Soviet Fighters in the Sky of China V
by Anatolii Demin
Aviatsiia i Kosmonavtika 1.2001
translated by George M. Mellinger, Twin Cities Aero Historians
{For Russian names I have used a simplified version of the Library of Congress system; for Japanese names, the rendition common in Western literature.  Except for a very few well-known exceptions (Beijing, Chiang Kai Shek) Chinese names and places have proven very difficult.  I have been given by a friend a table for transliterating Pinyan phonetics into Cyrillic, and have tried to work it backwards to obtain Pinyan from the Russian.  I am not confident of any success.  I ask your indulgence, and any corrections the knowledgeable may wish to give. -GMM}
Upon their return to the motherland our volunteers left behind in China all their aviation equipment.  Already in January 1940 the 32nd squadron was ordered to Chengdu for retraining on the I-15bis and I-16.  In March 1940 at Baishiyi aerodrome the 29th squadron received from our volunteers 11 I-15bis.  Perhaps the aircraft were sent for maintenance to Langzhou and the other maintenance plants established in China specifically for repair of Soviet aviation equipment.  The 25th squadron was sent to Langzhou for overhauled I-15bises in July.  They remained there for defense of the city and air base against air attacks.  The 7th squadron was maintained at strength with overhauled I-15bis and I-16s throughout the whole of 1940.
                On December 16, 1940 at Taipinsi airbase, at Chengdu the new 11 Fighter Air Group was formed, comprising the newly organized 41, 42, 43, and 44 squadrons.  The pilots were chosen from among the graduates of the military aviation schools.  At the very beginning of their organization they used 20 I-15bis, 15 I-16,and 5 Hawk 75, received from maintenance factories, and also four new I-153 “Chaiki”.
                Remaining without the cover of the Soviet volunteers, the Chinese pilots were unable to achieve serious success in battles against the Japanese.  Not having adequate training, they lost too many experienced pilots under non-combat circumstances.  Thus on May 25,1938 the deputy
commander of the 3rd Air Group, Major Lin Zuo crashed during a training flight.  He was developing ground attack tactics on an I-15 after overhaul in a maintenance factory.  On August 20, 1938, while taking off in a repaired I-16 the commander of the 22nd squadron, Wang Yuanbo was killed.  Nor did Sy Xianren, the commander of the 24th squadron last long.  On February 4,1939 he flew in his fighter on administrative duties from Hunan to Tungliang (Sichuan Province), but in the air he met with a group of Japanese fighters and was killed.  On March 3, 1940, Liu Kai, a pilot of the 22nd squadron defending Kunming, and Lieutenant Mei Erdang from the fighter group of the local flying school collided during a training flight in the I-15bis and were killed.  On March 9, 1940 two pilots of the 22nd squadron at Lianshan collided during a training flight on the I-15 bis, and the aircraft were destroyed.
                Flying accidents also happened during air battles.  On January 4, 1940 Aircraft No. 2104, returning from battle, was destroyed during landing when it ran into a tree on the edge of the landing ground.  I-15bis (No. P-7106) flew a night interception mission on April 22,1940, but after the air combat the pilot lost his orientation and crashed while making a forced landing on the river.  Due to equipment failure, another fighter (No. .P-7117) made a forced landing on a dike.  On May 30, 1940 while returning from battle to Guangyangba airfield, a pilot of the 23rd squadron on landing flew into a pit where munitions were stored and was killed.  On September 12, 1940 Captain Deng Youde of the 7th squadron, returning from a combat patrol with deputy commander of the 28th squadron, Cao Shizhong, to their aerodrome at Yangzhou, suffered an accident at Guangyangba, destroying Hawk III No. 2219.   On October 4,1940, the 28th squadron in order to save it from Zeros, received an order from the staff of 3 Army to disperse from Chengdu.  As a result of “difficulties” I-15bis (No.7218 ) was smashed in a forced landing beyond the aerodrome, the pilot suffering fatal injuries.
