Interview with col.Zuev

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Interview with
Anatolii Ivanovich Zuev

by Oleg Korytov and Konstantin Chirkin

Editors Igor Zhidov and Dmitri Sribnyi
Translation by Oleg Korytov
Special thanks to Svetlana Spiridonova

Lt. Colonel (ret.) A. Zuev

I’m Zuev Anatolii Ivanovich, colonel in retirement. Former fighter pilot, was born on 17 November 1933 in my beloved Leningrad.
My father was a peasant. Later he left village and worked at the factory “Red Triangle”. Made it there to a position of a master. Mom also worked at the same factory. They both came from the same village, but married here, in Leningrad in 1932. In 1933 I was born. We lived at the Obvodnii canal embankment – factory provided my dad with an apartment there…

— How your parents lived through the Blockade?

I’ll tell you about Blockade...
In June 1941 we were in the village, at my granddads home. We were playing on the street with my brother, who was 4 years younger than me, we came home, and there were lots of people… everybody shouted:
— War!
Mom said to grandfather:
— I’m going to Leningrad.
My grandfather was old, he made it to 97 years old, told here:
— Tonya, don’t worry, we will kick their asses soon… Stay here.
Mom said:
— No, I’m to Leningrad.
And we went to Leningrad. Father wasn’t home; he was at the barracks by this time. Those barracks were close to our home.
Mom was taken to dig trenches near Luga. Since there was no one she could leave us with, we went along. I was 8 years old, my brother - 4. Mom dug trenches; we helped her or played nearby. There I saw a dogfight for a first time, two fighters fought. We noticed that one of them poured smoke and went down. All boys ran there and yelled:
— Ura!
We were brought up that way, if shot down, it could be only German. We ran, got to the wing, at this moment pilots head shook, so we decided that he was alive. We had no idea how to open canopy. Adults came, opened canopy, pulled pilot out. It was our pilot, senior lieutenant.
It must have been youngsters’ maximalism. But at the grave of this pilot I swore that I will become pilot.

Cadets of Armavir school

— Were you bombed when you dug trenches?

Of course, I still remember that we hid in the trenches, and my mom covered her head with a spade. We all laughed about it later…
I think in mid August we returned to the Leningrad. By 8 September a ring of blockade was closed over Leningrad.

— Did you try to escape from the city?

No, we didn’t try. They wanted to evacuate us without parents to Tikhvin child shelter. But mom came to the railway station and took us back. We lived through all blockade here. I don’t want to recall all the horrors, don’t ask…

— I heard that children were evacuated without parental permition.

Never heard, No. Children were evacuated only by parents’ permition. "Silently"? Never heard.
All blockade we lived in the city… We left it only at summer 1944 after liberation of Brest, to his new place of service. My dad was wounded, he was appointed to work at NKGB, and we came there.

— You mean NKVD?

No, NKGB. National commissariat of state security. NKVD — internal affairs. I lived with my parents in Brest up till 1950. In 1950 I stole 400 rubles from them and fled to Odessa, to apply for a place in flight school. Father didn’t want to let me go there…

Cadet Zuev on the wing of Yak-18

— Did you finish your high school?

In 1950 I graduated 7th grade and ran away to Odessa. To Odessa special medium school. There I studied from 8th till 10th grade. After we finished 10th grade we were sent to military school. In this Odessa school we received basis in aviation.

— How you found out about this school? You didn’t run away just for luck?

Of course. A comrade came on vacation. Nikolay Leontyev, if I remember correctly. He said:

— If you wish to fly — come to our school.

A group of cadets besides Yak-18

— You didn’t train in aero club before?

No, not in aero club, straight to this school. I ran away from my parents… In all, I was lucky to meet good people.
I passed all exams with “excellent” marks. On medical commission everything was fine, when a therapist, young women asks:
— What is your normal blood pressure, young man?
I replied:
— Doctor, I see this thing for the first time in my life and have no idea.
— Did you rest?
— Yes, I rested. I swam in the sea for a day long.
She smiled. Other one would have signed me off for high blood pressure.
— Sonny, go home, and I’ll be waiting for you tomorrow.
I came back on the next day. She said:
— Now your blood pressure is normal.
That’s how I passed medical commission… now it was time for mandatory commission.
I played volleyball the next day. I was a sportsman, engaged in track and field athletics. I was very thin. Somebody called me:
— Zuev, school chief waits for you!
«What could I have done?» I came in:
— Sit down, son.
I sat down.
— I see that you passed all exams, good boy. Medicine is granting you green light. Wouldn’t your parents disagree?
I said:
— No, they do not disagree.
I still remember, how he smashed table with his fist:
— Get lost, bastard! He came here to become a pilot! His parents are searching for him all over Soviet Union!
Just imagine my condition — all was lost. I begun crying, turned and walked. If his cabinet would have been shorter, I would have walked away. As I took door handle, he said:
— Stop! Come here. Why you are whining? Do you really want to fly?
— Yes, I want.
— Send a telegram to your parents that you are enlisted to the aviation school.
I replied:
— I can’t I have no money left.
He gave me ten rubles:
— Take it. Return them later.
I let my parents know that I begun studying at this school.
At the second course about 15 boys were killed at the beach.

— And how did it happen?

A naval mine was washed out to the shore, they begun fiddling with it… It blew… We were simply boys. Others were crippled…
I graduated from 10th grade, went to Leningrad, where I finished Leningrad aero club. Dad returned in 1953. From aero club we were sent to Kuznetsk, that’s near Penza.

