Brest badge “Excellent Air Fighter” was instituted by the Order of the Revolutionary Military Council of the USSR (RVS), the supreme military authority of the Soviet Union, No.15 of January 20, 1928 on initiative of Petr Baranov (22.09.1892-05.09.1933), head of the Red Army Air Force (March 1925-June 1931) and member of the above-mentioned Military Council (1925-1931).
Full text of the Order No.15 is adduced below.
“Order of the Revolutionary Military Council of the USSR No.15 of January 20, 1928
1. Hereby in elaboration of Paragraph 5, Article 11 of the Provisional Disciplinary Regulations of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army (RKKA) introduced by the Order of the RVS No.962 of 1925, in order to encourage flying personnel of the RKKA Air Force as well as technical staff securing flight missions, to reward successful achievement of fail-safe and cripple-free
flight missions, and to remunerate solicitous operation of hardware lump-sum payment and decoration with the “Excellent Air Fighter” breast badge are to be introduced.
2. Lump-sum payment to be issued according to the “Statute of lump-sum payment to RKKA Air Force personnel for successful achievement of fail-safe and cripple-free
flight missions” announced hereby and entering into effect since October 1, 1927.
3. Chief Directorate of RKKA in collaboration with the Air Force Directorate of RKKA are instructed to elaborate within two months and submit to RVS for approval design of the “Excellent Air Fighter” breast badge and draft of its statute.
People’s Commissar for Military and Navy Affairs and Chairman of the Revolutionary Military Council of the USSR [Kliment] Voroshilov”.
Award criteria were mentioned at slightly greater length in the article “Brest Badge “Excellent Air Fighter” Competition” that was published in the “Herald of the Soviet Air Force” magazine the same year.
“Brest badge “Excellent Air Fighter” was instituted by the order of the Revolutionary Military Council of the USSR No.15 of January 20, 1928 as a decoration for flight achievements of pilots, observers and unit commanders who perform flying duties.
This badge will be awarded annually upon completion of winter and summer periods of flight operations to those who score the best achievements in particular fail-safe and cripple-free combat training within timeframe mentioned above. (…) The breast badge should be an external identifier marking out the best combat qualities of our flight personnel”.
Competition participants faced the following conditions to be combined while elaborating drafts:
“1. Breast badge should be an emblem reflecting the best flight and combat qualities of pilot and observer.
The most desirable design of the badge is that combining red star, sickle and hammer, aeronautical machine guns, aerial bombs, airplane or parts thereof.
2. The badge should stand out clearly against uniform and have simple but elegant shape. It should be small enough and highly artistic but lacking ornateness; massive and made of enameled silver.
3. The badge should consist of small number of constructive parts”.
The order of the Revolutionary Military Council of the USSR No.92 of April 19, 1929 stipulated statute and ultimate design of the badge. The latter is adduced below. Please note that the following is an official and quite perfunctory description of the badge, not dealing with detailed description.
“An oval plate bordered with oak leaves at its top and with semicircular white ribbon at the bottom. The latter bears an inscription “Excellent Air Fighter” (“Отличный воздушный боец”) in red letters. Both portions of the badge are separated by superimposed stylized spread wings consisting of five feathers each and bearing embossed abbreviation “USSR” (“C.C.C.P.”) in black letters. Vertically positioned aerial bomb is situated in the center, flanked by six red banners, three on each side. Sickle and hammer emblem is placed over the bomb. The badge is topped with red five-point star. The badge made of silver and measuring 35x53 mm was attached with screw and nut”. It’s worth adding here that star as well as six banner were red-enameled as was the semicircular ribbon at the bottom, unlike official description stating it to be white.
In less than six months, before the first batch of decorations was ever presented, statute of the badge was altered in order to highlight merits of commanding officers who contributed to training of the flying personnel. Thus, slightly different variant of the badge to be issued to RKKA Air Force unit commanders was instituted by the Order of the Revolutionary Military Council of the USSR No.310 of October 10, 1929. The main difference from the badge described above was gilt finish of aerial bomb and silk and hammer emblem.
Brest badge “Excellent Air Fighter” was worn on the left side of the breast.
The very first decoration order was signed on December 7, 1930, and first badges were presented to distinguished air units commanders at the beginning of 1931, on the eve of the 13th anniversary of RKKA.
Stepan Krasovsky (20.08.1897-21.04.1983), the then commander of the 3rd Ivanovo Workforce independent air detachment, future Hero of the Soviet Union (29.05.1945) and Marshal of the Aviation (08.05.1959) was made the first holder of the badge. The second badge was issued to his deputy who unfortunately still remains unknown. Commander of the Kiev-based 73rd independent air detachment, test pilot Petr Pavlushev (1899-13.02.1936) was decorated with the third badge.
Unfortunately exact number of awardees is not known yet, but a couple of dozen badges or so were presented in 1930s for sure. At least period articles prove 13 decorations were made. That makes the badge in question one of the rarest pre-WWII decorations of the Soviet Air Force to such an extent that one won’t find indisputable piece for love or money even in its country of origin. Moreover, some inexperienced collectors even deny its very existence, though photos with that badge in wear do exist. However, original photos, not to mention studio portraits showing holders of that badge are scarce as well.
Information posted on “Aviawings” website was used to prepare this article.