The MiG-15 (codenamed "Fagot" by the United Nations in reference to a "hastily bundled pile of sticks") became the Soviet Union's first true turbojet-powered fighter design of consequence and the first swept-wing aircraft of the Empire. The system went on to see extensive production total sand combat action particularly in the Korean War, proving more than a match for her contemporaries. With World War 2 delaying turbojet design in the Soviet Union, engineers instead looked to captured German scientists and their ground-breaking aircraft designs - along with securing an agreement with Britain to license-produce the Rolls-Royce Nene turbojet engine - and manufactured a fighter that fit the Soviet Empire's need for a powerful, effective and easy-to-produce/maintain jet fighter. By all respects, the aircraft would achieve "classic" status by sheer numbers and a successful track record thanks to its actions in Korea.
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.
The I-310 became the prototype form of the early MiG-15 series, this being an internal design State designation. Interestingly, a two-engine design and even an aircraft sporting variable geometry wings were also taken into account to try and solve various high-speed design issues. A single engine layout with 35-degree swept wings with slight downward anhedral were chosen instead - superficially, the design mimicked much of what would have made the Ta 183 Huckebein a visual success. The single engine was to be fed by a split-forward air intake encompassing most of the nose, though this was ducted around the cockpit and various subsystems present in the internal fuselage. This split design eventually met together aft of the cockpit and before the engine. The nose also held the nose wheel landing gear and weapons bay. New wings were constructed to allow for the use of wing-recessing main landing gears as thin wings were needed to compliment the design - but also landing gears capable of sustaining the weight of the aircraft.
Armament took on a different, yet ingenious sort of approach. Cannons were selected as the primary armament and came in the form of a Nudel'man N-37 37mm cannon and 2 x Nudel'man/Rikhter NR-23 23mm cannons. These were neatly integrated - along with their appropriate ammunition boxes - into an easily accessible weapons tray tucked under the forward fuselage. The 37mm cannon system took up the starboard side of the tray while the two 23mm cannons were fitted in a staggered formation along the port side of the tray.
Prototype S-1, the first prototype in the MiG-15 series, completed her maiden flight successfully on December 30th, 1947. This was followed by prototype S-2 with her 5,004lb Nene II engine, new canopy design and slightly redesigned wings. Additional changes included the addition of an S-13 gun camera, the ASP-1N automatic gun sighting system and underwing "slipper" fuel tanks mounted outboard of the outer wing fences (boundary layer fences on the tops of the wings became a stalwart design element of early Mikoyan-Gurevich jets with the MiG-15 featuring two such protrusions. The MiG-17 followed with three). S-3 appeared in March of 1948 with the most notable difference being hydraulically-powered triangular airbrakes along the rear fuselage sides and increased fuel capacity. The S-3 also saw a flash suppressor fitted over the N-37 cannon, now taking on the new designation N-37D indicating its modified form. First flight of the S-3 was achieved on July 17th, 1948 and became the model sent to trials for State evaluation.
Following successful trial results, the MiG-15 was officially written into Soviet air service on December 23rd, 1948. A short time later, news of the fighter had reached the West with little interest or overall technical knowledge of the aircraft (this was to change with the arrival of the Korean War). NATO designation conventions officially afforded the aircraft the codename of "Falcon". This was subsequently changed to the more identifiable, albeit derogatory codename of "Fagot" to belittle the arrival of this fine Soviet development.
The first production aircraft were simply designated as MiG-15 ("Fagot-A" to NATO and as izdeliye SV internally to Mikoyan-Gurevich) and became operational in 1949 even as testing of the type itself continued. Second production aircraft became the MiG-15bis "Fagot-B". These systems were fitted with the VK-1 turbojet engine of 5,952lbs. The development of this Klimov powerplant effectively allowed for a complete rewrite of the base MiG-15 model. As a result, the MiG-15bis appeared as a highly improved model. The new aircraft was now indeed a power player and would become a stalwart of the Soviet Air Force and associated Bloc nations. Visually, the base MiG-15 and MiG-15bis differed little externally but internally, the MiG-15bis held the edge thanks to the myriad of improvements afforded to the model.
