Biplane fighter aces

Soviet Union

Major Nikolai Vasilievich Gavrilov

1908 –

Nikolai Gavrilov was born in 1908.

Kapitan Gavrilov served as a volunteer in the Sino-Japanese War, flying Polikarpov I-16s between June 1938 and February 1939.

At 13:50 on 20 February 1939, the Air Defence Command at Sian notified the 1st Air District Command that 30 Japanese aircraft (Mitsubishi Ki-21s and Fiat BR.20s) were heading towards Lanzhou in the Kansu province in Northwest China.
Nine I-15bis from 17th PS were scrambled first to intercept the Japanese aircraft and was later joined by two more. Later Russian volunteers were scrambled at 14:05 with seven I-15bis and one I-16. At 14:10 four I-15bis from the 15th PS, one I-16 and one Curtiss Hawk took off from the Siku field.
The first formation of nine Japanese aircraft attacked the Lanzhou airfield from north-west at 14:50. The second formation of twelve aircraft attacked from west at 15:15 together with a third formation of nine aircraft.
Captain Shen Tse-Liu, commander of the 17th PS, shot down the lead aircraft of a squadron of nine Japanese aircraft. His vice-commander Ma Kwok-Lim shot down the second aircraft of the third flight. Kuo Yao-Nan downed one Japanese aircraft. They were soon joined by the I-15bis flown by Russians and the 15th PS led by Lee Teh-Piao and Chang Tang-Tien. Shen later shot down another aircraft from the third Japanese formation.
Seven of the Russian pilots taking part in this combat was Petr Abramov (I-16), kapitan Gavrilov (I-16), leitenant Konstantin Kanteev (Polikarpov I-15bis or I-16), Mikhail Naydenko (Polikarpov I-15bis or I-16), Vladimir Vasilievich Zolotarev (Polikarpov I-15bis or I-16), leitenant Sergei Donchenko (I-16) and leitenant Andrei Petrunin (I-15bis), who all seven are credited with nine shared enemy bombers over Lanzhou during the day. This indicate that all the Russian volunteers taking part received credits for all the claimed aircraft and that no individual claims were recorded.
Abramov was to become an ace during the Great Patriotic War when he claimed five victories (and a total of 25 shared) before being killed in air combat on 11 September 1941. Naydenko also became an ace during the Great Patriotic War when he claimed seven victories. Zolotarev claimed two victories during the Soviet-Finnish Winter War of 1939-1940.
On this day, the bombs fell on the city and not the airbase and totally nine of the bombers were claimed destroyed by the returning Chinese pilots. One of the Soviet volunteers was wounded during the combat. The Air Defence Command at Sian observed only 21 Japanese aircraft retreating to the east after the battle.
It seems that the Japanese bombers were from the 12th, 60th and 98th Kokutais.

On 23 February, a group of a reported 57 Japanese bombers targeted Lanzhou, but only the first group of twenty bombers arrived over 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, the other groups attacked a secondary target instead.
Chinese pilots from the 17th PS claimed victories over Lanzhou during the day.
Soviet volunteers also took part in this combat. Four of the pilots were Petr Abramov (I-16), kapitan Gavrilov (I-16), Mikhail Naydenko (Polikarpov I-15bis or I-16) and leitenant Sergei Donchenko (I-16), who all according to Russian sources are credited with six shared enemy bombers over Lanzhou on this day.
Kapitan Gavrilov was wounded in this combat and was evacuated back to the Soviet Union on 27 February. It seems that the Japanese bombers were from the 12th, 60th and 98th Kokutais.

In early 1940, the regiment staff and two eskadrillias (equipped with I-153s) of 34 IAP were attached to the newly formed 148 IAP.

On 7 March 1940, luutnantti Tauno Ollikainen (GL-279) led a group of six Gladiators from LLv 14 flying top cover for ground troops at Tienhaara (west of Viipuri). Between 15:15 and 15:25 and despite being outnumbered, three Russian I-153s attacked over Tervajoki. LLv 14 reported:

“Aircraft and crews: GL-279 luutnantti Ollikainen, GL-273 luutnantti Pitkänen, GL-274 luutnantti Kuula, GL-276 vänrikki Malinen, GL-278 ylikersantti Perälä and GL-279 alikersantti Roine.
Mission between 14:35 and 16:10 hours.
When patrolling over Tienhaara, two pairs of I-16s were observed, no contact. Over Tervajoki village met three I-153s, which pulled over, turned and attacked the second pair. The first pair turned around and started the combat, which was carried out between 15:15 and 15:25 hours, from 300 metres to the surface. The wind shifted the participants west of Tervajoki. Two I-153s were shot down and they both crashed in the forest. Luutnantti Ollikainen claimed one witnessed by luutnantti Kuula. The other was claimed by vänrikki Malinen and witnessed by luutnantti Pitkänen. Alikersantti Roine made a successful emergency landing to Löytöjärvi after being hit in the fuel tank. Ylikersantti Perälä’s wing touched the wing on an I-153, breaking the starboard tip of the upper wing.”
These aircraft were claimed in combat with three I-153s from 3./148 IAP led by major Gavrilov (CO) and including starshii leitenant Ivan Rybin and mladshii leitenant Yevgenii Ivanovich Zaichikov (I-153 c/n 7325). When they returned, Gavrilov claimed two Gladiators while Rybin claimed one. Zaichikov was killed in the combat, the wreck of his fighter was located in Chulkovo (former Tervajoki) only in October 2009.
The same day, both surviving Soviet pilots were decorated with the Order of the Red Banner.

During the Winter War, Gavrilov flew 13 combat missions and was involved in one air combat.

Major Gavrilov served in 2 OIAE-PVO flying MiG-3 in July-August 1941. Totally he flew around ten combat missions.
He didn’t fly any more combat missions after this but instead was working with flight tests.

He was decorated with the Order of the Patriotic War 2nd Class on 29 April 1944 and a second Order of the Red Banner on 19 August 1944.

Gavrilov ended the war with 2 biplane victories.

Post-war, he was decorated with the Order of the Red Star (5 November 1946), a third and fourth Order of the Red Banner (16 May 1947 and 19 November 1951) and a second Order of the Patriotic War 2nd Class (11 March 1985).

Claims:
Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  1940                
  20/02/39 14:50- 1/? Enemy bomber Shared destroyed I-16   Lanzhou  
  20/02/39 14:50- 1/? Enemy bomber Shared destroyed I-16   Lanzhou  
  20/02/39 14:50- 1/? Enemy bomber Shared destroyed I-16   Lanzhou  
  20/02/39 14:50- 1/? Enemy bomber Shared destroyed I-16   Lanzhou  
  20/02/39 14:50- 1/? Enemy bomber Shared destroyed I-16   Lanzhou  
  20/02/39 14:50- 1/? Enemy bomber Shared destroyed I-16   Lanzhou  
  20/02/39 14:50- 1/? Enemy bomber Shared destroyed I-16   Lanzhou  
  20/02/39 14:50- 1/? Enemy bomber Shared destroyed I-16   Lanzhou  
  20/02/39 14:50- 1/? Enemy bomber Shared destroyed I-16   Lanzhou  
  23/02/39   1/? Enemy bomber Shared destroyed I-16   Lanzhou  
  23/02/39   1/? Enemy bomber Shared destroyed I-16   Lanzhou  
  23/02/39   1/? Enemy bomber Shared destroyed I-16   Lanzhou  
  23/02/39   1/? Enemy bomber Shared destroyed I-16   Lanzhou  
  23/02/39   1/? Enemy bomber Shared destroyed I-16   Lanzhou  
  23/02/39   1/? Enemy bomber Shared destroyed I-16   Lanzhou  
  1940                
1 07/03/40 15:15-15:25 1 Gladiator (a) Destroyed I-153   Tervajoki area 3./148 IAP
2 07/03/40 15:15-15:25 1 Gladiator (a) Destroyed I-153   Tervajoki area 3./148 IAP

Biplane victories: 2 destroyed.
TOTAL: 2 and 15 shared destroyed.
(a) Claimed in combat with LeLv 14, which claimed 2 I-153s while suffering 2 damaged Gladiators. 3./148 IAP claimed 3 Gladiators while losing 1 I-153.

Sources:
All aces of Stalin 1936–1953 – Mikhail Bykov, 2014
Red Stars 7 - Talvisota Ilmassa - The Winter War In the Air - Carl-Fredrik Geust, 2011 Apali Oy, Tampere, ISBN 978-952-5877-04-5
Soviet Fighter Pilots 1936-1953 - Mikhail Bykov
Suomen Ilmavoimat part II – 1928-40 – Kalevi Keskinen and Kari Stenman, 2006, ISBN 952-99743-0-2




Last modified 03 December 2019