Pre-GPW Aviation => Pre-WWII Aviation => Topic started by: han9 on August 30, 2016, 10:39:04 AM

Title: Soviet fighters in China
Post by: han9 on August 30, 2016, 10:39:04 AM
There is considerable material regarding Soviet aircraft pre-WW II as well as WW II in the Far East particularly in the context of the  Sino-Japanese conflict and Soviet Unions entry into the war against Japan in 1945 on the well known page.

While some of it is linked here and there on this forum I would like to propose to transfer it in full on a piece by piece bases. I could do this over a period of several weeks or so. 

No plagiarism, appropriation or such is intended for the author as well as original source are credited and a link to the latter provide.

The advantage of transferring the material here is that for starters one does not have to access a different page, this is minor in fact. Arguably more important is, that web pages sometimes go down, rid themselves of old materials during revamps etc. Should this happen all this interesting stuff would be for all practical purpose lost.   

These are IMO strong points in favor of my proposal but the final word belongs to the admin.

So below is a first piece of part one while the rest awaits the admin?s decision.

Soviet Fighters in the Sky of China
by Anatolii Demin
Aviatsiia i Kosmonavtika 9.2000
translated by George M. Mellinger, Twin Cities Aero Historians

 {For Russian names I have used a simplified version of the Library of Congress system; for Japanese names, the rendition common in Western literature.  Except for a very few well-known exceptions (Beijing, Chiang Kai Shek) Chinese names and places have proven very difficult.  I have been given by a friend  a table for transliterating Pinyan phonetics into Cyrillic, and have tried to work it backwards to obtain Pinyan from the Russian.  I am not confident of any success.  I ask your indulgence, and any corrections the knowledgeable may wish to give. -GMM}

On July 7, 1937 near the Lugoutsiao old marble bridge, mentioned in the diaries of Marco Polo, there occurred a border clash between the Japanese occupiers of Manchuria and the forces of the Guomindang government., which became the start of a full-scale war.  Although the Japanese later hypocritically began to call it the ?second Sino-Japanese conflict?, many historians consider this date to have been the actual beginning of the Second World War.  The pretext was laughable: During Japanese maneuvers in Manchuria a soldier vanished.  They maintained that he simply ran off in the night to some den of iniquity.  The Japanese delivered the Chinese an ultimatum that they had over the soldier, the gates of the city, and then perhaps we will find him ourselves.  Refusal of the Chinese authorities and the skirmish at the bridge, and soon the Japanese brought up their forces, began an artillery bombardment of the Chinese territory not yet occupied by them.

Not meeting organized resistance by the Chinese forces (not infrequent were instances of outright treachery among the higher command staff of the Guomindang), the Japanese began to push deeper into China.  Beijing fell on July 28, Tientsin on July 30, then Kalgan and other cities.
On August 13 began the battle for Shanghai.  Later the Japanese, affected by a sickness of the head, wrote that the garrison in this city encompassed significant Chinese forces.  Japanese intelligence warned that with the support of aviation from the aerodromes in the region of Nanking, the Chinese forces could in the course of several days wipe out the surrounded Japanese.  By coincidence, that very day the Aviation Committee (AK) of the Guomindang government issued order No.1 to the Chinese Air Force on conducting combat operations.  The Japanese did not have any aerodromes in the region of Shanghai, and the ground forces were at risk of remaining without aviation support.  The light aircraft carrier Hoso with ancient A2N fighters was unable to render serious opposition to the Chinese aircraft, so by August 15 they dispatched  the heavier aircraft carrier Kaga to the Chinese coast near Shanghai.

Combat activity in the entire Chinese territory with the large scale use of aviation began on August 14, but the forces in the air were blatantly unequal.  The Japanese at this time began to receive tangible results from the government program of development and modernization of military aviation, particularly the development of their domestic aviation industry.  During the years 1935 to 1937 the Japanese procured domestically. 952, 1181, and 1511 military aircraft.  From 1937 the Japanese aviation industry drew a veil of strict secrecy and began a sharply increased production of modern military aircraft.  By 1936-1937 the Japanese had independently developed and put into series production the  twin motor bombers, Mitsubishi Ki-21 and G3M1, the reconnaissance aircraft Ki-15, shipboard bomber B5N1 and shipboard fighter A5M1 (Type 96).  Their later appearance in the sky of China in the fall of 1937 was a notable event, which at the time just did not receive attention.  At that time almost everywhere in the west the potential of Japanese aviation designers appeared very small; the Japanese aviation industry seemed capable only of copying western examples, and the military aircraft lagging behind by an entire generation.  The appearance of the A5M, the main rival of the Chinese Air Force from 1937 to1940, signified that the Japanese had a fighter equal in all regards to the best of its western contemporaries.

Although by the start of the war the Japanese had managed to reequip only naval aviation,  and the army was still in the process of reform, it did not yet have any decisive importance.  Operating from aircraft carriers and coastal airfields, and utilizing an overwhelming superiority of numbers, Japanese naval aviation quickly secured complete dominance of the skies.  Specially valuable for the Japanese were the long distance raids by naval bombers deep into Chinese territory from bases in Japan and Taiwan.  Army aviation, limited to protection of ground units in Manchuria, quickly formed new units.  But measured by the participation of new Japanese aircraft, and also of the training of aircrews Imperial Army Aviation was more widely used in the battles in China.

The combat potential of the Chinese Air Force opposing them was limited by the absence of an actually functioning aviation industry.  Although from the beginning of the 1930s under the condition of permanent civil war, the Guomindang gave great attention to the development of military aviation and constructed several aviation factories in Shanghai, Hangzhou, Shaoguang, Nanchang, the actual results fell far short of those desired.  Aviation advisors, invited from developed European countries and the USA for rendering technical assistance, for the most part lobbied for the commercial interests of their countries.  This led to a chaotic purchase of various types of aircraft, many of which by that time were more or less obsolete.

In 1934 China concluded a contract with the American company Curtiss-Wright for the construction at Hangzhou occupied mainly with assembling the American fighters Haw II and Hawk III.  In 1934 -1935 from the USA, the main supplier of aviation technology, China imported 213 aircraft and 94 aircraft motors, in total sum, including spare parts, 6.2 million dollars.  At the beginning of 1936 the central government of China in Shiansu Province (Its capital, Nanking became the temporary capital of China after the Japanese seizure of Manchuria) opened a wide campaign for the collection of donations to Chiang Kai Shek for the purchase of airplanes.  The activity was analogous to our ODVF {the Soviet Voluntary Society for the Air Fleet, an organization which collected donations from Soviet citizens to purchase ?dedicated? aircraft, and provided flight training to thousands of Soviet youngsters. -GMM}; in this enterprise, they collected 3.5 million yuan, and of this the greatest portion was spent for the purchase of Hawk IIIs, and replacement parts for them.  A further 9 Haws were bought for the Guangdong province Air Force.  By the start of the war the aviation factories at Hangzhou and Shaoguang had managed to assemble from imported parts about 100 Hawk IIIs, and it had become the primary fighter of the Chinese Air Force.  In the summer of 1937 the air force of the Guomindang numbered about 600 combat aircraft, of which 305 were fighters, but not more than half were combat capable.

After the reorganization of the Chinese air force in 1935-1936, independent aviation squadrons, consisting of flights from the various provinces of China were combined into several air groups, each of 3 squadrons (of 10 aircraft each).  Fighters were the 3, 4, and 5 Air Groups, and the independent 29 squadron.

?New Hawks? (as the Chinese called the Hawk III) equipped the 4 and 5 Air Groups and also the 7 and 29 squadrons (before the war the 7 squadron still retained a number of Italian Breda Ba-27s).  The other squadrons of the 3 Air Group, the 8 and 17 were equipped respectively with the Italian Fiat CR.32 (in China there were a total of about 15), and the obsolescent American Boeing 281 (P-26).  The 5 Air Group and the Flight schools had about 50 obsolete ?Old Hawk? IIs.

On August 14, all this ?International? went to war.  The Chinese pilots struggled gallantly, and according to Chinese data, during the first month of air combat, beginning on August 14, in spite of overwhelming predominance of the Japanese Air Force, shot down more than 60 aircraft inflicting tangible losses on the aggressor.  Historians in the Chinese People?s Republic claim that in 1937 during the fighting in the region Sunzyan-Shanghai the Chinese Air Force together with the ground forces shot down 230 aircraft, killing 327 Japanese airmen.  Although these figures seem obviously exaggerated (though this is usual for historians of aviation in almost every country), all the same, the honor of the Chinese fighters in the opening period of the war was great.  According to Japanese data, during the period August 14 to October 10, 1937 they lost a total of 39 aircraft, destroying 181 Chinese aircraft in the air and 140 on the ground.

But the losses of the Chinese Air Force in the first months of the war were extraordinarily high.  Actively employed in China from September 1937 in increasing quantity, the Japanese fighter, A5M (Type 96), in its performance considerably outclassed the Hawk III, then the best fighter in the Chinese Air Force.  Most of the few air victories were attained with much Chinese blood, and the score of victories was continually not in their favor.  Already in the first air battles 2/3s of the combat aircraft were lost.  On October 10, 1937 remaining in service were only 130 combat aircraft, and by the beginning of November there remained not more than three dozen combat worthy machines.  The Chinese aircraft factories could not make up for the combat losses.  ?1 Air Force Aviation Factory? in Shaoguang by the end of 1937 had assembled 12 Hawks partially from parts salvaged from destroyed aircraft.  Not solving the problem was the purchase of three dozen English Gloster Gladiators Mark I, with which the 28 squadron of the 5 Air Group began to replace their destroyed Hawk II and III from the beginning of October.1937.

Under these conditions, the government of Chiang Kai Shek was able to count only on the wide scale help of the USSR.  And it came.  Already by August 21, a week after the Japanese invasion, China and the USSR signed a Treaty of Nonaggression and agreements on military-technical assistance.  In September 1937, long before the official apportionment in March 1938 of the first tranche of credits of 50 million dollars, there was a resolution to deliver to China on credit, 225 combat aircraft, among which were the fighters which had distinguished themselves in the skies of Spain, the I-15 (62 machines) and I-16 (93 machines), and also 8 UTI-4 trainer aircraft.  Thus began the top secret ?Operation Z (Zet)?, envisaging not only the dispatch of aviation equipment, but also the tours of Soviet volunteers for participation in battle.  The Chinese delegation returned to I. V. Stalin on September 14, 1937 with such a request.  Soon the Komissar of Defense K. E. Voroshilov received an order to assemble the best volunteer aviators and send to China a squadron of I-16 fighters (31 aircraft, 101 men), and a squadron of SB bombers (31 aircraft, 153 men). {At this time a Soviet ?eskadrilya? consisted of 31 aircraft in 3 ?otryady?, each otryad having 10 aircraft.  The remaining aircraft was for the commander. Two or more eskadrilii equaled a ?brigada?.  During 1938 the ?eskadrilya ? was redesignated the ?polk?- regiment, while the ?otryad? was redesignated as an ?eskadrilya?.  The strength or structure did not change, only the names, though later the regiments began to organize with 4 to even 6 component squadrons, while the squadrons themselves became 15 aircraft formations-GMM}

For fulfillment of ?special government assignments? from the middle of September and through the first ten days of October, the selected fighter pilots assembled from across the country in conditions of the strictest secrecy.  Many of those who were chosen at first believed that they were headed for ?the Spanish corrida?, but their long road led to ?the Sino-Japanese tea ceremony?.

Pilots sent from all districts for the Far Eastern special aviation units were inspected by ?Spaniards? - Kombrigs Ya. V. Smushkevich and P. I. Pumpur. Already during the scrupulous vetting of individual preparedness, pilots of the 9 Independent Fighter Squadron {OIAE} Named For K. E. Voroshilov surmised that the selected were going to the war in Spain.  Mainly the old-timers were chosen, men who had served in the squadron since Smolensk, where at the beginning of the 1930s Ya. V. Smushkevich was Komissar of the air brigade, and also several young pilots - D. A. Kudymov, Korestelev, Bredikhin, Kuznetsov, and others.   From the 32 OIAE of the Pacific Ocean Fleet six were chosen, among them A. Z. Dushin, S. Remizov, Manuilov, and others.  On the command staff of the air group were included several test pilots among them A. N. Chernoburov.

Title: Re: Soviet fighters in China
Post by: Massimo Tessitori on August 31, 2016, 06:52:47 AM
Hi Han,
I think that your work is interesting and deserves to be prosecuted. I don't think that copyright issues are worst that on other threads, when the sources are accurately credited.

Title: Re: Soviet fighters in China
Post by: han9 on August 31, 2016, 09:43:55 AM
Hi Han,
I think that your work is interesting and deserves to be prosecuted. I don't think that copyright issues are worst that on other threads, when the sources are accurately credited.

Thank you for your approval

So, here is the second piece of part one of:

Soviet Fighters in the Sky of China
by Anatolii Demin
Aviatsiia i Kosmonavtika 9.2000
translated by George M. Mellinger, Twin Cities Aero Historians

In October 1937 the pilots from the Far East traveled t Moscow where at the flying  brigade of the Zhukovskii Academy, the volunteers assembled from all over the country.  None of them had Spanish experience.  The pilots acquainted themselves with the basic characteristics of the Japanese fighter Type 95 (Ki-10).  By October 21, for departure to the Far East 447 men were prepared, including ground personnel, specialists in airfield maintenance, engineers, and workers for assembling the aircraft.  Changing into ?civilian uniform?the volunteer pilots traveled by train to Alma-Ata.  They were accompanied to the station by Smushkevich himself, unintentionally unmasking the entire enterprise.  None the less, on the train, the pilots represented themselves as a sporting expedition.  But the ?Spaniard? G. N. Zakharov, a future Hero of he Soviet Union, represented himself to the railway authorities and everyone else as the oldest of the legendary track athlete Znamenskii brothers and distributed forged autographs.

But nothing goes without a slip-up.  On arrival at Alma-Ata it was discovered that the whole group flew only the I-15, but at the local aerodrome, waiting for them were more than 30 already assembled but unflown I-16s.  In consequence, during the course of two-three weeks waiting for a new group of pilots, it fell to Zakharov to train each of the new pilots on the I-16.  They were sent on only at the end of November.  The personnel of the I-15 squadron (99 men, of whom 39 were pilots), under the command of Captain A. S. Blagoveshchenskii, traveled to China in three groups in November, and December 1937 and January 1938.

The first groups of I-15s and I-16s, analogous with the bombers, were ferried along the southern route Alma-Ata - Lanzhou (Gansu Province).

Until the opening of the northern route in across Mongolia, the only alternative to the southern route was by sea, which the Chinese government decided to establish for military equipment.  For this the Chinese chartered several English steamships which delivered the weapons to Hong Kong for re-shipment to the Chinese authorities.  Eventually, Haiphong and Rangoon served as designated ports.  From their moorings, military equipment and weapons were transferred to China by motor or railroad transport.  The first two steamers with 6182 tons of military cargo departed Sevastopol in the second half of November 1937.  On board, among the motor and armored vehicles (82 T-26 tanks, 30 motors, and 568 crates of spare parts for the T-26, 30 Komintern tractors, 10 ZIS-6 trucks), various infantry and artillery weapons, were also included 20 76mm anti-aircraft guns and 40 thousand rounds for them, 207 crates with control mechanisms for them, 4 searchlight units, 2 sound locators, and aviation armaments.

Avoiding an undesired meeting with Japanese warships, the steamships arrived satisfactorily at their appointed locations only at the end of January.  In February from China a telegram was sent to the USSR: ?Cargo of the first and second ships arrived in Haiphong and Hong Kong.  Ships unloaded and beginning of transshipment or cargo to center of China.  In a few days the trans shipment should be complete...?  But the weak development of the transportation net, did not permit a high rate of delivery of military equipment to the zone of military action.  This took another 1.5 to 2 months. 

It is natural that similar operations for delivery of aviation equipment were unacceptable.  But if the landing fields of the southern route, high altitude, of small dimensions, and ill-equipped, were poorly suited for fast bombers, for fighters they were simply dangerous, especially for the I-16 with its high landing speed.   And further, the machines were overloaded. As G. Zakharov wrote, ?apart form the full load of fuel and ammunition, we had to carry what we would need in the event of a forced landing.  Hooks, rope, tent, tools, even spare parts.  In truth, every fighter was turned into a truck.

Winter weather did its bit.  While Zakharov?s group was overnighting at Gucheng, ?overnight the airfield and aircraft became snowbound, and by morning, it was impossible to fly.  There was no way to clear the landing field; the area was wild, with few people.  Then I freed two fighters as far as the runway, and in the space of 2 ? -3 hours, taxiing one after another they wore down a rut.  Taking off from such a rut was dangerous, it is not at all like going out skiing with a rucksack on your back.  A meter to either side... and a crash!  But there was no other way out.  Eventually Zakharov flew off.  A short time later, one of the groups of I-16s was stranded for a month at Gucheng and there greeted the new year (1938) in a small clay hut.  When the blizzard subsided, in the words of mechanic V. D. Zemlyanskii, ?it seemed you could only guess where the fighters were under the snow.  For clearing the airfield they mobilized a number of local inhabitants - Chinese, Uigurs, Dungans, who cut a runway through the snowy obstruction.  At the same time F. P. Polynin?s group of SB bombers at a different aerodrome, for a space of two weeks was blanketed by a sand storm.

In his memoirs, the navigator P. T. Sobin wrote in detail how from September 1937 to June 1938 he and the pilots A. A. Skvortsov or A. Shorokhov repeatedly led groups of 10-12 fighters.  For ferrying the very first group of I-16 fighters, as  navigator for A. Shorokhov, N. I. Ishchenko was brought from a TB-3, already familiar with the route.  Ferrying the I-16 and I-15s usually proceeded along the following scenario: First the leader took off, and then circling he collected the other fighters taking off individually.  Along the route they flew in zvenos (flights - either 3 or 5 aircraft) or pairs, with the crew leader attentively watching his wingmen: no one fell behind.  On approach to the airfield, the leader dispersed the formation, the fighters formed a circle and landed individually. The intervening aerodromes, in general were located at the limits of the fighters? range, therefore the assembly of a group after take-off proceeded very quickly and they landed directly.  Occasionally there was insufficient fuel.  The leader would land last. Then the commander critiqued the fligh and gave the pilots orders of the next leg of the journey.

According to Sobin, during his entire time ferrying, there occurred only one occasion of losing an aircraft en route.  As a result of a malfunctioning motor, an I-16 made a forced landing in the region of Mulei (70 km east of Gucheng).During the landing the pilot received a concussion, and the damaged aircraft remained in that location until the arrival of a repair brigade.  The pilot A. Z. Dushin while flying an I-15 to Langzhou on December 25, smelled a whiff of acid in te cockpit and then the aircraft began to slip out of control.  Fortunately he managed to land successfully in a relatively level open space and save the machine.  But after repair, while taking off from the strip, the machine fell apart, and he came down again, among the rocks and  forests.

Too often at the intermediate aerodromes aircraft nosed over on landing.  The pilots of course received light injuries, but the aircraft suffered bent propellers, damaged cowlings, motors and tails.  These aircraft were quickly repaired.

The most serious accident happened during the ferrying of the first group.  On October 28 while landing at the Suzhou aerodrome, located in the middle of the mountains, the commander of a group of ten I-16s V. M. Kurdyumov did not note the decreased air density and increased landing speed : the rolled at the edge of the strip, turned over and burst into flames, killing the pilot.

Unwarranted losses and delays due to meteorological conditions during ferrying resulted in the ?air bridge?soon shutting down, and fighters were sent in disassembled in trucks began to travel to Hami (Sinjiang province).  For this a thousand soviet workers were sent to this region, who under difficult conditions in a very short period of time built a road through the mountains and desert.  The first trucks started down the ?road of life? in April 1938, and at the end of the month the automobile convoy reached Hami.  There the fighters were assembled, flown, and then ferried by air to Lanzhou.  The entire journey took 18-20 days.  Along such a path were sent the first 62 I-15bis., and also 10 complements of aviation bombs and cartridges for all the aircraft sent on the credit account, replacement parts, POL, aerodrome and other materials, in all 2332 tons.

From October 31, 1937 the southern route was commanded by Kombrig P. I. Pumpur.  Learning of the flying accidents in the Kurdyumov group, he changed the already set flight date for the second group of I-16s, composed, for the most part of Far Easterners : fighters from the 9 and 32 independent squadrons.  Pumpur began to train intensively the pilots for flights at maximum altitude, with landings in almost inaccessible places in the hills, and limited landings strips.  The pilot Korestelev, who nosed over on a short landing strip in the mountains was removed from flight status, and was almost returned t his unit, but his comrades displaying bravery, stood firm.  This group stood out for its preparedness.

The group of 9 I-16s flew out from Alma-Ata at the beginning of December 1937, led by Kombrig P. I. Pumpur himself.  (Later another commander of the route, Kombrig A. Zalevskii also sometimes escorted ferrying groups in an I-15bis, which he often flew to Hami for instruction of inexperienced pilots who frequently nosed over the I-15bis  or stood it on the nose  while landing.  The single catastrophe occurred in Lanzhou on February 18, 1938, killing Lieutenant F. S. Romanov.).  The group flew to Lanzhou without special incidents.  There they turned the I-16s over to the Chinese and returned to Alma-Ata in a transport aircraft for a new group of machines.  As the volunteer D. A. Kudymov remembers, after the second successful journey Pumpur requested this group to continue in the role of ferry pilots, but then taking pity on them, let them go to war anyway.

The group, flying on to Shanghai was led further by Chinese pilots Tun, Lo and Li, flying in the Hawk III.  Unfortunately our volunteers remembered at best distorted names of the Chinese, more like nicknames; and  in Chinese sources the family names of Soviet are not understood either, and are written in ideographs, and therefore it is practically impossible to establish for certain the interaction between Soviet and Chinese pilots in the vast majority of cases.  But in the given situation, it is known that the leaders were the new commander of the 4 Air Group Li Guidan, the commander of the 21 squadron Dun Minde, and his deputy Le Yitsin.  From the moment of arrival of this group at Shanghai were busy with the Japanese, and by the beginning of December the entire group had been deployed together with Chinese fighter units at Nanking.

The first Chinese pilots were sent to Lanzhou for the new fighters in September 1937, long before they arrived in China.  By order of the Aviation Committee, as early as September 21, the 4 Aviation Group transferred all its remaining Hawk IIIs to the 5 Air Group, and departed to get I-16s.  The 7 and 8 squadrons of the 3 Air Group at the end of August received an order to prepare to rebase to Xian (Shansi Province) to re-equip with the I-15.  Retraining on the I-16 proceeded at Lanzhou, and on the I-15 at Xian and Xiangfan (Hubei Province).  By November 6, 35 I-16 and 4 UTI-4 had gone from Alma-Ata to China, but to the end of November, in China there were only 23 I-16s (the group of Captain G. M. Prokov?ev).  By December 1, 86 aircraft of various types were handed over to the Chinese representative in Shanghai.

The pilots of the 4 Air Group seemed more prepared, quickly transitioning from the New Hawk to the I-16.  Already by the second half of November the first group of Chinese in the I-16 were able to return to Nanking, but during the flight hey went off course and during a forced landing a portion of the machines were wrecked, though the details are unknown.  The second group of I-16s was led by Gao Zhui-han, the commander of the 4 Air Group, who had recovered from wounds (He was the first pilot in the Chinese Air Force to shoot down a G3M2 bomber, on August 14,1937, but was wounded the next day.).  While refueling at Zhouzheyakou aerodrome (Honan Province), they were caught by some Japanese, who evidently were conducting reconnaissance.  Bombs from one of the 10 G3M2s scored a direct hit on an I-16 killing Gao Zhui-han (The first loss in an I-16, on November 21.).  The next day 11 bombers repeated the  attack, but 2 or 3 I-16s of the Kurdyumov group chased them away from the airfield and shot down one aircraft.

