Conversations with N. G. Golodnikov
I-16 and Hurricane
translation by James F.
N. G. Golodnikov - the student of the Ejsk
Navy Pilots Flight School.
1940, photo from Golodnikov's personal file.
Nikolay Gerasimovich, at which aviation school were you trained? On what
type of aircraft?
At the I. V. Stalin Naval Aviation School in Eysk. Our course was two
years. We were the first class of our school that was graduated as
sergeants. Before our class the school graduated junior lieutenants. I
was a sergeant while in training at the school and graduated as a
sergeant. They had already taken our measurements for officer uniforms,
but then an order arrived from Marshal Timoshenko stating that everyone
who completed the aviation school in 1941, irrespective of the length of
their course, would be graduated as a sergeant. We completed the course
three days before the start of the war.
graduation they assigned me as an instructor pilot in the school, and I
did not make it to the front until March 1942. From the beginning of the
war in June 1941 until March 1942 the school was relocated more than
once. The last place of my service in the school was at Mozdok. On more
than one occasion during my time in the aviation school I requested
transfer to an active regiment. My request was finally approved in March
1942, when they assigned me as a pilot to the Red Banner Northern Fleet,
to the 72d Mixed Air Regiment of the VVS KSF, which later became the 2d
Guards Fighter Regiment. After the death of its commander, Twice Hero of
the Soviet Union B. F. Safonov, the regiment was named after him. I
fought through the entire war in this regiment.
regiment I sequentially served in the duty positions of pilot, senior
pilot, flight commander, deputy squadron commander and, after the war,
squadron commander. After the Great Patriotic War I was appointed to be
the chief of aerial gunnery training of the VVS KSF, and later the
senior inspector for techniques of piloting and theory of flight in the
directorate of flight inspection, VVS KSF. Subsequently I attended the
K. E. Voroshilov Naval Aviation Academy in Leningrad, after which I
served in various command positions in naval aviation and national air
defense. In short, there were few jobs I did not hold between sergeant
and major general of aviation.
aviation school, as a future air squadron cadet, I had to study the I-5
airplane. Later, from among those cadets who had flown on the I-15 bis,
they selected 10 men (including me) and transferred us to a squadron
that was preparing cadets on the I-16. In this squadron we trained on
the I-16 type-4, -5, -10, -17 and -21, the type-21 being in short
supply. In late 1941 aircraft of all types that had the M-25 engine were
handed off to active formations, after first having their heavy machine
gun armaments supplemented with rockets. This left us with the I-16
type-4 with the M-22 engine for training. This engine differed from the
M-25 in that its propeller turned to the left and it used castor oil for
A. S. Nikolay Gerasimovich, after completion of flight school how many
total hours did you have and how many in a combat aircraft?
When I was a cadet I had something like 40—45 solo hours in a combat
I-16. If you count all my flying time up to graduation, add about 60
hours on the U-2 in the aeroclub and about 5—6 flights each in the UT-1
and UT-2. Then I was in the so-called “training detachment” (before
flight school), where we flew the R-5, and as a cadet I flew the UTI-4.
All this adds up to about 110—120 hours. Of course, there is also the
time I flew with other cadets, which is an additional 30—35 hours in the
UTI-4 and combat aircraft. Unlike the other cadets, I also had 45 hours
in the I-16 and here is the reason. We had a type-10 I-16 in our
regiment that was unique. Apparently, after the repair and replacement
of a wing it did not take well to the landing flare and at the moment of
landing it literally “fell” toward its right wing. I was well aware of
this idiosyncrasy, having literally “caught on” during my first flight
in the aircraft. The instructor planned a full regime of flights for me
in this aircraft. I was the only cadet among all the students who was
allowed to fly this aircraft after another cadet did not maintain
control during taxi. After this incident only the instructors and I flew
this particular I-16. After the wholesale transfer of aircraft to the
front, this I-16 remained in our flight. The powers that be felt it was
too risky to send it to an active unit.
