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I-15bis. Combat Use.

Mikhail Maslov

Polikarpov I-15bis

Great Patriotic War 1941-1945

As of June 1, 1941, the following number of I-15bis was in the combat strength of the Red Army Air Force (in the numerator - the total number of aircraft, in the denominator - the number of faulty ones):

Air Force of the Leningrad Military District

2nd Composite Air Division

  • 65th SAP: 74/2 I-15bis, AE. Grivochki of the Air Force of the Baltic Military District

8th mixed air division

  • 31st IAP: 32/4 I-16, I-15bis, AE. Kovno
  • 61st ShAP: 80/5 I-153, I-15bis, AE Keidany 54th Mixed Air Division
  • 42nd IAP: 101/8 I-153, I-15bis, AE. Vilna
  • 49th IAP: 67/10 I-16, I-153, I-15bis, AE. Dvinsk

Air Force of the Western Special Military District 9th Mixed Air Division

  • 41st IAP: 22/4 I-16, I-15bis, AE. Bialystok, Seburchyn

10th Mixed Air Division

  • 74th ShAP: 62/2 I-153, I-15bis, AE. Pruzhany 11th Mixed Air Division
  • 122nd IAP: 71/11 I-16, I-15bis, AE. Lida
  • 127th IAP: 72/7 I-153, I-15bis, AE. Skidel, Lesice

12th Bomber Division

  • 215th BAP: 15/1 I-15bis, AE. Smolensk, Herbalists

43rd Fighter Air Division

  • 160th IAP: 66/5 I-153, I-15bis, AE. Balbasovo, Prongeevka

Separately - the 161st Reserve Aviation Regiment: 42/8 I-16, I-153, I-15bis, AE. Lepel Air Force of the Kiev Special Military District 14th Mixed Air Division

  • 89th IAP: 71/13 I-15bis, AE. Lutsk, Kolki 15th Mixed Air Division
  • 23rd IAP: 29/5 I-16, I-153, I-15bis, AE.Lvov, Adamy
  • 66th ShAP: 53/0 I-15bis, AE. Komarno, Kurowice

63rd Mixed Division (under formation)

  • 91st IAP: 69/11 I-153, I-15bis, AE. Dorogobych, Tiranovka
  • 165th IAP: 40/0 I-16, I-153, I-15bis, AE. Bereznitsa-Krulev, Khristianovka
  • 62nd ShAP: 72/7 I-153, I-15bis, AE. Stryi, Lisyanyche

Air Force of the Odessa Military District 21st Mixed Air Division

299th ShAP (under formation):

  • 29/0 I-153, I-15bis, AE. Odessa, Spartakovka

According to another summary table, the number of I-15bis in the military districts looked like this:

Polikarpov Biplane Fighters
Fighters
I-15bis
I-153 and I-15bis Attack Aircraft
Air Force of the Leningrad Military District 98/1 72/2
Air Force of the Baltic Military District 57/4 88/5
Air Force of the Western Special Military District 15/6 62/7
Air Force of the Kiev Special Military District 77/4 75/12
Air Force of the Odessa Military District 21/12 -
Total 268/27  

AE - Aviatsionnaya eskadril'ya - Aviation Squadron

IAP - Istrebitel'nyy aviatsionnyy polk - Fighter Aviation Regiment

GIAP - Gvardeyskiy istrebitel'nyy aviatsionnyy polk - Guards Fighter Aviation Regiment

ShAP - Shturmovoy aviatsionnyy polk - Aviation Regiment of Attack Aircraft

SAP - Smeshannyy aviapolk - Mixed Air Regiment

BAP - Bombardirovochnyy aviatsionnyy polk - Bomber Aviation Regiment

KBF - Krasnoznamennyy Baltiyskiy Flot - Red Banner Baltic Fleet

Judging by the figures given, there were not very many I-15bis in the border districts on the eve of the war. At least this figure is far from more than two thousand built copies. The reason for such a noticeable difference is the transfer of the aircraft to the category of obsolete, its use in flight schools and the focus on storage bases. I-15bis were not the main target of German aviation, however, starting from June 22, 1941, they shared the fate of many Soviet aircraft that died on airfields.

On the very first day of the war, in the 74th ShAP, all the materiel was destroyed, including 47 "encores". The Zvodi airfield was only 14 km from the state border, so the losses occurred not only from air raids, but also from artillery fire. At the Kurovice airfield, where units of the 164th and 66th regiments were based, the alarm sounded at dawn. The 164th IAP practically did not suffer during the first attack due to the rapid mobilization of the regiment's personnel. The pilots of the 66th Shap did not have time to quickly arrive at the airfield and disperse the planes. As a result of the raid, 34 vehicles were killed - mostly I - 15bis. The 62nd ShAP in the Kiev military district, which was considered one of the most trained formations, was badly damaged.