Further, the Chinese, in spite of the serious situation at the front (in the first ten days of November Shanghai fell, Nanking on December 13, and Hangzhou on December 27), did not hurry with retraining.  Official training of Chinese pilots on the fighter trainers began at Langzhou only on December 3,1937.After three months 73 Chinese pilots had been prepared.  In addition to this, a number of Chinese cities (Chengdu, Suinin, Lyangshan, Laohekou, and others) opened flying and aviation-mechanical schools where Soviet aviation specialists directly participated in training national aviation cadres until 1942.  Sometimes combat pilots came to the aerodromes of the aviation schools in new or repaired aircraft.  Then they conducted demonstration air battles for the cadets, thus once G. Zakharov and A. Dushin ?fought?, sharing their combat experience.  Several of the fighter pilots, among them D. a. Kudymov, during quiet  periods specially traveled to Lanzhou to teach Chinese pilots on the I-16.  In 1938 the already combat-experienced test pilot A. N. Chernoburov became head of one of these schools.

Also, some Chinese pilots traveled to the USSR to train.  Two hundred pilots were trained in Soviet flying schools by the spring of 1938.  Soviet volunteers remembered that in China attached to them was a certain Colonel Chan who had earlier completed the Borisoglebsk flying school.  In addition to the Nationalists, the Chinese Communist party also sent cadets to study, a very large group being sent in the winter of 1937.  Chu De sent 43 men from the 8th Red Army to study aerial mastery and the acquisition of technical knowledge at the flight school at Xinziang (It was led by Sheng Shicai).  Later, beginning in 1949 this cadre became the nucleus of the air Forces of the Chinese Peoples Liberation Army.  But during the Sino-Japanese war Nationalist aviation units with the I-16 and I-15 began to participate in battles only from February-March 1938.

Our pilots began to fight literally from the first hours of arriving at the forward aerodromes.  Having lost their commander, V. Kurdyumov, the first group (including Veshkin, Demidov, V. P. Zhukotskii, P. Kazachenko, Konev, P. Panin, Panyushkin, I. G. Puntus, S. Remizov, Seleznev) entered combat as early as November 21.  In battle with 20 Japanese, 7 I-16s over Nanking shot down without loss 3 Japanese aircraft (2 Type 96 fighters and 1 bomber) The next day G. M. Prokof?ev?s group scored its first victory, in a battle 6 against 6 (I-16 against A5M) shooting down the pilot Miyazaki.  On November 24, six A5Ms escorting eight bombers damaged three of six intercepting I-16s.  The Japanese themselves asserted two victories.  According to data in the Ministry of Defense archives, on November 22, 1937 the pilot Lieutenant N. N. Nezhdanov was killed in an air battle. [1]

[1]Archival records in a number of instances such as these need correction. Thus, with reference to their claim that one of the places of burial of V. M. Kurdyumov appears to be in Nanking, which is hardly likely (the body would not be transported across the whole of China to the front).  The buried in Nanking in 1938 numbered three Soviet aviators at most. (the city was captured by the Japanese in December 1937.  Bombardier M. A. Tarygin, killed during an attack on Taiwan on February 23,1938 (drowned through landing in the water by the Chinese crew)is listed as dying only on February 24, and the official date of death of fighter pilots killed on February 18,1938 over Wuhan appears only on February 25, and perhaps they are buried in Nanchan

Title: Re: Soviet fighters in China
Post by: han9 on September 01, 2016, 09:33:50 AM
So, here is the third piece of part one of:

Soviet Fighters in the Sky of China
by Anatolii Demin
Aviatsiia i Kosmonavtika 9.2000
translated by George M. Mellinger, Twin Cities Aero Historians

On December 1 the fighters rose to battle with bombers approaching the aerodrome at Nanking.  In all, that day, during five flights, the volunteers shot down or damaged about 10 bombers and four fighters.  Two I-16s were lost, their pilots escaping by parachute.  One fighter from a malfunction of the fuel system landed in the water of a rice padddy.  The Chinese peasants pulled it out with oxen.  On December 2, over Nanking the Soviet fighter pilots Bespalov,  A. Kovrygin, Samonin, Shubich, and others in five flights without loss shot down six bombers.  On their side, the Japanese claimed that during the attack of eight Yokosuka B4Y assault aircraft with an escort of six A5Ms of the 13th Unit they shot down seven I-16s without loss.  December 3 the volunteers shot down four Japanese aircraft.  During these days, in one battle a foursome composed of Dun Minde, Khlyastych, Panyukov, and Kudymov destroyed five bombers, and in another the pilot Zhukotskii shot down 2 A5Ms.

However, with out a commande with battle experience,and fearing the numerical superiority of the enemy, in the words of the ?Chief Navigator? (this was the camouflage for the Chinese of the Group Komissar) A. G. Rytov, ?They acted each on their own...The air battle... procedded without spirit, unorganized.?  According to the memoirs of D. A. Kudymov, ?The Japanes hung over the city without a break... By day there would be five-six flights each.  We took off in groups of five or six aircraft against 50 bombers and 20-30 enemy fighters..  We were preserved only by impudence, quick wit, and the complete confusion in the sky, which was thick with enemy aircraft hurrying to drop their bombs on the city and clear the way for a new armada of bombers...?

The Japanese Type 96 fighter was a surprise to our pilots, since before their departure from the USSR, they studied only the Type 95.  Continuous combat effort exhausted the pilots and losses grew.  The day Rytov flew to Nanking at the beginning of December, two were killed. [2]  The answer to the question why, after the death of V. Kurdyumov the group remained without a commander is only in the memoirs of Rytov.  It seems that the deputy commander of the group, Sizov (possibly, the name has been changed), in that very difficult situation did not wish to assume complete responsibility and categorically refused to accept command.  Interestingly, Rytov remembers three similar circumstances.  One of the pilots of this same group (identified under the pseudonym ?Mashkin?), pleading indisposition, regularly avoided taking part in battle.  The doctor finding no  signs of illness, the group was of one mind that the problem was cowardice and sent him to the rear to train the Chinese.  In another group, the pilot  N., seeking an escape from battle, shot through the cockpit of his aircraft, but then conquered his fear and later fought bravely, in one battle covering and saving the pilot Baranov, and later in the Finnish war became a Hero of the Soviet Union.  In the bomber group the pilot K. shot himself in the shoulder.

Accompanying Rytov, t in his trip to Nanking, in two SBs were Kombrig, P. V. Rychagov, HSU, who had shot down more than 20 aircraft in Spain, Captain A. S. Blagoveshchenskii, and the fighter pilot N. A. Smirnov.  According to the plan, Blagoveshchenskii was to command the I-15 squaadron, of which at the end of 1937 or beginning of 1938, three groups had been sent to China.  But suddenly it fell to him to organize the combat activity of the Nanking fighter group with the I-16.  Rychagov became the advisor for fighter aviation; there is no information about his personal participation in combat.
Rychagov?s  Spanish experience and the command abilities of Blagoveshchenskii, gradually corrected the situation, which had resulted to a certain degree from miscalculations by the high command in Moscow: already from the fall of 1937 it was forbidden to send to war a group completely without any combat-experienced  pilots   Soon they began to conduct combat operations in a more orgnaized fashion and losses became fewer, and shot down Japanese more numerous.  One day (on February 19, according to indirect references) Blagoveshchenskii dueled one on one with the leader of a group of Japanes fighters while his followers kept away the other Japanese fighters.  The Japanese, some well-known ace, was finally was shot down, but he also managed to hit the Soviet.  The control stick was damaged, bullets hit the armored plate and tore his flight suit.  Victory in battle was a result primarily of correct tactics.  Pilots attacked formations of enemy aircraft from the rear on the sunny side, or at thinly watched locations.  It was recommended that they not go in mass formation, but in small groups from several directions.  A specially designated group was to join battle with the enemy fighters.
Success of the Soviet volunteers quickly became the property of the world?s presses. Already by December 18, an American pilot having come to Hong Kong from the southern province of Guarngdung announced that in the sky of China were bravely fighing 50 Soviet aviators, who had shot down 11 Japanese aircraft in their first battles.  After two days the Times? Hong Kong correspondent noted the appearance, after a long interruption of Chinese aviation, and that Russian ?pilots displayed enormous courage.?

Their first successes led to the Chinese government, as early as mid-December, to request the USSR to increase the delivery of aviation equipment.  Soon a new resolution was enacted in which it was decided to prepare and send to China without delay an additional 62 I-15s and 10 standard loads of aviation munitions.  The second group of I-15s (or I-15bis) was delivered and included in the Chinese Air Force order of battle by April 1938.  In all, bythe spring of 1938 the Chinese were sent 94 I-16, 122 I-15, 8 UTI-4, 5 UT-1 and also 62 SB, 6 TB-3, and 40 loads of munitions.

In battle the Soviet pilots gradually gained combat experience, later used successfullyat Khalkin Gol, in Finland, and the Great Patriotic War.  At the time of the evacuation of the Chinese forces from Nanking, the pilot Zhukotskii was unable to take off with the rest of the group due to a malfunctioning motor on his I-16.  The mechanic Nikol?skii repaired the motor at the very last minute.  The Japanese soldiers approaching the aerodrome were already visible as he started the motor, and squeezed himself into the cockpit.  Together they flew off to Nanchang, landing at the nearest Aerodrome of Anquin.

From the necessity to protect the aeerodromes from sudden attacks of Japanese aircraft, A. S. Blagoveshchenskii organized a VNOS (Air Observation Notification and Communications) service fully in accordance with Chinese realities.From morning to evening the pilots remained with their aircraft and parachutes, near the machines being serviced by the mechanics and technicians. The aircraft commande usually stood by the the command post, and the remaining machines were dispersed not far away by in chessboard order (staggered rows).  Immediately upon receiving an alarm of approaching enemy a dark blue flag appeared on the watch tower, signifying alarm.  Blagoveshchenskii usually took off first, after him the others.  At the spacious Nanchag aerodrome for economies of time the aircraft did not taxi to the starting linefor take off malong a narrow landing strip with a gravel covering, but began theri take-off runs in different  directions (like a fan) on intersecting courses.  There were no collisions.

At that time there was no radio communication between aircraft and the ground.  Groups in battle were directed only by rocking the wings.  Signals were determined clearly on the ground beforehand.  However, as was shown by the experience of the Korean war at the beginning of the 1950s, radio communications brought no special advantage in battle to the ?Chinese pilots?, ?Li-Si-Tsin?, ?Van-Yu-Shin?, and their friends.  For conducting radio conversations strictly in Chinese, in their document cases, together with flying maps there was inserted a crib sheet of Russian-Chinese phrases, for them to use during flight.

A. S. Blagoveshchenskii took the initiative in organizing cooperation between the ?fast? I-16 and the ?maneuverable? I-15.  At the suggestion of one of the pilots he centralized firing of the machine guns, ordering the installation of the firing button on the control stick, for lightening the aircraft he had the accumulators removed from all aircraft, and he installed armor plating behid the seats on the I-15, saving hte lives of many pilots.

The first series of I-15s sent to China were still without armor plating, even though our technicians in Spain had already begun to install hand made armor under field conditions.   Prior to departure for China, G. N. Zakharov, with his Spanish experience,  was entrusted with battling over the M. V. Frunze Central Aerodrome, to test an I-15bis  modified in light of combat experience.  In his words ?The aircraft had become somewhat heavier, and  become more stable, but through this the I-15 had lost some maneuverability..  In the I-15 I could complete a turn in 8-9 seconds, in the bis it required 11-12 seconds.  None the less, in general , it was the same machine, comfortable and obedient...?  Zakharov?s opponent in this ?battle? with camera guns was the combat pilot P. Agafonov, andthe factory test pilots Shevchenko, the brothers Davydov, and K. Kokkinaki also participated  in the tests.  The last of these  later conducted ?combat testing? of the I-15bis in the sky of China.  The Chinese did not distinguish in documents between the I-15 and I-15bis, and it is impossible exactly to determine the number sent of ?clean? I-15s and ?bisy?  According to some sources, ?the bisy? went in China from the middle of 1938.

The I-16s were supplied to China in two variants - type 5 and type 10..  The Chinese sometimes called the I-16s of the latter series ?I-16 III?.  The first I-16 type 10s began to be sent to China from the Spring of 1938.In the first battles was revealed the inadequate fire power of the two SkKAS wing machine guns of the I-16 type 5.  Therefore in the spring of 1938, together with the I-16 type 10 (2 wing and 2 synchronized ShKAS machine guns), in China there began to appear supplementary machine guns for rearming the I-16 type 5.  By June 14,1938 a hundred ShKASs had been sent for installing on 60 I-16s.  At the same time 2 million rounds of ammunition were supplied.  There is information that in a group of 30 I-16s sent to Langzhou on 3 August 1939 there were 10 cannon-armed {I-16 type-17 - GMM}. 

In their memoirs the volunteers assert that writing large numbers on the sides of the aircraft for easy recognition was also the idea of Blagoveshchenskii.  The fact is, tht all the aircraft in the Chinese Air Force had analogous markings long before then.  The first two digits designated the number of he squadron, and the final two the number of the aircraft in the unit.  Only the 24 squadron was an exception, where the number was written on the I-16 very small, the size of the numbers not exceeding 30 cm.  On the tails of the machines in small script was written the four digit registration number preceeded by the letter ?P-? {This means the Western P, not a Cyrillic P -GMM}. [3]  The Chinese recognition markings were white and light blue zebra stripes on the rudder and a twelve-pointed star on a blue field on the wings and fuselage.- marked on aircraft at Langzhou even before transfer to the Chinese.  The finish remained as original, except that the black cowlings of fighters built at the Moscow factory No. 39 were repainted in ?protective? color (dark green -the basic overall color -  from other sources, about fs 34102 - GMM)) .
To be continued...

 [2]According to the archives of the Ministry of Defense, on December 2, 1937 killed and buried at Nanking were Sr. Lt. A. N. Burdanov, Lt. V. S. Alekseev, Lt. M. I. Andreev, Lt. A. P. Petrov, and Starshina S. G. Popov - 2 I-16 pilots and an SB crew.

 [3] Later in the text we encounter aircraft numbers of both types: side nubers beginnig with th efigures?2?, ?3?, and from 1940, ?4?, registered on the tail beginning with the figure ?5? and higher (with the letter ?P? almost always omitted.

Title: Re: Soviet fighters in China
Post by: han9 on September 02, 2016, 11:41:56 AM
Here starts part two, more to follow. I may be out for a week or so and sometimes there might be breaks of a couple of days in transferring the material but do not worry I will make sure to transfer it all in due time.

Soviet Fighters in the Sky of China Part II
by Anatolii Demin
Aviatsiia i Kosmonavtika 10.2000
translated by George M. Mellinger, Twin Cities Aero Historians

{For Russian names I have used a simplified version of the Library of Congress system; for Japanese names, the rendition common in Western literature.  Except for a very few well-known exceptions (Beijing, Chiang Kai Shek) Chinese names and places have proven very difficult.  I have been given by a friend  a table for transliterating Pinyan phonetics into Cyrillic, and have tried to work it backwards to obtain Pinyan from the Russian.  I am not confident of any success.  I ask your indulgence, and any corrections the knowledgeable may wish to give. -GMM}
Before moving on to a more detailed description of the air battles involving the participation of our fighters, and the Chinese and Japanese, it is necessary to make a small digression.  In recent times, along with the memoirs of Soviet volunteers, not only Western sources (written on the basis of Japanese) but also Chinese (both Communist and Taiwanese) sources (unfortunately not archives) have become available, for the first time presenting the possibility of comparing writings about the same air battle as told by both sides.  Not pretending to the completeness of the facts provided below, none the less, I will try, even if as a first approximation, to compare several battles in the fall of 1937, even before the appearance in China of the I-15 and I-16.  Further, such a comparison permits to a degree, calculation of the well-known ?Muenchausen coefficient?, reflected in the history of air actions of all nations.

Thus according to Japanese sources, on September 4, 1937 the first pair of new A5Ms of Lieutenant T. Nakajima from the aircraft carrier Kaga for the first time met with several Chinese Haw II and Hawk IIIs over Lake Taihu.  They shot down three Chinese fighters and returned to the Kaga undamaged.  The Japanese newspaper Ashahi Shimbun sensationally reported to its readers that yesterday a dozen A5Ms wholly successfully debuted in the capitol?s skies over Nanking, destroying without loss no fewer than 33 enemy fighters in only 15 minutes!

On that same day a dozen A5Ms from the 13 aviation unit (?Kokutai?)  [1] together with six A5Ms from Kaga under the command of Lieutenant S. Yamashita completed during the day two missions over Nanking supporting bombers.  Meeting with more than half a hundred Hawk IIIs and Boeing 281s, the Japanese claimed the destruction of 26 Chinese fighters without losing a single machine.

On September 20 and 22 the A5Ms once again supposedly claimed four victories each day.  On September 26 the first A5M was shot down.  From October 3, for three weeks A5Ms from the 13 air unit completed 27 missions during the second ?air offensive? on Nanking.  On   October 6, ten A5Ms conducted two battles in all with 23 Chinese fighters, in which they supposedly claimed ten victories without loss.  Six days later 11 Japanese fighters, for the first time under conditions of numerical superiority fought with seven Chinese and destroyed five, but three A5Ms were also shot down.  These losses testify to the inexperience of the pilots, perhaps mistaking Chinese Breda 27 fighters for their own.  On October 14, A5Ms without loss shot down two of eleven opposing Chinese aircraft.  In November activity of Chinese fighters was very limited, and for the first three weeks of November there occurred only a single air battle, on November 11, in which three A5Ms from the Kaga intercepted three Northrop 2EC ground attack aircraft attempting to attack the aircraft carrier, and shot down two of them.

The Chinese do not give a complete list of their victories and losses, but describe the loss on September 3 of one of nine Hawk IIIs (No. 2310) of the 21st  squadron during an attack on Japanese positions near Shanghai, the death in an air battle of September 19 over Nanking of two flight commanders of the 8th  squadron - Huang Jugu and Liu Chi Huang.  On October 12 the Chinese note only one victory over an A5M - by the commander of the 24th squadron, Liu Cuigang, who became on the Hawk III, the first Chinese ace with 10 (according to Taiwanese sources -11) victories.  On that day he shot down a Japanese ?shipboard fighter Type 96? the first by the Chinese Air Force.  Perhaps the other A5Ms lost that day and earlier in September, were credited by the Chinese to antiaircraft artillery. [2]  On October 14 participating in an air combat were Lieutenant Liu Cuigang and Lieutenant Zhang Taoliang from the 8th squadron, whose hawk III (No. 2102) was shot down [3].  During the first half of that same day the Japanese also shot down fighter No. 2207 (Breda 27 or Hawk III), killing the pilot.

After the capture of Shanghai the Japanese forces moved up the Yangtse River toward Nanking.  On November 20 began the third and final Japanese ?air offensive? on the provisional capitol of China.  Although resistance on the ground was ineffective, aerial protection of the Capitol and city of Nanking having became the second basic goal, it was strongly reinforced by the volunteer squadrons of the VVS RKKA, arriving at exactly just the time to strengthen the fairly tattered anti-aircraft defenses.

At the time of these air battles, continuing after the capture of Nanking until about December 22, A5M fighters from the 12 and 13 air units, and the aircraft carrier Kaga continually escorted the Hiro G2H1 and Mitsubishi G3M2 bombers.  During these missions the A5Ms supposedly destroyed 38 enemy aircraft.  None the less, the Japanese recognized that the Soviet I-15 and I-16 fighters hastily entering the battles over Nanking and Nanchang, had established a certain degree of local air superiority.  In the last third of November the pilots of the Imperial fleet experienced a sudden decline in the number of new air victories - two aircraft on November 22, and two days later another two, in spite of numerous air engagements.

In China the Soviet fighters which received new nicknames (I-16 was ?Lastochka? or swallow, and the I-15  Chizh or siskin), actually fought on the same side as the American Hawks, the Crickets of the Pyrenees (Fiat CR-32), their main rival in Spain, English Gladiators, and the French Dewoitine D.510.  There was no special distinction for the maintenance and repair of the various types of machines.  In Nanchang the unified Soviet-Chinese fighter aviation group of 30 machines for some time was commanded by Dun Minde.

However the A5M pilots soon learned to cope with the soviet fighters and on December 2, according to Japanese sources, ?under conditions of numerical inferiority? shot down 7 Chinese fighters and 3 SBs.  The Japanese also claimed that already in the first battle in which the I-16 took part six A5Ms of the 13 air unit under the command of Lieutenant M. Nango took part without loss in a battle with 20 Lastochki.  They explained their success, in general to the inexperience of the Soviet pilots.  The Chinese write that on December 3 the commander of the 21st squadron Dun Minde and his deputy Le Yiqin took part, flying the Hawk III in an air battle over Nanking.  Soon afterward, already awarded the Chinese Golden Order for military service, he was killed.

A curious incident demonstrating the reliability of the new Japanese A5M fighter occurred on December 9 in an air battle over Nanking.  Quickly viewed, in a neglected film sequence, it looks, at first like a structural defect.  But ultimately the strength of its structure astonished even the Japanese themselves - the fighter was capable of withstanding sufficiently well the bullets of the ShKAS {7.62 mm - GMM}.  On December 9 the A5M1 of Sergeant [4]  K. Kashimura of the 13 air unit collided in the air with a Chinese Hawk III, seemingly already shot down and falling out of control.  A third of the left wing of the Japanese fighter flew off, but Kashimura fortunately was able to return to base.  In this battle seven A5Ms battled with 20 Chinese and Soviet fighters.  The Japanese claimed that they shot down 12 enemy aircraft while losing one A5M.

The Chinese reported that this A5M was shot down by the commander of the 26th squadron, Wang Hangxun, taking part in the battle in a formation of four Hawks.  In this battle, they themselves lost three aircraft, amongst them Hawk No. 2604, flown by Zhou Guanei, sent from Wuhan.  In this battle participated the new commander of the 29th squadron Lin Juetian and Guan Zhongjie of the 8th squadron (Hawk No. 2606).  Both were shot down.  Guan Zhongjie  escaped by parachute from his burning machine but was strafed by the Japanese on the ground.  Which of these pilots ?kissed? Kashimura, and under what circumstances, is unknown.

The fact is, aerial rams were far from uncommon in this war.  Among our pilots, only the one ram accomplished by A. Gubenko on May 31, 1938 became widely known. [5]  In addition the Chinese and our volunteers completed several rams in Soviet fighters.  On February 18, 1938 in a heavy air battle over Hankow a pilot of the 22nd squadron, Wu Dingchen in an I-15 rammed a Japanese aircraft and saved himself by parachute.  On April 29, 1938, also over Hankow, heroically died Junior Lieutenant Chen Huaimin of the 23rd squadron.  When his I-15 was boxed in by five Japanese, and his fighter had taken numerous hits, in stead of using his parachute, the pilot rammed an enemy aircraft and perished.  A month later his body was discovered in the Yangtse River.  Chinese historians mention yet one more ram, in the same battle in which heroically perished the Soviet volunteer Senior Lieutenant L. Z. Shuster (to the Chinese - Shu Sidie).  But according to the opinion of the fighter pilot N. G. Kozlov, in an attack on an enemy at point -blank range he miscalculated his exit from the attack and collided with the Japanese.

 [1] The Russian text uses the term ?Aviaotryad?, translating literally as air unit, and at that time used by them for a unit corresponding roughly to a western squadron in strength, about 12-15 aircraft.  Even though we, and they as well, understand that the unit is a Kokutai, I will continue to translate it as ?air unit? for the sake of translation integrity. - GMM
 [2] Or were shot down by Chinese pilots who perished themselves before returning to base to report a victory? - GMM
 [3] The Russian text is unclear as to which pilot is meant. - GMM
 [4] the Russians used the Germanic term ?unter-ofitser? instead of the Russian equivalent term?serzhant?. - GMM
 [5] In this forum it might be appropriate to clarify that the Russian ramming attack (taran), though an extreme tactic, was not ordinarily intended as a suicide attack, even if often fatal in practice.  The idea was to attack the enemy?s control surfaces with the propeller blade, or to smash him with a wingtip.  With luck and skill, a pilot might well be able to return to base and land normally.  During the war against Germany there were instances when such an aircraft was flying again within a couple of hours.  Several Russians scored multiple ramming victories; the records belonging to Boris Kovzan with 4 rams, and to Aleksei Khlobystov, who scored only 3 ramming victories, but accomplished two of them in the same dogfight, after which he landed his P-40 Tomahawk back at base!  Of course, some were actual suicide attacks by pilots already shot down but determined to ?take one more with me?, and some ramming attacks were actually collisions retrospectively glorified. -GMM

Title: Re: Soviet fighters in China
Post by: han9 on September 05, 2016, 08:04:51 AM
Here is the second installment of part two ? BTW I have e-mailed about this so far having no reply I take it as tacit approval until further notice.