military establishment had already experienced the war of 1930—40 and
therefore taught us with relative intensity.
graduation I completed the entire course of combat training—firing at
ground targets, firing at air targets (sleeve), and aerial combat. Our
class was considered to be fully prepared for combat employment. Now we
had standing in front of us an accelerated class (one-year), junior
lieutenants who would be graduated without “combat employment”.
time of my arrival in a combat regiment, I had considerable time in
fighters and was also an instructor. They wore us out in “the box”! They
would give the flight assignment to six cadets “in the box” and hope
that they all flew their maneuvers correctly. In the flight zone each
cadet would attempt to demonstrate his sharp-edged flying skill, pushing
the UTI-4 to its limit. On occasion, with the permission of the flight
commander, someone would have to repeat an assigned maneuver to
reinforce a skill. In general, until everyone flew all their assigned
maneuvers and completed all their tasks, they did not pass “go”.
On top of
all this, in addition to the I-16, at the aviation school we studied the
LaGG-3. We received several of this aircraft a month before the start of
the war. They were not used to train cadets, only instructors.
Naturally, I learned to fly it. At first the LaGGs were from the
Taganrog plant, with five fuel tanks; but later they came from Tbilisi,
with three fuel tanks.
I went to
the front with our last group. We graduated 10 students in March and I
went to the front as the senior person with five of them. We flew by
Douglas [DC-3 or PS-84] to Moscow, then by Douglas to Arkhangelsk, and
from there in the bomb bay of an SB to Severomorsk.
A. S. What
type of I-16s did you fly in combat?
When I arrived in the north and in my regiment, I immediately began to
fly in the type-28 and type-29, with the M-63 engine. Although we had
six type-29s, after a bombing raid only two remained and they did not
play any special role. Later we turned them over to a neighboring
A. S. What
was your general impression of the I-16?
The I-16 was a complicated aircraft, demanding in piloting technique. It
could fall into a spin at the slightest “overhandling” of the stick.
True, one could recover quickly, whether from a simple or inverted spin.
The I-16 was very agile and could execute any maneuver. I loved this
A. S. Nikolay Gerasimovich, is it true that in an I-16 one could
literally “execute a spiral around a telephone pole”?
It is true that as far as horizontal maneuvers were concerned, this was
a unique aircraft.
And in the vertical plane?
It depended on the type and on the engine type. The majority of types,
with the M-25 engine, were fair.
A. S. It has also been said that the I-16 had an uncomfortable cockpit.
As you know, the cockpit was small. But this is because the I-16 was
itself a small airplane, and the cockpit could not be enlarged.
Was the visibility poor?
It had a large nose and the engine was close to the cockpit, covering a
large sector from the front. Of course, if you were going straight
ahead, you could see very little. But we never taxied straight ahead,
rather like a snake, constantly turning left and right. When the tail
came up level during takeoff, then visibility was normal.
aircraft in our regiment had movable canopies, but before combat we
locked them in the open position. In the first place, our canopies had a
large number of cross-pieces and the celluloid of the canopy was
somewhat dark, causing poor visibility in itself. We also feared that
the canopy would jam. If we were shot up and had to bail out, we could
not jettison it.
A. S. So the canopy was made of celluloid? Was this some sort of
“home-made” canopy? And didn’t it have an emergency jettison capability?
No, this canopy was factory-made. It was celluloid, not plexiglass. It
moved on rails, “rearward—forward”. There was an emergency jettison
capability on some aircraft and not on other aircraft.
A. S. What
else can you say about the cockpit?
The control stick was a normal fighter stick, that is, it moved forward,
backward, right, and left at its base. It had buttons to control fire;
they were convenient and could be manipulated with one hand. There was
nothing else on the stick except the gun triggers. It was a clean stick.
A. S. Was
there a special heater?
There was no special provision for heating. We got a lot of heat back
from the engine. Our body would not freeze, but our face would. To
prevent freezing of the face we had special masks made of moleskin fur.
But almost no one used this mask. It got in the way during combat.
