Biplane fighter aces

Soviet Union

Leitenant M. N. Piskunov

– 27 september 1941

In September 1941, Leitenant Piskunov served in the 152 IAP.
152 IAP had been established in late 1939 within the 9th Army Air Force, being based initially at Voynitsa airfield near the town of Ukhta. 152 IAP, comprised of five eskadrilias (two flying the I-15bis and three the I-153), played an active role in the “Winter War” with Finland between 9 January and 13 March 1940.
Following the cessation of hostilities, the regiment’s fighters operated from airfields in the Petrozavodsk, Leningrad and Arkhangelsk areas.

After the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, 152 IAP – with its five eskadrilias equipped with 64 I-153s – became part of 134 IAD, within the city of Arkhangelsk’s air defence system. Based at Kegostrov airfield, it was engaged in the air defence of this vital sea port. In the absence of appropriate air observation, early warning and communication posts, there were no encounters with the enemy and, in any case, at that time the only Luftwaffe flights made in this area were by lone reconnaissance aircraft.
In August 1941, 152 IAP was reduced in size to just two squadrons operating 20 I-153s, its remaining three units being relinquished to allow them to serve as foundation squadron for newly formed regiments.
On 17 September, 152 IAP was transferred to Sosnovets airfield on the Karelian Front, from where it was to play an active role against enemy ground forces.

Between 09:25-10:25 on 27 September 1941, luutnantti Martti Kalima’s 1/LLv 10 was on an interception at Ontajoki engaging in a combat with four I-153s over Rukajärvi. The Squadron combat report recalled:

“On an alert mission at 09:25-10:25 hours we flew towards the front with eight aircraft. The lower patrol, where belonged luutnantti Kalima (FR-150), vänrikki Salomaa (FR-154), vänrikki Virtanen (FR-155), kersantti Nuorala (FR-148) and kersantti Kilpinen (FR-141), flew at about 100m altitude. The upper patrol, luutnantti Lehtonen (FR-156), vänrikki Ukkonen (FR-153) and vänrikki Leino (FR-138) about 200m higher. The top patrol leader, lutnantti Lehtonen observed on the sun side five Russian fighters of I-153 type picking up at the front-line. We were about 5km from them. Luutnantti Lehtonen tried to come and inform the lower patrol his observations, but before this vänrikki Salomaa flying the left wing of the lower patrol had already observed the enemies and informed the lead plane luutnantti Kalima this. We turned towards them and tried to obtain more altitude since the Russians were already at 500m. Only four enemies had remained, one had broken off earlier and the others were going east in a shallow climb. When noticing us they turned towards us and dived in a line towards us with a 150m altitude advantage. Our own aircraft were in an inclined echelon caused by the bank and that the top patrol had just tried to inform us of the Russians. We pulled at them and started firing and after the pass we turned after them, after which began a blind combat, where the Russians as more manoeuvrable in spite of their inferior numbers always got behind somebody’s tail, but then we were saved by good comrade spirit. This was exhibited in us trying to fire at a Russian plane, which had got behind the tail of some of us. At the very beginning luutnantti Lehtonen got an exploding bullet to the cockpit through the wind shield and was forced to break off, since the splinters of the bullet hit the eyes so badly that the sight blurred. Vänrikki Ukkonen shot at one I-153, which flew towards him so long that he had to make only a small dodge, but the Russian flew straight on. The result was that vänrikki Ukkonen’s landing gear swept off the port upper wing of the Russian, and the I-153 crashed; vänrikki Ukkonen had great difficulties in regaining control of his aircraft and was forced to break off the fight. The aircraft caught fire and vänrikki Ukkonen had to bail out 20km from the frontline on our side. An I-153 was behind the tail of kersantti Kilpinen firing at him. Luutnantti Kalima got behind the Russian and gave a burst. Then the Russian quitted firing and pulled into a shallow climbing turn, when luutnantti Kalima shot from a bank a burst and the Russian aircraft flashed up in flames and crashed in a pond. Liberated from the Russian kersantti Kilpinen pulled a bank, when he got from behind one banking Russian into his sight, fired a burst and the Russian caught fire and crashed. Vänrikki Salomaa got behind the last I-153 and shot a burst, when the Russian took a shallow dive to escape and while smoking broke off due to his higher speed.”
The returning Finnish pilots claimed three I-153s and one damaged. These were claimed by luutnantti Martti Kalima, vänrikki Leo Ukkonen (his fighter crashed at 09:50 at Kotskoma), kersantti Arvid Kilpinen and vänrikki Mikko Salomaa (1 damaged).
They had been in combat with five I-153s from 152 IAP led by Starshii Politruk Sergei Khateev, which strafed enemy forces in the village of Rugozero. During their return flight, the Soviet pilots were attacked by a reported nine enemy fighters, which they identified as Bf 109s. They reported that Leitenant Piskunov collided with a Fokker (Ukkonen) and was killed while Starshii Politruk Khateev and Mladshii Leitenant Pavel Gavrilov each claimed an enemy aircraft shot down.
Khateev’s I-153 was damaged in the combat and he made a successful emergency landing on a country road leading from the front.
Pavel Gavrilov was promoted one rank following this action.

At the time of his death, Piskunov was credited with 1 biplane victory.

Claims:
Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  1941                
1 27/09/41 09:50 1 Fokker D.XXI (a) Destroyed I-153   Kotskoma 152 IAP

Biplane victories: 1 destroyed.
TOTAL: 1 destroyed.
(a) Claimed in combat with D.XXIs from 1/LLv 10, which claimed 3 I-153s and 1 damaged while losing 1 D.XXI (pilot safe). 152 IAP claimed 3 D.XXI while losing 2 I-153s (1 pilot KiA).

Sources:
Soviet Hurricane Aces of World War 2 – Yuriy Rybin, 2012 Osprey Publishing Limited, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84908-741-1
Suomen Ilmavoimat part III – 1941 – Kalevi Keskinen and Kari Stenman, 2007, ISBN 978-952-99743-1-3




Last modified 04 July 2017