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MiG fighter aircraft 1940-50

Written by Sakhal

The MiG-1/3, which entered service in the early 1941, were specifically designed as high-altitude interceptors. During the first months of the German invasion they suffered great losses, being transferred to a ground support role at low-mid altitudes, armed with bombs and rockets. Still, they were not so successful in this role. They were however very used during the defense of Moscow in the winter 1941-42, and then progressively withdrawn from the frontline units during the winter 1942-43, being transferred to rearguard missions. The MiG-1 (I-200) was the protoype and initial series model, fitted with open or swing canopy, and armed with one 12.7-millimeter machine gun and two 7.62-millimeter machine guns. Only some more than 100 units were built of this initial version. The MiG-3 was the improved version of the MiG-1, fitted with sliding canopy as well as increased fuel storage, with slightly augmented dihedral angle in the wings and modified radiator. The last of the series were fitted with two additional UBS 12.7-millimeter machine guns under the wings and increased protection. The MiG-3 was frequently used as reconnaissance fighter due to the increased range. However, this aircraft was not appreciated by the pilots; being conceived as high-altitude fighter, it used to lose certain prestations when performing other roles. Production for this definitive version accounted for more than 3320 units, which was still a relatively low number in comparison with other aircraft manufacturers.

MiG fighter aircraft 1940-50

Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-3 (number 35) from the 12th IAP (Fighter Air Regiment), assigned to the region of Moscow. Defense Fighter Unit in the winter 1941-42. Note how the wings are painted in their upper part, to facilitate the localization on the snow of any shot down aircraft; however this practice was abandoned due to the advantages that it offered to the Luftwaffe's fighters.

MiG fighter aircraft 1940-50

Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-3 (number 9) of the early series painted in Factory Green, maybe one of many captured by the Germans in the Russian airfields at the start of the invasion.

Specifications for MiG-3

Type: High-altitude interceptor

Propulsion plant: One Mikulin AM-35A 1350 HP

Maximum speed at an altitude of 7800 meters: 640 kilometers/hour

Time to reach an altitude of 5000 meters: 5 minutes 42 seconds

Service ceiling: 12000 meters

Weight (empty): 2595 kilograms

Weight (full load): 3350 kilograms

Wingspan: 10.30 meters

Length: 8.15 meters

Height: 3.50 meters

Wing area: 17.44 square meters

Armament: One Beresin BS 12.7-millimeter machine gun and two ShKAS 7.62-millimeter machine guns in the nose; 200 kilograms of bombs or six RS 82 82-millimeter rockets under the wings

The arrival of turbojet engines

Of all the aeronautical bounty captured by the Russians in their advance across Germany, the most valuable treasure would be the turbojet engines BMW 003A and Junkers Jumo 004A/B, which were distributed among the several aeronautical projectists for experimentation, while the engine manufacturers were preparing for their serial production. One of the projectists, Aleksandr Sergeyevich Yakovlev, adapted a standard Yak-3 fuselage to receive a Jumo 004B engine; the resulting aircraft, Yak-15, flew for the first time the 24th April 1946. Parallely, in February 1945, Artem Ivanovich Mikoyan had started to work in his own turbojet aircraft, called I-300, whose propulsion plant was based on two BMW003A engines. The prototype I-300 flew for the first time the same day than the prototype of the Yak-15; the series version, called MiG-9, entered service in small numbers in the mid 1947. The engine installed in the series version was the RD-20 - the copy of the BMW003A - able of a maximum thrust of 780 kilograms; unlike the Yak-15, two engines were installed. Still, the MiG-9 was an unpopular aircraft with a dreadful accident history. Maximum speed reached 910 kilometers/hour. Weight was 3540 kilograms when empty and 5500 kilograms at full load. Wingspan was 10 meters, length was 9.75 meters and height was 3.22 meters. Armament consisted of one Nudelman N-37 37-millimeter cannon placed in the middle of the nose air intake and two Nudelman-Suranov NS-23 23-millimeter cannons placed juxtaposed in the bottom of the nose. Only some more of 600 units of the MiG-9 were built in total.

MiG fighter aircraft 1940-50

MiG fighter aircraft 1940-50

Schematic showing the armament systems installed in the nose of the MiG-9, one Nudelman N-37 37-millimeter cannon and two Nudelman-Suranov NS-23 23-millimeter cannons along with their ammunition storages. Note the gunsight on the cockpit. The Nudelman N-37 was an improved version of the Nudelman-Suranov NS-37 and both cannons should not be confused with each other.

The MiG-15

Before the introduction of the MiG-15, the histoy of Mikoyan-Gurevich was a grey one. During the Second World War the MiG-1/3 was deemed as a mediocre aircraft and produced in much lesser numbers than the successful models of the competitor Yakovlev. With the advent of jet-propelled aircraft, the situation remained the same or worse, being the MiG-9 even less reputable than their piston fighters were in their time. But the arrival of the MiG-15 would change the situation for Mikoyan-Gurevich, raising the company led by Artem Ivanovich Mikoyan and Mikhail Iosifovich Guryevitch indefinititely to the top league of aircraft manufacturers. The MiG-15, which achieved by its own merits a distinguished place in the hall of fame of most successful and legendary aircraft, flew for the first time the 30th December 1947, entering production the next year. The first exemplars were propelled by an engine copied from the British turbojet Rolls-Royce Nene, designed as RD-45 in Russia. In the spring 1947, in an agreement considered by many as an unfair gesture of socialist solidarity, the British Labour Party had authorized the delivery of 55 Rolls-Royce engines to the Soviet Union (30 Derwent and 25 Nene).

