Korean War Jet Fighters, MiG-15 vs. Sabre F-86: Which Was Better?


Korean War Jet Fighters – MiG-15 vs. Sabre F-86

mig and sabre


MIG vs. Sabre – Some questions about fighters, by GregP

I have some questions about fighters.

1) Hellcat vs. Corsair
I read in Flight Journal in an article by Corky Meyer that the Hellcat and the Corsair had essentially the same level speed performance. He was not in the least surprised by this since they used the same engine and propeller. Corky, in fact, flew many tests with a Hellcat and a Corsair side by side, so he should know.

Nevertheless, the history books all state the Hellcat was considerably slower than the Corsair. Corky maintains it was due to the placement of pitot tube on the Corsair which, according to Corky, gave an “optomistic” reading.

My question is simple. Didn’t the Military at the time fly their OWN tests to confirm manufacturers claims of performance?

2) Sabre vs. MiG
I had a friend, the late J. Curtis Earl, in Phoenix, AZ who had a MiG-15 UTI (2-seater). He got his from the People’s Air Museum in Beijing, China. We spent about 6 years assembling it and getting it ready for flight. Many stories have been written about the MiG vs. the Sabre and, in most (written by Americans), the Sabre is touted as better airplane. Indeed, some books state that there was something wrong with the MiG since many were seen to fall into flat spins when entering a hard break.

Curt Earl spent some time in China buying the plane and he talked with the Chinese about the MiGs. AT one time, conversation turned to the combat experiences in Korea. The Chinese laughed about the stories in American writings about the MiGs falling into flat spins. They said that, while the American pilots flew in a g-suit, the MiG pilots in Korea did not. As a result, they sometimes passed out due to GLOC in a hard break. Unconscious pilot in a jet means a smoking hole in the ground.

Basically, the MiG weighed about 11,270 pound and had a wing area of 221.7 sq. ft for a wing loading of 50.8 pound per square foot. The engine was rated at 6,000 pounds thrust, so the power loading at gross was 0.53.

The F-86F weighed about 13,791 pounds and had a wing area of about 287.9 sq ft. for a wing loading of 47.9 pounds per square foot. The engine was rated at 5,200 pounds thrust for a power loading of 0.38.

From these data we can say the turning performance, at least initially, was even but the MiG had considerably more reserve thrust in combat. The USA evaluated a MiG that was flown to South Korean by a defector and the pilots who flew it all stated they preferred the Sabre.

We were in a war. What were the evaluation pilots SUPPOSED to say at the time? The MiG kicks ass? Yeah. Right. My question is, “Was the MiG really better than the Sabre as a fighter?” According to the Russians, the kill ratio was in their favor if we look only at Sabre vs. MiG when the MiG was flown by Russian pilots. Remember the Russian whop flew in Korean were mostly experienced WWII pilots. That’s where the word Honcho came from.

So, any opinions about the real Sabre vs. MiG question? Don’t wave your flag; I love the Sabre, too. It would be nice to hear some facts from people who have flown both planes. 15 30 3181 15.1060893884

MIG vs. Sabre – MiG unstable at speed, by Max

The conventional wisdom on the subject says the MiG 15 had superior armament, i.e. firepower. At the expense of defensive armour around the cockpit, It was lighter weight, and could therefore achieve higher altitudes, which translated in the circumstances of the Korean war theater to a limited tactical advantage. It was marginally more maneuverable, under certain circumstances, and particularly, again, at high altitudes.

Overall the MiGs handling at high speeds was unstable, it would shimmy, and shake, and if pushed too hard, would readily depart controlled flight, under certain conditions this wholly negated the advantages of the higher caliber munitions it carried. The MiG15 and original Sabres were very well matched, the main difference being attributed to superior pilots flying the US/UN aircraft.

It would have been interesting if the Australian version “Commonweath Sabre” with the larger Canberra engine, and ensuing substantially superior performance, had made it to Korea, if the war had lasted, however it’s likely by then, that the commies would have had MiG-17s.

MiG vs. Sabre – MiG did handle well, by Greg_P

The MiG-15 did NOT easily depart controlled flight. If the pilot pulled too hard, he passed out. Other than that, if flew VERY well, and I have flown in a 2-seater at over 650 mph.

