Soviet Aces of World War Two and Korea

Soviet Aces -by GregP

I joined and got to looking at the forums. In the “Science” forum, there is a lot of talk about how the Allies, and the U.S.A. in particular, seem to inflate the scores of our aces while we denigrate the scores of Soviet pilots … keep in mind this IS a Russian forum.

They maintain that Russian pilots in Korea flying MiG-15’s outscored, outflew, and outfought Allied pilots easily, and that the best fighters of both WWII and the jet era are, and have been, Russian. Seems like a natural assumption on their part, given the origin of the forum.

Anyway, does anyone here have any information on the Yak-1 / Yak-3 / Yak-9 series of WWII aircraft or the Lavochkin La-5 / La-7/ La-9 series of aircraft that would shed some light on their real-world performance numbers? … or the real world combat records?

I have seen many sources about each plane, and they all seem to quote from one another as sources. For the Yak-3, I have seen top speeds listed as anywhere from 360 mph to 430 mph, and have seen wildly differing claims for the Lavochkin planes. Ivan Kozudub, the top-scoring Allied ace with 62 victories, mostly flew Lavochkins. His La-5 is in a Russian museum.

I have also read in these forums that the U.S.A. bought two Sukhoi Su-27’s and evaluated them against our own fighters in a fly-off. The people on maintain that the Russian planes outperformed ours easily and we are “keeping it quiet.”

I find it EASY to believe we would keep it secret if the Russian planes DID outperform ours, but also find it interesting that the authors of some of these claims are active pilots in the Russian Air Force whoa re currently flying Flankers. Hhmmmm …

I got into a history discussion and it seems a lot of people in Russia believe that the Germans committed at least 80% of their strength, other than Naval strength, against Russia. So we only had to deal with 20% of the German onslaught. Naturally, they feel that THEY won WWII for the Allies and we “filter” history so it looks like Americans won everything. Probably some British folks feel that way, too …

Kind of funny since we all believe that the Russians filter THEIR history accounts in favor of Russia, huh?

It brings to mind a history discussion I heard in college about a Russian Naval visit to New York harbor in the middle of the Civil War. Our newspapers interpreted it as Russian support for the North. In fact, the Russians were worried that their fleet would be bottled up and destroyed by invading forces at the time, and the Russians sent the ships to New York just to get them out of Russian eaters for the anticipated danger period! Moral of that story was that the SAME event could be seen by a US citizen and a Russian citizen, and the two stories might have no resemblance to each other … and each would be correct from their own viewpoint.

Anyway, any comments about the performance / combat records of Russian WWII fighters or the relative quality and effectiveness of modern Russian jet fighters as opposed to Western fighters?

Please let’s keep in mind, I am an American citizen who is not “putting down” anyone … just asking.

Keep in mind that these same Russian forums suggest that the combat record of Russian jets post-WWII is severely tainted since they were mostly flown in combat by low-time foreign pilots with poor combat preparedness training and were poorly maintained by Air Forces who purchased the planes, but not the need requisite spare parts to keep them maintained.

I know, sounds like excuses to me too, but they DO have a point. The relative reliability of well-maintained machinery is considerably better than that of machines left to the elements. Consider the reliability of the F-14’s sold to Iran …

I already know the combat record of the F-16 and F-16. The F-15 is supposed to have “no combat losses,” but at least one and maybe two Israeli F-15’s were total write-offs after making a emergency landings after combat with MiG’s. In the eyes of Russians, those are “kills.”

So, let’s hear some comments, and please leave off the “waving the flag” stuff. I like our planes, too. 6 8 4346 6.1060067073

Soviet Aces – by acepil2



Welcome, thanks for the post.

First, you’ll enjoy reading the following two articles on this site (about Russian MiG aces in Korea and Vietnamese MiG aces)

It’s widely accepted that fighter pilots claims (from all countries, all services, all wars) are over-stated. Any careful analysis of any theater of war shows that the fighter pilot claims of one side cannot be justified by the records (and even liberal assumptions about uncertainties) of the other side. This subject comes up in various articles here, “Sources” and Pappy Boyington, in particular.

Russian airplanes: I cant evaluate all the prop-driven WW2 models, but in general, by 1944-45, many of them were pretty good. Of course, by Korea (1950) the prop planes were obsolete. Not sure if the folks on were claiming successes for the LaGG’s and Yak’s in Korea. That would be nonsense. The MiG-15, on the other hand, a jet, was an excellent aircraft at that time. My article on the Sabre jet includes a lot of comparative info on the MiG 15.