The MiG-15bis Fagot-B branched out into a dedicated fighter-bomber design. This move was necessitated by the sheer fact that the Soviet Air Force had no real fighter-bomber platforms to support ground operations. As such, the MiG-15bis - a dogfighting jet-powered fighter-by-design - was selected for the conversion program. These systems had pylons added underwing - outboard of the main landing gears - for use with drop bombs and rocket pods. Though the project was deemed a success, the MiG-15 was by no means born for the role. The aircraft was limited in the amount of external ordnance it could mount under its wings and the airframe itself was not built for the rigors (and enemy action) of low lever flight - the pilot was offered next to no armor protection at these low altitudes - essentially the basic bulletproof windshield was all he had. Addressing these shortcomings were attempted in a dozen or so developmental MiG-15bis (ISh) models, though these were never to enter production status.
The UTI-MiG-15 (or better known as the MiG-15UTI, NATO codename of "Midget") - a two-seat conversion trainer - was impressively produced in greater numbers than the single-seat tactical fighter version. This model saw tandem seating for an instructor at the rear and a student trainee in the forward cockpit. As expected, the tandem-seat cockpit took up most of the forward fuselage area and featured a single-piece, multi-framed canopy. The rear canopy was of a sliding type (sliding aft for entry) while the forward canopy opened on hinges aligned to the starboard side. As such, entry was exclusively made from the port side. The trainer variant appeared with the internal prototype model designation of I-312 and differed little - in visual appearance and performance - from her single-seat counterpart (apart from the dual cockpit positions that is). MiG-15UTI trainers rolled off the assembly lines by June of 1949. The UTI-MiG-15P became the trainer version of the interceptor model.
The MiG-15bisP (or SP-1) was an experimental interceptor. This model featured a cone fairing over the top portion of the forward intake containing the radar assembly, appearing as a type of visible "nose" almost. Surprisingly, performance of the aircraft was not degraded substantially with this addition but necessitated the relocation of the S-13 gun camera to the right side of the fuselage. Weight was increased with the addition of the cone arrangement and its applicable equipment so the twin 23mm cannons along the port side of the gun tray were removed to compensate, leaving the single 37mm gun mounting in place as the sole armament for the aircraft. A limited production run superseded these development aircraft as converted Fagot-A models. These were followed by a handful of Fagot-B new-build production models.
The MiG-15M became a target drone. These drones were made up of used MiG-15 models that had their ejection seat systems replaced with remote control equipment. Since these were heavily used MiG-15 airframes with plenty of airborne miles to them, there was no love loss in exposing them to gunnery training or other developmental testing.
Like most other early jet-powered fighters, the MiG-15bis was also featured in a "parasite" fighter program. This theoretical combat approach to solving the need for long-range escort fighters for bomber groups featured a bomber "mother ship" with a fighter slung underneath (ala a pilot fish along the underside of a Great White shark). When contact with the enemy was suspected, the fighter could released from the bomber's grip to defend the aircraft from enemy attack. In various ways imaginable, the fighter was then somehow to be retrieved by the mother ship and both systems returned to home base.
In the case of the MiG-15bis trial, the two aircraft (fighter and bomber) would have met in the air after take-off, with the fighter connecting to a drag tow cable released by the bomber. The fighter could then power down the engine and settle in for the flight ahead. At the first sign of the enemy, he would disconnect from the bombers rear, fight as normal and eventually return to the drag cable system to be towed along for the ride once again - the fighter could be made ready to fight multiple times if need be. Yakovlev developed the system which was trialed using a Tupolev Tu-4 bomber. Like most other parasite fighter ideas, this Soviet parasite project went nowhere and was eventually abandoned.
As may be expected, production of the MiG-15, in any form, was not a sole Soviet venture. Czechoslovakia produced the MiG-15 under the S-102 (MiG-15 "Fagot-A" tactical fighters) and S-103 (MiG-15bis "Fagot-B" tactical fighters) designations (see the variants list for a full report). These were fitted with license-production engines under the designation of M-05. Trainers we noted by their "CS" designations as in the CS-102. A fighter-bomber model with six hardpoints was constructed as the MiG-15SB. The six hardpoints (of course leading to an increase in take-off weight) forced the use of rocket-assisted take-offs. A similar MiG-15bis "Fagot-B" fighter-bomber model was also produced, these as MiG-15bisSB's. Reconnaissance models were noted by the use of "R" in their designations as in MiG-15bisR. Similarly, Poland produced the type under the designations of Lim-1 (Fagot-A) and Lim-2 (Fagot-B). Reconnaissance aircraft were noted by the "R" placed in their designation as in Lim-2R. Trainer models (UTI-MiG-15 "Midget") were designated as SBLim-1 and SBLim-2.