                By the summer of 1940 the Chinese drew up the main strength of their fighter aviation for the defense of Chengdu and Chongqing, concentrating the ir units at Guangyangba (18 Squadron), Liangshan (22 and 23 squadrons), Baishiyi (23 Squadron from July 2), , Shuangliu (5 Air Group).  At the end of June the Aviation Committee again reorganized the fighter units.  The 4 Air Group was assigned one squadron with the I-16 and three with the I-15bis (with nine fighters in each).  Since there wee insufficient fighters, they were taken from the 3 and 5 Air Groups.  The 4 Air Group also received the last nine Hawk IIIs of 18 Squadron.  Opposing them on the airfields of Hankow there were about 130 bombers of Naval Aviation, which according to Japanese information from the middle of May to the beginning of September 1940 completed 168 day and 14 night attacks (3717 sorties).  On eight missions Army bombers were attacked to them (22 sorties).
                Sharp air battles often occurred in the skies of Chengdu and Chongqing.  The Taiwanese maintain that during the second half of May many sorties were flown over Chongqing by the airmen of the 26th and 27th squadrons.  On June 16m 1940, four groups totaling 114 Japanese aircraft conducted a massive night attack on Chongqing.  Wang Benhua, a pilot of the 24th squadron led 4 I-16s into battle.  Aircraft No. 2414 was shot down, but the remaining three Lastochki after refueling shot down as a group a single Japanese near Fuling.  On June 28, four I-16s of the 26th squadron and three aircraft from the 24th squadron took to the air to oppose an attack by Japanese bombers.  I-16 No. 2405 blundered into a hail of fire and made a forced landing at Changzhou.  On the night of July 4 at Chongqing, a pilot of the 32nd squadron took off in an I-16 for combat duty, but due to uninterrupted Japanese attacks on the city he was unable to return to base, and after exhausting his fuel, was killed making a landing short of the airfield.  On July 16, Deng Shoukang, a pilot of the 21st squadron was shot down and baled out, but later died of loss of blood from his wounds.  On July31, the deputy commander of the 24th squadron led a group of seven I-16s on a night interception.  As the Taiwanese write, “due to the fact that the aircraft did not have identical flight performance, only the commander and two other aircraft (No.s 2418 & 2420), were able to reach altitude.”  All three aircraft were shot down and the pilots Chen Shaocheng and Wang Yunglung were killed.
                The Japanese write that “these were the heaviest attacks of the entire war in China”, and admit that they also “suffered heavy losses”.  Nine bombers failed to return to their aerodromes, and 297 aircraft were damaged; the main cause of losses seemed to be not anti-aircraft fire but fighters.  On several missions, losses exceeded the acceptable (for them) level of 10%.  They understood that they could straighten the situation only by establishing air supremacy over the target.
                But the quickly arriving Fall of 1940 brought the Chinese Air Force new attacks and new losses.  Perhaps it was a genuine shock of r both the pilots and the command staff.  In the middle of September 1940 a new Japanese fighter first appeared in the skies of China, the Mitsubishi A6M (“Type 0” or “Zero”).  From the very first combat sorties, it seemed like nothing so much as a pogrom of Guomindang aviation.  If on September 12, the Chinese lost only one already far from “New Hawk”, only a day later mounting losses forced the Aviation Committee to issue an order to its pilots about the discontinuation of all participation in battle.
                The Japanese claim that 12 Zeros (Leader - Lieutenant Ekoyama) flew their first attack on Chongqing on August 19, escorting 50 bombers, but did not meet the Chinese in the air.  The following day they repeated the attack.  The Zero group was led by Lieutenant Shindo, and again they could not find any interceptors.  On September 12, a dozen Zeros led by Ekoyama, escorting 27 bombers to Chongqing found five Chinese fighters on the ground and destroyed them.  Later it became clear that these were decoys.
