Finnish Ace Hans Wind on the Fighter Tactics of the Finnish Air Force.

Hans Henrik Wind
Hans Henrik Wind

Hans Henrik Wind was the second highest scoring fighter pilot of the Finnish Air Force during the Second World War. He flew 302 combat sorties scoring 75 kills, 39 in the Brewster 239 and 36 in the Messerschmitt Bf 109G. What is remarkable is that he scored all of his victories in just one of the three campaigns that the Finnish Air Force was involved in during World War Two, the Continuation War.

During the Winter War of 30th November 1939 to 13th March 1940, he was grounded due to a lack of available aircraft for trained pilots. His flying career began at the end of 1941 when with the help of his friend Per-Erik Sorvelius, himself an ‘Ace’ with 5.5 kills with the Fokker D.XXI and 7 with the Brewster BW.239; he gained a place flying Brewster 239s with HLeLv 24.

His last mission was on the  28th June 1944 when he shot down 3 Yak 9 fighters flying Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6 MT-439 and was wounded, grounding him for good. Due to this injury he was not able to participate in the Lapland war of 1944 but survived the war as Finland’s second highest fighter ace behind Ilmari Juutilainen.

Wind was awarded his first Mannerheim Cross on the 28th June 1944, ironically the day he was grounded. His lasting legacy would be his ‘Lectures on Fighter Tactics’ which he wrote in 1943 after being promoted to Captain when just 24 years old and was posted from front line duties to instruct new pilots. His Lectures on Fighter Tactics would be used by many Air Forces well into the Cold War.

He was married on 26 August 1945 then began his studies in Helsinki School of Business having resigned from the Air Force on 10 May 1945. Wind died on 24 July 1995 and was survived by his wife and five children.

Hans Wind posing by the tail of Brewster BW-393
Hans Wind posing by the tail of Brewster BW-393

Hans Winds Lectures give a fascinating insight into how the numerically inferior Finnish Air Force forced the Soviet Union to the negotiating table through superior tactical combat procedures and an innovative command and control system.

These lectures have been translated into English and are directly attributable to:

Jukka “Grendel” Kauppinen, Erkki “Eni” Nieminen, Timo “Kossu” Niiranen and Matti “My” Yrjölä.
Proofreading and editing by Mika “Banzai” Ganszauge.
Translation copyright Virtuaalilentäjät r.y. / Finnish Virtual Pilots Association 2001, VirtuaaliLentoLaivue Icebreakers, HLeLv 24.
Original article by Jukka “Grendel” Kauppinen and Timo “Kossu” Niiranen, VLeLv Icebreakers.

The individuals who are responsible for the release of the original documentation into the public domain are:

Jaakko Kuusisto – who permitted to copy the documents and The Finnish Air Force and the Chief of Readiness, Colonel Jarmo.

Lindberg – who kindly presented the original document to the Commander of the Finnish Air Force and to the Chief of Operations, making sure that the documents could be transferred  into digital format and  be published. “According to the security policy of the Finnish Defence Forces, any material declared secret will become public after 25 years, unless the period is specifically extended. Applying this rule, and in the opinion of the Commander of the Air Force this material can be published.”

Forward by Me 109 ace Väinö Pokela:

“It all started in 24 Fighter Squadron during ’42 or ’43 if I remember correctly. Someone suggested that one of the squadron pilots go to Kauhava (Air Force Academy) to lecture on tactics, ‘how to wage war with Brewsters’. That was because the Americans also started waging war and they had no clue how to go about it. There in the Pacific when they started fighting it was completely pitiful. They had three engagements where Brewsters were used. And in the last one they had 17 Brewsters in one aerial engagement, and if I remember correctly, 13 were shot down. After that all the Brewsters were sent to Florida for their Air Force cadets.

And all of this was the result of them attacking Zeros. They didn’t consider at all that the Zero had no armour, was made of wood and was much lighter. But it had an engine of the same size. And they (Americans) started turn-fighting them (Zeros). So, the Brewsters were shot down. They just should have used rocking-chair (vertical) tactics, attack and pull out.

The Finns had already learned that in the Winter War when they attacked the I-15s and I-16s with their Fokkers. You did not turn-fight them. And this lecture, the paper about air combat tactics written by Hasse, started right from this idea.”

With respect,
Captain Hans Henrik “Hasse” Wind 30.7.1919-24.7.1995
75 aerial victories, double recipient of the Mannerheim Cross (the highest military award in Finland) ,

Brewster B239 of the type that Captain Wind flew.
Brewster B239 of the type that Captain Wind flew.

