On December 30, 1947 the MiG-15 fighter jet designed by Mikoyan-Gurevich for the Soviet Union (USSR) first flew.

The swept wing MiG-15 was small, agile and fast making it a very formidable aircraft. The MiG-15 had a wingspan of only 33 feet, was 33 feet long and stood 12 feet tall. Comparably the United States F-86 fighter jet had a wingspan of 37 feet, was 37 feet long and height of just over 14 feet.

The MiG-15 had a maximum speed over 650 miles per hour, could cruise at over 500 miles per hour and climb to over 50,000 feet. It was armed with three cannons. Two 23mm cannons and in the lower left fuselage and one 37mm cannon in the lower right fuselage carrying 200 rounds total between the three guns. The MiG-15 could also carry two bombs, unguided rockets or a pair of drop tanks for extra fuel.

Watch a Privately Owned MiG-15 Fly

During the Korean War the MiG-15 saw extensive combat action and performed at such a high level it alarmed US and Allied commanders and pilots.

The British Chief of the Air Staff said “Not only is it faster than anything we are building today, but it is already being produced in very large numbers . . . The Russians, therefore, have achieved a four year lead over British development in respect of the vitally important interceptor fighter” – Wikipedia

The Korean War was famous for the many dogfights between jet aircraft of North Korea and China versus US and Allied aircraft. Many suspected that Soviet pilots were actually flying MiG’s and engaging with US aircraft but that was not proven at the time despite many US pilots reporting that they heard enemy pilots speaking Russian on the radios. The area where most of these aerial dogfights took place in the northern part of Korea was called “MiG Alley” by the pilots that flew and fought there.

Map of “MiG Alley” by public domain via Wikicommons

Most of the airborne ‘dogfights’ in MiG Alley pitted the MiG-15 against the US F-86 Sabre.

Photo of MiG-15 and F-86 by Tim Felce, via Wikimedia Commons

One of the most produced fighter aircraft ever, it is thought that the Soviet Union manufactured around 12,000 MiG-15s. Hundreds of aircraft were sold to China and other countries around the world. The MiG-15 played a major role in aviation history. In 2011 the FAA reported there were 43 privately owned MiG-15s in the US. It is not uncommon to see the MiG-15 aircraft on display at museums in the United States.

Featured Image by FORTEPAN / MHSZ , via Wikimedia Commons