Aviation of World War II

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Arkady Kovachevich and P-39

Oleg Smyslov's interview to Arkady Kovachevich

Arkady Fedorovich Kovachevich, Guard Major

With the beginning of the Great Patriotic War in the army. In total, he made 520 successful combat missions, participating in 150 air battles personally shot down 26 and in a group of 6 enemy aircraft.

- Tell me, what, in your opinion, was the best fighter you have flown?

- La-7, - he answers without hesitation.

- So the "aircobra" was worse?

- There were many shortcomings in the "Aircobra". I told the Americans. They were offended and asked: what do you dislike about "cobra"? No, she's good, she's intelligent. But, of course, La-7 is better. The last thing I fought on. I fought on it for a year. What flaws did she have?

Firstly, the engine is very weak, that is, the power-to-weight ratio is weak. Secondly, her front wheel was made somehow in a rustic way. The fuselage ... And here is such a (shows) crap sticking out. For us, this chassis - the front leg - was a pain. The Americans and the British themselves, when they came to our regiment and saw us take off from the potato field, were horrified. They led us there, iron rails, and they sat us down. Well, there are pits in the same place. We are given the order to take off on a mission, and here is the French delegation. We also sat down. When they taxied, they say: "They need stripes." The metal strips that you give us, they are already three hundred kilometers behind us. They also need to be disassembled, stored and brought. And we go on and on. So we sit down on the "Gulyaypole".

By the way, in the study of the average service life of Soviet aircraft, conducted in the post-war period, for some reason, without taking into account the La-7, it was noted that in terms of service life in days, the leading place was occupied by LaGG-3 (158 days), the second Yak-1 (145 days) and the third "Airacobra" (139 days). On the other hand, in terms of service life in hours, the leading place was occupied by the "aircobra" (78.2 hours), and in terms of flight hours per day it was also (0.56). According to these criteria, LaGG-3 ranked second (62 and 0.39), and Yak-1 third (55.6 and 0.38).

- Have you been shot down at least once?

- The fighters shot me down once. Well, it's my own fault. I screwed up this case.

- Have you gone behind?

- From the bottom to the back. I had a group of 16 Cobras. They called urgently. I saw that a couple of Messers passed along the horizon. They accelerated speed, made a U-turn and again accelerated speed and again made a U-turn. That is, the "rocking chair" is. My transmitter has failed. While he was still working, I told the deputy: "Take control, I will only be at the reception." Everything seems to be normal. 16 pieces. And in this place ... - Arkady Fyodorovich points to a spread in his drawing. - When it was already necessary to turn around, me from below: "Boo-boo!" I just looked - he rolled over under me. I see these are the crosses. But at first I did not understand what I had there. The radio station is not working. Slave shakes: "Go away!" We were at a depth of about 30-40 km. I looked back: black smoke. I went home slowly. Somewhere in the middle, the control failed. I started to hold the car with trimmers. I went up and looked, big Tokmak, Tokmachka river. It's just above the front line. Big Tokmak, and here (shows) you can already jump. Height of one thousand two and a half. I jumped out and was carried to the factory. I think if I sit there, I'll break my legs. But he began to pull up and escaped. He sat down behind the river. So I sat down, and the soldiers began to process me. And along the ribs and butts. And I am in a leather jacket, leather trousers, and there (shows) a tunic.

And then they told me: "Take it off!" I say, "What are you doing?" Then swear words. And they told me: "You all know how to swear!" And under my ribs. When they began to take off my jacket, and I had major shoulder straps on my tunic, a star, three Orders of the Red Banner. "Oh, Comrade Major, I'm sorry!" - "How can I excuse you when you broke all my ribs."

- Did they take you for a German?

- And so they all. After all, the infantry hit no difference. Soviet, German ... I then assembled the parachute, the jeep drove up. "Comrade Major, we are after you!" I say: "Thank you!"

There was an ambush airfield. They took me there. And the regiment commander says: "After all, you are an ace, and you were shot down?" I say: "Didn't they knock you down?"

We fed, well received. We went to bed. And in the morning I can't put my boots on. Hit the stabilizer. In the morning, Po-2 arrived early to pick me up. I flew to my airfield, the dome was dismissed, and I have 64 holes there. Our soldiers were training. And I say: "What if one of them hit?"

