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Vladimir Kotelnikov

Author of AIR WARS OVER KHALKHIN: Nomonhan Incident

65 Works 134 Members 5 Reviews

About the Author


Works by Vladimir Kotelnikov

AIR WARS OVER KHALKHIN: Nomonhan Incident (2010) 25 copies, 1 review
Piroshky with an Accent (2001) 7 copies


Common Knowledge



Since I've already had some exposure to Vladimir Kotelnikov's writing, I had some expectations. On one hand, I figured that there would be a good level of detail (if only a vague sense of documentation). On the other, I expected some misplaced jocularity, and such was the case (who knows what the translator did to massage Kotelnikov's Russian into acceptable English).

Be that as it may, Kotelnikov begins his examination of the Russian airborne troops with the personage of one Pavel I. Grokhovskiy, an adventurer who found his way into the Soviet Communist Party, became associated with Soviet military aviation, and then became obsessed with parachutes, before becoming involved with creating airborne troops (Kotelnikov is a little unclear about how much this was Kotelnikov's initiative). From there, this work becomes something of a handbook, as there are many short chapters dealing with such specific things as parachutes, clothing for parachutists, the recruitment of parachutists, the modifications made to various aircraft to make them useful in the air assault role, and so on, and so forth.

Apart from that, much this book is devoted to the main issue that faced the nascent Soviet airborne force; viable aircraft. Much of the work was done with Tupolev TB-3 bomber aircraft, and much was hoped from the next generation of Soviet "giant" aircraft, but these were all dead ends. Soviet military aviation did not get access to Western transport aircraft until it was too late to matter.

Still, Kotelnikov's accounts of the great show maneuvers that these troops participated in are quite fascinating, and they were so perfectly stage-managed you can see how men like Kurt Student (father of the German airborne effort), were given ideas.

Kotelnikov wraps up this work the contributions of Soviet airborne force to Soviet operations from 1939 to the onset of Barbarossa.

As for Pavel Grokhovskiy, he met the fate of many a Soviet military innovator of the time, dying while incarcerated in the GULAG system.

In closing, I thought this was a useful book, particularly regarding the nuts-and-bolts foundation of the force.
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Shrike58 | Apr 15, 2024 |
In as much as there is really no other alternative to this book, if you're curious about topic, I have to give this work 4 stars, though that rating comes with caveats; mostly in regards to presentation. For one, there is no index in this work, and though it's organized on a topic-by-topic, and then aircraft-by-aircraft basis, which sort of mitigates this lack, an index would have been helpful.

Two, a little more context would have been helpful, particularly in regards to Soviet military aviation doctrine. Considering how Soviet pilots often considered American and British fighter aircraft rather disappointing, and their preference for a machine with some agility, it would appear that "energy" tactics were an alien concept to these fliers. The Airacobras, and the few Spitfires received, being the notable exceptions in terms of meeting Soviet expectations about what a proper fighter plane should be.

On the other hand, with some exceptions, there was much more happiness with the general run of multi-engine aircraft the Soviets received. Apart from the Havoc and the Mitchell, the adventure with the small force of B-17s, B-24s, and B-29s that was cobbled together on the side is particularly fascinating. In addition, any hydroplanes the Soviets could receive were appreciated, as they simply didn't have the production capacity to cover their needs for such aircraft.

Then there are the machines that the Soviets found themselves stuck with, that basically produced the reaction of "just why?" I'm impressed that Kotelnikov has as much to say about the Curtiss O-52 in Soviet service as he does. There is also the whole misadventure with the Armstrong-Whitworth Albemarle, which appears to be one of the biggest failures of the war-time British aviation industry, even as a transport.