Soviet Fighters in the Sky of China Part II
by Anatolii Demin
Aviatsiia i Kosmonavtika 10.2000
translated by George M. Mellinger, Twin Cities Aero Historians

The volunteer Kudymov remembers the pilot Sharai, who after exhausting maneuvers in a ?carousel? managed to get on the tail of an experienced enemy, but his burst didn?t hit.  Then, inflamed by the battle, the Soviet volunteer approached really close - ?wishing to scare him? and...crashed into the enemy.  He received the Order of the Red Banner.  Observing the battle from the ground the physician S. S. Belolipetskii drew a somewhat different picture: ?At low altitude a battle proceeded between an I-16 and I-96 (A5M).  After a short turning fight, the Japanese suddenly climbed sharply upward, turned around, and from above gave a burst of machine gun fire to his opponent.  The Lastochka flew lower.  It seemed as if the Japanese had won.  But suddenly he flew down, touched the Lastochka, and crashed to the ground.?  Lightly wounded in the leg, Sharai landed his damaged aircraft, in which the Japanese bullets had torn apart its ammunition box.   As the doctor wrote, judging by recovered documents recovered from the Japanese, he appears to have been an air ace.

The battle continued in July-August 1938 over Nanchang, including the very famous Japanese pilot Lieutenant Commodore M. Nango, killed on July 18 over Nanchang.  According to the Japanese, this was a genuine shock in Japan.  On that day six A5Ms from the newly formed 15 air unit, met with 11 Chinese Gloster Gladiators Mark I.  When the group leader, M. Nango finished off a damaged fighter and turned to search for a new opponent, another burning Chinese fighter crashed into him.  Both machines tumbled into the lake.  The Chinese do not report details of this battle, but in the English sources we find confirmation that the Soviet volunteer V. Dadonov crashed into Nango, escaping by parachute.

The Japanese write of only one of their rams - December 22,1937 Lieutenant N. Obbayashi over Nanchang crashed into an I-16 and perished.  He flew at the head of a group of 12 A5M of the 13 air unit and the aircraft carrier Kaga.  His ?vis-a-vis? appears to have been Lieutenant G, Ya. Kashin, who was the only death on that day, and was buried in Nanchang.  According to Japanese sources, Obbayashi?s followers that day destroyed in that battle a dozen Chinese fighters.

It is not very clear whether Obbayashi and other Japanese were completely ?kamikazes?, or whether their ramming attacks were initiated during the course of battle.  A veteran of Spain and Khalkin Gol, the fighter pilot B. Smirnov recollects that in the last battles in Mongolia among the Japanese fighters there appeared suicide pilots: ?I cannot support that with any documents, but just the same I am certain of it, because several times I observed attacks of Japanese obviously intent on midair collisions.  And not only I saw it, but also may of my comrades.  We became careful, and when the Japanese went to ram, tried to shoot them down with the first burst.  And that we managed to do.?  The volunteers who fought in China do not report similar incidents.

The Japanese command supposed that after the fall of Nanking the Central Government of China would collapse and resistance would disperse to localized centers.  But Chiang Kai Shek relocated his capital westward to Hankow.  In spite of fearsome losses, the Chinese demonstrated that they were ready to struggle further.  New shipments of Soviet aircraft significantly increased the air strength of the Chinese Air Force, restoring its combat capability.  The Chinese maintain that by the beginning of 1938 their air force numbered 390 combat aircraft, primarily of Soviet production.  But Japan at this time captured Shantung.  Their aviation continued air attacks on Nanking, but Their aviation continued attacks on Nanking, but the main attention now was given to Wuhan (it was actually formed of three cities , Hankow, Wuchang, and Hanyang).  From the beginning of January 1938 Japanese naval aviation sharply increased the portion of their attacks on these large Chinese cities.

On January 4, sixteen A5Ms of the 12th and 13th air units escorting bombers struggled with a group of 18-20 I-15 and I-16 fighters in a battle above Hankow.  The Japanese claimed four victories without loss.  Participating in this battle, along with the Soviet pilots were the Chinese of the 24th and 25th squadrons in seven Hawk IIIs and one Fiat Cr-32..  Shot down were the Hawk No. 2303 of the commander of the 24th squadron, Zhang Zhun, and a pilot of the 25th squadron, Sung Enzhu.  The Chinese pilot Wang Feifen was able to return to the aerodrome with a damaged left wing.  Three days later the Japanese Lieutenant R. Yoshioda, deputy commander of the fighter group of the 12 aviation unit was killed while strafing the aerodrome at Nanchang.  Perishing that same day and being buried in Nanchang were Senior Lieutenant K. E. Zabaluev (or Zabalaev) and Lieutenant I. I. Potapov (on January 7) and also Lieutenant A. V. Orekhov (on January 9).

On February 8, 1938 a pilot of the 25th squadron, Yang Jien was shot down in air combat over Hankow.  He baled out of Hawk No. 2306 (it was his second escape by parachute during the war), but was strafed by the Japanese.  It is necessary to note that the Japanese pilots, out of simple Samurai cruelty chased after pilots who had force-landed or baled out by parachute trying to finish them off in the air or on the ground.  Thus perished too many Chinese pilots and a number of our volunteers.  In August 1938 in one battle over Hankow the Japanese at once strafed two pilots who had baled out of Soviet fighters.  A gunner-radio operator saved on August 12 from a shot down SB (the pilot and navigator perished) remembers: ?How I opened the parachute I don?t know...Observing me, a Japanese fighter began to dive at the parachute and opened fire, with the result that there were several tears in the canopy of the parachute, but I remained unharmed.  Then he drew very near to the canopy; to all appearances he wanted to hook me on his landing gear and drag me back to his own territory as a trophy.  I actively defended myself and began to slip the parachute, rapidly losing height.  Following  three or four unsuccessful attacks, the Japanese left me in peace...?  Killed that same day [6] were Senior Lieutenants F. D. Gulyi, N. M. Terekhov, Kh. Kh. Churyakov, and Lieutenant A. G. Maglyak.

By February 1938 retraining on the I-15 and I-16  finally concluded for the first Chinese air units, and they began to take part in battle.  By this time the Chinese had practically no combat worthy New Hawks remaining.  In 1938-1939 their factories managed to assemble or restore 28 machines, and this limited the role of the Hawk III in further battles.  As a result of the rise in losses, on orders of the Aviation Committee, the squadrons transferred their remaining fighters to still operational air units (Sometimes an entire squadron was transferred to a different air group), and were themselves sent back for retraining.  Thus at the end of 1937, the 3rd air group was gradually combined with the 4th air group and familiarized with the I-15.  The 17th squadron, on the eve of the fall of Nanking, transferred to the 5th  Air Group and was given I-15s.  The 26th squadron was withdrawn from battle in January1938 and sent to Lanzhou for the I-16.  By the spring of 1938 most of the Chinese pilots had already transitioned to Soviet fighters.

The 4th Air Group with the new I-16 was concentrated at the city of Fencheng in the neighborhood of Wuhan.  The first major air battle took place on February 18.  Twelve G3M2 heavy bombers (by Chinese reckoning) took part in an attack on Hankow, escorted by 26 A5M fighters of the 12th and 13th air units.  Historians from the PRC write that at once almost the entire 4th Fighter Group rose against them - 29 I-16s.  After a fierce 12 minute battle, 12 Japanese were shot down and the remainder were dispersed.  Killed was the leader of the Japanese fighter group, Lieutenant T, Kaneko.  Five I-16s were shot down in the battle, killing the commander of the 4th air group Li Guidan, the commander of the 23rd squadron, Liu Chichun, and pilots Ba Qingzheng, Ba Yi, and Li Peng Xiang.

According to Taiwanese sources 14 Japanese aircraft were shot down in the 12 minute air battle.  They also maintain that in addition to the 16s, the 15s of the 22nd and 23rd squadrons (from the 23rd - 8 machines) participated.  The pilots of each of these squadrons shot down four Japanese..  In the battle three pilots of the 22nd squadron were killed , and the commander of the 22nd squadron, Liu Zhigang was shot down, escaping by parachute.  His deputy was wounded and made a forced landing.  It is mentioned in passing that Wu Dingchen rammed a Japanese and saved himself by parachute.

According to the recollections of the volunteer A. Z. Dushin, about 10 o?clock in the morning they took of on an alert and at an altitude of 4500 m found themselves under cumulus clouds.  An arrow on the ground pointed out the direction from which the Japanese would appear.  After a ten minute flight along this course they turned and flew back, and straightaway  they discovered about 1500-2000 m beneath them, 3 flights, each of 9 Japanese bombers flying in an tight formation.  A moment later Japanese fighters appeared flying above the clouds.  They began to dive on the Soviet volunteers on a meeting course, with the initiative remaining with them.  Three Japanese attacked Dushin, and consequently he shot at all three.  A cone of bullets, in his words, found one aircraft, but it did not burn.  Two A5Ms began to fire at him, but he was rescued by the maneuverability of the I-15 bis.  The pilot was able to escape from them by diving, but on the way out, but the third Japanese was waiting for him.  But rushing to his rescue came an I-16, which later turned out to have been flown by Blagoveshchenskii himself (or I. Puntus according to other sources).  Then Dushin chased after ?his? Japanese opening fire at a distance of 25 meters.  But the guns suddenly ceased, out of ammunition.  Nonetheless the A5M made an unnatural climb upward and vanished from the pilot?s field of vision.  Several days later a Japanese fighter was found in this region, in Dushin?s opinion, the very same one.  K. K. Kokkinaki, who arrived later in China mentioned the names of four Japanese aces who were killed in this battle - Kawanishi Yashihiro, Shirai Sadao, Kurimoto Toshiki, and Minamoto Shigeake, though these names are not found in other sources.  In this battle perished the commander of the I-15 squadron N. A. Smirnov, in an aircraft, which as will become clear later, the Japanese were specially hunting, and also one additional volunteer.  After the death of N. Smirnov the commander officially became A. S. Zingaev, though the ?chef? of the group remained Blagoveshchenskii himself.

According to Japanese sources in the battle over Hankow on February 18, there participated 18 I-15s and 18 I-16s.  They counted 14 I-15s and 2 I-16s shot down, and themselves lost 4 A5Ms among that number the machine of Lieutenant T. Kaneko who had replaced Yoshioda as deputy commander of the fighter group of the 12th air unit.  A week later over Nanchang another deputy was shot down, Lieutenant S. Takuma, together with another pilot.  On that day, 18 A5M fighters of the 12thand 13th air units 50 I-15s and I-16s.  The Japanese claimed 27 victories.  In this, his first battle, Sergeant T. Iwamoto, later to become the highest scoring ace on the A5M, supposedly destroyed five enemy fighters, and in one combat flight immediately became an ace.  In other sources report that on this day 15 I-15s and 11 I-16s fought with 18 A5Ms escorting 35 G3M2 bombers.  The Chinese supposedly lost one aircraft and another four were seriously damaged.  Neither the Chinese nor our pilots mention anything about a major air battle over Nanchang on  this date.  However, according to archival sources, N. A. Smirnov is listed as killed on February 25 and buried at Nanchang, together with Lieutenants H. I. Vasil?ev and S. D. Smirnov, also killed on this date.  It is possible that one of these, together with N. A. Smirnov was killed on February 18 over Hankow.

There is information that in two months of 1938 the Chinese and Soviet fighters completed about 250 combat flights, and shot down about 30 Japanese aircraft.  In 27 air combats the Guomindang Air Force lost 31 aircraft and 22 pilots.

According to Dushin, the A5M2 shot down by him on February 18 was repaired and flown by Blagoveshchenskii and Zakharov.  Finally in the summer of 1938 they tried to ferry it to the Soviet Union.  However, the commander of the bombers, S. V. Slyusarev, quoting Zakharov, asserts that the Japanese whose ?Type 96? was later repaired, was forced down by Zakharov in an I-15 and a young Chinese, Tun in an I-16, who damaged his motor during the first days of February.  After two-three weeks the airplane was restored.  Zakharov himself dates this episode closer to the summer of 1938, but that the ?Type 96? they had driven down, could not be retrieved for almost a year.  While ferrying it to the USSR, due to sabotage (sugar in the fuel tank), Zakharov suffered an accident in the mountains, seriously injuring his left arm.  It is possible that the discussion relates to different machines; in fact two flyable A5M2s became trophies of the Soviet volunteers.  The second was conveyed to the USSR along a different path, although S. V. Slyusarev maintains that the second A5M2 was lost in an accident through similar sabotage, injuring A. S. Blagoveshchenskii.  The Mitsubishi fighter delivered to the Soviet Union was tested at the NII VVS {Scientific Test Institute of the Air Forces-GMM} but in August 1939 was destroyed during a training battle against the I-153,killing the test pilot Vakhrushev.

[6] It is uncertain whether Demin means February 8, or the day in August 1938 when the SB gunner was shot down, but the former is more likely. - GMM.

Title: Re: Soviet fighters in China
Post by: han9 on September 06, 2016, 09:43:14 AM
Here is the third and final installment of part two ? I will be out for a week or so but will continue with the third part of Sov fighters in China once I am back. 

Soviet Fighters in the Sky of China Part II
by Anatolii Demin
Aviatsiia i Kosmonavtika 10.2000
translated by George M. Mellinger, Twin Cities Aero Historians

In March 1938 began a fierce battle for Taierzhuang and Zaozhuang (Hubei Province).  In Ziaogan, for the support of the ground forces, it was ordered that retraining on the I-15 for the 7th and 8th squadrons be concluded.  On March 24,1938 14 I-15s carrying 25 kg bombs, led by the commander of the 7th squadron Wu Ruliu flew to flew from Gui De (Henan province) to bomb the cities of Lingcheng and Hanzhuang in Shandung province.  They were intercepted by the Japanese on the return flight, and a sharp air battle developed.  According to Taiwanese sources 6 Japanese aircraft were shot down.  The Chinese lost: from the 7th squadron aircraft No.s 5864 and 5860 shot down in flames, and 5866,which made a forced landing in a millet field  In the 8th squadron shot down were the squadron commander, Lu Guangqiu in I-15 No. 5871, his deputy He Ziangya in No. 5911, and pilot Mo Xiu in No. 5913.  The latter two parachuted, but were killed by the Japanese.  Additionally pilots Huang Minxiang and Likang were wounded and made forced landings.  At the same time the 17th and 25th squadrons with the I-15 concentrated at Sian (Shensi Province).  On March 8, a combined group of I-15s from the two squadrons flew from Sian to attack Fenglingdu.  After dropping 25 kg bombs they stumbled into the Japanese.  The pilots Song Guacheng and Lo Chuntun were shot down,  Liu Jinguang and Liu Yiji were wounded, and Zhou Zingyan parachuted.

In April 1938 the Japanese suffered a major defeat at Taierzhuang.  Chinese regular troops and partisans numbering more than 200,000 soldiers under the command of General Li Conggeng cut off and surrounded a 60,000 strong Japanese army.  Ultimately the Japanese broke through to the north losing about 20,000 killed and abandoned a large quantity of military equipment.  The aircraft of the 3rd and 4th air groups were committed and ordered to take active part in the battle supporting the ground forces, On April10 the 23rd squadron of the 3rd air group, with I-15s made a ground attack Zaozhuang (Shandung Province).  Zang Guangming and Sun Qinqian were shot down and baled out.  The latter was shot in the air by the Japanese, and was hit by five bullets.  The same day occurred an air battle over Mamuzi.  The commander of the 3rd air group Lui Tianlong breaking out of a circle of Japanese fighters suffered multiple wounds.  Two more Damaged I-15s made forced landings.  Junior Lieutenant Liang Zhihang, after baling out, was strafed on the ground by the Japanese.  The victory at Taierzhuang raised the fighting spirit of the Chinese, but did not bring them a strategic advantage as the Japanese forces regrouped and resumed the offensive.  The temporarily began to advance north of Wuhan, but the Chinese capitol remained the main target of Japanese aviation.  In the sky over the city until its fall on October 25, 1938, there continued a number of air battles.

The very heaviest air battle of the entire Japanese-Chinese war occurred over Wuhan on April 29.  The Chinese concentrated their fighters at aerodromes around the capitol and waited for a suitable occasion for counterattack, but the Japanese on the emperor?s birthday burned with a desire to avenge a successful attacks of Chinese SBs on the Nanking aerodrome on January 25, 1938, and on airbase on Taiwan on February 23.  Participating in the attack on the Chinese air bases were 18 G3M2s of the 13th  air unit protected by 27 A5Ms of the 12th air unit, under the command of Lieutenant Commodore Y. Ozono.

The Chinese write that reconnaissance revealed the Japanese intentions in good time.  According to Dushin?s recollections, on that memorable day early in the morning at Nanchang?s aerodromes (there were two) the order went out to all to fly to Hankow in flights, at treetop level (altitude no greater than 25 m).  By 8 AM more than a hundred fighters had concentrated there.  By 9 AM all the airplanes had been fueled up and the pilots were in the cockpits waiting the order to take off.  That day dense clouds at several levels covered the sky, beginning at 2000-2500 m.  The first communications from the air warning system (VNOS) began to be received at 10 AM.  The Chinese record that at 1400 hours, when the Japanese aircraft approached Wuhan, already waiting in the air with sufficient altitude were 19 I-15s and 45 I-16s from units of Soviet volunteers entered into the staffs of the 3rd, 4th , and 5th fighter groups.  According to the previously drawn up plans, the I-15s closed in on the Japanese fighters in a pincer attack, and the I-16 formation fell upon the bombers.  In the fierce 30 minute battle, 11 Japanese fighters and 10 bombers were shot down, and 50 aircrew were killed.  Two parachuted and were captured.  Twelve aircraft of the Chinese and Soviet volunteers were lost and five pilots killed, among them, Cheng Huaimin, and L. E. Shuster who rammed Japanese aircraft, and also Captain A. E. Uspenskii.  The Chinese report that after the serious defeat in this battle, for the space of a month the Japanese did not dare conduct attacks on Wuhan.

From Dushin?s memoirs we read that they took off early, first Blagoveshchenskii, after him the entire group in established order.  The I-15bis were to join battle with the fighters.  At a height of about 3000 m they moved off from Hankow about 100 km in the direction of Nanking, orienting themselves through the gaps in the clouds by the channel of the Yangtse.  Not finding the fighters, on a return course, through gaps in the clouds they discovered a large group of bombers approaching on a parallel course.  With a sudden attack at close range they right away set afire three, including the formation leader.  The formation immediately fell apart and jettisoned its bombs in a  rice paddy.  In the air developed, in the words of the Chinese writer and historian Guo Moruo, ?dog fighting?.  In various parts of the sky appeared the torches of burning Japanese.  The ?Chizhi? chased after the bombers for their full radius of action - more than 200 km.  When his ammunition was completely exhausted Dushin ran into two A5Ms but there was nothing he could do to them.  A. S. Zingaev?s group, with an advantageous position attacked a group of Japanese bombers on the approaches to the aerodrome, and in their first attack shot down two (Zingaev shot down the leader).  On that day, our future Twice Hero of the Soviet Union  No. 2,  G. P. Kravchenko shot down two (or according to other sources - three) aircraft.  But in the end, he was cut off from his formation and hard pressed by four Japanese who set his aircraft afire.  He was saved by A. Gubenko who came to his help in the nick of time.  Both of them arrived in China in February-March 1938, and with each battle gradually gained experience.  In various sources it is stated that Kravchenko either baled out and parachuted into a lake with muddy water, from which he was pulled by an old Chinese, or that he made a forced landing without undercarriage in one of the small lakes along the course of the Yangtse.  In one of the following air battles, in a reversal, Gubenko was isolated by four Samurai who set his  aircraft afire, and when he baled out, tried to strafe him in his parachute.  Rushing to his assistance, Kravchenko shot down one of the Japanese in a head-on attack, and chased away the others from the parachutist.

Increasing their scores in the battle of April 29, 1938 were A. Blagoveshchenskii, A. Grisenko, A. Gubenko, A. Dushin, G. Zakharov, A. Zingaev, G. Kravchenko, I. Puntus, and others.  The major success of our volunteers is explained by the Japanese fighters which were late at the rendezvous with their bombers, and also by the Soviets? successful use of the clouds.

In their own turn, the Japanese write that when their formation appeared over Hankow, 78 I-15s and I-16s rose to intercept.  They claim that in a thirty minute battle they destroyed no fewer than 40 Chinese aircraft, while themselves losing only 2 A5Ms and 2 G3M2s.  The Japanese attribute the greatest part of their success to the inexperience of their opponents.  In other accounts (also based on Japanese sources), 67 Soviet aircraft participated in the battle, of which 19 I-15 bis and 6 I-16s were flown by our pilots.  Here it is claimed that the Chinese lost 9 aircraft and four pilots.

The Japanese write that in spite of so serious a blow, after a month they found that the number of aircraft of Hankow?s air defenses has recovered (which is not at all surprising, considering the actual results of the battle).  To the point, just in April, the 13th air unit, having suffered great losses in the continuous air battles, gave its remaining A5Ms to the 12th  air unit and was withdrawn t Shanghai to rebuild.  The Japanese government indirectly recognized the great effectiveness of the activities of the Soviet pilots, by demanding in April 1938, through diplomatic channels that the USSR withdraw them from China.  Naturally this demand was categorically and unequivocally rejected.  The Komissar for Foreign Affairs, M. Litvinov replied officially that the USSR had the right to render assistance to any foreign government, and that ?the claims of the Japanese government were even more incomprehensible, since according to the declarations of the Japanese authorities, there is not now a war in China, and Japanese are not fighting in China at all, and that what was happening in China qualifies only as an ?incident?, more or less accidental, and having nothing in common with a state of war between two independent governments?.  Our volunteers continued to fight in China.

Title: Re: Soviet fighters in China
Post by: han9 on September 12, 2016, 01:00:53 PM
Here strats part III of the Soviet fighters in China

Soviet Fighters in the Sky of China Part III
by Anatolii Demin
Aviatsiia i Kosmonavtika 11.2000
translated by George M. Mellinger, Twin Cities Aero Historians

{For Russian names I have used a simplified version of the Library of Congress system; for Japanese names, the rendition common in Western literature.  Except for a very few well-known exceptions (Beijing, Chiang Kai Shek) Chinese names and places have proven very difficult.  I have been given by a friend a table for transliterating Pinyan phonetics into Cyrillic, and have tried to work it backwards to obtain Pinyan from the Russian.  I am not confident of any success.  I ask your indulgence, and any corrections the knowledgeable may wish to give. -GMM}

On May 31 the Japanese executed a new attack on the aerodromes of fighters defending the capital.  The Chinese write that they had received advance information and were ready for them.  At mid day 36 fighters and 18 bombers flew against Wuhan.  Thirty-one aircraft of the Soviet volunteers took off without delay to a height of 1.5 km, becoming the main attack force.  At the same time 18 Chinese fighters from the 3rd and 4th Air Groups climbed to an altitude of 2.4 km, providing an echeloned covering detachment.  When the Japanese appeared above Wuhan the Soviet volunteers, already awaiting them, cut off their path to the east.  Fifty Soviet and Chinese fighters pursued the Japanese, who, retreating, gave a battle which lasted about 30 minutes.  In all, 14 Japanese wee shot down, and the attempted attack was foiled.  The Chinese and the Soviet pilots each lost one pilot and one aircraft.  According to Taiwanese information, 6 I-16s of the 21st squadron participated in the battle, of which aircraft No. 2107 was shot down.

