I-15bis in Finnish Ilmavoimat

Updated on February 3 , 2017

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Finns captured five I-15bis that made forced landings during the Winter War (November 1939- March 1940). They were numbered VH-1 to VH-5, where VH is for vihollisen havittaja, enemy fighter.

Before the end of the winter war, two of these planes went to LeLv 29, (where LeLv stands for Lentolaivue, squadron), that was an advanced training unit.

After the Winter war, all other I-15bis went to LeLv 34 as fighter trainers; this unit received the planes of LeLv 29 after that it was disbanded in March 1940.

On 25 June 1941, the Soviet Air Force attacked Tuku, starting the Continuation War. The LLv34 was de-activated and the planes passed to TLeLv 35 (Taydennyleintolauve 35) as trainers.

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

Two planes were put into storage on autumn 1942.

In summer 1943, three planes served with the re-activated LeLv 34 as targets and target-tow.

In autumn and winter 1943, LeLv 30 had two planes.

In 1944, two planes served in the TLeLv 35 as trainers.

On 24 February 1945 all remaining Finnish I-15 bis were withdrawn from service and stored on depot.

The las flight was made on 12 March 1945, when IH-4 and IH-5 were flown to the depot.

They were deleted from the records on January 2, 1950; none of them was preserved.


On the Finnish I-153 page, you can find notes on the evolution of the painting of Finnish planes that can be extended to I-15bis too.



The original Soviet code of this plane was ' white 11'.

Although, it is unlikely that what we see on this photo was its original painting. The fuselage looks partially repainted with matt Finnish green, as the markings on the upper wing surfaces. The tail, and part of the surfaces, looks still painted with the Soviet glossy AII green; the light tail could be an illusion due to reflection of the low sun on the glossy paint.

The red star, of unusual size and position, shows a strange white part; it could be a paper marking, put on for photographic purposes after having deleted the original red stars and possibly the Finnish markings painted to replace them. This is only speculative.


It's hard to understand the chronology between this photo and the one above vith Soviet markings.

It could be that this photo was taken before the one with supposedly fake Soviet markings.

It is likely that this bad painting was provisional, and the plane in service wore a much more accurate livery, as VH-11.

In Finnish service, this plane was at first coded VH-10, and delivered to LeLv29 on February 23, 1940.

On 20 March 1940, skis went through snow during landing in Parola, and the aircraft turned upside down injurying the pilot H.Sundberg.

On the drawing below, the plane was represented in the same painting of the photo aside.



The plane was delivered to LeLv34 on March 13, 1941 as VH-1.

It was delivered to 2/TLeLv 35 on September 8, 1941.

It was recoded as IH-1 on June 24, 1942.

It was stored on September 11, 1942, after 109 hours of flight with Ilmavoimat.

On this photo, the plane features an olive green livery on uppersurfaces and light grey on the undersurfaces; it features orange-yellow bands under the wingtips and around the fuselage; this suggests that the photo was taken after June 1941.

The color of the front of the cowling is glossy and darker; the reason is unclear, perhaps it was repainted after a repair.



VH-11 was the mark that Finnish AF gave to 'Yellow 173' of 145 IAP, captured after a landing on Oulunjarvi lake on 24 December 1939.

The plane was fully repainted with Finnish field green (FS 34096) with light grey undersurfaces. Note the green landing gear struts, skis and tail skid.

It was assigned to LeLv 29 on February 26, 1940. It had a bad landing at Parola on march 19, 1940.

It was assigned to LeLv 34 on September 19, 1940.



This photo of VH-11 shows that the early Finnish insignas on the upper wing were larger than those that became standard in 1942.

They are also larger than the marks originally painted on VH-10.

The photo is probably of the winter/spring 1941; the ground is still covered by snow, but it doesn't look too cold.

The lack of yellow bands shows that the photo was taken before the Continuation war.

The dotting is dueto the shadow of some tree.

(from Squadron Signal- Polikarpov fighters in action part 1 )

Below: profile of VH-11 in winter 1940/41.

In late 1940, the plane was re-coded as VH-2.

It received yellow bands at the beginning of the Continuation War in June 1941.

It was assigned to 2/TLeLv 35 on October 17, 1941.

Some time after, the plane had an accident in Vesivehmaa.



On July 15, 1943 it was delivered to LeLv34 after repairs as IH-2.

The plane was repainted with the Finnish camouflage, black and olive green, with light blue undersurfaces and orange-yellow bands on the fuselage, nose and lower face of wingtips. The Finnish marks on the upper wings were made smaller.

It crashed when landing at Kymi on August 2, 1943.

The photo was taken presumably in winter 1943/44.

It was stored on February 20, 1945, after 114 hours of flying time.

This image of IH-2 shows well the camouflage nd the national marks over the wimgs of IH-2.

The extension of tyhe yellow band on the nose was smaller than the photo above; we are not sure about their chronology.


VH-4 was delivered to LeLv 34 on October 11, 1940.

It crashed at Parola on October 17, 1940, then again on June 20, 1941.

It was delivered to 2/TLeLv 35 on February 4, 1942, but it had a further accident when landing in Vesivehmaa.

The plane shows an olive green livery with light grey undersurfaces; the orange-yellow wingtips and the band on the fuselage were added in June 1941, with the start of the Continuation war.

Some repaintings under tha tail could be made with red-brown primer.

Later, yellow bands of 50 cm were added on the nose too.




In May 1942, its code was turned into IH-4; the undersurfaces were painted in light blue (as German RLM 65), while the black/olive green on the upper surfaces was presereved.

On 7 August 1943, it was given to LeLv30.

It was given to 2/TLeLv35 on February 4, 1944.

It was stored on March 12, 1945, after 144 h of flying time.



VH-5 was assigned to LeLv 34 on February 3, 1941.

It had a landing accident at Turku on June 9, 1941.

It was assigned to 2/TLeLv 35 on December 3, 1941.

In May 1942, its code changed from VH-5 to IH-5.

So, this photo has to be of 1942, but the nose wasn't yet painted yellow, and the plane has preserved the early greenlivery with light grey undersurfaces; we don't know if the plane received the green/black/light blue livery after this date.

It was stores on September 11, 1942, after 106 hours of flight.

Fake Soviet markings were painted on VH-5 on 21 February 1942 to make a training movie.

As one can see, the resemblance to a factory painted Soviet I-15bis isn't perfect because of the height of the green-grey border, for the painting of the spinner, the position of the number and some other details.

The yellow bands on the plane have been deleted, but they remain somewhat visible under the wings.

Note that the skis are not the original ones of I-15bis.


This photo shows a Finnish I-15bis in state of abandonement in a depot after the end of the Second World War.

We can note the absence of yellow bands, deleted in September 1944 after the armistice with Soviets, and the postwar cockade, introduced in April 1945, under the lower wing, but these planes was never were flown with the new markings.




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

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



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. Many, or all the photos are from the archive of Keski-Suomen Ilmailumuseo.

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.