These notes are a direct translation from Captain Hans Wind’s lectures and have thus not been edited.

Captain H. Wind’s Lectures on Fighter Tactics

These lectures are meant to teach student pilots those things that they absolutely must adhere to when they arrive to a front line squadron, and what they must know when flying their first missions over the front and face enemy fighters for the first time. These lectures will especially attempt to teach “tricks” that a fighter pilot can use to control combat situations even if the opponent has a faster and better plane.

Lecture 1

For starters we must pay attention to such details as the arrival of a new pilot to a front line squadron and how to behave there. Many people think that it is enough that you report to the squadron commander and the leader of your flight. However, that is not so. The newcomer must get familiar with the pilots of his own flight immediately during the first day, and with the pilots of the other flights on the following day already. As to duty, new pilots must follow their flight into service and get thoroughly familiar with the plane type as quickly as possible. Specifically, they must pay attention to the engine and weapons. A good fighter pilot is familiar with those things, too.

And another couple of things: Consuming alcohol is allowed but you must definitely maintain moderation. Another thing is card playing. As everybody knows boys sometimes play all day and all night. In a front line squadron when there is action, night-time playing is forbidden.

When the new pilot has gone through a short training programme with a new fighter type, he is a ready man for war and can be on duty when the flight is on ground alert. Things to note:

1. Always wear your complete flight gear (pistol, compass, life jacket, navigation chart and air-defence-grid map).
2. Verify that the plane is fully ready for combat (radios working, oxygen bottle full, etc).
3. Remember who you are winging (the tail number of the plane).
4. Ordered take-off sequence.
5. Remember that when you’re on ground alert you are not allowed to move away from the alarm phone anywhere except to your own plane.

When the flight has been ordered to scramble you must hurry. There is no more time to ask questions. All details must be clear before this.

Things to remember during the take-off sequence:
1. Make sure that you take off in your own turn.
2. After taking off fly straight ahead for a little while, so that the pilots taking off behind you will have enough room (For example, Lieutenant Lamme started right behind his wingman in Rantasalmi at the beginning of the war. The other plane turned steeply after taking off, so that Lieutenant Lamme was forced to evade downwards and crashed into a barn that had been set up on the field for camouflaging purposes. The aircraft was severely damaged.).
3. Watch the gauges and make sure the engine is running smoothly. If this is not the case, you must land immediately.
4. Pay attention to where your lead plane is and hurry up to take your own position on its wing.

After take-off the forming up must be carried out fast. To make the take-off sequence easy the leading finger four division starts last, in other words, the take-off order is completely reverse to the formation order. Because of this the division leader can proceed directly towards the target area and others can easily form on him using the altitude they have gained in the meanwhile. During the grouping-up everyone must keep their eyes open, so that the enemy fighters that could be lurking around over the airfield or nearby cannot surprise you. For example, at Hirvas Air Base in the summer of 1942, four Tomahawk (P-40C) fighters surprised a Brewster flight taking off. The Brewster pilots should thank only the poor shooting by the enemy for their survival. The Russkies had been waiting for a good opportunity to bounce in the low clouds and couldn’t have got a better one. For example, one Tomahawk shot at a Brewster taxiing on the ground, but shot so poorly that the plane didn’t suffer a single hit.

Captain Wind on the wing of BW-393
Captain Wind on the wing of BW-393

Lecture 2

A search flight is usually based on reports coming from the ground surveillance stations. The method of the search depends on the prevailing air situation, ground surveillance and weather. The search is performed using a minimum of a finger four division. This four-plane division was feasible during the first year of the war but thereafter a flight should be the minimum force for a search. The quality of enemy aircraft has improved so much that a finger four can no longer be victoriously used to harass enemy fighter formations.

The correct execution of an aerial search has a decisive effect on the possibly ensuing fighter combat. Because of this it is very important that
1) every pilot learns to “see correctly” and
2) learns to look into the airspace at different distances, and doesn’t look “through” targets, but can place them on certain levels or distances. The pilot will acquire the necessary skills for this by learning first to fly correctly in a formation.

