“18 July 1981, an aircraft of unidentified affiliation from Iran entered the airspace of the Soviet Union near the city of Yerevan.
The crew of the aircraft did not respond to all the requests of the Soviet ground-based means of monitoring the flights of the aircraft and the attempts to assist it, continued flying over the Soviet territory, making dangerous maneuvers.
After some time, this plane collided with a Soviet plane, collapsed and burned down. ” (TASS message from 23 July 1981 of the year).
Today, many already know that the official information implied the second in the world ram on a jet plane, which was performed by Soviet pilot captain Valentin Alekseyevich Kulyapin, deputy commander of the advanced squadron for the political part of the 166 Guards Fighter Aviation Regiment of the 34 Air Force. And it was necessary to see how proud we were, the soldiers of the neighboring garrison, that we were serving alongside such an ace. They were proud and wondering why, unlike the author of the first ram - captain Gennady Yeliseyev, who perished in 1973, he was not awarded a Gold Star on the proposal of the Military Council of the Transcaucasian Military District from July 31 of the year. A month later, the publication of the Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR on awarding it with the Order of the Red Banner only strengthened condemnation to this effect.
The last circumstance was remembered in 1991 year, when a group of students of the Military-Political Academy named after A. Gorkiy turned to a number of higher instances. Lenin.
They demanded to restore justice and assign the title of Hero of the Russian Federation to their mentor, the head of the pedagogical faculty course, Colonel Valentin Kulyapin, for the events of ten years ago. Just in those years, if you remember, with the light hand of Mikhail Gorbachev, and then Boris Yeltsin, in order to revive the patriotic principles in educating young people, the campaign to confer this rank after many years, even to the Afghans, was unleashed.
So for the second time I met the idol of my officer youth, deciding to assist his subordinates. True, the recognition of activists was alarmed by the fact that the initiative of going to the offices comes from the hero candidate himself. But, on the other hand, because no one has deprived the former pilot of the right to demand a proper assessment of his military work, agree.
About why Valentine did not raise this issue without delay, somehow did not think at first. As it turned out soon, in vain. After all, he remembered the iron rule of front-line correspondents: to investigate, even before the final conclusions, even a feat!
The chairman and members of the state commission who were instructed to investigate the causes of the emergency, still believe that for many years Kulyapin himself and other participants in those events were not silent.
Hurriedly assembled on that memorable Sunday at the military airfield of Chkalovsky, the air force generals and the captain of the special department of the KGB were initially warned that this was a rather delicate situation, where it might be necessary to sacrifice truth to save the prestige of the state. That is why all subsequent days after the flight, the flagship board to the crash site was occupied by them preparing not only the secret report to the Politburo of the CPSU Central Committee, but also acceptable variants of the TASS report.
Professionals who are not used to verbiage, who, unlike some of the current leaders, have passed all career growth stages in their field and had the moral right to express personal opinions regarding the flight incident, have not managed to satisfy the political elite with their press release projects. Only on the fifth day after repeated requests from the Argentine and Turkish sides about the missing plane in the USSR, did mankind know about the birth of the new “hero” who interrupted the flight of South American vultures.
The first results of the journalistic investigation showed how good reasons forced the country's leadership to put a taboo on all the talk about the death of the crew of the airliner with the call sign "TN", which sentimental dispatchers, in order to avoid phonetic errors in the air, decoded nothing other than Tango November (November Tango).
For some reason, almost 10 years later, the deputy commander-in-chief of the country's air force for combat training, Colonel General, answered my first inquiries to the department of administrative bodies of the Central Committee of the CPSU, the General Staff and the archive of the USSR Ministry of Defense aviation Borsuk. Anatoly Fedorovich categorically rejected the need to excite public opinion and analyze the actions of aviators "in the interests of combat training of flight personnel of fighter regiments." Later, at a personal meeting, Borsuk will explain the streamlining of phrases by the fact that in 1981 he still flew as the deputy commander of the Minsk Air Army, and therefore did not know all the circumstances of the case, complained about the costs of the collapse of the Soviet Union, but in the end he acknowledged the nonsense and imposed obscenities on the pilot, and command post calculations. But it will be three years later. Then, in the early 90s, the author had to look for like-minded people among independent experts in the person of foreign colleagues and military attaches of interested states, former military leaders who investigated the catastrophe in the sky of Armenia. And the calculation of simple human participation fully paid off.
