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Nikolay Golodnikov and Airacobra

Andrey Sukhorukov's interview to Golodnikov


Nikolay Gerasimovich Golodnikov, Guard Lieutenant

- I started flying the Airacobra in November 1942. We received the first planes in Moscow. Collected and learned from them. These were P-39Qs, probably of the 1st or 2nd type, from the "English order". In yellow camouflage. They taught me seriously. Instructors, literature is very different. The retraining was done quickly, in five, six days. Then they drove us "cobras" or we took them in Krasnoyarsk, these were types Q-5, Q-10, Q-25, Q-30 and Q-35, These were already specially made for the USSR. We fought the entire war only on the "Q" series.

I liked Cobra. Especially Q-5. This was the best fighter of all those on which he fought. She was the lightest of the Cobras.


- What weapons were there, machine guns, cannons, sight?

- The first Cobras received in Moscow had a 20-mm Hispano-Suiza cannon and two Browning heavy machine guns, synchronized, under the hood.

Then came the "Cobras" with a 37-mm M-6 cannon and with four machine guns, two synchronized and two plane. The wing machine guns were removed immediately, so the weapons were - a cannon and two machine guns.

The Cobras had interesting reloading and cannon trigger mechanisms -. hydraulic. At first, in the "English version" of the "cobras", they had a lot of trouble with them, the "hydraulics" froze. Apparently, these "cobras" were intended for Africa, because the slurry thickened and clogged the holes in the hydraulic cylinders. So our craftsmen replaced the slurry with a domestic one and increased the holes in diameter. The recharge started working normally. However, on these "cobras" all "hydraulics" froze, not only recharge.

Machine guns were cocked mechanically, by hand, with a special handle. The breeches of machine guns went into the cockpit. The machine gun slopes were electric.

The sight was American. A very simple sight - a reflector and a reticle.

- If we compare the 20-mm cannon - "Hispano-suizu" and ShVAK - which one, in your opinion, is better?

- Ours. Undoubtedly. ShVAK was an order of magnitude or two more reliable. Hispano demanded an incredible quality of service. The slightest dustiness, thickening of the lubricant or some other trifle, and that's all - a failure. Very unreliable.

Our gun had better ballistics. Our cannon provided a more flat trajectory of fire, which means a lot when aiming. Here on "yaks" - there was no need for a sight, the track is almost straight, point and shoot, where the nose looks, and the shells will get there. ShVAK was faster. In terms of the power of the shells, these guns were approximately the same, in any case, there was no visible difference by eye.

- Did you need a 37-mm cannon, 37-mm - is the caliber big enough for a fighter? And the ammunition is too small. And yet, was the rate of fire not too small?

- This is not to say that 37 mm is a disadvantage, as well as the fact that 37 mm is an advantage. The M-4 had both advantages and disadvantages. The advantages had to be used, the disadvantages had to be compensated as much as possible.

What were the disadvantages.

1. Low rate of fire - 3 rds / sec.

2. The ballistics of the projectile is bad. A steep trajectory of the projectile, which required great lead, but this is again at long distances, especially in shooting at ground targets. On the ground, the lead had to be carried out two "rings" of the sight forward.

3. The ammunition is too small. Thirty shells.

All these drawbacks were leveled by the correct choice of the shooting distance. That's right - this is from 50-70 meters, then the rate of fire was enough, and the ballistics in this area was acceptable, and the lead should be minimal. So all of the above disadvantages of the 37 mm cannon manifested themselves only at long distances.

Now about the merits.

1. The shells are very powerful. Usually one hit to an enemy fighter and ... that's it! In addition, they fired not only at fighters. Bombers, watercraft. For these purposes, the 37 mm was very effective.