A. S. Did
the I-16 have radios?
The I-16 had a radio beginning with the type-17. They were poor excuses
for radios. Garbage! The circuitry was wound on some type of cardboard
material. As soon as this “cardboard” got the slightest bit damp, the
tuning of the circuit changed and the whole apparatus quit working. All
we heard was crackling.
microphones were such large, uncomfortable shapes that made our necks
and control of a group in the air was accomplished by maneuvering one’s
aircraft (for example, rocking the wings), by hand signals, fingers,
pointing to one’s head, and so on. Let’s say I showed two fingers and
then swept my arm to the right—this would mean “pair to the right”.
Every facial expression and gesture carried some special meaning.
A. S. Did
you have an armored seat and bullet-proof glass?
We did not have bullet-proof glass. Our front windscreen was ordinary
plexiglass. In a frontal attack we were covered by the engine. This was
one of the strong points of the I-16. It was very good in a frontal
attack. The I-16 had an armored seat with a head protector. It was
effective and could stop small arms projectiles. Cannon and heavy
machine gun projectiles, of course, penetrated right through it. But it
was not designed to stop them.
A. S. Did
it have an artificial horizon? Radio compass?
It had neither a radio compass nor a horizon indicator. We had the
“Pioneer” instrument. This contained an arrow that showed the “turn and
slide” and a ball that showed a right or left bank. The attitude of the
aircraft in the air could be determined by the combined position of
these indicators on the scales provided. This was a reliable instrument.
There were other instruments in the instrument panel of the I-16. It was
A. S. Do
you have any comments on the “mechanics” of the wing?
Beginning with the type-17 the I-16 had retractable flaps that were
deployed by hand. But in aviation school we cadets did not use them.
They were rigidly secured. At the front, on type-28s and -29s, we also
did not experience any need of these flaps. They were also rigidly
landing gear were raised and lowered mechanically, rope-operated by hand
crank, without hydraulic assist, 43 turns. Sometimes, when we were in a
hurry, especially when we were short on fuel, there was no time to crank
down the gear. Therefore each of us kept a pair of pliers in the
cockpit. We would cut the cable and the gear would fall of its own
weight, then a “left roll, right roll” or some sharp maneuver to get the
gear to lock, and we could land normally.
were foot-operated with special pedals. Normal brakes.
A. S. Was
the I-16 equipped with oxygen equipment?
It was. When we flew above 5,000 meters, in accordance with instructions
it was recommended to use the oxygen mask. This equipment was reliable.
It supplied pure oxygen. The flow level could be regulated by a valve.
If you felt yourself breathing heavily, you could turn up the flow. We
had an oxygen mask; then they made a kind of mouthpiece that we grasped
in our teeth. However, relative to the overall number of sorties, we
seldom flew above 5,000 meters.
A. S. What
kind of sight did you have?
We had two sights. The first was a long, optical sight [scope]. I don’t
remember what it was called. The sight tube passed through the
windscreen and it had crosshairs in it. On this tube was mounted a
second, not large collimator sight.
A. S. Did
these sights permit normal precise aiming?
In our regiment we commenced firing at ranges of 70—50 meters, when we
could see the rivets. One could not miss with either sight at that
range. We never fired from beyond 200 meters. It was too far.
What kind of armaments did you have?
We had various weapons. Cannons were mounted on type-28s and -29s,
machine guns on type-10s, -17s, and -21s. Berezin [12.7mm] machine guns
and ShVAKs [20mm] could be interchanged on some fighters.
