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Nelson Stepanyan - the Sturmovik hero
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6am GMT March 31rd (10pm PST March 30th)

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Nelson Stepanyan, Soviet Armenian, Sturmovik pilot, twice hero of the Soviet Union was born on March 28th 1913 in Shushi Elisabethpol Governorate. He graduated from the Transcaucasian Preparatory Military School in 1930 and moved to the Bataysk Military Aviation School where he graduated in 1935 and stayed in the school as an instructor pilot until 1938.

From 1939 to 1941 he was an instructor pilot in the town of Mineralnie Vody flying and training pilots for the Civil Air Fleet. He flew a lot carrying people and cargo. At that time technical problems and small “incidents” were common, Nelson was awarded a special medal for the distance he had flown, it had the number 300,000 on it. It was amazing that he managed to fly so many kilometers without an accident.  When Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941 Nelson volunteered for combat and during the course of his career,  flew the Il-2 Sturmovik, legendary flying tank.

His combat career started on second day of the Great Patriotic War when he was called to the Baltic Sea Fleet. He participated in defensive battles at Poltava, Zaporozhye , Odessa , Kakhovka and Nikolaev. There he mastered his plane, the Ilyushin Il-2. During his 20th flight he was wounded by some flak shrapnel.

From August 1941 as part of 57th Attack Aviation Regiment Air Baltic Fleet (later 7th Guards Ground Attack Regiment ) he was flying in defense of Leningrad. His first title “Hero of the Soviet Union” was awarded to him on October 23rd, 1942 by Presidium of the Supreme Soviet and in November of the same year he was appointed captain and squadron commander of the 57th Assault Regiment. Near Leningrad, he made ​​more than 60 sorties, with one bridge, eight tanks and almost 90 cars knocked out, together with more than 60 anti-aircraft guns / machine guns, and other targets

Soon after Stepanyan was appointed commander of the the Air Force courses of the Baltic Fleet,  then the Higher - Naval Air Force officer training, where he participated in the training of new pilots and officers.

After numerous request to return to the front, in April 1944 Stepanyan was promoted to major and appointed commander of the 47th ShAP (later "Feodosia"), who were fighting in the sky of Crimea and Kuban. Under his command, the regiment took part in the battles of Sevastopol, Feodosia and Sudak .

In May 1944, Stepanyan and his 47th Fighter Division returned to the Baltic Sea. There, they were involved in battles in the Gulf of Finland. On July 22nd, he was awarded the Order of the Red Banner.

Stepanyan flew his last mission on December the 14th in Liepāja, Latvia. His assault group was attacked by German fighters and his plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire. Stepanyan's aircraft was set afire and sank. He died along with his navigator of the 47th Fighter Division Captain Alexander Rumyantsev.

On March 6th 1945, he was posthumously awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union title a second time. Numerous streets and schools proudly wear his name today.

He flew 259 combat missions, personally sank 13 enemy ships and several in the group. Destroyed 80 tanks, 600 other vehicles, 27 aircraft on the ground and in dogfights. Also, he destroyed more than 100 field and anti-aircraft guns, 130 machine gun points, 40 rail cars, 4 bridges and killed up to 5000 soldiers.

War Thunder team

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