Valeriy Romanenko ©
Translated by James F. Gebhardt ©
Early Versions of Airacobra Aircraft
in Soviet Aviation
The P-39D-2 in the Soviet VVS
P-39D-2 Airacobras (Bell Model-14A) arrived in the USSR exclusively by
the "southern" route, through Iran. Transport ships brought crates
containing aircraft from Island or directly from east coast ports of the
USA by two sea routes: either through Gibralter, Suez Canal, Red Sea,
Arabian Sea, and the Persian Gulf to the port Abadan (Island-Abadan
approximately 12,500 miles, New York-Abadan approximately 15,600 miles),
or around Cape of Good Hope (22,000 miles and 23,500 miles respectively).
The Allies were forced to use such long routes in late 1942 after the
decisive destruction of convoy PQ-17 and the general growing losses in
arctic convoys of up to 11-12 percent of their vessels. The new routes
passed either through regions of absolute Allied superiority at sea and in
the air or were generally away from the theater of military operations. A
positive aspect of the route was safety (reduced losses to convoys despite
significantly fewer escort vessels) and a serious negative aspect was the
protracted time of delivery of the cargo, which had grown to as much as
Specific difficulties existed as well on the "land" stage, which passed
through the territory of Iraq and Iran. The pro-German orientation of the
governments of these two countries, mountainous topography, and absence of
a transportation infrastructure created significant obstacles for the
establishment of a through path across Iran from the Persian Gulf to
Soviet Azerbaydzhan. Serious military, political, and engineering support
of the route was required, and was accomplished in 1941-42. In May 1941,
British forces suppressed a pro-German coup in Iraq, supported from the
air by German and Italian aviation. In September, British and Soviet
forces occupied Persia (Iran). They brought to power a government that was
friendly to Great Britain and the USSR. Unequivocal acts of aggression by
today's standards, these military-political actions in 1941 turned out to
be positive preventive measures that enabled the countries of west Asia to
be "snatched away" from cooperation with the fascists. British engineer
troops, under the leadership of General Connoly, enlarged the ports, built
a highway, and reconstructed the railroad and airfield network.
The southern route for aviation began to operate beginning in June 1942.
Bostons and Hurricanes traveled this route first, and in November also
Airacobras, Spitfires, and Kittyhawks. Crated fighters were unloaded in
the port Abadan. Assembly and test flight was accomplished normally in the
immediate Abadan area (Iran), or at an RAF airbase in Basra (Iraq) some 60
kilometers to the west.
The Soviet VVS undertook a number of preparatory measures to solidify
the southern route. In the summer of 1942, the Soviet VVS created an
assembly airfield at Abadan and positioned there approximately 300 Soviet
engineers and workers under the overall supervision of A. I. Evtikhov. An
intermediate airbase was created in Teheran, at which was carried out the
reception of aircraft by military representatives of the Import
Directorate of the VVS Red Army (chief-Colonel V. V. Fokin). Ferry
aviation regiments and special training centers were formed to move the
imported aircraft and transition Soviet personnel to them.
The route functioned in the following manner for Airacobras. The airplanes
delivered by sea were unloaded in Abadan, assembled by Soviet specialists,
and test flown by Soviet pilots. They were ferried along an air route to
Teheran, to the Kvali Marga airfield, where military representatives of
the Import Directorate received them. Subsequently the aircraft were
ferried to a training center in the town Adzhi-Kabul [about 80 km
southwest of Baku] (Azerbaydzhan) or to ferrying airfields in the vicinity
of the city Kirovabad. Because of Stalin's pathological mistrust of
foreigners, British and American specialists were allowed minimal
participation in the delivery of these aircraft. They were allowed to
consult during the unpacking, assembly, and test flight in Abadan and in
the inventory and turnover process at Teheran. After the takeoff from the
airfield in Teheran in the northwest direction, the aircraft disappeared
forever from the eyes of the Allies. They only rarely were called
regarding ungenerous complaints of defects that arose during the shipping
of the items, primarily corrosion in the onboard weapons.