The pilot must keep in mind that:
1. The lookout sector for each plane is 360 degrees, that is, the whole airspace must be observed always and everywhere.
2. You’ll find the enemy best if you don’t trust your fellow pilot’s eyesight.
3. You’ll always remember to watch your high and low six o’clock positions. These sectors are the most dangerous ones, but an enemy coming from directly ahead of you often goes without noticing before it is too late to manoeuvre into a good attack position. We have many examples of this from the battles over the Gulf of Finland.
4. If the weather is clear you must always be prepared for surprises coming from the sun. Observation is easier if you cover the sun with your wingtip. After grouping up over the home field the wingman is completely dependent on the leader. He must follow the leader during the whole search flight. The wingman must keep such a distance to his leader that the leader can always see the wingman. The best distance is 80-100 meters.

When patrolling the distance between divisions can be about 200 meters. If only one finger four is flying, the sections must have 100-200 meters vertical separation between them. If we have a full flight, they always fly in two divisions of four. The other division higher up, on the side and very slightly behind. Vertical separation is, depending on visibility, 500-1,000 meters.

During the search flight the capabilities of a single man are best demonstrated. You just cannot stay welded on someone else’s wing all the time because you won’t see a thing that way. You’d see best if you constantly changed your wing but that is impossible because the search formation is a finger four and the other pair hinders the constant changing of sides. But when the other pair changes to the other side of the lead section, the lead section’s wingman must automatically change to the opposite side of his leader. These changes must be done frequently because in this way we can best watch the airspace around us. As a general rule you could say that a search must not be performed flying straight ahead but making shallow turns all the time.

After this general overview we’ll take a look at performing search flights in different kinds of weather.

1. In clear weather the search flight is to be performed high at 3,000-5,000 meters, i.e. higher than the expected altitude of the enemy. This is because visibility is equally good to all directions and therefore all the advantages of the extra altitude for air combat are gained. Also the glint of sunlight reflecting off the surfaces of aircraft flying below can often reveal the enemy aircraft. This method of flying at higher altitude is particularly in place during flight operations over dry land.

The situation on the Gulf of Finland, where the largest air battles have been fought, is quite special. Because the Russians have almost always been flying very near the surface (this concerns the bomber formations especially) our lowest division have been forced to fly at about 1,000 meters’ height. Well-camouflaged aircraft blend in almost totally to the wavy sea surface and it makes spotting the enemy very difficult. On occasion, a coastal radio station has reported a Russian formation 300 meters below us, but it has not been sighted until we have descended to the same altitude. In clear weather it is good practice to keep a greater distance between divisions so that they don’t merge into one single blob which can easily be observed.

2. In cloudy weather the principle is that the enemy should be spotted against a cloud. This is possible when searching above the clouds, but when searching below the clouds we are forced to fly right beneath the cloud base. This is necessary due to the enemy aircraft being faster. While flying at a lower altitude it would be easier to spot the enemy aircraft against the cloud cover but with our slower aircraft we would be unable to achieve a proper attack position and we would be at a disadvantage right from the beginning. While searching over the Gulf of Finland with overcast clouds the same basic rule as during clear weather is valid, and even more so. Attention should be paid to that at least a half of the aircraft fly at the cloud base in case of surprises.

3. In low weather, when the cloud base is below 500-600 meters, the most suitable search altitude is about 200 meters below the cloud base. At this altitude the visibility is excellent to all directions, and once the enemy has been spotted a fast pull-up to the cover of the clouds will guarantee a favourable attack position. This sort of weather demands the most from each pilot. It is better to fly in a tighter formation than usually because the enemy will always appear suddenly and close by. When our own aircraft are close together, a simultaneous strike can be achieved and the results are better than with just a couple of aircraft making contact with the enemy. Practically always after our initial strike the enemy has tried to take cover in the clouds.

While performing a search flight in low weather “wing changes” are to be avoided as much as possible. In this manner the disorder among the formation due to the restricted freedom of movement in bad weather is minimised. The largest search formation in low weather is a flight, but a division of four planes is the most advantageous.

4. If there are cumulus clouds in the sky the search is to be performed about 300 meters below them. It is worth keeping in mind that at times one of the pairs should pop up over the clouds to observe in order to avoid surprise from above.

An intercept flight is executed fairly similarly as a search flight. The main differences are:
1) The position of the enemy is known in advance, as well as the approximate altitude, number of aircraft and their type.
2) The take-off is hurried.
3) Forming up is done during the flight to the intercept point.
4) The ordered flight altitude is reached during the flight based on the radio reports about the enemy.
5) The flight formation is tighter than during a search flight in order to achieve a united and powerful strike.