Before the training parachute jumps: Shankin, Zuev, Averyanov, Instructor Askold Kozlov, Nikitushkin, -

— Where Leningrad aero club was located?

Near Circus, at Sadovaya street. But we didn’t fly there, we only received theoretic knowledge there… I made my first flights on Yak-18 in Kuznetsk, where was our aero club flying practice.

— Did you fly straight on Yak-18, or you had U-2s?

We flew on Yak-18 with a tail wheel then. Later it was redesigned for a nose wheel, so that it would be closer to combat planes. I graduated from aero club and went to Armavir military flying school. There after Yak-18 I flew Yak-11, then MiG-15 and MiG-15 Bis. I finished school with a first class.

— What was your rank after graduating?

All graduates received a lieutenants rank.

— When you finished your studies?

I came from Leningrad in 1953. In 1955 I graduated from AVVUL.

Junior sergeant Zuev

— Were there veterans of GPW or KW among your teachers in AVVUL?

There were no participants of KW, but all of them were veterans of GPW. Squadron commander Melnikov fought. My flight commander, who taught us to fly Yak-18 and Yak-11 also fought.

— Stalin died in 1953…


— What was your opinion about Stalin and Communist party then and now?

Best. I believe he was greatest leader of our country. Those days it was even more so. We stood honor guard near his monument in our club. It was March…

— Were you armed?

No. Near his monument in Lenin’s room guardsmen were changed through even periods of time. People were coming in. Sad music was playing.
We were grateful to him for his expression about pilots: «Pilot — is a concentrated will, character, readiness to risk. It is said that bravery can capture towns. But knowledge is no less important».
I remember his saying for the rest of my life.

Graduates of 1955.

— You graduated in 1955, where you went next?

Next… We had no idea when we were closing in to our graduation. We were stationed near stanitsa Boronovskaya. We were taken to Armavir to measure us, to sew uniforms. They were made individually for each of us. Overcoat, trousers, everything. Three weeks later we came for first try-out.
Starshina yells:
— Zuev!
— Me!
A naval jacket was brought out, black trousers, overcoat, white jacket… It meant that I’ll go to naval aviation. We tried our uniforms…
State exams were going. Commission arrived, under command of Corps commander HSU General Hlusovich. Hlusovich was a Belorussian.
Flying technique at first…
We were lined up. Our squadron stood, 45 cadets. Our instructors were also there. Flight commander Vladimir Nikolaevich Kat’kalov ran to me, weaved his fist at me, and said rudely:
— Grey, …damn you… you will fly with the general. Don’t shit on the Cossacks!
«Grey» — it was my nickname. My hair were white.
I sat in the twin control airplane. We had to make 3 exercises: fly into the zone with controller, make two flights in circles and one flight to the shooting range for live ammo fire at the ground target.

— All at the same airplane?

Flight to the zone with controller on MiG-15 UTI. Others on MiG-15.
I came to the zone:
— Permition to begin maneuvering?
— Go on, son, go on.
I flew, returned to base and landed. Taxied to the parking area, a see all squadron looking at me. Everybody were standing there: cadets, instructors, squadron commander Mikhail Ivanovich Kuznetsov is in the head of the line. I waited for controller to leave cockpit, and walked towards him:
— Comrade General, I’m ready for your remarks.
He said:
— Let’s go.
He lead me to the line, and general sais to my commander:
— Squadron commander, if all your pilots fly like this one, you will have no problems with passing state exams. His mark is “excellent”.

Cadets of Armavir school before graduation in 1955

— What was meant by zone flight?

Take off. Go to a specific zone, 15 by 20 kilometers. Upon arrival report:
— Zone occupied.
And start your task: veer to the left, to the right. Dive, climb. Dive, climb. Half roll, loop, half loop. Barrel roll. Then spiral descend, approach and landing. That’s what was called a zone flight.
We also had to make a flight to the shooting range. 20 rounds were loaded. I came to the shooting range, found target, «boom» at it… Landed, and saw cadets running towards me:
— Grey, You got 16 hits!
Standard was 8 out of 20 — “excellent”, 5 — «good», 3 — “average”. If you had less than 3 — «unsatisfactory». I got 16 hits.
Two box flights I also accomplished with «excellent». Landed. My instructor, Alexandr Vasilyevich Kozlov came and said:
— Grey, do you see that airplane? Cadet Danilkin made a zone flight with “average”, shooting range with «unsatisfactory». If he will accomplish box flight poorly he will be expelled from the school. But he studied for 2 years. Get in that plane and fly with Danikins call sign 2 box flights.
I ran, got into the plane and flew with Danilkins call sign with a mark “excellent”.
But Pavel Danilkin… I believe that I’m guilty in his death. He graduated and perished on his first year of service… Not everybody can fly.
May be he wasn’t fit to fly. For two years he was trained, lots of kerosene was spent on him, but he didn’t become a pilot. And perished…
I served at Baltic, when I was told that Pavel Danilkin crashed. Guys told me:
— If you only refused…
I replied:
— How could I refuse?
— He would have flown himself, got a bad mark, wouldn’t become a pilot, but would have stayed alive.
Bad fate…
Now we were getting ready to pass theory. Aerodynamics, airplane construction, navigation…

Cadets playing domino at their spare time

— As far as I know, in our education system it was preferred to teach airplane construction to the last rivet. Was it really needed?