The delivery of fighters, including the P-39D, was executed by the
6th Ferrying Fighter Regiment (PIAP), specially designated for this
purpose, commanded by Major Mishchenko. This regiment was formed on 10
February 1943 on TOE 015/174 (3 squadrons, 3 flights with 3 crews in each
plus the regiment headquarters flight, total of 31 crews) and was
subordinated to the VVS of the Transcaucasus Front. Each squadron
specialized in a specific aircraft type (1-Airacobras, 2-Kittyhawks,
3-others), which, however, was a temporary distinction. The headquarters
was located initially in the city Kirovabad, to where the aircraft were
initially ferried. After the confirmation in June 1943 of the endpoint of
the ferry route at Adzhi-Kabul, the headquarters was moved to a nearby
railroad station at Kazi-Magomed.
The regiment ferried a total of 2,386 aircraft in 1943. Taking into
consideration the complexity of the route (a distance of 1,450 km with one
intermediate landing in Teheran, the flight was conducted at altitudes
from 3,000 to 5,000 meters in difficult conditions, across two mountain
ranges), losses during the year were minimal-all of one pilot. There were
no cases where a loss of orientation occurred.
At Adzhi-Kabul the delivered aircraft were turned over to the 25th
ZAP, which was the "southern" training center analogous to the 22d
ZAP. The 25th ZAP was formed on 30 October 1941 and until 25 July 1943 was
based at Adzhi-Kabul, Azerbaydzhan. It belonged to the VVS of
Transcaucasus Front. In 1942 it trained pilots on the MiG-3 and LaGG-3,
and from November 1942 also on the Kittyhawk. Effective 31 January 1943
the regiment trained exclusively on foreign fighters. During 1943 it
trained 9 air regiments, of these four-45th, 298th, 16th Guards, and 494th
IAP-on Airacobras, and an additional 185 individual pilots. Some 339
Airacobra P-39 models D-2, K, L, M, and N were prepared and sent to the
front. Specifically, in the period from 28 November 1942 through 4 May
1943, 57 Airacobra P-39D-2s (serial numbers 41-38414, 416-38, 440, 444-63,
520, 528, 532, 540, 541, 544-47, 550, 555, and 556) and one P-39D-1
(41-28257, the first in that series) arrived at 25th ZAP. Counting three
P-39D-2s that arrived at 22d ZAP directly from Kirovabad (41-38439, 442,
522), bypassing 25th ZAP, the total number of the first Lend-Lease series
P-39D-1 and D-2s delivered to the USSR was 61 aircraft.
Organizationally the 25th ZAP was similar to the 22d ZAP (minus, of
course, the assembly teams and military inventory group), and consisted of
three squadrons, of which 1st Squadron trained pilots exclusively on the
P-39, and the 3d Squadron parallel on the P-39 and P-40. P-39D-2 (numbers
41-38435, 426, 436, 459, 460, and 461) aircraft were principally used for
pilot training. Of these the first was lost to catastrophic damage, while
the remainder, having survived several accidents and repair, safely
endured until 1944.
The process of transition training also was typical. A depleted
regiment was brought from the front, re-manned, trained on the new
equipment, received aircraft, and was sent back to the front. The
replacement of aircraft combat losses in regiments that had passed through
the 25th ZAP was also accomplished. Modest numbers of aircraft were sent
to fighting units (for familiarization), that had been identified for
later transition. So in addition to its role as a training center, the
regiment also served as a depot for distributing arriving aircraft
directly to combat units. Therefore the 25th ZAP was a primary channel
through which American and British aircraft arrived in the southern sector
of the Soviet-German front.
Because the quantity of arriving imported air frames was continuously
growing, this channel had to be considerably broadened. The 11th ZAP
was also assigned the mission to transition existing regiments to American
and British aircraft. For this purpose, 25th ZAP transferred to the 11th
ZAP P-39D-2 serial numbers 41-38436 and 461 in September 1943. The 26th
ZAP was brought on line in November 1943. However, only the later models
of the P-39 (M, N, and beyond) passed through these units.
298th (104th Guards) IAP
This regiment began transition training to Airacobra aircraft at 25th
ZAP on 10 January 1943. It was the first to complete transition training.
The regiment received their aircraft and flew to the front on 16 February
1943, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel I. A. Taranenko. This
regiment was formed on TOE 015/174 and had 32 Airacobras, type P-39K-1 and
P-39D-2. Almost two-thirds of its aircraft were D models (serial numbers
41-38414, 417-422, 440, 444, 445, 447-55, 457, and 463). The method of
distribution of these aircraft is of some interest. The regiment
commander, chief of gunnery service, navigator, and squadron commanders
and zampolits [political officers] all received the P-39K, while the
flight commanders and all remaining pilots received the P-39D-2.