During an intercept flight a new pilot is apt to concentrate on thinking about the enemy in the announced position only and to forget to observe the surroundings during the approach flight. And yet this is a very important issue, because if the enemy is aware of our base, he will assign fighters to interfere with our planes presumably taking off while their aircraft are performing an assigned mission within our area of operation. The success of an intercept flight is dependent on speed. In the summer 1-2 minutes, in the winter 2-3 minutes is the longest time that may be allowed for a flight’s take-off.

While performing an intercept flight the main objective of the mission must be borne in mind:

To prevent the enemy aircraft access to their assigned target. Because of this the attack against the enemy must often be performed from a disadvantageous position because there is no time to reach a better starting point for the attack.

Another issue to be remembered is that when defending a certain object personal, aerial victories are not the main issue but the breaking up of the enemy formation and preventing them from reaching their target. The chase of single enemy aircraft disengaging from the combat must not be undertaken, until the division leader gives permission.

So, the main purpose of the intercept flight is to prevent the enemy from reaching their target and not until their formation has been broken up and turned away, start destroying individual straggling aircraft.

There can be two kinds of “protection flights”:
a) escorting our own aircraft
b) protecting our ground troops

a) In our circumstances the escort flights have been performed with a single finger four division or with one flight at the most. This is because of the fact that there has usually been only one aircraft to be escorted (on a reconnaissance or photography mission). The escorted aircraft must always be within visual range of each escort (each wingman as well). Therefore the escorts must fly about 200-500 meters behind and on both sides of the escorted aircraft, and depending on the weather about 500-1,000 meters above. This difference in altitude must always be maintained for us to be able to prevent any faster enemy from bouncing on the escorted aircraft.

When the escorted aircraft is attacked, it is imperative to let the escorted aircraft know about this with an agreed signal. At least one section must always be as a close escort. It is best if the close escort is assigned before the take-off. Once the aerial engagement begins the close escort closes to about 50-100 meters from the escorted aircraft in order to thwart any surprise attacks. If they are also attacked, one member of the pair must stay and engage the bogies while the other escorts the protected aircraft to safety. It is worth noting that the mission is of the kind where there is no need to search for combat. You only join in the combat out of necessity and even then only for defence, disengaging at the first possibility. The main thing is that the escorted aircraft gets home safely.

b) There isn’t much to say about protecting ground troops. The flight is performed in a similar way as a search flight over a defined area. The difference is that at least one section must fly low (200-500 meters). This is because it is very hard to spot well-camouflaged enemy aircraft flying low near the surface. It is important that the ground troops see the aircraft giving them protection right away. They will then know that they are protected against attacks from the air.

Bf 109G-2
Messerschmitt Bf 109G-2

Ground attacks

Only very few actual ground attack flights have been performed with fighter aircraft (Brewster B-239, Morane Saulnier 406 and Fiat G.50). However, while performing search flights trains, columns and single cars and vehicles have been attacked with success. The attack is carried out in a line formation with sufficient spacing between the aircraft. Someone has to be constantly high and ensure that there is no surprise from above. When attacking trains the engineer’s cabin must be fired at and the steam boiler must be shot broken. A good example is when Captain Kokko’s finger four terrorised the rail section between Tihvinä and Lotinanpelto shooting seven locomotives full of holes. When shooting columns it should be noted that dispersed units are hard to destroy. It is always best to shoot at each target individually, otherwise the desired results are not achieved. You must watch out for low-level anti-aircraft guns because they will be able to fire directly at you. They have a very high hit probability.

The chance of getting hit is at its greatest during pull-up (for example at Seesjärvi a Russian multi-barrelled weapon shot up Captain Törrönen’s aircraft during the pull-up so badly that he had to perform a forced landing. He was barely able to reach our own side). Because of this, you must not pull-up steeply after the shooting., On the contrary, you must continue a high-speed low-level flight slightly obliquely away from the target, pull up there, and repeat the attack. Your first priority is to destroy the anti-aircraft weapons to avoid unnecessary casualties.

Air combat

The course of an aerial engagement depends on:
The performance of the planes
The position of the planes in the beginning of battle
The skills of the pilots
The command capabilities of the ground control radio stations
The possibility of using reserves

An aerial engagement is always over very quickly. The mistakes made in the beginning are hard to correct. This is why the set-up phase and the beginning of the fight must be executed in the best possible way.

