Thursday, November 24, 2011

MiG 15

MiG 15bis


C L I C K     T O     E N L A R G E

MiG 15

The Korean War began poorly for American troops on the ground but in the air U.S. war planes quickly gained air superiority with P-51 Mustangs and the new jet powered F-80 Shooting Star roaming the skies while the veteran B-29 bombed targets in North Korea with impunity.  That all changed November 1, 1950 when six MiG 15s swept across the Yalu River and attacked a formation of prop driven Mustangs.  Soon B-29s were limited to flying at night and nothing the U.S. Air Force put in the air could hope to compete with this new Russian jet.  Finally, in mid-December of that year a detachment of the new swept wing F-86s was ordered to Korea.  The first match up of rivals in the age of jets began in an area that would become known as MiG Alley

MiG 15bis

Crew:                    1

Power:                   Klimov VK-1 turbojet
                              2,700 kg / 5,952 lb thrust

Max. Speed:          1,075 kph / 668 mph
Ceiling:                  15,500 m / 50,855 ft
Range:                   1,860 km / 1,156 miles
Climb:                    3,500 m / 11,480 ft per minute

Weight -
Empty:                   3,681 kg / 8,115 lb
Max. Take Off:       6,045 kg / 13,327 lb

Size -
Wingspan:              10.08 m / 33 ft 0.75 in
Wing Area:             20.6 sq m / 221.74 sq ft
Length:                   10.86 m / 35 ft 7.5 in
Height:                    3.7 m / 12 ft 1.75 in

                              1 - 37 mm / 1.45 in cannon
                              2 - 23 mm / 0.9 in cannon


Cold War rivals

Prior to 1953 the MiG 15 clearly outperformed the F-86 with a better rate of climb, higher ceiling, greater acceleration and a tighter turning radius.  Its three large cannon, designed to knock bombers out of the sky, packed a greater punch than the Sabre's six 0.50 calibers.  But the MiG had a primitive gun sight that often failed in high G maneuvering and the plane itself lacked stability as a gun platform.  Pilot training and tactics often made the difference and Soviet policy of frequently rotating pilots resulted in overall MiG performance suffering from relative inexperience.  Richard Seaman captured this F-86 v. MiG 15 image.

MiG 15 cutaway

The original MiG 15 engine was reverse engineered from the Rolls Royce Nene.  The Russian engine designer Vladimir Klimov refined it, made it lighter while getting from it greater thrust.  This improved MiG with the VK-1 turbojet made its reputation in the skies over Korea with performance that outclassed anything NATO had at the time.  The MiG 15 would become the standard interceptor of the Warsaw Pact nations during much of the 1950s.  


Performance was impressive despite the lack of hydraulic assist.  Environmental controls responsible for pressurization and temperature were adequate.  You could still be left freezing at altitude and roasting at lower elevations.  Comfort, though, is overlooked in a dogfight.  

Russian MiG aces in Korea

Like their American counterparts many Russian pilots dueling near the Yalu were experienced World War II aviators.  The Chinese also contributed pilots to assist the North Koreans.  It was no secret among combatants and their governments that American and Russian pilots were fighting one another but the fact was considered too inflammatory to acknowledge it publicly.  

The MiG name is well known world wide for its continuous string of robust, high performance fighters including the MiG 21, MiG 25 and MiG 31.  At least 3,000 single seat MiG 15s were produced.  The two seat trainer version was made in even greater numbers and remained in service many years after the combat version was retired.  This artist depiction of a North Korean MiG-15 is by Anders Lejczak

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