The beginning of jetliner era.

First Soviet jet aircrafts

During World War 2 the Soviet military command realized that piston-propplanes approached their technical ceiling. In 1944 a decree was issued to create jet aircrafts. And in early 1945, the first prototype began its test flights.

Capturing of German jet aircrafts during the war spurred the development of a jet fighter engine, which allowed after the war, in 1946 to start mass production of the first Russian jet fighter MiG 9 with a turbojet engine.

But there was no time left to develop new engines for a modern aircraft. In 1946, the Soviet Union reached an agreement with its ally from anti-Hitler coalition, Great Britain, to manufacture a turbojet engine of the company Rolls-Royce, which was the most promising at the time, under the license at the USSR factories.

At the same time, the engineers worked on creating a new shape of the wings –an arrow wing. Existing aircraft wings didn’t allow the planes to develop the transonic and supersonic speeds.

The result was a very successful single-seat jet fighter, with a range of 1,300 km and an operating ceiling of 15,200 meters.


Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 Fagot Aleksander Markin

by Aleksander Markin (CC, flickr)

In 1948, a new aircraft, MiG-15 was put into mass production. There were built more than 18,000 jet fighters (in the USSR, and under license in other countries). An unprecedented number of fighter jets!

Soon the plane also got a new, more powerful engine.

A flight on MiG-15 Fagot

Powerful modern weapons, good maneuverability, high speed – up to 1047 km / h (later with a new engine – up to 1076 km / h), a large range and high operating ceiling – all of that ensured the advantage of the aircraft in aerial combat.

In addition, the aircraft was reliable and much easier to maintain than even propeller planes.

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Combat employment of MIG-15 during the Korean War

Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 Fagot John Romero

by John Romero (CC, flickr)

During the Korean War, fighter aircrafts MiG-15 Fagotshowed strong advantage over American fighters. Americans called the aircraft “Korean surprise.”

The number of losses on both sides (American and Soviet) in different sources was absolutely incomparable. We will not reference any sources, but will point out two important factors in accounting for losses – one each on the US and the Soviet side, and one indisputable fact.

The first factor was the fact that the Americans were forced to display a good face in a bad game by overstating MiG losses and understating their own (in tens of times!).

For example, the Americans took into account only the losses of their aircrafts that … fell on the territory of North Korea. The ones that exploded in the air or that fell in South Korea or Japan, the ones that fell into the sea were not counted. They also didn’t account for the planes that managed to get to the airports, but were still put out of service because they were totaled.

However, the number of “officially downed MiGs” for some reason was several times less than the number of awarded American pilots. Exceptional ingratitude!

Memories of surviving American pilots demonstrate a picture that is different from the official version:

“On one of the worst days for our Air Force, a large group of 12 aircrafts flew to North Korea under the guise of F-86… we encountered MiG-15 of the opponent in four aircraft groups which made several attacks on a group of B-29s, not even paying attention to fighter escort that proved to be completely ineffective. …. Eight B-29swere shot down, and the rest were so badly damaged that they didn’t dare to fly across the sea to Okinawa and landed on air bases in South Korea. … It was the last time when B-29s appeared in the sky during the day.”

H. Fischer, quoted by L.Krylov and Yu.Tepsurkaev

On the other hand, the pilots of Soviet MIGs that were covering Korean troops had to provide not only data on recording the combat, but also have confirmation from the ground, preferably in the form of a manufacturer’s tag with a serial number of the aircraft.

The greatest number of losses MIGs suffered during landing when Sabres stalking their return attacked lowering airplanes with flap-down s and released chassis. However, reliable ejection system of MIGs reduced the loss of pilots by many times compared with losses of the planes. After a few such incidents, the tactics were changed.

In terms of accounting for downed US aircrafts, there is a known occasion when an American plane that exploded during combat spoiled a film, and the Soviet command refused pilot Morschihin to count that aircraft. Often the American aircrafts that were shot down over the sea were not counted as well.

But the undeniable fact is that since MIGs were introduced to combat, the flights of American bomber aircrafts during daytime completely stopped: not a single US aircraft ventured to appear in the “alley of MIGs” or in their vicinity.

The undisputed success of MiG-15 aircraft in the Korean skies led to the unprecedented popularity of the aircraft. During its service, the plane guarded the skies over dozens of countries. Officially, only in 2005 the last MiG-15 aircrafts stopped regular service in the Air Force, and it happened in Albania.

Several aircrafts are still in working condition today in the caring hands of air clubs and individual owners. Even more impressive that some of them crossed the ocean and became part of American private collections.

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