Case. Our torpedo boats were opened by a German convoy. Most have been hit in one way or another, but they leave. One boat was badly hit and could hardly pull. And to him the German "hunters". One came very close. Either he decided to finish off, or to take prisoner. There were eight of us then, my squadron commander Vitya Maksimovich, he left a couple a little earlier to reconnoitre the convoy, and I was the leader of the six. We hear the negotiations of the boats (boats, by the way, are American "Higgins"), the knocked down one says: "They are pushing!" My squadron commander to him: “Don't drift! Right now I have it! .. ”I went in and gave it with a 37-mm burst. This "hunter" blazed dearly! And then the six Me-109F, to cover the convoy and ensure the strike on our boats of the six FV-190 with bombs. Here I am with my six. The Fokkers walked lower, and the Messers were 500 meters higher. Spinned up ... I then built a good attack. Came in from the direction of the sun, with an excess and attacked with the whole six at the beginning "Messers". I knock down one, rush past them and immediately, continuing the attack, knock down the Fokker. And up again, like on a swing, in the sun. Oops! and I am above the Messers again! It turned out very well, "messers" scattering, "Fokkers" (throwing bombs into the sea) also in different directions. And again we are on top of them. Yes, we dispersed them then great.

Actually, in that battle he shot down three, but one of these three was shot at by another of our pilot, and this shot was recorded for him.

They did not have time to land yet, but from the wrecked boat they already reported on the radio that the same "cobra" shot down two "Messers", and the other lit the "hunter". Everything was in front of their eyes. Then Admiral Kuzmin, the commander of the torpedo boat brigade, expressed his personal gratitude to us. All the damaged boats returned to the base.

So one burst of several 37-mm shells was enough to set fire to or knock out a boat of the "sea hunter" type.

Another case. We flew on a "free hunt" in fours. I am the presenter. We came across a German tanker, "by eye" 3000-3500 tons. And, most importantly, unaccompanied! I command: "Navigate!" I went in, stormed, gave a good line, brought out 25 meters. He also fired, come on ... My wingman stormed, then the leader of the second pair, and the fourth one says: "It's burning, I don't see anything!" I told him: "Come out, don't bother." We look, goes to the shore, blazes with might and main. Arrived, we report: "They burned a tanker, three and a half thousand." And to us: "Why did you burn it there, only 38 shells were used up!" You, they say, are lying, but do not talk. 38 shells for 3.5 thousand! I told them: “Why is this not enough ?! There are 38 shells in this box! " At first everyone laughed, and then our intelligence agents gave information that on such and such a number, a German burning tanker, 3,500, was thrown out there. Everything was confirmed. That's it - 38 37-mm shells destroyed a ship of 3.5 thousand tons!

2. The M-4 was a very reliable gun. If this gun had failures, it was only through the fault of completely unqualified service.


- How do you think the engine on the R-39 is not weak? They say that it was unreliable, didn’t work out the resource in the prescribed 120 hours, and did it sometimes “shoot” with connecting rods?

- The engine was Allison. Powerful, but ... unreliable, especially on the first types - Q-1, Q-2. They had a weaker engine. After the first 3-4 battles, all ten "cobras" "got up" in our country, their engines were out of order.

These first "Allison" and half of the resource did not develop. Hours 50 - this was his limit, often even less. Usually 10-15 flights, if with a fight. Wedge, melted bearings. I myself had such a case. "Without the engine" sat down. The engines were closely monitored. As soon as a little shavings appear in the oil, the engine was changed. There were many spare engines, but they did not always have time to deliver them. It used to be that engines were carried to Li-2, 4 units each. on the plane, there was such a need for new engines. But all the same, despite the control, there were jamming. True, the engine did not "shoot" with connecting rods, this was not on ours. On the "fives" and beyond, the engines were already more powerful and reliable. The altitude of the engine was 8 thousand, and neither we nor the Germans flew higher

About the afterburner. In principle, the revolutions were regulated by the usual "gas". On the "Cobras" there were two boost modes, "economical" and "combat mode", which was characterized by increased boost. The mode switch in the cockpit stood and was controlled by the pilot. Combat mode also had a switch for what we called "51mm and 57mm boost". If the flight was on Soviet B-95 gasoline, then the "combat mode" was set to 51 mm, if on the American B-100 - 57 mm. This switch was not controlled by the pilot, although it was in the cockpit, on the gas sector. The position of the switch of the "combat mode" value was countered by a wire, which was easily torn off by pressing.

Since I feel, I do not hold out (and I had to be higher than the Germans), I think: "Yes, to hell with him!" And then I felt what "57" is! How I jumped out! The Germans saw me from above and immediately down, and this was what we needed.