Surprise is the key in air combat. You must always try to achieve that. It is very important to get the upper hand right at the beginning of a battle. Never give the enemy time to catch his breath. Hit him ruthlessly with all your force, and destroy him. If you notice that continued fighting is, for some reason, impossible, the whole formation must disengage at the same time, and before you find yourselves at a disadvantage. This requires strict flight discipline from all pilots. Breaches of discipline have happened, so this matter needs special attention.

It is very hard to stay cool, calm and collected in your first battle, but if you force yourself to follow your section leader in any situation, you are on the right track. A good rule in your first battles is:

Never go lower than your section leader, and keep close to him, so that he can always see you. The first battle is crucial for the pilot, and you have to stay extra sharp. If you make it through the first skirmishes, you’ll do fine in the future, too.

Solo fighting

Solo fighting means one vs. one, or one vs. many enemy planes. On approach, you must always use the enemy’s blind sectors. Try to attack with high speed. This reduces the enemy’s time to spot you and maximises your ability to surprise him. The approach speed depends on the enemy plane type. If the enemy plane type is slower than your plane, use only slightly faster approach speed than the enemy. This maximises your shooting time.

In all attacks try to get to the enemy’s rear sector, and when on the defence, use opposing flight paths.

If the enemy plane is an I-16 or I-153, use the following tactics. Initially climb about 500 meters higher than the enemy, because our planes are faster. During the approach stay right behind the enemy, because visibility to the rear sides is good from both planes. The approach speed can be quite high. Just before reaching shooting distance, slip to one side, so you’ll be able to shoot him slightly from the side. When shooting from dead 6 o’clock of these planes, the pilot armour has often absorbed even the 12.7 mm bullets. (For example W.O. Alho shot his guns empty at a Chaika’s pilot armour over the Seiskari Island without any effect. The fuselage skin behind the armour was ripped apart, but the plane didn’t go down.) You have to aim well from the start, because the I-16 and Chaika are so manoeuvrable that you can’t hit them after they have seen you approach. Their most common evasive manoeuvre is a fast 180-degree turn. When you notice that the enemy starts this manoeuvre, it’s better to pull up and set up for a new attack. It is not wise to try a head-on attack, because the hitting possibilities are the same for you and the enemy. When you have the faster plane, always go for the rear sector shot, and don’t risk a head-on. When you have shot at an I-16 or I-153 pull up very tightly. Never get in front of these planes, because they are both manoeuvrable enough to pull up behind you and take a shot at you. Never stay and turn with either one of these planes, because they are both much nimbler than our fighters.

The easiest one to shoot down of the enemy fighters is the Hurricane. It is totally helpless against us below 3,000 meters. It is slow and very clumsy and unmanoeuvrable. Whenever you meet a Hurricane, engage it in a turn-fight, where it is totally at our mercy. It is best to shoot this plane in the forward part of the fuselage when it almost immediately bursts into flames.

All the “pointy-nosed” enemy planes, LaGG-3, MiG-1, MiG-3, YaK-1, Spitfire, and La-5, require almost the same tactics. These all belong to a category of fast and not so manoeuvrable planes. MiG-1s, MiG-3s and LaGG-3s have been seen over the front lines. These planes have patrolled between 1,000 and 3,000 meters, which is their optimal fighting altitude. In addition to these planes, the enemy’s newest types have patrolled over the Gulf of Finland.

The only way to fight and succeed against these types is to bounce from above. Start shooting only at a very close range. The typical evasive manoeuvre of these planes has been either a gentle turn or a split-S. If the enemy begins to turn, just pull inside his turn into a good firing position. It is not advisable to follow a split-S dive, just observe his moves and bounce on him again from the top. The lower you can force the enemy, the better. It is good to give the final blow on the deck when the enemy can’t dive away any more.

The “pointy nosed” planes usually shoot from afar trusting the hitting power of their cannon. In such a situation, don’t perform any harsh manoeuvres that would bleed your speed. Keep your speed up as long as possible.

Don’t go head-on against a cannon-armed plane, but always try to hit the enemy from his front sides (1-2 and 10-11 O’clock1 ) at low deflection. One hit on the engine from the front is often enough to do some damage and get the engine to malfunction.

The Russkies almost always try to shoot straight from the sides, too (3 and 9 o’clock1). The evasive manoeuvre is in this case the same as when evading a rear quarter shot: a fast turn into the enemy. When the Pe-2s and YaK-4s (?) started to appear on the front lines, they were too fast for our fighters. The Curtiss Hawk squadron then developed tactics to attack the bombers from the front. That is almost the only tactics against them unless you are able to bounce them from above. The well-armoured Il-2 requires especially good shooting. The only vulnerable areas of the plane are the top of the canopy and the wing roots, where the armour is thinner. The shooting must be very accurate and thorough, because the effective target area is only about 2 m2. Be careful not to fly in front of this plane after shooting, because it is quite ready to pull up and use its cannon on you.