Sometimes yes. There could be cases when it’s needed. Have you seen a movie “Baltic sky»? A pilot there got out of the cockpit and asked a boy:
— Do you have a coin?
Something got stuck , he inserted coin and engine begun working. Pilot has to know his airplane.

— Americans and Germans believed that knowing technical part is a — that’s mechanics business...

Deep technical knowledge – of course. But pilot has to know how it all works.

— But pilot in our armed forces was trained like technician. Do you really needed all those knowledge?

To be honest — no. I never needed them. You land — technician asks:
— Any complaints, comrade commander?
I say what I was not satisfied with, and go away. They begin to repair the planes…
So, we were at our theoretic exams. Those, who passed all exams and flight practice with “excellent” mark were graduated as first class — it meant that they had a right to choose army or fleet to serve with.
I passed all exams, only service charters remained. I pulled the ticked – everything was clear. I had a friend, Alik Kirsh, Lithuanian, good fellow. I helped him with something. A colonel from north-Caucasus district was the examiner, he noticed it:
— Comrade cadet, I’m reducing your mark by one.
I came out to answer, reported.
— Go, you have four.
I went out of the exam class, flight commander:
— Well, Grey?
I answered:
— Four.
— Oh, damn, why?!
Each commander wants to see his cadets with best marks. Captain Katkov went to the examiner, came out and said:
— Go inside!
I went in.
— Fine, if you will answer me correctly, I’ll put “5”. There is a barrel of water in the barracks, with a cup fastened to it by chain. How long this chain should be?
Damn! I can’t recall this from the charters. I thought: Pilots could be no less than 155 centimeters and higher than 190.
— Chain should be one meter twenty centimeters long.
— Fine, I’ll put 5 for bravery. But it should be no longer then 80 centimeters long.
That’s how I graduated with “first class”. My instructor said to me:
— if you want a sun tan, choose ChF. If you want to be away from your homeland, choose TOF. If you want to become a pilot fast — you have to choose BF.
So I wrote a rapport to Baltic fleet.

— Why “if you want to be a pilot” — then Baltic?

Because Baltic has very capricious weather, mists… Further on – continental type of climate… By the way, I really became a “second class” pilot quite soon.

— Where you came?

To the Mamonovo town…
My identification card was issued, I got dressed in uniform. Ceremonial graduation. HSU General-Major Geibo, chief of the school handed out our shoulder boards; we adjusted them there and then, and load at the train. We go to Armavir, then on the train to Sochi. There were seven naval officers and four army pilots, who were going to Leningrad. We got drunk. Month of vacation, then I started serving at the Baltic Fleet.
We arrived to Kaliningrad, to the stab. We were met there by fleet aviation commander General-colonel Preobrazhenskii. There also were squadron commanders…
We were taken to Mamonovo by bus. That’s how I begun serving at the combat unit.

— I’ll return a little bit back. How airplanes in your school were painted?

«Yak-11» was green, with blue belly. And «Yak-18» too. «MiG-15» was just plain silver.

— Were there numbers on the planes?

Of course.

— 1, 2, 3, 4?

No. Numbers were long, like «12-52». May be to confuse the enemy, that we have lots of them. On the left and right side of the plane near the cabin. They are visible on the photos…

— To which regiment you were assigned?

To 412th. That’s former 4th Guards IAP.

— At which plane types?


A. Zuev in MiG-17 cockpit

— You graduated school at «MiG-15». Was there any difference in piloting them?

No, just «MiG-17» was a bit longer.
My flight commander was a participant of GPW Gornichenko. He gathered us and said:
— Who will get into airfield chief pre-accident log: landing short of “T”, beyond it or some other thing, will study pilots instruction by word. I will teach you, boys, to fight. But I have no idea how to take off or land myself.
He was a good flight commander. He fought, shot down 8 enemy planes and was shot down once himself.
That’s how my service at the navy begun.

— Who was regiment commander at that time?

Regiment commander was Colonel Malakha Vladimir Afanasyevich. Before that, during war regiment commander was Golubev. Now he is a General, and lives in Leningrad. Golubev, Golubev, forgot his name. Oh, Vasilii Fedorovich Golubev.

— No, he used to live in Novgorod, but he died already.

Golubev used to be deputy army commander in Siberia. We just arrived to Siberia and sat in the stab, he found out that we came and met us. How did it happen, we flew «MiG-17» and suddenly 14th Detached Army PVO, sent in a representative, to choose pilots.

— Were you chosen on a free-will basis, or “voluntarily by order”?

We were not asked. Somebody wanted, somebody didn’t. He looked through the flight logs. Well, we were taken from Mamonovo… We came to Tolmachevo in Siberia, where we flew along with civil airliners from the same airfield. But after one of our fighters almost landed on top of Tu-104…
— That’s all, — we were told, — boys, this crap should be over, we have to remove the regiment from here.

— Did you kept flying MiG-17s?

Yes, we flew MiG-17. We were sent to master new planes.

A. Zuev in MiG-17 cockpit

— Let’s return a bit back again. You graduated from school at Mig-15 or MiG-15 Bis?

MiG-15 Bis.

— And you came to a regiment equipped with MiG-17?


— We talked to people who fought in Korea, and later flew MiG-17, they told us that -17 was more “oak-like” then -15.