WHO ORDERED MUSIC
In order to fully appreciate the seriousness of the issue under study, it is necessary, apparently, to recall some aspects of the international life of the beginning of 80's. Then the US embargo on supplies weapons Ayatollah Khomeini's regime forced the latter through third countries to conclude a number of backroom deals in order to compensate for the weapon shortage. Sometimes even individuals acted as intermediaries.
The reporters from London's Sunday Times had two days to go to Stuart McCafferty. The 38-year-old Scotsman was hired to deliver American-made weapons from Tel Aviv to Tehran, not knowing that he was thus doomed to become one of the victims of the scam of the powerful. Yes, it was he who shared the sorrowful fate of the crew in the sky of Transcaucasia. His connections were soon brought to his fellow countryman, who wished to remain anonymous to readers. Already knowing about the mournful fate of Stewart, he nevertheless fully justified the nickname Cowboy given to him in certain circles, answering the questions of the correspondent in the twenties of July: “We fully realized the risk we were taking. And I am waiting for my people from Tel Aviv to decide how we will proceed, because no one intends to change their plans. ”
Contrary to the obvious, the Israeli Foreign Ministry then rejected involvement in the affairs of its officially sworn enemy - Iran. He, in turn, also denied everything, explaining the hype as an attempt to discredit the "great revolution." Nevertheless, the information received through the military attaché of one of the countries involved in the incident confirms that yes, indeed, the specified transaction took place and assumed the transfer of arms to £ 15 million through 12 flights from Tel Aviv to Tehran with an intermediate landing in Larnaca (Cyprus). And three consignments openly named as spare parts for tankswere at the time of the tragedy in the sky of Armenia delivered to their destination.
Whether it was a question of component parts and aggregates for Soviet-made tanks — this question of the author to the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the USSR Armed Forces hung in the air and allowed him to first put forward a version about Kulyapin’s involvement in an unintentional disruption of the most advantageous contract for the USSR. However, a former colleague who, while serving in Afghanistan, traveled to Iran to rescue the An-26 crew who made an emergency landing at the Iranian airfield Zabol instead of the Afghan Zaranj, convinced me that it would be irrational to further investigate this issue. He was personally convinced that the share of not only Soviet armored vehicles, but also small arms in the arsenal of the Iranian army is insanely small. The same was testified by our officers, who settled the conflict associated with the erroneous missile-bombing attack that our helicopters delivered from the DRA territory on the Iraqi frontier post.
In search of a suitable delivery vehicle at the end of June 1981, McCafferty found himself in Buenos Aires at the Ezeiss airfield, in the office of the small aircraft hire company Transporte Aereo Rioplatense, which was known far beyond Argentina as "not asking a lot of questions." He chartered a battered CL-44 (similar to our IL-18), ostensibly for the transport of pharmaceutical goods. The client was paying the price, as the company administrator remembered, in cash, than immediately took possession of the crew.
Interestingly, the commander of the aircraft - a former maritime pilot with the rank of captain 1 rank Hector Cordero Hauregiberri - was personally known to Comodoro (General) Armando Elios Buira, until recently the Air Force and Naval Attaché of the Embassy of Argentina in Russia. By fateful coincidence, it was he who served as the operational duty officer at the headquarters of the Argentine Air Force on the night from 18 to 19 in July 1981. When the news of the death of a friend came, after a short-term wealthy owner of an extensive ranch who flew to the reserve and flew solely for the sake of thrills, the future diplomat could not recover. Having learned about the version of Kulyapin, Mr. Buira was categorical: no, his compatriots could not ignore the interceptor pilot’s landing request. And Ector's army habit strictly follow the orders of the guarantor, and his national pedantry ...
