The Effectiveness Of The Mig Fighter Jet

In The Korean War Essay, Research Paper

War! That word is a scary word for a lot of people. Back in 1950 that word was especially scary for the people of Korea, when war broke out. This war was to last for three years. Three years of bombings, hand-to-hand combat and misery. In some cases, however, the soldiers were the safest people of all of them. Especially, if you were one of the lucky few who got to be pilots. Whether you were a pilot for Russia flying their new top-notch MIG-15, or were flying the US?, also new and top-notch, Sabre fighter jet, in the air was obviously the best place to be in times of trouble. Or was it?

In the Korean War there were two main air forces, the US and Russia. Each air force brought its share of strengths and weaknesses. This essay will discuss the effectiveness of the Russian built MIG-15 vs. the US built Sabre fighter jet in the Korean War. This also includes any updated models of the MIG or the Sabre which may have battled against each other in the Korean War. I will be comparing training, number of fighter jets shot down on both sides of the war, range, speed, maximum altitude, thrust, armor, weaponry, and electronic controls or lack there of. I will also be looking the number of people lost.

From the beginning of the war the US was forbidden to cross the Yalu River. This river divided North Korea from China. Therefore the US? primary targets became the bridges over the Yalu. By trying to take out these bridges the US was going to disable the supply routes and transportation routes of the Russians.

Russian pilots had a major disadvantage to US pilots which was combat training experience. Battles over MIG-Alley had taught the Communist air staffs that a drastic re-working of the way Russian pilots are trained, must take place. After a few short months of combat, versus the Sabres, MIG pilots learned that they fell far short of the necessary skills that would allow them to destroy a Sabre.

The Russians? first step in stepping-up their training methods came with the introduction of a new jet in which to train in. Previously, the Soviet army had been training in the U-YAK-15, the prefix “U” denoting its training role, Uchebny. This trainer jet was developed by the US for use as a beginner trainer. US pilots would then step up to the YAK-18 and then to the YAK-11, which is most like the actual jets they would be fighting in. US fighters receive between 250 and 300 hours of training in these aircraft before going into real combat. Soviet fighters, however, receive less than 100 hours flying time on the least powerful U-YAK-15. Now, however, the Russians have developed a new training jet, the U-MIG-15, that comes far closer to the actual capabilities of the MIG-15. The U-MIG-15 is built as a dual-control tandem two seater that allows the trainee to learn more rapidly and thoroughly through the observation of actual combat tactics; and his instructor can coach him in actual problems he will encounter in high-speed combat. Comparisons between the standards of training in one air force and another are often misleading, but the Korean war has obviously taught the Soviet air staff the need for a much higher standard of training among its flying personnel.

Training is not the MIGs only problem. The once highly acclaimed and feared Russian MIG is starting to lose its glory to the ever growing US air force. The US has forged ahead in engine design, equipment options and skill level of their aircraft. As of March 1953, the ratio of MIGs downed to Sabres downed was 13 to 1. An astonishing number considering the MIG was a more powerful jet. However, power is not the only factor that plays into the role of a good aircraft. The MIG was poorly equipped. It had poor guns and gun-sights, a lack of armor and a huge lack of range. This combined with poor training spelled disaster for the MIG.

When the MIG-15 made its dramatic debut over Korea in November 1950, its primary purpose was to protect the home bases from bomber attacks. This was the main purpose of the MIG, because it lacked the range to strike on offensive missions, or to escort bombers on more than very short missions. However, the MIGs did an excellent job of eliminating the two American, piston-engined F-80 and F-84 type fighter jets, that were currently in use over Korea. It wasn?t until late in 1950, when the jet powered Sabre showed up on the US?s side, that the MIGs began having trouble staying in the air. Fifth Air Force records show that from the time the Sabre went into combat through the end of June 1953, it has definetly destroyed 764 MIG?s, probably destroyed 119 and damaged 759. In the same amount of time, the MIG-15 only destroyed 56 Sabres.

In order to thoroughly analyize the MIGs? capabilities one must first categorize the different jobs a fighter jet must be able to perform. These categories are: intercepting, shooting down jets, supporting troops, and taking the offensive.

