Nearly eight decades ago, Soviet women fighter pilots proved they could be the Top Guns of their day.
We live in a time when shockingly regressive views can gain traction and popularity. Case in point: apparently some people aren’t convinced that women can fly planes. That deserves a “well, actually:” women have been involved with powered flight since the very beginning.
While pioneering early aviators like Amelia Earhart may have seemed like novelties or aberrations, that changed with World War II. Just as it was a time for women to prove in large numbers they could do “a man’s job” in science and industry, this was also when women proved they could fly planes just as well. Air forces on all sides employed women as test pilots and to ferry new planes to the front lines. Moreover, in the Soviet Union, women pilots were put to the ultimate test in combat.
Due to the Cold War, the contribution of Soviet women combat pilots was little known in the West. Thankfully, more and more, their history is coming to light. Most of the attention goes to the “Night Witches,” an all-female regiment of bomber pilots. Flying their antiquated biplanes in the dead of night, they are a plucky underdog story. But arguably more amazing is the fact that the Soviet Union also entrusted women with the most expensive and technologically advanced hardware the Motherland had to offer: fighter planes.
This is the story of Soviet women fighter pilots of World War II.