ShKASs [7.62mm] in the wings, sometimes two in each wing and sometimes
one. This was on old types, -4 and -5. These were very rapid firing
machine guns and not very reliable. They had frequent stoppages. They
were susceptible to dust. During the firing of a long burst they gave a
tolerable dispersion. But we rarely fired in long bursts, rather
primarily in short bursts, to range and then destroy the target. The
destructive power of the ShKAS was not great. They were suitable to use
against a Bf-109E, which was insufficiently armored. But the ShKAS was
weak against an F model or a bomber.
type-10 had two Berezin heavy machine guns, synchronized to fire through
the propeller. These were good machine guns, powerful and reliable.
cannon was very powerful. Although the cannon-armed I-16 was heavier
than normal, just the same it was good. Sometimes the ShVAK experienced
stoppages, but this was the fault of poor maintenance. As soon as our
armorers were taught to service this weapon properly, it worked very
reliably. The ShVAK had a powerful high explosive round. If it exploded
in the engine compartment, it scrambled everything in there. An
armor-piercing round was also available. We loaded the belt with both
types—two high explosive rounds and an armor-piercing round or,
conversely, two armor-piercing rounds and a high explosive round. It
depended on the type of target. The armor-piercing round was a
conventional steel shot, without tracer. The high explosive round had a
A. S. Were
rockets mounted on the I-16?
They were. 57 and 82mm, primarily 57mm. Two were mounted under each
wing. These were not a precision weapon, especially the 57mm. But if
someone fired a salvo at a group of bombers, the group lost its
formation as the targets dispersed in various directions. It was a sight
Did the warheads have proximity fuses?
For the most part, yes.
A. S. Did
you hang bombs?
Rarely. But two 50kg bombs per wing. For the most part we all flew with
rockets mounted. The two were never combined. Either rockets or bombs,
but never both.
A. S. Were
there problems with the engine?
The engines on the I-16 were good, very reliable. Two or three cylinders
could be damaged and it would still bring us home. Now the “-63” engine,
it was a “beast”! Very robust! The I-16 in general responded quickly to
the throttle and would rapidly acquire speed. This is especially true
with the “-63”. It worked well at all altitudes.
A. S. Was
there a special high-output regime?
No. Simply “full throttle”. Everything depended on the pilot, how he
employed the engine. How he evaluated the situation and exercised
A. S. What
was the altitude capability of this engine?
6—7 thousand meters was its limit. But we practically never fought at
these altitudes. We tried to conduct battle lower, at 1—2 thousand. The
Germans, although they did not fly particularly high, tried to hold us
at 4—5 thousand. At this altitude the “Messer’s” engine was operating
more within its design parameters.
A. S. What
about fuel expenditure?
The I-16 consumed its fuel rapidly, in 40—45 minutes, and in combat
perhaps in 25—30 minutes.
A. S. Did
the I-16 have a variable-pitch propeller?
On type-28s and type-29s. But, you know, we were somewhat skeptical
regarding it. The VISh [variable-pitch propeller] was good for heavier
aircraft. On the I-16, either because of the opinions of the airmen or
for still other reasons, the capabilities of this system were rarely
employed. It was controlled by rods, by a special hand lever. Before we
began an aerial engagement we reduced pitch and subsequently worked only
the throttle. That is all there was to it.
A. S. Nikolay Gerasimovich, was the I-16 a great deal less capable than
All the basic types of I-16, the type-10, -17, and –21, were less
capable in their technical and tactical characteristics than the
Bf-109E, but not by much. Of course, the older types, the -4 and -5,
were not comparable.
types -28 and -29 were superior to the Bf-109E. They were capable of the
same speed and in maneuverability, in the vertical plane, the Ishak
surpassed the E model.
A. S. This is strange. In any reference book you look at it says that
the speed of the I-16 types -28 and -29 at 3,000 meters altitude is on
the order of 440—460 kmh, and of the Bf-109E--570 kmh. And you say they
are the same? And that the I-16 was superior in vertical maneuver? This
It was the rare pilot who sought to fly at maximum speed in maneuver
combat and even rarer was the pilot who achieved it.
principle, the I-16 could easily and quickly attain a speed of 500 kmh.
The E model was quicker, but not by much. In combat there was no
practical difference in their speed. The dynamic of achieving top speed
of the I-16 was explosive, especially with the M-63 engine. This was its
second unique quality, after horizontal maneuverability. It could
out-accelerate all other then-existing Soviet-produced fighters, even
the new types. The Yak-1 was the closest to it in this capability, but
even it fell somewhat behind.