The regiment went into combat on 17 March 1943 from Korenovsk airfield,
in the Kuban, as part of the 219th Bomber Division, 4th Air Army. The
regiment fought in this subordination for the entire extent of the
celebrated air campaign over the Kuban. It fought against the best German
fighter squadrons: JG 51 (Mulders) and JG 3 (Green Hearts). During the
period from 17 March to 20 August 1943, the regiment flew 1,625 combat
sorties with a flight time of 2,072 hours. It conducted 111 aerial
engagements, in which it shot down 167 and damaged an additional 29 enemy
aircraft. Its losses were 30 Airacobras destroyed and 11 damaged.
For combat successes in the Kuban campaign, the 298th IAP was designated
the 104th Guards IAP on 24 August 1943. The regiment commander, I. A.
Taranenko, received the rank Hero of the Soviet Union and was promoted.
Major V. G. Semenishin, who had been awarded HSU on 24 May 1943, was named
the regiment commander on 18 July 1943. In August 1943, the newspaper
Pravda published a photograph of the four best pilots of the regiment with
the inscription, "Fighter pilots who, in the battle for the Kuban, have
shot down 60 German aircraft: major V. Semenishin, Captains K.
Vishnevetskiy and V. Drygin, Junior Lieutenant A. Vilyamson". V. M. Drygin
received the HSU rank on 24 May 1943, Vishnevetskiy at the end of the
Kuban campaign on 24 August 1943, and Vilyamson on 27 June 1945.
On 21 August 1943 the regiment was reassigned to the most celebrated in
Soviet VVS 9th Guards Fighter Division (IAD), which by the end of the war
had earned the honorific titles Mariupol'sko-Berlinskaya Order of Lenin,
Red Banner, Order of Bogdan Khmelnitskiy Guards Division. However the
story of the subsequent actions of the regiment is outside the parameters
of this publication. Despite the receipt in April of two P-39D-2s
(41-38432 and 532), and also one P-39D-1 (41-28257), practically no
Airacobras of these models remained in the regiment. The first one shot
down was 41-38444 (pilot Sergeant G. I. Belyakov died) on 19 March 1943.
When Semenishin took over command of the regiment in mid-July, he signed
for only 41-38414, 420, 453, and 41-28257. In August 41-38453 was lost,
and 41-38414 in September. 41-38463 was destroyed in a catastrophic
failure on 21 April 1943.
The aircraft numbers of the aces who flew the P-39D-2 in the Kuban
were: HSU V. M. Drygin-41-38421, HSU M. S. Likhovid-41-38455, and A. S.
45th (100th Guards) IAP
This regiment was located at 25th ZAP for transition training from 23
October 1942 through 18 February 1943, with the 2d Squadron of 25th ZAP.
It trained on the Kittyhawk until the end of 1942 and then on the P-39.
Actual training flights commenced on 22 November 1942 and were completed
on 14 February 1943. Statistics have been preserved that describe the
quantitative aspects of the flight training: 155 training combat sorties,
112 gunnery training flights at panels and 98 at drones, 134 routine
sorties, and 113 "blind" sorties. The total flight time was 671 hours with
1,682 landings and one catastrophic accident (13 February 1943).
The regiment was sent back to the front on 16 February 1943, formed on TOE
015/174. At the moment of departure it had 18 pilots with combat
experience, 13 pilots without combat experience, 10 P-39D-2 aircraft
(serial numbers 41-38416, 427, 429, 431, 433, 446, 451, 456, 458, and
462), 11 P-39K-1 aircraft, and 9 P-40E aircraft. The Airacobras were in
the 1st and 3d Squadrons, the Kittyhawks in the 2d Squadron. The regiment
commander was Lieutenant Colonel I. M Dzusov. The regiment arrived at the
Krasnodar airfield on 9 March and immediately began combat operations as
part of the 216th Mixed Air Division, 4th Air Army.
The regiment fell into the "oven" of combat over the Kuban and on the
second day suffered its first loss: Airacobra 41-38427 with engine Allison
V-1710-63 (E-6) no. AAC 42-135031 did not return from its combat mission.
This was the first P-39D-2 shot down on the Soviet-German front.