                The Taiwanese write that on that day occurred the first air battle between the Zero and the Lastochki and Chizhi of the 21st squadron.  Two Chinese pilots were killed and one more aircraft was hit, making a forced landing, the wounded pilot suffering a leg shot off, and later dying from loss of blood.  perhaps the date was misprinted, since the battle actually took place the following day, September 13.
                On the “unlucky day” (13th after all) six aircraft oft he 24th squadron were forming a barrier flight at high altitude and underwent the first sudden attack.  Squadron commander Yang Mengqing was killed at once, and his deputy was wounded.  Next the commander of the 4th Air Group, Zhen Shaoyu led into battle the entire 22nd squadron, and in the battle Captain Zhang Hong was killed.  A group of nine I-15bis from the 28th squadron led by squadron commander Lei Yanjiong from the 4th Air Group engaged the Zeros over Chongqing.  Two Chizhi were shot down.  After the battle it was found that the 4th Air Group had lost 13 fighters, with 11 more damaged.  Greater losses were suffered by the 3rd Air Group.
                According to Japanese accounts, in the 30 minute battle the Japanese Zeros destroyed 27 I-15bis and I-16 Type 10.  Diving out of the sun onto the sleeping Chinese and hosing them with massive fire, the Japanese pilots set panic among the Chinese airmen.  they claimed that three Chinese baled out of completely undamaged machines, and two fleeing aircraft collided and exploded on a mountain slope.  To cap it all, the Japanese also set fire to several fighters which had only just landed.  For their part, the Japanese suffered only light damage to four Zeros and not one pilot was harmed.  The star was Sergeant Major”[1] Y. Kosiro, evidently shooting down five aircraft.  An additional I-15bis was shot down by Junior Officer Oki, in spite of a pierced fuel tank.
                After this massacre all the Chinese pilots were withdrawn from combat, and they conducted only training flights.  The 4th Air Group returned to Chengdu, and from November 14, 1940 the 3rd Air Group trained at Shuangliu airbase.  During the second half of September over Chongqing only once did a single transport fall to six Zeros.
                In October the Chinese suffered new losses.  On the 4th of the month eight Zeros led by Ekoyama and Shirane escorting 27 bombers, executed a massive attack on Chengdu.  The air staff of 3 Army ordered all aircraft to disperse.  Six Hawk 75s of the 18th squadron flew off to Guanxian.  But on the way they ran afoul of Japanese Zeros which set afire aircraft No. 5044 of pilot Shi Ganzhen, who baled out, but his parachute failed to open.  Two more pilots were wounded and returned, and one Hawk 75 was burned on the ground at Taipingsi.  The Japanese claim that they destroyed in he air five I-16s and one SB, and on the ground 19 aircraft, and damaged one, when four Zeros (Higayashima, Hagiri, Nakase, and Oishi) supposedly landed on a Chinese aerodrome, and the pilots “by hand” attempted to set fire to the remaining undamaged aircraft there.  It is difficult to determine how much truth there is in these “hunting tales”.
                On October 5 at one of the Chengdu aerodromes, the Japanese set fire to more than ten aircraft and a further 14 decoys. On October 26, during a new attack on Chengdu five fighters and five other aircraft were destroyed in the air.  The Taiwanese mention only that shot down during dispersal were I-15bis (No. P-5302) and a Dewoitine D.510 of 28 Squadron, and about a pilot of 32 Squadron, Liu Wenlin (I-15bis No. P-3587), who was shot down and removed from the rolls.  He was wounded in the right leg and died on the way to the aid station.  On December 30, at Chengdu aerodrome the Japanese supposedly burned 18 aircraft.