“Messer” could dive well and get away. The I-16, with its rather large
nose, could not develop 530 kmh in a dive. But it must be said that in
combat, if we had to disengage, them from us or we from them, we always
managed to do so.
A. S. How
did you disengage, with a dive or in the vertical?
As the situation permitted. One or the other.
So when Hero of the Soviet Union V. F. Golubev and Hero of the Soviet
Union A. L. Ivanov write in their memoirs that the I-16 was not
outclassed as a fighter until the end of 1942, then they are not lying?
This is not propaganda?
They are not lying.
A. S. Nikolay Gerasimovich, how do you see the I-16 in comparison with
the Bf-109F and FW-190?
I did not have occasion to fight much in the I-16, but I can relay the
opinion of my comrades.
type-28 and -29 were arguably equal to the Bf-109F, perhaps a little bit
behind. The remaining I-16 types, of course, were not even close. The F
model appeared in the north in large numbers in November 1942. Before
that time we saw primarily the E model. The I-16 type-28 and -29 fell
behind the F model in maximum speed and vertical maneuver, but surpassed
the F model in horizontal maneuver and armament. The F model was very
capable in vertical maneuver. If he even thought you were going to catch
him, the pilot gave it more throttle and broke away.
appeared at approximately the same time as the Bf-109F, sometime in
October 1942. It was a powerful fighter. The 190 surpassed the I-16 in
every respect, perhaps, except horizontal maneuver. But by this time our
Yaks and lend-lease P-40s and P-39s were arriving in large numbers.
Bf-109G arrived in 1943 and the I-16 practically had no combat contact
I had about 10 combat sorties and two or three aerial combats in the
I-16. Then I transitioned to the Hurricane.
A. S. On
what type of Hurricanes did you train? And what type did you fly in
We fought in the same aircraft in which we trained. There were no
training air frames. The English of the 151st Wing transferred their
Hurricanes to us and we trained on these very aircraft. These Englishmen
two types of Hurricanes, with 8 and 12 machine guns. There was no other
difference between them. Later, aircraft began to arrive from England,
in crates. It appeared that these Hurricanes had been intended for North
Africa, because they were painted in desert (yellow) camouflage.
A. S. So
there was no doubleseaters?
Yes, there were no doubleseaters. We had documentation in English and an
English instructor. But he wasn’t much of an instructor. He sat in the
cockpit and pointed things out, and not even to everyone, but only to
the first group. This group then showed the rest of us. They gave us
some young female translators who translated everything for us. Later it
was revealed that the Englishman was a certain Major Rook and that he
spoke excellent Russian. He had completed our Kachinsk Aviation School.
But he spoke English during the entire training period and Russian only
at the farewell banquet. At the banquet he said, “I could not [speak
Russian] because I am an offical and it was forbidden.” One of our
squadron commanders, Kovalenko, studied with him at aviation school. No
matter how much Kovalenko tried to coax him:” Hey, why are you evading,
you understand everything”, but still failed to convince him to speak
fellow flew the I-16 one time, and climbed out drenched in sweat. “Let
the Russians fly this airplane!”
we spent about five days in the transition training. We learned the
general layout: “There is the engine, here is where we top off the fuel
tank, there the oil” and so on. We did not go particularly deep into the
airplane’s design. We talked, we sat in the cockpit, we taxied a couple
of times, and then flew the airplane. I made three flights, that’s all,
and I was transitioned. Like they told us, “You want to live—take a
seat.” Safonov flew first. He sat in the cockpit four hours
familiarizing himself with the layout and then flew the airplane. The
rest of us followed him.
A. S. Was
there any kind of special selection for transition?
No. We were trained by squadron.
Nikolay Gerasimovich, what was your first impression of the Hurricane?
My first impression was “Hunchback!” Such a “hunchback” cannot be a good
fighter. Subsequently my first impression did not change. I was
particularly alarmed by the wings. They were so thick. The wings on the
Hurricane were thicker than on the Pe-2.
