MiG-15 Fagot, Mikoyan-Gurevich

MiG-15 Fagot

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. 'Midget' was the trainer version. The MiG-15 is the most built jet fighter, with over 18000 produced. The US counterpart of this plane was the F-86 Sabre.

Type: MiG-15bis
Country: Soviet Union / Russia
Function: fighter
Year: 1948
Crew: 1
Engines: 1 * 2700 kg Klimov VK-1
Wing Span: 10.08 m
Length: 10.86 m
Height: 3.70 m
Wing Area: 20.60 m2
Empty Weight: 3681 kg
Max.Weight: 6045 kg
Speed: 1075 km/h
Ceiling: 15500 m
Range: 1860 km
Armament: 1*g37 mm 2*g23 mm, 500 kg payload

MiG-15 Fagot (Mikoyan-Gurevich)

The Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 was originally developed in the Soviet Union as an interceptor. The RD-45 turbojet (with centrifugal compressor) powered it, was a copy of the Rolls Royce Nene. Designed to shoot down heavy bombers, it carried one 37mm and two 23mm cannons. German experience in WWII had shown the need for cannons larger than 20 mm to bring down four-engine heavy bombers.

The prototype MiG-15 first flew in December 1947. It began appearing in service in 1949 and by 1952 it had been provided to a number of Communist satellite nations, including North Korea where it was used extensively against United Nations forces. The MiG-15 was deployed against American Air Forces in December of 1950 in Korea. On November 8, 1950, 1st Lt. Russell Brown, flying an F-80, shot down a MiG-15 in the first all-jet dogfight in history. It was apparent, however, that the MiG-15 was superior to any aircraft then in the US inventory.

Initial encounters with American aircraft led to the development of the MiG-15bis (improved). Its VK-1 engine had 1,000 lbs more thrust than the RD-45 engine of the earlier version, and had hydraulic ailerons. Although the MiG-15bis could climb faster and higher than the F-86, poor turning performance and high mach instability limited its dogfight performance. In aerial combat against the F-86, the MiG-15 suffered high losses, but against the B-29 it was very effective and prevented the heavy bombers from operating in daylight


In March of 1946, Soviet leadership sought out a new swept-wing jet fighter from the leading aircraft design houses. The Mikoyan OKB's response was a design with the bureau designation I-310; a project that was influenced by plans for the Focke-Wulf Ta 183, which Soviet forces had captured when they overran Berlin in 1945. The I-310 first flew in 1947. Previous Soviet designs like the MiG-9 had been hampered by the poor quality of available engines, but acquisition of the British Rolls-Royce Nene turbojet led to the development of an unauthorized local copy, the Klimov VK-1, which powered the I-310.

The I-310 was a clean, swept-wing fighter with wings and tail swept at a 35 angle. Although it possessed a number of dangerous handling eccentricities (some of which were never really resolved), including pitch-up at transsonic speeds, it had exceptional performance, with a top speed of over 650 mph (1,040 km/h). The I-310's primary competitor was the similar Lavochkin La-168. After evaluations, the MiG design was chosen for production. Designated MiG-15, the first production example flew on 31 December 1948. It received the NATO reporting name "Fagot", entering Soviet air force service in 1949. An improved variant, the MiG-15bis ("bis" being Latin for "twice"), entered service in early 1950, with a number of changes intended to mitigate the aircraft's handling flaws.

The MiG-15 was originally intended to intercept American bombers like the B-29. To that end it featured heavy cannon armament: two 23 mm cannon with 80 rounds per gun and a single massive 37 mm cannon with 40 rounds. These weapons provided tremendous punch, but their limited rate of fire made it more difficult to score hits against fast jet fighters. The 23 mm and 37 mm weapons also had radically different ballistic characteristics, and some United Nations pilots during the Korean War had the unnerving experience of having 23 mm shells pass over them while the 37 mm shells flew under them. An advantage of this armament was that the MiG-15bis and later versions carried the guns in a detachable under-nose pack which would be lowered with a crank and reloaded in as little as 15 minutes, enabling rapid turnaround times.

A variety of MiG-15 variants were built, but the most common was the MiG-15UTI (NATO 'Midget') two-seat trainer. Because Mikoyan-Gurevich never mass-produced the transition training versions of the later MiG-17 or MiG-19, the 'Midget' remained the sole Warsaw Pact advanced jet trainer well into the 1970s, the primary training role being fulfilled (save for Poland, who used their indigenous TS-11 Iskra jets) exclusively by Czechoslovak Aero L-29 Delfin (Maya) and the L-39 Albatros jets. While China produced two-seat trainer versions of the later MiG-17 and MiG-19, the Soviets felt that the MiG-15UTI was sufficient for their needs and did not produce their own trainer versions of those aircraft.


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