China received tremendous assistance in the Cold War in its attempt to field a more modern military. As such, the MiG-15 was initially selected for license-production on Chinese soil. By this time, however, the improved and more modern MiG-17 "Fresco" had already become available (it was actually in development as the MiG-15 was hitting the front lines), to which China selected for inclusion in its new modernizing air force. It should be noted that Chinese airmen had already received a good amount of experience in flying MiG-15's during the Korean War and Chinese factories had garnered experience in repairing the type for some time (repairing over 500 of the aircraft in fact) resulting in airman and mechanics somewhat familiar with the aircraft. These MiG-15's received the Chinese designation of Jain-2 (or J-2). The Midget trainer model appeared in the Chinese inventories as Jianjiao-2 or (JJ-2). These were completed with locally-produced versions of the RD-45F (Nene II) turbojet engines in the form of the Wopen-5 series. China eventually exported MiG-15's to a variety of nations with F-2 being the export designation for the fighter types and FT-2 the export designation for the trainer types. Despite the Chinese exposure to MiG-15's both inside and out, no single-seat versions of the fighter were license-produced on Chinese soil.
At least 3,000 MiG-15 tactical fighter models were produced by the Soviets, along with some 5,000 MiG-15UTI two-seat trainers. Other eventual operators of the aircraft included Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Angola, Armenia, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Congo, Cuba, East Germany, Egypt, Finland, Guinea-Bissau, Hungary, Indonesia, Iraq, Israel (captured Egyptian examples), Libya, Madagascar, Mali, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Pakistan, Romania, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Tanzania, Uganda, North Vietnam and Yemen. The United States still holds its single North Korean example captured during the Korean War.
Much work had to be completed by the Soviets to produce a jet-powered design for a program that was, for all intents and purposes, still in its relative infancy. As expected, much thought had to be given to every portion of design including engine placement (effecting the aircrafts Center of Gravity - or CG), cockpit placement and wing shape, edges and surfaces. The thought processes that had been so prevalent in piston engine-powered designs of World War 2 now had to be reworked to produce an effective jet-powered solution - one might note the early jet-powered fighter attempts all nearly had straight wings for example. The MiG-15 featured many solutions to these issues, with a single turbojet engine mounted behind the pilot, an intake taking up the forward portion of the fuselage, pilot seating between these two systems, thin swept back wings, a high mounted T-style tail assembly and a low tricycle undercarriage - the undercarriage could afford to be low as there was no spinning propeller system to account for.
In all respects, the MiG-15 was of a conventional design for jet-powered aircraft of the time. Opting for a nose-mounted intake (which in itself became an identifiable design choice of the early Mikoyan-Gurevich aircraft series including the follow-up MiG-17 and MiG-19, right up to the MiG-21 - the latter fitting a cone inside of the intake), the aircraft negated the need for a wider fuselage altogether. This of course presented problems in their own right as engineers now had to implement all sorts of internal components in and around the forward opening. The fuselage itself was streamlined and effectively positioned with a center of gravity favoring the rear. Construction of the fuselage was made up of a semi-monocoque design with a riveted, all-metal stressed skin structure and framing. The fuselage was made up of two major sections that comprised the forward area (made up by the cockpit, weapons bay and nose gear) and rear area (making up the engine, wings and tail section).
The cockpit was positioned forwards in the design, providing an impressive view outwards, particularly to the sides. Wings were swept back and engineered as very thin assemblies, with specially-designed landing gears that could fully recess into the arrangement while still manage the weight of the aircraft while taxiing, taking off and landing. Wings also bore a design element that would be consistent with future Mikoyan-Gurevich aircraft designs in the use of boundary layer fences to counteract "tip stall", an airflow issue related to all swept wing designs. The wings could also sustain ordnance and droptanks in future model developments.