Judging by Rytov?s memoirs, concentrating the aircraft at the Hankow aerodrome began already on May 30, and was completed by early on the morning of May 31.  In all,  there were concentrated more than a hundred fighters.  After the sounding of the alarm, according to the previously devised plan the I-15s occupied an echelon at 4000 m, while the I-156s flew higher.  Even before the appearance of the bombers, one of the  groups of fighters was bounced from an altitude of 6000 m by A5Ms.  But the surprise did not help, and they were not able to engage all the fighters in battle.  After the bombers appeared, A. Zingaev?s group threw themselves upon them, and with the first attack shot down two.  The remaining bombers of the first group and the two remaining groups were not able to force their way through to the aerodrome.  The fighters chasing after them lit 14 bonfires on the ground.  Two Chinese aircraft were lost and several seriously damaged.  Rytov worried about the fate of A. Gubenko, who finally returned in his damaged aircraft and reported that he had shot down one Japanese and rammed another.

According to the recollections of the pilot N. G. Kozlov, the encounter with a large group of A5Ms occurred about 15 to 20 km east of the aerodrome.  The Japanese attacked leaving one flight at altitude.  Following the maneuvers of his leader, Kozlov in a banking turn gave a burst at a Japanese fighter which was following K. Opasov.  In the turning carousel, this Japanese finally happened directly into the gunsights of Kozlov?s ?Chizh? (I-15), but the burst went into an already burning aircraft.  A second Japanese began an attack on Kozlov.  For their part, the I-16s conducted a battle in the vertical, diving at a steep angle and hitting the Japanese and then soaring upwards, and opening fire at the moment when the Japanese was dependent on his motor, climbing through a half loop.  Mainly attacking out of the sun, the Japanese quickly lost the initiative, which gradually passed to the Chinese, as the battle dissolved into a sharp dogfight and gradually dissipated.  While departing Kozlov let off a burst at long range at a Japanese under attack by two Chizhi, and the A5M limply began turning wing over wing and tumbled out of control to the ground.

The Japanese record that 35 A5Ms (11 from the 12th and 24 from the 13th Air Units) escorted 18 G3M2 bombers.  Poor visibility in the region of the target led to he fighters of the 13 Air Unit failing to discover the enemy, and thus the A5Ms of the 12th Unit engaged in a heroic battle against 50 fighters.  In the dogfight one Japanese and perhaps 18 Chinese were shot down, including an old, unarmed Bellanca 28/90 biplane evidently a reconnaissance aircraft.  According to other sources, participating in the battle were 31 Soviet pilots and 18 Chinese pilots (33 I-15 bis and 16 I-16).  One Chinese pilot was killed, and there is no report of deaths of our pilots on that day, but the Japanese claimed 12 victories.

On June 5 the Guomindang government in Wuhan conducted a festive ceremony in memory of all the air heroes, Chen Huaimin and others.  At the meeting, in addition to the Guomindang authorities, attending and laying a wreath was one of the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party, Zhou Enlai.

In May 1938 the Guomindang government again addressed a request to the USSR for the supply on credit of new shipment of weapons and aviation equipment.  The next resolution was  issued by the Council of Ministers on May 17 authorizing the provision to China of 60 SBs and a complement of spares and armaments, an augmented  quantity of fighters was not yet approved.  But after the escalation of the struggle at Wuhan, the Chinese delegation again raised the issue of the supply of aviation equipment, and on June 17, a decision was taken to provide China with a credit for 100 I-15bis fighters.  These arrived in Lanzhou on November 10.

By the summer of 1938 the period of the special detail expired for the first group of Soviet volunteer aviators.  They returned to the Soviet Union via the southern route leaving all their aviation equipment with the Chinese.  Unfortunately, this did not occur without loss.  On March 16, 1938 a TB-3 piloted by Guo Jiayan and Zhang Jun crashed in a mountain ravine of Imphal, according to reports, from the failure of one motor.  Flying on it were 25 Soviet volunteers, amongst whom the number of volunteer fighter pilots killed is unknown.  In October 1938 during the period of the evacuation of Wuhan by air, a C-47 burned for unknown reasons.  Twenty-two people were killed of which 19 were returning Soviet volunteers, including the fighter pilot Sokolov.  the only two survivors were the aircraft mechanics V. Korotaev and A. Galagin.  Later, yet one more C-47 crashed in the mountains.[1]  Suspecting sabotage, for which  there was every reason since 50% of the losses of Soviet aviators occurred due to accidents, the Soviet leadership categorically forbade our volunteers from using air transport without special permission.

With the rotation of the returning aviators there arrived a new group.  Already by the spring of 1938 a group of I-16 pilots of Captain E. M. Nikolaenko (73 men, including 26 pilots) began to adopt combat lessons.  The group of Captain M. Yakushin with 10 I-15bis arrived in June 1938.

At the meeting of the Soviet and Chinese delegations on July 22, 1938 the first conclusions were summarized  from the participation of Soviet volunteers in the Sino-Japanese war.  Considering the interaction of the Soviet and Chinese pilots, our representatives observed  that in the Chinese Air Force, alongside  pilots who were courageous and fearless, one met with members of the aircrew who not infrequently avoided fulfilling military assignments, intentionally disabled aircraft and so forth.  As an example, 23 SBs of the latest group (27 SB) wee put out of service soon after delivery to China.  The Guomindang representatives expressed deep indignation on this occasion.  Possibly from precisely this moment began the rapid cooling of relations between our volunteers and the Chinese authorities.

There were no such reports about the fighters, but the criminal negligence of the Chinese military administration was noted: aviation suffered serious losses from untimely notification of the approach of Japanese aircraft.  The alarm signal (?timbo?) often sounded only 5-10 minutes before the Japanese flew over.  Pilots were unable to gain the necessary altitude and occupy a suitable tactical formation.  D. A. Kudymov mentioned that the signal for take-off was perpetually tardy because the air observation and warning service in Nanking operated poorly, and that pilots could take off only when the enemy was already over the city or the airfield.  The problem was made worse by the construction of the I-16?s undercarriage, which for retraction  required the pilot to give more than 40 turns of a wheel, while taking care not to hit the control cables.  In Kudymov?s memoirs there is a very dramatic description of such a procedure:

?While the ?little hawk? gained altitude - before it could assume horizontal flight, it was necessary to retract the undercarriage, which requires the pilot to turn the control handle on a drum mechanism 42 times, - the enemy fighter was already approaching the airfield, and began to dive from above on my clumsy fighter.  The thought flashed through my mind - shot like a snipe taking wing! - frantically turning the drum, I gave full throttle and turned the nose of the fighter straight toward the Japanese.  Head to head!  But the enemy had already managed to give a burst from long range, about 300 meters, and I felt my little hawk shudder.

The enemy swiftly made a steep dive under me and swooped upward.  It was clear he was turning for a new attack, striving to get on my tail... Immediately putting the airplane into level flight I strongly turned the bothersome crank.  Most important - don?t fumble, don?t get nervous.  The Japanese had just completed his turn and I had a couple of seconds before he sat on my tail.... I almost shout ?Ura!? when the little hawk, like a war horse freed from the path, breaks  into a full gallop.  Undercarriage is up!  The fighter almost rises up on its tail from the sharp jump upward, and turns toward the attacking enemy...?

The general inability to organize on the part of the Chinese delayed introduction of new airfields which would permit the dispersal of aircraft, but also did not allow them to be evacuated to less exposed airfields in the rear.

[1]Information about the transport aviation catastrophes in the memoirs in a number of cases significantly from archival data.  On August 5, 1938 in the region of Urumchi were buried the crew and ten passengers lost in the fatal crash of a Soviet military transport aircraft.  On November 1, 1938 in one of the outlying districts of the city of Hanzhong (Shansi Province), while flying from Lanzhou to Chongqing, a transport aircraft was lost under uncertain circumstances, killing 21 Soviet airmen.  On December 19.1938, near Chengdu (Shangpang settlement, Pinglu region), a Soviet military transport aircraft crashed killing 17 people including the crew and volunteers.


Title: Re: Soviet fighters in China
Post by: han9 on September 15, 2016, 09:57:14 AM
The middle of part III of the Soviet fighters in China

Soviet Fighters in the Sky of China Part III
by Anatolii Demin
Aviatsiia i Kosmonavtika 11.2000
translated by George M. Mellinger, Twin Cities Aero Historians

Unfortunately, to reach a quantitative summary of the role of our fighters in the beginning stage of the war, and to identify the most successful groups and individual pilots is almost impossible for a number of reasons.  In addition to the commonplace registration of kills by foreigners to ?volunteers?, according to agreements with Chinese aviation officials (and to this we will return again), the basic fact is that our pilots and the Chinese entered air battles in mixed groups, together they fought and shot down the Japanese, and together they died.  The archival information of the Chinese Aviation Committee is still unavailable to me.  In addition to this, the membership of the Soviet volunteer groups was continually changing.  In this connection, the Soviet aviation command maneuvered the fighter groups according to reconnaissance data, rebasing them from Hankow to Nanchang as reenforcements and the reverse.  Also, as a measure of the development of the aviation network, large groups splintered and were deployed as flights at small fields (at Nanchang there were two fields, a large and a small one, and later at Chengdu there were seven), which at the same time complicated the task of the Japanese bombers.  Unknown ever are the names of all the commanders of these small groups.  The Chinese write that during various periods f the war the number os Soviet fighter groups varied from two to eight, though for the largest period of time there were five.  Among the named commanders of the groups are V. M. Kurdyumov, G. M. Prokof?ev, A. S. Blagoveshchenskii, N. A. Smirnov, A. S. Zingaev, G. N. Zakharov, E. M. Nikolaenko, F. F. Zherebchenko, G. P. Kravchenko, M. N. Yakushin, S. P. Suprun, K. K. Kokkinaki, A. I. Lysunskii, S. K. Bdaitsiev, N. G. Kozlov, T. Rakhmanov, Ivanov, Bol?shakov, Baranov, etc. [2]   From memoirs it is also known that already in China at the time of the conflict were several pilots among them, N. G. Kozlov, E. Vladimirov, K. Opasov and others, transitioned from ?lastochki? to ?chizhi?, which also caused some confusion.  Thus in various sources we find that A. Gubenko on May 31 conducted his ramming attack in the I-15 and in the I-16.

In the summer of 1938 the commander of fighter aviation, P. V. Rychagov was recalled to the Soviet Union together with the volunteers, and was replaced by P. F. Zhigarev.  Finally the chief aviation advisor became P. N. Anisimov.  His deputies were S. P. Suprun (fighters) and V. A. Kartakov (bombers).

Until June 1938 the Soviet volunteers fought only on the main approaches, defending in the air the large cities of Nankin, Nanchang, and Wuhan.  But air battles with the Japanese in the south of China - in Guangdung and Guangsi provinces, an din the north in the provinces bordering Manchuria.  Here the Chinese, together with the New Hawks used other not very modern aircraft.  At the beginning of he war all combat capable fighters from the flying schools were transferred to the operational squadrons, consolidating the instructors in the 34th squadron, which defended Shanghai and Nankin for about a month.  Then the instructors returned to the flight school at Hankow and transferred three Old Hawks to the 28th squadron for the battle for Tai Yuan (Shansi Province).  In exchange the squadron commander Chen Chiguang turned over three New Hawks and was dispatched to the to Shaoguan (Guangdung) for ?defense and liaison?(before the war the local aircraft factory here assembled the Hawk III, and from the end of 1937 was occupied with copying the I-15).  In the 5th Air Group all the Old Hawks were divided into two sections, one dispatched to the south to Guangdung, and the second to the north to Shansi.

On September 21, 1937 in an air battle over Tai Yuan, Chen Chiguang was seriously wounded and made a forced landing.  Liang Dingyuan (Hawk No. 2810) was shot down.  On October 15, three Hawk IIIs of the 28th and 31st squadrons took off to bomb the Japanese positions at Gosyang (Shansi).  Pursued by the Japanese on the return flight they lost two pilots. One of the shot down Hawk IIIs, No. 8, of the 31st squadron not long before had been mobilized from one of the training schools.  After this battle, having lost all but one of their Old and New Hawks, the 28th squadron received the English Gloster Gladiator Mk.I, and in November the 31st after being decimated at Anyang was sent for retraining to the bomber school at Hankow, and was later redeployed to Yichang (Hubei Province).

In the spring of 1938, resisting the Japanese offensive the Chinese-flown I-15s were often used in the role of ground attack.  On May 20 the 17th squadron with I-15s was ordered to attack the Japanese positions near Yifeng (Henan Province), with escorts by I-16s and Hawk IIIs.  However, before take-off the I-16s received information about the appearance in the air of Japanese aircraft, and the signals officer of the 3 Army ordered the I-15 group to take off earlier.  Near the target they were intercepted by the Japanese and an air battle ensued.  Without protection of the I-16 group they suffered heavy losses.  I-15 No. 5883 of squadron commander Cheng Jiliu was damaged and he turned back.  Four I-15s (No.s 5905, 5909, 5903, 5910 - pilots - Zhu Jiongtiu, Tang Weiliang, Qiu Ge, Zhang Shangren) were shot down.  Two more I-15s (No.s 5901 and 5899) made forced landings among the Japanese positions, but the pilots, Hu Zuolong and Deng Zhengsi managed to hide and return to their unit.  the same day the 22nd squadron dispatched two Hawk IIIs (No.s 2201 and 2205) of the 5th Air Group to bomb Lanfeng (Henan Province).  In an air battle over the target both aircraft were shot down.

Fierce air battles, though on a smaller scale occurred in southern China.  Urgently formed in August 1937 from instructors of the Central Bombardment Aviation School, the 32nd  squadron with antique Douglas O-2MC (similar to our R-5) was destroyed by the Japanese on August 16, in a single air attack.  The squadron was disbanded and the instructors returned to the aviation school, but the number was allocated to a second squadron organized at an airbase in Guanxi Province.  Their equipment was the American Vultee V-11 ground attack aircraft, but somehow they were counted as fighters and quickly were relocated from Liuzhou to Nan Ning for air defense of the provincial capital.  In January 1938 Japanese aircraft repeatedly conducted attacks on Nan Ning.  On one occasion five V-11 light bombers rose to intercept the Japanese and shot down two aircraft, losing their own aircraft No. 507.  The 32nd squadron was reinforced by the 34th, organized in December 1937 on the base of the local aviation school, and equipped with the obsolete American Atlas from the Guanxi Provincial Air Force.  Although their mission also included regional air defense, during attacks the pilots in the air attempted to avoid encounters with the Japanese.

On September 15, 1937 an Air Force headquarters was organized at Gunagzhou (the provincial capital of Guangdung, in western sources usually called Canton), to which were subordinated the 28th and 29th squadrons with the Hawk III, and the 18th squadron with the Douglas O-2MC.  As early as September 21, on the occasion of a heavy air attack, four Douglases were given the order to disperse (that is ?to make themselves scarce?), and fly to the northwest.  The Japanese spotted them and quickly shot down the commander of the group, Liang Guopeng and set fire to the aircraft of Liu Baosheng who baled out.  From this battle only one aviator survived, the rest perished.  After this the 18th squadron was sent back to the bomber school at Yichang to reform.

On the morning of September 21, at the time of the massive Japanese air attack, seven Hawk IIIs of the 29th squadron, following squadron commander He Jinbeng, engaged in a heavy battle and in thirty minutes lost two aircraft (No.s 5239 and 5232).  From one of them the pilot baled out but was killed.  The middle of the same day the Japanese repeated their attack.  Five Hawks rose to battle, and No. 5231 was shot down in flames, the pilot saving himself by parachute.

On October 7,1937 a group from the 28th and 29th squadrons shot down two Japanese.  Hawk No. 5250 of the group commander, Chen Shunnang was set afire and the pilot killed.  On this same day, during a sharp and massive attack on the railway station near Yingde, Hawk No. 2807 was shot down, one pilot made a forced landing at Shaxing, and another pilot was wounded and returned to the aerodrome.  After this battle, there remained battle worthy in the 28th squadron only a single Hawk II.  As the Taiwanese wrote ?all the remaining aircraft were quantitatively and qualitatively outclassed by the Japanese, therefore they began to avoid taking part in combat?.

At the start of 1938 the 29th squadron reequipped with the Gladiator and redeployed to Guangzhou.  The staff of the 5th Air Group was redeployed there from Hankow in February 1938  to provide the 28th and 29th squadrons with combat-experienced leadership.  The 29th squadron had already suffered heavy casualties by the time of the redeployment, having run into the Japanese at Nangxiong.  The 28th squadron with the Gladiator Mk.I was dispatched for the defense of Guangzhou on February 23, 1938.  The very next day eight Gladiators form the 29th and three from the 28th squadrons shot down two hydroplanes.  In this battle Chen Chiwei (No. 2806) was shot down and Zhou Linxiu (No. 2810) was damaged, and aircraft No.s 2902 and 2907 were damaged while returning to the airfield.  The unserviceable Gladiator No. 2909, with a pierced fuel tank, was destroyed on the aerodrome.

In April 1938 the 14th Aviation Unit was formed in Japan for support of land operations in southern China, equipped with 12 A5M and 24 shipboard bombers.  The new air unit was quickly sent to Sangzao Island (near Macao).  On April 13 the air battle resumed anew over Guangzhou.  With combined strengths the 28th and 29th squadrons shot down 7 Japanese.  In the battle the pilot of aircraft No. 2803 was killed.  Gladiator No. 2910 was shot down and the pilot of aircraft No.s 2810 and 2812 were wounded when their aircraft were shot down.  The commander of 29 Squadron, Huang Xianrui was also wounded, and baled out by parachute. Gladiator No. 2908 made a forced landing.

According to Japanese sources, 6 A5Ms from the aircraft carrier Kaga participated in this battle, escorting groups of D1A and B4Y bombers.  They were intercepted by more than 20 Gladiators and Hawk IVs (they forgot that the only examples of the Hawk IV went to Argentina) from the aerodrome at Tienho.  The Japanese claimed that the A5Ms without loss destroyed 11 Chinese fighters.

By June 1938 Japanese attacks by the 14th Air Unit on Guangzhou become more frequent.  At the same time the 15th Air Unit was sent to reinforce the 14th Air Unit, but numerous losses required that they were equipped equally with the A5M2 and the A4N1.  Due to the delays in organization, the 15th Air Unit entered combat on July 10 over Anqin, and then they included A5Ms from the aircraft carrier Soryu, stationed on the coast since April.  The old A4N1s were replaced with A5Ms only in September when the 15 Air Unit relocated to Yuan for attacks on Hankow.

During the summer Chinese intelligence received information that off the southern coast, near Guangzhou a major landing assault was being organized.  It was decided to send there a group of our volunteers.   The redeployment took place in small groups, because the intermediate aerodrome could not manage large groups, being tiny and bounded by a marsh.  Landing there proceeded fairly well.  Only the pilot Andreev touched down far from the landing ?T? and at excessive speed ran into the swamp at the edge of the runway, turned over completely , coming to rest upright on his landing gear.  Both the pilot and the airplane received ?only a mild scare?.   But the adventures were not finished.  Most of the group landed at Guangzhou shortly before sunset, but Blagoveshchenskii in the last I-15 and A. G. Rytov with Colonel Zhang in a light four-seat aircraft could not make it before nightfall.  At that time the Chinese were not equipped for night take-offs or landings.  As Rytov wrote, ?they simply had no idea of the concept, and flew only during the day?.  The native pilot with ?Olympic? calm descended into the dark toward the glowing lights of a large city.  Barely missing collision with a large building, he turned sharply to the right and flew into a ditch.  The aircraft was destroyed but the passengers were unhurt.  Moments earlier, Blagoveshchenskii somehow had managed to spot the airfield through the darkness, but while landing he snagged his wheels on something and ended up on his nose.  It seems that in the darkness he had confused the runway with a sewage pipe.

The Japanese intelligence agents did their job, and that night the Japanese bombed the airfield.  However, the losses were minimal - only one I-16 damaged, and several holes in the wing surfaces of N. G. Kozlov?s I-15bis.  In the morning the Chizhi, loaded with 25 kg bombs, under he escort of the Lastochki flew to bomb the port of Aomyn, at Macao, where a Japanese airbase was located.  The Japanese had timely removed their aircraft away from the attack - the airfield was empty and the group was met with fierce antiaircraft fire.   After dropping all their bombs on a nearby Japanese cruiser (like stoning an elephant), the pilots returned without loss to Guangzhou.  here they awaited the Japanese landing for a week, but the information proved false.  Leaving a portion of the group behind to reinforce the local air defenses, the rest returned to Nanchang.

In the summer of 1938 the Japanese began a new offensive against Wuhan.  After capturing Anqin on June 12, the Japanese based there the recently organized 15 Air Unit and began to advance up the Yangtse in the direction of Wuhan.  Somewhat surprising for the Japanese, Chinese aviation became active, making 49 on the Japanese ships on the river and troops on the land.  In air battle over Anqin Lieutenants V. G. Veligurov (May 19-25) and S. A. Moskal? (June 3) were killed.  Until the arrival of the 15th Air Unit at Anqin on July 10, the several A5Ms located there were unable to provide adequate air protection for the Japanese forces.  Mainly they escorted groups of bombers attacking Wuchang (July 12), Wuhan (July 14), Nanchang and the aerodrome at Xiaogan (July16), where two Soviet air groups were based.  Two more of our air groups were also based at Hankow.

From July 14 to July 28 the Japanese managed to intercept only a few of the 49 Chinese air attacks.  However, sometimes the Chinese themselves unwittingly assisted the Japanese.  On June 28, 1938, when six SBs of the 2nd squadron following squadron commander Sun Tungan flew from Nanchang to bomb the Japanese ships in the neighborhood of the Madanyaosai fortress, not only did they lose contact with their escorting I-16 fighters, but they also broke their own formation.  Ultimately, only two SBs (No.s 1104 & 1103) arrived over the target, and they were attacked from all sides by the Japanese.  One SB (No.1104) was shot down in flames,  and the pilot and gunner killed; only the navigator, Qian Changsong was able to bale out.  On July 3. Senior Lieutenant A. I. Matkin and Junior Commander I. S. Bastynchuk, the crew of an SB were missing in action in an air battle near Anqin.  In addition, during 1938 three more SBs went missing - on February 17 near Beng-Pu (Sr. Lt. V. N. Fomin and Starshina [3] M. M. Rumyantsev), March 14 in the Wuhu region (Lt. P. V. Murav?yov, Lt. I. N. Kushchenko, and Voentech 2nd rank [4] M. A. Domnin), and on May 24 in an unknown location (Sr. Lt. S. A. Mursyukaev, Lt. I. P. Makarov, and Jr. Commander G. F. Lebedev).  News arrived of only one of them, Voentech Domnin, who was captured by the Japanese and executed.  There is no information about missing fighter pilots.
[2]The average Russian reader would automatically recognize a half dozen of the preceding names as famous fighter leaders, aces, and test pilots during the war against Germany.
[3]The top Soviet non-commissioned rank, equivalent to Sergeant Major.
[4]A Red Army ?enlisted rank? dating to the egalitarian period when traditional ranks were abolished in favor of designations such as ?Military Technician?, Korkom (Corps Commander), Divkom, etc.

Title: Re: Soviet fighters in China
Post by: han9 on September 16, 2016, 09:49:38 AM
Here is the third part of Part III.

Soviet Fighters in the Sky of China Part III
by Anatolii Demin
Aviatsiia i Kosmonavtika 11.2000
translated by George M. Mellinger, Twin Cities Aero Historians

Although during July the scale of resistance of Chinese aviation decreased dramatically, based on  Japanese claims, in the air over Wuhan and Nanchang there continued sharp air battles between the Japanese A5Ms escorting bombers and the Chinese interceptors.  But the Japanese write that after July 4, when the Chinese sent up 65 fighters over Nanchang against 23 A5M and 26 G3M2, and over half the defenders were destroyed, the Chinese interceptors became rare.

