Nikolay Sutyagin

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Captain Nikolay Sutyagin Soviet Air Force VVS
File:N.V. Sutyagin.jpg
Born (1923-05-05)May 5, 1923
Smagino, Buturlinsky District, Nizhny Novgorod Oblast
Died November 12, 1986(1986-11-12) (aged 63)
Kiev, Soviet Union
Allegiance  Soviet Union
Service/branch Soviet Air Force
Years of service 1941 - 1978
Rank Major General
Unit 17th IAP (Fighter Air Regiment)
Battles/wars World War II
Korean War
Awards Hero of the Soviet Union
Honoured Military Pilot of the USSR
Order of Lenin
Orders of the Red Banner(3)
Order of the Patriotic War First Class
medals (16)

Captain Nikolay Sutyagin (5 May 1923 - 12 November 1986) was a Soviet fighter pilot in the Second World War and the Korean War. He was the top ace of the Korean War scoring 21 victories.


Nikolay Vasil'yevich Sutyagin was born in 1923 near Nizhniy Novgorod, then known as Gorkiy. His parents were actors, and eventually moved to the city when Nikolay was 11. Joining the Komsomol in 1939, Nikolay was then able to get into the DOSAAF program where he was exposed to flying in the Polikarpov Po-2 biplane. In March 1941 he was conscripted into the Red Army, but was then posted to the Soviet Air Force.

He then went to pilot school, graduating in 1942, and was sent to the 5th IAP in the Far East. He remained in the Far East until the end of the war, acquiring some combat experience in the war with Japan after the Soviets declared war on the Japanese Empire. After the war, Sutyagin learned to fly the American P-63 Kingcobra, also flying as an instructor in the Soviet-converted UTI P-63 two-seater.

In April 1947 Sutyagin joined the 17th IAP, part of the 190th Fighter Aviation Division (IAD) in the Far East Military District. In 1950 the 17th was moved to the new 303rd IAD, which included the 523rd IAP and 18th Guards IAP, and the entire division was equipped with the new MiG-15 jet fighter. Sutyagin completed 54 flights in the MiG-15 before the division was ordered on a "secret tour" and reassigned to the 64th Fighter Aviation Corps at Mukden in Manchuria, with its regiments forward deployed to Myaogao and Antung airfields on the Korean border, in order to counter UN airpower over Korea.

Sutyagin began combat operations in April 1951. When he left Korea in February 1952, Captain Sutyagin had been credited with shooting down 21 UN aircraft.[dubious ] He was the biggest ace in the Korean war, outscoring the top U.S ace Captain Joseph C. McConnell by 5 kills.

Sutyagin was awarded the Gold Star and the title Hero of the Soviet Union, and was soon promoted to Major. By 1970 he was a chief instructor and Major-General of Aviation (the equivalent of US rank of Brigadier general).

Sutyagin served a further combat tour as chief instructor for flight training to the Vietnamese People's Air Force and taught combat tactics in 1970-1971, flying the MiG-21PF and MiG-17. Suffering ill health he returned to the USSR in May 1972 and was sent to GSFG in East Germany to recuperate. Due to his failing vision Sutyagin was removed from flight status and relegated to either trainers or transports.

Sutyagin retired in May 1978 at the age of 55, and spent the last years of his life with his family, dying in November 1986 at the age of 63. Over the course of his career he flew 20 types of aircraft and logged over 3,300 flight hours.

Sutyagin was the top Soviet fighter ace in the Korean War. He claimed 15 F-86 Sabres, two F-84 Thunderjets, two P-80 Shooting Stars and two Gloster Meteors shot down. Sutyagin's Korean War record was 149 combat missions, 66 aerial engagements[1] and 21 enemy aircraft shot down.[2]

Sutyagin was awarded the Order of Lenin, three Orders of the Red Banner, Order of the Patriotic War First Class and a Hero of the Soviet Union in 1952.


  • 22 June 1951 - his 2nd F-86 claim; victim Howard Miller (POW); he also claimed a 3rd Sabre on this day. (2 F-86's were credited to Sutyagin this day and to a pilot of the 176th GIAP, but both the 176th claim and Miller (the only loss that day) were early in the morning. Sutyagin's claims were mid-morning.
  • 24 June 1951 - shot up the F-86A of Colonel Glenn Todd Eagleston (CO of the 4th FIW), who belly landed in Suwon. (No F-86 was lost on the 24th; Eagleston was shot up on the 25th; only Eagleston's aircraft was hit that day.)
  • 26 June 1951 - 5th kill, a F-80C of Bob Lauterbach (KIA.(Sutyagin was credited with an F-86 on this day, not an F-80, and no F-86's were lost. Lauterbach's loss was credited to AAA.
  • 29 July 1951 - shot down F-86A 49-1098, for his 6th kill (Sutyagin was credited with an F-80 on this day, not an F-86. The 17th IAP claimed 4 F-80's and correspond to an engagement with 16th FIS F-80's. No F-80's were lost.The loss of 49-1098 corresponds to one of 4 F-86 claims made by MiG pilots other than Sutyagin.
  • 9 August 1951 - claimed an F-80.(The claims of the 17th IAP this day correspond to an engagement with 51st FIG F-80's; none were hit.)
  • 25 August 1951 - together with the CO of the 17th IAP, Maj. G. Pulov, intercepted "Australian Meteors" and claimed one Meteor each.(This was 77 Squadron RAAF's first engagement with MiG's; none were hit.)
  • 26 September 1951 - in two separate sorties the 17th IAP engaged Meteors of the No. 77 Sqdn and Sabres of the 336th FIS, and he scored in both ; first shooting up the Meteor of P/O DA Armit (written off later that day) and later shooting down the F-86A of Lt. Carl Barnett (MIA)(The Meteor hit in this engagement was flown by W/O Bill Michelson, serial 77-726, and was repaired and returned to service on 6 October. Lt. Yakovlev -as well as Sutyagin- was credited with a Meteor destroyed. Four pilots of the 17th and 523rd IAP's were credited with F-86's, including Sutyagin, compared to one actual loss.
  • November 1951 - claimed three F-86 and one F-84 shot down(none confirmed by US records.)
  • 3 December 1951 - another Sabre ; 49-1184 and one F-84.(Sutyagin was credited with an F-86 this day, no F-84 were lost, but F-86 49-1184 was lost on 4 December to an uncertain cause).
  • 15 December 1951 - shot-up a F-86E of the 334th FIS. The pilot, William F. Prindle, crashed and died while trying to land at Suwon (3 Soviet F-86 claims this day, two correspond in time to the single loss: Sutyagin's and one by Maj. Popov of the 523rd IAP.)
  • 6 January 1952 - two victories claimed: F-84E of Donald Grey (KIA) and a F-86E of Lester Page (MIA). (Grey was lost to AAA while 9 F-86's were credited to Soviet pilots this day, 8 including Sutyagin's in a morning engagement where Page was lost.)
  • 11 January 1952 - his 21st: a F-86E of Thiel M. Reeves (MIA).(8 Soviet and 6 Chinese claims this day against a single F-86 loss. Yevgeny Pepelyaev was also credited with an F-86.)

NB: Sutyagin's record is generally held to be 21 victories, with another 2 shared;[3] however another source suggests it is only five victories[4]

See also