In the 127th IAP (commander Colonel Gordienko), the planes were dispersed and well camouflaged at the Lesice airfield. During June 22, the regiment carried out 180 sorties, the pilots reported 20 downed enemy aircraft.

There were many similar examples, although it is clear that only desperate pilots in the control of the "encore" could count on victory in a dogfight. It was in that summer of 1941 that both the aircraft themselves and their pilots began to be called "imps." Obsolete biplanes were used mainly for assault strikes against the advancing German troops. In the face of heavy losses and a lack of armored attack aircraft, the I-15bis, armed with bombs and RSs, turned out to be quite an effective combat weapon.

Good stability in flight and the need for small takeoff areas have led to the active use of "encores" at night. Among the 119 night aviation regiments formed in 1941, there were two I-15bis received from flight schools. According to the order of the commander of the Air Force of the Western Front, about 30 of these fighters were to be used during the day in difficult weather conditions and to cover airfields.

In May 1942, there were 72 I-15bis in the front-line aviation (of which 64 were operational). In July, the results of the combat operations of the Red Army Air Force for the first year of the war (starting from July 1941) were summed up. It turned out that in 6484 recorded sorties, 60 encores were lost, i.e. one loss was in 108 sorties. Such indicators turned out to be noticeably higher than those of the new Il-2 fighters and attack aircraft. Non-combat losses, i.e. as a result of accidents and disasters, amounted to only 11 aircraft.

Despite the increasing supply of new equipment to the troops, in 1943 the old biplanes, which had undergone more than one repair, continued their combat activities. On June 1, 1943, there were 32 I-15bis in the active army (mainly in the 7th and 4th air armies). In addition, during this period, up to 40 "encores" were part of the air defense rear formations and flight schools. For most of these machines, 1943 was the last year of practical use.

Black Sea I-15bis

According to the USSR Ministry of Defense, the Black Sea Fleet Air Force had 320 I-153s and I-15bis by the beginning of the war. These figures approximately correspond to the presence of fighter-biplanes, which the fleet aviation was to have in accordance with the plans for combat deployment - 387 units. The distribution in this case looked as follows: 8th IAP of the 62nd air brigade (Sevastopol) -

30 I-153 and I-15bis of the 32nd IAP of the 62nd Air Brigade (Simferopol)

- 70 I-153 and I-15bis of the 9th IAP of the 62nd Air Brigade (Chernomorskoye Village)

- 64 I-153 and I-15bis 87th UAE (Simferopol) - 45 I-153 96th UIA (Nikolaev) - 40 I-153 93rd UIA (Novorossiysk) - 70 I-153 and I-15bis.

However, naval data on the actual availability of vehicles look much more modest - 155 copies of the I-153 and I-15bis. There were 73 "Seagulls" - the rest were "encores". At the same time, 65 I-15bis were in service, 9 - in aircraft repair shops, 2 - in a warehouse, 6 - in ShMAS (school of junior aviation specialists).

The first to enter the war on the Black Sea coast were fighters of the 96th oiae, assigned to the Danube military flotilla, covering Izmail. In the middle of the day on June 22, 1941, three I-153s and 14 I-15bis of the 96th squadron under the command of Captain A.I. Korobitsin took off to intercept nine Romanian PZL P-37s (according to other sources, these were SM-79s). According to the reports of the pilots, they managed to shoot down five bombers.

The 96th squadron operated on the outskirts of Odessa until September 1941. In the same area, the I-15bis and the 9th IAP fought. On August 10, a pair of 9th IAP fighters covered the departure of the Kursk transport ship from Nikolaev. In the area of ​​the Dnieper-Bug Estuary, the ship was attacked by three Do215 bombers. One "Dornier" managed to knock out, the other dropped bombs at a great distance from the target. The pilot of the I-15bis, Lieutenant Cherevko, rammed the third enemy machine, after which he jumped out by parachute. On the same day, another ram on the I-15bis was made by the pilot of the 9th IAP V. Grek. On the opposite course, he crashed into Bf.109 and died.

The 87th squadron of the Azov Flotilla, which officially included the I-153, actively used the I-15bis in practice. On October 7, 1941, units of the 9th Army, retreating before the onslaught of German motorized units, passed Mariupol. All day long, enemy planes bombed the city, the railway station and the ships of the Azov flotilla. "Encores" of the 87th squadron repeatedly took off to repel raids. According to the report of the squadron commander, Captain G.I. Agafonov, on October 7 he shot down two Bf.110s and two Ju88s.

On October 28, 1941, a pair of I-15bis of the 87th air force bombed the airfield in Mariupol during aerial reconnaissance. In the ensuing air battle, they shot down VP09. Another couple of "encores" that day in the area of ​​​​the Berdyansk Spit attacked He 111 and announced its destruction. One of our planes did not return.