For example Sgt. Lehtiö shot at an Il-2 near Koivisto, and made the error of pulling into a shallow climb in front of it. The Il-2 raised its nose and shot the Brewster down.


Pay attention to the following points:
1. Always keep both eyes open while shooting.
2. Don’t jerk the plane around with sudden movements during aiming; handle it smoothly and gently instead.
3. Don’t get carried away while shooting, and keep an eye on your six, so that nobody can get behind your tail.
4. Never use tracers to aim. You can check your lead by tracers, but always correct your aim with your gun-sight.

When shooting from dead six, it is best to get about 20 meters from the enemy, where the prop-wash that was shaking your plane earlier settles down. It is like getting from “heavy seas” to a calm “backwater”. It is very nice to shoot from the rear sides, and from there you most often shoot the enemy down, too. You should shoot in front of the armour into the cockpit and engine. The lead is also so small that it’ll give you no trouble at all.

It is hard to shoot from the enemy’s high six. This is because the target vanishes below your nose when you take the necessary lead. You shouldn’t use this method against other fighters.

From the enemy’s low six you can easily get to a shooting position, so that he’ll never see you coming. Most planes are also very vulnerable from below, so that the first burst usually does what is necessary. When attacking from below, you should have enough speed, so that you don’t get into trouble afterwards. Use a head-on solution only if you are forced into it.

Combat between fighter units:

Our fighters must battle against either slower and more agile, or faster and less nimble fighter units. The first category nowadays includes the I-16, I-153, and at lower altitude, the Hurricane. All the other fighters belong to the latter group. The so-called “rocking chair tactics” is used against the first group. The attacking unit climbs a little higher than the enemy and attacks straight from the rear. The planes dive in turns and fire at only one plane. After that they pull up and the second plane executes a similar strike. This is kept up until the whole enemy formation is scattered. However, the objective is to force the enemy to stay in the same area, so that we can also fight together and cover each other. The attack against an enemy formation should always be aimed at the rearmost planes, preferably against the rearmost ones, nearest to the edges of the formation. After firing, you must absolutely pull up, be the adversary destroyed or not. The pull-up must be performed outward from the enemy formation’s centre. This is because the I-16 and Chaika prefer to raise their nose and shoot back at you if you give them the slightest opportunity. If the enemy turns out to be an experienced air combatant and is not taken by surprise, the attacks must be made by section. The first plane makes a mock attack and his wingman fires at the enemy immediately after the enemy has taken evasive action and is most vulnerable. Never fly to the front of the enemy formation. If an enemy is for some reason able to sneak behind during the battle, it is best to pick up speed by entering a shallow dive and only after that, gain altitude by a gentle climbing turn and join in the fight again. Never dogfight an I-15 or I-153. The first example of this kind of tactics was in April 1943 when Captain Karhunen’s flight [original text illegible] against eleven I-16s. In a short but [original text illegible] otherwise downed all enemy planes, whereas only two of the six Brewsters had hits in harmless places. An extremely noteworthy fact is that, for example, Captain Karhunen made 15 attacks during the fight downing two enemy planes. This is something for fresh pilots to note! You cannot shoot down an enemy plane in every diving attack you make. In order to follow proper tactics and considering the whole situation, you must pull up after your attack even if by continuing it, you would gain advantage for further fighting.

If the harassed formation is able to break up in all directions, the flight commander gives orders by radio to the different sections, which one should start chasing the break-away planes. Those orders must be obeyed immediately.

If you are caught unawares by nimbler planes you must break away quickly and take the initiative to your own hands by attacking.

If our fighter is slower but more agile than the enemy fighter, it is natural that we aim to dogfight, which is performed not only horizontally but also diagonally by diving and climbing turns. Before we are in that situation we must take the enemy at least partially by surprise, because he can easily avoid the fight by using his speed. The surprise can be achieved in four ways if we are flying to an advantageous direction: 1) advancing at a low level against the terrain, 2) using the clouds, 3) from the sun or 4) flying at a high altitude and diving from there with great speed, preferably the sun behind our back. A fast plane can easily avoid an attack coming from the same or a lower altitude by pulling up or diving and ascending after that. Besides the faster planes tend to have a better climb rate, as well. In such a case we are in a very vulnerable position regarding the enemy above us. Therefore, the last method 4) is absolutely the best. Although the enemy could observe our attack at the last seconds he will be unable to break away because of our extra speed gained by the height. Searching at high altitudes is more difficult and demanding than at lower altitudes where enemy planes are easier to see against the sky.