Yes, because it was one meter longer. Airplane was heavier and more inert… With the same VK-1 engine built by Vladimir Klimov.
…I came to 412th regiment; we were introduced to our squadrons. Squadron was organized like it was during war. Squadron commander, deputy, flight commanders, political deputy, and chief of staff. He was not a pilot.
There were three flights and a command flight, three flight commanders, a senior pilot.

A. Zuev with pilot-instructor Rinat Abaev

— And political officer?

He was a pilot. Pretty bad one.

— What was your attitude towards political officers?

I almost got called for it to the party commission. I was a senior inspector-pilot of 14th PVO Army. We, 12 instructor-pilots had a separate table at the canteen.
Once I got late to the table, walk towards it, when Boris Shaifer, our Army engineer asked:
— Anatolii Ivanovich, say to me honestly, should there be a political deputy in the squadron?
— Of course he is needed — squadron without a political officer is like a village without local fool.
Somebody reported… Gudkov, instructor from Army political department, summoned me:
— Anatolii Ivanovich, what do you think of squadron political officer work?
I replied:
— Well, I think it is needed. 12 pilot, almost 30 technicians, 60 soldiers — it’s almost a company. Zampolit should be in the squadron.
— Why you say in such bad words about them?
I said:
— Excuse me, comrade Lt. Colonel, but I saw a lot of them, beginning from flight school. We had Captain Gus, who was running around with “combat paper”, and did nothing else.
But I wasn’t punished.

A. Zuev and R. Abaev

— How did you begun flying in the regiment? You should have been tested for you flying technique?

Of course. I flew a zone mission with my flight commander.

— And after that training must have started? How it was organized?

From simple to difficult. First in simple weather condition, then in complex, up to the minimal. In 1955 I graduated from school, in 1960 I received a title «military pilot 1st class».

— What was your rank?

Captain. I received a Senior Lieutenant as supposed one year after graduation.

Captain Zuev after receiving “1st class pilot” degree, 1960.

— Tell me, in Mamonovo, as far as I know, situation was very complex, border was close and so on.

Last village was Branevo, 15 kilometers from us. After that was border.

— Late 50s - early 60s was difficult time — common reconnaissance flights from the other side… Did you fly real intercepts?

Yes. I personally participated together with flight commander. We were sitting in the guard house:
— Air!
We took off…

— Was an “Air” command always given to Alert flight, independently, whether it was training or combat situation?

Test? No, alert-1, everybody in the planes. I connected to commanding officer:
— Air.
Technician starts engine, I taxi to the runway, and we take off in pair. I remember like now, that I was on guard with flight commander Adolf Popovskii. Took off, course was given, gained 11 000 meters, noticed inversion trail heading towards our territory. An American «B-47». They tested our readiness. I said to commander:
— Do you see on the left?
— Yes, I see.
Flight commander reports:
— See the enemy, goes with such and such course. Arm weapons.
I armed weapons — one 37 mm and two 23 mm. Commander said to me:
— Move to the front!
I moved to the front, this «B-47» reached shore line, turned and went along it. Near Klaipeda was another regiment, so I heard over radio that a pair was raised from there which went to trail it further. We received an order to return to base… There were flights like these.
— Were there real shooting cases?
There were no such cases.

Flight commander Zuev gives a debriefing. 849 IAP

— Did you have enough speed to catch that B-47?

Of course. B-47 had about — 900 km\h. We had 1200 km\h.

— For how long you could trail it?

Depended on amount of fuel. Sometimes our fighters had to land at other airfields. There was such case in Palanga.

— Would you have obeyed an order to fire if you had one?

Of course. Why not?

— Well, it wasn’t war time…

Not a war time, yes… Let me tell you a story. It happened when I served in Kupino, Siberia. I sat in the guard house.
— Air!
I got into my plane, connected with control officer. Usually, if it was a control flight, missiles were removed. But control ordered:
— With weapon.
Damn, with missiles!
— What type of missiles?
«RS-2US»… I took off, course straight towards Novosibirsk.
— You flew Su at that time?
Already Su-9. I was directed to Barnaul area. I approached. Aeroflot Tu-104. I tried to connect with him with first button – there we always had unified radio channel obligatory for all Soviet airplanes tuned in. I called his bort number:
— Such number, answer me.
— Such number, I order to answer!
Silence. They must have lost orientation, got lost and drifted to the south, fell out of the corridor. It meant that plane became a trespasser. No one even heard about terrorists then, but still it was a trespasser. I report:
— Trespasser does not answer.
As I recall, a navigation officer was Anatolii Gnusarev, good guy, he used to be a pilot, when he was signed off flying duty he became navigation officer. He said:
— Launch one at him, but quietly.
I turned away, maneuvered into position and fired missile in front of him. It flew before their cockpit… How it yawed! I called them:
— Next one will be at you, follow me.
I lead him to our airfield:
— Do you see a runway?
— I see it.
— Land.
Tushka landed, I landed after it. I came to them, all crew was lined up near the plane, shaking, and captain was pale. I asked him:
— Listen, dear friend, why are we sitting here all together?
— Commander, we already regained orientation… We got lost…
They claimed that some navigation device stopped working. I told them:
— If I wouldn’t fire a missile at you, everything would have gone quietly. Now I have to write a rapport to the General staff where I expended a missile.
Pilot said:
— That’s it, I’m going to lose license now.
That crew was forbidden to fly. While we waited for a new crew, we took them to our canteen, gave them tea. Then they left.

— Was that Tu with passengers?

It was full of passengers. It was August or September.