Apart from that this work is infused with a serious sense of realism, which is appreciated, until the very less paragraph of the book where Kotelnikov describes the Cold War as Washington and Moscow displaying an "incessant desire to mess with each other." Talk about a trivializing statement.
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Shrike58 | 1 other review | Nov 9, 2023 |
In 1921, the Soviet Union set up the Mongolian People’s Republic as a puppet state; in 1932 Japan set up Manchukuo as a puppet state (both had originally been part of China – as far as China was concerned. The countries shared a border, but disagreed on where it was; the Manchkuoans (actually, Japan) claimed the Khalkhin Gol (“Gol” means “river” in Mongolian, so “Khalkhin Gol River” is redundant); the Mongolians (actually the Soviet Union) claimed a border about 20 miles east of that. There were various skirmishes along the border starting in 1936, but the major battles occurred in 1939 when the Japanese staged a division-level assault into the disputed area.

Author Vladimir Kotelnikov tells things from the Soviet/Mongolian point of view; he notes both sides considerably exaggerated the effectiveness of their air forces. According to Kotelnikov, the Soviets overestimated the number of Japanese aircraft lost in combat by about a factor of 4, while the Japanese exaggerated their victories by a factor of 6, resulting in both sides claiming more air-to-air victories than the total of all enemy aircraft deployed to the theater. His best estimate of actual losses is about 155 for the Japanese versus 249 for the Soviets/Mongolians. Many of the Soviet losses occurred early in the conflict, when experience Japanese pilots were pitted against novice Soviets/Mongolians; things improved somewhat for the Soviets later when they brought in veteran pilots who had fought on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War.

As implied by the title, there’s heavy emphasis on the air conflict. Although maps show the movement of both sides’ ground forces, this isn’t followed up in the text. There’s also an idiosyncratic use of aircraft type designations (at least for readers used to reading American or English accounts of Pacific battles). Kotelnikov uses the Japanese “Ki” designation, which was an aircraft project number issued in sequence regardless of manufacturer or use. Thus, the aircraft Kotelnikov calls the “Ki-27” is probably more familiar to wester readers as the “Nate” or “Nakajima Type 97”. Kotelnikov’s usage is something like saying “Boeing Model 299” rather than “Flying Fortress” or “B-17”. The Ki-27/Nate/Type 97 was the principal fighter aircraft on the Japanese side; the Soviets started with the I-15 and upgraded to the I-16 and I-153. The I-16 pilots used the same techniques later adopted by the Americans when facing the Zero with P-40s; use their aircraft’s heavier armament and superior diving speed to counter the “Nate’s” superior maneuverability.

After the main text, the appendices include a color plate section with camouflage and insignia patterns, and a descriptive section with details on each aircraft type used. However, there are no notes or bibliography. Useful for a modeler or if your interest is limited to air combat; you’ll need another book to learn about the ground aspects of the campaign.
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2 vote
setnahkt | Jun 4, 2022 |
Up until now, the generally available books on Lend-Lease Aircraft in English were US Aircraft in the Soviet Union and Russia, by Gordon and the Komissarov’s which covered a much larger period of time, and the books by Pearcy and Butler which were more UK centric and did not cover the odd-ball one-offs that made into the Soviet Union like the Armstrong-Whitworth Albemarle, the Lockheed Ventura or Supermarine Walrus.
Mr. Kotelnikov remedies this with a great volume that also provides insight to Soviet design practices and design philosophies that came into play as they received the American and British Lend-Lease aircraft and how best to utilize them. Each aircraft receives coverage of the Soviet analysis and how it was adapted. For example, the De Havilland Mosquito gets 3.75 pages of excellent coverage including a brief discussion of the evaluation performed by TsAGI.
There are a few minor translation errors as in describing a belly landing or ground loop as “crawled further on its belly”, but nothing that hinders the book in any way.
There’s not much here for the modeler aside from 29 pages of color plates that predominantly heavy on Bell aircraft and variants of the Consolidated Catalina. One thing I would have liked to seen was some detail photographs of the installation of the re-engined M105 engine as discussed on page 169 and again on pages 174-175.
As of the date of this review, this is undoubtedly the best easily available English language publication on the Soviet use of Lend-Lease aircraft. This is a must buy for anyone interested in Lend-Lease aircraft or WWII Soviet aviation.
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1 vote
jetcal1 | 1 other review | Sep 6, 2020 |

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