Biplane fighter aces

Soviet Union

Naval Major Konstantin Vladimirovich Solov’yev HSU

1914 – 27 December 1942

Date Decoration Note
07/02/42 Order of the Red Banner 1st
16/12/41 Order of the Red Banner 2nd
05/04/42 Order of Lenin 1st
23/10/42 Gold Star of the Hero of the Soviet Union  
23/10/42 Order of Lenin 2nd

Konstantin Solov’yev was born in 1914 in Gorodishchi, a settlement in the Moscow area.

He joined the navy in 1934 and graduated from the Yeysk Military Air School for Naval Pilots in 1936.

During the Soviet-Finnish Winter War, leitenant Solov’yev took part in the operations over Finland with the Air Force of the Baltic Sea Fleet.
From January 1940, he served in 30 OIAE, flying Polikarpov I-15bis. During the Winter War, he flew 65 combat missions but didn’t claim anything.

When the Great Patriotic War begun, starshiy leitenant Solov’yev was flying Polikarpov I-153s in the 71 IAP-KBF operating over the Gulf of Finland, occasionally flying an aircraft marked ‘24’.

During the summer of 1941 this unit undertook many ground attack sorties but was subsequently employed for the night defence of Leningrad in 1942.

On 21 September 1941, six I-153s from the 71 IAP-KBF, led by starshiy leitenant Solov’yev, fought with four Ju 88s near Peterhof. Three of the German bombers were claimed shot down ”in group”. Known pilots taking part in this claim was Solov’yev, starshiy leitenant Vladimir Abramov, Aleksandr Baturin and leitenant Grigoriy Pushkin.
On the same day, six I-153 from the 71 IAP-KBF conducted a reconnaissance of roads in the area Sablino-Yam-Izhora. They were attacked by six Bf 109s. In a frontal attack, Baturin personally shot down the fighter leading the German formation. The remaining German retired and the reconnaissance was completed.

In October 1941, he was promoted to command an eskadrilya.

Solov’yev was the first pilot of the 71 IAP-KBF who claimed a victory at night when he shot down a He 111 on 31 May.

On 27 March, Finnish forces invaded Gogland. This resulted in some heavy air combats over the island. On 28 March, 2/LLv 30 flew a cap mission to Gogland at dawn with kapteeni Veikko Karu’s seven Fokkers engaging a formation of about twenty fighters flying in two groups. During a ten-minute turning fight the Finns sent down two aircraft, when the enemy planes split and began to break off. The Fokkers entered a fruitless chase. Luutnantti Veikko Sauru claimed one and one shared fighters:

“At 05:45-06:10, altitude 1,500-100m. When I observed the enemy formation I attacked directly towards those flying at the lowest height. During the approach I reached the same altitude of a formation consisting of six I-153s. I got a chance to turn into one I-153 and shooting I saw smoke puff out of the aircraft. After this vänrikk Helle stayed to follow this plane. Soon after this I shot from opposite directions at one I-153. I avoided colliding by pulling over the Chaika in the last moment. Vänrikki Mattila and kersantti Krohn, who were following this encounter saw the I-153 go in a spin and hit the deck. I fired at a few other I-153s and one I-16.
My plane FR-124.”
Over Suursaari between 05:45-06:10, luutnantti Sauru claimed one I-153 and one shared with vänrikki Juha Helle (FR-123), kapteeni Veikko Karu (FR-136) claimed one probable I-16, kersantti Helge Krohn (FR-135) claimed and damaged I-16 and vänrikki Tauno Saalasti (FR-159) claimed one damaged I-16.
Majuri Olavi Ehrnrohts’s six Curtiss of LLv 32 fought against the same mixed formation and claimed two Chaikas and one Rata over Suursaari. Kersantti Aaro Kiljunen (CU-544) and Kersantti Niilo Erkinheimo (CU-551) claimed a shared I-16 from 11 IAP-KBF between 05:30-07:20. Between 05:30-07:30, ylikersantti Uuno Alpinnen (CU-572) claimed an I-153, vänrikki Jaakko Hillo (CU-553) claimed a probable I-16 while majuri Ehrnrooth (CU-571) and lentomerstari Viljo Ikonen (CU-565) claimed a shared I-153.
Totally the Finnish pilots claimed five shot down, two probables and two damaged without losses.
It seems that the I-153s were from 71 IAP-KBF and the I-16s from 11 IAP-KBF. The chronicle of the Baltic Fleet air forces reported:
“At 07:00 (Moscow time) nine I-153s of 71 IAP-KBF’s commander podpolkovnik Aleksey Koronets engaged on a ground attack mission 8 km north of Gogland nine Fokkers and two Curtiss and the escort detachment made a frontal attack. In this attack Koronets was killed. The I-153s of the strike detachment joined the combat after dropping their bombs on the ice. The combat lasted for ten minutes as individual clashes, were Grigoriy Shakbaz, shot down one Fokker, but he himself did not return from the mission.”
11 IAP-KBF lost one I-16 in this combat.
Later in the morning, luutnantti Osmo Kauppinen’s five Brewsters of 3/LLv 24 fought against ten Chaikas claiming half of them shot down. Lentomestari Ilmari Juutilainen claimed two:
At 07:45-08:15, altitude 2,000-10m. I flew in the top patrol with kersantti Huotari. Over the Suurkylä shore at Gogland I observed beneath me enemy fighters and we went to attack. During the combat I followed one I-153 shooting at it several time from 50m, until it suddenly flipped from 200 metres altitude to the ice. Then I chased with kersantti Huotari two I-153s to Lavansaari, Where I shot the aircraft burning on the west shore. The Russians were shooting rocket projectiles, which when exploding created a black cloud reminding an explosion of heavy flak, though a bit bigger. They exploded 100-200m ahead of my plane. I-153s had four of them under both wings.
My plane BW-364.”
Between 07:45-08:15 3/LLv 24 claimed five I-153s over Lavanssari when lentomerstari Juutilainen claimed two, kersantti Jouko Huotari (BW-353) claimed two and luutnantti Kauppinen (BW-366) claimed one.
It seems that the I-153s were from 71 IAP-KBF. The chronicle of the Baltic Fleet air forces reported:
“At 09:05 kapitan Solov’yev’s ten I-153 fighters of 71 IAP had just commenced the second pass of strafing the enemy troops, when four Curtiss and eight Fokkers attacked from above. The enemy was flying staggered in three altitudes: two Finnish I-153s were at 500m, the Fokkers were at 1,000m and the Curtiss were at 2,000m. The Soviet aircraft were in two groups, five planes in both the strike and escort groups. The aerial battle was fought in two altitudes, 100 and 1,000m. Two I-153s were shot down piloted by starshiy leitenant Mazurenko and serzhant Aleksander Pavlov. In addition, starshiy leitenant Vladimir Abramov made a forced landing near Seiskari with his damaged I-153 fighter.”