— Did passengers know about this situation?

They didn’t understand a thing. Plane landed, taxied to the parking, they got out, loaded on buses and were sent somewhere. We called to the Army stab, they – to Moscow, from there a reply came:
— Allow flying on.
So they flew to their destination.

Airplane technician Bychik helps A. Zuev to prepare for take off. 849 IAP

— Once again let’s return back. Were there training dogfights in Mamonovo?

Of course. One-on-one at first, then two-on-two, then flight-on-flight, squadron-on-squadron.

— You flew against the same type of airplanes?


— You all flew MiG-17 or were there some kind of modifications?

In Siberia at Kanny regiment there was MiG-17 PF.

— Did you fly them?

No, I never flew PF.

— Did you fly radar equipped MiG-17?

There was no radar, only plain collimator gun sight.

— Were there pylons for use with bombs or missiles on MiG-17?

No, only fuel tanks.

— That is, you were not trained to work against ground target?

What do you mean? Bombs? No, we were not trained to use them. But I had 200 rounds for cannons…

— In 1960 you were transferred to PVO, so you should have changed uniform. Naval aviation had black ones, while PVO had green.

Of course. I was in guard house, when regiment commander lt. Colonel Vladimir Nikolaevich Yakovlev came in. I reported:
— Comrade Colonel, alert flight commander Captain Zuev.
— Where is your hat?
I said:
— Here.
I had a navy style hat, as I didn’t receive an Army uniform yet. At flight days I was dressed in flight suit and leather jacket. And I didn’t go to the line-ups…
He took my hat, tore and threw it away:
— Don’t even appear here in this uniform.
That’s how I changed to "infantry" uniform.

Let’s club together… for a celebration

— This uniform was standard, or it was also sawn specially for you?

No, sawn. By measures. How an officer may walk, looking like dressed in a flour bag or being unable to fasten his belt…

— When you came to 14th army, what kind of airplanes were there?

We were tested for flight technique at MiG-17 straight away, even though we didn’t have our flight logs with us – they were sent via Top Secret mail. Squadron commander Boris Ivanovich Staroverov, now lives in Moscow, somehow he found out my nickname — «Grey»:
— Grey, Let’s fly together in a dual-control plane, and see how you handle it.
3-4 flights in a dual-control, and we went to Savasleika to master T-3. Later it was renamed Su-9. First supersonic interceptor-fighter. For two month we studied this plane, but only in theory, passed exams…

— What was included in theory?

Aerodynamics, knowledge of airplane construction. Aim sight RP-9U, if I remember correctly.

— There were a lot of complaints about our early aim sights, up until ones installed on MiG-23 and Su-15, that they were well used against targets at the same altitude or higher, but they were blind against ground.

Su-9 worked against low flying targets well. Armament had a range of 20 kilometers. Press a button, lock on, and they off… As soon as target is within effective range you launch the missiles…
We learned to fly Su-9 in combat unit already. As there was no dual-control Su-9, we trained like this: You sat in the cockpit, the nose was lifted, squadron commander said:
— Look — this is take off position… Raise a nose a bit more. Now – landing position. Remember!

— What, simply raised the nose?

On jacks. We had to remember position of PVD (air pressure intake for measuring speed) tube regarding horizon.

— When did it happened?

In 1960. In March we arrived to Novosibirsk, for a month we flew, and went to Savasleika. When we passed exams, returned to main base. To that same 849th regiment.

— Did enemy reconnaissance planes fly over you?

Not airplanes. Balloons that they launched reached us. For shooting down 11 or 12 balloons I was awarded with an Order Honor Sign, and for shooting down 16 balloons I was awarded with Order of Combat Red Banner.

— How did you shot them?

Flying the Su-9. MiG-17 couldn’t catch them.

— Which altitude did they flew at?

Starting from 20 000 meters. They were launched from Sweden, flew over our territory and landed somewhere in Far East.

In Su-9 cockpit

— The size of the box was half a meter?

Yes, and they had lots of film in them. With excellent quality film.

— How did you found out about its quality? You haven’t caught them?

I’ll tell you. Boris Staroverov flew in a MiG-15 UTI, when this balloon was shot down. They hooked it, and dragged it into rear cabin. Their luck that they didn’t try to open it, otherwise it would have blown up. When they landed, our specialists opened the box, disarmed traps and got this film out. Very good one…
Actually, if they descended below 3 000 meters, they simply blew up.

(Editor: – No such episode was ever mentioned in historical literature or interviews)

— How did you shot those balloons down, by cannons or missiles?

Only with cannon. In three or four passes.

(Editor: - not clear moment, as A.Z. mention below that there were no cannons on Su-9. On the other hand description matches well downings of balloons by other pilots words in MiG-17s)

— How you located these balloons?

Container was visible by radar.

— At about this time Powers was shot down. Were you told about it?…

He was shot down in 1960. SA crews got him, fighters couldn’t reach him. He went at 22 000 meters, our fighters couldn’t get higher then 20 000 meters.
Powers was smart, he understood that he had possibility to eject. If he would have only tried, the plane would have blown up – there was high explosive charge under his seat…

— By the way, what is your opinion about safety systems on soviet airplanes?

Ejection seat excellent. I had to eject from Su-9 on 6 September 1961. (Editor: - According to data provided by PPV (refer to our forum), Zuev bailed out in 1962)

— What was the reason?