American gasoline was better than ours, not much, but better. Our anti-knock properties were increased due to the addition of tetraethyl lead. You will make two or three flights, and the mechanic must clean the lead from the electrodes of the candles. If he misses the moment, then a lead ball formed between the electrodes. But this was not a particular problem, usually after each departure the candles were cleaned. It's fast. But this was not the case with American gasoline. Either they initially used a higher octane base and added less "lead", or increased the octane number with benzene. Probably benzene after all. Because our gasoline was pink and American blue.

However, Allison drove the shavings on any gasoline. In reality, "Allison" full resource, and this is 100 hours, began to be produced only in 1944. This has already gone Q-25-30. But then the intensity of air battles had already dropped, and most importantly, these types began to feel a lack of thrust-to-weight ratio, so we removed the wing machine guns. A lot of weight, they slow down strongly, but in battle they are a little useless.

From modification to modification, the "Cobra" seemed to improve in design, but this led to a constant increase in weight, which was not even compensated for by the increased engine power. R-63 "Kingcobra" was generally an "iron". I flew on it after the war (thank God!). The most powerful in terms of thrust-to-weight ratio were types from Q-2 to the first Q-10, and then the thrust-to-weight ratio began to fall. Again, starting with the "dozen", the propellers went with a combined "gas-step" system, and this also does not increase survivability in battle.

- How much fuel did you have?

- If you hang the 175 gallon center tank, that's enough for 6 hours of flight.

- According to the literature, the "cobra" had the following disadvantages: 1. Unreliable engine. 2. "Weak" tail. 3. "Cobra" hit the jumping pilot with the stabilizer. 4. Due to the rear centering, it easily entered and badly exited the inverted corkscrew. You already mentioned the engine, but what about the others?

- I can't say anything about the "weak tail". Everything was fine with us.

The fact that "beat the stabilizer", then here it was necessary to follow certain rules. First: never open both doors, but only one. If you open one door, then just stick your head out - you will be sucked out by a stream of air, and if you open two, you will get out of this cabin. Second: curl your legs.

The centering of the "Cobra" was extremely rearward. They even had two 10 kg lead weights in the front part to unload the tail. Sometimes this alignment created problems, with the same flat and inverted spin. Again, you can't load an empty back while flying. We somehow tried, spanked. As "on the awl" you fly. Then they became experienced, they loaded everything into the front part.

The "cobra" also had disadvantages.

Rear bulletproof glass fell out. It was heavy, 12 kilograms, attached with a special pin. On abrupt evolutions, the pin could not withstand, and the glass fell out, however, and it was put easily.

And there was one more drawback: at high speed it squeezed out the window on the left door (there was no window on the right), and this piece of glass beat the pilot in the face with gigantic force. We had two cases, the pilots were killed.

Another drawback. The tube to the oxygen mask was racing and not corrugated, smooth. It was not very good, because when you constantly put on and take off the mask, it twists and can bend, at the most inopportune moment you suffocate. We had such a case, the pilot lost consciousness, thank God, not for long, he managed to wake up in the air.

The "English" "cobras" had disgusting heating. Their cabin was heated by a stove, like on a Zaporozhets, with such an electric spark plug and a petrol system. The phonil candle is scary. Turn on the stove - there is a crackle in the headphones, turn it off - you freeze. I froze my hands in this cabin.

On Q-5 and subsequent ones, already powerful heaters were installed, from the engine, there were no problems with heating.

- Was there a photo control?

- At the end of the war, only on "cobras".

- Could the Cobra withstand the Me-109G and FV-190 in air combat?

- "Cobra", especially the Q-5, was in no way inferior, and even surpassed all German fighters.

I flew more than 100 combat missions on the Cobra, including 30 reconnaissance missions, and conducted 17 air battles. And the "Cobra" was not inferior either in speed, or in acceleration dynamics, or in vertical and horizontal maneuverability. The fighter was very balanced. She showed herself very well with us. Apparently, it all depended on what you wanted to get. Either you shoot down the "Messer-Fokkers", or you have "Allison" working out 120 hours. About the speed of the Cobra and Messer. I had a Q-25 Cobra with cameras for reconnaissance. The planned AFA-Zs and two promising AFA-21s were behind the engine. I easily left the Me-109G group on it, albeit with a decrease. Maybe a single "messer" would have competed with me, but he left the group.