During the day, the island was taken by the Finns and when LLv 32 was flying top cover for the occupation parade, 29 Soviet fighters were approaching in three formations. In a 20-minute combat between 17:40 and 18:00 over Suursaari the Finns claimed fifteen shot down (five I-16s and ten I-153s) and one damaged I-153 without losses. Luutnantti Pentti Nurminen (3/LLv 32) downed two fighters:
“When I was leading a flight of six Curtiss in protection of Gogland, I received a message 4/1 west from Seivasto. I took my flight west of Lavansaari. Then the radio informed that west of Gogland first 8, then 11 and then 10 unknown aircraft at 3,000 metres. I climbed to 3,000 m above the clouds and then saw the streaks of the aircraft at about 2,000 m and right after the 8 aircraft themselves, part I-153s and part I-16s. I carried out an attack, when I got to shoot at one I-16 three good bursts from a close range at the side and behind. The aircraft shed fragments and went down out of control. After this I fired at three I-153s from behind and aside. The I- 153, which I shot from the side and behind descended smoking, but I had to pull up again due to other I-153s. The Russians had no will for fighting and rather wanted to head to St. Petersburg and Harjavalta. I did not observe the Russian firing their m-gs, instead they shot their rocket projectiles.
I-16 is an inferior op-ponent compared with 1-153. The Chaikas did not use a turn to opposite direction for dodging, but a climbing turn to port or starboard and then straight towards St. Petersburg direction (obviously extremely low on fuel).
My plane CU-571.”
The other claims for destroyed fighters were made by vänrikki Mauri Aalto (CU-553), who claimed one I-153 and one I-16 (over Tytärsaari), luutnantti Jarl Arnkil (CU-556), who claimed one and one shared I-153 (with vääpeli Fräntilä), vääpeli Mauno Fräntilä (CU-572), who claimed one I-16 and one shared I-153 (with luutnantti Arnkil), ylikersantti Aimo Gerndt (CU-551), who claimed one I-153, ylikersantti Lauri Jutila (CU-566), who claimed two I-153s, kersantti Jaakko Kajanto (CU-568), who claimed one I-16, lentomestari Eino Koskinen (CU-558), who claimed one I-16, kersantti Eero Tähtö (CU-564), who claimed one I-153, kersantti Väinö Virtanen (CU-554), who claimed one I-153 and kersantti Eero Visuri (CU-563), who claimed one I-153. Vänrikki Veikko Alapuro (CU-552) claimed one I-153 damaged.
The aircraft of LLv 6 still harassed the fleeing Soviet troops along the ice by bombs and machine-gun fire.
The Baltic Fleet reported:
“At 18:40 twelve 71 IAP’s 1-153 fighters of kapitan Petr Biskup and six 11 IAP’s I-16 fighters had just completed the strafing of the enemy troops on the ground, when 15 Messerschmitts and 8 Fokkers attacked at 1,000 metres altitude. Serzhant Vasiliy Fedorov, who fought alone with eight Fokkers, had to make a forced landing near Lavansaari after running out of fuel. The aircraft flipped on its back without injuring the pilot. Observation points at Seiskari and Lavansaari reported three Fokkers and one PZL-24 down.”
11 IAP-KBF reported having lost one I-16 and 71 IAP-KBF four Chaikas in aerial combat with the Fokkers and Spitfires, all these before noon. Concerning the largest air battle of the day fought just before 19 hours o'clock, in addition to what is mentioned above, the chronicle states only that Solov’yev claimed one individual and one group victory over Me 109s.
The Soviet claims are somewhat confusing on this day. According to modern sources, Solov’yev is only credited with a shared victory together with another pilot on this day. However, it seems that one individual Brewster is credited to Solov’yev before noon while the shared Fokker is credited to the group in the evening including Solov’yev, mladshiy leitenant Georgiy Belyakov and serzhant Vasiliy Fedorov. Serzhant Fedorov claimed an additional Fokker during the day while starshiy leitenant Abramov claimed a Fokker (an I-153 according to other sources) north-east of Gogland and Shakbaz claimed a Fokker in the morning. This brings the total of known Soviet claims for the day to one Brewster and four Fokker D.XXIs.

