Considered the opening legend of the MiG series aircraft era. The MiG-15. When it first appeared and fought in Korea, the MiG-15s shocked Americans by their superior features. Many American aircraft were destroyed by MiG-15, causing the US to bring the F-86 to deal.
The MiG-15 was the first “all-new” Soviet jet aircraft, one whose design did not simply add a jet engine onto an older piston-engine airframe. Employing swept-back wings, a tail fin, and horizontal stabilizers to reduce drag as the plane approached the speed of sound, it clearly exploited aerodynamic principles learned from German engineering at the close of World War II. It was powered by a centrifugal-flow engine that had been licensed from the British company Rolls-Royce and then upgraded by the Soviet manufacturer Klimov. Deliveries to the military began in 1948. Designed as a bomber interceptor, the MiG-15 carried a formidable armament of two 23-mm guns and one 37-mm gun firing exploding shells.
Every time they saw the Mig-15 fighter pass, the US B-29 pilots who were closely guarded were trembling. On the morning of November 30, 1950, a US B-29 heavy bomber was bombing the Korean battlefield when suddenly a fighter flew over and over, causing it to be slightly damaged. The fighter flew so fast that the gunners on the B-29 were unable to catch sight, and the escort F-80 jets also quickly lost track of it.
The report of the B-29 crew had worried American generals. US intelligence quickly stated that the attack aircraft was a new Soviet-produced fighter, most likely to attack from a Manchuria base.
It was the Mig-15, an unpleasant surprise for the West when it appears in the Korean sky. The MiG-15 was an unpleasant surprise to the West when it appeared over Korea. It had serious shortcomings in handling, equipment and armament, but its performance was superior to that of any Western fighter. The configuration, with the high-set swept wing, high tailplane and nose intake may have been inspired by the German Ta-183 design; the engine was a copy of the Rolls-Royce Nene. The MiG-15 is the most built jet fighter, with over 18000 produced. The US counterpart of this plane was the F-86 Sabre.
After World War II, the Soviet Union began to study, produce jet fighters, with the first result being the Mig-9 aircraft launched in 1946. However, the Mig-9 proved to be much weaker than US P-80 Shooting Star, because its jet engine is not strong enough.
The fortunes suddenly came to the Soviet Union when British Prime Minister Clement Attlee invited Soviet scientists and engineers to visit the Rolls-Royce jet engine factory in an attempt to thaw relations between the two countries. To the astonishment of Soviet supreme leader Joseph Stalin, Britain even agreed to license the production of this engine in the Soviet Union with a commitment to use it only for non-military purposes.
When these engines were imported into the Soviet Union, the engine designer Vladimir Klimov immediately began to study and launched the Klimov RD-45 engine, creating the premise to produce Mig-15. Mig-15 was officially assigned to the Soviet Air Force in 1949 to specialize in intercepting American bombers like the B-29.
It has been common to erroneously attribute the MiG-15 to a design by Kurt Tank, who had been chief designer for Focke-Wulf during WWII. Although the fuselage arrangement bears a superficial similarity to Tank’s later Pulqui II aircraft, the wing planform is decidedly different. Further, Tank himself went through a straight-wing configuration in 1947 before producing his Argentine swept-wing prototype in 1950.
Basically, the MiG-15 has a design similar to the jets of the time. Its design has a nose-mounted intake, an identification feature of the first Mikoyan-Gurevich series including the MiG-17, MiG-19. Until the MiG-21 later appeared with a cone inside the intakes.
The Mig-15 fuselage has been streamlined and has an effective position with a center of gravity favoring the rear. The fuselage construction is made up of a semi-monolithic design with a riveted, a completely metal and framed design. The fuselage was divided into two main parts: the front area was the cockpit, the weapon compartment and the nose gear; the rear area was the engine, wing and tail section.
The cockpit was a soft curved canopy positioned forward in design, providing an impressive vision, especially on both sides. Most instrument gauges were placed on the forward panel with a traditional flight stick control column between the pilots legs. A noticeable feature of the cockpit was a white line that ran vertically across the center of the main instrument panel. This line was to be used by the pilot to align his flight stick with in the event of an uncontrollable stall spin. The pilot sits on an ejection seat and parachutes. The chair was ejected through controlled explosive cartridges to turn the chair up and through the vertical tail surface.