                From October 8 to the end of the year the Zero completed 22 missions, shooting down two aircraft and destroying a further 22 on the ground.  The Japanese claim that in 1940 the Zero completed more than 150 sorties, shooting down up to 60 aircraft, and destroying more than 100 on the ground.  They admit damage to only 13 Zeros and not one loss.  If there is any exaggeration here, it is not large, the Chinese and Taiwanese, do not recall any shot down Zero.  Finally, in particular they write that “in November the largest portion of aircraft were destroyed.  The single hawk 75 remaining in the 18th squadron flew to Chengdu.  On December 1, the 18th Squadron ceased to exist”.  The situation was similar in the other fighter squadrons.
                In the words of the historians of the People’s Republic of China, “after the appearance of the Japanese Zero with its excellent flying characteristics, the situation of Chinese aviation became even worse.  The shrinking  air forces continually suffered losses, and by the end of 1940 only 65 aircraft remained.  Adding to this problem, the Soviet volunteers were recalled, and the Chinese Air Force was left isolated, with no resources remaining for combat flights.  In order to reduce losses and to preserve combat power, the Chinese Air Force was forced to avoid air battles, completing very few combat sorties.
                Such a situation continued to the end of 1941, while the Japanese, on the other hand, abandoned all restraint.  Exploiting their qualitative and quantitative supremacy, they continually conducted massive attacks on Chengdu and Chongqing, as a rule consisting of more than a hundred bombers.  The Zeros attacked the airbases, trying to wipe from the face of the earth the remnants of Chinese Air Force.
                In this critical situation the Guomindang government of China again turned to the Soviet Union for help.  After receiving a pledge from Chiang Kai Shek to support a common front for battle against the Japanese and loyal relations with the communist party, shipments resumed.  To the beginning of 1941 the Chinese actually used the credits from the first two agreements of 100 million dollars and the third of 84.6 million dollars.  From the last credits came an additional approximate 200 fighters and bombers.  In all, by the beginning of 1941 the Chinese had received 885 fighters and bombers from the Soviet Union.
                Among these was an “asymmetric” Soviet response to the appearance in the air of the Japanese Zero, - the I-153 Chaika.  Having received its baptism of fire at Khalkin Gol, and having not performed badly in air battle against the Ki-10, A5M,[2] and Ki-27 (Type 97), it was a major modification of the Chizh, and while doubtlessly not unfamiliar technology, nonetheless was still an innovation.  According to various sources, the Chinese received 70-93 Chaika machines.
                At that time at Aviation Factory No.1 building the I-153 there continually arose serious problems with the quality of the metal used for joints an d detailed parts.  Even during the course of its first battle experience in Mongolia in the summer of 1939, there were occasions of vibration of the forward metal fittings of the wing frames and separation of the bands due to poor quality.  Not infrequently  vibrations of he ailerons and the upper wing covering led to the  destruction of the Chaika.  There were occasions when the exhaust pipe tore loose, leaking of the fuel and oil pipes,  cracks in the motor, there was no insulation between the fuel tanks and pilot, etc.
                An indirect example of the quality of the production I-153s, of which a quantity were sent to China, is an incident of August 27, 1939.  The Chief of the Aviation Supply Administration, Brigade Commander Alekseev reported to the Commissar of Defense about the brave deed of the military representative at Factory No.1, test pilot of the Aviation Supply Administration, V. I. Arady: “During a test flight of an I-153... a fire erupted at an altitude of 1000 m over the central aerodrome.  Comrade Arady immediately shut off the ignition, and landed the aircraft.. On the ground Arady took measures to dampen the flames, simultaneously summoning help, with which the fire was extinguished.  With his skilled and brave deed, Comrade Arady not only managed to save his life, but also prevented the destruction of the airplane.  Comrade Arady, has had a previous experience of fire in the air (while fulfilling a special government assignment), in which he was burned on the face and hands.  For successfully fulfilling a government assignment, Comrade Arady on 14.XI.38 was awarded the Order of the Red Banner.  I nominate him for the Badge of Honor.”  I am careful not to assert whether the pilot earned his first order in China or in Spain ( the other place where heroic deeds were being done).  In an order on the award of decorations, the “Spaniards” and “Chinese” are represented together.  It is also unclear where the saved Chaika ended up- in Spain, or China, or retained “for internal use”.[3]  The reason for the fire is also unclear; in the archive instead of the report of an  accident commission usual in such cases, there was report signed by Alekseev himself about the catastrophe of 9 April 1940: “Senior test pilot military representative at Factory No.1, Captain B. I. Arady completed a test flight of I-153 No.7533.  He crashed in the Staraya Khlebnikovo region.  The commission is investigating.”  The report of incident commission is missing.