The Taiwanese claim that in this battle seven I-15s of the 22nd squadron led by squadron commander Zhang Beihua shot down one A5M, whose pilot was captured.  The squadron commander himself was wounded, and baled out, and the pilot Zhang Zhichawu was killed.  Another pilot baled out and was strafed in the air.

The toll of the July air battles was also heavy for the Soviet volunteers.  In that month 11 pilots and crew members were killed, more than 10% of the combat losses for the period 1937 to 1939.  as an aspect of the ground forces offensive the enemy extended its network of aerodromes, while the number of Chinese air warning posts decreased.  This decreased the time from the first notice to the appearance of the Japanese.  According t the recollections of N. G. Kozlov, constantly ? the pilots were assigned to the exhausting duty flight, maintained at ?readiness number one?, sitting in their airplanes in the broiling sun, shielding their heads with their map cases.?  On July 7,1938, the first anniversary of the start of the Sino-Japanese war there was a huge air battle over Nanchang.  At the sound of the alarm, everyone took off at once, on criss-crossing paths. Lastochki, Chizhi, and Katyushi (SBs).  In this battle the Japanese adopted very strange tactics, allowing the bombers to fly in advance without protection while the fighters, in compact groups came later, falling upon the Chinese fighters as they were exiting from their attack on the bombers.  On this day four Japanese bombers and fighters were shot down.  In the first sudden attack B. Borodai, in an I-16 shot down a bomber.  In all, the volunteers lost seven aircraft, and the I-15bis of A. Gubenko and N. Kozlov were seriously damaged.  Sukhorukov was killed in the battle, Gridin baled out, Rovnin was wounded and landed back at the airfield, and E. Vladimirov turned over in a rice paddy in his damaged I-15bis.  K. Opasonv shot down a bomber early in the battle, and later baled out, but was killed in the air by the Japanese.  Three days later fishermen pulled his body out of Lake Poyanghu.  Curiously, the physician S. Belolipetskii has described his death differently: ?K. Opasov shot down a Japanese aircraft and was preparing to land, but very close to the ground his aircraft suddenly went into a steep dive and crashed.  There were no signs of bullet wounds in the body, but there were bullet holes in the coverings of the control surfaces and the stabilizers.  Seemingly, the aircraft lost control at the moment when it was too low to bale out...? Perhaps his description referred to someone else. (According to defense ministry archives, Sr. Lt. K. T. Opasov, and Lieutenants V.A. Kashkarov, E. I. Sukhorukov, and S. A. Khryukov were killed on July 4,1938.  It is possible that the date in the memoirs of July 7 is in error.)

It remains to be noted that on the eve of the battle, Opasov?s I-15bis was mounted with a new motor and a heavy caliber ?Colt? machine gun in addition to the four PV-1s.  In this battle three Chinese pilots were shot down.  Afterward the group of Soviet fighters relocated to the reserve airfield at Tengsu.  After four days, N. Kozlov was shot down in flames but baled out.  Not long after, L. I. Lysunskii, the recently arrived commander of a new group was shot down.  He was killed in a night battle on September 9, crashing beyond the aerodrome runway at Henyang.

In an air battle on July 16, Er Shitong of the 32nd squadron, which had received Gladiators in April, first shot down a Japanese.  The group lost two of the five Gladiators (No.s 3204 & 3210) which took off to intercept, the pilot of the latter baling out.  After two days five I-15s from the 8th squadron at Xiaogang (Hubei Province) were sent to Nanchang for early reaction to Japanese attacks.  In an air battle Lieutenant Huang Qiu was first shot down, and then the Japanese surrounded and destroyed the entire group of I-15s.  In the attack on Nanchang perished the leader of six A5Ms of the 15th Air Unit, M. Nango.

It is interesting that in July the entire Chinese 4th Fighter Aviation Group relocated specifically to Nanchang as a combat reserve, and then were transferred to the training center. (Main Fighter Unit) at Liangshan (Sichuan province) ?for training?.  The 21st squadron of the 4th Air Group was sent there even before July;  in September they were sent to Lanzhou for new I?16s, and at the end of November the squadron was rebased at Chengdu (Sichuan).

The Japanese claim that Chinese fighters appeared in large numbers over Hankow once again on August 3, when bombers traveling under the escort of 21 A5Ms were intercepted by about 50 Chinese machines.  27 of them were claimed shot down, and the Japanese themselves lost three fighters.  According to Chinese sources, in all 70 Japanese aircraft participated.  In the battle, the commander of the 26th squadron, Wang Hangxun was killed in his I-16 after managing to shoot down an aircraft; in his cabin were more than 60 bullet hits.  Liu Lingci (No. 5922) also shot down a Japanese.  When his I-16 was set afire the pilot baled out.  I-16 No.5921 was shot down and No. 5920 made a forced landing.  The 26th squadron received the I-16 at Langzhou in January 1938, and participated in battle over Hankow from the end of  July.

A major air battle occurred over Wuhan on August 12, in which forty fighters of Major E.M. Nikolaenko gave battle to 120 Japanese aircraft.  According to our information, the Soviet volunteers shot down 16 Japanese aircraft, losing five of their own machines.  According to reminiscences, I. N. Gurov was killed in this battle.  As they watched from the ground, his I-15bis gradually descended completing a series of loops, one after another.  Exiting from the last loop it struck the surface of the earth, tearing off the landing gear and damaging the propeller, and skimmed along the earth?s surface for a short distance on its belly.  Gurov sat strapped into his seat, his right arm grasping the control stick, the left on the throttle, and feet on the pedals.  In his chest were six bullets.  (According to archival information I. N. Gurov is listed as killed on August 3, 1938 together with Sr. Lt. P. S. Filippov.  Killed in air combat on August 12 wee Capt. A. P. Tikhonov, Sr. Lt. Kh. Kh. Churyakov, Lt. A. G. Maglyak, and Jr. Commanders A. P. Ivanov an P. G. Popov.  They all, except for Maglyak, are listed as buried at Nanchang.)

On August 18, the Japanese sent three nine-aircraft flights in a massive attack on the aerodrome at Henyang.  Our SBs without loss waited out the attack in the air, although one impatient aircraft almost was hit by the bombs while making a landing approach.  In the air two Chinese Hawk pilots were killed, one was seriously wounded, and one more was killed on the ground.  On August 19, 27 Japanese bombers flying in two groups against Hankow were met by a dozen Chinese fighters and anti-aircraft fire.  Two Japanese were shot down and the bombs released from 3000-4000 m fell on an empty aerodrome, as on the eve the SBs had flown to another aerodrome at Juangxi.  During the attack of August 21, the Japanese straight away shot down two aircraft of the 12th training unit.  The new commander of the 24th squadron Li Keyuan managed to take off with his wingman, but while trying to gain height, he was shot down.

After the Japanese in the south captured Guangzhou, an attack on the provisional capital of China began from a southerly direction.  On August 26, by order of the staff, the Air Force transferred the  7th and 8th squadrons of the 3rd Air Group, equipped with the I-15, to  the 2nd Army at Henyang (Hunan Province), and on August 29 to Nanxiong for defense against enemy air attacks the 32nd squadron with Gladiators under the command of the commander of the 3rd Air Group, Wu Ruliu.  This was observed by the Japanese and the very next day they mounted an attack.  Nine Gladiators rose against them and shot down four Japanese.  The group commander, Wu Ruliu, and another pilot were killed in the battle, three pilots baled out.  Squadron commander Zhu Jiaxun and pilot Yang Yongzhang made forced landings.  Only two aircraft of the entire squadron managed to return to base.  The Japanese claim that in this battle A5Ms from the aircraft carrier Kaga shot down 16 Gladiators, losing two aircraft of their own.

Having borne major losses in battle, at the beginning of September the 3rd Air Group was sent by a special train to Henyang for rebuilding.  On September 6 (or 7th) on the outskirts of Henyang there was a train wreck: the special train with the pilots ran into another train (according to a different version, at an unguarded railway crossing the train ran into a truck carrying pilots).  Two pilots from the 7th squadron were seriously injured and later died, while the rest were seriously battered, and there were many injured and dead in the 8th squadron, in all twelve people were killed.  Therefore, on September 10 the Aviation Committee sent the 3rd Air Group to the training center at Liangshan for rebuilding, reinforcing it with pilots from the 28th squadron (Later redeployed to Lanzhou).  The Chinese suffered more non-combat losses later.  Thus on January 2, 1939 five pilots of the 25th squadron, returning from Chongqing to Zhichyang (Sichuan province) were killed in a flying accident.  The remaining pilots of this squadron were sent to Lanzhou for reforming, and in August 1939 they were dispersed to the 4th and 5th Air Groups.

In 1937-1938 the Chinese tried to use other foreign volunteers in their air force besides the Soviets.  About the 14th squadron under the command of some Vincent Schmidt, and its participation in battle, we have heard in some detail in the memoirs of the volunteers.  The Chinese actually disbanded it in March 1938 for inactivity.  The Soviet bomber pilot M. T. Machin also mentions a group of French volunteers, supposedly based at Nanchang, and fought the Japanese in the Hawk.  While repulsing one of the attacks by A5Ms, in his words, they lost four machines, from which two pilots baled out.  After several days, the Japanese shot down three more, and one pilot was killed.  After this the group ceased to exist.  Machin perceived  the reason to be the significant superiority of the A5M over the Hawk.  To the comparative characteristics of the fighters battling in Chine we will return later., but according to Taiwanese information, in June 1938 in Kunming (Yunan Province) the 41st squadron was organized, and with it served French advisors-volunteers.  But their main assignment seemed to be the securing of purchase from France of the Dewoitine D.510.  At that time, when the Japanese began continuous attacks on the city, this unit practically never participated in battle and, according to Taiwanese sources, never did anything at all.  In October 1938 all the foreigners were dismissed and the 41st squadron was disbanded, At first the Dewoitine D.510s were sent to the air school, and later to the 17th squadron.

There is more on Soviet aircraft in the Far East on and I will bring it here in due time.    

Title: Re: Soviet fighters in China
Post by: han9 on September 19, 2016, 09:45:57 AM
Here starts the next installment of Soviet fighters in China

Soviet Fighters in the Sky of China IV
by Anatolii Demin
Aviatsiia i Kosmonavtika 12.2000
translated by George M. Mellinger, Twin Cities Aero Historians

{For Russian names I have used a simplified version of the Library of Congress system; for Japanese names, the rendition common in Western literature.  Except for a very few well-known exceptions (Beijing, Chiang Kai Shek) Chinese names and places have proven very difficult.  I have been given by a friend a table for transliterating Pinyan phonetics into Cyrillic, and have tried to work it backwards to obtain Pinyan from the Russian.  I am not confident of any success.  I ask your indulgence, and any corrections the knowledgeable may wish to give. -GMM}
In August 1938 Soviet volunteers informed the motherland that recently the relations of  the Chinese administration with our people had sharply deteriorated.  In the opinion of the Soviets, the Chinese had begun deliberately to limit the participation of their own pilots in combat and  to shift the entire burden of battle to the Soviet volunteers.  The serious warning of the Soviet government forced the leadership of China to call to order their military officials.  However, even after this, difficulties continued with maintenance, feeding and supply of our volunteers.  The commander of an SB Group, S. V, Slyusarev remembers that at the end of the year relations with the higher Chinese command began to grow worse.  ?We noticed that the Chinese service personnel changed, in the mess hall different cooks and servers appeared.  Food deteriorated.  To our questions we almost never received answers.  We wee occasionally advised to get out of he dayroom, particularly in the evening.  It was decided that we should go into town only in groups of three to five people.

The Japanese claimed that the Chinese Air Force hd lost its strength already by the end of summer 1938, although from time to time there occurred sharp air battles on a lesser scale.  On October 5 the 26th squadron flying to Hankow to provide defense against bombers intercepted the Japanese.  The new squadron commander Huang Hanwen was seriously wounded and made a forced landing on the outskirts of the city.  He was sent to Hong Kong for medical treatment, but on March 20, 1939 he died during surgery.  Lieutenant I. P. Podogov is listed as killed on October 5,1938, though there is no information about the place of his burial (according to other data, he is listed as killed in a flying accident and buried at Hami).

The Japanese justly presumed that they had destroyed a large portion of the Chinese airplanes in the air or on the ground, and that to survive a large share of the Chinese aircraft had been evacuated to the rear to get beyond the combat range of the A5M which began regularly to fly with underbelly fuel tanks.  According to Japanese data, from September 1937 to the end of August 1938, the A5M, the main naval fighter, alone had destroyed more than 330 Chinese aircraft while losing less than 30 of their own machines.  Chinese data confirm only a third of their losses.

According to Soviet data, by the beginning of September 1938 the Chinese government had received from the USSR 123 SB, 105 I-16, and 133 I-15 & I-15bis.  Together with the Hawks and Martins and other aircraft from the USA, 26 Dewoitines, 36 English Gladiators, 12 German Henschels, and others, this comprise in all, 602 combat aircraft.  In battle 166 were destroyed, 46 destroyed on the ground, smashed in landings - 101, and 8 were disassembled for the aviation factories.  In total, the Chinese lost 321 aircraft, and in the fall of 1938 there remained only 281 airplanes, of which only 170 were serviceable, because most of them were used in the aviation schools.

At this time the Japanese began to develop their offensive against Wuhan, which they captured on October 25.  the situation of the Guomindang Air Force continued to worsen.  The aviation units suffered heavy losses of both personnel and equipment.  They required replenishment, rest and reformation.  As of October 28 only 87 combat aircraft remained in service, that is 14.4% of the total quantity of machines received, while at the same time the number of warplanes in service with the Japanese Air Force stood at about 700 machines - overwhelming superiority.

In November 1938 the Soviet volunteers received an order to temporarily discontinue participation in battle.  During air combat their burden was extraordinarily stressful.  The period of a ?special tour? (spetskommandirovka) the fighter pilot averaged between150 to 250 combat hours (in K. K. Kokkinaki?s flight log, from June 1939 to June 1940 there are noted 166 combat sorties.).  All the aircraft were ordered to Langzhou for major overhaul.  On October 20, during the transfer flight four fighters ran out of fuel and crashed while attempting to make a forced landing in a mountainous region under conditions of limited visibility.  The leader, Captain N. P. Matveev and the other three pilots were killed.  (The composition of his group is not established and buried together with N. P. Matveev in Langzhou between 1938-1939 were 25 other volunteers, about whose combat activity there is no information.)  At the same time as the volunteers, the Chinese also ceased participation in battle and busied themselves with rebuilding.

On October 13,1938 the 3rd air Group received an order to relocate the ground staff and all ground equipment of the 7, 8, and 32nd squadrons to Liuzhou (Guangxi Province), but the pilots until further notice were to remain at Lanzhou.  The 34th squadron underwent an interesting ?metamorphosis?.  After the battle in Guangxi, on April 17, 1938 it was rebased to Hankow and its ancient aircraft passed on to the reconnaissance group at Chungqing, the training center at Chengdu, and the branch flying school at Liuzhou.  The pilots were sent to retrain for bombers, and on November 1, 1938 the squadron was assigned to the 6th Bomber Aviation Group.  At the end of December at Zhuning they received four German Henschel Hs-123 dive bombers.  But there were not at all enough bombers, and it was decided to retrain the pilots once again as fighters.  On April 1,1939 they were again organized as a fighter unit and were sent to Langzhou.  From June 1, 1939 they became a special unit, subordinated directly to the Aviation Committee.  But on August 1, 1939, during one of the recurring reorganizations, all the ground personnel were dispersed to other units, and the pilots remained alone but for a single clerk, a counter- intelligence officer and a single soldier.  Om January 1, 1940 the 34th squadron was deleted from the list of active units.  It was reborn only on March 1,1945.  The 16th squadron was reorganized into a fighter squadron on October 1, 1938 and was immediately sent to Zhijiang (Hunan Province) for nine new Hawk 75s.  The retraining was led by the American advisor ?K. Shenno? [1] (later commander of the ?Flying Tigers?).  At the end of the year they were rebased at Chongqing and Yibin (Sichuan) for air defense of the capital, and in January 1939 the squadron flew to Kunming (Yunnan Province).

The 24th squadron was resubordinated to the 4th Air Group at the end of November 1938, and was sent to Sichuan Province.  On October 1 the 28th squadron was assigned to the 3rd Air Group, while the 26th and 27th squadrons remained on the strength of the 5th Air Group.  They were sent to Lanzhou for conversion to the I-15.  In January 1939 the 17th squadron was left in Lanzhou for defense against air attacks.  The 26th, 27th and 29th squadrons were concentrated at Chengdu.  At this time the 5th Air group had one each I-15 and I-16 at group headquarters, and the 17th, 28th, and 29th squadrons each had 10 I-15s.  It is curious that the transfer of the 26th squadron from Liuzhou (Guangxi Province) to Chengdu for inclusion in the 5th Air Group was delayed from February to September 1939, possibly from difficulties with transport.  In Chengdu they received seven I-16s.

According to Chinese information, by the beginning of 1939 there remained in the Chinese Air Force fewer than 100 aircraft of various types.  Soon, mainly due to quantity of Soviet shipments, the count rose to 200 combat aircraft.  Thus, on July 18, 1939 there arrived in Langzhou a new group of 30 I-15bis, and on August 3 - 30 I-16s.

After the fall of Guangzhou and Wuhan, the main air bases in China became Chengdu and Chongqing, the new Chinese provisional capital.  Throughout 1939 the Japanese continued to mount attacks on the Chinese city, but tactics changed a bit.  While in 1937-1938 the Japanese operated over the near rear of the Chinese forces in groups of 20 to 25 aircraft, and over large industrial and administrative centers in groups of up to a hundred aircraft, as early as April 1939 there were noted only occasional flights by individual aircraft, while over the cities they flew, with rare exceptions, in small groups numbering up to ten machines.  The main task of the Soviet and Chinese fighters remained air defense of the large cities.

 [1]I could not resist leaving this Russian spelling of C. Chennault. - GMM

Title: Re: Soviet fighters in China
Post by: han9 on September 22, 2016, 02:33:10 PM
Continuation of part IV

Soviet Fighters in the Sky of China IV
by Anatolii Demin
Aviatsiia i Kosmonavtika 12.2000
translated by George M. Mellinger, Twin Cities Aero Historians

From the middle of 1938 as the front lines drew closer, Lanzhou began to experience Japanese air attacks.  According to the recollections of P. T. Sobin, in the second half of 1938 and first half of 1939, several times the Japanese conducted attacks on Lanzhou, but serious damage was not suffered because F. F. Zherebchenko?s [2] group of 10 I-16s met them on the approaches to the aerodrome and shot down several.  Also among their duties was defense of the air corridor.  Shot down and killed in the air battles over Lanzhou in December were Lieutenants M. M. Gordeev and  I. V. Isaev on the 26th and M. E. Kunitsa on the 28th.

In the attack of February 20, 1939 thirty Japanese bombers flying in three groups, according to the memory of S. V. Slyusarev, attempted to force our fighters to take off prematurely so as to be out of fuel  at the height of battle (the first time they had used this tactic).  But the Chinese following the advice of our advisors did not rush all their fighters aloft at once.  They sent up forty fighters in small groups at five minute intervals, attacking the Japanese one after the other.  In the battle nine bombers were shot down, killing 63 crew members.  One Soviet volunteer was wounded. on this day the bombs fell on the city and not the airbase.  After three days, on February 23, a group of 57 bombers set off against Lanzhou, but only the first group of twenty bombers went all the way t the city.  Attacking them along the route, fighters shot down six bombers and instead of pursuing the remainder, waited along the route for the next group.  However, they bombed a secondary target.  Something similar happened a bit earlier, on February 12, when of 30 bombers observed on a course for the airfield, 18 did not continue to target but turned away at a distance of 10-15 km, and headed back.

In some justification for the Japanese, it may be said that they were operating form aerodromes in Shanxi Province, at the margin of their operational range, without fighter protection.  They flew in the Italian Fiat BR.20, and later the Mitsubishi Ki 21 (Type 97)m whose operational debut occurred in attacks on Chongqing in December 1938.  The ?Japanese? differed from the ?Italian? in being more survivable, and in better withstanding the bullets of our ShKAS machine guns.  None the less, losses amongst the Ki 21s during unescorted daylight attacks were excessively high.  In the February battles over Langzhou alongside the volunteers fought the Chinese pilots of the 17th squadron, who in the words of Taiwanese sources, scored complete victory on all three occasions.

In March 1939 for defense of Chongqing against air attacks the entire 4th Air Group (21, 22, 23, 24 squadrons) was transferred to Guangyangba aerodrome where they remained until July, cutting off enemy attacks.  On May 3, 1939 54 Japanese bombers bombed the city.  The commander of the air group, Dong Mingde himself led the group in battle, and according to Chinese sources shot down 7 Japanese aircraft.  Deputy squadron commander Zhang Mingsheng (aircraft R-7153) was shot down and escaped by parachute, but later died of his wounds.  On July 11, Chongqing was again bombed by 27 bombers.  Eight I-15s, led by squadron commander Zheng Shaoyu gave battle.  The leader?s aircraft (No. 2310) suffered 38 bullet holes, while I-15 No. 2307 of Liang Tiancheng fell in flames.  During a night attack on August 4, I-15 No. 2310 of Li Zhiqiang was shot down, killing the pilot.  At the end of October the air defense of Chongqing was strengthened with the redeployment of the 24th squadron to the airbase at Baishing.

The Japanese began to go over to night attacks soon after their first misfortunes in the air battles of February 1938.  They bombed Nanchang during the full moon, primarily as single aircraft or in flights, practically without any significant damage.  But already by the summer and the battle for Wuhan our volunteers had dispersed their aircraft to reserve aerodromes in the surrounding area.  In the spring of 1938 Blagoveshchenskii organized the first flight of night fliers, and A. Dushin and A. Shiminas set about developing tactics to counter the Japanese.  They set about using the searchlight projectors, broke down the area of operations into zones, considering the approach routes of the bombers, which as a rule oriented along the course of the River Yangtse and Lake Poyang.  There was success from the very first combat sortie, when they shot down one bomber, but the remainder dropped their bombs without flying on to the aerodrome and the Japanese were forced to refrain from bombing by the light of the full moon.  But in October 1938, for three nights in a row, from October 8 to October 11 the Japanese bombed the airfield at Henyang, dropping from 69 aircraft up to 50 tons of bombs.  They received a good orientation from fires set by saboteurs to military storehouses, and also, the Chinese switched on their searchlights too early, marking the locations of their airfields.  On the ground six SBs and one fighter were damaged, and one more fighter was shot down and its pilot killed.  On October 2 or October 4, in a night battle over Chengdu Captain S. K. Bdaitsiev was killed, and was buried at the Baishi airbase.  In air combat our pilots and the Chinese shot down four bombers, with 27 killed, and one falling into captivity.

In 1939 the Japanese began to conduct their attacks mainly at night.  Arriving in mid-year, the test pilot K. Kokkinaki (at first the deputy commander of a rotational group of volunteers, and after the departure of S. P. Suprun, their commander) [3], remembered that, ?the Japanese bombers appeared over Chongqing on moon-lit nights when they could see easily the major landmarks.  They flew in formation, and when passing through the zones of our fighter activity , from time to time, on command of the formation leader all the aircraft would open a defensive barrier of fire in the direction of most likely attack by fighters.  The performance was effective.  It was like a gigantic fiery broom sweeping the starry sky.?  But on one occasion toward the end of 1938, in the memory of the volunteers, the Japanese got so carried away that in their eagerness they began to shoot not only at the ground but also into each other.  there were no Chinese aircraft in the air, but on the day before they had fairly well ?nibbled? and seem to have fairly frightened the samurai.  With their ?fiery brooms? the Japanese ?swept up? 11 of their own bombers.  Naturally, the Chinese credited them to their own antiaircraft guns.

