I-153s in Finnish Ilmavoimat

Updated on February 26 , 2016

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Finns captured eight I-153s that made forced landings during the Winter War (November 1939- March 1940). The first one was numbered VH-101 (later VH-11), while the other ones received numbers from VH-12 to VH-18.

On 25 June 1941, the Soviet Air Force attacked Tuku, starting the Continuation War. Three additional I-153s were captured and recovered, being registered as VH-19, VH-20, VH-21.

During 1942, all prefixes were changed from VH to IT.

Nine further I-153s were purchased from Germany on 18 November 1942, and delivered on Vienna airport on 7 December 1942. They were numbered from IT-22 to IT-31.

In total, the Finnish Air Force, or Suomi Ilmavoimat, employed 21 I-153s , numbered from 11 to 31.

They were assigned to these units: Units: LLv 14, LLv 26, 3/LeLv 6, LLV 12, 1/TLeLv 16 , 1/ Lvlv 30, 2/LvLv 30, HLeLv 28.

The planes in Finnish service were rearmed with four 7.70 mm Browning M.39 machine guns instead of the original ShKAS 7.62 mm, and BCC.AAK-1 gunsights replaced the original Soviet PAK-1.

These biplanes were assigned to the Naval Headquartier for patrol, anti-submarine operations and for ground attack.

They had also occasional combats with Soviet planes. on 11 november 1942 O. Puro shot down a Pe-2 near Peninsaari. On 24 March 1943, two Finnish I-153s were engaged by two Soviet Chkaikas. One of the planes was damaged and had to land on the ice inSoviet-helded ground near Penisaari; then pilot Puro landed, recovered the grounded pilot and took off with him clinging from the wing of this plane, while the damaged one was destroyed to prevent it to be recaptured by Soviets.

On 24 February 1945 all remaining Finnish I-153s were withdrawn from service.


Something about squadrons using I-153 ( and some other obsolete types like Fokker DXXI):

No. 12 Squadron (Finnish: Lentolaivue 12 or LLv.12, from 3 May 1942 Le.Lv.12), renamed No. 12 Reconnaissance Squadron.

No. 14 Squadron (Finnish: Lentolaivue 14 or LLv.14, from 3 May 1942 Le.Lv.14), later renamed No. 14, was a reconnaissance squadron. It was part of Lentorykmentti 1 (Flying Regiment 1) during the Winter War and Lentorykmentti 5 during the Continuation War.

Lentorykmentti 5 (Flying Regiment 5) was formed on 3 November 1942 and disbanded on 11 October 1944. It was a mixed flying regiment, mainly flying naval recon and patrol missions for the Naval Forces. While still an Air Force unit, it was subordinated to the Naval Forces HQ. Towards the end of the war it also gained a fighter flying squadron, originally intended for night-fighting operations. Ltr 5 was subjected two squadrons: LeLv 6 with bombers and maritime reconaissance, submarine search and attacs against Soviet shipping and LeLv 30 with fighters. The squadron was tasked with reconnaissance on the eastern Gulf of Finland.

TLeLV16 belonged to Lentorykmenttti 2. This squadron was established for reconnaissance and used Chaikas when Soviet offensive began on Karelian isthmus on 9 June 1944.


Some notes on the painting of Finnish I-153s:

When just captured, the planes received provisional Finnish marks and warm orange yellow bands over the original silver or silver-grey livery, but they were not operating with this livery.

The first operative livery was with uniform Finnish FS 34096 field green uppersurfaces, while the lower surfaces were silver grey (light grey).

Uniform green was painted on three planes: VH-101, 12 and 13.

On 15 December 1940, VH-14 received black bands on the green background, with grey undersurfaces, and no yellow bands. The light grey extended somewhat on part of the sides of the fuselage and even on the uppersurface of the wings.
Two months later VH-12 and 13 were painted in similar way, while VH-101 preserved its green livery.

In June 1941, warm orange yellow (Dicco 6) bands 50 cm wide were added on the fuselage and under the wingtips of both the upper and lower wings.

When made on the field, the yellow band on the fuselage covered partially the codes.

In September 1941, yellow bands 50 cm wide were added on the front of the cowling too.

Due to the lack of warm orange yellow paint, at first they were made with bright yellow (Unica 12), lighter than the color of the other bands.

In a second time, noses were painted with the standard yellow shade.

From 7 May 1942, the planes were repainted with light blue ( matt Ikarol
291) undersurfaces, the same shade of German RLM 65 Hellblau, preserving the black-green camo and the yellow bands.

Codes prefixes were changed from VH to IT.

