Estrella WarBirds Museum

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Missiles On DIsplay at Estrella Warbirds Museum

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Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15

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MB 326

"Fagot" / "Midget"

MiG 15 arrives at Estrella Warbirds Museum, Saturday, October 1st, 2011
Thanks to Michael Levine for photos!

Watch MiG-15 fly over Estrella Warbirds Museum
MiG Tri-View

The Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 is a jet fighter developed for the USSR by Artem Mikoyan and Mikhail Guervich. It achieved fame in the skies over Korea, where, early in the war, it outclassed all straight-wing jet fighters in daylight. The MiG-15 is believed to have been the most widely produced jet fighters made, with over 12,000 of them built. Licensed foreign production raised the overall tally to over 18,000. You will normally find the Mig-15 mentioned along side the North American F-86 Sabre in lists of the best fighter aircraft of the Korean War.

Most early jets were designed like piston-engine fighters with straight wings, limiting their high speed performance. German research during WWII had shown swept wings would perform better at transonic speeds and Soviet aircraft designers were quick to take advantage of this information. In 1946, Mikoyan along with a design team traveled to Great Britain to entertain the idea of purchasing or licensing Rolls-Royce Nene engines. To their surprise, when they left Britain, they had sufficient technical information and licensing approvals to manufacture the Nene. The engine was then reverse engineered and produced as the Klimov RD-45. Subsequent attempts by Rolls-Royce to claim licensing fees were unsuccessful.

The MiG-15bis (meaning "second") entered service in early 1950. It had sufficient power to dive at supersonic speeds, but could not do so due to tail design and the pilot's inability to control the aircraft deteriorated significantly as it approached Mach 1 speed.

At the outset of the Korean War in June 1950, the North Korean Air Force was equipped with piston-powered aircraft provided by the USSR, such as the Yakovlev Yak-9 and Lavochkin La-11. The allied forces had superior air power in the beginning and swept the North Koreans out of the sky. However, in November 1950 the US was alarmed to be confronted by a new, advanced jet fighter that was heavily armed and left US Air Force (USAF) Lockheed F-80 Shooting Star and Republic F-84 Thunderjet fighters in the dust. The MiG-15 had arrived, with Soviet pilots flying the aircraft. The USAF quickly shipped new F-86 Sabres to the battle theater to confront the MiG-15s, and the struggle for air supremacy was back on.

The MiG-15 was the standard Soviet air combat fighter of the early 1950s and it was accordingly supplied in large numbers to Warsaw Pact nations, as well as to almost every Soviet client state in Africa and Asia. The MiG-15UTI continuing to be exported long after the MiG-15 and MiG-15bis were obsolete. Finland, who have traditionally acquired an interesting mix of Western and Eastern gear, obtained four MiG-15UTIs.

The usual "get it working" philosophy of Soviet also meant that niceties were secondary considerations, and Soviet pilots who examined the well-thought-out survival kit carried by F-86 pilots were envious, sending examples back to the USSR for consideration by the engineers. Soviet pilots fighting in Korea also had nothing to compare with the American search and rescue organization, though since they rarely if ever operated over hostile territory, it was less of a necessity.

Russian pilots later admitted that most Chinese and North Korean pilots were doing little more than providing the Americans with "aerial targets", though some of the Chinese and North Koreans were "natural", pilots who understood how to fly and fight almost by instinct. Some Russian pilots admitted that the Americans often had the edge in skill because the Americans got more flight training hours, and because Soviet squadrons were rotated through the combat theater on a bureaucratically rigid and relatively short cycle, preventing pilots from acquiring extensive combat experience and passing it on to green pilots.

Late in the war, the Americans dropped leaflets over enemy airfields offering $100,000 USD to any pilot who would defect with a MiG-15. The exercise was code named Operation MOOLAH, with "moolah". One Russian source, understandably baffled, translated it as OPERATION MULLAH, which must have seemed almost as baffling. Although no doubt dire threats were made about reprisals, a Lieutenant Ro Kim Suk did decide to defect and flew his MiG-15bis south on 21 September 1953.

The aircraft was evaluated by USAF test pilot Chuck Yeager, who made a number of arguable statements about it in his autobiography, suggesting not only that it was extremely dangerous in a dive, but that Soviet pilots he had chatted with during a later trip to the USSR agreed with him.

Photos by James Herman

The MiG-15 was clearly a generation ahead of the MiG-9, a leading-edge design by anyone's standards at the end of WWII. It was a clean all-metal aircraft, built mostly of aircraft aluminum alloy, and featuring:

The jet features all-swept flight surfaces. The wing had a 35 degree sweep, along with an anhedral droop of 2 degrees and an incidence of 1 degree. There were also two "fences" on the wing, to minimize airflow running down the wingspan and off the wingtips, which would have reduced the effectiveness of the control surfaces.

The tail fin had a sweep of 55.7 degrees and the tail plane had a sweep of 40 degrees. The flight control surface arrangement was conventional, and initially all control surfaces were un powered.

A pressurized cockpit with a backwards-sliding bubble canopy and an ejection seat powered by an explosive cartridge, apparently the same as that used on the MiG-9UTI.

Tricycle landing gear, all with single wheels, the nose gear retracting forward and the main gear hinging from the wings in towards the fuselage. There was a "gear down" indicator, a colored rod that protruded above the top of each wing when the landing gear were extended, and a similar "flaps down" indicator to the rear on the wing. This simple but effective gimmick was common on Soviet aircraft. Apparently there were cockpit dashboard indicator lights as well, the mechanical indicators serving as a backup.

A nose air intake with a bulkhead running down the middle, feeding an RD-45F centrifugal-flow turbojet with 22.3 kN (2,270 kgp / 5,005 lbf) thrust. The rear fuselage could be pulled off for servicing the engine, with the break line at the hinge edge of the flaps.

A simple electronics suite including a radio, a radio compass, a radar altimeter, and an instrument landing system.

Armament included a single 37 millimeter cannon firing from the right lower lip and two 23 millimeter cannon firing from the left lower lip of the engine intake. The prototypes had featured exactly the same weapons as the MiG-9, including an N-37 37 millimeter cannon and two NS-23 23 millimeter cannon, but the production aircraft featured Nudelman-Richter NR-23 cannon replacing the NS-23 cannon, which raised the rate of fire from 550 rounds per minute to 850 rounds per minute. The NR-23 installation introduced little blisters on the fuselage behind the shell ejector ports, with the blisters designed to keep the spent shells from dinging the rear fuselage.

Ammunition capacity was 40 rounds for the 37 millimeter cannon and 80 rounds per gun for the 23 millimeter cannon. The cannon installation was slick, with the three cannon installed on a tray that was hand-cranked down out of the aircraft on cables for rearming or servicing. If additional trays were available, swapping in a preloaded tray would help provide rapid combat turnaround. A gun camera was mounted in the upper lip of the intake.

Manufactured by Mikoyan-Gurevich

Power plant: Klimov VK-1 5,900 lb
Note: Reverse engineered Rolls Royce "NENE"
Wingspan: 33' 1" 
Length: 33´ 3 "
Height: 11´ 2"
Wing Area: 255 square ft
Rate of Climb: 11,480 ft/min
Empty weight: 8,115 lbs
Gross weight: 11,270 lbs
Maximum speed: 668 mph
Ceiling: 51,000 ft
Range: 500 miles (combat)
1,065 miles (ferry)
Armament: Two 23 mm NK-23 and one 37 mm NK- 37 cannons. Optional on some versions 2 drop fuel tanks, or two drop bombs, or rocket pads
Status: Working Display
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