S. P. Suprun?s group ( up to 50 fighters) soon became one of the main forces containing the Japanese.  Air victories appeared on the scores of Suprun, Kokkinaki, Mikhailov, Kondratyuk, Kornienko, and others.  In December 1939 Suprun?s group was transferred to the south where the battle for Yunnan Province had become much more intense, traveling along what would be named the ?Burma road?.  Our pilot protected the airfields and communications lines from air attacks.  Already in June 1939 the 17th squadron had been transferred to Kunming, the provincial capital to receive 12 Dewoitine D.510 fighters, but their strength clearly was insufficient.

In December 1940 S. P. Suprun, alone of his group, was recalled to Russia at the urgent request of the NII VVS [4].  There, until the war, he was given many responsibilities, calling on all his administrative talents (at this time he also became a Deputy to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR).  In the spring of 1939 in a letter to the People?s Komissar of Defense, K. E. Voroshilov, he complained that ?they don?t trust? him and that after the death of V. P. Chkalov they won?t let him test the second example of the I-180-2, and also ?... during the course of several years I have asked to be sent on a tour to China or Spain - to acquire combat experience.  All my efforts have remained without result.?  Suprun complained further that ?people who have combat experience? took away from him even the privilege of flying in the (Red) Five [5], which he had led in parades, simultaneously maintaining his flying proficiency and for air combat and air gunnery?.

Unquestionably, the experience of the test pilots, and there were several - A. S. Blagoveshchenskii, S. P. Suprun, K. K. Kokkinaki, V. N. Savkin, A. P. Deev, A. N. Chernoburov, S. N. Viktorov, I. E. Fyodorov, and others, helped in combat.  On January10, 1940 Kokkinaki?s aircraft was hit, and he managed to pull out of a steep spiral with great difficulty only on account of his experience as a test pilot.  According to recollections, in that battle the Soviet volunteer I. K. Rozinka was killed.  Once during a night attack over Chongqing, Suprun managed to save a Chinese fighter, organizing a night landing with the headlights of his automobile.  The Chinese managed to land between two waves of bombers.  (According to the archives of the Ministry of Defense, the last Soviet pilot shot down in air combat is listed as killed on December 30, 1939 and buried in the city of Liuzhou, Guangxi-Zhuanxi Autonomous Region.)

With the appearance of a new group of Soviet volunteers, the Chinese began to reorganize their fighter air groups.  To a definite degree the Japanese themselves also helped, shifting the main weight of air combat from China to Khalkin Gol.  However, there are no statistics to support this.  The air battles over Mongolia began according to a ?Chinese scenario?, with the Japanese successfully operating against pilots without combat experience.  Quickly a group was organized there of fighters with Chinese and Spanish experience, the best known of them being S. A. Gritsevets and G. P. Kravchenko, who again distinguished themselves in air combat and became the first Twice Heroes of the Soviet Union.  However, no documented evidence has yet been found that in Mongolia Kravchenko squared accounts with his ?old acquaintances? from China as is sometimes claimed by popular aviation writers.  The only known Japanese fighter fighting over both China and Mongolia was Tateo Kato, fighting over China from the fall of 1937 to May 1938 in the Ki 10 (Type 95).  According to Japanese information, he shot down a total of nine aircraft, including four I-15s in a battle of March 25, and 3 I-15s on April 10.  There is no record of deaths of our pilots on these days.  At Khalkin Gol T. Kato was the commander of the 64th regiment, fighting in the Ki 27, and also increased his score.  It is unknown if he ever met Kravchenko in the air.

[2]This pilot is known for his attempt, on the eve of departing for China in the fall of 1937, to establish a world attitude record for hydroplanes.  On October 23,1937, flying a floatplane version of the Polikarpov U-2 modified with a wingspan extended to 17.0  meters and an M-25E motor, developed by I. V. Chasovik and N. G. Mikhel?son at the Leningrad ?Red Flier? Factory No.23, he attained a national altitude record of 11,280 m, and then 11,869 m.  Later Zherebchenko even reached 13,400 m, but the world record for hydroplanes (14,000 m) stood.
[3]A photo caption informs us that K. K. Kokkinaki completed 166 sorties in China and shot down 7 enemy aircraft. - GMM
[4]Scientific Testing Institute of the Air Forces. - GMM
[5]The ?Red Five? was the Soviet fighter aerobatics group which customarily led the air parades over Red Square on May Day and Revolution Day. - GMM

Title: Re: Soviet fighters in China
Post by: han9 on September 23, 2016, 11:32:46 AM
end of part IV

Soviet Fighters in the Sky of China IV
by Anatolii Demin
Aviatsiia i Kosmonavtika 12.2000
translated by George M. Mellinger, Twin Cities Aero Historians

While the Japanese were fighting ?on two fronts?, the 4th Air Group in July 1939 was sent to Liangshan where they received the I-15 (21st and 22nd squadrons).  On July 29, the 24th squadron received 7 new I-16s  from Liangshan.  In August the 26th squadron again was sent to Liangshan for 9 I-16s.  At the same time the 5th Air Group was transferred to Chengdu for defense against air attacks.  Here the Chinese at the Taipingsi airbase stationed  the ?Main Bomber Unit? (training center) where the Chinese retrained on the SB and then the DB-3.  In the city was located an aviation factory which later attempted to copy the SB.

From January 1939 the 29th squadron with the I-15bis protected Chengdu from air attacks.  But at the end of April six aircraft headed by the squadron commander were sent on a special deployment to Nanzhen (Shenxi Province) for protection of the ground forces.  In a battle on April 29 they shot down two Japanese, losing 3 Chizhi.  One Chinese pilot baled out, and two were killed.

In June 1939 the 27th squadron was attached t the 29th squadron at Chengdu.  At the end of the year it took part in several air skirmishes.  On November 4 1939 54 bombers conducted an air attack.  Nine I-15bis of the 29th squadron , on the staff of the 5th Air Group shot down three Japanese aircraft.  The pilot of Chizh No. 2903 was killed.  The pilots of I-15s No.s 2910, 2904, 2907, and also the deputy commander o the air group (I-15bis No. V-2) were wounded and made forced landings.  Of six aircraft of the 26th squadron taking part in the battle, led by the deputy commander of the 5th Air Group, Wang Hangxun, two were lost (I-16s No.s 2609 and 2604).  Both of them broke from the formation, and the first was destroyed at Jintang, and the second mad a forced landing at Pengshang.

According to Japanese data, from May to September 1939, Japanese bombers from the aerodrome at Hankow completed 22 air attacks on Chongqing and Chengdu (about 200 sorties).

In December 1939 at the height of the fighting for Guinang, in addition to our volunteers (Suprun?s Group), the Chinese Aviation Committee gathered there almost all their fighter aviation - the 4th Air Group (Commander Liu Zhihan) with the 21, 22, and 23 squadrons equipped with the I-15bis, and 14 I-15bis from the 27 and 29squadrons under the command of the commander of the 3rd Air Group, Huang Pantang, seven Gladiators under the deputy commander of the 3rd Air Group, part of the 18th squadron with the Hawk 75, and even the 32nd squadron with the ancient ?Douglas?.  The Chinese have not reported details of the air battles.  It is known only that they lost three Gladiators on December 27.  The remaining four ?Englishmen? were sent to the Shuangliu for the air defense of Chengdu.  On that same day over Ertang, according to Taiwanese sources, three Douglases of the 32nd squadron shot down 3 Japanese, but squadron commander Bei Yiqin was killed, and the remaining two pilots had to bale out.

At the end of December the 4th Air Group returned to its airbase at Guangyangba. The situation around Guinang was not finally resolved, evidently, until January 13, 1940, when the 27th and 29th squadrons returned to Chengdu.  However, the railway line between the two southern provinces of China was subjected to a massive air attack by the Japanese, and therefor on January 7 the remaining part of the 18th squadron was dispatched for the defense of Kunming and Mengzi (Yunnan Province).

The last year in which Soviet pilots participated in air combat was 1940.  At the end of 1939 and beginning of 1940, relations between the USSR and Chiang Kai Shek began a new period of cooling.  The official reason was that the Guomindang and terminated military and material supply to the Communist 8th and New 4th Armies.  there even occurred several military clashes opening a large breach in the united front anti-Japanese struggle.  These did not exclude the use of aviation in the battles against the communist forces.

In my view, the actual reason was not the falling out between Chiang Kai Shek and Mao Zedong (Later, for the same events, the second criticized us along with the first.)  Rather, it was like a rolling echo in Asia of the Soviet German Non-Aggression Pact signed on August 23, 1939.  Later Hitler proposed that I. V. Stalin should become the fourth member of the Berlin-Rome-Tokyo axis., but everything would depend on a Soviet-Japanese non-aggression treaty.

Under these circumstances the USSR had to temporarily shipment of weapons and military equipment (ultimately they again resumed.).  By the summer of 1940 all Soviet aviators were recalled from China.  (According to our data, they were recalled in 1941, but it is possible that this refers only to advisors.  In any case, noted the withdrawal of our of our pilots from combat as early as the beginning of 1940).  A number of advisors, instructors in flight schools, and a unit of technical personnel remained in China into 1942-1943.

As historians from the Chinese People?s Republic write ?the Soviet pilots deprived the Japanese of mastery of the air, inflicting serious destruction on them, and forced them to remove their air bases from the front lines by 500 km.  By an incomplete tally from the beginning of 1938 to May 1940, Soviet pilots participated in more than 50 major air battles, shooting down (together with the Chinese) 81 aircraft, damaged 114 aircraft and damaged 14 large warships.?  During the period of the Sino-Japanese war more than 200 Soviet aviators were killed ( more than 100 were passengers in aviation accidents), 14 became Heroes of the Soviet Union, and more than 400 were awarded orders and medals.
(Series continues.)

Title: Re: Soviet fighters in China
Post by: han9 on September 26, 2016, 10:14:45 AM
Soviet Fighters in the Sky of China V
by Anatolii Demin
Aviatsiia i Kosmonavtika 1.2001
translated by George M. Mellinger, Twin Cities Aero Historians
{For Russian names I have used a simplified version of the Library of Congress system; for Japanese names, the rendition common in Western literature.  Except for a very few well-known exceptions (Beijing, Chiang Kai Shek) Chinese names and places have proven very difficult.  I have been given by a friend a table for transliterating Pinyan phonetics into Cyrillic, and have tried to work it backwards to obtain Pinyan from the Russian.  I am not confident of any success.  I ask your indulgence, and any corrections the knowledgeable may wish to give. -GMM}
Upon their return to the motherland our volunteers left behind in China all their aviation equipment.  Already in January 1940 the 32nd squadron was ordered to Chengdu for retraining on the I-15bis and I-16.  In March 1940 at Baishiyi aerodrome the 29th squadron received from our volunteers 11 I-15bis.  Perhaps the aircraft were sent for maintenance to Langzhou and the other maintenance plants established in China specifically for repair of Soviet aviation equipment.  The 25th squadron was sent to Langzhou for overhauled I-15bises in July.  They remained there for defense of the city and air base against air attacks.  The 7th squadron was maintained at strength with overhauled I-15bis and I-16s throughout the whole of 1940.

On December 16, 1940 at Taipinsi airbase, at Chengdu the new 11 Fighter Air Group was formed, comprising the newly organized 41, 42, 43, and 44 squadrons.  The pilots were chosen from among the graduates of the military aviation schools.  At the very beginning of their organization they used 20 I-15bis, 15 I-16,and 5 Hawk 75, received from maintenance factories, and also four new I-153 ?Chaiki?.

Remaining without the cover of the Soviet volunteers, the Chinese pilots were unable to achieve serious success in battles against the Japanese.  Not having adequate training, they lost too many experienced pilots under non-combat circumstances.  Thus on May 25,1938 the deputy commander of the 3rd Air Group, Major Lin Zuo crashed during a training flight.  He was developing ground attack tactics on an I-15 after overhaul in a maintenance factory.  On August 20, 1938, while taking off in a repaired I-16 the commander of the 22nd squadron, Wang Yuanbo was killed.  Nor did Sy Xianren, the commander of the 24th squadron last long.  On February 4,1939 he flew in his fighter on administrative duties from Hunan to Tungliang (Sichuan Province), but in the air he met with a group of Japanese fighters and was killed.  On March 3, 1940, Liu Kai, a pilot of the 22nd squadron defending Kunming, and Lieutenant Mei Erdang from the fighter group of the local flying school collided during a training flight in the I-15bis and were killed.  On March 9, 1940 two pilots of the 22nd squadron at Lianshan collided during a training flight on the I-15 bis, and the aircraft were destroyed.

Flying accidents also happened during air battles.  On January 4, 1940 Aircraft No. 2104, returning from battle, was destroyed during landing when it ran into a tree on the edge of the landing ground.  I-15bis (No. P-7106) flew a night interception mission on April 22,1940, but after the air combat the pilot lost his orientation and crashed while making a forced landing on the river.  Due to equipment failure, another fighter (No. .P-7117) made a forced landing on a dike.  On May 30, 1940 while returning from battle to Guangyangba airfield, a pilot of the 23rd squadron on landing flew into a pit where munitions were stored and was killed.  On September 12, 1940 Captain Deng Youde of the 7th squadron, returning from a combat patrol with deputy commander of the 28th squadron, Cao Shizhong, to their aerodrome at Yangzhou, suffered an accident at Guangyangba, destroying Hawk III No. 2219.   On October 4,1940, the 28th squadron in order to save it from Zeros, received an order from the staff of 3 Army to disperse from Chengdu.  As a result of ?difficulties? I-15bis (No.7218 ) was smashed in a forced landing beyond the aerodrome, the pilot suffering fatal injuries.

By the summer of 1940 the Chinese drew up the main strength of their fighter aviation for the defense of Chengdu and Chongqing, concentrating the ir units at Guangyangba (18 Squadron), Liangshan (22 and 23 squadrons), Baishiyi (23 Squadron from July 2), , Shuangliu (5 Air Group).  At the end of June the Aviation Committee again reorganized the fighter units.  The 4 Air Group was assigned one squadron with the I-16 and three with the I-15bis (with nine fighters in each).  Since there wee insufficient fighters, they were taken from the 3 and 5 Air Groups.  The 4 Air Group also received the last nine Hawk IIIs of 18 Squadron.  Opposing them on the airfields of Hankow there were about 130 bombers of Naval Aviation, which according to Japanese information from the middle of May to the beginning of September 1940 completed 168 day and 14 night attacks (3717 sorties).  On eight missions Army bombers were attacked to them (22 sorties).

Sharp air battles often occurred in the skies of Chengdu and Chongqing.  The Taiwanese maintain that during the second half of May many sorties were flown over Chongqing by the airmen of the 26th and 27th squadrons.  On June 16m 1940, four groups totaling 114 Japanese aircraft conducted a massive night attack on Chongqing.  Wang Benhua, a pilot of the 24th squadron led 4 I-16s into battle.  Aircraft No. 2414 was shot down, but the remaining three Lastochki after refueling shot down as a group a single Japanese near Fuling.  On June 28, four I-16s of the 26th squadron and three aircraft from the 24th squadron took to the air to oppose an attack by Japanese bombers.  I-16 No. 2405 blundered into a hail of fire and made a forced landing at Changzhou.  On the night of July 4 at Chongqing, a pilot of the 32nd squadron took off in an I-16 for combat duty, but due to uninterrupted Japanese attacks on the city he was unable to return to base, and after exhausting his fuel, was killed making a landing short of the airfield.  On July 16, Deng Shoukang, a pilot of the 21st squadron was shot down and baled out, but later died of loss of blood from his wounds.  On July31, the deputy commander of the 24th squadron led a group of seven I-16s on a night interception.  As the Taiwanese write, ?due to the fact that the aircraft did not have identical flight performance, only the commander and two other aircraft (No.s 2418 & 2420), were able to reach altitude.?  All three aircraft were shot down and the pilots Chen Shaocheng and Wang Yunglung were killed.

The Japanese write that ?these were the heaviest attacks of the entire war in China?, and admit that they also ?suffered heavy losses?.  Nine bombers failed to return to their aerodromes, and 297 aircraft were damaged; the main cause of losses seemed to be not anti-aircraft fire but fighters.  On several missions, losses exceeded the acceptable (for them) level of 10%.  They understood that they could straighten the situation only by establishing air supremacy over the target.

But the quickly arriving Fall of 1940 brought the Chinese Air Force new attacks and new losses.  Perhaps it was a genuine shock of r both the pilots and the command staff.  In the middle of September 1940 a new Japanese fighter first appeared in the skies of China, the Mitsubishi A6M (?Type 0? or ?Zero?).  From the very first combat sorties, it seemed like nothing so much as a pogrom of Guomindang aviation.  If on September 12, the Chinese lost only one already far from ?New Hawk?, only a day later mounting losses forced the Aviation Committee to issue an order to its pilots about the discontinuation of all participation in battle.

The Japanese claim that 12 Zeros (Leader - Lieutenant Ekoyama) flew their first attack on Chongqing on August 19, escorting 50 bombers, but did not meet the Chinese in the air.  The following day they repeated the attack.  The Zero group was led by Lieutenant Shindo, and again they could not find any interceptors.  On September 12, a dozen Zeros led by Ekoyama, escorting 27 bombers to Chongqing found five Chinese fighters on the ground and destroyed them.  Later it became clear that these were decoys.

The Taiwanese write that on that day occurred the first air battle between the Zero and the Lastochki and Chizhi of the 21st squadron.  Two Chinese pilots were killed and one more aircraft was hit, making a forced landing, the wounded pilot suffering a leg shot off, and later dying from loss of blood.  perhaps the date was misprinted, since the battle actually took place the following day, September 13.

On the ?unlucky day? (13th after all) six aircraft oft he 24th squadron were forming a barrier flight at high altitude and underwent the first sudden attack.  Squadron commander Yang Mengqing was killed at once, and his deputy was wounded.  Next the commander of the 4th Air Group, Zhen Shaoyu led into battle the entire 22nd squadron, and in the battle Captain Zhang Hong was killed.  A group of nine I-15bis from the 28th squadron led by squadron commander Lei Yanjiong from the 4th Air Group engaged the Zeros over Chongqing.  Two Chizhi were shot down.  After the battle it was found that the 4th Air Group had lost 13 fighters, with 11 more damaged.  Greater losses were suffered by the 3rd Air Group.

According to Japanese accounts, in the 30 minute battle the Japanese Zeros destroyed 27 I-15bis and I-16 Type 10.  Diving out of the sun onto the sleeping Chinese and hosing them with massive fire, the Japanese pilots set panic among the Chinese airmen.  they claimed that three Chinese baled out of completely undamaged machines, and two fleeing aircraft collided and exploded on a mountain slope.  To cap it all, the Japanese also set fire to several fighters which had only just landed.  For their part, the Japanese suffered only light damage to four Zeros and not one pilot was harmed.  The star was Sergeant Major? [1] Y. Kosiro, evidently shooting down five aircraft.  An additional I-15bis was shot down by Junior Officer Oki, in spite of a pierced fuel tank.

After this massacre all the Chinese pilots were withdrawn from combat, and they conducted only training flights.  The 4th Air Group returned to Chengdu, and from November 14, 1940 the 3rd Air Group trained at Shuangliu airbase.  During the second half of September over Chongqing only once did a single transport fall to six Zeros.

[1] Translation for the Russian rank Starshina.  I am uncertain what the corresponding JNAF rank would be.-GMM.

Title: Re: Soviet fighters in China
Post by: han9 on September 30, 2016, 08:43:52 AM
Soviet Fighters in the Sky of China V
by Anatolii Demin
Aviatsiia i Kosmonavtika 1.2001
translated by George M. Mellinger, Twin Cities Aero Historians

In October the Chinese suffered new losses.  On the 4th of the month eight Zeros led by Ekoyama and Shirane escorting 27 bombers, executed a massive attack on Chengdu.  The air staff of 3 Army ordered all aircraft to disperse.  Six Hawk 75s of the 18th squadron flew off to Guanxian.  But on the way they ran afoul of Japanese Zeros which set afire aircraft No. 5044 of pilot Shi Ganzhen, who baled out, but his parachute failed to open.  Two more pilots were wounded and returned, and one Hawk 75 was burned on the ground at Taipingsi.  The Japanese claim that they destroyed in he air five I-16s and one SB, and on the ground 19 aircraft, and damaged one, when four Zeros (Higayashima, Hagiri, Nakase, and Oishi) supposedly landed on a Chinese aerodrome, and the pilots ?by hand? attempted to set fire to the remaining undamaged aircraft there.  It is difficult to determine how much truth there is in these ?hunting tales?.

On October 5 at one of the Chengdu aerodromes, the Japanese set fire to more than ten aircraft and a further 14 decoys. On October 26, during a new attack on Chengdu five fighters and five other aircraft were destroyed in the air.  The Taiwanese mention only that shot down during dispersal were I-15bis (No. P-5302) and a Dewoitine D.510 of 28 Squadron, and about a pilot of 32 Squadron, Liu Wenlin (I-15bis No. P-3587), who was shot down and removed from the rolls.  He was wounded in the right leg and died on the way to the aid station.  On December 30, at Chengdu aerodrome the Japanese supposedly burned 18 aircraft.

From October 8 to the end of the year the Zero completed 22 missions, shooting down two aircraft and destroying a further 22 on the ground.  The Japanese claim that in 1940 the Zero completed more than 150 sorties, shooting down up to 60 aircraft, and destroying more than 100 on the ground.  They admit damage to only 13 Zeros and not one loss.  If there is any exaggeration here, it is not large, the Chinese and Taiwanese, do not recall any shot down Zero.  Finally, in particular they write that ?in November the largest portion of aircraft were destroyed.  The single hawk 75 remaining in the 18th squadron flew to Chengdu.  On December 1, the 18th Squadron ceased to exist?.  The situation was similar in the other fighter squadrons.

In the words of the historians of the People?s Republic of China, ?after the appearance of the Japanese Zero with its excellent flying characteristics, the situation of Chinese aviation became even worse.  The shrinking  air forces continually suffered losses, and by the end of 1940 only 65 aircraft remained.  Adding to this problem, the Soviet volunteers were recalled, and the Chinese Air Force was left isolated, with no resources remaining for combat flights.  In order to reduce losses and to preserve combat power, the Chinese Air Force was forced to avoid air battles, completing very few combat sorties.

Such a situation continued to the end of 1941, while the Japanese, on the other hand, abandoned all restraint.  Exploiting their qualitative and quantitative supremacy, they continually conducted massive attacks on Chengdu and Chongqing, as a rule consisting of more than a hundred bombers.  The Zeros attacked the airbases, trying to wipe from the face of the earth the remnants of Chinese Air Force.
In this critical situation the Guomindang government of China again turned to the Soviet Union for help.  After receiving a pledge from Chiang Kai Shek to support a common front for battle against the Japanese and loyal relations with the communist party, shipments resumed.  To the beginning of 1941 the Chinese actually used the credits from the first two agreements of 100 million dollars and the third of 84.6 million dollars.  From the last credits came an additional approximate 200 fighters and bombers.  In all, by the beginning of 1941 the Chinese had received 885 fighters and bombers from the Soviet Union.

Among these was an ?asymmetric? Soviet response to the appearance in the air of the Japanese Zero, - the I-153 Chaika.  Having received its baptism of fire at Khalkin Gol, and having not performed badly in air battle against the Ki-10, A5M, [2] and Ki-27 (Type 97), it was a major modification of the Chizh, and while doubtlessly not unfamiliar technology, nonetheless was still an innovation.  According to various sources, the Chinese received 70-93 Chaika machines.
At that time at Aviation Factory No.1 building the I-153 there continually arose serious problems with the quality of the metal used for joints an d detailed parts.  Even during the course of its first battle experience in Mongolia in the summer of 1939, there were occasions of vibration of the forward metal fittings of the wing frames and separation of the bands due to poor quality.  Not infrequently  vibrations of he ailerons and the upper wing covering led to the  destruction of the Chaika.  There were occasions when the exhaust pipe tore loose, leaking of the fuel and oil pipes,  cracks in the motor, there was no insulation between the fuel tanks and pilot, etc.

