Biplane fighter aces

Soviet Union

Mladshii serzhant Mikhail Machabeli

In 1943, mladshii serzhant Mikhail Machabeli served in the 71 IAP-KBF, which still operated with Polikarpov I-153s.

Between 11:12-12:31 (Moscow time) on 4 May, the Baltic Fleet chronicles states that four Il-2s of 7 GShAP, escorted by four LaGG-3s of 3 GIAP and four I-16s of 71 IAP, attacked enemy (German) vessels near Tytärsaari sinking one 600-700 ton mine sweeper. The flak from the ships shot down one Il-2 while another was damaged and broke up in a forced landing at Lavansaari. Over the target, two (German) Bf 109s attacked and one was shot down. On the return leg, the LaGG-3s were involved in a combat with 12 Fiats and two Bf 109s, and Kapitan Minayev was killed.
At 11:45-12:45, seven I-153s of 71 IAP covered the return of Il-2s from Lavansaari to Oranienbaum. Near Seiskari they entered combat with six Fiats, one of which was shot down by mladshii serzhant Machabeli. This was possibly BW-388 flown by kersantti Jouko Lilja of LeLv 24, who was shot down and killed. One I-153 made a forced landing at Oranienbaum.
At 11:40-12:52, two La-5 swarms of 4 GIAP flew an intercept in the Lavansaari direction. One swarm was attacked by six Fiats and one Fw190 at 6,000m altitude over the Shepelevskiy lighthouse. Kapitan Mikhail Vasilyev HSU and leitenant Serafim Filatov did not return to their base.
The Finnish reported that a twelve Brewster detachment of LeLv 24 attacked near Seiskari five Il-2s, which were escorted by ten I-153s with a dozen LaGG-3s flying as top cover. The Finnish pilots claimed nine aircraft but one of the Brewsters was shot down by the Russian fighters. Luutnantti Hans Wind claimed four victories:

“I flew as the wingman of kapteeni Karhunen. I observed at Peninsaari four I-153s and five Il-2s. I attacked behind one I-153 and fired at it on the deck. The plane went on its starboard wing first into the sea. The Il-2s continued towards Kopornoye bay. I managed to slip behind them when the other Brewsters tied up the fighters. I shot from the side in the port wing root of the first Il-2. The plane caught instantly fire and crashed in the sea. I continued and shot at the second Il-2 with the same result. At Shepelevskiy I shot at the third Il-2. It began to smoke and went into the sea near Tolbuhin.
Side slide was the only evasive manoeuvre of the Il-2s. Caught fire easily when shot in the junction of the wing and fuselage.
My plane BW-393.”
All assault planes were seen to ditch. The claiming pilots from LeLv 24 were vääpeli Martti Alho (BW-383) who claimed an I-153 over Seiskari between 10:40-11:40. Luutnantti Aulis Lumme (BW-387) claimed an I-153 over Seiskari between 10:40-11:55. Vänrikki Mikko Pasila (BW-374) claimed a LaGG-3 over Vanha Yhinmäki between 10:40-12:05. Kapteeni Jorma Karhunen (BW-366) claimed an I-153 over Seiskari between 10:40-12:20. Ylikersantti Leo Ahokas (BW-351) claimed an I-153 10km from Seiskari between 10:40-12:20. Luutnantti Hans Wind (BW-393) claimed one I-153 over Seiskari, two Il-2 over Seiskari-Oranienbaum and a third Il-2 over Tollin majakka between 10:40-12:20. LeLv 24 lost kersantti Jouko Lilja (BW-388) who was KIA over Seivästö at 11:30.
The Messerschmitts of LeLv 34 were also airborne and claimed four and two probables in three aerial combats. Lentomestari Yrjö Turkka’s pair of 3/LeLv 34 intercepted the attack of a LaGG-3 squadron in the Lavansaari area and claimed two and a probable, two of them claimed by vääpeli Lauri Jutila:
“I encountered with lentomestari Turkka 8-13 LaGG-3s between Suursaari and Lavansaari at 5,000 m altitude. I attacked one two-plane patrol from the side and above. I fired at the wing plane, which then went in a vertical dive and fell in the sea near the shore of Lavansaari. After this I attacked another pair from behind and above. I fired at the wing plane, when it began to pour smoke after receiving numerous hits. Because my greater speed I passed it and lost it from my sight.
No damage to my plane.
The enemy aircraft supported each other well.
My plane MT-209.”
Lentomestari Turkka (MT-203) claimed a probable LaGG-3 over Lavansaari between 10:20-11:10 while vääpeli Jutila (MT-209) claimed one LaGG-3 over Lavansaari and a second LaGG-3 over Suursaari-Tytärsaari between 10:20-11:40.
Luutnantti Kyösti Karhila of 2/LeLv 34, who was piloting a Mersu for the first time reported:
“On an intercept with vänrikki Pallasvuo I encountered two LaGG-3s south of Seivästö, I got behind the wing plane and fired from about 50 m distance, cannon shells hitting the plane it shed around large pieces of plating, caught fire and crashed in the sea. Now the other one went in a dive, I caught it and fired. The Russian made small evasive manoeuvres, but when my shells hit, it shed large pieces too, caught fire and crashed straight and vertically in the sea.
The cannon is a splendid weapon.
My plane MT-214.”
Luutnantti Karhila claimed two LaGG-3s over Ino between 11:05-12:25 and vänrikki Yrjö Pallasvuo (MT-206) claimed a probable La-5 over Harjavallanjärvi between 11:05-12:30.
Totally, the Finnish fighters claimed 13 victories and 2 probables (three Il-2s, five I-153s, five LaGG-3s, one probable LaGG-3and one probable La-5) while losing one B.239. The Russians claimed one (German) Bf 109 and one Fiat while losing two Il-2s (one to AA fire), one LaGG-3, one I-153 and two La-5s.