Was it in Novosibirsk area. I was on final approach… Landing gear down, left and right lamps were green, nose one black. Front leg didn’t extend. But what if indication bulb was bad? I pressed a button and report to flight chief:
— Nose leg didn’t get out.
Flight chief answered:
— Fly over the airfield, we will switch searchlight on and look, whether leg is down or not.
Fine, I descended, flew along runway… They said:
— No leg visible. You shouldn’t land.
I said:
— I will try to land.
If there is no front leg, you have to hold airplane nose up as long as possible, because then it will drop the nose down, if the speed will be not too big, I could have preserved the plane.
But flight chief has no possibility to risk my life, he said:
— Move away and eject.
By this time I flew so long, that there was no kerosene in the tanks. I flew away from the airfield for 20 kilometers, when my engine “psh-sh-sh”, switched off. I reported:
— Engine stalled.
— Eject.
I ejected… Then I was pretty slim, parachute was not fit right. It opened, I was hit by the belt system at the chin so hard that my teeth clamped. At the airfield three searchlights were positioned in a cone. While landing I forgot that wind was 15-20 meters per second, so I was hit pretty badly. I unfastened parachute belts, sat and waited. Then I decided, that if I see the searchlights there is no need to wait, collected the parachute, and marched towards those searchlights. Then I recalled that there was more than twenty kilometers to walk. I walked out to the road dragging parachute behind me, one car went by, another one… then a car stopped in front of me, boys got out.
— Alive?
— Alive.
They kissed me on the cheeks. We came to the stab, regiment commander:
— So, what happened, how? Go on, spill it out.
Political deputy said:
— Commander, leave it till tomorrow, let’s go to my place.
Deputy commander Yesikov Valerii, very good commissar. Now he lives in Kharkov. He was a flying commissar, and was signed off flying duty due to age.
We came to his place, one glass of vodka, another one… They both are already “full”, while I didn’t even feel that I drank a bit – that’s the result of stress. I said:
— Well, I’ll go home.
My wife was told that I was alive and was drinking at political officers’ house.
I came home and went to bed straight away. On the next day a commission came, they found wrecks…
Regiment commander said:
— You should go to recreation facility in Yeltsovka, near Novosibirsk.
I passed medical commission, they didn’t found any traumas, so I was allowed to fly further on.

Squadron commander of 849 IAP V. Yesin is controlling flights

— What is your opinion about Su-9?

We used to say: «it’s more frightening then a tiger». At first there was no twin control airplane. You trained in a real combat ready fighter, but there was nobody to show your mistakes. We had to understand it by our intuition. Su-9U with rear cabin appeared only three years later.

— But there were few pilots that flew Su-9...

Very few. Our 849th regiment was the first to train on these airplanes. It hadn’t completely fulfilled army trials yet, but minister of defense ordered:
— Train them.
And our regiment was first to train.

(Editor: - According to data provided by PPV, 849 was not the first among combat regiments to train on T-3 (Su-9). By 1960 other regiments all along the country were flying Su-9s, but airfield Tolmachevo was used as a basic field for training pilots from 148 TsBP at summer 1959. This choice was made because it was closest airfield to Novosibirsk aviation plant, where Su-9s were built)

— Were there catastrophes?

Of course! Six pilots were killed and two ejected. That’s only during 1960. Airplane had a lot of teething troubles.

(Editor: - According to data provided by PPV, flight accident statistics for 1960 was a bit different - 4 catastrophes and 6 flight accidents. Airplane and engine suffered from multiple teething troubles. Situation in 1961-64 worsened, with up to 38 accidents per year! Only at the second half of 1960s airplane became safe to fly…)

— Could you name pluses and minuses of this airplane?

Most noticeable plus was that we had nothing like that before — top speed was 2 380 km/h. Minus — too high landing speed — 360–380 km/h. you had to keep airplane like this on landing.

— Crows landing?

Yes. Land, put nose down, extend brake parachute, but if speed will be too high it will be ripped off, and then apply emergency brakes. But when you do so, tires will be destroyed, their pieces fly straight at the wings, at the fuel tanks…

— Fuel tanks had no sealant?

Wing ones not. All others, around engine were protected… With full load I had 3 680 kg of kerosene.

— How long could you fly with that amount of fuel?

Depends on regime. If from takeoff till landing on afterburner — 15–16 minutes. If in cruise mode — 50 minutes. Maximum 1h 20m.

— At which altitude?

Speed — 600–800. At an altitude 10–11 000 meters.

— It is known that there was a problem with airfield network then…

Our airfield was Kupino, 280 km — Omsk airfield, 360 km — Novosibirsk, from Novosibirsk to Kansk — 700 km. That’s our Army’s airbases.

— But if an airplane was lost, pilot ejected 400 kilometers away from the base, were there problems with survivability?

No. One of our pilots ejected at winter, but he was quickly found. Parachute was caught by the tree branches, he was located and saved. Frosts were severe, but everything was fine…

— What was included into NZ?

Everything needed: Chocolate, medicine, cookies, what else, canned food. I don’t remember exactly now.

— Did you fly with weapons?

With PM pistol.

— If you would suddenly like to defect abroad, could you have done it?