The first strike should be simultaneous and it should be directed at as many enemy planes as possible. You should not open fire too far away because that would reveal the attackers, but sufficiently close. After firing the first attackers pull up as the others continue the attack. The attackers dive from above in a continuous stream against the bogeys forcing them into constant evasive action, to stay in the combat area and prevent them from getting above. If there are so many enemies that not all of them are engaged by our planes at once, they will try to get above us from the flanks. To prevent this we must pull up to the different sides of the enemy after the attack. You must pay constant attention to the area towards the sun because the enemy first and foremost tries to get to that direction. We are on the walls of a pot whereas the enemy is at the bottom. The planes that are trying to pull up to the brim are the primary targets. When the enemy suffers casualties, it often turns purely defensive and forms the so-called Lufberry circle. Now, by climbing and turning above the enemy it is easy to attack a bogey that turns away from us. If the attacking plane is disturbed by a bogey, our next plane must engage that bogey. Every time after pulling up you must observe the aerial situation in all directions to prevent any unpleasant surprises either to you or your fellow pilots.

When the enemy tries to disengage, you must immediately start pursuing them. If the speed permits, there is an excellent opportunity to shoot at dispersed enemy planes, or to force them on the defensive again. By using these so-called “rocking-chair tactics” small forces can tie up superior numbers of enemy planes into relatively safe but frequently very successful battle.

Flying less agile planes the enemy will engage in a dogfight only when it has the initiative and a superior number of aircraft. Some of the enemy aircraft will certainly climb up and start the fight from above us. In such a case you must attack without hesitation. Not for a moment must you fly straight or disengage in order to pursue an individual aircraft, but fire from all possible positions. Evasive action must be quick and you must stay close to your element members to be able to protect each other by firing. Head-on shooting should be carried out by using your agility and approaching obliquely, in which case the enemy misses and possibly sustains damage. In most cases, the enemy aircraft that are hit will disengage by using their speed, and the fighting will even up until the remaining the enemy planes consider it better to withdraw.

Attacks against bomber formations without fighter cover are executed by engaging simultaneously both bombers at the edges of the formation and shooting them down. If the bomber formation is flying in very broad wedge you can attack as many planes as possible at the same time. The approach is best made from the rear and below, from where you slide to the cover of the tail and from that position you destroy the plane. If you have time, the wisest thing to do is to destroy the rear gunner first, after which you can shoot the engines on fire at close range in perfect peace. The space behind the bombers can get congested when they are attacked. For this reason the flight commander always orders by radio whose turn it is to attack. These orders must absolutely be obeyed.

If the bomber formation has had a fighter cover, we have always been forced to engage the fighter escort and the bombers have been able to sneak away. For this reason, different tactics were introduced in the spring of 1943. One section was ordered to attack the bombers. The others tied up the fighter escort making it possible for the section ordered to destroy the bombers to bounce on them. One aircraft in the section must always ensure that the enemy fighters cannot attack either one of them. An example of these tactics are in Captain Wind’s mission report of an aerial encounter on 5 April, 1943: “I was flying as Captain Korhonen’s wingman when we met four I-153 protecting five IL-2s south of Peninsaari. I darted behind one I-153 and shot it down at very low altitude. The IL-2s continued towards Kroivinlahti. I was able to go after them as the other Brewsters were tying up the Chaikas. I fired at the first IL-2 to the base of the wing. The plane caught fire immediately and plunged into the sea. I continued and shot at the other IL-2 with similar results. At the Sepeleva lighthouse I shot at the third IL-2, which started smoking and plunged into the sea at Tolli.”

The use of the radio:

Fighter combat is nowadays totally based on the use of the radio. Without it the fighter operations would be entirely a matter of chance. Every fighter squadron has its own radio network. Along the frontline in the squadron’s sphere of operations there are ground-stations (at fixed intervals or otherwise significant spots), which direct the planes from the ground. The radio-stations also include an air-surveillance station. Besides these frontline radio stations the squadron also has a command-radio station at the base that controls the radio traffic. In addition to this internal radio network , there is a listening station that monitors other radio networks, the air surveillance radio and naval network.