But let's not get ahead. Alas, the prehistory of the air ram in Transcaucasia, although not without interest, did not shed any light on the causes that predetermined the tragedy. Only one thing became clear: the Soviet side had shot down a transport plane that had by no means accidentally found itself in the airspace of the USSR. Why "not by chance"? Yes, because the air traffic controllers in Ankara, when already familiar with the board with the call sign "TN" was returning again from Tehran and flew over northern Turkey, suddenly saw with amazement how the mark they controlled on the radar screen abruptly changed course and in full radio silence mode went to the border of the Soviet Union.
Such a maneuver can not be explained by an error in piloting or navigational calculations. Similarly, experienced pilots make an emergency landing at the nearest airfield. Not otherwise. And then, I think, it’s time to listen to Kulyapin himself, since he is in good health, he lives in the capital and, if not often, happens in the Central Museum of the Armed Forces, where one of the stands is occupied by his portrait with the Decree of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Council on awarding.
Here is his story, addressed to students of the military academy after 10 years passed, that is, more than 20 years ago. It should be noted that the monologue given below largely duplicates the pilot's initial report to the state commission that investigated the circumstances of the incident.
"Su-15TM fighter I am sorry so far! .."
- 18 July 1981, I was on combat duty as part of a pair of amplification. Departure for the alarm commander of the link and his slave at first perceived as a training introductory. However, soon after negotiations on the air I realized that in the air my colleagues were intercepting a real goal. Therefore, when my turn came, I was very worried.
At first, after taking off from the airfield near the Georgian village of Marneuli, I was sure that in any case I would be insured by other fighters or by calculations of anti-aircraft missile systems. But with the climb, I realized that the proximity of the state border and the apparent indecision of the officers of the battle command did not give me the right to make a mistake.
The reason for the unrest was serious. The first pair of fighters, after an afterburner having exhausted the fuel flight time limit, disrupted the execution of the mission and returned with nothing. That is why, immediately after the start, I, contrary to the rules, decided without my command to turn on the electronic sight and bring the engines to economy mode. My prudence, as it turned out soon, was not in vain.
Airliner CL-44 Argentine company Transporte Aereo Rioplatense. Photo by Edward Marmet
I found the transport plane visually at the very last moment, when it was almost at the bottom and behind. At a speed close to the stall speed (the minimum acceptable for my car), I took a position in the rear hemisphere of the intruder. And again he was forced to violate the instructions, fulfilling the order of the land to force the landing. So, at my own peril and risk, I ignored the recommendations of the command post about the evolution of the wings of mandatory signals in such cases about the possible dangerous consequences of their illegal actions and insubordination in the airspace of the Soviet Union. After all, for this it was necessary to take the train ahead of the enemy and become an accessible target himself.
It's a shame, but in the heat of battle I could not determine, at the request of the command post, the nationality of the intruder, although the symbols on the tail unit were bright and clear.
However, there was no time left even for reflections. My reports about the intruder’s attempt to break through to the border forced the KP to decide on an order to destroy the target. Only by ramming could I accomplish the combat mission, as there was no time left to increase the distance to the distance of the safe launch of the R-98M long-range missiles (air-to-air class). That's when the calculations were useful, theoretical lessons on parsing the first air ram on a jet plane, which ended, I recall, with the death of the performer.
The first blow - fuselage on the wing - broke. But again, I was moving closer together confidently. Blow your fuselage on the offender stabilizer from the bottom could not interrupt the criminal flight. At the same moment, as planned, I catapulted. Now I regret: the fighter, probably, could have been saved.
Yes, one more thing. When a parachute opened due to a dynamic strike, I lost my left boot - I forgot to lace up before takeoff. And landed - barefoot on one leg! Just extinguished the silk dome, automatically looked at the clock: 15.20, Moscow time.
