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Sylvester Stadler 16th August 2007 02:26

Top Jet Aces
On the History Channel, the last episode of Dogfights, entitled Desert Aces, which included the air combats of Col. Giora Epstein, 17 kills, of the Israeli Air Force, claimed that he was the top jet ace in history. Anyone who has studied the operational history of the Messerschmitt Me 262 would know that the top jet aces in aerial combat flew this aircraft. These aces would include:

Kurt Welter of NJG 11 with 28 or 29 kills out of a total of 63.
Rudolf Rademacher of JG 7 with 25 of a total of 126.
Franz Schall of JG 7 with 20 of a total of 137.
Georg-Peter Eder of JG 7 with 25 of a total of 78.

For many years it was believed that Heinz Bär was the top jet ace with 16 kills of a total of 221, but research into the records of the Luftwaffe by John Forman and S.E. Harvey in their The Messerschmitt Me 262 Combat Diary would indicate that Bär was number four. There appears to be some controversy regarding the actual scores of these four aces. I also consulted Ernst Obermaier's Die Ritterkreuzträger, Band 1, Jagdflieger, (1966 edition) and Manfred Giehl's German Jets of World War Two.

Erich 16th August 2007 03:26

Re: Top Jet Aces
you can rule out Welters score of even being in the top 4 contenders........

Leo Etgen 16th August 2007 04:51

Top Jet Aces
Hello guys

I have not seen the episode in question but I am sure that what Colonel Epstein meant was that he is the top jet versus jet ace. In regards to Luftwaffe Me 262 aces, due to the fact that late war the claims verification procedure basically broke down, it is impossible to know these aces' jet totals with certainty. Please note that has different totals as well. As Erich states, there is much skepticism about Welter's claims.



Franek Grabowski 16th August 2007 12:58

Re: Top Jet Aces
I think Soviet aces from Korea were still better, were not they?

Nick Beale 16th August 2007 13:51

Re: Top Jet Aces
Technology moves on and I'd guess that the Israeli pilot had all his victories recorded on video (gunsight and/or radar pictures) so the verification process ought to have been more certain than in earlier conflicts at least.

Csaba B. Stenge 16th August 2007 15:53

Re: Top Jet Aces
If you want to compare the claims with the real kills, in my humble opinion, Epstein evidently shot down more planes, than the Soviet pilots, who were credited more, than 17 victories over Korea (Sutyagin and Pepelyayev), since the UN sources shows pretty high overclaiming in the Soviet side.

I guess, many of Epstein's victims were freshly documented with photos and videos as well. Some interesting notes were published from his diary here:
He mentioned in his diary, that he visited the wreck of the shot down Mi-8 after the war ended and preserved few things from the wreck as souvenirs.

Once he should write a detailed book about his career, it would be a hit for sure.

Graham Boak 16th August 2007 16:15

Re: Top Jet Aces
There was an issue of AVIONS last year(?) covering an 18-kill Russian pilot in Korea, I think it was Pepelyayev. The majority of his kills (perhaps 2/3rds?) were directly matched to US losses, so suggestions of excessive Russian overclaiming doesn't seem to apply there.

And we are to assume that Israeli fighter pilots never overclaim?

Csaba B. Stenge 16th August 2007 18:54

Re: Top Jet Aces

Originally Posted by Graham Boak (Post 48847)
There was an issue of AVIONS last year(?) covering an 18-kill Russian pilot in Korea, I think it was Pepelyayev. The majority of his kills (perhaps 2/3rds?) were directly matched to US losses, so suggestions of excessive Russian overclaiming doesn't seem to apply there.

And we are to assume that Israeli fighter pilots never overclaim?

I always write, that the overclaiming was very common.

I did not state above, that the Israeli pilots never overclaimed, I stated (as it is my humble opinion), that Epstein shot down more planes, than Sutyagin and Pepelyayev (and my opinion is not based on a single article)

The Soviet pilots overclaimed in Korea, and quite intensively (far more, than the UN pilots). For example, the Soviet MiG pilots claimed more, than 1100 kills (one source even says more, than 1300) This number including more, than 650 Sabres. Ths US sources states, that only 78 Sabre was shot down in air-to-air combat (and the other type losses were much more less, of course, I can present you examples or details, if you want some) If you even count, that some returned and later written off planes were not counted, the 650 is very far from the 78 (and you must know, that some Sabres, which were really lost in air combat, were shot down by Chinese pilots, not by the Soviets, since the Chinese claimed and shot down significant number of planes too, for example probably they shot down George Davis as well).

I have read an article once about Pepelyayev, the author has some - I must say - childish efforts to synchronize Pepelyayev's claims with the real losses of the US planes. He neglected the other Soviet pilot's claims (i.e. if in a single engagement the Soviets claimed 4-5 or more kills, and it was one real loss, according to him it was shot down 'evidently' by Pepelyayev, he counted 5-6 losses, which were marked as AA hits by US sources as 'erroneous', 'evidently all were shot down by Pepelyayev' and even in this method, he found 4-5 pure overclaims) I have many detailed US loss materials from Korean war (BTW the Korean war loss database are available via online too, check here:

I checked nearly all of Pepelyayev's claims in my materials and found overclaims and just damaged planes too (and events, when too many claims agains a few loss, as said above)

Evidently, both Sutyagin and Pepelyayev were very good pilots, but both shot down in real less planes, than for example McConnell, or Epstein. I don't have Egyptian loss materials, but the Istraeli Air Force evidently investigated his claims and you must be sure, that the Israeli successes were not produced by their propaganda, but by their pilots...

Franek Grabowski 16th August 2007 20:40

Re: Top Jet Aces
Csaba, Soviet pilots were credited with 20+ kills and that makes them top scorers. We do not know anything about Israeli operations as it is paranoic secret minded state and did reveal practically nothing from their past. Epstein's score may be true, may be partially true or even may be a complete bogus made for propaganda purposes.

Graham Boak 16th August 2007 21:21

Re: Top Jet Aces
A few points to bear in mind.

Whatever was claimed as total scores by the propaganda/publicity machines may bear little relationship to the claims made by individual pilots, or even the sum of such claims.

The leader, such as Peplyayev, usually scores most of the kills. Such claims are normally more creditable than those made by pilots "in the pack".

The total of 78 Sabres lost in aerial combat has been queried by recent serious historians: it seems that the USAF was not beyond selective categorising.

Not every UN aircraft over Korea was a Sabre.

My point about the Israeli, and he could have been of any nation, was that a claim of 17 was not "evidently" more accurate than a Russian pilot's claim of 18. Perhaps it is more accurate: but your terminology implies bringing the conclusion to the discussion in advance.

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