The regiment had to face Luftwaffe aces from Udet, Green Heart, and
Mulders squadrons. Already on the following day, 11 March, two P-39D-2s
(138433  and 446) went into repair. Nonetheless, the regiment
quickly launched into the fight with the stubborn Teutons. On 23 March 8
Airacobras faced off against 30 Messerschmitts and shot down 13, losing 3
of their own. But this victory came at a terrible price. Two pilots, in
order to change the course of a badly developing battle, consciously flew
their damaged and burning aircraft into enemy airplanes and perished,
destroying two Messers in the process. Sergeant N. Kudryashov was 19 years
old and Senior Lieutenant I. Shmatko was in his twenties. B. B. Glinka was
wounded in this battle-a round came straight through the cockpit of his
P-39D-2, no. 138431.
April aerial combats were particularly successful, when the pilots had
a firmer grasp on their airplanes and tactics. During that month I. I.
Babak shot down 14 fighters, Lieutenant Boris Glinka 3 fighters and 2
bombers, Senior Lieutenant Dmitriy Glinka 5 and 1, Sergeant I. Kudrya 5
and 1, Lieutenant N. Lavitskiy 1 and 2 respectively, and Senior Sergeant
V. Sapyan 2 fighters. The regiment suffered losses as well, because its
opponents were the "cream" of the Luftwaffe. 15 April 1943 is considered
the "black day" of the regiment: D. Glinka and V. Sapyan were shot down at
around 1300, and Senior Lieutenant M. Petrov and Sergeant Bezbabnov in the
evening at around 1900. Erich Hartmann, a relatively new fighter pilot in
III/JG 52, shot down one of the "evening" Cobras (41-38451 or 42-4606).
This was the seventh kill (and first Airacobra) of the future top German
ace of World War II, who finished his career in Soviet captivity with a
score of 352 kills, some 345 of them on the Eastern front.
Altogether during two months of intense aerial combat over the Kuban,
pilots of 45th IAP shot down 118 German aircraft, losing 7 Airacobras shot
down and 8 damaged in combat or in accidents, 1 P-40E shot down and 1
destroyed in an accident. The regiment had the best results in the theater
and was quickly, already by 10 May, re-equipped with new models of the
Airacobra: P-39L, M, and N. The surviving intact old P-39D-2s (138416,
429, 456, and 458), P-39K, and P-40Es were handed off to the 16th Guards
IAP and 298th IAP.
For combat successes in the aerial campaign over the Kuban, on 18 June
1943 the 45th IAP was re-designated as the 100th Guards IAP. Regiment
commander I. M Dzusov had been promoted to colonel in May and elevated to
command of the 216th Mixed Air Division, which in turn was re-designated
the 9th Guards Fighter Division (with the 16th, 100th, and 104th Guards
IAP). Four pilots of the regiment were given the HSU rank immediately upon
the completion of the campaign: B. B. Glinka (15 kills), P. M. Berestnev
(10 personal + 2 group kills), N. D. Kudrya (11 kills), and D. I. Koval
(10 + 3) on 24 May 1943. The awards to Kudrya and Koval were posthumous.
I. I. Babak (18 + 2) and N. E. Lavitskiy (11 + 1) received their HSU on 1
November and 24 August 1943 respectively. D. B. Glinka became a captain
during the spring-summer campaign and received two HSU stars: 24 April
1943 for 15 kills and 24 August for 29, of these 25 in the Kuban battle.
B. B. Glinka flew on P-39D-2 no. 41-38431 until 22 March 1943, and I.
I. Babak on 41-38416 until 26 April 1943.
16th Guards IAP
This regiment was the only one transitioned at 25th ZAP that had
received its Guards designation (8 March 1943) before the receipt of the
Airacobras. Having fought continuously since 22 June 1941, it was first
relieved for rest and reconstitution at the end of December 1942 when it
arrived at 25th ZAP. The regiment began transition on Airacobras on 1
January and began flight training on 17 January. However, the training
process had to be extended three months because of the lack of airframes.
They began to arrive for 16th Guards IAP only on 11 March. The Pilots had
to ferry them themselves from Teheran.