In WW2, the Russians bore the main brunt of the land war. No doubt. I don’t know how if the 80-20 split of German forces is accurate. It might be, considering the amount of terrain on the Russian Front.

In the Israeli Wars and in America’s conflicts with Russian-made aircraft (Gulf of Sidra, Balkans, the Gulf), US aircraft have cleaned up. Sure, the Israelis are secretive about losses and 3rd World pilots might be poorly trained. I doubt those factors would make a huge difference, if they were evened out. 6 10 1726 6.1060095575

Soviet Aces – by Anonymous

Thanks for the reply. I had already read your article on Korea, and I enjoyed it. About the Vietnam article … wasn’t there a NVAF ace called Col. Toom or Col. Toon? Seems like I remember seeing many articles about him that suggested he was their top-scoring ace.

Or was he just a fictional character?

Anyway, to the point. I used to work in Phoenix, AZ and at that time was nominated for “boss of the year” by one of my employees who was an AF F-16 Reserve Unit. As such, I was invited to fly with the Reserves on a KC-135 out of Luke AFB while they were doing air-to-air refueling of some Reserve F-16’s. The newest Reserve airframe was a 1986 unit, and this was in 1999!

When we arrived in the morning, we were served breakfast and each table had a Reserve F-16 pilot sitting at it to talk with the people at the table and answer any questions. Our pilot talked about the F-16, the Reserves, and their last deployment to Norway where they engaged in some training with former East-German bases stocked with MiG-29’s.

According to this Reserve pilot, the MiG-29’s the HE saw exhibited VERY poor reliability. The Reserve unit flew for 2 weeks and was mostly tasked with attacking the air base. They flew 8-turn-4 sorties for a week and a half straight … that is, 8 planes attacking the base, return, refuel, and send another 4 for a second attack.

He stated the MiG’s only managed to get a full complement of aircraft up once, and that the commander of the German base was impressed with the reliability and spirit of the Reserve unit, say that he wished he could get HIS people motivated to “do it right the first time.”

I also read some posts on several forums where some USAF pilots stated that their experience with MiG’s was the opposite … that the MiG’s THEY operated against in training were quite reliable.

So … I am left wondering about the REAL service reliability of the MiG-29 and, be extrapolation, the Su-27 Flanker series.

Do you have any thoughts on the relative serviceability of Russian fighter aircraft? What about if they were maintained by Russian with access to spare parts?

Just curious. 6 11 2241 6.1060100510

Soviet Aces – by Al Lowe

by “GregP”]I joined and got to looking at the forums. In the “Science” forum, there is a lot of talk about how the Allies, and the U.S.A. in particular, seem to inflate the scores of our aces while we denigrate the scores of Soviet pilots … keep in mind this IS a Russian forum.

I guess it never occurred to them that THEY do the same thing?

As a web friend of mine (Barrett Tillman) has said ALL fighter pilots exaggerate. Not just Americans, not just Germans, not just Canadians, not just Russians, ALL fighter pilots!!

In other words, the Russians’ claims are inflated too. 😉

Soviet Aces – Exaggeration, by acepil2

I generally give the pilots credit for reporting the best they could under stressful, split-second-changing, and uncertain conditions. Boyington’s well-documented deliberate(?) exaggerations may be the exception. Nonetheless, official credits in any theater always exceed documented losses by the other side.

Another point, to be fair, are the Japanese numbers. They seem awfully high, but (as I understand it) they weren’t really trying to get at “confirmed destruction of an enemy aircraft.” The idea of the Japanese claims resembles the WWI concept of “driven down,” or “out-of-control.” In the other WWII air forces, these were ‘Probables’ or ‘Damaged.”

Re: Exaggeration, by Al Lowe

by “acepil2”]I generally give the pilots credit for reporting the best they could under stressful, split-second-changing, and uncertain conditions. Boyington’s well-documented deliberate(?) exaggerations may be the exception. Nonetheless, official credits in any theater always exceed documented losses by the other side.

Another point, to be fair, are the Japanese numbers. They seem awfully high, but (as I understand it) they weren’t really trying to get at “confirmed destruction of an enemy aircraft.” The idea of the Japanese claims resembles the WWI concept of “driven down,” or “out-of-control.” In the other WWII air forces, these were ‘Probables’ or ‘Damaged.”

