makes Safonov's achievement remarkable is that 14 of these victories
were claimed during the three first months of the war, while Safonov
was flying an I-16 Ishak fighter, an airplane far inferior to the
German Messerschmitt 109s. During a stay by RAF fighter pilots in
this area in the fall of 1941, Boris Safonov gave the British airmen
an impressive show of combat skill.
The British were eager to avenge their humiliating defeat in the air over the same area on July 30, 1941, when German fighters shot down 15 British aircraft sent out from the carriers Victorious and Furious - without a single German loss.
On September 12, 1941, the twenty-four Hurricanes bound for Murmansk took off from the aircraft carrier Argus in the Barents Sea. That same afternoon, the British pilots of 81 Squadron flew a combat mission over the front lines. They bounced five Messerschmitt 109s escorting a Henschel 126. In the ensuing action, the Messerschmitt pilot Leutenant Eckhard von der Lühe and the Hurricane pilot Sergeant Smith were both shot down and killed. (The British pilots claimed to have shot down three Bf 109s plus the Hs 126. During the following five weeks, the RAF pilots took part in several combats, claiming 16 confirmed victories, 4 "probables," and 7 damaged enemy aircraft--a high over-claim--for the loss of only 2 Hurricanes.)
In the hands of an expert, the old I-16 was still to be reckoned with, as Boris Safonov would show the British guests. On September 6, 1941, the Luftwaffe raided 72 SAP´s airfield. Safonov and four other I-16 pilots met the attackers in the air, claiming two Ju 87s shot down. While clashing with the escorting Bf 109s, one I-16 pilot was credited with one kill while another "Messer" was shared by Safonov and a third pilot. According to the Soviet report, a third Messerschmitt crashed into the ground while chasing the agile I-16s. None of these claims can be verified in the loss tables of JG 5 (which are not necessarily complete). (continued next page)