The wing was swept back and designed into very thin combinations. Specially designed landing gear could fully recess into the arrangement while still manage the weight of the aircraft while taxiing, taking off and landing. The empennage is dominated by a vertical tail surface with a horizontal plane forming a high T-tail. All edges were highly swept, apart from the trailing edge wing roots, for maximum aerodynamic efficiency. Jet exhaust formed out at the base of the empennage.
The MiG-15 was originally intended to intercept American bombers like the B-29. It was even evaluated in mock air-to-air combat trials with a captured U.S. B-29, as well as the later Soviet B-29 copy, the Tupolev Tu-4. To ensure the destruction of such large bombers, the MiG-15 carried autocannons: two 23 mm with 80 rounds per gun and a single 37 mm with 40 rounds. These weapons provided tremendous punch in the interceptor role, but their limited rate of fire and relatively low velocity made it more difficult to score hits against small and maneuverable enemy jet fighters in air-to-air combat. The 23 mm and 37 mm also had radically different ballistics, and some United Nations pilots in Korea had the unnerving experience of 23 mm shells passing over them while the 37 mm shells flew under. The cannon were fitted into a simple pack that could be winched out of the bottom of the nose for servicing and reloading, allowing pre-prepared packs to be rapidly swapped out.
Some “bis” aircraft also adopted under-wing hardpoints for unguided rocket launchers or 50 to 250 kg bombs. Other fighter-bomber versions emerged with provision for fuel drop tanks – could be utilized for increased range.
The Mig-15 fighter was about 10 meters long, 10 meters wingspan, 3.65 meters high, equipped with a Klimov VK-1 jet engine. The MiG-15 arguably had sufficient power to dive at supersonic speeds, but the lack of an “all-flying” tail greatly diminished the pilot’s ability to control the aircraft as it approached Mach 1. As a result, pilots understood they must not exceed Mach 0.92, where the flight surfaces became ineffective. Additionally, the MiG-15 tended to spin after it stalled, and often the pilot could not recover. Later MiGs incorporated all-flying tails.
The Soviet Union exported the Mig-15 extensively abroad, including China. The Korean War broke out, Mig-15 controlled by Chinese and Korean pilots began to appear on the battlefield.
Military analyst Michael Peck of National Interest said the arrival of the Mig-15 fighter on the Korean peninsula was a shock to US pilots who had become accustomed to the dominance of the sky.
Soviet Mig-15 jet jets were so dangerous that B-29, despite its large number of F-80 Shooting Star fighters and F-84 Thunderjet escorts, had to switch the operating time to night and air superiority was temporarily belongs to Chinese pilots.
For B-29 pilots on the Korean battlefield, the image of the Mig-15 passing through their lineup became an obsession. “I must say everyone was frightened then,” Earl McGill, a former B-29 pilot, recounted.
The culmination was on a catastrophic day in October 1951, known as Black Tuesday, The Mig-15 eliminated 6 of the 9 US B-29s in Korea from the battle round.
Porfiriy Ovsyannikov, a former Mig-15 pilot, rated defense weapons on the B-29 very well, but Mig-15 could fire from a distance of more than 600 meters to lower the B-29 and using his lightning speed to escape the helplessness of American escorts.
The danger of Mig-15 forced the US Air Force to quickly mobilize newly developed fighters, the F-86 Saber, to North Korea to regain balance in air combat.
The F-86 is considered a worthy competitor, because it has a better dive ability than the Mig-15, but is weaker in the high-pitched movement as well as the acceleration. The F-86 had a more stable gun barrel, but the firepower was worse than the Mig-15, and the chassis certainly made it difficult for Mig-15 to be shot down.
American historians calculate that 224 F-86 Saber fighters and 566 Mig-15 fighters were destroyed in intense air battles on the Korean battlefield, meaning an F-86 could defeat 5.6 Mig-15. However, former Soviet pilots believe that this ratio is only 1:1.4.
Impressed by the Mig-15 and the desire to explore this fighter, the US promised to pay $100,000 to any Korean pilot who escaped with the plane. In the end, the United States was also satisfied when North Korean Air Force lieutenant No Kum-sok flew a Mig-15 landing at South Korea’s Kimpo Airport on October 21, 1953.
After the Korean War, the Mig-15s became obsolete and were replaced by Mig-17 fighters. There are more than 18,000 Mig-15 fighters built and served in the air force of more than 40 countries worldwide.