Biplane fighter aces

Soviet Union

Kapitan Viktor Vasilyevich Popov

1913 –

Viktor Popov was born in Kharkov in 1913.

He joined the Red Army in 1931.

Leitenant Popov took part in the Soviet-Finnish Winter War, serving in 68 IAP, which was equipped with Polikarpov I-153s.

In the early morning on 29 February, Mladshii Leitenant Viktor Masich of 68 IAP led a three-aircraft group making a reconnaissance mission to the Antrea area. Here they detected the well-camouflaged ice base at Ruokolahti. Over the Finnish air base, Masich claimed one Gladiator and he was able to return with some 80 holes in his fighter. The Gladiator lost was GL-269 of LLv 26, subordinate to LLv 24 (detachment Luukkanen), which was lost due to enemy fighter fire when it returned to Ruokolahti base after a morning alarm mission. The Gladiators had been on an abortive mission together with detachment Luukkanen’s Fokkers and were following in the wake of the Fokkers when a lone Russian I-153 appeared like a wraith and shot down the Gladiator in flames, and was gone as suddenly as it had arrived. The pilot alikersantti Pentti Kosola died of wounds.
At 12:00, the detachment received a message that 21 enemy bombers were heading towards Antrea from the south at an altitude of 16,500 feet. The detachments leader kapteeni Eino Luukkanen was prevented to take off due to a loose starboard ski on his Fokker D.XXI and command was given by him to luutnantti Tatu Huhanantti (6 victories). However, it seems that the control centre had given them wrong information or been referring to an entirely different formation for when the 14 Fokkers and Gladiators of LLv 24 and LLv 26 were climbing out of Ruokolahti field they were trapped in a most unfavourable position when they were attacked by an estimated 40 I-153 and I-16 fighters.
In fact, they were 17 I-16s and six I-153s from 68 IAP, which were returning after the morning’s reconnaissance mission. Twelve fighters were led by Mayor Gil (I-16) while the remaining eleven fighters were led by Starshii Leitenant D. P. Yefimov (CO of 1 Eskadrilya). In the vicious battle that followed three Gladiators were shot down immediately on take-off. In the low-level combat that followed, the Russians destroyed two more Gladiators and one Fokker. The battle lasted only some fifteen minutes before the Russians withdrew.
Alikersantti Sulo Suikkanen (GL-256) succeeded in shooting down one I-16 over Kaukopää at 12:20. Suikkanen also claimed a second I-16 damaged over Imatra at the same time. A third reportedly I-16 hit the trees and crashed. Seven more Soviet fighters were damaged. During the combat luutnantti Tatu Huhanantti (Fokker D.XXI FR-94) was killed together with luutnanttis Aimo Halme (GL-262) and Carl Kristensen (GL-259). Luutnantti Poul Christensen (GL-261) and vääpeli Olavi Lilja (GL-268) parachuted to safety but both were injured and Christensen was burnt in his face and hospitalized for the rest of the Winter War. Vääpeli Jussi Tolkki (GL-263) had a remarkable escape by falling into a snow bank when his fighter disintegrated just above the trees.
The returning Soviet pilots claimed eleven “Bulldogs” and eight Fokker D.XXIs (one additional claim for an enemy fighter with an unknown pilot). Mayor Gil claimed one Fokker in a head on attack. The enemy fighter caught fire, overturned and came down. Gil’s second claim was a Bulldog, which got on the tail of Leitenant Polushkin. This Bulldog also caught fire and went to the ground. Starshii Leitenant Plotnikov attacked a Bulldog, which got on Mayor Gil’s tail. The Bulldog began to smoke, lost control and crashed to the ground. Starshii Leitenant Ivanov attacked and shot down one Bulldog, which got on Starshii Leitenant Plotnikov’s tail. The Bulldog smoked heavily and went to the ground. Leitenants Sorokin and Nikitin (I-16) attacked a Fokker, which caught fire and fell out of control from an altitude of 3200 metres. Starshii Leitenant Dmitriy Yefimov (I-16), Leitenant Shishov, Leitenant Terpugov, Leitenant Orlov and Leitenant Aleksey Sapozhnikov (I-16) together claimed a Bulldog, which caught fire and crashed to the ground from an altitude of 70-100 metres. Leitenant Shishov then saw one Bulldog flying at 100 metres altitude, attacked it at high speed, overtook it, then turned back and attacked it again. The Bulldog began to smoke and crashed to the ground. Leitenant Orlov dived on the tail of a Bulldog that flew just over the ground and with fire forced it to crash to the ground. Leitenant Polushkin (Polukhin?) and Mladshii Leitenant Mazurenko saw a Fokker, which attempted to attack their flight. With a swift turn they got onto the enemy’s tail and shot it down with an attack from two sides. The enemy caught fire and crashed to the ground. Mladshii Leitenant Mazurenko then saw a Fokker got behind his tail. With a heavy slideslip, he turned his aircraft 45-50 degrees and the Fokker overtook him. Mazurenko turned back and with a long burst downed the enemy. The Fokker caught fire and crashed to the ground. Mazurenko’s aircraft returned with 36 bullet holes. Leitenant Alexander Platonov pursued one Bulldog and with an attack from behind, he forced it to dive. Platonov followed it and continued to fire until the Bulldog got into a spin and crashed into the ground. After the attack of the airfield, Leitenant Popov was climbing for altitude when he saw a Bulldog chased by I-16s and I-153s. With a spilt-S, the Bulldog evaded their attack but Popov attacked it when it was recovering from its dive. Popov fired on it and it caught fire. Leitenant Mayev (I-16), while climbing for altitude, saw a Fokker, which got behind an I-16 and began to fire. Mayev attacked the Fokker from behind and set on fire. The Fokker crashed to ground out of control. Mladshii Leitenant Soldatov dropped bombs on the enemy aircraft parked on the frozen lake. After that he was attacked by two Fokkers, bus using the manoeuvrability and climbing performance of his I-153, he evaded the attack and climbed to the Soviet group. He saw that one Fokker was pursuing an I-16 and decided to attack it. The enemy decided to outrun him, but Soldatov manoeuvred behind it and fired several long bursts. The enemy aircraft went into a dive. Soldatov followed it and observed that the Fokker crashed into the forest. Leitenant Konyukhov shot down one Fokker in a head on attack. For some reason the enemy aircraft didn’t return fire. The Fokker began to smoke and hit the ground out of control. Leitenant Nikitin twice attacked a Bulldog and shot it down. It fell into the forest and caught fire. Having approached the target, Leitenant Fyodorov (Fedorov), saw one Bulldog at 2200 meters altitude. Fyodorov got behind it and with two bursts shot it down. The Bulldog dived vertically and fell north of Salvisaari Island. After that, Fyodorov dropped the bombs on one Fokker, which was taxiing on the lake. Just after taking off, this Fokker caught fire and hit the ice.
68 IAP lost one I-16 flown by Starshii Leitenant Yefimov (CO of 1 Eskadrilya), who was killed when his I-16 didn’t level out from a steep dive to evade chasing enemy Finnish fighters, but crashed to the ground and one I-153 (c/n 521) were the pilot, Mladshii Leitenant Mikhail Ivanovich Volosevich (2 Eskadrilya, parachuted at Tainiokoski to become a PoW.
This combat was the biggest single aerial defeat suffered by the Finns during the whole course of the Second World War.

