Taran – Aerial Ramming

Taran is both a Russian and Polish word for aerial ramming (if you do a Wikipedia search on taran, you’ll be redirected to aerial ramming). Taran is not the same as kamikaze and is not considered a suicide manoeuver.  If you’re nerdy enough to want a more in-depth discussion of taran, read J.T. Quinlivan’s excellent 1986 article “The Taran: Ramming in the Soviet Air Force.” Though taran is usually associated with Soviet pilots, the first taran of World War II was carried out by a Polish pilot, Leopold Pamuła, on the first day of the war.

Taran is closely related to the technique used by Royal Air Force pilots who ‘tipped’ V-1 flying bombs.  The Wikipedia article linked here also talks about how to topple the V-1, and the ‘aerial ramming’ article linked above includes a list of successful ramming attempts by Royal Air Force pilots during World War II.  One female Air Transport Auxiliary pilot, Jackie Sorour, met a V-1 flying bomb in the air over Surrey while flying a Tempest.  She chased it, fully intending to attempt to topple it with her wingtip, but failed to catch up to it.  One Soviet woman pilot, Yekaterina Zelenko, is known to have made a taran attack against a German plane.

Aerial ramming is not a thing of the past.  One of the moving though little known stories to come out of the events of September 11, 2001, is that of Lt.Heather Penney of the US Air Force, who took off in her unarmed F-16 fully expecting to have to stop the hijacked flight United 93 by ramming it.  She was the first female F-16 pilot ever to fly in her squadron.