The empennage was dominated by a single vertical tail surface with a horizontal plane forming a high T-tail - another MiG-series design trademark. All edges were highly swept, apart from the trailing edge wing roots, for maximum aerodynamic efficiency. Jet exhaust formed out at the base of the empennage.
If there was one area where this Soviet design shined beyond its Western counterparts it was its selection of standard armament. The Soviets, learning from their (and the German) experiences in the World War 2, opted to showcase a collection of cannon as primary armament for the aircraft instead of the machine gun-laden designs still being offered up by the West, in particular, the United States. Though displaying a slow rate-of-fire and a limitation as to how much ammunition could be carried aloft, the crippling power of just a single shell could easily render any avionics or engine system inoperable with even the slightest of peripheral hits.
The primary armament was fitted into a convenient and easily accessible winch-operated tray under the forward fuselage and consisted of a single Nudel'man N-37 37mm recoil-operated cannon and two Nudel'man/Rikhter NR-23 23mm recoil-operated cannons. Due to space constraints in this area of the MiG-15 design, the 37mm cannon was mounted along the starboard side of the weapons tray while the twin 23mm systems fit into the port side, these being staggered in their placement for maximum space usage. The tray could easily be lowered for maintenance, resupply and repairs as needed. Sighting was accomplished through the ASP-3N gun sight with accompanying S-13 gun camera - the gun camera was traditionally mounted in the upper lip portion of the forward intake opening.
Additional armament (for MiG-15bis) included the use of two electrically-actuated underwing bomb pylons. Each pylon could mount a single 110lb or 220lb bomb as required. Other fighter-bomber versions emerged with provision for rocket pods as well. "Slipper Tanks" - or fuel drop tanks - could be utilized for increased range.
The forward placement of the cockpit lent itself well to providing a proper seating area for a dogfighting pilot. Visibility was exceptionally good to the sides, below and above with rearward visibility being eventually addressed and improved. Heavy framing dominated the forward view to an extent - which featured a bulletproof windshield - while other views were mostly unobstructed (the radio aerial protruded from the rear right section of the fuselage, just aft of the canopy). The gun sight was adorned with a soft pad for the safety of the pilot in the event of a forced crash land (similar to that as found on the North American P-51 Mustangs). Most instrument gauges (including the Mach speed indicator, gyro-magnetic compass and radio altimeter) were placed on the forward panel with a traditional flight stick control column between the pilots legs. A noticeable feature of the cockpit was a white line that ran vertically across the center of the main instrument panel. This line was to be used by the pilot to align his flight stick with in the event of an uncontrollable stall spin. Quite utilitarian in nature but the device worked in practice.
The pilot sat on his attached parachute which, in turn, became his cushion on top of the ejection seat pan. The seat was ejected via controlled explosive cartridges that jettisoned the seat up and past the vertical tail surface. Early models featured a single, right side-mounted ejection handle. Later models incorporated a more conventional handle on both sides of the seat. The whip-style aerial antenna protruding from the right side of the fuselage - just aft of the cockpit - powered the onboard VHF radio.
Despite its first appearance in a Soviet 1948 flyby showing, the West knew little of the MiG-15 by the time of the Korean War. As a result, it proved quite a shock to UN pilots when coming across this swept-wing, agile, cannon-laden aircraft. Along with its military entry, the MiG-15 immediately formed a Soviet air display team as well. Straight out of the gun, the system was noted for its ease of operation, maintenance and repair.
MiG-15's arrived to the Korean Front in quantity in November of 1950. These would be operated in combat by Soviet pilots wearing Chinese uniforms and forming from Chinese air bases (UN targeting was restricted to North Korean territory, hence the aircraft bases in China were off limits to UN bombers). Along with operating in defense of North Korean targets, Soviet officials were also charged with the training of Chinese and North Korean fighter pilots. Despite all this activity, the Soviet Union operated under a guise so as not to involve itself fully in the conflict. Basically Soviet pilots were given the freedom to operate from a line stretching from Wonsan to Pyongyang. Similarly, UN airmen were restricted from crossing the Yalu River - the term "MiG Alley" stemmed from the area encompassing these restrictions. While Soviet MiG-15 pilots could hold their own in a fight, Chinese and North Korean pilots fared poorly without Soviet assistance. This became an issue when Chinese and North Korean pilots flew in areas restricted to Soviet airmen, making them essentially cannon fodder for UN pilots.