Belenko did it.
I can tell you the story about this Belenko. Commander summoned all inspectors-pilots. There were 9 inspectors in the army. I overlooked two regiments: Kupino and Kansk, 712 and 849, I was responsible for their training…
— Well comrades’ pilots, what do you think… You know well pilots who… I don’t know what to start from. — He sais — Commander of 11th Army Maltsev called, and informed me that our pilot flew to Japan. Do you know your pilots well? What he think about… But you should…
Belenko prepared long before. His father broke away from his family and lived in Norilsk. Belenko visited him on vacation, and he was talked by Americans into fleeing there. He returned right when they begun training on the newest airplane MiG-25. He must have been a good pilot. I wouldn’t dare, for example, to run away on fourth or fifth flight.
When investigation begun, Commander asked us:
— Is any of the pilots in friendship with special department chief?
When I served in the regiment I didn’t even knew him. He rarely visited us.
— This Belenko, — he said, — made friends with special department chief.
I often say, «Luck comes to fools and drunkards». Belenko made four flights, on the fifth something broke in his airplane. Flights chief:
— Get in the spare plane, it’s there fully fueled.
Belenko took off, gained 10 000 meters, moved 300 km away from the airfield, rapidly descended to 100 meters. Radars lost his mark, at low altitude he crossed shoreline unnoticed and went straight to Japan. Airfield there was a bit short, so he overrun and slightly damaged the plane. Japanese were running towards hem, he pulled out his pistol and shouted:
— Don’t come closer! Find a translator.
They found one. He said:
— I came to Japan. This is a top secret airplane MiG-25.
He met with American agent. They loaded him into a transport airplane and brought to Gerald Ford — US president. At those times MiG-25 was the best plane…
Oh, forgot: Commander said:
— A commission from Moscow came and begun testing pilots. No one knows anything, like if they are dumb. Go to the regiments check the knowledge of the airplanes.
I said:
— That’s to be sure, if our pilots ever gets caught by the enemy they could tell all they know?
He shouted at me:
— Stop laughing! Pilots must know what they are flying on.
I said:
— It’s good he couldn’t say anything.
Americans examined MiG thoroughly, and in about half a year or a year they launched F-15, copied from our MiG-25. That’s the result of Belenko’s treason. I’m not sure, I believe he got killed or got into “automobile accident”…

(Editor: - Rumors of the death of Belenko were a bluff. Belenko is alive and still residing in the United States. Regarding the F-15, it is quite possible that the design of the MiG-25 has had some influence on F-15 design, but the first flight of the F-15 made in 1972 - four years before the Belenko escape)

— Let’s return a bit back. You trained on Su-9. Did you fly them long?

Till the last moment. Up to 3 September 1976. I rose to a position of Deputy Regiment commander on Su-9.

— Training continued: did you have training flights, fights?

There were no training fights for interceptors.

— What was the difference in front aviation and PVO in training?

Almost the same. A pilot is trained for operation in all weather, and allowed for alert duties.

— Could a PVO pilot participate in dogfights?

Could. But our regiment carried four missiles only.

— And cannons?

Su-9 had no internal cannons. Four missiles RS-2US. Then missile with infra red homing was made.
RS-2US was radar homing missile, it homed upon fixed ray. Infrared homing missile locked on by itself. When you see PR on aim sight — launch permitted. You launch, make sure it’s gone, and now you may turn away.

— While with Rs-2US you launched and have to keep target in sight?


— What if target starts maneuvering?

Missile would still follow it.

— What if target leaves sight by sharp maneuver?

What kind of a pilot are you, if it evaded you? When a missile was launched it tracked target even when it made a 9G maneuver. Main thing was to keep it lightened by radar.

— When Korean Boeing was shot down…

Regiment commander was not too bright…

— Explain please.

There was no need to shoot it down. Pilot was right – he obeyed an order. It was a regiment commander problem, from the start he must have raised a pair of fighters on intercept.

— Wasn’t there a pair?

There was no pair there. When I was in hospital bomber pilots from their neighboring 195th regiment told me exactly what happened…
They should have placed him in pincers. So that they would have a choice of either ramming our airplane or follow their lead.
If fighters would have done this, there would be no international scandal. It was needed to land them, not shoot them down.

— There was a similar case with a Boeing of this same airline near Murmansk?

Yes, there was such case. Our boys brought it down with Su-7B. It also had pylons for bombs.

(Editor: - Interception was executed by Su-15TM from Kem airfield. See here for details)

— When idea for redirecting fighters to fighter-bomber role, how pilots thought about it?

Fighter-bomber on which Kadomtsev, Commander of PVO Aviation, perished was MiG-25. Not an RB version. No, plain MiG-25. It could carry bombs from the start.

— As I’ve been told, there was a special type of bomb developed FAB-500TS for MiG-25.

Possibly. But I never flew MiG-25…

— But I’ll return to my question, pure interceptor MiG-25, which role is to catch target without maneuvers and launch missiles at it, was loaded with bombs… It was used in this role by Iraq…

Yes, yes, yes. Their pilots trained at our bases.

— But practice showed that they had problems with hitting a target with an area of over 20 hectares. So the question arises – was it really needed?

May be not. But it was a supreme commanders choice…

(Editor: - The result of MiG-25RB deployment during the Iran-Irak war was very much depended on the preparation of the equipment before the flight. In a case when the system tuneup was performed by Soviet specialists, the bomb attacks were much more effective, than in a case when it was done by local personal. See more details here)

— You graduated from flight school approximately when mass reduction of aviation begun.

In our regiment only old pilots suffered from this. It all begun in 1960. I graduated in 1954, and by this time I was a pilot. But we were not touched. Merchants from Siberia came and we were transferred to this Detached Novosibirsk 14th PVO Army.