- What can you say comparing the "cobra" and domestic cars?

- If we talk about domestic fighters, then we need to clarify, see what and when.

I have already spoken about the I-16. From other aircraft of the first half of the war, I flew LaGG-3 and MiG-1. I started flying on the lagge in 1941, when I was still in school. Heavy, even lightweight. The troops immediately disliked him. The engine was weak for such a glider. I did not conduct air battles on it. On the MiG-1, I began to fly to the regiment, we had three of them. They stood a lot due to the unreliability of the engine. As a former instructor, I had to fly on one of them. They were without slats with three machine guns. Was a little unstable. But he also had merits. He had an excellent glider, the effort on the rudders needed little. It was comfortable. The view from the cockpit is very good. I reacted to the commands instantly. The supercharger was standing. “Above 4 thousand, the plane is God,” Pokryshkin said correctly about the “moment”. The M-35 engine let him down. Terribly unreliable, very raw. Rule: if the engine drives at high revs in flight, then either on the next one, or through one engine it will become.

I myself once chased a high-altitude reconnaissance officer, it would be about to open fire, then the engine died. Sit down already "without an engine." The instructing skills helped. It turned out to have cut off the timing gear. After this accident, our "Migi" flights were banned. I made three or four flights at the "instant", did not conduct air battles.

As for the yak and la fighters. I have not experienced any complexes about Soviet fighters. We had very nice cars. I flew most of the yaks right after the war, so I could compare. No, ours were no worse than the Cobra.

In terms of aerodynamics and thrust-to-weight ratio, the Yakovlev machines were at the highest level, however, at the ultimate strength.

It's a pity, we couldn't fly La-5 and La-7, but I flew La-9 and La-11, so I could appreciate the class "la". High class, I especially liked La-9.

I had to conduct training battles on the "Cobra" with the Yak-1. He spent three and in all three "yaku" went into the tail. But here everything was decided by my skill. As a pilot, I was better. I have a lot of experience, I felt my fighter. And there the guys are young. If I were on the "yak", and they were on the "Cobra", I would have done them anyway. Then the division commander told me: “What are you doing, let the guys believe that their plane is also good! They don't understand why you won! "

Neither the yaks nor the lavochkin were inferior to the Messers and Fokkers in terms of speed, acceleration dynamics, and maneuverability. At high altitudes, the superiority in speed of German vehicles was 10-20 kilometers per hour, but this difference is not such as to ensure overwhelming superiority, in battle it is practically not felt.

«Messer» and «Fokker»

— How do you assess the German fighters - Me-109E, F, G and FV-190?

- The Germans had good fighters. Powerful, fast, damage-resistant, maneuverable. As for the Me-109E, I can say that in terms of its performance characteristics it corresponded to the 28th and 29th types of the I-16, surpassed all the early types of the I-16 and "harricane", was inferior to the Yak-1, P-40 and P-39. According to pilots from 20 IAP, the Yak-1 was superior to the E in all respects. This fighter became old by 1942, although in our North they used it almost until the beginning of 1943, and then they were somehow quickly removed, in one or two weeks. Apparently, they began to suffer very serious losses. Then we met only Me-109F, Me-109G and FV-190.

Me-109F was superior to "E" by an order of magnitude, was more modern. An incredibly dynamic machine with good speed and vertical maneuverability. It is worse on the horizontal. It was armed with a medium - 20-mm cannon and two machine guns. In terms of the sum of its characteristics, it undoubtedly surpassed all types of I-16 and "harrikein", the Yak-1 and P-40 were equal to it, and the P-39 was slightly inferior.

The Me-109G was a strong machine, high-speed and very good on the vertical, was not bad on the horizontal, but it appeared late, only in 1943, when all our regiments were already re-equipped with modern technology. In terms of the amount of performance characteristics, our main fighters - Yak-16 (7b, 9), La-5 (7) and R-39 "Airacobra" - were on an equal footing with him, and the P-40 "kittyhawk" - a little worse.