The first Western encounter against MiG-15's took place on November 1st, 1950. A flight of North American P-51D Mustangs were attacked by no fewer than six unidentified aircraft, powered by jet propulsion. These were, of course, the new MiG-15 aircraft, appearing from Manchuria, crossing the Yalu and introducing themselves into the Korean War. Though Western reports claim no losses, the Soviets claimed one P-51 in their after action reports.
November 8th brought about the first ever jet-versus-jet action. Six MiG-15's tangled with a flight of Lockheed F-80 Shooting Stars. Though results differ depending on the side writing the account, the Western account had an F-80 downing a MiG-15 - Soviet records show no such kill. It is known that five of the six machine guns onboard the F-80 had jammed. This, along with the ability of the MiG-15 to absorb a good amount of punishment from 12.7mm ammunition, leads to some discredit of the Western account. The MiG-15 was seen heading down to the ground in smoke, though it is believed that the aircraft had jettisoned its somewhat full fuel tanks in a dive in an effort to create space against the F-80, eventually heading for home and not engaging the American aircraft. Such competing stories, it seems, are a necessary part of warfare.
The first MiG-15 victory over a Boeing B-29 Superfortress occurred on November 9, 1950. The Superfortress (despite its impressive defensive array of heavy caliber machine guns) proved no match for the cannons of the MiG-15. The large surface areas of the Superfortresses crumpled with ease under the fire of a MiG-15's cannons. Losses were such that all B-29's were eventually forced to suspend daylight raids indefinitely, a large psychological and strategic victory most assuredly won by the presence MiG-15 alone. Other United Nations B-29 combat actions in and around the Yalu River area yielded disastrous results, even when escorted by the various fighter types available. The first confirmed kill of a MiG-15 by a UN fighter pilot in the war came that same day when 18 MiG-15 "Fagot-A" models faced off against 20 US Navy strike aircraft in the form of piston-powered Vought F4U Corsairs and Douglas AD-1 Skyraiders, these joined by jet-powered F9F-2 Panther escort aircraft. At least one MiG-15 was destroyed to the loss of six American aircraft.
Despite some success against the new Soviet fighter, losses for the UN air campaign began to mount with little answer to combat the Red aerial menace. The arrival of the MiG-15bis model only compounded that fact as these were the highly successful MiG-15 in an improved form. MiG-15's were pitted successfully against propeller-driven P-51 Mustangs, AD-1 Skyraiders and F4U Corsairs. Additionally, action against the straight-wing, jet-powered F9F Panthers, F-80 Shooting Stars and F-84 Thunderjets proved equally one-sided. This on top of losses by B-29 formations forced the speedy development of an answer - this eventually coming in the form of the North American F-86 Sabre.
Though an acceptable aircraft in its own right, the North American F-86 Sabres were still outmatched on a number of fronts. The MiG-15 proved to have a better rate-of-climb, higher ceiling limits and a better turning radius than her American adversary. The MiG-15 not only held a performance edge, but the nimble fighters also packed a greater punch with its multi-cannon armament selection as opposed to the six-machine gun armament of the Sabres - a carryover from American World War 2 aircraft design. Despite these advantages, the Sabre proved the more stable gunnery platform, an advantage taken to heart by Sabre pilots and put through its maximum paces.
So desperate were the Americans and the UN to get a full working example of a MiG-15 for evaluation that a reward of $100,000 was put forth to any North Korean pilot willing to defect. In September of 1953 - two months after the end of the war - North Korean Lieutenant Ro Kun Suk answered the call and landed his MiG-15bis in UN-controlled territory at Kimpo Air Base near Seoul. Suk actually did not know of the proposed reward but was given it anyway, leaving the Americans and the United Nations with the ultimate prize. As can be imagined, the captured MiG-15 was put through its paces (Chuck Yeager being one such test pilot along with Tom Collins) and eventually offered up for return to its rightful owner - an offer that was naturally rebuffed, leaving the United States with control of the property. The MiG-15 arrived for display at the United Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio where it remains to this day.
