Biplane fighter aces

Soviet Union

Ivan Ivanovich Kopets HSU

– 1941

He served in the Spanish Civil War, arriving in September and using the nom de guerre ’Jose’.
In Spain he served in the Grupo No 26, flying I-15s.

In November, the Soviet I-15 escuadrilla (1a/Gr.26) led by kapitan Pavel Rychagov at Alcalá de Henares, in Madrid, included tenientes Andrés García La Calle (he was promoted to teniente during November), Roberto Alonso Santamaría, López Trinidad, Galera Macías, Cuartero Pozo, Guaza Marín, Roig Villalta, Jesús García Herguido, Alfonso Jiménez Bruguet, Manuel Aguirre López and Robledano Ruiz. The escuadrilla fought on the Madrid front.
La Calle had continued flying the last remaining fighters available in Madrid until 28 October, when he left for Barcelona on leave. Posted to the Soviet I-15 Escuadrilla, he flew combat missions from 4 November over Madrid initially as a wingman in the patrulla led by Soviet pilot kapitan Kopets. Later, La Calle became patrulla CO after Kopets assumed command of the Escuadrilla Rychagov when Rychagov was removed from frontline duties. Soviet sources credit La Calle with an aerial victory during this period.

By early December 1936, the Nationalist offensive towards Madrid had slowed and small Republican fighter groups were being re-deployed to other theatres of operation. Among the first was that led by Kopets, which was moved east to the Aragon front in an effort to neutralize a group of He 51s flown by a mixed contingent of German and Spanish Nationalist pilots operating in the Teruel area. Assisted by six I-16s led by Morozov, the three Chato pilots performed their task to perfection. Indeed, by the end of the year they had been credited with destroying five of the six He 51s operating in the area. One had been shot down in combat and the remaining four had been destroyed on their airfield by the I-15s. However, the Nationalists also lodged equally optimistic claims against the Republican fighters in this area.

By 9 December, he was credited with 2 He 51s.

In December 1936 and January 1937 two more shipments of 30 I-15s arrived in Spain from the Soviet Union, making it possible to form a complete combat unit of four I-15 squadrons. It should be noted that a squadron represented the largest tactical unit within the VVS RKKA, and normally comprised 51 aircraft. In Spain, the largest unit was a group, which comprised four squadrons of ten to twelve aircraft. However, due to permanent shortages of aircraft a squadron might well comprise fewer machines, and operate independently from its parent group to meet the requirements of different field commanders. Soviet archives offer the following picture of I-15 availability, distribution and command staff as at 15 February 1937. All four squadrons were commanded by Kopets;

Unit Commander Ready/Under Repair Airfield Flight crew
Escuadrilla Zotsenko 16/- Alcazár de San Juan 16 Soviet pilots
Escuadrilla Kazakov 18/5 Almeria 12 Soviet pilots and 6 'friendly' pilots
Escuadrilla La Calle 13/4 Guadalajara 8 Spanish pilots and 4 American pilots
Escuadrilla Alonzo 11/6 San Javier 11 Spanish pilots

Kopets left Spain on 17 June 1937.
During his time in Spain he claimed two and four shared victories flying the I-15.
He had flown more than 200 operational sorties in Spain. It is known that he also flew “foreign” types of aircraft during his time in Spain.

On 21 June 1937, Kopets was decorated with the Gold Star of the Hero of the Soviet Union and the Order of Lenin for his performances in Spain.

Later he was promoted to General but he was executed in June 1941.

At the time of his death, Kopets was credited with 2 biplane victories.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
1 ??/??/36   1 He 51 Destroyed I-15   Spain Grupo No 26
2 ??/??/36   1 He 51 Destroyed I-15   Spain Grupo No 26
  ??/??/3?   1 Enemy aircraft Shared destroyed I-15   Spain Grupo No 26
  ??/??/3?   1 Enemy aircraft Shared destroyed I-15   Spain Grupo No 26
  ??/??/3?   1 Enemy aircraft Shared destroyed I-15   Spain Grupo No 26
  ??/??/3?   1 Enemy aircraft Shared destroyed I-15   Spain Grupo No 26

Biplane victories: 2 and 4 shared destroyed.
TOTAL: 2 and 4 shared destroyed.

Air Aces Home Page - Jan Safarik
Air War over Spain - Jesus Salas Larrazabal, 1974 Ian Allan Ltd, Shepperton, Surrey, ISBN 0-7110-0521-4
Polikarpov I-15, I-16 and I-153 Aces - Mikhail Maslov, 2010 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-981-2
Spanish Republican Aces – Rafael A. Permuy López, 2012 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84908-668-4

Last modified 22 May 2019