They apparently did something toward confirmation as at different times they had separate markings for confirmed victories versus probable victories.

Also, don’t forget sometime around 1942, they were told to stop tallying individual claims. All claims were for the squadron. Of course that didn’t stop the pilots from keeping their own personal records. 6 153 1109 6.1067320531

Soviet Aces – by Diego Zampini

Dear Greg_P:
I am Diego Zampini and I was the author of the article (with the valuable corrections and additions of the webmaster of this website) about Soviet aces you find in this site (and that you probably already read).
Regarding of the topic of whether the Soviets or the Americans overstated their claims of aerial victories, the truth is that BOTH SIDES DID. Depending on the period, the Soviets did it worse.
-The Russian MiG-15 pilots claimed 1,106 aerial victories against UN a/c, but actually only about 350 happened. So, only 31% of their claims were correct, the rest were overclaims.
-The US F-86 Sabre pilots claimed 792 MiG kills, in reality about 520 MiG-15s fell by Sabre guns (300 of them were Soviets), so 66% of the US claims are correct.
However it must be noted that the reliability of the claims depended on the pilot and the policy of counting kills. Many soviet aces were unreliable (sometimes only 2 or 3 out of 11 claims), but others like Yevgeni Pepelyayev showed to be much more accurate: 12 out of his 19 kills are confirmed. Additionally, in the last six months of war the USAF policy about credit kills was very lazy for saying the least, and the top examples were the months of January and June 1953. In the first one the US Sabre pilots claimed 37 MiG kills, but actually only 16 happened (4 Soviet MiGs and 12 Chinese), in the second one 77 MiGs were claimed as shot down, when in reality only 33 were destroyed (22 Soviets and 11 Chinese).
I hope this stats answer your questions (at least partially)
Kind regards all
Diego Zampini.

Soviet Aces – by steve

Just as an aside, The Russians did get 20.000 aircraft from U.S. & Britain, loads of gas, 10.000 Studebaker trucks, & tons of food to boot. not to downrate their success, but our material assistance has to be weighed in regarding their success. I have read that 75 % of the Luftwaffe was shot down over Russia. Gunther Rall once said; we would have beat the Russians if not for the allied assistance. Anyway, just food for thought & something to add to the discussion. Not taking a position per say here, just adding side info to the topic. 6 374 550 6.1081546523

Performance of Russian WW2 fighter aircraft, by philip.marlowe

The Russian planes La 5/7 and Jack 1/3/9 were generally much lighter than the British/American ones and had a much lower wing area. As a consequence, they could not carry as much fuel/guns/ammunition, and thus could not reach a similar endurance. Furthermore, their engines did not have as sophisticated supercharging systems, and thus their high altitude performance was lower.

Anyhow, they featured very high speed, very high climb rates and excellent maneuverability. Their air combat performance at altitudes below about 5000 meters was unmatched by any piston engined fighter airplane of WW2 !!! (with the exception of maybe the Nakajima Ki-84 ???)

One additional factor that should be mentioned: Russian planes were extremely robust, and thus, could maintain a high availability status, even under the hard conditions of the Russian front, especially during winter time.

Two incidents, may shed a little light on the quality of the Jack 3 in particular:

1. End of 1944, the Luftwaffe advised it’s pilots to avoid air combat with a Jack fighter plane without an oil cooler under the nose (= Jack 3).

2. October (?) 1944 the French Normandie-Njemen group, which fought on the Eastern front was granted the opportunity to select an allied fighter (from all allied models ! – including US and British) of their own choice. In unison, the pilots opted for the Jack 3 !!! They should have known why !!! It is said they never had to regret their choice. (After the war, the unit returned to France, keeping the aircrafts, as a gift of the Soviet Union. One is today on exhibit at the Musée de l’air, Paris Le-Bourget)

Before I continue, giving a few comments on the Russian aces and the war on the Eastern front, maybe I should mention, that I am a German, who grew up in the former Western part – I have never been indoctrinated with communist propaganda.