The F-86A arrived in Korean and the first duel of the two aircraft types took place on December 17th, 1950. Rightly so, four MiG-15's squared off against four Sabres. Combat took place at about 25,000 feet with the loss of one MiG-15, reportedly taking some 1,500 rounds of .50 caliber ammunition to do so. The kill was credited to Lieutenant Colonel Bruce H. Hinton. On December 21st, MiG-15 pilots returned the favor by destroying three Sabres to two MiG's lost. Western contact reports read differently - that being six MiG's downed to one Sabre lost.
Australia also attempted to tangle with MiG-15's by incorporating British-produced Gloster Meteor F.8 jet-powered aircraft into the mix - these replacing outclassed, prop-driven P-51 Mustangs. Like the American straight-wing early jets, Meteors did not fare well against the Soviet design, relegating them instead to the ground attack role.
The arrival of the F-84E and F-84F models in August of 1951 and March of 1952, respectively, effectively evened the playing field. By this time, whole groups of Soviet pilots were being switched off for replacement by new raw recruits. Likewise, the relatively green Chinese and North Korean pilots proved no match for the World War 2-savvy Sabre pilots. The air war over Korea had officially leaned towards the side of the United Nations and the entire conflict would end up in a draw - in fact, no armistice was ever signed so the war, technically, is still ongoing to this day.
In the end, the MiG-15 proved to have nothing specially inherent in its design. It was a solid aircraft that was very reliable and rugged. The attention paid to making an easy-to-produce aircraft made it an easy to maintain and repair one in the process. Armament was also a strong concern for the MiG-15 design and the aircraft did not falter in this category. The machine proved to be a tremendously capable premiere jet fighter produced by the Soviet Union with a little unknowing help from the Germans of World War 2 and British turbojet design. The MiG-15 proved - through production numbers and combat action - that it was indeed a special sort of aircraft when in capable hands and a war time tool of note produced by the Soviet Union. It only took some speedy development on the part of the Americans to eventually put the nimble machine in its place in Korea but the damage had already been done. Nevertheless, the MiG-15 went on to become one of the most classic post-war aircraft designs and gave even the best Sabre pilots a run for their money. The similar MiG-17 "Fresco" superseded the aircraft in most respects, though the MiG-15 was still in operational service in one form or another into the new millennium with some nations.
- Mikoyan-Gurevich utilized captured German post-World War 2 jet fighter plans (Ta 183) and a British turbojet engine (built under license in the Soviet Union) to bring the MiG-15 to fruition.
- MiG-15's proved more than a match against UN fighter jets in the Korean War, thanks to their performance, turning ability and impressive armament.
- The MiG-15 was initially designated as the "Falcon" by UN observers, this later being changed to the more derogatory "Fagot" name.
- The designation of "Fagot" refers to a bundle of branches (or sticks) bound together or similarly a bundle of iron (or steel) pieces being welded into bars.
- The MiG-15, in all forms, was produced to the tune of some 18,000+ aircraft with production undertaken by various nations under Soviet rule.
Status Retired, Limited Service
Production 18,000 Units
Mikoyan-Gurevich - Soviet Union
Afghanistan; Albania; Algeria; Angola; Armenia; Bulgaria; Cambodia; China; Congo; Cuba; Czechoslovakia; East Germany; Egypt; Finland; Guinea-Bissau; Hungary; Indonesia; Iraq; Israel (captured Egyptian samples); Libya, Madagascar; Mali, Mongolia; Morocco, Mozambique; Nigeria; North Korea; North Vietnam; Pakistan; Poland; Romania; Somalia; Soviet Union; Sri Lanka; Sudan; Syria; Tanzania; Uganda; Vietnam
- Ground Attack
- Close-Air Support (CAS)
35.63 ft (10.86 m)
35.43 ft (10.8 m)
12.14 ft (3.7 m)
8,115 lb (3,681 kg)
13,327 lb (6,045 kg)
(Showcased weight values pertain to the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15bis (Fagot-B) production model)
1 x Klimov VK-1 turbojet engine developing 5,952 lb of thrust.