For intercepting other aircraft, the MIG is better. It has more pickup, can climb faster, can fly higher, and has a slight edge in speed. It can probably be rated as the best plane now in use anywhere for destroying daylight attack bombers.

As far as shooting down jets is concerned, the MIG comes in a poor second. The MIGs guns are more powerful, yet they get fewer hits. The Soviet plane?s 37-mm and 20-mm cannons are highly effective against the slow moving, piston-engined bombers, but are too slow firing to be effective against other jet planes. In comparison, the F-86 Sabre is armored only with large machine guns. These guns, however, can pour huge amounts of lead into an enemy?s plane in five seconds or less when hits are possible. For example, one Sabre downed a MIG by firing 1,400 rounds of .50-caliber bullets into it. The Sabre also has better equipment for accurately firing. The far more advanced electronic aiming device used in the Sabre greatly excels the MIGs aiming device.

The MIG is outclassed again when it comes to supporting troops. This is because of its limited range. The smaller and lighter MIG means that it has a small gas tank, only holding 330 gals. of kerosene, which results in a shorter range. In Korea this means that the chances of much air support from MIGs is slim, unless Communist air bases can be maintained nearby in North Korea.

Once again the MIG can?t hold water, when it comes time to take the offensive. Whether, that means shooting up enemy targets on land, attacking enemy air bases, or escorting bombers on offensive missions, the F-86 Sabre turns out to be a far better plane. It has the range necessary to fly deep into enemy territory, the gun-sights needed for shooting down enemy jets and the armor needed for the pilot?s and the aircraft?s safe return home.

Based on these statistics, the MIG is a better plane for intercepting bombers, but the F-86 is showing up as the better airplane. As far as actual figures go, the MIGs? maximum speed is 672 MPH, its maximum thrust is 6,750lbs, the wieght of the plane is 12,500lbs, its wingspan is 33ft, its maximum ceiling is 50,000ft, its armament is light, and the instruments aboard are few. The Sabres? maximum speed is approx. 650 MPH, its maximum thrust is 5,200lbs, its weight is 16,000lbs, its wingspan is 37ft. 1in, its maximum ceiling is 45,000ft, its armament is heavy, and the instruments onboard is many. Although, the figures show in most cases, that the MIG would have an advantage over the Sabre, the key elements lie in the armament and in the instrumentation in which the Sabre far surpasses the MIG.

As far as numbers go, there are far more MIGs than Sabres. There are eight new models of US planes that can outperform the MIG-15. They are either in production or nearly in production, and all of these planes can reach supersonic speeds. Some of the new designs are radical, while others are just major modifications of present planes. The best of both the Soviet and US air forces are actually about equal. This might seem hard to believe because of the staggering number of MIGs that are shot down. However, the Sabre has high speed, longer range, better guns and gunsights and a faster rate of fire than the MIG. The Sabre also has better endurance and better handling capabilities at lower altitudes than the MIG.

Soviet armies started their jet age by buying an older model of the British Rolls-Royce Nene engine. This engine produced 5,000lb thrust and yet the Russians squeezed another 1,000lb of thrust out of it. They did this by adding water injection. This made the thrust go up to 6,750lb at sea level. The Russians were also able to fix a major problem that the US weren?t able to. This was done by adding an extra ring of perforations aft of the primary zone of the combustion chamber. This gives increased dilution of air and boosts power.

The MIG is and was no-doubt an excellent fighter. However, back in the early 50s, it was obviously way outclassed. Despite the fact that it was faster, flew higher and got to that height quicker; what it lacked was qualified pilots, faster firing guns, better gunsights, and longer range. If the Russians had figured out a way to add these key components to their already top-notch fighter, they would have had an unbeatable air force. The US was more focused on pilots safety. Therefore, they added features to their planes like more armor, larger gas tanks, more accurate guns, and a higher basic training standard. All-in-all the Korean war was dominated by the US, as far as in-air combat goes. And as far as being safe in the air goes, I guess that only holds true if you are a highly trained, well-equipped US pilot.


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