Between 20:00-22:15 on 20 May, first four I-153s and then four I-16s from of 71 lAP flew top cover for a ship convoy from Lavansaari to Seiskari.
At 21:20, three Me 109s attacked the Chaikas in the vicinity of Lavansaari. Two Me 109s were damaged in head-on firing in the belly and both were seen to break off to the north smoking. Mladshii serzhant Machabeli and serzhant Abram Olshanskiy claimed one air victory shared.
Between 19:50-20:50, in the evening in an air-battle in the vicinity of Peninsaari, luutnantti Paavo Myllylä’s swarm of 3/LeLv 34 claimed one and two damaged Chaikas out of a twelve-plane Chaika squadron when vääpeli Urho Lehtovaara (MT-218) claimed one and another damaged I-153 10km from Peninsaari and luutantti Myllylä (MT-229) claimed a damaged I-153 between Lavansaari and Peninsaari.

The 71 IAP-KBF was retitled to the 10 GIAP-KBF on 31 May 1943.

Four I-153s from 71 IAP-KBF claimed a shared FW 190 east of Seiskari on 9 June 1943. Two of the claiming pilots were Aleksandr Baturin and Machabeli.

On 4 April 1944, Aleksandr Baturin was almost finished off by German fighters when Baturin and his wingman Machabeli, became involved in a dogfight with 16 FW 190s. Baturin claimed two of them and Machabeli a third, but the latter was then shot down and became a prisoner. Baturin was badly hit in his face but his fighter still flew. He dove away and was able to stagger back to his own airfield.

Machabeli ended the war with 1 biplane victory and a total of 2.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
1 04/05/43 11:45-12:45 1 ’Fiat’ (a) Destroyed I-153   near Seiskari 71 IAP-KBF
  20/05/43 21:20 1/2 Bf 109 (b) Shared destroyed I-153   near Lavansaari 71 IAP-KBF
  09/06/43   1/4 FW 190 Shared destroyed I-153   E Seiskari 10 GIAP-KBF
2 04/04/44   1 FW 190 Destroyed La-5   Vaivara 10 GIAP-KBF

Biplane victories: 1 and 2 shared destroyed.
TOTAL: 2 and 2 shared destroyed.
(a) Possibly Brewster Buffalo BW-388 flown by kersantti Jouko Lilja of LeLv 24, who was shot down and killed.
(b) Probably claimed in combat with Bf 109s from 3/LeLv 34 which claimed 1 and 2 damaged I-153s without suffering any losses. 71 IAP claimed 1 and 2 damaged Bf 109s, apparently without suffering any losses.

All aces of Stalin 1936-1953 – Mikhail Bykov, 2014
Suomen Ilmavoimat part V – 1943 – Kalevi Keskinen and Kari Stenman, 2007, ISBN 978-952-99743-3-7

Last modified 11 February 2020