When operating from the Crimean airfields, I-15bis from the 62nd Air Brigade of the Black Sea Fleet Air Force actively participated in repelling the offensive of the German 11th Army on the Crimean Isthmus. Created in September 1941, a special air group at the Soviet airfield in Freidorf (hence the name of the air group - Freidorf) had up to 10-15 "encores", which were used as attack aircraft. Particularly successful were attacks on German columns on September 16 and 17, involving 12 I-15bis and 4 I-16s.

As of July 22, 1942, the 62nd Air Brigade of the Black Sea Fleet Air Force had 15 I-15bis (of which 4 were under repair). Another 10 I-15 bis were in the 87th air squadron. During the period of active hostilities from August 30, 1941 to June 21, 1942, in addition to the I-15bis, the 87th squadron had I-16, UT-1 and UT-2. In autumn, the number of combat-ready vehicles decreased. They were often used in pairs in separate operations. On October 24, 1942, during the night bombardment of the Maykop airfield, two I-15bis carried out 15 attacks on searchlights and destroyed three of the eight operating searchlights.

By 22 December, 1942, 20 I-15bis were listed as part of the 62nd IAP of the Air Force of the Black Sea Fleet (of which 9 were under repair). At the beginning of 1943, the Encores, together with the I-16, were used to cover watercraft at crossings, for reconnaissance, attack enemy troops, and support amphibious assaults. On February 5, seven I-15bis dropped 14 boxes of ammunition to the Novorossiysk landing force. On February 6, cargo was dropped by four I-15bis. On February 8, three I-15bis flew to supply the Crimean partisans.

At the same time, Soviet aviation was searching for and destroying enemy ships. On February 13, 1943, four I-15bis of the 62nd IAP at 17.48 local time discovered an enemy submarine in the Gelendzhik area. From a height of 100 m, 16 FAB-50 and 12 AO-25 were dropped onto the boat. According to the reports of the pilots, they observed an air bubble and an extensive oil slick at the dive site of the boat.

On April 26, 1943, two I-15bis of the 62nd IAP were searching for enemy torpedo boats. When returning in difficult weather conditions, one aircraft landed at the airfield in Krasnodar, the second landed on the water in the Gelendzhik region and sank.

On May 22, 1943, a pair of I-15bis, covering transports, fought an air battle with German aircraft in the Dzhugbi area. The pilots reported three enemy vehicles shot down. On May 23, four I-15bis searched for the crew of the downed MBR-2. One pair fought a dogfight with a pair of Bf 109s, one I-15bis was shot down.

During the summer, 10-12 I-15bis operated in the 62nd IAP. The main tasks remained to cover and escort transports and search for enemy ships. Attacks by enemy submarines were repeatedly noted.

In September, I-15bis participated in the operation to liberate the Taman Peninsula. Almost every night they flew out to destroy German gun emplacements and searchlights. On the night of September 22, 1943, 21 MBR-2s of the 119th air regiment and 18 I-15bis of the 62nd IAP bombarded the port of Taman. Two boats, an ammunition depot, several searchlights were destroyed.

In 1943, the military activity of the I-15bis ended. In 1944, aircraft were used to a limited extent for training flights.

I-15bis in the North

At the end of December 1939, to reinforce the aviation of the Northern Fleet, a squadron of I-16, I-153 and I-15bis, a squadron of SB was transferred from the Belarusian Military District. All these machines were part of the 72nd mixed aviation regiment, based at the Vaenga airfield in the Murmansk region. At the beginning of the war, the regiment had 11 SBs, 4 I-16s, 17 I-153s and 28 I-15bis. June 29, 1941 commander of the 72nd SAP Art. Lieutenant S.Uvarov shot down a Ju88 while repelling a massive German air raid on I-15bis.

In addition, in 1940, the I-15bis and I-16 entered the 145th and 147th IAP, belonging to the 1st mixed air division of the Air Force of the 14th combined arms army of the Leningrad Military District. In the middle of the year, all I-16s were concentrated in the 145th IAP, and all semi-torpedo fighters were transferred to the 147th IAP. Both regiments were based at the Shongui airfield until the start of hostilities. By the beginning of the war, the 145th IAP had 56 I-16s of various types, and the 147th IAP had 56 I-153s and I-15bis (“encores” were available in three squadrons).

Since the beginning of the war, the 147th IAP (regiment commander M.M. Golovnya) was engaged in repelling enemy air raids, and was involved in attacks on ground targets. After dispersing it to different airfields, one I-15bis squadron was lost as a result of a German air raid.