About downed planes

What do you think about the huge number of aircraft shot down by German aces?

- This is what I think, - the general answered me. - We, of course, suffered huge losses. Even this can not be said. Stalingrad alone showed what. A full regiment arrives - two squadrons. It lasts for three days. Three days - no regiment. The commissar put the banner on his shoulder, and let's go ... In other areas, in other places, in other operations - the same picture. But if you take a pencil and count ...

1943. First. Soviet aviation already dominated. And such simple strikes that they inflicted in 1941 against R-5, TB-3, I-15, I-16, etc. This was no longer there. We must reckon with this.

Second. 1,110 sorties as Hartman is ordered. Well, excuse me, please. During the entire war, I made 500 flights, 520. This is taking into account the Moscow zone, when there are two flights every night, and five flights in the daytime. Could he have made 1110 sorties from 1943 to 1945? After all, he ended up in Siberia.

Therefore, the third.

I looked at his list of victories. He shot down where there were no planes on which he fought on the front. Where he fought, these planes were not there. He has recorded LaGG-3, some others, but they were not there. Don't gaps. When I am asked a question about Hartman, I say: “You know, by this time we have not yet learned to lie” . As for the victories, we won. We shot down as many as we needed to win. By the way, I have a book somewhere. One of the German generals, analyzing the war in general, and the air war in particular, says that "we suffered defeats because the Russians won air supremacy."

After Hartman A.F. Kovachevich got down to talking about his 9th Guards Regiment.

- Here you understand what the matter is. When you look at the 9th Guards Regiment from the side, it seems that the regiment is like a regiment. But when we were gathered, these guys who shot down ten or more planes, we studied the tactics of the Germans, developed our own tactics, worked it all out and came to the front differently. We were completely different. It was not for nothing that Richtofen issued an order: “Fighters appeared at the front, with which I forbid to engage in battle. Only if you have a quantitative and tactical superiority can you join the battle ". And we received this confirmation when the Germans opened an air bridge to save this encircled group of Paulus. The fighters themselves did not climb, no one approached. We are hitting the Ju-52, well, at least one would come up. And they walk, a couple, fours.

- So you think that all these German aces and their victories are pure propaganda?

- Of course. In 1944, we shot down a pilot in the Crimea, where there was a directive from Goebbels: "It is not deserved to stop propaganda and praise of the German pilots." Hitler received Hartman, arranged a wedding.

- Tell me, Arkady Fedorovich, why did Pokryshkin believe in German victories? Is there any confirmation of this?

- You see, the losses of the German Air Force and the Soviet Air Force are almost equal. We only have no more combat losses. Why? I resent this. There were divisions, groups of the RGVK - there were pilots who were supposed to come to the front and make the sky blue. They came to the formation, etc.

But statistics, both German and ours, indicate that we have lost so many aircraft in battle, the Germans have lost so many. But the question is this. The Germans always had fewer planes. We had more. Although at Stalingrad by September 30, the ratio of forces was one to five. I remember September 18th. We were raised by the commander of the Air Force. Mass flight of fighters. Eighteen planes took off, we came to Stalingrad, and, thank God, there were no Germans there. Otherwise it would have been ...

According to statistics, the Germans lost the same amount, but not so much, but less than we did.

- And what other evaluation criteria can be used in this topic, so that it would be possible to quite accurately say whether the Germans could shoot down 200 and 300 or not?

- Here the criteria can be as follows: the number of aircraft produced by the industry, theirs and ours; the number of losses of these aircraft by them and by us, while it is necessary to look - the losses are combat or not!

Because they also have a lot of non-combat losses. These indicators should be watched.

After meeting with Arkady Fedorovich, I decided to clarify whether there were "lags" where Hartman fought.

According to the flight book of this German ace, he shot down 6 LaGG-3s (in February - 1, in April - 3, in May - 2).

And it could well, because the 88th Fighter Aviation Regiment of the 4th Air Army of the North Caucasian Front worked on this type of fighter in June 1943.


  • "Aces against aces" / Smyslov Oleg Sergeevich /