The Fokker was also a strong and high-speed machine, but as a fighter it was inferior to the Me-109G, it accelerated not so fast (the “forehead” was large) and was worse on the vertical. As for the acceleration dynamics, the Fokker was really weak, in this it was inferior to almost all our machines, perhaps, except for the P-40, the P-40 was equal to it in this respect. The Fokker was very powerful, so it was often used as a strike aircraft, it allowed the suspension of bombs. The Fokker's engine was much more reliable and more resistant to damage than the Messer's, that's a fact. If the Fokker lost two cylinders, it still flew. Although increased reliability and resistance to damage is characteristic of all radial engines compared to in-line ones. Here, the Germans still did not reach the level of our engines, our I-16 and La-5 could lose four cylinders, and still you could fly home, for the Fokker the loss of two cylinders was the limit.

Because of the radial engine, the German pilots on the Fokkers loved to walk in the front, especially at first, they covered themselves with the engine, and its armament is very powerful - 4 20-mm cannons and 2 machine guns. Knowing that your car will withstand a couple of hits, and you will smash the enemy in one burst, this gives you great confidence in a frontal attack. However, soon the Germans began to go head-on on the "cobras" with great apprehension, it was felt. We have a 37-mm cannon, no engine will help here, one hit and that's it. In this situation, for the frontal one must have strong nerves, here the engine is not an assistant. And our nerves were stronger than the German ones.

I had a case. We met on the head-on with four Fokkers. Four against four. And it so happened that during the turn, my wingman was in front of me. I told him: "Come on, you are ahead, I cover you!" And he beat the leading Fokker head-on with a cannon. Hit with one, maybe even two shells. The Fokker exploded. Apart. The remaining three were scattered right there, and only we saw them. The whole thing took a few seconds.

The Fokker dived also very well, this was a common property of German cars.

I must say that the Me-109G and FV-190 carried very powerful onboard weapons, five and six firing points, respectively, mostly cannon. This was a very strong point of the German cars.

- And yet, in your opinion, why didn't FV-190 "go" on the Eastern Front? According to the reviews of the Soviet pilots - a good fighter, but nothing more, and yet on the Western Front, the Fokker made a splash.

- That's right, the fighter is strong, at the "level", but in terms of combat qualities it did not represent anything unique. In general, I got the impression that the Germans expected a lot from this aircraft, but they clearly overestimated it, overestimated its characteristics.

For example, who inspired the idea that "Cobra" is inferior to "Fokker" in speed? And that was. At first, the Germans were so very confident in their superiority in speed, and it often happened that the Fokkers, after the attack, tried to escape from us in afterburner. You catch up with him and start "watering" from above. He "smokes", "puffs", but he cannot tear himself away. We quickly disaccustomed the Germans to rely only on the afterburner. Then it became the rule for the Fokkers - getting out of the attack and getting out of the blow only with a steep dive, and nothing else.

On the vertical, the "Fokker" was also inferior to the "Cobra", although at first they tried to fight with us on the verticals. We also quickly weaned ourselves off. And I also don't understand why they decided that the Fokker Cobra would outperform on the vertical?

The dynamics of acceleration was the weak point of the Fokker, perhaps the weakest point. Then they tried to build a maneuver on the Fokkers so as not to lose speed. A protracted maneuvering fight on a Fokker against a Yak, Lavochkin or Cobra - a loss from the very beginning. Lost speed, that's all. Until you dial on a new one, they can shoot down more than once. Our cars were very dynamic.

- You told everything very well, but still did not explain the main thing, why the "Fokker" was not the "magic wand" for the Eastern Front, which it turned out to be in the Western Front? Here is what James "Johnny" Johnson (British ace N3 1 of World War II) writes in his memoirs: "... When the flight control officer informed me that a group of enemy fighters was seen ahead, I tried to avoid a fight if only the sun and the height did not give us a chance for a surprise attack. The superiority of the Focke-Wulfs over the Spitfires was too great in the spring of 1943— "(I quote from: James E. Johnson." Best English Ace ". M.," ACT ", 2002); But Johnson flew a Spitfire-Vb, a machine that in the West was unambiguously considered better than the P-40, and perhaps even better than the P-39.

