the fluid has leaked. Then you sit down without them, at an increased speed. For an experienced pilot, it is not God knows how difficult it is, however, you "roll" then for a long time, for the entire length of the runway. For an inexperienced pilot, such a landing is a real problem. Young people sometimes "fought". Yes, and experienced "fought", from those who "lavochkin" did not properly master. As far as I know, it is for this reason - fluid leakage from the hydraulic system, which did not allow to withstand normal speed during landing - Twice Hero of the Soviet Union of Clubov , a pilot from Pokryshkin's regiment died ...

Judging by your words, slats were needed in battle. Those. were there such flight modes when slats were needed?

There were. Sometimes in such a sharp turn you will become that only one thought in your head: "Don't go into a tailspin!" The slats helped here.

What other feature of La-5FN that I have not asked about?

Chassis. The La-5 (and the La-7) had a very reliable and stable chassis. "Lavochkin" was very undemanding to the quality of airfields. He sat down and took off both in the mud and in the snow. Sometimes dirt almost knee-deep, but nothing, took off and landed successfully. On takeoff, we did this - we “loaded” the tail with the “handle”, as a result of which the front wheels “lifted” and “crawled out” of the mud or snow and walked along the “surface” itself. So, with a "loaded" tail and gaining speed until the wings "hold" will not begin. As we pick up speed, only then the tail was torn off. "Lavochkin" did this "trick" without much difficulty. At landing, they did this, at speed you walk "on the surface", then you remove the flaps, the wing immediately loses its lift and the plane falls sharply into mud or snow, to solid ground. And, nothing, runs on. Lavochkin's undemanding attitude to the quality of airfields was a very strong advantage. Sometimes, in autumn and spring, the shelves on the "aircobras" did not fly for weeks at all, the "cobra", in contrast to the "lavochkin", was very sensitive to the quality of the stripes. Therefore, in muddy roads, the "aircobras" could operate only from concrete strips. In addition, the engine was very reliably attached to the "benches", therefore it protected the cabin well during forced landings. They sat on bushes and trees. The wings were torn off, but the cockpit remained intact.

Did you have any problems with spare parts?

Mostly not. Spare parts arrived without interruption. However, due to the fact that the M-82 was prone to "oiling" and the subsequent burning of candles, candles were always in a certain deficit. The regiment engineer constantly carried a bag of candles and personally distributed them to the minders. For minders, accordingly, the top of skill was considered to be an extra heel of new candles to "lure out" from an engineer. The M-82 had one more drawback associated with oil. As the plane stood still, the oil began to accumulate in the lower cylinders. And before starting, we made sure to turn the screw to "squeeze out" this oil. And where is it squeezed out? That's right, on the belly, but on the wings. Then you start the engine, and the flame from the pipes ignites this oil. You used to stand like this, the engine sneezes, you burn on the sly, and everyone is looking at you - will the flame "blow out" or not? The instruction for these cases was that it was necessary to continue the launch. The engine will "spin" - the flame will blow off necessarily. But, sometimes it happened that the engine did not start and the plane burned down. Naturally. Once I had a case. We drove cars to the forward airfield. Most of the technical specialists have already gone there, so gunsmiths helped us in starting the engine. My gunsmith Anfisa helped me. The La-5 engine was started from an air cylinder. There it was necessary - after starting the engine, disconnect the hose and close the hatch. I instructed Anfisa, gave the key to unscrew the clutch. I started to start the engine, started up normally, I looked at Anfisa - a natural black woman, black, only the whites of her eyes sparkle. It turned out that at the time of scrolling, she was in front of the exhaust pipes and all this oil slurry - right in her face. "Spit" her "lavochkin". How I washed myself later (at a field airfield) - I don't know.

Terms of operation at the front, for how many sorties did the fighter last?

I have no such information.

What was the survivability of enemy fire?

There was no particular vitality, wood is wood, plywood is plywood. But, nevertheless, it was impossible to say that our plane was falling apart from one bullet. It happened more than once that the La-5 withstood hits and several large-caliber bullets.

<…> The maximum range of flights on the La-5?

I don't remember exactly the range, but I can name the duration - up to two hours. On La-7 - the same.


How did the pilots evaluate the Lavochkin in comparison with the Yaks and Aircobra?

At the Brig airfield, I witnessed interesting training battles. Then at this airfield there were several fighter regiments with different materiel, on "la", "yaks" and "aerocobras". The command showed us the Yak-3 fighter (one of the regiments was just re-equipped with it). At this show, the Yak was conducting a training air battle against the La-7 and P-39Q. Moreover, the best pilots were sitting in the cockpits (the command of each regiment tried, for these battles, to give the best fighter). La-7 with "yak" spun for a long time and parted with nothing. Completely equal machines turned out to be. But in the battle of the "aircobra" with the "yak", the "yak" of the "cobra" quickly went into the tail. I must say that the "yak", "la" and "cobra" were considered to be aircraft equal in terms of their performance characteristics. It was believed that the P-39, in comparison with Soviet aircraft, has the best take-off and landing characteristics (due to the chassis with a front strut), the best visibility, the best radio station and the most powerful armament, although in terms of dynamics and vertical maneuver, the Air Cobra was considered worse and "la" and "yaka". A bit heavy. In terms of speed, all these three fighters were considered equal.


When did you believe in victory that the "Fritz" would be chased?

From the first day of the war, we had no doubt that we would win. Although, it was very hard. The German is rushing to the Caucasus, the devil knows where they have taken us, we are trimmed, there is nothing to eat, the Allies do not open the Second Front (and we strongly hoped for the Second Front). But, either we were brought up in such a way that difficulties must be overcome, or because we lived one day, but did not doubt the victory. Well, then everything somehow began to "line up" - they got rid of the lice, they began to give out bed linen, the Germans were smashed at Stalingrad, the food was improved, then they defeated the Germans near Kursk, La-5 came to the school - here we realized that everything is the end of the Germans, we are winning. Here you ask me, write something. This surprises me, because I am not a hero, and there are no feats behind me. I'm lucky. I got to the front when our aviation was dominating. I flew excellent fighters, which were not only not inferior to enemy fighters, but even surpassed in some ways. In battle, I was covered by excellent experienced pilots, and experienced knowledgeable commanders led me into battle. I'm not a hero, I was just doing my job. The heroes were those who fought the Germans in 1941-43. It was they who broke the Luftwaffe, and it remains for me, so ... to finish the work begun. Just to finish, which I did as much as possible and strength. Therefore, I say that I am not a hero and there are no feats behind me.