Ace of the Month: Alexander Pokryshkin
War Thunder “Ace of the Month” is a series of events to introduce you to some of the most famous pilots of the Second World War, as well as some aces you may not have heard of before. The series is led by our Historical Consultant Mark Barber and supported by the War Thunder team. Every month you can read an article about a famous pilot and get special content, including historical skins for the in-game model of aircraft associated with that pilot, so you can fight with the exact copy of the legendary aircraft yourself.
This month we celebrate the 100th anniversary of Soviet fighter ace Alexander Pokryshkin, our first Ace of the Month!
The Soviet Union entered the Second World War with some experience of combat gained during their unofficial involvement in the Spanish Civil War. However, the VVS-KA (Red Army Air Force) entered the conflict with grossly outdated tactics and aircraft which were unable to keep pace with their enemy. In the totalitarian regime of Stalin’s Russia, those who dared speak up against procedure or oppose the system were often deposed of. One of the men brave enough to speak his mind and revolutionize Russian air power was Alexander Pokryshkin.
Born in Novosibirsk on March 6th 1913, Pokryshkin grew up in a poor, working class area. Possessing a drive and determination which marked him out from his peers from an early age, Pokryshkin applied himself conscientiously to his studies and entered a technical college in 1930. However, after attending an air show at the age of 12 Pokryshkin was determined to fly and after graduating, volunteered to join the army as a pilot. Soon after he joined he was told that he would instead be trained as an aviation mechanic, news which was devastating to him. The resolute Pokryshkin would not give up; still applying himself fully in his new role, he became the Senior Aviation Mechanic of the 74th Rifle Division whilst continually re-applying to be selected for aircrew. After qualifying as a civilian pilot during a vacation in 1938, he was finally allowed to train as a fighter pilot.
Initially flying MiG-3s, Pokryshkin’s first air combat ended in disaster after his unit attacked a Russian bomber formation. However, his skill as a fighter pilot soon became apparent, with his first kill being an Me-109 in June 1941. Whilst his aptitude for flying was impressive, Pokryshkin was less than popular with his senior officers due to his overt vocalization of what he believed to be wrong with Soviet Air Doctrine. By the summer of 1942, whilst his unit was retraining on the Bell P-39 Airacobra, his regimental commander was angered so much by Pokryshkin’s attitude that he had him court martialled. However, the case did not stand up and Pokryshkin was returned to combat duties.
During the Kuban campaign of 1943, Pokryshkin developed the ‘pendulum’ tactics of stacking different aircraft types at different heights and coordinating with radar and ground based controllers. Scoring an impressive kill tally whilst leading from the front and innovating tactics, Pokryshkin was promoted to Major in June 1943, shortly after receiving the coveted Hero of the Soviet Union decoration.
As one of Soviet Russia’s top fighter aces, Pokryshkin became a valuable propaganda tool. Despite his best efforts and initial refusal for promotion, he was eventually taken out of the cockpit for a succession of staff appointments. By June 1944 he had been promoted to Colonel, given command of the 9th Guards Air Division and been awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union for a second time. However, he still managed to return to front line duties periodically, and even though he was spending less time in the air he continued to fight operationally and score victories through to January 1945. He ended the war with an official score of 59 kills (plus an additional 6 shared), three awards of Hero of the Soviet Union and many other decorations. He remained in the Soviet Air Force after the war and, despite a period of stagnation due to falling out of favour with Stalin, eventually reached the rank of Air Marshall. After a remarkable career and a life of dedication to Russian aviation, Pokryshkin passed away in November 1985 at the age of 72.
Bell P39 Airacobra ‘White 100’ – In January 1943, the 16th Guards Fighter Regiment converted from Yak 1s to the American Bell P39 Airacobra. Pokryshkin was vocal in his approval for the American fighter, particularly its heavy firepower. Despite later political pressure to convert his unit to more modern Russian fighters, Pokryshkin continued to endorse foreign aircraft. In late June 1943, Pokryshkin flew P39N ‘White 100’ during some of the bloodiest battles of the Kuban campaign.
Ace of the Month: Alexander Pokryshkin. Special event from March 22nd 06:00 GMT till March 24th 06:00 GMT:
- Airacobra P-39N available in store
- “White 100” skin available
- 50% experience boost for all planes of all nations
- New historic mission “Village Krymskaya”
And a fan-made video tribute to Pokryskin by VerTun (toggle English subtitles):
See you in the War Thunder skies!
War Thunder Team