Staff Writer (Updated: 5/18/2016):
As progress on turbojet-powered fighters was being steadily made in the West, the inevitable requirement for a similar Soviet system eventually came down. This new requirement specified an aircraft design capable of 621 miles per hour with a good rate-of-climb, a range of 745 miles and restricted landing and take-off distances. The new design was to take into account ease of production and maintenance to ensure it could stay in the fight as long as necessary without tanking the owners to the bank. Additionally, this aircraft was to be appropriately armed and offer up much internally in the way of its Western counterparts so as not to put the Soviet pilot at a disadvantage when they inevitably should meet one another.
1944 eventually brought about a certain level of respite in Russia's war with Germany. Soviet engineers could now be allocated back to developing an indigenous turbojet design of their own. Delayed by a number of years during the conflict, time to "catch up" to the West and their production turbojets was of the essence - with Germany, Great Britain and the United States all working on their own creations. As such, captured German plans - in particular, Focke-Wulf Ta 183 "Huckebein" fighter (developed by Kurt Tank) and associated German scientific minds were brought to the Soviet Union in an effort to produce an answer. Along with the captured German plans, the Soviets began researching and producing their own versions of two distinct German-made axial-flow turbojet engines - the Junkers Jumo 004 Orkan (becoming the RD-10 in the Soviet inventory) and the BMW 003 Sturm (becoming the RD-20) series. In time, these would power the early straight-wing Yakovlev Yak-15 and Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-9 jet fighters, serving more as developmental educational efforts than serviceable combat aircraft. Nevertheless, the information garnered from this work no doubt propelled an infant Soviet jet program along.
The definitive point in the program came when Mikoyan, Klimov and Kishkin - under Soviet direction - netted a deal with the English for 25 Nene series I and series II engines and 30 Derwent V engines. It should be noted that this took place before the eventual rise of "hostilities" from the Cold War came about, as superpowers after World War Two were still at a certain level of ease with one another to a certain extent. Regardless, the engines were now in Soviet hands and these systems underwent rigorous testing and study for a time. The engines were shown to be adequate for Soviet needs and license production of both types began. These engines eventually received Soviet-style designations that followed as such: the Derwent became the RD-500 and the Nene I became the RD-45. The Nene II engine used the similar RD-45F designation, with the "F" signifying an improved engine type. The RD-45 series engine (Nene I) eventually won out for the new Mikoyan-Gurevich design and major progress of the eventual MiG-15 was made.
Early runs with the RD-45 series yielded excellent performance results yet the engines proved quite thirsty and sported a short service (reported at some 100 hours of operation). An improved turbojet engine by Klimov emerged in 1949 as the VK-1 and featured a rating of 5,952lbs. This new powerplant (based on the RD-45F - ala Nene II) became the mainstay force in the equally-improved MiG-15bis model series. In essence, the VK-1 were highly-modified Rolls-Royce Nene II engines which were extensively upgraded. It was felt by the Soviets that these engines were re-engineered to such an extent that they were now wholly an indigenous Soviet design. In actuality, these VK-1 turbojets were nothing more than illegally copied and produced powerplants with some Soviet engineering thrown into the mix for good measure.
As engine and structural design progressed, attention was paid to an indigenously designed ejection system - almost a prerequisite design factor considering the speed that these pilots would be bailing out at. The days of safely bailing out via parachute had officially come to an end with the advent of the jet age. Gavriil Kondrashov became the first Soviet airman to successfully eject using this new Soviet-designed system - this feat occurring from a modified Petlyakov Pe 2 and taking place on July 24th, 1947. Though an impressive event in and of itself, the process to which a Soviet airman had to eject required the pilot to forcibly push his own ejection seat pan away from his body to activate his parachute (to which he used as his seat cushion in flight). Hardly a conventional method but suitable nonetheless, this system would still be in use by the time of the Korean War.