Biplane fighter aces


First Lieutenant Soichi Okamoto


During the Nomonhan Incident the 33rdSentai was dispatched from its base at Xingshu to the Manchurian/Mongolian border as reinforcement on 27 August 1939, although still equipped with the old Kawasaki Ki-10 (Type 95).

Over Lake Buir-Nur on 2 September, three Ki-10s from the 33rd Sentai’s 2nd chutai led by 1st Lieutenant Okamoto, met some reported 30 I-16s. Okamoto claimed the unit’s first four victories of the Incident while Sergeant Major Shozo Saito in vain tried to ram one, but was instead obliged to force-lend.
They had met 22 IAP led by starshiy leitenant Fedor Cheremukhin. This experienced leader rightly reasoned that the I-16 tip 10 had significantly greater speed and firepower, and less manoeuvrability, and initiated the correct tactic for the fight: shooting from further away and avoiding close level manoeuvres. After the skirmish, his unit reported two downed Kawasaki Ki-10s for no own losses.
The encounter again escalated into an air battle. Excellent visibility allowed a great area to be observed, and each engagement was as visible as a flare by pilots on the ground; they immediately scrambled and flew across to assist their comrades. First to arrive were the 1st Sentai Ki-27. More Soviet fighters followed them, and the previous day’s events repeated themselves. The fight developed overhead Hamar-Daba Mountain and the Humurgin-Gol River, at the same levels that offered optimum performance to both sides: 3500 to 5000m. After 45 minutes that had witnessed over 250 machines fighting (175 of them Soviet), the sky grew quiet.
The Japanese admitted losing one Ki-27 when Sergeant Yukio Kijima (Sho-4) of the 1st Sentai was killed and suffering damage to four more fighters and totally claimed seven victories (four by Okamoto).
The Soviets fighters only lost one aircraft and totally claimed eight victories, six of them Ki-27s (reported as a ”I-97”). Known claiming pilots from 22 IAP were leitenant Petr Agafonov (I-153), who claimed a shared Ki-27 together with six other pilots north-west of Lake Uzur-Nur, leitenant Pavel Solntsev (I-16), who claimed two Ki-27s together with five other pilots over squares 531-533 and 633, kapitan Andrey Dekhtyarenko (I-16), who claimed a shared Ki-27 south-east of Lake Uzur-Nur together with three other pilots and kapitan Aleksandr Nikolayev (I-153), who claimed a Ki-27. Leitenant Aleksandr Piskunov (I-153), leitenant Vladimir Garanin (Polikarpov biplane) and mladshiy Viktor Ushakov (I-16) all claimed one shared Ki-27 ”in group”. Kapitan Mikhail Dolbyshev from 56 IAP (I-16) claimed one shared Ki-27 (”in group”).

Okamoto ended the Nomonhan Incident with 4 biplane victories.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
1 02/09/39   1 I-16 Destroyed Ki-10   Lake Buir-Nur 2/33rd Sentai
2 02/09/39   1 I-16 Destroyed Ki-10   Lake Buir-Nur 2/33rd Sentai
3 02/09/39   1 I-16 Destroyed Ki-10   Lake Buir-Nur 2/33rd Sentai
4 02/09/39   1 I-16 Destroyed Ki-10   Lake Buir-Nur 2/33rd Sentai

Biplane victories: 4 destroyed.
TOTAL: 4 destroyed.

Air War Over Khalkhin Gol: The Nomonhan Incident - Vladimir R. Kotelnikov, 2010 SAM Publications, ISBN 978-1-906959-23-4
All aces of Stalin 1936–1953 – Mikhail Bykov, 2014
Japan Against Russia In The Sky Of Nomonhan - Dimitar Nedialkov, 2005 Propeller Publishing, Sofia, ISBN 954-9367-33-9
Japanese Army Air Force fighter units and their aces 1931-1945 - Ikuhiko Hata, Yasuho Izawa and Christopher Shores, 2002 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-902304-89-6
Soviet Aces 1936-1953
Soviet Fighter Pilots 1936-1953 - Mikhail Bykov

Last modified 01 February 2022