- Here, probably, the answer lies in the difference in the use of "Fokker". Here the Germans used the Fokker as a front-line fighter and fighter-bomber, and in the West as an interceptor. Apparently, the whole thing was in the radar support. In the West, the "Fokkers" were directed by the radar, i.e. by the time of combat contact, the Fokkers managed to gain speed and gain superiority in height, the low dynamics of the Fokker did not play a special role in this case, it simply translated height into speed. And the Germans apparently fought less protracted maneuvering battles.

On our front, the Germans did not have such a density of radar support as in the West. Both we and the Germans mainly detected the enemy visually. You fly and look, you saw - "full throttle" and into battle. In the absence of radar guidance to reach the maximum speed as soon as possible, the acceleration dynamics played a leading role, and the dynamics of the Fokker were mediocre.

- You constantly say that the main Soviet fighters "yak" and "la" were equal to the German ones in speed, although according to the reference data, German cars always have a superiority in speed. How do you explain this difference between reference and practical data?

- You know, in battle you don't really look at the devices, there and without it you can see whether your car is inferior in speed or not. That is why I assert that the "cobras", "yaks" and "la" were not inferior in speed to the German planes.

You see, you are making a mistake common to all people far from combat aviation. You are confusing two concepts: maximum speed and combat speed. The maximum speed is measured under ideal conditions: level flight, strictly specified altitude, calculated engine speed, etc.

Combat speed is the range of maximum possible speeds that an aircraft can develop to conduct an active maneuverable air battle, with all the types of combat maneuvers accompanying such a battle.

When I speak to you about speed, I mean combat, I am fighting on it, and the maximum is for me - "insofar as".

If you need to catch up? Well, I caught up, and then what? If you overclocked very much, then you still need to drop the speed, otherwise you will slip through. And when shooting at a very high speed, hitting is problematic. More precisely, I will get to hit, but whether the number of hits will be sufficient is a question. Here it is like this: caught up - threw the speed up - shot - the gas and again gained speed. And the ability of an engine to accelerate and decelerate an aircraft in the shortest possible time is called throttle response.

Many believe that if an aircraft has a high maximum speed, then its combat speed will be as high as possible, but this is not the case. It so happens that when comparing two types of fighters, one of them has a higher maximum speed, and the other has a higher combat speed. The combat speed is significantly influenced by factors such as engine throttle response and thrust-to-weight ratio. These are the factors that ensure maximum acceleration dynamics.

You don't have to go far for an example. We had such a LaGG-3 fighter. I flew it. So, in 1941 his speed was higher than that of the Yak-1. And over the "yak" he had several undeniable advantages, in addition to the fact that he was faster. The Lugg was more durable and burned worse due to the fact that it was made of delta wood. In addition, the Lugg was more heavily armed. And what? Ask any pilot who fought in the war: "Which of the two fighters, Yak or Lagg, would you prefer?" - he will probably answer that "yak". Why? Because the yak was a very dynamic machine, its throttle response was high, and the lagg was a very dumb, iron. The Lugg was much heavier than the Yak, and therefore more inert. And the maximum speed of the "lagg" was higher because aerodynamically the LaGG-3 is a very "clean" car, if you "fire up" it in a straight line - it rushes great. Now, if you lost speed, then that's all, it's very difficult to dial on a new one. And in order not to lose speed in battle, you need to "be more sophisticated" - to dive, to build a combat maneuver and attack in such a way as to maintain speed as much as possible, and so on. And the efforts on the steering wheels on the "lagge" had to be applied decently.

The "yak" had only two advantages over the "lag", but what are they! - excellent throttle response and ease of control. "Yak" was gaining lost speed very easily, "full throttle", and enough. And there is no need to dive, the yak picked up speed while pitching up. "Yak", plus everything, and was controlled much easier than "lagga" - on the one hand, it was stable, and on the other, with minimal effort on the rudders, reacted instantly to the slightest deviation.

I only flew on LaGG-3, did not fight, but now, from the height of my combat experience, I can say that LaGG-3 was a good fighter, in terms of performance characteristics it is quite comparable to the P-40, but on equal terms to fight with " Messer "on it could only be experienced, perfectly mastered the technique (especially the operation of the engine) and tactically competent pilot. An inexperienced or insufficiently trained pilot (and we had a lot of such pilots at the beginning of the war) at the Lagga could not oppose anything to the Messer. He just didn't know how to take advantage of the strengths of his machine. The Yak gave such a pilot a much better chance of survival. Yes, and an experienced pilot on the "yak" felt much more confident, about the speed lost in battle, "his head ached less."