An indirect example of the quality of the production I-153s, of which a quantity were sent to China, is an incident of August 27, 1939.  The Chief of the Aviation Supply Administration, Brigade Commander Alekseev reported to the Commissar of Defense about the brave deed of the military representative at Factory No.1, test pilot of the Aviation Supply Administration, V. I. Arady: ?During a test flight of an I-153... a fire erupted at an altitude of 1000 m over the central aerodrome.  Comrade Arady immediately shut off the ignition, and landed the aircraft.. On the ground Arady took measures to dampen the flames, simultaneously summoning help, with which the fire was extinguished.  With his skilled and brave deed, Comrade Arady not only managed to save his life, but also prevented the destruction of the airplane.  Comrade Arady, has had a previous experience of fire in the air (while fulfilling a special government assignment), in which he was burned on the face and hands.  For successfully fulfilling a government assignment, Comrade Arady on 14.XI.38 was awarded the Order of the Red Banner.  I nominate him for the Badge of Honor.?  I am careful not to assert whether the pilot earned his first order in China or in Spain ( the other place where heroic deeds were being done).  In an order on the award of decorations, the ?Spaniards? and ?Chinese? are represented together.  It is also unclear where the saved Chaika ended up- in Spain, or China, or retained ?for internal use?. [3]  The reason for the fire is also unclear; in the archive instead of the report of an  accident commission usual in such cases, there was report signed by Alekseev himself about the catastrophe of 9 April 1940: ?Senior test pilot military representative at Factory No.1, Captain B. I. Arady completed a test flight of I-153 No.7533.  He crashed in the Staraya Khlebnikovo region.  The commission is investigating.?  The report of incident commission is missing.

The courageous Captain Bela Ignatevich Arady, evidently a Hungarian and a internationalist, who had fled Hungary, fell in a sharp battle with a ?childhood illness? of the new fighter intended for the Soviet Air Force and also for the internationalists of all continents.  But the Chinese pilots, even with little flight and combat experience, to a great degree were troubled less by the undeveloped Chaika than by the enemy.  And thus in 1940-1941 it was very difficult for them.

Withdrawn from the destructive (for them) battles with the Zero, the Chinese pilots began to be sent for the new fighter from November 1940.  At the end of the month the pilots of the 27th squadron were the first, at Hami (Sichuan Province).  At the end of the year attached to them were pilots of the 5th Air Group (receiving 26 I-153s), with the 17th, 26th, and 29th squadrons, and in January - February 1941 sent to Hami were the 3rd Air Group (17 Chaiki) and  4th Air Group (20 I-153 and 35 I-16), with the 7th, 8th, 21st, 23rd, and 28th squadrons.  With out the Chaika remained only the pilots of the 24th squadron, receiving the I-16 III. (Which type of I-16 was so designated by the Chinese is unclear, in any case there is information that they received I-16s with the M-62 motor [4], or mounted it themselves, as our engineers did at Khalkin Gol.)

With the new aircraft the Chinese began to return to their basic deployment locations in February - March 1941, though the 26th Squadron with 14 I-16 IIIs was sent to Lanzhou for defense against air attacks.  During the transfer flights the Chinese again suffered non-combat losses.  Returning to Chengdu the 5th Air Group contrived to wreck four new I-153.  The 3rd Air Group lost 5 new I-16 IIIs on May 1 when, during the flight eastward the SB formation leader lost its course.  All the fighters ran out of fuel and were wrecked in forced landings to the south of Tianshui (Gansu Province).  The fate of the pilots is unknown.

[2]To this day, many otherwise authoritative Soviet historians claim the A5M participated at Khalkin Gol.  Every nation seems to make such mistakes.  Consider the ?Japanese Messerschmitts? claimed by American pilots. - GMM.
[3]It clearly did not go to Spain, since the Soviets had ceased sending assistance to the Spanish Republic in late 1938, and the war was over before this incident occurred.  Contrary to western reports, no I-153 ever was sent to Spain. - GMM
[4]The M-62 motor powered the I-16 Type 18, and the cannon-armed Type 27. - GMM

Title: Re: Soviet fighters in China
Post by: han9 on October 10, 2016, 11:28:57 AM
Soviet Fighters in the Sky of China V
by Anatolii Demin
Aviatsiia i Kosmonavtika 1.2001
translated by George M. Mellinger, Twin Cities Aero Historians

But these were still only the blossoms - the berries were yet to come.  On March 14, the Japanese Zeros made a new attack on Chengdu.  For the Chinese, that air battle, evidently became nominal, later they often wrote in hieroglyphs ?air battle 314? (that is ?the air battle of March 14?).  The Taiwanese did not report the complete list of losses, but from fragmentary information it is possible to discover that of the 17 aircraft of the 3rd Air Group which had just flown from Hami, 11 took part in the battle and all were destroyed, and the pilots killed.  The commander of the 5th Air Group, Huang Xinrui led nine new I-153s, and his deputy Ceng Zeliu another 11 Chaiki.  As the Taiwanese write, ?the flying quality of the I-153 was unable to compete with the might of the Japanese, and Ceng Zeliu was shot down directly over the aerodrome of Shuangliu airbase.?  Also shot down was the commander of the group, Huang Xinru, who made a forced landing at Sumatou, and died of his wounds two days later.  Of 11 Chaiki of the 28th squadron included in the 5th Air Group, the Zeros immediately shot down the squadron commander Zhou Lingxiu and another pilot.  The other shot-down pilot made a forced landing on the water, but was strafed on the surface.  Also participating in the battle were three I-15bis of the 32nd squadron received at the beginning of the year from depot overhaul.  Squadron commander Chen Pengyang was shot down, and the lightly wounded pilot, Qin Bei escaped by parachute.  In the 17th squadron all were killed, and several aircraft were lost from the 8th squadron.  According to Japanese sources, on that day they destroyed 24 aircraft, and possibly destroyed, or damaged another three.

The 4th Air Group was lucky; it had still not completed retraining, and returned to Shuangliu airbase only in April.  Until then they avoided engagement with the enemy, as that order had recently been given by the Aviation Committee to all active air units engaged in reorganization.  The 3rd Air Group transferred five of six remaining Chaiki to the 5ht Air Group and the last to the 11th, anc functionally ceased to exist.  Only five I-16 IIIs flown in to Chengdu from Hami at the beginning of August remained for combat duty.  Later the 5th Air Group disbanded.  At first their mission was the interception of Japanese reconnaissance aircraft, for which they were reinforced with 5 Chaiki.  But on May 22, as a result of air attacks, 17 aircraft of the 5th Air Group were sent to Nanzheng (Henan Province) in order to defend ti from the Japanese blows.  While refueling at Tianshu (Gansu Province) they were al destroyed on the ground.  the newly appointed commander of the group, L? Enlung was relieved of command.  On June 6 the group receive 6 I-153s for opposing night attacks, but on July 1 it was disbanded.

Something similar occurred on May 26 with the 29th Squadron.  Eighteen I0153s led by squadron commander Yu Pingxiang flying from the region of Gansucheng to Lanzhou, but along the way they encountered Japanese fighters.  Immediately the commander and pilot Zhang Senyi were shot down, both baling out.  The remainder followed deputy squadron commander Tan Zhouli, but when they landed for refueling, the remaining 16 Chaiki were destroyed on the ground by the Japanese.

Evidently the only Chinese victory in the first half of 1941appears to be a bomber shot down over Lanzhou on May 21.  At Xigucheng aerodrome there was a duty flight of eight I-153s of the 21st squadron commanded by Zhen Sheng.  On that day they gave battle to 27 Japanese bombers.

Concentrating almost all remaining aircraft and combat pilots at the training centers where the fighters of the 4th Air Group had become instructors, the Chinese fighter aviation virtually refused to give battle to the Japanese, limiting themselves to intercepting reconnaissance aircraft.   At the end of July1941the remaining I-16 IIIs of the 4th Air Group were concentrated at Liangshan and Baishiyi airbases near Chongqing, for this purpose, but without results.  The 11th Air Group, which had formed at the end of 1940 also did not take part in battle with the I-16 and I-15bis, occupying themselves with training flights at Qungla until 1942.

Meanwhile the Japanese continued to conduct massive attacks on the Chinese cities.  On July 28, 1941 108 Japanese aircraft executed an attack into Sichuan Province.  Only seven aircraft of the 27th Squadron were able to oppose them..  The I-153 (No. P-7237) of Lieutenant Gao Chunchou was shot down, falling into an ambush.  While opposing an attack on Chengdu at dawn on August10 Captain Ou Yangdeng of the 21st squadron was killed.  His aircraft No. 7261, flying with the remnants of the 5th Air Group was hit and crash landed, the pilot dying from lack of medical attention.  the next day the Japanese conducted another dawn attack on Chengdu, and four I-153s of the 29th squadron took to the air.  Squadron commander Tang Zhouli and two of his deputies, Wang Chongshi and Huang Rongfa were killed.  The Taiwanese also state that the fiancee of the last, Yang Quanfang shot herself on August 16.

In the words of the Chinese, ?1941 was the most difficult year for the Chinese Air Force of the entire eight years of war.  On this account, in order to render opposition to the Japanese forces, the Chinese actively sought new international assistance.?

Already by the beginning of 1941 the commander of the 3rd Air Group, Lo Yingde with part of the command and flying staff had been sent to Rangoon, Burma to take delivery of the Hawk 81A (P-40C) which had been purchased in America.  But as the Taiwanese write, ?after trying the combat capabilities of these aircraft, they determined that they would not be able to stand up against the Zero.  Therefore the transfer was declined and the aircraft were delivered to a unit of American volunteers, C. Chennault?s Flying Tigers.

Unwittingly, the Japanese themselves helped the Chinese.  Preparing for the attack on Pearl Harbor, during the second half of 1941 they transferred almost all their Zeros from China to pacific Ocean bases.  Entry of the United States into the war against Japan at the end of 1941 was salvation for China.  They automatically fell into the category of countries to receive lend-lease military assistance, including military aircraft.  As PRC historians write, ?the power of the Chinese Air Force gradually was restored with the help of the Americans.?  The Burma road began to work at full capacity as military cargo was sent along it from the United States to China.  For its defense, the remaining Chinese aviation was redeployed to Yunnan Province.

At the end of January 1942 eleven I-153s of the 17th Squadron led by squadron commander Liu Qingguang, were quartered at Kunming (Yunnan Province).  According to intentions, they were to repulse Japanese air attacks together with the American volunteers also located there.  But after some time they were sent to Laxu airbase in Burma where they were utilized for communications, and in May conducted military activity attacking ground targets.  On May 3, 1942 two I-153s of the 26th Squadron were sent to the Chanximaogong region (on the Burmese border) for battle against the drug growers (evidently, reconnaissance and aerial destruction of the opium plantations).

It is not possible to find much later information about the combat use of our Chaiki.  At the middle of July the 17th Squadron returned to Chengdu, but it is unclear whether they took part in opposing air attacks at the end of August 1942.  Seven I-16IIIs of the 29th Squadron participated in battle there, but the details are not known.  At the same time, under orders of the 4th Army another seven I-16 IIIs, led by Wang Yinhua, the commander of the 29th Squadron, flew to Lanzhou and defended the city and airbase..  In September three P-66s of the 5th Air Group,  newly received from the USA, were attached to them.

Except for mention of a single I-16 which seems to have been shot down over the Burma Road in 1943 by a Japanese Ki 43, it has not been possible to uncover other information about the further participation of our fighters in the battle for China.   From the middle of March 1942 the Chinese pilots gradually began to rearm with American fighters, but a number of remaining Lastochki, Chizhi and Chaiki were used for training in the flying schools and training centers.  There is no information about the very last days of their flying careers.

Beginning from the end of 1941 Chinese aviators, for the most part, after completing flight school, began to be sent to the United States for advanced training.  By March1945 a total of 1224 individuals had been sent, and 384 had been returned to participate in combat.

In March 1942 the first American P-43As, as with the earlier I-16, were received by the 4th Air Group.  The pilots retrained in Kunming, and in small groups the pilots flew in turn to India for the new fighters.  the 3rd air Group sent pilots to India to receive the P-66 from the middle of June 1942, and during a half year received 60 machines, though they retained only 15, transferring the remainder tot he 5th and 11th Air Groups beginning in September.

The 7th Squadron first began to use the P-66 for combat duty at Chongqing as early as September 1942.  Evidently, the last to turn in Soviet fighters for ?combat storage? were the pilots of the 26th, 29th and 41st squadrons, generally a year later than the others.  The 41st Squadron began to receive the P-66 in September 1943, and the 26th and 29 th squadrons were sent to India to take delivery of the P-40N only at the end of 1943.  The 44th squadron also received the P-40.
Conclusion follows.

Title: Re: Soviet fighters in China
Post by: han9 on October 17, 2016, 07:35:47 AM

Soviet Fighters in the Sky of China VI
by Anatolii Demin
Aviatsiia i Kosmonavtika 2.2001
translated by George M. Mellinger, Twin Cities Aero Historians

{For Russian names I have used a simplified version of the Library of Congress system; for Japanese names, the rendition common in Western literature.  Except for a very few well-known exceptions (Beijing, Chiang Kai Shek) Chinese names and places have proven very difficult.  I have been given by a friend a table for transliterating Pinyan phonetics into Cyrillic, and have tried to work it backwards to obtain Pinyan from the Russian.  I am not confident of any success.  I ask your indulgence, and any corrections the knowledgeable may wish to give. -GMM}
The story of the Soviet fighters in China would be incomplete without a description of the attempts of the Chinese aviation industry to copy Soviet aircraft.  It appears that work had begun already by the end of 1937.  Indirect support for this, is a trip to Shaoguan by a pilot of the 25th squadron, Tu Zhangan for delivery of a single I-15.  On December 25, 1937 he took off there during an air alarm, and during the flight to the Dengjiangan Station he was mistakenly shot down by Chinese antiaircraft fire.  Evidently, immediately before, the aircraft had been conveyed  to the local aircraft factory and examined with the possibility of simply creating drawings.

After the beginning of the war the aircraft factory at Shaoguan relocated to Kunming and received the designation 1 Air Force Aircraft Factory.  From the end of 1937 it began to build the aircraft Zhong 28-II instead of the Hawk III.  (The Chinese character ?zhong? meant ?honor?.  The significance of ?28 is unclear, but is possibly the year of entering service according to the Chinese calendar dating from the revolution of 1911.)

This was a biplane fighter, actually a copy of the I-15, but with a  745 hp. American Wright-Cyclone SR-1820-F53 motor. Thirty aircraft were built from 1939 to 1943.  There is no information about its combat use, but most likely it was used in training centers.  Flight characteristics generally were similar to the I-15, Speed - 376 km/h, combat weight - 1839 kg.

In August 1941 on the eve of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese began an offensive in the south, invading Vietnam and Burma, and strengthening their attacks on Yunnan Province.  The situation in Kunming became tense.  In order to escape the bombing, the new factory was to a new location on the outskirts of Guiyang.  Here three shops were organized, each of about 400 to 500 square meters.  They all were dispersed among the mountain ravines.  The director Zhu Jiaren and a small contingent of personnel and equipment remained in Kunming.  Evidently the final assembly was completed there, while production of the components was dispersed in the mountains.

Since 1943 the head engineer at the Kunming factory was an American -  K. L. Zakharchenko an immigrant of Russian origin.  His prewar attempts to design an original fighter were not crowned with success due to the absence of suitable conditions and of a technically prepared national workforce.  He had to limit himself to development of a two place biplane trainer ?Fusing? (Renaissance), produced in a total of 20 machines, and the lowing monoplane trainer AT-2.  The fuselage of the aircraft had an original primary structure using a skin of multi-layered bamboo.  Eventually this was widely used in China, in this role and for reproduction of the Chinese I-15 and I-16.  In 1937 Zakharchenko organized a ?Hawk ? production line in the factory and at the beginning of the war actively began work on copying the I-15.  It is known that he studied captured Japanese equipment and met with Soviet military advisors.  For his help in the battle against the Japanese he was awarded the Order of Chinese Glory.

At the beginning of the 1940s, under his leadership there began a project for a fighter monoplane project (XP-1).  Its fundamental originality was a reversed-gull wing, and automatic slats.  In June 1943 Zakharchenko returned to the USA, and the Chinese continued the projects and production themselves.  They completed the first example at the beginning of fall.  It was of mixed construction, the fuselage and outer wing panels of wood and the nose section of the fuselage and the wing center section of metal.  The motor was a Wright Cyclone giving a projected speed of 588 km/h.  But the machine was overweight, and in practice was capable only of 547 km/h.  During one of its flights the aircraft suffered a catastrophic failure over Guiyan, in the opinion of the Chinese due to aerodynamic instability, and the pilot was killed.  When the design of the aircraft was extensively examined at the aviation faculty at Chongqing, they uncovered this instability and wondered why it had not been uncovered earlier.  They attributed it to ?obsequiousness toward foreigners? but a second prototype was not constructed. 

During the opening period of the war an aircraft factory was constructed with Italian assistance for assembling the Italian Savoia Marchetti.  It was evacuated at the end of 1937, and after a year it began to organize work of a new aircraft factory at Nanchuan.  Here there were practically ideal conditions for defense against air attacks.  It was located in a cave, so the Japanese were unable to observe it.  However, conditions for construction of aircraft were very bad: damp and dark, it required electrical lighting for all work.

Production was organized according to the pattern of the factory in Hanzhou; it is possible that they used the equipment from that factory.  In 1939 the ?cave factory? was reorganized and renamed as the ?2nd Aircraft Factory of the Air Force, and was later named the Nanchuan Factory.  Zhu Linren became the director, and then it was led by Jian Changzuo, Li Gopei,, and Ma Deshu.  As many as a thousand worked at the factory from 1940-1942.  Between 1939 and 1947 they created several original aircraft.  The first of them the ?Zhong 28-Qia? (28-1) existed in two variants, a fighter and advanced fighter trainer.

The ?Zhong 28-Qia? fighter was an analogue of the Soviet I-16, but as the Chinese write, ?from the clack of blueprints, and the mounting of more heavy machine guns, it was practically developed anew?.  It used some Soviet components, wing longerons, undercarriage gear, wheels.  Everything else was developed and produced by the Chinese themselves.  The surfaces of the fuselage and wings - bamboo of three thickness layers (to specification 28-2).  In the whole of its technological production the machine strongly differed from the Soviet.  It is very likely that they developed the trainer ?28-1? (The Chinese did not give separate designations) for themselves without copying our UTI-4.  The Chinese write that the pilot?s cabin was moved forward, and the second seat added on behind, and the center of gravity independently recalculated.

The weight of both variants was 1556 kg, the motor Wright Cyclone R-1820-F of 712 hp.  The maximum speed of the fighter was 455 km/h, of the trainer 445 km/h.  The landing speed of both variants was 119 km/h.  Three examples of the 28-1 fighter were built.  Work began on the first machine in December 1938 and was completed in July 1939.  The quality of the gluing deteriorated due to poor conditions in the cave (humidity at times reached 100%).  This raised doubts about its strength, in connection with which, the first example was first subjected to static tests, and only then took to the air.  But according to the words of the Chinese, ?contrary to expectations, the results were very good?.  Thirty examples of the  trainer 28-1 were constructed Information about their use has not been found.

The other attempt to build Soviet fighters manifested itself as the construction of Aircraft Factory No.600 on Chinese territory.  On August 11,1939 representatives of the Peoples?s Komissariat of Aircraft Industry and the Chinese government signed an agreement on the organization of assembly production, 40 km from Urumchi.  The first examples, according to the plan, were introduced into production in the fall of 1940, and final construction was concluded by February 1941.  By September 111 I-16s were assembled here (by other accounts 143).  However, there is information that the factory did not deliver them to the Chinese at that time, possibly due to the worsening, and eventual break in relations with Chiang Kai Shek.  From the beginning of the Great Patriotic War, all the assembled fighters were used in the battles against the fascists.  From November 1940 to 28 February 1942, I. E. Fyodorov worked as the Chief of LIS and factory flight testing. [1]  Working with him ?as a pair? was S. N. Viktorov.  In May 1941 he was killed during a test flight of an I-16; according to an unconfirmed account the reason was not only the quality of production, but also ?the human factor? while flying in formation.  After this accident Fyodorov was demoted to ordinary factory test pilot.  In1942-1943 A. P. Deev worked there as a test pilot.   According to various sources, at that time Factory No.600 was assembling Yakovlev trainer aircraft.
[1]Ivan Evgrafovich Fyodorov was one of the Soviets? least-known, but most remarkable pilots.  He first saw combat over Spain, where he was credited with 11 victories, and then fought over China (2 victories), Khalkin Gol (2 victories), and Finland (4 victories).  After returning from China in 1942, he flew against the Germans scoring at least 17 more victories, thought he ?claims as many as 49 victories.  His final war was Korea, where he claimed 4 more victories.  In between his combat tours, Fyodorov also served as a test pilot, and also had repeated episodes of troubles with the authorities.  Still alive, he claims to have scored a total of 135 victories, an assertion rejected by most historians.  Regardless of overclaiming followed by exaggeration, his minimum achievement is remarkable.  LIS is probably - Test Flying Service - GMM.

Title: Re: Soviet fighters in China
Post by: han9 on October 25, 2016, 07:12:52 AM
Soviet Fighters in the Sky of China VI
by Anatolii Demin
Aviatsiia i Kosmonavtika 2.2001
translated by George M. Mellinger, Twin Cities Aero Historians

At the aircraft factory in Chengdu they undertook an attempt to copy the SB.   Despite the contrary opinion that only the fuselage was original and everything else was taken from a Soviet supplied pattern machine, in fact the wings of the new aircraft were also wooden, of Chinese manufacture. (Concerning this, there is some information that the Chinese used documentation from the wooden SB, project which was assigned to A. S. Moskalev at the end of the 1930s)  Flight testing of the Chinese ?SB? began in 1944, but after several successful flights, the aircraft was entrusted to a different Chinese pilot who ?pramged? it during a landing, and it was not restored.

Before turning to the combat action  statistics, we will pause briefly to compare the characteristics of the fighters battling over China.  There is in the memoirs of volunteers a description of an episode in the spring of 1938 when, during a quiet period Rychagov and Blagoveshchenskii arranged an original review of the aviation equipment.  This established that the I-16 surpassed in speed all its foreign ?brothers-in-arms? by almost a factor of two.  Of course this was a fantasy, however it is understandable as far as all the authors of  memoirs except S. V. Slyusarev estimated the maximum speed of all foreign combat aircraft in China as being in a range of 130-200 km/h. This is understood to be not so.

Comparing the I-16 with the other fighters in China, the Italian Fiat CR.32, American Hawk III, English Gloster Gladiator Mk.I, Dewoitine D.510, Japanese Ki-10 (type 95), A5M (Type 96), Ki-27 (Type 97), and our I-15 (I-15 bis), one can affirm that they were fighters of the same class and generation, produced during the mid 1930s.  All of them, except the I-16 had maximum speeds between 350-400 km/h.  Each had its own strengths and weaknesses.

Meeting on Chinese airfields at the end of 1937 the few surviving Fiats our pilots already knew them well from Spain where the Crickets of the Pyrenees, incidentally about the same age as the I-15,  in 1936-1937  proved a thoroughly dangerous rival for our fighters.

At altitudes greater than 2 km the speed of the CR.32bis (produced in 1935) was a little less than the I-15, but in rate of climb and maneuverability it was quite inferior to our fighter.  Flight in this aircraft, in the opinion of NII VVS test pilots, was laborious.  On taxiing it swung to the right, and on leaving the ground it was unstable and gained altitude slowly.  It was difficult to complete a turn and reversal, demanding good coordination of movements.  It demanded extensive training for a pilot of average ability.  the I-15 surpassed the CR.32 in flying and handling qualities, but was inferior in armament.  Its heavy caliber machine guns gave the CR.32 the potential ability to conduct battle at distances outside the range of fire of 7.62-7.92mm caliber machine guns. However, it was not able to take advantage of such potential in battle since it did not have superior speed or rate of climb.  The combat capabilities of the I-15 were markedly higher.  Air combat in Spain gave the same conclusions.  The Hawk III never ended up in the USSR and was not tested.