A. S. Was
the Hurricane easier to control than the I-16?
Yes, it was simpler. I did not experience any difficulties in learning
the airplane or how to fly it.
A. S. What
was the cockpit like for you after the I-16—visibility, bullet-proof
glass, armored seat?
The cockpit, of course, was larger than in the I-16. The visibility
forward was also better. Forward visibility was very good. To the side,
and especially to the rear, it was poor. The canopy reminded me of the
I-16 canopy. It had many sections and slid backward. The many sections
greatly hindered lateral visibility. If you looked in any direction
except toward the nose, a window frame blocked your view. Initially
before combat we slid the canopy open to improve visibility. Later, when
we had adapted to the canopy, we left it closed so as not to lose speed.
The canopy slid on two lateral rails.
control stick was a surprise. It was like that on a bomber. The upper
portion was thick and had a ring, inside of which were two buttons,
switches. In order to employ all the weapons, one had to use both hands.
The stick at its base moved only forward and backward, and right or left
movement was accomplished at the mid-stick level, from which cables
controlled the ailerons.
bullet-proof glass and also an armored seat. They were reliable.
Was there a special heater in the cabin?
No, the heat came from the engine.
A. S. Were
there any problems with the instrument panel in the Hurricane?
Not at all. It had all the instruments, but of course in pounds and
inches. But we adapted to it quickly. The instruments were laid out
exactly the same as in our UT-2, which of course used the metric system
of measurement. It was simple for anyone who had flown the UT-2.
experienced pilots who literally upon questioning, “And this
instrument—what is it?” would respond, “Don’t pay it any attention. You
will never need this instrument. Here you have your altitude indicator,
RPMs, coolant temperature, oil pressure and temperature—that’s all you
had a boost pressure gauge, also in pounds. Our gauge had a scale of -4
to +12. We determined the power output of the engine by the magnitude of
the boost pressure.
A. S. Did
it have an artificial horizon? Radio compass?
aircraft had an artificial horizon. There were none in our unit. It had
an instrument analogous to our Pioneer. But in the English instrument
were two indicator arrows rather than an arrow and a ball like in ours.
One arrow showed bank and the other turn and slip. It was a reliable
A. S. Did
it have a radio?
Hurricane had UHF [ultra-high frequency] radios, six channels. They were
reliable, good sets. Both receiver and transmitter. The only negative
aspect of this was that the microphone was inside the oxygen mask. The
mask itself and microphone were heavy and cumbersome in combat. If you
wore the mask too tight it pinched, and if you wore it too loose it
would pull away during heavy g-forces. The transmitter was
simplex—duplex, that is, it could be activated to send—receive with a
push-to-talk switch, and also with voice. When we spoke the transmitter
turned itself on and when we were silent we could listen. We could
select the mode ourselves. We had a special knob in the cockpit that we
could place on voice-activate or push-to-talk. In the beginning we all
used the voice-activation capability. Sometimes in combat someone would
curse [Russian curses], the transmitter would put this out and the pilot
would stop listening and another pilot was prevented from transmitting a
necessary command. Later, on all aircraft we were required to switch
control of the radio set to the push-to-talk mode, on the throttle
control, and we wired down the knob for voice-activation.
of the microphone we always had the oxygen mask on our face. The oxygen
system also worked reliably.
landing gear operated efficiently, raised hydraulically by a special
lever. This same lever was used to control the flaps.
Nikolay Gerasimovich, what was your opinion of the Hurricane’s
Hurricane had either 8 or 12 machine guns, either 4 or six in each wing.
