Biplane fighter aces

Soviet Union

Kapitan Petr Georgievich Sgibnev HSU

25 August 1920 – 3 May 1943

Petr Sgibnev was born on 25 August 1920.

He spent his youth in Leningrad before joining the Red Army in 1937.

In July 1940, he graduated from Eysk Naval Aviation School.

In June 1941, Leitenant Sgibnev served in 12 OIA-KBF, flying Polikarpov I-153s.

He was wounded twice during 1941 and the second injury was heavy requiring hospital treatment in Saransk.

On 13 August 1941, he was decorated with the Order of the Red Banner.

Between February and March 1942, he served in 72 SmAP-SF, which also was equipped with Polikarpov I-153s. This was a mainly fighter equipped composite regiment operating in the defence of Murmansk with the Air Force of the North Fleet.

In March 1942, he was transferred to 78 IAP-SF, which was equipped with Hurricanes.

The port of Murmansk was attacked twice on 15 April by Ju 87s of I./StG 5, escorted by Bf 110s of 10.(Z)/JG 5 and Bf 109E/Fs of II./JG 5. The 5712-ton British transport vessel Lancaster Castle was sunk by the Stukas during the attacks, the vessel suffering a direct hit to its engine room. A railway crane, a drydock and a warehouse were also destroyed in the port itself, while the canteen building caught fire and three railway tracks were severed. A 500-kg bomb fell into a bomb shelter, and although it failed to explode, the building collapsed, killing 21 and injuring eight.
The first raid came at 14:05 and it met negligible opposition. The Luftwaffe fighters brushed aside the handful of I-16s and I-153s without difficulty and claimed one enemy fighter destroyed (reported as an I-180), when Feldwebel Theodor Weissenberger of 10.(Z)/JG 5 claimed one at 13:18, 10 km west of Murmansk.
The second raid, at 18:30, met stiffer opposition, with ten Hurricanes and three MiG-3s of 2 GIAP-SF being scrambled to intercept the raiders. Leading the defenders was Kapitan Alexander Kovalenko, whose formation was accompanied by nine 78 IAP-SF Hurricanes led by Starshii Leitenant Sgibnev, as well as by a flight of I-153s from 27 IAP-SF. Six Hurricanes of 122nd IAD’s 769 IAP also joined in.
16 Stukas, flying in pairs and with a close escort of Bf 110s, approached the target from a height of 3,500 m. Behind them, spaced at intervals of 500-1000 m and some 500 m higher, came nine Bf 109s. The dive-bombers wheeled around in a 90-degree turn before diving steeply out of the sun one after another. They were accompanied down to 200 m by their close escort, while the Bf 109s kept their distance.
The Guards pilots took off in line astern after receiving word of the approaching German formation, with Kapitan Kovalenko in front. He was ordered to head to Murmansk at a height of 3,500.
There were only three aircraft in the circuit at that time, and without waiting for the others to join up, Kovalenko led them towards the threatened city. While flying at an altitude of 2,500 m, he sighted the enemy aircraft above him, but he considered an attack with just three fighters into the sun unfeasible. Kovalenko duly manoeuvred his small force in behind the bombers while the rest of the Hurricanes and MiG-3s joined him. As the Stukas commenced their diving attack the Hurricane pilots fired a salvo of rockets into the middle of the enemy formation from a range of 400 m, before splitting up and making individual attacks. Kovalenko opened fire from a range of 200 m, and he continued to fire until he was just ten metres behind his target. He was later to report ”the Ju 87 turned over and the cockpit canopy flew off”. Kovalenko did not have time to see his victim hit the ground as he was attacking a second enemy bomber. Opening fire at 100 m, he watched the Stuka roll over onto its back and tumble earthwards. Again, he was too busy to witness its final demise as by then the Bf 109s had arrived on the scene. In the end, it seems that Kovalenko only was credited with one Ju 87 shot down in this combat. Upon their return to base Starshii Leitenant Pavel Orlov and Starshii Leitenant Sergei Kurzenkov also claimed to have destroyed a Ju 87 apiece, the former reporting:

“At an altitude of 1500 m and from a range of 250-270 m I opened fire on the Ju 87’s engine from behind. The engine was engulfed in smoke and I unleashed a second salvo from above and behind while inverted as the Ju 87 was pulling out of its dive. The aircraft caught fire and there were two tongues of flame coming out of each side of the fuselage. I then gave the dive-bomber another burst. It slowed and went down.”
Orlov overshot the Ju 87, and after making a tight banking turn and scanning the sky, he was unable to locate his adversary. Kurzenkov’s report was even briefer:
“I attacked one Ju 87 when it was pulling out of its dive, opening fire from a range of 100 m. After the third burst of machine gun fire the Ju 87 crashed 5-8 km west of Murmansk.”
A fifth Ju 87 was claimed by 2 GIAP-SF when one was claimed by Husin Abishev.
Most of 78 IAP-SF’s Hurricanes, led by Starshii Leitenant Sgibnev, engaged the escorting fighters, thus giving the 2 GIAP-SF pilots their chance to attack the Stukas without interference. Sgibnev and his formation waded into the Bf 110s as they pulled out of their dives, the leading group firing three long bursts into the first twin-engined fighter in a head-on attack. According to Sgibnev’s report, the Bf 110 “dived steeply and crashed into the ground, leaving a trail of black smoke behind it”. Sgibnev then attacked a single Bf 109 from behind and slightly below from a range of 150-180 m. He again fired three long bursts, but could not prevent the enemy fighter from breaking off combat and diving away to the west. Sgibnev did not see the Messerschmitt crash so after the battle he claimed just the Bf 110 destroyed. Although his own aircraft had been damaged by bullets and shrapnel, it was soon repaired. Two of Sgibnev’s squadronmates, Starshii Leitenant I. L. Zhivotovskii and Leitenant Konstantin Babii, both claimed to have downed a Bf 110.
Leitenant Nikifor Ignatiev from 27 IAP-SF claimed one Bf 110 and one Ju 87 over Murmansk during the day.
For their part, the pilots of the escorting Bf 110s claimed to have destroyed two enemy fighters 20 km west of Murmansk, both by Feldwebel Theodor Weissenberger of 10.(Z)/JG 5, who claimed one MiG-3 at 17:42 and a Hurricane at 17:45. They had stayed above the clouds ready to pounce on lone Soviet aircraft, but they only succeeded in damaging a MiG-3, whose pilot was able to make an emergency landing.
Neither side had suffered unsustainable losses in the battle over Murmansk.

By 25 May 1942, Starshii Leitenant Sgibnev was CO of 5./78 IAP-SF, had flown 260 missions, taken part in 21 combat and claimed 7 and 4 shared destroyed.

On 26 May 1942, he was decorated with a second Order of the Red Banner.

On 23 October 1942, he was decorated with the Gold Star of the Hero of Soviet Union and the Order of Lenin.

He left 78 IAP-SF in October 1942, when he was transferred back to his old unit (72 SmAP-SF) as a commander of an eskadrilia. This unit had become a guard’s unit, 2 GIAP-SF.

Later, 2 GIAP-SF was re-equipped with Airacobras.

On 2 April 1943, he was decorated with a third Order of the Red Banner.

Kapitan Sgibnev was killed in a plane crash on 3 May 1943.

At the time of his death, Sgibnev was credited with 1 biplane victory and a total of 17.
During the war, he had been decorated with the Order of the Red Banner (twice).

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  12/07/41   1/3 Bf 109 Shared destroyed I-153     72 SmAP-SF
  26/07/41   1/3 Bf 109 Shared destroyed I-153     72 SmAP-SF
  10/08/41   1/2 Bf 109 Shared destroyed I-153     72 SmAP-SF
  13/08/41   1/2 Bf 109 Shared destroyed I-153     72 SmAP-SF
1 28/08/41   1 Bf 109 Destroyed I-153     72 SmAP-SF
2 04/04/42   1 Bf 109 Destroyed Hurricane     78 IAP-SF
3 15/04/42 18:30 1 Bf 110 (a) Destroyed Hurricane   Murmansk area 78 IAP-SF
4 10/05/42   1 Bf 109 Destroyed Hurricane     78 IAP-SF
5 12/05/42   1 Bf 110 Destroyed Hurricane     78 IAP-SF
6 12/05/42   1 Bf 109 Destroyed Hurricane     78 IAP-SF
7 18/05/42   1 Ju 88 Destroyed Hurricane     78 IAP-SF
8 29/05/42   1 Bf 109 Destroyed Hurricane     78 IAP-SF
9 02/06/42   1 Ju 87 Destroyed Hurricane     78 IAP-SF
10 23/06/42   1 Bf 109 Destroyed Hurricane     78 IAP-SF
11 01/07/42   1 Ju 87 Destroyed Hurricane     78 IAP-SF
12 01/07/42   1 Ju 87 Destroyed Hurricane     78 IAP-SF
13 26/02/43   1 Bf 109 Destroyed Airacobra     2 GIAP-SF
14 14/03/43   1 Fi 156 (b) Destroyed Airacobra     2 GIAP-SF
15 15/03/43   1 Bf 109 Destroyed Airacobra     2 GIAP-SF
16 19/04/43   1 Bf 109 Destroyed Airacobra     2 GIAP-SF
17 19/04/43   1 Bf 109 Destroyed Airacobra     2 GIAP-SF

Biplane victories: 1 and 4 shared destroyed.
TOTAL: 17 and 4 shared destroyed.
(a) Claimed in combat with Bf 110s from 10.(Z)/JG 5.
(b) Claimed as a “Storch”.

All aces of Stalin 1936–1953 – Mikhail Bykov, 2014
Soviet Aces 1936-1953
Soviet Hurricane Aces of World War 2 – Yuriy Rybin, 2012 Osprey Publishing Limited, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84908-741-1

Last modified 06 July 2017