668 mph (1,075 kph; 580 kts)
50,853 feet (15,500 m; 9.63 miles)
1,156 miles (1,860 km; 1,004 nm)
11,480 ft/min (3,499 m/min)
(Showcased performance values pertain to the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15bis (Fagot-B) production model; Compare this aircraft entry against any other in our database)
1 x Nudelman N-37 37mm cannon in starboard side weapons tray under fuselage.
2 x Nudel'man/Rikhter NR-23 23mm cannon in port side of weapons tray under fuselage.
OPTIONAL (some models):
2 x Fuel drop tanks.
2 x Conventional drop bombs.
2 x Rocket pods.
(Showcased armament details pertain to the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15bis (Fagot-B) production model)
I-310 - Internal State Designation for MiG-15 prototype.
S-1 - Initial Prototype
S-2 - Second Prototype; 5,004lb Nene II engine; revised simplified canopy; repositioned wings; redesigned airfoil; V-95 aluminum alloy spars; ASp-1N automatic gun sight; S-13 gun camera; modified main landing gears for increased wheel base; provision for "slipper tanks" for increased range.
S-3 - Third Prototype; Nene II engine; hydraulic airbrakes; increased wing anhedral by -1 degree; mass-balanced elevators; increased fuel capacity; bomb-carrying provisions; flash suppressor for N-37 cannon; increased take-off weight.
MiG-15 "Fagot-A" - Initial Production Series Designation; Tactical Fighter.
MiG-15 (izdeliye SA-1) - Development Model
MiG-15 (izdeliye SA-2) - Development Model
MiG-15 (izdeliye SA-3) - Development Model; 16 production MiG-15's fitted with RD-45F engines and OSP-48 ILS landing systems.
MiG-15 (izdeliye SA-4) - Development Model; revised instrument panel; in-flight engine restart mechanism implemented; automatic airbrake extension system for speeds above Mach 0.95.
MiG-15 (izdeliye SO) - Development Model; revised gun sight system and forward canopy.
MiG-15 (izdeliye SU) - Development/Weapons Test Model; cannons were modified to include elevation of +11/-7 degrees.
MiG-15 (izdeliye SSh) - Development/Weapons Test Platform; 1 x SH-3 23mm cannon replaced 2 x NS-23KM 23mm cannons on portside of weapons tray; Two models modified as such.
MiG-15bis "Fagot-B" - Major Production Model appearing from 1951 onwards; Tactical Fighter; fitted with VK-1 turbojet engine of 5,952lbs; radically improved Fagot-A models; enlarged tail cone; redesigned internal layout for new engine; reduced aft fuel storage resulting in decreased range; signal flare launcher installed along rear starboard fuselage side; modified airbrakes; later models featured improved canopy design, Sirena Radar Homing and Warning System (RHAWS), ASP-3NM gun sight, G-suits, revised ejection seat and rear-view periscope - these improvements appearing in 1952 and onwards; attack and fighter-bomber versions existed.
MiG-15bis (izdeliye SYa) - Development Model; three MiG-15bis models pulled aside for wing strengthening testing.
MiG-15bis (izdeliye SD-P) - Development Model; landing roll was addressed through testing of an anti-skid system and various parachute types.
MiG-15bisS "Fagot-B" - Escort Fighter; increased fuel capacity through slipper tanks and increased oxygen capacity; higher gross weight; heavy duty tires.
MiG-15bisR - Photo-Reconnaissance Model; equipped with AFA-BA-40 40mm focal length camera.
MiG-15bis (izdeliye SD-ET) - Development Model; fitted with 12SAM-25 DC battery and ST2-48 self-contained starter system.
MiG-15bisP (izdeliye SP-1) - Experimental Interceptor; redesigned forward fuselage for radar equipment and dish array; noticeable fairing set above nose air intake; repositioned and reinforced nose gear.
MiG-15bis (izdeliye SP-5) - Experimental Interceptor; Izumrood-1 radar system; nose fairing over intake opening; Klimov VF-5 centrifugal-flow 6,613lb engine.
MiG-15bis (izdeliye SYe) - Aerodynamics Research Platform.
MiG-15M - Target Drone Designation.
MiG-15bis (izdeliye SD-5) - Development Model; provision for 2 x rocket pods.
MiG-15bis (izdeliye SD-10) - Development Model; provision for 2 x PROSAB-100 anti-aircraft bombs.