The machine gun was a Lewis 7.7mm [.303 caliber]. In reliability it was
analogous to our ShKAS. Initially we experienced stoppages due to dust
and dirt. It was sensitive to dust. Here is how we dealt with this
problem. We plugged all the holes along the leading edge of the wing
with percale [a muslin-like fabric]. When we opened fire, the percale
was shot through. The guns began to work reliably. They were not
particularly effective when fired at ranges of 150—300 meters.
initiative of B. F. Safonov, our regiment commander, the mobile aviation
repair facility began a program of mounting Soviet weapons in our
regiment’s Hurricanes. We had an armaments technician, Boris
Sobolevskiy, who supervised this effort. We had many other smart people
as well. They mounted either two ShVAK in each wing or a ShVAK [20mm]
and a BK [Berezin 12.7mm]. Later the Englishman, without any special
fuss, more or less pro forma, registered a complaint with us that we had
made this modification without their permission and so on. Nonsense.
Everyone understood that they had decided to protest just as a matter of
preventing any future repercussions.
say that if you got close enough, the Lewis machine guns could be quite
squadron commander was Aleksandr Andreevich Kovalenko (deceased, God
took him). One of the first to receive the award Hero of the Soviet
Union, he was a typical Ukrainian, contemplative and quiet. I was his
wingman. I think this happened in ’42. Murmansk was under attack and six
of us went up. Here is what they said to us on the radio (ground control
was already working): “First [squadron]! Group of 109s!” I had a good
view of the air space and transmitted to Kovalenko, “I see the 109s!” He
quietly replied, “Good work. Boys, let’s go get the 109s.” Then from the
ground vectoring station: “First! Group of 87s! Switch over to the 87s!”
Again he quietly said, “Boys, let’s go get the 87s.” We spotted them on
the approaches to Murmansk. There were about 20 of them, perhaps more.
We attacked them from below at high speed. I watched as Kovalenko placed
his Hurricane almost vertical and with a skid, fired up a Stuka from
about 50 meters with 12 machine guns. Then as Kovalenko fell away, I
also peeled off and observed how the tail of the Junkers went in one
direction and the rest of the airplane in another. Kovalenko had sliced
through the Junkers right in front of my eyes. “Almost all ammunition
expended.” Then the ground [radio] intercept station informed us that
the Germans were screaming, “We’re surrounded by Soviet fighters! They
are killing us!” Along with another six fighters who went after the
Messers, we shot down eight aircraft that day.
A. S. I
thought it was an old wive’s tale, if I can use that expression, when
during the Battle of Britain British pilots said that they cut through
German aircraft with machine gun fire.
this could be done with Lewises, and of course also with our ShKASes.
The ShKAS, in its rate of fire [approximately 1800 rounds/min], was a
unique machine gun. From close range, from 50 meters, a battery of four
ShKASes could cut off a wing and on occasion did. At this range, if you
held the trigger and didn’t economize on the bullets, you would get some
dispersion. It was possible to cut off a tail or a wing, literally to
cut it off.
way, I had my first victory in a Hurricane. A 109. My aircraft still had
English weapons. I was a wingman then, and he was attacking my pair
leader but did not get there. He got between me and my leader, and I let
him have it literally from a range of 20—15 meters.
A. S. How
long did you fight with English machine guns?
About three months, and then they began to replace them with ours.
A. S. Did
the placement of the guns in the wing cause any problems?
ever! The distance between the two barrels [on each side closest to the
fuselage] was about two and one-half meters. The dead zone in the
dispersion of rounds between these two guns was significant.
A. S. Did
you ever have Hurricanes with English cannons?
No. They began to mount English cannons on Hurricanes some time later
than we did, based upon our successful experience.
A. S. Did
they mount rockets on the Hurricane?
four under each wing.
sights. Collimator. Normal sights. I already said, we came in close and
fired without any special lead.
A. S. What
about the English engine, they say it was unreliable?
a good engine, powerful and sufficiently reliable. The engine worked
very clean. It had exhaust stacks and flame suppressors, mounted like
mufflers. This was very helpful because it prevented the pilot from
being blinded. In this regard our own aircraft were significantly
negative g-forces the engine choked. There was no compensating tank.
This was very bad because any maneuver should be able to be executed
with positive g-forces. We mastered this peculiarity quickly but,
initially, in the heat of battle we forgot about it. Later, with
experience, we never permitted this condition to develop. An abrupt,
unanticipated lessening of g-force changes the maneuver, and in combat
this is dangerous.