                The courageous Captain Bela Ignatevich Arady, evidently a Hungarian and a internationalist, who had fled Hungary, fell in a sharp battle with a “childhood illness” of the new fighter intended for the Soviet Air Force and also for the internationalists of all continents.  But the Chinese pilots, even with little flight and combat experience, to a great degree were troubled less by the undeveloped Chaika than by the enemy.  And thus in 1940-1941 it was very difficult for them.
                Withdrawn from the destructive (for them) battles with the Zero, the Chinese pilots began to be sent for the new fighter from November 1940.  At the end of the month the pilots of the 27th squadron were the first, at Hami (Sichuan Province).  At the end of the year attached to them were pilots of the 5th Air Group (receiving 26 I-153s), with the 17th, 26th, and 29th squadrons, and in January - February 1941 sent to Hami were the 3rd Air Group (17 Chaiki) and  4th Air Group (20 I-153 and 35 I-16), with the 7th, 8th, 21st, 23rd, and 28th squadrons.  With out the Chaika remained only the pilots of the 24th squadron, receiving the I-16 III. (Which type of I-16 was so designated by the Chinese is unclear, in any case there is information that they received I-16s with the M-62 motor[4], or mounted it themselves, as our engineers did at Khalkin Gol.)
                With the new aircraft the Chinese began to return to their basic deployment locations in February - March 1941, though the 26th Squadron with 14 I-16 IIIs was sent to Lanzhou for defense against air attacks.  During the transfer flights the Chinese again suffered non-combat losses.  Returning to Chengdu the 5th Air Group contrived to wreck four new I-153.  The 3rd Air Group lost 5 new I-16 IIIs on May 1 when, during the flight eastward the SB formation leader lost its course.  All the fighters ran out of fuel and were wrecked in forced landings to the south of Tianshui (Gansu Province).  The fate of the pilots is unknown.
                But these were still only the blossoms - the berries were yet to come.  On March 14, the Japanese Zeros made a new attack on Chengdu.  For the Chinese, that air battle, evidently became nominal, later they often wrote in hieroglyphs “air battle 314” (that is “the air battle of March 14”).  The Taiwanese did not report the complete list of losses, but from fragmentary information it is possible to discover that of the 17 aircraft of the 3rd Air Group which had just flown from Hami, 11 took part in the battle and all were destroyed, and the pilots killed.  The commander of the 5th Air Group, Huang Xinrui led nine new I-153s, and his deputy Ceng Zeliu another 11 Chaiki.  As the Taiwanese write, “the flying quality of the I-153 was unable to compete with the might of the Japanese, and Ceng Zeliu was shot down directly over the aerodrome of Shuangliu airbase.”  Also shot down was the commander of the group, Huang Xinru, who made a forced landing at Sumatou, and died of his wounds two days later.  Of 11 Chaiki of the 28th squadron included in the 5th Air Group, the Zeros immediately shot down the squadron commander Zhou Lingxiu and another pilot.  The other shot-down pilot made a forced landing on the water, but was strafed on the surface.  Also participating in the battle were three I-15bis of the 32nd squadron received at the beginning of the year from depot overhaul.  Squadron commander Chen Pengyang was shot down, and the lightly wounded pilot, Qin Bei escaped by parachute.  In the 17th squadron all were killed, and several aircraft were lost from the 8th squadron.  According to Japanese sources, on that day they destroyed 24 aircraft, and possibly destroyed, or damaged another three.