By 3 April 1943 the regiment had been reformed on TOE 015/175 (32 air
crews) and departed for the front, to the 216th Mixed Air Division of 4th
Air Army. It had in its inventory 14 P-39L-1, 7 P-39K-1, and 11 P-39D-2
(serial numbers 41-38424, 425, 428, 430, 434, 437, 438, 528, 547, 550, and
555). It arrived at Krasnodar airfield on 8 April and on 11 April was
relocated to Popovicheskaya airfield.
The regiment began combat operations on 9 April, at the very beginning
of the battle for the Kuban. This campaign is considered pivotal in the
history of Soviet VVS. Over the course of two months of intense battles
with the best fighter squadrons of the Luftwaffe, Soviet pilots won
strategic superiority in the air. Approximately 1100 German aircraft were
destroyed, some 800 of them in the air. Western historians call this
battle the "Stalingrad" of the Luftwaffe.
The pilots of the regiment fought combat operations of a corresponding
nature with German fighters. The outcome of the battles in April: 289
Airacobra and 13 Kittyhawk combat sorties, in which were conducted 28
aerial engagements. Shot down were Bf-109E-14, Bf-109F-12, Bf-109G-45,
FW-190-2, Ju-88-4, Do-217-1, and Ju-87-1. Of these, Guards Captain A. I.
Pokryshkin shot down 10 Messers, Guards Senior Lieutenant V. I. Fadeev
12-Bf-109s, and Guards Senior Lieutenant G. A. Rechkalov 7 Messers and 1
Copyright Michael Bykov ©
P-39D-2 "White 37" of Guards
Snr.Lt. V.I. Fadeev, CO of the 3-rd Squadron, 16 GIAP. Kuban', April-May,
This delineated parsing of Messerschmitt kills by model is explained by
the fact that in this period Soviet pilots received official credit only
for aircraft downed over Soviet-controlled territory. Those destroyed on
the German side of the front line were not counted, as a rule. Because of
this method of counting, A. I. Pokryshkin, for example, was "shorted" 13
German aircraft (by the end of the war his actual score was 72 kills but
of these only 59 were counted officially). A pilot received credit for an
enemy airplane destroyed after confirmation by ground forces of its fall,
with a tally of its location, type, and number. Frequently the ground unit
removed and sent to the air unit the engine data plate.
During this same period the regiment lost 13 Airacobras destroyed or
not returned from combat missions, two in accidents, and 11 pilots. 19
Airacobras were received into the regiment in April (of these P-39D-2
numbers 41-38416, 429, 458, and 520) and 4 P-40Es, received from 45th IAP,
84th IAP, and 25th ZAP. 41-38423 was the last, received on 5 June.
During two months of intensive battles a large portion of the earlier
model P-39s was used up. By 1 June 1943 19 Airacobras remained in the
regiment, of these 6 P-39D-2 (41-38416, 424, 429, 434, 458, and 520).
There were non-combat losses as well: 41-38528 went into a spin during a
training flight on 30 May 1943 and the pilot died. The "old men" turned
out to be 41-38458, destroyed on 22 October 1943, and 41-38520. The latter
had been set aside for the regiment commander who did not fly on combat
missions. After 24 April 1943 it was given to pilot P. P. Ketov and safely
fought to the end of 1943, setting some kind of record for longevity. A.
I. Pokryshkin made a single combat flight in this aircraft in April.
The following aces of 16th Guards IAP flew in P-39D-2s: G. A Rechkalov
(41-38547, briefly), V. I. Fadeev (41-38428, tactical number 37), and N.
M. Iskrin (41-38555, tactical number 27).
The most successful P-39D-2 pilot
Guards Snr. Lt. V.I. Fadeev, CO of the 3-rd Squadron, 16 GIAP
with his wingman Guards Lt. A.I. Trud sitting on the
wing of Fadeev's
White 37 41-38428. According to 16 GIAP documents,
394 combat missions/51 encounters Fadeev
scored 17 personal and 3 shared
kills (from which 14 Bf-109 and 1 Ju-87
while flying Airacobra from April
4 to May 5, 1943). Fadeev was killed in action on May 5, 1943 and was
posthumously awarded the
Golden Star (photo from the author's collection)
In the future 16th Guards IAP became the most famous fighter regiment
in the Soviet VVS. The fundamentals of tactics of air combat that brought
victory and glory were laid down in the difficult battles over the Kuban.