Starting from 13 June 1944, the yellow marks on the noses were repainted with camo colours on their upper half, and the background of the swastikas became light grey to reduce their visibility.

After the armistice with Soviets in September 1944, probably the yellow bands were deleted, while the swastikas were preserved. The deletion of the yellow parts is not sure, because there are examples of other types of Finnish planes that arrived to the end of the war still with yellow bands. Unfortunately we haven't photographs of finnish I-153s in this period, so the profile is hypothetical.

Finnish I-153s didn't fight against Germans during the so-called 'Lappland war'.

All survived I-153s were written off
and storaged on February 1945. Swastikas were replaced with white-blue-white roundels on April 1945, but I-153s never flew with these roundels.

All Finnish Chaikas were scrapped in 1950.



Drawing of Tapani Tuomanen

VH-101 was the first I-153 to be captured during the Winter War and to be put into Finnish service.

It was assigned to LLv 14 0n 18 April 1940.

Later it was renamed VH-11 and was repainted with a green-black camouflage as VH-12, 13 and 14.


Left: another image of the plane in spring 1940.

from http://www.flightforum.fi/forum/index.php/topic,70631.2080.html

Below: four screenshoots of VH-101 in summer 1941. The images give the idea that the black camo is lacking. Seems that this was the only Finnish Chaika preserving the green livery up to some date between 17 July and 22 November 1941, when it was in repair and was recoded as VH-11.

Below: two views of VH-101 in summer 1941, as shown on the photos above.

The upper view puts into evidence the wide national markings utilized up to the spring/summer 1940; in late 1940 the diameter of the disks on the wings of planes was reduced and didn't exceeded 1 m, no matter of the size of the plane.

Drawing of Tapani Tuomanen


Below: profile of the same plane, now VH-11, in winter 1941/42



Drawing by Tapani Tuomanen



The same plane, now VH-11 inflight, probably in winter 1941/42. The sky gear partially extracted, even asymmetrically, is noteworthy.

The plane seems to show the black-green camouflage.

The yellow bands and a large 1 were added on the black-green camo, covering partially the codes on the fuselage.


Photos: Sa-Kuva archive


IT-11 crashed on Tampere on February 25, 1945 after an engine failure.




Drawing of Tapani Tuomanen


Above : profile of IT-11 in 1942/43. The plane was repainted with he new camouflage, and the number on the tail duplicated and changed in colors. The plane is represented with wheels gear.

Left: photo of the same plane, with ski gear.




Drawing of Tapani Tuomanen


From Warpaint

VH-12 (later IT-12) in late 1940/early 1941 with the new camouflage with black and green uppersurfaces and grey undersurfaces, still without yellow bands.

Note the strange pattern on the left lower wing.


Images of VH-12 inflight, still without the complete codes restored on its fuselage.

The ski gear in retracted position is particularly interesting.




VH-13 in late 1940, still with the early green livery and without yellow bands. The patches on the wings, well visible on the national markings, suggest some maintenance work, perhaps on the command lines of the ailerons.

The light air intake over the nose could be from another plane.

Left: VH-13 in summer 1941, with the newly applied yellow bands on the fuselage and wings, but still without the yellow nose.

Left: VH-13 again. Note the irregular raising of the light grey on the sides.


Below: VH-13 after September 1942. The plane was recovered after a bad landing.

The images below allow a nearly complete reconstruction of its camo pattern.

The front of the cowling was painted yellow. The light grey raises from the undersurfaces up to the wings uppersurface.

Below: 3 views of VH-13 in summer 1941.

Drawing of Tapani Tuomanen









Left: the only known photo of VP-14, presumably in early 1941.

Its pilot T.Niemelä shot down an SB bomber on 26 June 1941.

It was shot down by a MiG-3 at Hanko on 10 July 1941.

The light blotch on the nose is due to the direct sunlight from some window.






Right: IT-15 in winter 1941/42. Note that the yellow of the nose appears lighter than that of the fuselage and wingtip bands.






VH-16 and some light navy vessel kills -patrol boats or so- on fin.

Capt. Ahonius shot down two I-16s over Seiskari on 4 July 1942.




VH-17 of 3/LLv 6 near Hamina, February 1942.

On the photo above, the plane is missing of the large 7 on its tail, that was applied somewhat later and is visible on the photo below.

Besider the roundels appear larger on the first photo, and reduced in size on the second one.

The photo below seems to show a grey extension of the lower surface painting on the right side of the fuselage and perhaps of the lower wing and right stabilizer.