Of course, there are transmitters and receivers in every plane. Every pilot must obey absolute radio discipline. The wingman is not supposed to talk unless specifically requested. Only the squadron commander is in contact with the ground-stations. If he for some reason is unable to communicate with them, the second-in-command takes care of the communications.

Nobody else speaks unless he sees something worth reporting. Idle chit-chat is absolutely forbidden. Especially in air combat everybody tends to talk too much; there is no reason for telling your own doings in the middle of the fight unless you are in an awkward situation or you become aware of something new which is of advantage for the others during the combat.

Enemy fighting methods with different planes:

The I-153 Chaika is mainly used at low altitudes of 0-2,000 m. Quite difficult to shoot down because of its excellent manoeuvrability. If attacked from below and rear, tends to evade by pulling up and after that shoots back when we go up. Superior in dogfights. The best way to shoot it down is to approach fast from lower rear quarter, in which case you can pull up behind it after firing.

The I-16 and I-16bis are very nimble fighters used at lower altitudes. A formation of several planes (about 5-10) willingly form the so called “Spanish fly”, that is, the planes fly round in circles on a horizontal plane [Lufberry circle], so when attacking against one of them you become target of the next plane. The best method against this kind of circle is to form a similar one above it. The circle goes around in the same direction, but you attack from above, and after firing, pull up. When flying alone the I-16 (as well as the Chaika) prefers to shoot head-on. In such a case you should try to evade either up or down depending on [original text illegible] using the rudder with force.

The LaGG-3 is not especially agile in dogfight. It usually tries an outflanking approach from up and behind, shoots and pulls up. Likes head-on shooting. The tail has a heavy armour. When attacked it tries to evade with a quick half aileron roll to either side. The most vulnerable points are the engine and the radiator below the aircraft.

The LA-5 is an extremely agile and fast fighter. Similar hooking tactics as LaGG-3 thanks to its good climb performance. The method of fighting: usually an attack in sections from above; the flight leader fires first and his wingman when the target is evading.

The YaK-1 is nowadays mainly used as a close escort for bombers. The ailerons are very effective. Tends to attack head on because of the small and thin airframe. Evades even at low altitudes with a half aileron roll down and pulls away. Not especially fast. YaK-7B and YaK-9 are noticeably faster and as manoeuvrable.

The Hurricane and Spitfire are slow and clumsy fighters at low altitudes. They seek dogfights at high altitudes (over 5,000 m.) where their characteristics are extremely good. Used these days as night-fighters by the enemy. The Spitfire is faster than the Hurricane.

In addition to aforementioned planes the enemy uses American types, such as the Tomahawk and Kittyhawk, which are not as good as the LA-5. They are about on a par with LaGG-3 but more vulnerable.

There is nothing special to tell about bomber tactics. If a bomber (PE-2, Boston) flies alone it uses high altitudes (5,000-8,000 m.), in which case it is extremely difficult to shoot down. If the bombers appear in larger formations, they fly regularly at very low altitudes (below 2,000 m.), mostly at 200-300 meters. In such a case they rely on their combined firepower. If attacked, the bombers gather together into a tight formation, and all the rear-gunners fire whenever they have the slightest opportunity. The bombers don’t make any evasive manoeuvres.

The IL-2 uses side slip in evading; they always fly at low altitudes in formations of several planes. If possible they try to use their forward-firing guns and rockets under their wings.

Kapteeni Hans Henrik Wind
Kapteeni Hans Henrik Wind


Original document by Hans Wind, Finnish Air Force, 1943.

Jukka “Grendel” Kauppinen – typing original material to electronic form and editing.
Timo “Kossu” Niiranen – fetching original lecture papers and copying them.

English translation by:
Jukka “Grendel” Kauppinen / VLeLv Icebreakers, Erkki “Eni” Nieminen / VLeLv Icebreakers, Timo “Kossu” Niiranen / VLeLv Icebreakers and Matti “My” Yrjölä / HLeLv 24.
Proofreading and editing by Mika “Banzai” Ganszauge of / VLeLv Icebreakers.
Translation copyright Virtuaalilentäjät r.y. / Finnish Virtual Pilots Association 2001, VirtuaaliLentoLaivue Icebreakers, HLeLv 24.

Many thanks to the following people who were immensely helpful in carrying out this project:

This article is entitled: Captain H. Wind’s Lectures on Fighter Tactics and is courtesy of:


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