Nikolay Gerasimovich, didn’t you get the impression that the engine was
was a heavy air frame that did not glide well. The Rolls-Royce engine
was good, but could not stand up to prolonged operation at maximum
output. It broke down. Of course, it was a weak engine for this
particular air frame.
say something else about the air frame. The Hurricane had a very light
tail. We were based on sandy, insufficiently packed airfields. It was
mandatory that a technician or mechanic sit on the tail when we were
taxiing to keep it on the ground. We even flew with a technician sitting
on the tail. We had a technician named Rudenko who flew around in a
circle sitting on the tail. He sat with his back forward and was unable
to jump off because his hands got caught in the skin of the vertical
stabilizer. He sat there until the pilot landed the aircraft. There were
cases when men fell off the tail and died.
A. S. Were
holes in the Hurricane covered with percale?
percale on the fuselage and very thin duraluminum on the vertical
stabilizer and wings.
A. S. Was
there a special high-output regime? In the handbooks it is written that
there was some kind of switch that permitted the pilot to increase the
engine power sharply for a brief period of time.
not have such a device. We simply used the throttle to control RPMs. As
I said, these aircraft were manufactured for use in North Africa, and
perhaps were not the latest models. Perhaps on later models such
A. S. How
much fuel did you carry?
Sufficient for one hour twenty or thirty minutes.
A. S. Was
the Hurricane engine capable of more altitude than the I-16 engine?
wouldn’t say so. It was the same. The engine was not high-altitude.
It was interesting. We had a variable pitch propeller, but with wooden
blades. We changed the pitch manually with levers and rods. It was not
difficult. We had one propeller technician for every four aircraft in
Nikilay Gerasimovich, what was it like to fly the Hurricane after the
I-16? Better, worse?
to become accustomed to flying in the Hurricane. I liked the I-16 more.
Though, in principle, the Hurricane was approximately the same as the
-10, -17, and -21 types of the I-16. But if I had never seen a
Hurricane, I wouldn’t miss it.
Marshal G. V. Zimin, on one of the first to master the Hurricane, wrote
in his memoirs that “fighting in a Hurricane was the same as fighting
astride a pterodactyl.” It was unique, he said, from an aerodynamic
point of view. The airplane did not accumulate speed in a dive and
momentarily lost carburetion. Is this a propagandistic putdown?
correct. Precisely a pterodactyl. It had a very thick profile and poor
acceleration characteristics. At maximum speed it was somewhat faster
than an I-16. But until it had attained this speed, many things could
happen. It was not slow in responding to the control stick, but
everything happened smoothly, in its own time. In the I-16, if you moved
the stick, the airplane inverted right now. With this beast, it would
roll over very slowly.
good lifting strength and could therefore equal the I-16 in rate of
very good in horizontal maneuverability. If four Hurricanes established
a circle, it was impossible to break out of it. No Germans could break
into the circle either.
very poor in vertical maneuver, the thick profile. Primarily we tried to
conduct battle in the horizontal and avoid the vertical plane.
Hurricane had a short take-off run, again because of the thick wing.
technical and tactical characteristics the Hurricane was somewhat behind
the Messerschmitt Bf-109E, primarily in the vertical. It was not
inferior in the least in the horizontal. When the Bf-109F arrived, the
Hurricane was well outclassed but continued to contest the skies.
Hurricane burned rapidly and completely, like a match. The percale
A. S. Did
the I-16 burn more readily? It also was percale-covered.
The I-16’s engine was more reliable. And the little I-16, one had to hit
Nikolay Gerasimovich, if you had a choice, in which airplane would you
prefer to fight, the I-16 or the Hurricane?
course in the I-16, on the type-28, which I fought. But there was no
choice. I made some 20 combat sorties on the Hurricane and fought
perhaps 3—4 air engagements. Then I transitioned to the P-40.
Text © AndreySukhorukov
Translation © James F.