According to my opinion, the fact,

– that until not too long ago the whole Western world and the former Soviet bloc remained in a status of hostility (known as the cold war – do you remember ?), and

– that until recently the Soviet union was nearly closed for travelers, and thus the Russian spirit remained a little alien to us Westerners, and

– that the former communist Soviet union was a totalitarian, to a certain degree definitely criminal state, denying basic rights to it’s people, and for sure not governed by the rule of law

should not blind anybody for the realities:

1. By far the biggest contribution to the allied victory over Nazi-Germany came from the Soviet union and the Soviet people. In casualties as well as in material losses.

2. The fight in Europe was nowhere harder, and nowhere more merciless than on the eastern front – both in the air and on the ground. Ask a surviving German who had been on both fronts (there are still quite a few) and he will tell you exactly that.

3. The Russian soldiers – including the fighter pilots – fought with at least as much dedication, courage, skill and efficacy (the most important of the mentioned qualities) as any other soldier in this second world war. If anybody is tempted to think that a Russian pilot was just a robot, indoctrinated with communist ideology, he should remember that the average German or Japanese pilot was a similar robot (only the ideology differed! Believe me, I know what I am talking about – I have spoken with quite a few of my German countryman in whose brains even today the robot control program is not completely erased). Nearly every single one of the many 100 + victories German air aces – who may not have been the best, but for sure the most successful and the most experienced fighter pilots – was shot down by Russian fighters at least once (including E. Hartmann).

4. Anybody, who is following the often quoted mass factor theory saying the Russians could achieve their successes only due to their overwhelming numerical superiority (sorry, but according to my opinion this theory originates from the racist “asian hordes” ideology) should be reminded, that latest from about mid 1943 for sure the Russians had more material and more personnel than the Germans, but the same applies – to an even greater extent – to the Western European theater !!! In fact, the Americans could rely on their numerical superiority for most of the time they were at war at any front.

5. Saying “Sputnik” or “Juri Gargarin” should be – according to my opinion – enough to terminate anybodies thinking that Russian technology is just scrap. Was the MiG 15 in Korea scrap? If yes, this would shed a new light on the achievements of the American fighter aces of the Korean war, wouldn’t it ? Remember that at least two of the best American aircraft designers were Russian born: I. Sikorsky and I. Kartveli (designer of the P 47). Does anybody believe, their technical skills and their technical inspiration were just blown into their brains the moment the touched American soil? For sure, the Russians tore profit from the technology and the scientists they could seize in postwar Germany, but so did the Americans. In this connection, it might be enough to mention (ex SS-member) Werner von Braun or the swept wing concept of the F 86.

In postwar West-Germany (nobody in the Western world would listen to this East German communists), most people preferred to have been defeated by our new gentle allies rather than by these still hostile Russians. Also the Nazi racism which regarded the Russians as Slavic “Untermenschen” (find out the meaning of this Nazi-term by yourself) was not yet completely overcome – and frankly, while flicking through this web-site I could not quite loose the impression that parts of it may have survived also some place else – and therefore, since according to this logic no member of the Aryan race could have been defeated by an inferior race living in addition in an inferior (= communist) society, there was a lot of defamation going on against the Russian soldiers and the Russian technology. I guess, in America this basically negative idea about the Russians, which had the new German allies as witnesses, was accepted eagerly. Otherwise the Sputnik shock couldn’t have been as strong.

Anyhow, I think it is time for us Westerners to overcome all this bias and come to a more objective view of the Russian war efforts in general and the Russian fighter pilots in particular: The average Russian fighter pilot was – at least from about end of 1942 onward – a well trained and skilled flyer, flying absolutely competitive to superior equipment. Like in all air forces, inevitably some outstanding pilots, who were in addition lucky enough to survive their first few air fights became fighter aces and some had more air victories than all other allied fighter pilots. There is not the slightest reason to doubt the claimed numbers, not any more reason than doubting any claims from US or British or German pilots at least. I guess most fighter pilots did what they regarded as their duty in any place in the WW. Thus, nobody should make the air aces superheroes and nobody should try to compare there air fight performance and least should anybody try to derive a quality ranking from their number of air victories (note that I avoid the word “score” – this was no baseball game !!!). If so, nobody would have a chance against the German air aces anyway, and it would be very unfair to try to requalify their successes, while at the same time praise the success of the American fighter pilots against them, and an the same time doubt the achievements of the Russians against the same opponent – as do quite a few publications including this web-site.