I pulled 6 g’s and felt nothing but solid response. Turned like a banshee. So, I believe the Chinese when they say that g-suits made the difference at the time. If my flight is any indication, the MiG-15 was GREAT fighter. Was it better than the F-86? Can’t say since I never flew in a 2-seat F-86. None are available, while 2-seat MiG’s are plentiful. Ever wonder why? Could be the MiG was a wonderful aircraft. Maybe we’re just so good that 2-seater s aren’t needed? Poppycock.

The MiG was VERY good and still is. Better acceleration, better turn, better armament, easier serviceability, rough field landing gear, high-flotation tires, easy rearm service. The F-86 was VERY good. Lesser acceleration, lesser turning ability, lesser guns, difficult service, needed smooth fields, high-pressure, low-cross-section tires.

MiG vs. Sabre – MiG performane, by max_g_cunningham

The MiG 15 & 17 were superior in some aspects of their performance characteristics. Mainly lighter in weight, particularly coming at the expense or cockpit armour.

The Soviets did not have a mystical inherent overall advantage in that era of early jet fighters, they had advantages in some categories, but only at the expense of protection, or and attributes, in other areas. In their recounting of the MiGs’ superior performance, some US pilots used that to underscore (no pun) their own abilities in overcoming the advantages of the MiGS. On the other hand, few pilots would likely care to be in a MiG 15 cockpit, without steel re-enforcement while being fired upon, not withstanding marginal acceleration and altitude advantages.

Among other disadvantages of the MiG, and perhaps being somehow overlooked in the current context … The internal heating, and window defrosting on the MiGs was deficient, and ineffective, particularly at high altitude, where the machine enjoyed it’s principle performance advantage. There are accounts of MiGS having to descend to engage the Sabres, but with badly frosted canopies.

Moreover, here are 2 important aspects of the “stability” issue,

Those early Migs had the high mounted rear stabilizers, in essence they were a variation of T Tails. As I described in sufficient detail elsewhere in this forum, there’s a serious and inherent handling, and stability compromise associated with high AOA maneuvers, with any T tailed aircraft, the early MiGs were no exception. Furthermore, the MiG 15 suffered from wing flex, it would vibrate, shimmy and shake, under high G loads, and despite superior fire power, was a far less then ideal gun platform under high stress combat maneuvering.

Yeager himself was assigned to evaluate the MiG15 delivered by a N. Korean defector. The findings of those evaluations, along with numerous accounts based on experience in combat, by both sides, have been largely de-classified, and are a matter of official historical record.

MiG vs. Sabre – MiG performace, by Al Lowe

Watch for the Discovery Wings tape dealing with the MiG-15 that was delivered by No-Kim Suk. He was the North Korean national (I refuse to refer to him as a defector. He seems too nice for that term.) who decided to leave North Korea, and conveniently brought his MiG-15 with him. Two American Test pilots, Tom Collins and Chuck Yeager flew extensive tests on the MiG-15, and found it had some advantages over the F-86. However, the MiG-15 was found to be INCAPABLE of exceeding the speed of sound. The best if could do, if memory serves me correctly, was .97 mach. The F-86 however, can exceed mach 1 in a shallow dive.

MiG vs. Sabre – Some questions about fighters, by max_g_cunningham

“In at T Tail, at high AOA, the main wing is going to shunt the airflow to the rear stabilizers, if not recovered very quickly, and very expertly. the airframe departs, that is looses directional stability,”

This was an inherent disadvantage and characteristic of the early MiGS,15 & 17, and later with the US made F101 Voodoo, and the Mighty F104 Starfighter. In any high performance system, I don’t care if you’re talking fighter jets, race cars, and motorcycles, or bicycles. It’s easy and relatively docile to operate at low and moderate levels of it’s performance. Your grandmother could probably have flown an F20 Tigershark, straight and level, with no Gs. It’s from 80-105% that gets you into difficulty, the MiG 15, as with most others, now, and then, had problems, if really, really, pushed.

MiG vs. Sabre – Some questions about fighters, by Al Lowe

The tail configuration along with other factors is what gave the MiG-15 problems in a dive. The last models had a sensor that would automatically deploy the air brakes at about mach .92 or .95.