Late in the day on 3 April 1942, luutnantti Veikko Sauru’s five Fokkers from 2/LLv 30 was attacked by a dozen Chaikas on a mission to Seiskari area. The Finns claimed two enemy fighters as reported by kersantti Otto Karme:

“At 16:05, altitude 500 m. Our five-plane formation led by luutnantti Sauru headed west towards Seiskari. A six-plane enemy formation flew towards our detachment (another six-plane formation, which I did not observe at that moment was flying higher). The observed enemy aircraft were I-153s. We attacked straight on coming from slightly below. I observed the burst I fired hit the engine of the I-153, but I could not tell the impact. Right after I pulled a steep right-hand curve and simultaneously saw on my left side a burning plane in dive. I could not follow up any longer as I observed four other I-153s coming towards me. One of these flew a bit higher than the others. I gained altitude and then the I-153 above the others made a slight curve to the right and got in a firing position straight from the side. I continued firing and got all the time in a better position somewhat from behind and aside and also slightly underneath. I saw my bursts hit all the time the enemy aircraft and then saw a puff of smoke and then the plane fell in a dive seemingly out of control. When this shooting took place we were inside the layers of the clouds. I could not follow the aircraft down to the deck. My own plane FRw-130 suffered no damage.”
Karme was credited with one shot down and one probable (claimed without witness) I-153s. Vänrikki Tauno Saalasti (FRw-123) claimed a damaged I-153 in the same area. No Finnish aircraft were lost.
It seems that they had been in combat with the 71 IAP-KBF. The ORB of the KBF mentions that at 16:05, six Chaikas led by kapitan Solov'yev met four Fokkers. The encounter began with attacks in opposite directions and turned into a curve battle where starshiy leitenant Aleksandr Baturin’s pair sent one Fokker down 11km east Seiskari, without losses.

Between 18:00 and 19:10 on the same day, kapteeni Kullervo Lahtela’s eight Curtiss of 1/LLv 32 flew a reconnaissance mission to the Gulf of Finland and engaged around a dozen Chaikas in the Seiskari area. Five I-153s were claimed by Lahtela (CU-556), vänrikki Juho Nyholm (CU-564), luutnantti Esko Ruotsila (CU-558), kersantti Niilo Erkinheimo (CU-551) and lentomestari Viljo Ikonen (CU-568). Kersantti Eero Visuri (CU-572) was shot down and killed in the combat.
The Chronicle of KBF reports:

“At 18:24 began at 500 metres a combat lasting 15 minutes between starshiy leitenant Baturin’s eight I-153s from 71 IAP and twelve Fokkers. After the attack of the Soviets the enemy tried to get in the clouds. The separated (obviously less experienced pilots) planes aimed to form into pairs and swarms after which they returned to the battle just under the clouds. The more experienced pilots attacked straight from the clouds. To avoid the surprise attacks the Soviet pilots manoeuvred 200-250 metres below the clouds. Three aircraft were shot down in the vicinity of Seiskari and one aircraft broke off towards Koivisto. After the combat the enemy broke off to the north. No own losses.”
The Soviet pilots reported that one Fokker fell burning on the ice 4km south-east of Seiskari, the second crashed 10km south-east of the island, the third crashed in villages 3km north-east of the island while the fourth was last seen flying smoking and losing height towards Björkö. After the combat, the remaining Finnish aircraft flew north.
The Soviet claims are somewhat confusing. Starshiy leitenant Baturin and leitenant Abram Ashkinazi are credited with two shared victories in this combat; these being shared among all pilots in the flight while mladshiy leitenant Georgiy Belyakov seems to be credited with a shared in all three claimed enemy fighters (all shared ”in group”). Ivan Minayev is credited with two shared ”in group” and a third together with another pilot. Leitenant Abram Ashkinazi is also credited with a third together with another pilot. Kapitan Solov’yev is credited with one shared ”in group”. Who the second pilot in Baturin’s earlier claim was, is not known (Ashkinazi, Minayev or Solov’yev?).

Between 00:30-01:15 on 3 June 1942, four I-153s from the 71 IAP-KBF were up against He 111s raiding Kronstadt.
At 01:10, kapitan Solov’yev and starshiy leitenant Aleksandr Baturin claimed one He 111 from a distance of 500-600m at an altitude of 800m. The burning bomber crashed into Lake Kopenskoe. They also claimed a second shared He 111, which they attacked and shot down near Shepelev lighthouse. It seems that these victories were recorded as one single victory each.
Major Vladimir Koreshkov and kapitan Ivan Gorbachev claimed a shared He 111 at an altitude of 1000-800 m and from a distance of 100m, which crashed near Inoniemi. They also shot down a second He 111, which fell at Tyvola.

