The World's only Female Aces

The Soviet Air Force had the world's only female aces. During World War II, Lydia Litvyak scored 12 victories and Katya Budanova achieved 11.

Lydia Vladimirovna Litvyak, (Moscow, August 18, 1921 – Orel, August 1, 1943), also known as Lydia Litviak or Lilya Litviak, was a female fighter pilot in the Soviet Air Force during World War II. With 12 solo victories and either two or four shared, gained in 66 combat missions, she is one of the world's only two female fighter aces, along with Katya Budanova.

Born in Moscow, she was keen on aviation from her youth. At 14, she entered an aeroclub, and at 15, flew an aircraft for the first time. In the late 1930s, she received her flight instructor license.

There are conflicting claims about Litvyak's victory score in different publications. Most often, 11 individual kills and 3 team kills are quoted, but also 8 individual and 4 team, 12 individual and 2 team. Pasportnikova stated in 1990 that the tally was 12 solo kills including the balloon, and three shared.

Litvyak was awarded with the Order of the Red Banner, Order of the Red Star, and was twice honored with the Order of the Patriotic War.

Yekaterina Vasylievna Budanova also known as Katya Budanova, (December 7, 1916–July 19, 1943), was a female fighter pilot in the Soviet Air Force during World War II. With 11 victories, she was one of the world's two female fighter aces along with Lydia Litvyak.

She was born into a peasant family in Konoplanka village in Smolensk Oblast. Working in an aircraft factory in Moscow, she became interested in aviation and entered an aeroclub where she received her pilot training. She served as a flight instructor starting in 1937. She also took part in several air parades, flying the single-seater Yakovlev UT-1.

After the German attack on the USSR in June 1941, she enlisted in military aviation. She was assigned to the 586th Fighter Regiment (586 IAP), formed by Marina Raskova. This unit consisted entirely of female pilots. She flew her first combat missions in April 1942 over Saratov. In September, she was assigned, along with other women (among them, Lydia Litvyak), to the 437th IAP, engaged in the fighting over Stalingrad.

She soon became known for her aggressive attacking and high piloting skill. She flew Yak-1 fighters. On October 6, she attacked 13 Junkers Ju 88 bombers by herself, shooting down her first aircraft. In November, she downed two Bf 109 fighters and a Ju 88. In the following months, she was credited with several more aircraft. In January 1943, she, along with her friend Litvyak, was moved to the 73rd Guards Fighter Regiment of the 8th Air Army. She soon was given the right of "solo hunting".

 On February 23, she was awarded with an Order of the Red Star.

On July 19, 1943, during a solo combat with three Bf 109, she shot down one, but was shot down herself and killed near the town of Antracit in Luhansk Oblast.

There are different data as for Katya Budanova's victory score in different publications. The most common quote is 11 kills (6 individual and 5 team kills). She was awarded the Order of the Red Star and the Order of the Patriotic War (twice).

Although it was proposed, she was not awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union during the war. On October 1, 1993, she was posthumously awarded with the title Hero of the Russian Federation.


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