Popov was seriously wounded during the Winter War.

When Germany invade the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941, Leitenant Popov served in 401 IAP, flying MiG-3s.

He left 401 IAP in August 1941 when he was posted to 263 IAP. With this unit, he flew MiG-3s, LaGG-3s and La-5s.

Popov was decorated with the Order of the Red Banner on 26 June 1942.

He received a second Order of the Red Banner on 14 August 1942.

Popov left 263 IAP in October 1943 and in December 1944, he was posted to 523 IAP. With this unit, he flew La-5s and LA-7.

Popov ended the war with 1 biplane victory and a total of 6.
These had been claimed during 149 combat missions.
He was decorated with the Order of the Patriotic War 1st Class on 11 March 1985.

Claims:
Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  1940                
1 29/02/40 12:00 1 Gladiator (a) Destroyed Polikarpov I-153   Ruokolahti 68 IAP
  1942                
2 23/06/42   1 Hs 126 Destroyed LaGG-3   S Bogatova Station 263 IAP
  1943                
  14/01/43   1/6 Bf 109 Shared destroyed La-5   Yam-Izhora 263 IAP
  15/01/43   1/2 Bf 109 Shared destroyed La-5   Chyornaya Rechka 263 IAP
3 19/02/43   1 Bf 109 Destroyed La-5   Ushaki-Ilyshino 263 IAP
4 08/06/43   1 FW 190 Destroyed La-5   Voronova 263 IAP
  10/06/43   1/2 FW 190 Shared destroyed La-5   Zhabovo 263 IAP
5 01/08/43   1 Ju 88 Destroyed La-5     263 IAP
6 03/08/43   1 Ju 88 Destroyed La-5   Kokhany 263 IAP

Biplane victories: 1 destroyed.
TOTAL: 6 and 3 shared destroyed.
(a) Claimed in combat with LLv 24 and LLv 26, which lost 1 Fokker D.XXI and 5 Gladiators while claiming 2 and 1 damaged I-16s. 68 IAP claimed 20 enemy fighters (11 Gladiators and 8 Fokker D.XXIs) while losing 1 I-16 and 1 I-153.

Sources:
All aces of Stalin 1936–1953 – Mikhail Bykov, 2014
Englantilaiset Hävittäjät - Keskinen, Stenman, Niska
Fighter over Finland - Eino Luukkanen, 1963
Hurricane & Gladiator - Kalevi Keskinen and Kari Stenman, 2005, ISBN 952-99432-0-2
Ilmavoitot, osa 1 - Kalevi Keskinen and Kari Stenman, ISBN 952-99432-8-8
Ilmavoitot, osa 2 - Kalevi Keskinen and Kari Stenman, ISBN 952-99432-8-8
LeR 2 - Kalevi Keskinen and Kari Stenman, 2001, ISBN 951-98751-0-7
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 Aces 1936-1953
Suomen Ilmavoimat part II – 1928-40 – Kalevi Keskinen and Kari Stenman, 2006, ISBN 952-99743-0-2




Last modified 22 April 2019