The main rival of the I-15,Hawk II and CR.32 at the beginning of the war in China,  the Ki-10 biplane (I-95, Type 95), in the opinion of the author of Samoletostroenie v SSSR (Aircraft Construction in the USSR), ?appeared one of the most perfectly maneuverable fighters of the 1930s.  The prototype first flew in1935.  It had a number of superiorities over the CR-32 and He 51.  Chief among them was possession of a supercharger for the water-cooled BMW-IX.  This provided greater power at higher altitude and consequently increased speed, climb and maneuverability, which were also improved by excellent finishing and the clean aerodynamic form of the machine?s metallic construction with fabric wing surfaces.  A low specific wing loading also improved maneuverability and control.  armament was two synchronized 7.7mm Vickers machine guns.

NII VVS test pilots noted the high standard of production of the Ki-10, its ease of maintenance, with easy access to the motor and all components of the aircraft.  Flight characteristics were straightforward, but it was insufficiently stable , and its spinning characteristics were bad, due to a great delay in recovery and the tendency to go into a flat spin.  Take-off and landing runs were sufficiently long that larger airfields were needed.  But in spite of a number of deficiencies, the I-95 seemed a very strong opponent in air combat.  In comparison with the I-15 it had superior speed at altitudes greater than 3-4 km, and could quickly overtake the I-15 in a dive.  At the same time the I-95 underperformed the I-15 in maneuverability and particularly in climb.  Therefore an I-15 pilot in battle with the I-95 should make use of his superiority in vertical speed and depart from combat only upward.  Thus, in an air combat much depended on tactics, since there was no absolute superiority of either aircraft.?

In the opinion of the author of ?Samoletostroenie...?, the great combat ability and superiority of the I-15 in comparison with other, even more modern and maneuverable biplanes was provided by the high power provided across a wide range of altitudes thanks to the power of the motor with supercharger, and the light weight of construction.  Also, the I-15 had outstanding handling characteristics resulting from good aerodynamics and rationalized arrangements of the controls.  Also noted was the higher combat survivability of the air-cooled M-25 motor compared to liquid-cooled motors, and the good take-off and landing characteristics, and sufficiently effective weapons.

However, in connection with consideration of the strengths and deficiencies of fighters, it must be remembered that success in battle most of all was connected with not only with the qualitative superiority or inferiority of the aircraft, but obviously on the tactics they used.  For this, most important of all is the combat experience of the pilots.  As G. N. Zakharov wrote, ?having already fought and gained combat experience, we naturally came to an understanding of the tactics needed for the current air battle.  But at the beginning pilots did not study even such tactics of the aces as attacking from out of the sun.  Therefore, they often began battle from an unfavorable position.  Our basic trump from the first days of combat was the exceptional maneuverability of the I-15 and individual pilot skill.?

The Japanese maintained that in a classic maneuvering battle there was little difference between the A5M and I-15 when flown  by pilots of equal skill, but thought that on the average Japanese pilots were better trained than their comparable Soviet pilots.  On the other hand, ours benefitted from a considerably greater weight of fire of a one second burst, and their individual armored seat plating (not available at first).  The Soviet fighters from the beginning were very difficult opponents for the Japanese, who had on their A5M only two rifle caliber machine guns.

From 1938 the modified I-15bis began to appear in China.  the upper wing was constructed straight (without the ?gull?), construction was strengthened according to experience gained from operating the I-15, with an improved cowling for the M-25V motor of greater power and high altitude performance.  The armament was four synchronized PV-1 machineguns (like the exported variant of the I-15).  In sum, the weight increased by 300 kg (20%), which degraded speed and rate of climb, despite the greater power.  The aerodynamic support of the upper wing appeared more negative compared to the ?Chaika?.  Nonetheless for maneuverability and rate of climb, the I-15bis remained one of the best biplanes of its era.  It was superior in speed, climb and armament to the Ki-10 up to altitudes of 3,5 km.  However in spite of the organizational and tactical cooperation of the ?maneuverable? I-15bis and the ?speedy? I-16, the combat usefulness of the ?bis? was clearly inadequate for battle with the Type 96 and Type 97, and the speed of the new Japanese bombers was continually increasing.

It was interesting to read in Samoletostroenie v SSSR a description of the comparative characteristics of the further development of the I-15bis, the I-153 ?Chaika? with the M-62 and its main opponent at Khalkin Gol, the Type 97.  But when the Chaika appeared in China, the new Zero, from the next generation of fast piston-engined fighters was committing its depredations.  What they did to the not very trained Chinese pilots we saw previously.  But here let us bring down a curtain of mercy....

The I-16 fast monoplane fighter received it s baptism of fire in Spain where it was used mainly against bombers.  In combat with fighters, several times it demonstrated that with the correct tactics, superiority of speed gave the I-16 pilot initiative an domination over the He-51 and CR.32.  The same thing was demonstrated at the NII VVS during demonstration air combats.  In 1937 in air combats in Spain and China the I-16 first encountered the Me-109 and A5M fast monoplanes.  The Type 96 was the first Japanese monoplane fighter.  It was intended as a shipboard fighter, but was widely used in the land theater of operations.  During the war in China in 1937-1938 the main modification used was the A5M2a with an air-cooled Kotobuki 3 motor, with a maximum 610 hp.  (nominal 540 hp).  The non-retracting undercarriage had a closed fairing of very clean aerodynamic form.  the cabin was open.  the armament of the A5M2a was two Vickers 7.7mm synchronized machine guns.  Two bombs could be carried on racks under the wings and under the fuselage a supplementary fuel tank.

At the NII VVS a captured type 96 showed a speed of 316kh/h at ground level and 370 km/h at an altitude of 3.2 km, a rate of climb of 5 km in 7.5 minutes, a practical ceiling of 10,000 m, and time to turn 15 seconds.  However, the motor was untuned  (it was assembled of parts from three wrecks), and as a result of unfitness, the fixed pitch  propeller blades were changed for others with a changed width and profile.  By estimation, the real speed and rate of climb of the standard A5M was higher than that tested by the NII VVS (speed by 20-30 km/h).  In the opinion of the test pilot, ?the I-96 showed itself to be a stable, light on the controls and very maneuverable airplane...Its flying qualities were extraordinarily straightforward and accessible to a pilot of even below average ability, in which regard it strongly differed from the I-16.  For decreasing landing speed the I-96 had landing flaps which did not exist on the I-16 Type 5.  The I-96 seemed quite simple and reliable in use.?  In spite of shortcomings, the verdict of our pilots fighting in China and Mongolia, including G. Zakharov and B. Smirnov, rated the A5M as a very good combat aircraft, noting particularly its lightness and maneuverability, a machine which ?in the hands of a good pilot would present a serious opponent?.

Our aviation specialists thought that the speed and maneuverability of the A5M, with a relatively low wingloading of 97 kg/m2 occupied an intermediate position between the I-15bis and I-16 Type 5.  Thus the Japanese designers creating a shipboard aircraft, to a degree sacrificed speed for the sake of greater maneuverability and good flying characteristics.  The Japanese themselves, through experience in air combat came to the conclusion that the A5M notably surpassed the I-16 in both horizontal and vertical maneuver.

Almost simultaneously with the A5M, the Nakajima Ki-27 (Type 97) fighter was developed for the Japanese Air Force, becoming the most numerous type of fighter in Japan at the beginning of the 1940s. Series production began in 1937 and produced 3386 machines.  In external appearance,  the geometrical dimensions and armament the A5M and Ki-27 were almost identical, and in the air they were also difficult to distinguish.  But the latter had the more modern construction, a motor of 650 hp, and an enclosed cabin.  Despite the increased wing area of the Type 97, its weight decreased by 130 kg and its wing-loading was 85 kg/m2, similar to biplanes.

Title: Re: Soviet fighters in China
Post by: han9 on October 28, 2016, 08:04:14 AM
Soviet Fighters in the Sky of China VI
by Anatolii Demin
Aviatsiia i Kosmonavtika 2.2001
translated by George M. Mellinger, Twin Cities Aero Historians

A characteristic trait of Japanese fighters was the presence of a reducing gearbox on the motors of the Kotobuki firm.  Located on the large diameter propellers, they  increased the thrust and thrust to weight ratio at low speeds, but the decrease of maximum speed from this was compensated for by increased climb and acceleration.  One well-preserved trophy Type 97 tested  at the NII VVS, yielded very favorable flight evaluations.  The fighter combined good speed with magnificent maneuverability, it had outstanding stability, and its flying characteristics were extraordinarily straightforward.

Together with its strong side there were also deficiencies: The decreased weight led to complications in operation and transportation.(the wing became detached),and most important, led to a decrease in durability and survivability.  The aircraft lacked armor plating, the fuel tanks were unprotected, and were not filled with neutral gas, due to an absence of motor shock absorbers, the airplane vibrated continually in flight.  Inadequate durability limiting the duration of a dive to about 500 to 700 m, was another deficiency of the Ki 27.  Captured Japanese pilots testified that during a dive the wings began to vibrate, particularly the outer panels (on occasion resulting in their failure), and the motor quickly super.-cooled and might even stop.

The equivalent of the Ki 27, the I-16 Type 10, was a modification of the Type 5.  for decreasing the landing speed, landing flaps with pneumatic controls were mounted.  Supplementing the two ShKAS wing-mounted machneguns were two additional synchronized ShKAS were mounted over the motor.  Weight of the aircraft increased by about 200 kg (6.5%), but flight performance changed little due to the increased power of the motor.

Study of the air combat experience of the Soviet military specialists in China and Mongolia showed that up to altitudes of 5000 m. the I-16 Type 10 was superior to the Type 97.  At higher altitudes superiority shifted to the Japanese.  Consequently, Japanese pilots at the beginning of a battle always tried to gain height and the accompanying initiative, but as soon as the battle began, it moved to medium altitudes and the advantage passed to the Soviet pilots.  The greatest virtue of the Japanese fighter appeared to be its stability and ease of flying, which gave the pilot confidence, simplified the conduct of battle and gave a definite advantage.  Thanks to its stability, the Ki 27 was able under all regimes of flight, with two machineguns, with the usual rate of fire of 1800 rounds a minute, bring sufficiently accurate and effective fire in battle,  as against the Soviet ShKAS?s, together firing up to 5600 rounds a minute. [2]  In other words, the less stable I-16 to some measure compensated with a greater weight of armament.  Another great virtue of the Ki-27 was the provision of a radio; there was a receiver on all aircraft, and on the machines of the flight commanders and higher a transmitter.

The virtues our aviation specialists attributed to the I-16 were its better rate of climb at lower and medium altitudes, better survivability and strength in comparison to the Japanese fighters, allowing it to maneuver at greater g-loads.  The Soviet fighters dived better, which determined their choice of tactical method: exit from battle or breaking away from an enemy was achieved by a steep dive, which the Japanese aircraft could not follow at a high rate of speed due to the weakness of their wings.

According to the recollections of combat pilots including G. P. Kravchenko, in battle the Ki 27 maintained a speed of approximately 400 km/h, and at ground level it was about 10-20 km/h slower than the I-16P.  Specialists supposed that since the appearance in the Ki 27 of some structural deformations due to structural flimsiness and vibrations, it was possible that there was a limit on the length of time the motor could operate at maximum power.  In summation, the Type 97 turned out to be less fast than the I-16.  The absence of retractable undercarriage on the Japanese aircraft simplified maintenance and increased reliability, but also decreased speed.  In the same year both we and the Japanese on the A5M2b began to adopt the closed cabin, while all the same the pilots continued to fly with their canopies open, and the Japanese withdrew this modification from production.

Thus the outcome of the air battles in the skies of China came to depend not only on the strengths or weaknesses of the aircraft, but mainly on the preparation of the combat pilots.  And they gradually modernized the tactics of air combat, developing new methods of fighting in the air.

Now about the pilots.  There is not complete data about the victories of Soviet and Chinese pilots.  The reasons are not only the notorious registration of aircraft shot down by our volunteers to foreign volunteers in agreement with Chinese bureaucrats, but also to a whole series of other causes, needing special discussion.

According to N. G. Bodrikhin?s data, the most successful Soviet pilot in China was P. K. Kozachenko, of the first group of fighters.  By the summer of 1938 flying the I-16 he shot down 11 aircraft.  After him followed A. S. Blagoveshchenskii with 10 victories (of which 2 were group victories), K. K. Kokkinaki and A. A. Gubenko, each with seven.  Both of them fought in China in both the I-16 and the I-15bis, while Blagoveshchenskii flew only the Lastochka.  Unfortunately it has not yet been possible to filter out the Chinese victories of G. N. Zakharov, G. P. Kravchenko, S. P. Suprun, and M. N. Yakushin.

There were very few first class Chinese pilots, but from the middling level there were somewhat distinguished from the novices.  Particular testimony about this is the fearsome losses from among the commanders of flights, squadrons, and even air groups.  Many of them, newly appointed, commanded their unit only until the first air battle.  On every combat flight of the group the Commander selected the leader and two deputies hoping that one of them would remain to command the group.  However, experienced pilots there were often insufficient even for this ?special troika?.  If they were able, with the support of our volunteers, sometimes to stand against the experienced Japanese, the decisive battles of 1941 showed that there were practically no experienced flying cadres in the Guomindang Air Force.

The first Chinese ace was Liu Qugang on the Hawk III.  From August 14 to October 25, 1937, under conditions of overwhelming Japanese superiority in the air, he scored 10 (11) victories, and was the first in the Chinese Air Force to shoot down the A5M.  According to the recollection of his wife, from childhood, Liu Qugang?s idol was the German ?Red Baron? Manfred von Richthofen.  Setting off to war, he also swore to his wife that he would not be shot down.  Astonishingly, he formally kept this promise, for he crashed while landing his aircraft at night.  Unfortunately, he and Gao Zhihang (the Chinese called him the War Spirit), who  perished first in the I-16 on October 21, 1937 under bombardment, did not survive until the air battles against the Japanese in our aircraft.  It would have been interesting to have seen the results of these extraordinary fighters.

Chinese historians provide the names in all of a further seven aces who shot down more than five Japanese aircraft between 1937 and 1945.  so far it has not been possible to establish during which period of the war these victories were claimed, or in which types of aircraft.  It cannot be ruled out that they were scored in only American aircraft, since we did not encounter their names earlier.  They are: Liu Zhesheng -11 aircraft, Wang Guangfu - 8, Tan Kun - 8, Yuan Baokang - 8, Gao Youxin - 8, Zhou Zhikai - 6, Zhou Tingfang - 6.  (gathered from various ?prowestern? sources, the lists of Chinese aces far from coincides with all pilots.)

Not a little has been written about the Japanese aces, but separating the wheat from the chaff is quite difficult, therefore except for the previously mentioned T. Kato, we will mention only Warrant Officer K. Koga of the 13th Air Unit, ranking as the leading Japanese A5M ace.  From September to December 1937 he participated in six major air combats, shooting down his first aircraft over Nankgking on September 19, 1937.  In December he returned to Japan with 13 victories (how many of them were ours is unclear) and became a test pilot in the Air Unit at Yokosuka.  He was killed in a flying accident on September 15, 1938.

Describing the history of the combat actions of their air force in the war with Japan, historians from the PRC assert that during the period August 14, 1937 to August 30, 1945 Chinese aviation completed 18,509 combat sorties, participated in 4027 air combats, shot down 568 and damaged 599 Japanese aircraft, destroyed 1 aircraft carrier (seaplane tender? -GMM), 281 military warships, demolished 9 docks, destroyed by bombing 135 weapons depots, 87 fuel points, and also destroyed many military trains, radio stations, and barracks.  The count of the ground-based anti-aircraft forces for 8 years of war included a further 171 enemy aircraft shot down and 374 put out of action.  During the war the Chinese Air Force lost (including losses on the ground) 2469 aircraft including trainers.  They suffered 4668 wounded, of which 661 were pilots.

Dividing these data between the periods of the war is not yet possible, but nonetheless it is possible to assert that the given number of Soviet victories - 195 (81 +114) [3], evidently underestimated.  In any case, until not long ago, it we claimed  (with reference to Chinese data published in 1959) that by 1940 the Japanese had lost 986 aircraft in the air and on the ground.  Naturally, the lion?s share of these victories belong to our pilots.

Between 1937-1941 the Chinese Air Force received from the USSR 563 fighters, I15,I-15bis, I-16, I-153.  During the same period the Chinese purchased from England 36 Gloster Gladiator Mk.1, from France 24 Dewoitine D.510, and from the USA 12 Hawk 75.  During 1942-1945 the Chinese received from the USA through lend-lease 1038 fighters, including P-43 108 machines, P-66 ?  129, P-40 ?  377, P-51 ? 50, F-5 (reconnaissance version of the P-38 Lightning) ? 5.  Comparison of these figures speaks for itself about the scale of our military assistance to China.

Among their national heroes the Chinese place the names of the pilots Gao Zhihang, Yan Haiwen, Chen Huaimin, Chen Chonghai, Li Guidan, Liu Qugang, Zheng Shaoyu.  The most prominent of them appears to be Zhou Zhikai, who shot down 6 aircraft in 2two battles during 1943,but was killed soon afterward.

In many Chinese cities - Wanxian, Guilin, Wuhan, Nangking, Chongqing, Guangzhou, and others, there are preserved graves and memorials to the Soviet airmen who perished in battle against the Japanese from 1937-1941.  According to precise data from the Russian Center For International and Cultural Amity and the Russian-Chinese Friendship Society, included in 1997 a memorial album was published ?Eternal Sleep in the Chinese Earth?, 211 Soviet volunteer pilots are buried in China.

On September 3,1945, on the fiftieth anniversary of the end of the Second World War, at the military cemetery in Nangking, a majestic monument was raised to the aviators who perished in the war with Japan from 1937-1945.  On the sides of the two identical steles of white marble are placed sculptures of aviators: to the left Chinese and Russian, and on the right Chinese and American.  Around the steles and sculptures are tablets of black marble inscribed with the names of all the aviators who perished on Chinese territory.  among them are 236 names in the Russian language (211 killed 19937-1945 and 25 in 1945.)

My their memory be eternal!

The author considers it his pleasant duty to express his gratitude to E Arsen?ev, V. Kotel?nikov, V. Kulikov, A. Sergeev, A. Simonov, and A. Firsov for providing information, and also special gratitude to Professor N. A. Demin of Moscow State Lomonosov University for translation of Chinese sources.

[2] Assuming the I-16 Type 10 with 4 ShKAS; the ShKAS also fired at 1800 rpm, unsynchronized. - GMM.
[3] 81 victories credited to individual pilots and 114 victories which were counted as group victories, either because they were shared by more than one pilot, or because the victorious pilot could not be identified for a variety of other reasons.  Historians now recognize these group/shared kills as the richest source of score inflation. -GMM

Title: Re: Soviet fighters in China
Post by: han9 on November 07, 2016, 02:33:39 PM
That is all concerning Soviet fighters in China pre WWII but not everything from about Soviet aircraft in the Far East. I will create new topics about that ? first notifying about my intentions.

Title: Re: Soviet fighters in China
Post by: Massimo Tessitori on December 15, 2016, 10:31:19 PM
Tapani is working on profiles of I-15bis. One of his works is this Chinese one.
I collected some images and comments on Chinese I-15bis here: (
Any suggestion to improve the page is welcome.

Title: Re: Soviet fighters in China
Post by: han9 on July 24, 2017, 05:40:20 PM
Looking at the previous page at reply no 9

third part of Part III.

Soviet Fighters in the Sky of China Part III (1937-1940) by Anatolii Demin Aviatsiia i Kosmonavtika 11.2000 translated by George M. Mellinger, Twin Cities Aero Historians

We find the description of an air battle which reads as follows:
"On July 7,1938, the first anniversary of the start of the Sino-Japanese war there was a huge air battle over Nanchang.  At the sound of the alarm, everyone took off at once, on criss-crossing paths. Lastochki, Chizhi, and Katyushi (SBs).  In this battle the Japanese adopted very strange tactics, allowing the bombers to fly in advance without protection while the fighters, in compact groups came later, falling upon the Chinese fighters as they were exiting from their attack on the bombers.  On this day four Japanese bombers and fighters were shot down.  In the first sudden attack B. Borodai, in an I-16 shot down a bomber.  In all, the volunteers lost seven aircraft, and the I-15bis of A. Gubenko and N. Kozlov were seriously damaged.  Sukhorukov was killed in the battle, Gridin baled out, Rovnin was wounded and landed back at the airfield, and E. Vladimirov turned over in a rice paddy in his damaged I-15bis.  K. Opasonv shot down a bomber early in the battle, and later baled out, but was killed in the air by the Japanese.  Three days later fishermen pulled his body out of Lake Poyanghu.  Curiously, the physician S. Belolipetskii has described his death differently: ?K. Opasov shot down a Japanese aircraft and was preparing to land, but very close to the ground his aircraft suddenly went into a steep dive and crashed.  There were no signs of bullet wounds in the body, but there were bullet holes in the coverings of the control surfaces and the stabilizers.  Seemingly, the aircraft lost control at the moment when it was too low to bale out...? Perhaps his description referred to someone else. (According to defense ministry archives, Sr. Lt. K. T. Opasov, and Lieutenants V.A. Kashkarov, E. I. Sukhorukov, and S. A. Khryukov were killed on July 4,1938.  It is possible that the date in the memoirs of July 7 is in error.)

It remains to be noted that on the eve of the battle, Opasov?s I-15bis was mounted with a new motor and a heavy caliber ?Colt? machine gun in addition to the four PV-1s.  In this battle three Chinese pilots were shot down.  Afterward the group of Soviet fighters relocated to the reserve airfield at Tengsu

It is worth pointing out, that it is being suggested the date July 7 is in error with July 4 arguably being correct. This may indeed be so. 

On the 中國空戰 - The China Air War

I found the following description of the battle in question

On the day meaning July 4, 1939 the JNAF attacked Nanchang in force 26 G3M bombers escorted by 23 A5M fighters. The Chinese sent up 65 I-15bis and I-16 in 6 formations to intercept. The two Chinese formations, 7 x I-15bis (22 Sq, 4th Group) and 11 x I-16 (6 from the 3rd Group and 5 from the 21 Sq, 4th Group and ) took the two highest positions (5,500m altitude).

The Soviet 4 formation with more planes (28) but many new and inexperienced pilots flew at lower altitudes.

The Chinese I-16 spotted the Japanese bombers first and went into the attack. One G3M was heavily damaged and crash-landed back at base. Japanese accounts noted that the G3M was attacked and damaged by I-16.

The Soviet fighters joined the attack on the bombers. While attacking the bombers, the Soviet and Chinese fighters were "pounced" by the escorting A5M. A big and confusing dogfight ensued.

Some sources suggested that the I-16 unit had just recently arrived in China and had many inexperienced pilots and they suffered the heaviest casualties. Four Soviet I-16 went down, some early in the action when they were caught by surprise. Snr. Lt. Opasov's I-16 was apparently damaged and crashed into the lake while returning to base.

Three Soviet I-15bis were also hit. One pilot bailed out and survived. Another over-turned on landing while the other landed safely.

Three Chinese I-15bis were shot down and two pilots lost. Two of the I-15bis pilots bailed out. They were strafed in their parachutes and one was killed.

Two A5M were shot down with one pilot killed and another captured.

So much for the battle but that is not all however because the son of  Senior Lt. Opasov the by now 86-year-old Yevgeny Opasov continues to search for the burial place of his father. Mr. Opasov despite his age travels to China to show his appreciation for how the Chinese keep alive the memory of Soviet pilots, recalls his fathers etc. watch the vid

Finally Mr. Opasov puts forward the claim that his father was machine gunned under the parachute (I will leave that without a comment) and says he knows about the recovery of his body from the lake by the fishermen. The said fishermen than handed the body over to the local administration and there the trail ends. It is not know what happened to the body afterwards i.e. where Senior Lt. Opasov is buried. For this reason Mr. Opasov appeals to the Chinese to look through their archives to find out.