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Boris Ivanovich Kovzan
Rectangular postage stamp of Russia featuring an illustration of an aerial ramming on the left and a portrait of Kovzan on the right.
2014 postage stamp of Russia depicting Kovzan and one of his ramming attacks
Native name Борис Иванович Ковзан
Born 7 April 1922
Died 31 August 1985
Place of birth Shakhty, Russian SFSR
Place of death Minsk, Byelorussian SSR
Allegiance  Soviet Union
Service/branch Soviet Air Force
Years of service 1939 – 1958
Rank Polkovnik (Colonel)
Battles/wars Eastern Front of World War II
Awards Hero of the Soviet Union
Order of Lenin (2)
Order of the Red Banner
Order of the Patriotic War
Medal "For Battle Merit"

Boris Kovzan (Russian: Борис Ковзан; 7 April 1922 – 31 August 1985) was a Soviet fighter pilot and flying ace who became the deputy regimental commander of the 744th Fighter Aviation Regiment in the 240th Fighter Aviation Division of the 6th Air Army on the Northwestern Front during World War II. He remains the only person to have executed four confirmed aerial rammings, referred to as "taran" attacks in the Soviet Union.

Early life

Kovzan was born in 1922 to a working-class Russian family in Shakhty. After graduating from secondary school in Babruysk, Belarus he enlisted in the Red Army in 1939 and attended the Odessa Military Aviation School in Ukraine. In 1940 he was assigned to the 160th Fighter Aviation Regiment of the Belarusian Special Military District.[1]

World War II

Shortly after the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 Kovzan was deployed to the warfront. On 29 October 1941 that same year he conducted his first aerial ramming as a junior lieutenant in the 42nd Fighter Aviation Regiment over Zagorsk. In that attack he rammed a German Messerschmitt Bf 110 heavy fighter that was conducting a reconnaissance mission over Soviet-controlled territory while flying a MiG-3 interceptor. Previously that day he had used up all he ammunition to shoot down one Me-109 from a group of four and was forced to return to the airfield. While approaching the airfield he was based at, he noticed the reconnaissance plane and rammed it upward at an altitude of 5000 meters; ramming enemy aircraft upward was an unusual technique but Kovzan is not the only person to have executed such a maneuver, and notable pilots such as Amet-Khan Sultan later used the technique in aerial combat. After the attack Kovzan did not bail out and was able to land at his destination. Before his first aerial ramming in October he had shot down a Dornier Do 215 light bomber in August 1941.[2]

Kovzan's second aerial ramming took place over Torzhok on 21 February 1942; in that attack he rammed a Junkers Ju 88 while flying a Yak-1 and again managed to land his damaged plane at an airfield after using it in a ramming.

On 9 July 1942 he executed a third ramming attack when he rammed an approaching Messerschmitt Bf 110 over Lyubtsy village in the Novgorod Oblast; again he managed to safely land his damaged Yak-1. After that attack he was nominated for the title Hero of the Soviet Union but the leadership of the 6th Air Army rejected the nomination and awarded him an Order of the Red Banner instead.[1]

His fourth and final ramming attack took place over Staraya Russa on 13 August 1942 when he rammed a Ju-88 whilst flying an La-5. While flying a patrol in the area he noticed a group of seven Junkers Ju-88s and six Messerschmitt Bf 110s. Before he could approach the group in his fighter, the Luftwaffe saw where he was and went into attack. Knowing that his one plane would be no match for the group of bombers and ignoring additional escort fighters he rushed at several of the Junkers aircraft, hoping to take out as many as possible before he ended up in the line of fire of an Me-109. After the Me-109 shot at Kovzan’s plane, one of the rounds entered his cockpit and hit him directly in his right eye. He then tried to jump out of his plane with his parachute but found he did not have enough strength to do so; after realizing he had no other way to evacuate the plane he was in, which would be shot down at any moment, he flew his fighter head-on into a Ju-88. The impact from the collision created an opening in the plane from which he could get out, and he proceeded to fall 6000 meters and landed in a marsh on a collective farm, fracturing his leg, arm, and multiple ribs in the process. Workers on the farm pulled an unconscious Kovzan out of the swamp and took him to the custody of a partisan detachment, which then brought him to a hospital in Moscow where he eventually regained consciousness.[3]

On 24 August 1943 Kovzan was officially declared a Hero of the Soviet Union by decree of the Supreme Soviet for his perseverance despite grave injuries. After spending ten months in the hospital recovering from his wounds he was released and returned to the Soviet Airforce, initially as a flight instructor but later became the deputy regimental commander of the 144th Fighter Regiment.[1][4] In total Kovzan scored 28 aerial victories during the war, four of which were taken out by ramming and the rest were shootdowns; throughout the war he flew 360 sorties and engaged in 127 aerial battles.[1][4]

Later life

After the end of the Second World War Kovzan remained in the airforce and held a variety of positions; initially he was the deputy commander of the 123rd Fighter Aviation Defense Division before graduating from the Air Force Academy in 1954, after which head headed the DOSAAF aeroclub in Ryazan. In 1958 he left the airforce with the rank of Polkovnik and transferred to the reserve, but continued to work as head of the Ryazan aeroclub until he moved to Minsk in 1969. He passed away on 30 August 1985 at the age of 63 and was buried in the Minsk Northern Cemetery.[1][4]

See also


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