PATRIOT OF ARMENIA
Kulyapin had not yet laid out the things in the ward of the district hospital, where he was taken for mandatory in-depth medical examinations, when investigators from the military prosecutor’s office and officers of the special department of the USSR KGB addressed him for an explanation of some of the circumstances of the flight. According to preliminary conclusions of counterintelligence officers, it’s time to serve Valentin’s term on the plank bed, not on the hospital bed. And that's why.
The operational duty officer of the Tbilisi KP, which monitored the airspace of the whole of Transcaucasia during the day when the events described here were unfolding, was Lieutenant Colonel Baghdasaryan.
“It was enough for me to make sure that the goal is headed for my native Yerevan, where my mother lives, like all doubts were thrown back,” the gray-haired officer will say to the correspondent at the meeting.
But it will be much later, when the criminal case against him will be terminated for the sake of the prestige of the Fatherland. In the first minutes after the ramming, he behaved differently. Fearing responsibility for his order to destroy the violating plane, Baghdasaryan cowardly erased the tape recording of his negotiations with the pilot at the command post. Moreover, he managed to persuade Kulyapin to confirm his testimony. It was all over now that Kulyapin arbitrarily “flunked” the target, failing to correctly apply the assigned weapons and losing its carrier - the most modern aviation complex.
Fortunately for the latter, the radio exchange was then fixed by means of objective control at the Nakhchivan air defense point, and this saved the pilot from the military tribunal. The tape recorder impartially recorded Baghdasaryan’s order to the point of guidance for the destruction of the target. His heart-rending screams with demands to cut off the intruder from the border were superimposed on the radio communications of the combat control officer with the pilot, making it difficult to concentrate. Such a “diarchy” when organizing interception is in itself unacceptable in the air defense system, but if only this were our blunders! ..
Obvious errors in the organization of air defense were noted in more than one report of inspectors. It is a pity that even those who drew conclusions on the fateful results of the interaction of ground services specialists and the pilot were confined to stating facts. The reform of the country's air defense system, carried out in those years, turned out to be so mediocre, that even amateurs could understand the need to rebuild former structures.
Time after time bloopers of international scale beat the prestige of the state. As it turned out, the author of the first ram in the Transcaucasian sky, Gennady Eliseyev, in 1979, the head of the command post forced the ram of a light-engine sport airplane, too, in error. After the pilot reported a missile miss, he was taken aback and lost sight of the fact that there was an onboard interceptor ... a quick-fire 23 caliber aircraft gun! And the moment before the collision, the leader of the pair, Eliseev, was almost completely shot down by the rockets of his slave, who decided to correct the miss of the commander.
Over the years, the members of the state commission on Kulyapin could not fail to conclude that, perhaps, then the officials could figure it out according to their conscience, did not give their aspirations to personal peace for taking care of the imaginary honor of the flag, and there would not be stories with argentinian crew. And the passengers of the South Korean "Boeing" would have survived, and the miracle Yudo Rust did not land on Red Square ...
If I start again ...
We must pay tribute to the specialists of the State Commission, headed by the First Deputy Chief of the Air Force General Staff, Lieutenant-General Aviation Abramov and the Chief Air Navigator, Major General Shabunin Aviation, known among his colleagues not only by high professionalism, but also by civil courage. Having the order to report on the results of the investigation directly to the Central Committee of the CPSU, bypassing the Ministry of Defense, for the first time they received the right not only to protect departmental interests, but also to give a truthful answer to the question: was it possible to avoid an extreme measure in suppressing the violator's flight?
Indeed, it turned out frivolous: in the space age, with the most advanced types of weapons and military equipment, having highly qualified personnel, we only beat the world again and again with rams, not even trying to find effective measures that would force the visitors to submit and land at the behest of the owners on its territory.
The first calculations showed that with a rational distribution of the forces and means of air defense available in the Transcaucasian Military District, it would not be necessary to risk either the life of the pilot or the expensive aviation complex even in a more complicated situation.