                The 4th Air Group was lucky; it had still not completed retraining, and returned to Shuangliu airbase only in April.  Until then they avoided engagement with the enemy, as that order had recently been given by the Aviation Committee to all active air units engaged in reorganization.  The 3rd Air Group transferred five of six remaining Chaiki to the 5ht Air Group and the last to the 11th, anc functionally ceased to exist.  Only five I-16 IIIs flown in to Chengdu from Hami at the beginning of August remained for combat duty.  Later the 5th Air Group disbanded.  At first their mission was the interception of Japanese reconnaissance aircraft, for which they were reinforced with 5 Chaiki.  But on May 22, as a result of air attacks, 17 aircraft of the 5th Air Group were sent to Nanzheng (Henan Province) in order to defend ti from the Japanese blows.  While refueling at Tianshu (Gansu Province) they were al destroyed on the ground.  the newly appointed commander of the group, Lü Enlung was relieved of command.  On June 6 the group receive 6 I-153s for opposing night attacks, but on July 1 it was disbanded.
                Something similar occurred on May 26 with the 29th Squadron.  Eighteen I0153s led by squadron commander Yu Pingxiang flying from the region of Gansucheng to Lanzhou, but along the way they encountered Japanese fighters.  Immediately the commander and pilot Zhang Senyi were shot down, both baling out.  The remainder followed deputy squadron commander Tan Zhouli, but when they landed for refueling, the remaining 16 Chaiki were destroyed on the ground by the Japanese.
                Evidently the only Chinese victory in the first half of 1941appears to be a bomber shot down over Lanzhou on May 21.  At Xigucheng aerodrome there was a duty flight of eight I-153s of the 21st squadron commanded by Zhen Sheng.  On that day they gave battle to 27 Japanese bombers.
                Concentrating almost all remaining aircraft and combat pilots at the training centers where the fighters of the 4th Air Group had become instructors, the Chinese fighter aviation virtually refused to give battle to the Japanese, limiting themselves to intercepting reconnaissance aircraft.   At the end of July1941the remaining I-16 IIIs of the 4th Air Group were concentrated at Liangshan and Baishiyi airbases near Chongqing, for this purpose, but without results.  The 11th Air Group, which had formed at the end of 1940 also did not take part in battle with the I-16 and I-15bis, occupying themselves with training flights at Qungla until 1942.
                Meanwhile the Japanese continued to conduct massive attacks on the Chinese cities.  On July 28, 1941 108 Japanese aircraft executed an attack into Sichuan Province.  Only seven aircraft of the 27th Squadron were able to oppose them..  The I-153 (No. P-7237) of Lieutenant Gao Chunchou was shot down, falling into an ambush.  While opposing an attack on Chengdu at dawn on August10 Captain Ou Yangdeng of the 21st squadron was killed.  His aircraft No. 7261, flying with the remnants of the 5th Air Group was hit and crash landed, the pilot dying from lack of medical attention.  the next day the Japanese conducted another dawn attack on Chengdu, and four I-153s of the 29th squadron took to the air.  Squadron commander Tang Zhouli and two of his deputies, Wang Chongshi and Huang Rongfa were killed.  The Taiwanese also state that the fiancee of the last, Yang Quanfang shot herself on August 16.
                In the words of the Chinese, “1941 was the most difficult year for the Chinese Air Force of the entire eight years of war.  On this account, in order to render opposition to the Japanese forces, the Chinese actively sought new international assistance.”
                Already by the beginning of 1941 the commander of the 3rd Air Group, Lo Yingde with part of the command and flying staff had been sent to Rangoon, Burma to take delivery of the Hawk 81A (P-40C) which had been purchased in America.  But as the Taiwanese write, “after trying the combat capabilities of these aircraft, they determined that they would not be able to stand up against the Zero.  Therefore the transfer was declined and the aircraft were delivered to a unit of American volunteers, C. Chennault’s Flying Tigers.