It was here that the celebrated "Kuban bookshelf" was born, the
structuring of the squadron in pairs with 100-150 meters of separation and
horizontally dispersed coming out of the sun. The lower flight was the
strike element that engaged in combat, and the upper flight provided
cover. This formation gave freedom of maneuver, good visibility and
observation, and also permitted the pilots to compensate for the
insufficient vertical maneuverability of their Airacobras by mutually
supporting pairs. An enemy fighter attempting to gain altitude fell under
the attack of the upper "covering" pair. If the upper pair was attacked,
it could dive to a lower level, thus bringing the enemy fighters under the
fire of the "strike" element. The author of this combat formation, as well
as a number of other tactical methods, was A. I. Pokryshkin, a leading
Soviet ace and future three times Hero of the Soviet Union. For successes
in April battles, on 4 May Guards Captain Pokryshkin was named the chief
of aerial gunnery service of 16th Guards IAP. Given that his regiment
commander was not flying combat missions [the relationship of these two
men was tortured and almost fatal for Pokryshkin early in 1943--JG],
Pokryshkin became in effect the "director" of his own "school of aerial
combat". Among the graduates of this school before the end of the war were
one twice Hero and about ten Heroes of the Soviet Union.
The last unit to train on the early models of the Airacobra was the
494th IAP. The regiment arrived on 11 March 1943 and left for the front on
13 August 1943, transitioned to Airacobras and formed on TOE 015/174 (32
aircrews). Among the aircraft received were P-39D-2 numbers 41-38541, 544,
and 546. The regiment was commanded by Major I. V. Belov from 1 March to
30 November 1943 and fought as part of the 303d Smolensk IAD, alongside
the renowned Normadie regiment. However it played only a small part in
combat operations, completing altogether 62 combat sorties (44 hours). The
regiment downed 3 enemy aircraft with the loss of a single Airacobra and
pilot. It was folded into the 22d ZAP on 1 December 1943.
Several other units received single P-39D-2 aircraft. The 84th IAP,
which was at the 25th ZAP for transition training from April through July
1943, received numbers 41-58545 and 41-38423. It gave up the latter to
16th Guards on 31 May. The 57th Guards IAP, which had trained
earlier at the 25th ZAP on another aircraft type [Spitfire V], received
P-39D-2 number 41-38429 on 27 May 1943 (pilot Junior Lieutenant V. P.
Dudarev), apparently for familiarization, because in December 1943 the
entire regiment was re-equipped with the P-39 model N and Q.
The famous 9th Guards IAP also received single issuance of
P-39D-2 number 41-38416. This aircraft established an exemplary record: in
its brief life it managed to belong to four different regiments. 25th ZAP
received it in January 1943. It was identified as being in an accident in
the 45th IAP on 26 April, it was damaged again in the 16th Guards IAP, and
finally, on 1 August 1943, it was sent to 9th Guards IAP, clearly for
One P-39D-2 (41-38556) went on 22 May 1943 to the 28th IAP, a
regiment equipped with Kittyhawks.
The 436th IAP, also equipped with Kittyhawks, gave them up on 10
March 1943 and independently began preliminary transition training on the
Airacobra, for which it had received two P-39D-2s. By 15 March the entire
pilot component of the regiment was flying the Airacobras. The regiment
went through transition at the North-West Front, executed 114 sorties with
a total time of 16 hours 10 minutes. On the following day, having given up
the P-39D-2s, it arrived at 45th ZAP to receive more modern models
of the Airacobra.
To sum up the overview of the employment of the P-39D-2 on the
Soviet-German front, one can cite from "Report concerning the work of
the engineer-aviation service of 216th SAD" for April 1943, which
pertains, by the way, also to the P-39 models K and L: "In the opinion of
the pilots, the evaluation of the Airacobra with Allison engine is very
positive." As was outlined above, about 70 percent of the 216th's aircraft
were early models.
