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Wednesday, 23 July 2014

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When the Fury fought off a MIG

SIR – Following the impressive display by the Sea Fury at the Whitehaven Festival and the commentator’s allusion to a successful encounter with a MIG 15 over Korea in the 1950s, I thought some of your readers might be interested in a brief enlargement of the story.

cehfury
HISTORIC CRAFT: A Sea Fury flying over Whitehaven

The downing of the MIG by the Sea Fury was almost certainly due to the inferior flying skills of its North Korean or Chinese pilot. As the maximum speed of the piston-engined Sea Fury (485mph) is almost 200mph slower than that of the MIG 15, it could rarely compete on even terms.

The outstanding combat debut of the MIG 15 over Korea in 1950 came as an unpleasant shock to the West in general and to the Americans in particular. Although an unconfirmed second ‘kill’ by a Sea Fury has received vague mention, only the famed North American F-86 Sabre could get anywhere near it. Ironically, it was the British who largely contributed to the MIG 15’s outstanding performances!

Russian and German designs produced the first model in the late 1940s but it lacked a suitable power plant until Prime Minister Attlee sent an incredulous Stalin a batch of Rolls Royce Nene Turbojet engines. He lost no time in sending them to the Klimov Aeronautical Design Bureau for modification and improvement, from where they emerged as VK-1 centifrugal-flow turbojets and took the little plane, only 35ft long, into undreamed of feats of achievement. Its ceiling, rate of climb, acceleration and ability to fly tight curves was invariably superior to even the outstanding F-86s.

The Russians, though not combatants in the Korean conflict, could not miss the opportunity of giving their best people experience of flying the MIG 15 against the Americans and regularly rostered them on sorties over Korea.

Despite its short range it was purchased by 27 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and South America, including four Commonwealth countries who liked to hedge their bets. Two other Russian Ground-Attack fighters and the USSR’s first Strategic Jet Bomber, almost identical to the RAF’s Canberra, used the Rolls Royce Nene derivative – theVK-1.

Tony TINDALL

(ex RAF Signals Intelligence Berlin 1954)

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