                Unwittingly, the Japanese themselves helped the Chinese.  Preparing for the attack on Pearl Harbor, during the second half of 1941 they transferred almost all their Zeros from China to pacific Ocean bases.  Entry of the United States into the war against Japan at the end of 1941 was salvation for China.  They automatically fell into the category of countries to receive lend-lease military assistance, including military aircraft.  As PRC historians write, “the power of the Chinese Air Force gradually was restored with the help of the Americans.”  The Burma road began to work at full capacity as military cargo was sent along it from the United States to China.  For its defense, the remaining Chinese aviation was redeployed to Yunnan Province.
                At the end of January 1942 eleven I-153s of the 17th Squadron led by squadron commander Liu Qingguang, were quartered at Kunming (Yunnan Province).  According to intentions, they were to repulse Japanese air attacks together with the American volunteers also located there.  But after some time they were sent to Laxu airbase in Burma where they were utilized for communications, and in May conducted military activity attacking ground targets.  On May 3, 1942 two I-153s of the 26th Squadron were sent to the Chanximaogong region (on the Burmese border) for battle against the drug growers (evidently, reconnaissance and aerial destruction of the opium plantations).
                It is not possible to find much later information about the combat use of our Chaiki.  At the middle of July the 17th Squadron returned to Chengdu, but it is unclear whether they took part in opposing air attacks at the end of August 1942.  Seven I-16IIIs of the 29th Squadron participated in battle there, but the details are not known.  At the same time, under orders of the 4th Army another seven I-16 IIIs, led by Wang Yinhua, the commander of the 29th Squadron, flew to Lanzhou and defended the city and airbase..  In September three P-66s of the 5th Air Group,  newly received from the USA, were attached to them.
                Except for mention of a single I-16 which seems to have been shot down over the Burma Road in 1943 by a Japanese Ki 43, it has not been possible to uncover other information about the further participation of our fighters in the battle for China.   From the middle of March 1942 the Chinese pilots gradually began to rearm with American fighters, but a number of remaining Lastochki, Chizhi and Chaiki were used for training in the flying schools and training centers.  There is no information about the very last days of their flying careers.
                Beginning from the end of 1941 Chinese aviators, for the most part, after completing flight school, began to be sent to the United States for advanced training.  By March1945 a total of 1224 individuals had been sent, and 384 had been returned to participate in combat.
                In March 1942 the first American P-43As, as with the earlier I-16, were received by the 4th Air Group.  The pilots retrained in Kunming, and in small groups the pilots flew in turn to India for the new fighters.  the 3rd air Group sent pilots to India to receive the P-66 from the middle of June 1942, and during a half year received 60 machines, though they retained only 15, transferring the remainder tot he 5th and 11th Air Groups beginning in September.
                The 7th Squadron first began to use the P-66 for combat duty at Chongqing as early as September 1942.  Evidently, the last to turn in Soviet fighters for “combat storage” were the pilots of the 26th, 29th and 41st squadrons, generally a year later than the others.  The 41st Squadron began to receive the P-66 in September 1943, and the 26th and 29 th squadrons were sent to India to take delivery of the P-40N only at the end of 1943.  The 44th squadron also received the P-40.
Conclusion follows.

[1]Translation for the Russian rank Starshina.  I am uncertain what the corresponding JNAF rank would be.-GMM.
[2]To this day, many otherwise authoritative Soviet historians claim the A5M participated at Khalkin Gol.  Every nation seems to make such mistakes.  Consider the “Japanese Messerschmitts” claimed by American pilots. - GMM.
[3]It clearly did not go to Spain, since the Soviets had ceased sending assistance to the Spanish Republic in late 1938, and the war was over before this incident occurred.  Contrary to western reports, no I-153 ever was sent to Spain. - GMM
[4]The M-62 motor powered the I-16 Type 18, and the cannon-armed Type 27. - GMM