For over 20 years Aleksey Leonov, the first man to conduct a spacewalk in 1965, has been struggling to gain permission to disclose details of what happened to the legendary Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin in March 1968. He’s finally had a chance to reveal the details, and he shared his testimony with Russian newspaper RT:
According to a declassified report, there is a human factor behind the tragic incident – an unauthorized SU-15 fighter jet was flying dangerously close to Gagarin’s aircraft.
Leonov had been in charge of parachute jump training on that day. The weather was extremely bad, with rain, wind and snow making it impossible to carry out exercises. He waited for an official confirmation that the exercises would be cancelled, but then heard a super-sonic noise followed by an explosion only a second apart from each other. That is when he knew something was up.
“We knew that a Su-15 was scheduled to be tested that day, but it was supposed to be flying at the altitude of 10,000 meters or higher, not 450-500 meters. It was a violation of the flight procedure.”
Leonov that day talked to witnesses that pointed at the model of a Su-15 saying that it appeared out of the clouds with its tail smoking and burning.
“While afterburning the aircraft reduced its echelon at a distance of 10-15 meters in the clouds, passing close to Gagarin, turning his plane and thus sending it into a tailspin – a deep spiral, to be precise – at a speed of 750 kilometers per hour,” Leonov tells.
According to the report that Seryogin wrote in his own hand, no aerobatic maneuvers or spins were to be performed by the crew of the MiG-15 with RD-45 engine and external fuel tanks, 260 liters each. Simple turns, pitching and nosedives were conducted after which Yuri reported: “Codename 645, task completed, descending” Leonov explains.
The name of the man responsible for Gagarin’s death is not being disclosed. Keeping him anonymous was a condition under which Leonov was allowed to speak.
One of the best books I’ve read on this topic is Starman: The Truth Behind the Legend of Yuri Gagarin. Currently available on Amazon for less than $7 — a steal. I would surmise the authors of the text will incorporate Leonov’s testimony as an addendum to the book.