Finally a few general comments and some data:

The Soviet Union DOUBTLESSLY contributed most to the defeat of Germany:

1. Troop Strength:

Maximum strength of the German troops is Africa: 10 Divisions
Strength of German troops is Russia: 153 Divisions

axis forces fighting at el-Alamein, North Africa: 100,000 German and Italian soldiers, 550 Tanks.

Strength of axis forces at the day of the invasion of the Soviet Union: 3,000,000 German + 600,000 other (Hungarian, Romanian, Finnish, Slovakian, Italian) soldiers, 3,600 Tanks

For sure the distribution had shifted somewhat by the end of 1944, nevertheless most of the German troops had to remain on the eastern front, which was – don’t forget – several thousand kilometers long.

The air power distribution was however different: By the end of the war, only one fighter wing (the famous JG 52) was still fighting in the East.

2. Number of casualties 1939 to 1945 – all fronts:


USSR: 13,600,000
China: 6,400,000
Germany: 4,000,000
Japan: 1,200,000
United Kingdom: 326,000
USA: 259,000


USSR: 7,000,000
China: 5,400,000
Poland: 4,200,000
Germany: 3,800,000

Stalin said in 1945: “The British provided time, the Americans provided money, the Russians provided blood!” See the numbers above, and you’ll find the bugger was not totally wrong.

3. It is true that the Russians received quite a bit of material from the Western allies mainly from the US. Among other things about 15,000 US + some British aircraft. However, the USSR did produce about 30,000 to 40,000 aircraft in it’s own factories. As far as fighter planes are concerned, the Americans did send only a few of their high performance fighter planes. Most were of the types P 39, P 40, and P 63. These planes were valuable for ground strike missions, but for air fights the Red Army Air force had to rely mainly on their Russian designed aircraft.

Most of the high-octane aircraft fuel used in Russia was coming form the US, however. This was probably the most valuable, and most important contribution to the Russian (or better Soviet) air campaign.

4. I guess that – naturally – in the USA the D-day is regarded as the main turning point of the war in Europe. However, we Germans are well aware that it was in fact the battle of Stalingrad.

5. One of the greatest achievements of the Russian people – not often seen in the west: In the end of 1941 they dismantled complete factories (for aircrafts, tanks, vehicles etc.) and moved then away from the advancing Germans by train, and tractor, and horse, and manpower (!). These factories were re-erected behind the Ural in 1942 e.g. the famous tank plant in Tscheliabinsk, today a tractor producer with a famous hockey team: “Traktor Tscheliabinsk”. This movements of factories, was done under conditions not many other people than Russians could endure.

A few remarks to the quality of postwar Russian fighter planes:

1. The present German air force – the “Bundesluftwaffe” – inherited about 30 MiG 29 fighter aircrafts from the East German air force in the course of the German reunification in 1990. From what I have read in the newspapers and seen on TV, the most significant disadvantages compared to the F 16 are (or better: where at that time):

– low engine lifetime
– very imprecise inertial navigation system
– somewhat lower maneuverability

the advantages were:

– separate infrared sight
– helmet mounted target designation sight
– very sophisticated air to air missiles

It is said that just before the beginning of “Desert Storm” i.e. in the end of 1990, several F 16 units practiced against the former GDR pilots an most of the times the duel ended undecided: Due to the infrared sight and the helmet mounted sight, the MiG could launch it’s missiles early enough to achieve a hit on the F 16, even though it was also destroyed by the F 16 who had maneuvered itself into offensive position meanwhile.

Generally, I think that the Russian fighter planes might not be as sophisticated as the Americans in every respect, but nevertheless a well trained fighter pilot would have a good chance in an airfight. However, not even the Russian have the required level of training today (mainly due to lack of fuel for practice). The US (or maybe in the future again NATO) forces, will always be able to rely on their numerical superiority and their high training level. For good reason, programs like “Top Gun” receive a lot of attention in the US military.

2. End of 1976 a MiG 25 pilot deserted to northern Japan. While investigating the radar system, the US and Japanese specialists found out that the system was still working partly with tubes instead of transistors and there was a lot of laughter about this stupid Russians. About a year later the US military realized the NEMP (= Nuclear Electromagnetic Pulse – ever seen the James Bond Movie: “Golden Eye” ?) problem and soon found out that other then transistors, tubes are NEMP resistant. Nobody laughed anymore !!!

PS: Please accept my apologies for the spelling errors. My computer features no English spell check and I am not in the mood to check too many words with the dictionary.