The reports of the maintenance chief of the 216th SAD for May and June
also reveal a great number of defects: weak chassis, stumbling of the
engine when in transition from high RPMs to low RPMs, and the tendency for
the aircraft to go into a spin. But the overall evaluation of the aircraft
Drawing conclusions, it can be said that the debut of the Airacobra in
the Soviet VVS was singularly successful. In skilled hands it was a
powerful weapon, fully on a par with the enemy equipment. There was no
"special" operational environment for the Airacobras-they were employed as
normal multi-purpose fighters that fulfilled the same roles as Lavochkins
and Yakovlevs: they contested with fighters, escorted bombers, flew on
reconnaissance, and protected our ground forces. They differed from
Soviet-produced fighters in having a more powerful armament,
survivability, and a good radio, and fell behind our fighters in vertical
maneuverability, capability to withstand excessive G-forces, and to
execute acute maneuvers. The pilots loved their Airacobras for comfort and
good protection. As one P-39 pilot expressed it, he felt like he was
"flying in a safe". Airacobra pilots did not burn because the aircraft was
metal and the fuel cells were positioned far away in the wing. They were
not subject to jets of steam or streams of oil because the engine was
behind them. Their faces were not beat up on protrusions of the gunsight.
If the airplane should happen to flip over on landing, they were not
turned into lump of flesh, as happened to twice HSU A. F. Klubov after
transitioning from a P-39 to an La-7. There was a kind of mystical belief
that a pilot attempting to preserve a damaged Cobra by belly landing it
would almost always emerge not only alive, but also undamaged. But if he
bailed out of the same airplane he often was seriously injured or killed
by the stabilizer, which was on the same level as the door.
One more quotation to conclude this matter. On 5 November 1943, the
notes of a conversation of the ambassador of the USA A. Harriman with the
People's Commissar of Foreign Affairs of the USSR, V. M. Molotov: "There
is one type of airplane, namely the Airacobra, which is used very well by
the Soviet air forces. Harriman says that the Russians use this airplane
even better than the Americans. Therefore Vandenberg (General, one of the
leaders of the US Army Air Force) would be wise to acquaint himself with
the experience of Soviet pilots. In connection with this, Vandenberg would
want to visit Soviet squadrons equipped with the Airacobra aircraft."
Molotov responded that he considered such a meeting to be acceptable.
 Calculations were made, but not immediately, taking into
consideration the mutual exchange deliveries over a specified period (year
or longer), normally with a delay in payment until the end of the war. The
USSR delivered primarily metal ores and paid in gold.
 Soviet aircraft industry delivered a total of 600 aircraft in
 US Army Air Force, which prior to December 1941 was named the
US Army Air Corps.
 According to 25th ZAP materials.
 Sovershenno sekretno-top secret.
 See Voyenno-istoricheskiy zhurnal, No. 2 1991, page 28.
 Marshal Kutakhov received his first HSU award on 1 May 1943 for
combat performance, and his second on 15 August 1984 "for great
contribution to the improvement of combat readiness and acquisition by the
VVS of modern aviation equipment and in connection with his 70th
 So stated in the original (and in Soviet reference books, for
example, "German aircraft of 1941"). The designation is borrowed from
German propaganda materials. In all likelihood, it was a Bf-109F.
"Catastrophic loss /failure" indicates the loss of an aircraft
and human fatalities, as opposed to a an accident when the equipment is
damaged or lost but no casualties are inflicted. These definitions are
irrelevant to the cause (human or technical).
 Northern Fleet VVS received a total of 75 Airacobra I aircraft
in 1942-43. See Morskoy sbornik
5-6 /92, page 14.
 This is an abbreviated form of annotating the serial number on
the aircraft's tail. The corresponding complete number is 41-38433.
 Russian typewriters did not have Latin letters on the keyboard
and Latin letter codes were omitted from all typed documentation. In rear
instances of handwritten documents these codes are present. Therefore
BX/AP (?) and alike means that the letter code is not known.
 IAP - Istrebitel'nyj Aviatsionnyj Polk (Fighter Aviation
Regiment); GIAP - Gvardeyskiy Istrebitel'nyj Aviatsionnyj Polk (Guards
Fighter Aviation Regiment); ZAP - Zapasnoj Aviacionnyj Polk (Reserve
Aviation Regiment); ZAB - Zapasnaya Aviatsionnaya Brigada (Reserve
Aviation Brigade); IAD - Istrebitel'naya Aviatsionnaya Diviziya (Fighter
Aviation Division); PAP - Peregonochnyj Aviatsionnyj Polk (Ferry Aviation
Regiment); VA - Vozdushnaya Armiya (Air Army); VVS - Voenno-Vozdushye Sily
(Air Forces); VVS SF - Voenno-Vozdushnye Sily Severnogo Flota (Air Forces
of the Northern Fleet)
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