Judge for yourself. No matter what Kulyapin said, his fighter's flight time reserve was almost two hours and did not require any rush or economical regimes. From the moment of discovery until the commission of the ram, Kulyapin accompanied the target for about 13 minutes, while being in the zone of effective launches of the air defense system. Moreover, at the crucial moment, fighters from the airfield of the Kurdamir (Azerbaijan) garrison, led by flight commander Asfar Chukho, reached the line of attack. It was only in the interests of security that they were given a “retirement”, although, make Valentine, for example, an energetic coup, he could in a matter of seconds release the zone for the combat use of the buildup forces.
The next discovery just stunned and the capital generals, and local authorities. It turned out that on the way to Tehran in the evening of July 17, skirting the flank of the Iran-Iraqi front and the top of the Great Ararat mountain from the north, the Argentinean CL-44 had already violated the USSR border as a result of free navigation. However, Colonel Grechko, Deputy Commander of the Air Force of the Transcaucasian Military District, responsible for the leadership of the Air Army from 17 to 18 in July, did not take any measures, but also recommended that the operational duty officer not to record the invasion at all. And then it becomes clear the behavior of Ashot Baghdasaryan, who flared up due to the indecisiveness of the senior commander, when for the second time, for such a duty so unceremoniously alien, the plane entered not only his area of responsibility, but the sky of his native Armenia. Grechko, who was at the moment of giving the order to destroy the target on the command post, simply became afraid and quickly left the room with the words: "I was not here, I don’t know anything."
So, Baghdasaryan raises the fighter pair on duty. Kulyapin was not quite accurate, to put it mildly, telling about allegedly idle departures of his fellow servicemen. They managed to competently oust the intruder from the airspace of the USSR. The same goes contrary to any logic: it builds an ideal approach maneuver over the border (the so-called box) and again sets course for the Yerevan airfield.
How, in this case, to perceive the false reports of Kulyapin on the desire of the Argentine crew to flee abroad, if they are refuted by both data of objective control of air defense, and air traffic controllers of neighboring states, and local residents who observed the battle from the ground, and, finally, common sense? The question is far from idle, if we consider that it was on the basis of these reports of the asa political instructor that the operational duty officer made the decision to destroy the target.
I would really like to take the side of Kulyapin, if not for one “but”. This is today about his violations of flight laws and rules, he speaks with bravado. But on combat duty, any of them, including the failure to prevent the violator about the possible application of extreme measures to him, is a military crime, not otherwise. And then, if the intruder were really a combat aircraft, such a clear disregard for the norms of international law and instructions would lead to defeat in a real battle.
In July, the same year, 1981, Valentin protested the black box for a week, objectively fixing not only the maneuvers, but even the hand trembling of the pilot. And he confessed to the conscious violation of flight laws and KP disinformation in order to gain the right to ram only when Vladimir Abramov promised indulgence. Shabunin right there, putting his fatherly hand on Kulyapin’s shoulder, asked directly: did he want to become a hero? “Aha,” Valentine just nodded in reply and wept bitterly. Those tears are also reflected in the report of the state commission.
EXTRACTION FROM THE SKY
The truth turned out to be such that it made our leaders, in order to preserve the image in the international arena, to hastily formulate the myth of the heroism of the unfortunate political officer. Along the way, unambiguous recommendations were given to irrevocably excommunicate from flight work, together with the failed hero, of all his immediate superiors because of complete incompetence. Against this background, the persistent unwillingness of Russia's top leadership to reconsider Kulyapin's award list becomes reasonable even after many years, when the shortage of exploits is particularly noticeable and national heroes sometimes become simply due to a set of good deeds performed by duty or in favor of politics.
... Experts who visited the crash site, along with the ambassador of Argentina and the staff of the USSR Foreign Ministry, were convinced that there were no weapons or reconnaissance equipment on board the CL-44. The police officers Arshakov and Yesayan, who not only interviewed local residents on the eve, but also observed the developments in the sky, told about the final unequal fight: the fighter doomed by the pilot entered the marsh at the foot of the mountain, and the transport plane crashed on the slope of the ridge after an indiscriminate fall .
An interesting point: when falling, the foreign machine did not explode, which would be typical for such cases. Unfortunately, the request for its refueling in Tehran remained unanswered. It was not possible to obtain data on whether fragments of the transport plane had bullet or fragmentation holes.