Perhaps the plane was fully repainted between the photos, and the lower surfaces should appear light blue instead of grey. If so, the light patches on the upper surface are highly unusual. Perhaps they could be reflections from the polished side surfaces.



Drawing of Tapani Tuomanen



Drawing by Tapani Tuomanen


VH-18, later IT-18, was captured during the Winter War.

After June 1942, the plane was flown by Pilot Olavi Puro of 2/LeLv 30; he obtained two kills this plane, whose marks are visible on the tail when it crashed.

The plane seems to be the only Finnish I-153 with full yellow cowling.

(Total 31+2+3)



Right: VH-19 in summer 1941, still without the yellow band on its nose and with grey undersurfaces.

Drawing of Tapani Tuomanen


Above and right: the same plane of the photo above after May 1942, with its code changed into IT-19, light blue undersurfaces and yellow nose.




Drawing of Tapani Tuomanen


The plane was recovered by Finns and was delivered to 3/LLv6 on 23 July 1942 as IT-20, flown by pilot Lt. R.Paltila.

On 8 January 1943, the plane crashed on the Baltic icecap after an engine failure, being destroyed and causing the death if its pilot.



IT-21, probably in 1942. The drop tanks are noteworthy.








Side: earlier image of IT-24 showing well the fuel tanks.

Strangely, yellow wingtips are visible, but no yellow is visible on the whole nose, although the snowy ground suggests that the photo was taken in winter (1941/42?).





Drawing of Tapani Tuomanen


Above: profile of IT-27, s/n 7141, on Wärtsilä airport on July 44
According to June 44 regulations, yellow from the upper half of nose
has been overpainted, and the background of the swastikas was tutned from white to light grey.


Below: an hypothetical profile of IT-27 on storage after April 1945; the grey disks with swastikas were painted over with smaller white-blue-white roundels.

Drawing of Tapani Tuomanen





Drawing of Tapani Tuomanen


IT-31 with ski gear, probably in 1942 or 1943.

Left: IT-31 after 13 June 1944. The deletion of yellow on the upper half of the engine cowling is evident. The disk under the swastika became light grey; this is very evident on the nationality mark under the lower wing.


Below: hypothetical profle of IT-31 in late 1944.

After the armistice with Soviets in September 1944, probably the yellow bands were deleted with unknown grey paints, while the swastikas were preserved. The deletion of the yellow parts is not sure, because there are examples of other types of Finnish planes that arrived to the end of the war still with yellow bands. Unfortunately we haven't photographs of Finnish I-153s in this period, so the profile below is hypothetical.

Finnish I-153s didn't fight against Germans during the so-called 'Lappland war'.

Drawing of Tapani Tuomanen


Right: a photos of a Finnish I-15bis on storage; on the background we see some Chaikas, of which one is numbered 5 on its tail (IT-15 or 25?), while another is numbered 1.

The following planes survived the war:

VH-101 (VH-11, IT-11);

VH-/IT-14; VH-/IT-18; VH-/IT-19;

IT-21, 23, 24, 25, 27, 30, 31.

All survived I-153s were written off
and storaged on February 1945. Swastikas were replaced with white-blue-white roundels on April 1945, but I-153s never flew with these roundels.

All Finnish Chaikas were scrapped in 1950.





Photos of Finnish planes are nearly all from SIH 7 "Venäläiset hävittäjät" of Kalevi Keskinen and Kari Stenman.
No publisher mentioned on this book of FAF history but the publisher of other Stenman's books is: Kari Stenman Publishing. http://personal.inet.fi/business/karistenman/

Some other photos and informations are from:

Polikarpov fighters part 1, by Hans-Heiri Stapfer, Squadron/Signal n.157

Polikarpov Biplane Fighters, of Gordon and Dexter, Red Star vol.6

Polikarpow I-153 of A. Maslov, Widanuctwo Militaria n.222

Warpaint- Finnish Air Force Colors - Finnish Air Force Series # 23 of Keskinen, Stenman http://www.amazon.com/Warpaint-Finnish-Air-Force-Colors/dp/9519875166

Suomen Ilmavoimien Historia 24: LER 5 of Keskinen, Stenman https://www.booky.fi/tuote/keskinen_kalevi/suomen_ilmavoimien_historia_24_ler_5/9789519875170



The most part of the photos of this page are from books of the authors Kalevi Keskinen and Kari Stenman. Some are for other books, listed above

This was done without the intention of damage their rights or to have an economic gain for the authors of this page, but only to demonstrate that the drawings of Tapani Tuomanen on these subjects, present and future, are historically accurate.

Should this be unacceptable for them, or for other authors, we apologize and we eventually provide to remove the photos.