The starters of the program were however not fortunate at all; the first prototype crashed during the trials, killing the pilot. The second prototype was deeply modified, with a reinforced wing characterized by a slight dihedral angle. In the late 1948, there were many frontline fighter units in the Soviet Air Force equipped with the MiG-15, receiving a number of improvement the basic model. In fact, the improvements made on the design of the fuselage ran parellely with the development of the engine. From November 1948 it was modified the fuselage to accommodate an updated version of the Nene engine, named VK-1, engineered by Vladimir Klimov. This engine had remodelled turbine blades and enlarged combustion chambers, giving a maximum thrust of 2700 kilograms which could be increased to 3062 kilograms by water injection. The version with increased engine power that had this engine installed was named MiG-15B; in the late 1950 it was in service in large numbers with the Soviet Air Force. The production of the MiG-15 reached 18000 exemplars in total, including the two-seater training version, named MiG-15 UTI.

The MiG-15 made big noise in the Korean War, engaging in prominent duels against the famous F-86 and fiercely attacking the formations of B-29 bombers. Still, the MiG-15 suffered heavy losses - 335 Soviet aircraft and 215 Chinese and North Korean, as confirmed by the Russians and their allies, in opposition to the inflated numbers initially provided by the UN forces - in the term of two and half years of combats against the F-86. The first shot down of a MiG-15 by a F-86 happened the 17th December 1950, when Colonel Hilton fired three four-seconds bursts of 12.7-millimeter machine gun against the MiG-15 piloted by Commander Yefromeyenko, who ejected himself from the aircraft while it fell ablaze in a slow spin. It seems that Russian pilots considered the cannons installed in the MiG-15 much more effective than the heavy machine guns installed in the F-86; however the MiG-15 had a tendency to oscillate, rendering this aircraft a bad platform for gunnery. Albeit these pilots admitted that the F-86 was more capable in an acrobatic combat, they said that in vertical it would be not even half as good as the MiG-15B.

The MiG-15 was a high-altitude interceptor and its best qualities flourished at an altitude above 7000 meters, where its climbing rate and maneuverability could surpass the ones of the F-86. However, the MiG-15 showed dangerous tendencies; in several occassions, UN pilots were puzzled of seeing how an intact MiG-15 would start to fall in a spin during a combat maneuver, forcing the pilot to ejection due to being unable to control the aircraft. Later, when a MiG-15 arrived to American hands thanks to the defection of a North Korean pilot, it was seen that the cockpit had a white line painted beneath the instruments panel; if the aircraft started a spin, the pilots should push with strenght the control stick against the line; if after three turns the aircraft did not recover, the standard procedure was ejection. It happened as well that the MiG-15 had in general a dangerous tendency to stall without previous notice, for no warning indicators were provided to warn about this. Pressurization in the cockpit worked inconsistently and the emergency fuel pump was prone to explode when activating it, tearing apart the rear fuselage. Despite these inconveniences, the MiG-15 was an excellent aircraft, much more robust and easy to fly than the F-86, and it was dangerously close to achieve air superiority in north-western Korea in the summer 1951.

The MiG-15 became widely popular, being in service in a massive number of countries: Afghanistan (42), Albania (+80), Algeria, Angola, Bulgaria (+78), Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China (654), Congo, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Egypt, Finland, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Hungary, Indonesia, Iraq, Khmer Republic, Libya, Madagascar, Mali, Mongolia (4), Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, North Korea, North Vietnam, North Yemen, Pakistan, Poland, Romania (514), Somalia, South Yemen, Soviet Union, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Tanzania, Uganda, United States (bought from China in 1980 for tests), Vietnam and Yemen.

MiG fighter aircraft 1940-50

Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 flown on 21st September 1953 by North Korean defector No Kum Sok to Kimpo, South Korea. The plane was captured by American troops and test flown in Okinawa, with American markings. Later it was permanently exhibited in the US Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson, Ohio.

MiG fighter aircraft 1940-50

Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 from the Polish Air Force.

Specifications for MiG-15B

Type: High-altitude interceptor

Propulsion plant: One Klimov VK-1 with 2700 kilograms of thrust

Maximum speed at an altitude of 5000 meters: 1033 kilometers/hour

Time to reach an altitude of 5000 meters: 2 minutes

Service ceiling: 15500 meters

Weight (empty): 3630 kilograms

Weight (full load): 6105 kilograms

Wingspan: 10.08 meters

Length: 10.11 meters

Height: 3.70 meters

Wing area: 20.60 square meters

Armament: One Nudelman N-37 37-millimeter cannon and two Nudelman-Rikhter NR-23 23-millimeter cannons, all placed in the bottom of the nose

Categories: Aviation - World War Two - Cold War - 20th Century - [General]


Website: Military History

Article submitted: 2014-11-17

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