— Thus, this reduction had positive effect on your career? Old men were removed, higher command posts were freed.

On one hand yes. But regiment from Mamonovo, former 4th Guards regiment was disbanded altogether.

— We talked to GPW and KW veterans, and they say that if war broke out at this time, our country would be completely defenseless from the sky.

Absolutely right. When Khrushchev was removed, this was one of the points of accusation. He was the main destructor of the army.

— What was done to the planes, when regiment was disbanded?

They were cut. MiG-15, MiG-17 were already obsolete.

— Let’s return to your career. 1966… Before 1966 you still flew Su-9? Were there other types of airplanes?

MiG-15, Su-9U, dual control, I was alone in the regiment who mastered it.

— Was it different in flying qualities from standard Su-9?

Not really, it was only a bit longer. To make place for second cabin. Training pilot sat in front, while instructor in the second cabin.

— At which rank you were then?

Major, Squadron commander.

— When you became a flight technique inspector?

It was in 1971. A PVO Army commander approached me, I was deputy regiment commander of 849 IAP then. I met him at the airfield, when regiment commander was absent. He asked me:
— Would you like to be an inspector in the Army?
I replied:
— Comrade Commander, I’m a fighter pilot, and never rejected any propositions I received. I’m ready to serve Motherland where and how it finds best.
— Get ready, you will be transferred to inspector position. Senior inspector.

Khatanga airfield. First in a history supersonic jets landing on a river ice.

— You said that you kept flying Su-9 till 1966.

Why till 1966? Until 1976. In 1976 I went to inspect some regiment, and to receive extra flights, as I lacked a few to confirm my class.
But on 3 September 1976 I had to eject, and spent half a year in a hospital.

— Did you get ejection trauma?

Everything was fine, but I was evacuated by helicopter crew. They located me, lighted by searchlight, attached a hook to my flight jacket and began lifting me to the helicopter… Vladimir Plotnikov, this Mi-2 pilot told me later:
— We dropped you from an altitude of 15-20 meters.
When I fell, I got a compression fracture of the spine. I was brought to the Kupino airfield, from there on a “bee” to Novosibirsk hospital. When I came to my senses, I was plastered from neck to pelvis and right leg on extension.

— That is, you ejected twice?

Yes, twice. That’s where my flight career ended.

— So you flew one and the same type of aircraft for 16 years?


— How did your regiment receive new airplanes?

At first we flew MiG-17, then Su-9. 16 years on Su-9.

— How Su-9 was modernized?

New aiming device was used, more powerful missiles... That’s all.

— After airplanes were written off as crashed or used up, did you receive new planes?

Yes, of course. We had extra airplanes. There were 40 or 42 pilots in the regiment and over 50 airplanes.

— What was your attitude towards ground crew?

Very friendly. Technician is everything. You get into the cockpit, he closed it, removed a ladder, switched engine on…

— Was it difficult to repair Su-9?

It was, especially at winter. You could do nothing in mittens, so they had to take them off… We flew till -35 degrees C, it was considered as too dangerous to fly at lower temperatures…

— Did you study in the Air Force Academy?

No, I did not. My commander did not allow me. I wrote a repport that I want to study, but he said to me:
— Grey, don’t even think. I’ll send that fool who can’t fly to the Academy. You are excellent pilot. Fly one or two years more, then you will apply.
I said:
— I will be over 34 then, and I will not be allowed to study.
That’s how I stayed without Academy. But I graduated from Regiment Commanders Courses in Savasleyka. They were equal to Academy education. I have a diploma.

— Did you graduated from Courses in 1965, was a Major, and still remained a squadron commander?

Yes, Squadron commander. I was a deputy regiment commander for six or seven month only. Then I became an inspector.

— What were your duties as inspector?

I had to look after two regiments. I was responsible for pilots training.

— Didn’t it mean that you had to fly with each and every pilot?

No. I came to Kansk, called regiment commander:
— When you scheduled flights?
— Day after tomorrow.
I said:
— Plan control flights for you, your deputy, squadron commander and one ordinary pilot.
— But regiment commander would pick best pilot.
Of course. But if his “best” can’t fly, how the rest will fly?

—  What else inspector was responsible for?

Confirming class. Regiment commander called:
— Anatolii Ivanovich, we prepared four pilots for first class.
My task was to check them. They had to fly for combat use and land at minimum weather – V2 X H200. We had to wait for complex weather.

— In 1976 you ejected and spent half a year in hospital, right?

Yes. September was not the best month for me… Three month on extension, one month in wheel chair, then trained to walk. I came to the Army, reported and asked for retirement.
I was asked to wait for two years – pension was allowed for Lt. Colonel from the age of 45, while I was 43.
Finally I asked for retirement, because there was no sense in waiting for Colonel – pension for Lt. Colonel and Colonel was the same – 200 rubles. Higher pensions were given to Generals, but there was no chance for me to get a rank of general. That’s how I retired. I came here, to my father’s home near Leningrad.
At first I worked as a teacher of aerodynamics in Pulkovo. I went to work at Monday and returned at Friday. Wife said:
— You have to quit this work, it’s killing you. You have a decent pension.
I said:
— Well, I’ll do so.
But I was called to local Party committee, where I was suggested a position of cemetery flower marked director.
I agreed, and keep working till these days.

Appendix: Su-9 crash, 1961


© Oleg Korytov, Konstantin Chirkin 2010

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