Another example - I-16 type 28 and Me-109E - the maximum speed of the Messer is higher, and the combat speeds of these fighters are practically the same. And if we compare the 28th type of the I-16 with the "harrikein", then the "harrikein" has a higher maximum speed, and the combat speed is higher in the I-16. The Hurricane was a very dumb fighter.

You must understand, according to reference data, comparing the combat qualities of aircraft is a wrong and ungrateful business, too many nuances cannot be taken into account.


— Nowadays there is a popular opinion that the yak was produced only because Yakovlev was “well-known” to Stalin, was his main consultant in aircraft construction, which he used, and his fighter was mediocre in itself. How do you think?

- Not true, yaks were great machines. I myself flew on them, and I knew many excellent pilots who fought on "yaks", they spoke very well of them.

You see, "yaks" are unique in this - they are fighters with a very high combat speed. Yakovlev initially made a fighter not just with a high maximum speed (as the aircraft designers tried to do then), but with a high combat speed. I don’t know whether it was intentionally conceived or happened by accident, but the "yak" turned out just like that. And throughout the war, the "yak" improved primarily in the direction of increasing combat speed.

You see, if you take German vehicles, there are "Messer" or "Fokker", then their combat speed was lower than the maximum by 80-100 km / h. As far as I know, then British and American aircraft had the same speed difference. And this ratio of speeds for Western cars remained throughout the war. For "yaks" this difference was 60-70 kilometers, and in the second half of the war and less. The Yaks were the most dynamic and lightest fighters in the Soviet Air Force, and therefore are very good at vertical. Throughout the war, an ordinary, average, well-trained pilot on "yaks" fought the "Messers" on equal terms. And already at the beginning of the war, the "yak" was the dream of any pilot.

I'm not even talking about the Yak-3, which appeared in 1944, which was a unique fighter in terms of acceleration dynamics and thrust-to-weight ratio, and therefore in terms of combat speed. His difference between combat and maximum speeds was 40-50 kilometers. Probably, at that time, no country in the world had a fighter that could compete with it in terms of combat speed. The throttle response of the Yak-3 was amazing, and its maximum speed was not small, although it was not the fastest fighter in the world. Not the fastest, but in battle he caught up with any enemy in almost any kind of maneuver.

In addition, yaks were simple and cheap to manufacture, which allowed them to be produced in very large quantities. You see, if there is a good fighter, but it cannot be produced in the quantities required in the war, then this is no longer a very good fighter. The simplicity and low cost of a combat aircraft to manufacture is almost as important a quality for war as its speed or maneuverability.

Is the weaponry weak? If you know how to shoot, then two points are quite enough (I know, I myself used two large-caliber machine guns on the P-40), but if you don't know how to shoot, you will miss five, like the Messer. And to put extra weapons - to make the car heavier. Again, there are extra costs in production.

In addition, I must say that by the second half of the war we had a certain specialization in the use of fighters. For example, when fighters were assigned to cover the bombers, the "battle group" consisted of "aircobras" or "la", and the "yaks" were assigned to the direct cover group. It was correct.

The "battle group" engages and wages a battle with enemy fighters, therefore it is desirable for them to have a higher engine altitude - to approach the battle site with a margin of altitude, and the weapons are more powerful, the first attack is sudden and therefore the most effective. And the cars in this group are better to have heavier - on a dive it will be easier to catch up with the Germans. It was these requirements that both "la" and "aerocobra" met.

In a group of direct cover, it is better to have vehicles that are more dynamic and lighter, with a good "vertical" - they spin around the "bombers", repel those who managed to break away from the "battle group". The Yaks were just such machines. Another thing is that in the direct cover group the chance to shoot down someone is much less than in the "battle group", so the pilots of the "yaks" were constantly dissatisfied with this "specialization", but here it was "to each his own."


  • I fought in a fighter / Artem Drabkin /