Between 00:40-02:30 on 8 June, three I-153s and three I-16s from 71 IAP-KBF intercepted enemy bombers attacking torpedo boats near the northern forts of Kronstadt. Kapitan Petr Biskup and kapitan Solov’yev attacked and claimed a shared destroyed Ju 88. The ground forces confirmed this claim.
During the same raid, major Aleksandr Alekseyev claimed a Ju 88, which crashed into forest on Björkö island.

In the summer of 1942, he had flown 417 sorties, 115 of them against ground targets.

He was decorated with the Gold Star of the Hero of the Soviet Union and the Order of Lenin on 23 October 1942.

On 17 December 1942, he was transferred to the 13 IAP-KBF as deputy commander.

Late in 1942, he was promoted to major.

He was severely wounded in an air collision during a training flight on 20 December 1942. He managed to return to base but succumbed in hospital from his wounds on 27 December.
He was buried in Pestovo in the Novgorod region.

At the time of his death, Solov’yev had claimed 2 biplane victories. These victories were claimed during 427 sorties and 65 combats.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  22/09/41   1/6 Ju 88 Shared destroyed I-153   nr Peterhof 71 IAP-KBF
  22/09/41   1/6 Ju 88 Shared destroyed I-153   nr Peterhof 71 IAP-KBF
  22/09/41   1/6 Ju 88 Shared destroyed I-153   nr Peterhof 71 IAP-KBF
1 28/03/42 09:05- 1 Brewster (a) Destroyed I-153   Gogland area 71 IAP-KBF
  28/03/42   1/? Fokker D.XXI (a) Shared destroyed I-153   Gogland area 71 IAP-KBF
  03/04/42   1/? Fokker D.XXI (b) Shared destroyed I-153   Seiskari area 71 IAP-KBF
  31/05/42 night 1/2 He 111 Shared destroyed I-153     71 IAP-KBF
2 03/06/42 01:10- 1 He 111 Destroyed I-153   Lake Kopenskoe-nr Shepelev lighthouse 71 IAP-KBF
  08/06/42 00:40-02:30 1/2 Ju 88 Shared destroyed I-153   Kronstadt area 71 IAP-KBF
  10/06/42 night 1/2 He 111 Shared destroyed I-153   Kotlin area 71 IAP-KBF
  11/06/42 night 1/2 He 111 Shared destroyed I-153     71 IAP-KBF

Biplane victories: 2 and 9 shared destroyed.
TOTAL: 2 and 9 shared destroyed.
(a) Claimed in combat with LLv24, LLv 30 and LLv 32, which claimed 25 fighters destroyed, 2 probables and 3 damaged during the day without losses. 71 IAP-KBF claimed 1 Brewster and 4 Fokker D.XXIs destroyed while losing (together with 11 IAP-KBF) 6 fighters.
(b) Possibly claimed in combat with Curtiss 75As from 1/LLv 32, which claimed 5 I-153s while losing 1 Curtiss 75A (pilot KIA). 71 IAP-KBF claimed 3 Fokkers without losses.

Airmen of World
All aces of Stalin 1936-1953 – Mikhail Bykov, 2014
Black Cross/Red Star Volume II - Christer Bergström and Andrey Mikhailov, 2001 Pacifica Military History, ISBN 0-935553-51-7
Soviet Aces of World War 2 - Hugh Morgan, 1998
Soviet Aces 1936-1953
Soviet Fighter Pilots 1936-1953 - Mikhail Bykov
Stalin's Eagles - Hans D. Seidl, 1998 Schiffer Publishing, ISBN 0-7643-0476-3
Stalin's Falcons - Tomas Polak and Christhoper Shores, 1999 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-902304-01-2
Suomen Ilmavoimat part IV – 1942 – Kalevi Keskinen and Kari Stenman, 2007, ISBN 978-952-99743-2-0
Additional information kindly provided by Laurent Rizzotti.

Last modified 10 April 2021