At the beginning of July 1941, the 65th assault aviation regiment consisting of 67 I-15bis (commander Major V.I. Belousov, Hero of the Soviet Union) arrived in the Air Force of the 7th Army, covering the Petrozavodsk direction. The most famous in this regiment was the squadron commander, Captain M.P. Krasnolutsky. Already on July 8, the eight "encores", led by Krasnolutsky, destroyed the bridge, blew up the ammunition depot, and destroyed the artillery battery. On August 12, 1941, during an assault on enemy infantry in the Pannila area, Krasnolutsky's seven encores were attacked by six Bf109s. In the ensuing air battle, Krasnolutsky rammed the enemy fighter with the lower wing and after that he was able to return to his airfield. On January 16, 1942, Major Krasnolutsky was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.

With the creation of the Karelian Front, the 65th ShAP became part of the 103rd Air Division. The combat activity of the regiment was assessed quite positively. According to combat reports, from the beginning of the war until March 1942, assault “encores” destroyed 25 tanks, 683 vehicles, 13 aircraft, and up to 3 enemy infantry regiments. For the heroism and courage shown in early March, the regiment was transformed into the 17th Guards Assault. From that moment on, the 17th Guards received Il-2 attack aircraft, and transferred the remaining I-15bis to the newly formed 828th hat under the command of Major Krasnolutsky. The newly arrived pilots had to retrain for a new type for them, because. before that, they flew the R-5 and U-2. By this time, the regiment already had more I-153 fighters. At dawn on September 1, 1942, 15 I-153s and 3 I-15bis of the 828th SAP attacked the Finnish airfield Girvas, where the Brewster Buffalo fighters were based. The strike group was covered by fighters of the 195th IAP. According to the reports of the pilots, the attack was successful, while in the ensuing air battle they managed to shoot down three Buffaloes.

When the 7th Air Army was formed in November 1942, the 828th ShAP became part of the 261st Assault Air Division. This division also included the 839th IAP, flying the I-153 and I-15bis. In February 1943, the regiment was transformed into the 839th Assault Regiment (commander P.I. Bogdanov).

In a limited composition, these regiments operated the old equipment during the entire 1943. Later, by 1944, they received Il-2 attack aircraft.

As part of the aviation of the Northern Fleet, I-15bis aircraft were used most often, mainly for auxiliary tasks.

In 1942, a Novaya Zemlya naval base was set up in Belushya Bay on Novaya Zemlya, with anchorages for ships, strongholds, observation and communication posts.

The ship's forces at the first stage consisted of 15 minesweepers and guards detached from the White Sea Flotilla. Air defense was conducted by a squadron of I-15bis and I-153 fighters of the 54th SAP and MBR-2 aircraft.

During 1942-1944. I-15bis from the 54th SAP constantly conducted air reconnaissance in the area of ​​the Novaya Zemlya base. So, on July 23, I-15bis, on the approach to Belushya Bay, discovered an enemy boat and dropped two FAB-50s on it. It is clear that it was impossible to destroy the boat with conventional high-explosive bombs, but even the frightening nature of actions with a lack of funds plays a positive role.

Based on Novaya Zemlya, several I-15bis and I-153s served until the end of hostilities. The last I-15bis No. 5387 from the 54th SAP was written off on October 1, 1945. On the same day, the last "seagull" - I-153 No. 8148 was written off.

I-15bis in the Baltic

In June 1941, the KBF Air Force included 38 I-15bis fighters. Almost all of the "Bises" of the Baltic Military District died in the first days of the war, the 65th ShAP from the Air Force of the LVO was redeployed to the north, so these naval aviation fighters mainly represented this type in the Leningrad region.

In the first period of hostilities, I-15bis were practically not indicated in combat reports. In January 1942, 8 I-15bis were part of the 71st IAP of the 61st air brigade. They were based at the Novaya Ladoga airfield, the main task was to cover the route through Lake Ladoga.

At the end of October 1942, the enemy attempted to capture Sukho Island on Lake Ladoga. On October 22, I-15bis of the 71st IAP participated in the defeat of the enemy landing. On this day, an air battle took place between five I-15bis and six Bf 109s. One Bf.109 was shot down, but we also lost two aircraft.

As of July 1, 1943, the KBF Air Force had eight I-15bis in the 25th United Arab Emirates at the airfield in Berngardovka and three I-15bis of the 7th training air squadron at the White Cross airfield. In addition, several I-15bis were part of the 10th Guards IAP (together with I-153). The nature of their hostilities consisted in sorties for free hunting along the roads, participation in counter-battery combat, and the fight against searchlights.

Conclusion

The combat activity of the I-15bis basically ended in 1943. During 1944, due to wear and tear, 343 “encores” were written off from the Air Force, another 7 vehicles were lost as a result of accidents and disasters. At the time of the end of hostilities, a small number of old half-planes were available in the Far East. In addition, one squadron of I-15bis (the number has not been established) in 1945 was in service with a few Mongolian Air Forces.

Bibliography

  • "Fighter I-15" /Michail Maslov/