MiG-15bis (izdeliye SD-21) - Weapons Test Bed; provisions for two rocket pods and two drop tanks.
MiG-15bis (izdeliye SD-25) - Development Model; provision for 2 x PROSAB-250 anti-aircraft bombs.
MiG-15bis (izdeliye SD-57) - Development Model; provision for 2 x rocket pods.
MiG-15bis (ISh) - Developmental Model; improved attack version; perhaps some 12 such examples were produced as experimental.
MiG-15bis Captive Long-Range Escort Fighter - Part of the abandoned Project Burlaki "parasite" fighter program.
I-312 - Internal State Designation for UTI-MiG-15 "Midget" prototype.
UTI-MiG-15 (izdeliye ST-1) - UTI-MiG-15 prototype model
UTI-MiG-15 (izdeliye ST-2) - UTI-MiG-15 prototype model
UTI-MiG-15 "Midget" - Two-seat advanced conversion trainer designation.
UTI-MiG-15P - Interceptor Trainer Model
UTI-MiG-15 (izdeliye ST-10) - Ejection Seat Test Model
UTI-MiG-15 (izdeliye ST-15STK) - Ejection Seat Test Model
Shenyang Jianjiji-2 (Fighter Aircraft Type 2, Jian-2, J-2) - Chinese Designation of MiG-15 and MiG-15bis types.
Shenyang F-2 - Chinese Export Designation of MiG-15 and MiG-15bis types.
Shenyang Jianjiji Jiaolianji-2 (Fighter Trainer Aircraft-2, Jianjiao-2, JJ-2) - Chinese Designation of UTI-MiG-15 two-seat trainer model.
Shenyang FT-2 (Fighter Trainer-2) - Chinese Export Designation of UTI-MiG-15 two-seat trainer models.
Avia S-102 - Czech designation for Fagot-A.
MiG-15SB - Czech designation for fighter-bomber conversion models of Fagot-A; six underwing hardpoints for bombs, drop tanks and rocket pods.
MiG-15T - Czech designation for target tug Fagot-A models.
Avia S-103 - Czech designation for Fagot-B models.
MiG-15bis/PPZ-1 ILS - Czech designation for Fagot-B models fitted with PPZ-1 landing systems.
MiG-15bisSB - Czech designation for fighter-bomber conversion models of Fagot-B; similar to MiG-15SB types; several served as weapons test beds as well.
MiG-15bisR - Czech designation for photo reconnaissance aircraft.
MiG-15bisT - Czech designation of target tug MiG-15bis Fagot-B models.
MiG-15V - Czech designation of target drones.
CS-102 - Czech designation of two-seat UTI-MiG-15 "Midget" two-seat trainers; some fitted with PPZ-1 ILS landing system.
Lim-1 - Polish designation of Fagot-A tactical fighters.
Lim-1,5 - Polish designation of Lim-1's upgraded to Lim-2 standard.
Lim-2 - Polish designation of Fagot-B tactical fighters; updated avionics package.
Lim-2R - Polish designation of photo reconnaissance models.
Lim-2 "Smugacz" - Polish Demonstrator Aircraft
SBLim-1 "Midget" - Polish designation of two-seat UTI-MiG-15 trainer.
SBLim-2 "Midget" - Polish designation of two-seat UTI-MiG-15 trainer; Lis-2 and Lis-2SB engines; enlarged airbrakes; 1 x NR-23 cannon.
SBLim-1Art - Polish designation of Artillery Spotter/Reconnaissance aircraft; later SBLim-1A.
SBLim-2Art - Polish designation of Artillery Spotter/Reconnaissance aircraft; later SBLim-2A.
SBLim-2M - Polish designation of advanced trainer.
(Cockpit image represents the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 production model)
Values are derrived from a variety of categories related to the design, overall function, and historical influence of this aircraft in aviation history.
The overall rating takes into account over 60 individual factors related to this aircraft entry. The rating is out of a possible 100.
Relative Maximum Speed
This entry's maximum listed speed (668mph).
Graph average of 562.5 miles-per-hour.
Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15bis (Fagot-B) operational range when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era Span
Showcasing era cross-over of this aircraft design.
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