Katya Budanova (1916 – 1943) was born into a peasant family in Konoplanka village in Smolensk Oblast. Working in an aircraft factory in Moscow, she became interested in aviation and entered an aeroclub where she received her pilot training. She served as a flight instructor starting in 1937. She also took part in several air parades, flying the single-seater Yakovlev UT-1.
After the German attack on the USSR in June 1941, she enlisted in military aviation. She was assigned to the 586th Fighter Regiment (586 IAP), formed by Marina Raskova. This unit consisted entirely of female pilots. She flew her first combat missions in April 1942 over Saratov. In September, she was assigned, along with other women (among them, Lydia Litvyak), to the 437th IAP, engaged in the fighting over Stalingrad. She soon became known for her aggressive attacking and high piloting skill. She flew Yak-1 fighters. On October 6, she attacked 13 Junkers Ju 88 bombers by herself, shooting down her first aircraft. In November, she downed two Bf 109 fighters and a Ju 88. In the following months, she was credited with several more aircraft. In January 1943, she, along with her friend Litvyak, was moved to the 73rd Guards Fighter Regiment of the 8th Air Army. She soon was given the right of “solo hunting”. On February 23, she was awarded with an Order of the Red Star.
On July 19, 1943, during a solo combat with three Bf 109, she shot down one, but was shot down herself and killed near the town of Antracit in Luhansk Oblast. She was credited for 6 solo kills and 5 team kills and is one of the only two female ace pilots in the world.