The media of Iraq in those days repeatedly mentioned the shelling of several aircraft, including passenger ones, over areas of military operations with Iran. Did 18 July 1981 get into the cover and crew of the gray-haired Ector? However, even without that, given the outdated design of the CL-44, the limited capabilities of the impoverished company, the constant malfunctions in communication and navigation systems, the absence of a navigator crew, it is easy to understand the illogic actions of the intruders who were clearly looking for a suitable airfield for an emergency landing.
Then, in 1981, third world countries still lived with illusions about the Soviet Union as a happy country of good and justice. And I myself, having twice burned in a padded helicopter, first in the Afghan, then in the Chechen war, imagine what the crew experienced in the last minutes of life. In the most monstrous way, he was deprived of his last hope, if not for Russian hospitality, then at least for elementary human participation.
WHY CANCELED DUELS
... and the last. During the work on this material all these years, many advised me to change the names of the heroes of the essay. Arguments were given different. They say that after the prescription of years, specific names are still not interesting to anyone, and the men have families and children. And that the content of my music libraries, official answers to editorial requests, no one is already trying to question. In the end, the retired Chekist reminded me, one should take into account the fact that the great Russia is the successor of the Soviet Union.
To admit, there was a temptation to agree with those well-wishers. Then it would be justified to sign these notes with a pseudonym. Fighting for the truth to our brother journalist is increasingly more expensive.
But I was in the service. And he remembered that my first editor Valery Gusev, who did not have time to sign this material, commissioned me to investigate the history of the unsuccessful feat - trips to hot spots, directing operations in rebellious Ganja, when only two grenades with torn checks in the hands of the paratrooper officer told allowed to take out the seemingly doomed Armenians from the crazed crowd of Azerbaijanis. How can one sacrifice his civic duty, the fighting traditions of the officer fraternity, instructing his classmates to continue the good deeds obtained at the opening of a memorial plaque in his native orphanage near Kharkov!?.
Then, in 2002, I suddenly found out that the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation again considered the petition for conferring the title of hero to Valentin Kulyapin at his own request. To a number of media sources, the former pseudo-pilot gave bravura interviews, slyly accusing the dictatorial regime of the USSR in their failures of bureaucrats in uniform. Something with a person's memory has become?
Yes, everything goes. But not everything is forgotten, right? It is not forgotten, even if decades have passed, entire states have sunk into history, and we ourselves have devoted to serving the Fatherland not even the best years, but almost the whole life. It remains a little bit ...
And then there came a letter from the son of one of the members of the deceased crew. Maybe it was not worth it to remember him about it on the background of large-scale geopolitical collisions of recent years ... I’ll tell you if I’ve started.
In the news from overseas did not ask about the circumstances of the flight, the place of death of a loved one. The question was much stricter and more humane: the son wanted to know if his father had disgraced the honor of the family in the last flight, would he, a successor of the family, be ashamed to bear the name of a man who died under very strange circumstances in a foreign land?
And with a light heart, I responded to a guy from the outskirts of Abelianad Street, a far from rich town in the Argentine province of Florida, which, no, did not disgrace. Co-pilot Ermet Mateo Santiago Boasso until the end struggled with the evil rock, trying to bring the car out of the corkscrew. In the last minutes of his life, he did not leave his commander and passenger alone with misfortune; he neglected parachutes in the name of flying and just human fraternity. Yes, he died. But he left his children a good name. Somewhere in our archives, an expert photo turns yellow: the body of a black athlete sprawled on basalt among the twisted wrecks of an airplane, even after dying the steering wheel ...
If in far-off Argentina, which is associated with us, perhaps, with lambada and Maradona, young people so faithfully honor traditions and strive from generation to generation to follow principles that are close and understandable to each of us, then it turns out that we need to talk about human values completing this conversation. Self-purification begins with the recognition of errors, not otherwise.
Difficult time going through the Fatherland. And for most of us, a good name is the last thing that we can leave to our descendants.