MiG vs. Sabre – Some questions about fighters, by max_g_cunningham

Almost anyone who can fly, could potentially fly a high performance fighter, if only at a fraction of it’s capability. Many issues and limitations do not surface until the machine is at 95% or more of it’s max performance envelope for a particular circumstance.

Exactly as in the case of the 86 vs. MiG 15, it was only in the extreme circumstance of combat that certain weaknesses, and limitations became apparent. Once word spreads, experienced fighter pilots will attempt to create circumstances where those weaknesses, and the advantages of their own platforms, will be readily exploited. In the case of the F20, that aircraft was extremely good, so good in fact, that at the extreme, it was a hazard to it’s own pilot, as surely as it would be to a potential advisory, in a close in, visual 1v1 domain.

Not from any handling deficiency, or short coming, on the contrary, but from being able to change direction, by slewing it’s frontal aspect, it could change direction, and change it so fast, that it literally popularized at the time, the little understood, and appreciated the phenomena of “instantainous G lock.”

Not to be confused with the sustained Gs, as demonstrated by the F15, with the gradual tunnel vision, and gray out.

Instantaneous GLock in fighters such as pioneered at tragic expense, in the F20, has been compared more to a knock out punch as experienced by prize fighters.

The ability to sustain high Gs, can be valuable, depending on circumstances, and is great to watch at an airshow, but more recently, the advantages of instantaneous turning ability, have become even more coveted.

In that context, potentially, even the SU-27/37 series and their “super cobra,” and “post stall loop” maneuvers, seem to offer dubious practical advantage, and application. Although impressive to watch.

It was the late John Boyd and his extensions of his “energy manuverbility” theories that served as a departure point in promotion of this concept. He is often associated with the original F16 prototypes, which were lighter, smaller, and quicker than the current versions.

By comparison the F20 Tigershark was the embodiment of Boyd’s matured air combat philosophies, and doctrines. Basically it boils down to all go, and no show, or shoot fast, shoot first, and get of out of Dodge.

It’s a real shame it never went into production, the problem of the airframe exceeding the physiological limits of pilots, could have been dealt with by means of electronic control limitations, and to a degree, with faster reacting, improved G suits.

MiG vs. Sabre – XF4U – 400 mph, by phantomphan

According to information on this website the XF4U was the first fighter to reach 400mph.

The Vought Heritage webpage also states the F4U-1 was the first fighter to reach 400 mph and the first to have a 2,000 hp engine. The P&W R-1800 Double Wasp. The F4U-1A had water injection that boosted horse power to 2,250 briefly.

MiG vs. Sabre – key factors, by max_g_cunningham

“Was the MiG really better than the Sabre as a fighter?”

John Boyd, (Mr. Energy Maneuverability, 40 second Boyd, & the Fighter Pilot Who Changed The Art Of War) did a complex analysis of the MiG vs. Sabre issue. Initially he too was puzzled at the Sabre’s marked superiority in relation to it’s Korean Combat record, being as the 2 aircraft on paper, seem so evenly matched. He took into consideration all the factors and conventional wisdom, (narrow advantage Sabre) and it still didn’t quite all add up to a 10-1 kill ratio. After further research, interviews, and deep analysis, he concluded that the Sabre possessed a quicker instantaneous rate of turn, that is to say it could transition faster, from one maneuver to another. This is what gave the Sabre pilots a decisive advantage. Put another way, instantaneous rate of turn, (analogy “knife fight in a telephone booth”) was more important than sustained turn rate, in the Korean theatre. This was among several clues that served as a departure point for Boyd’s later revolutionary advanced theories.
Key points for comparison of the two Korean War jet fighters:

  • The experience level of the American vs. N. Korean, and Soviet pilots, along with tactics, Popular, and superficial analysis attributes most of the empirical advantage demonstrated by the Sabres, to this single factor.
  • MiG pilots advantage of higher altitude capability, also including (Sabre pilots, on the offensive, having to fly much farther, and into hostile territory) (Sabres used drop tanks to extend their range, MiGs had an inherent advantage being in much closer proximity to base) along with all the various advantages, and disadvantages that the MiG airframe had VS the various incarnations of the F86.
  • The use of G suits, the hydraulically boosted control surfaces, (fatigue experienced by the MiG pilots, without hydraulics and G suits), (Adv. Sabre).
  • Sustained VS instantaneous turn rates, also related to the hydraulically boosted control surfaces, (advantage Sabre).John Boyd, (Mr. Energy Maneuverability, 40 second Boyd, & the Fighter Pilot Who Changed The Art Of War) did a complex analysis of the MiG vs. Sabre issue. Initially he too was puzzled at the Sabre’s marked superiority in relation to it’s Korean Combat record, being as the 2 aircraft on paper, seem so evenly matched. He took into consideration all the factors and conventional wisdom, (narrow advantage Sabre) and it still didn’t quite all add up to a 10-1 kill ratio. After further research, interviews, and deep analysis, he concluded that the Sabre possessed a quicker instantaneous rate of turn, that is to say it could transition faster, from one maneuver to another. This is what gave the Sabre pilots a decisive advantage. Put another way, instantaneous rate of turn, (analogy “knife fight in a telephone booth”) was more important than sustained turn rate, in the Korean theatre. This was among several clues that served as a departure point for Boyd’s later revolutionary advanced theories.
  • Top speed, (Adv. Sabre) climb, and altitude capability, (Adv MiG) and limitations of the MiGS T tail configuration, vis-a-vie AOA limitations and tendency to depart. (A significant factor) (Adv. Sabre)
  • Airframe and firing platform stability, (Adv. Sabre) IE; Flexing in the MiG wing structure and through the fuselage, VS the Sabre’s wing structure, Firepower of the combinations of 20mm vs. only 50 cal. (Adv. Mig, circumstantial) (one can argue that under conditions of very high stress, and to various degrees, (Pun) the lack of stability in the MiG airframe, somewhat negated their superior firepower, and range of those weapons.)
  • Visibility, windscreen fogging in the MiGs transitioning from high altitudes, and poor environmental regulation, (fatigue issue). (Adv. Sabre)
  • Build quality, pilot protection, ability to absorb damage, (Adv. Sabre circumstantial)
  • Maintenance, ground support & facilities, availability of weapons and ammunition, etc, etc, etc.

All were factors, plus a few I’ve missed, and it’s all pretty much part of historical record, and what I’d consider as the historically, and popularly recognized account, of this interesting topic.

MiG vs. Sabre – pilot protection and other factors, by JoeB

Build quality, pilot protection, ability to absorb damage, (Adv. Sabre circumstantial)

Maintenance, ground support & facilities, availability of weapons and ammunition, etc, etc, etc.

Pilot protection and ability to absorb damage though I think have to be viewed relatively when comparing two a/c head to head v. each other. The MiG probably had a better ability to absorb punishment and protect its pilot relative to the F-86’s armament than vice versa, assuming an on target burst of a given number of seconds (or fractions of a second). I say probably because though we can evaluate the ratio of damaged to downed F-86’s hit by MiG’s, we can’t for MiG’s hit by F-86’s. We have to rely on anecdotal accounts from the Soviets that MiG’s survived .50 hits many times for each one lost (F-86’s damaged by MiG cannon fire only somewhat outnumbered those lost to it). Though even that is imprecise because it doesn’t say for sure a MiG could better survive a given time exposure to accurate fire of the F-86’s armament than an F-86 could survive to a MiG’s armament. But I think that was probably the case.

Facilities etc. I don’t see a reason to credit a US advantage there. At times the US had serious problems in e.g. spares support of the F-86 fleet in Korea. The Russian accounts don’t mention anything like that, not proving they didn’t have such problems but I just don’t see a positive reason to assume the MiG’s, or the Soviets at least, were at a disadvantage in that respect.

One perhaps fairly significant element not mentioned is radar ranging lead computing K-14 gunsights on F-86’s v. stadiametric ranging ones on MiG’s. Latter being similar to the US K-14 computing sight used on P-51’s in late WWII; and some US KW a/c, like for example F-80’s still had a version of it. When the Russians captured the F-86 in Oct ’51 that’s the part they were most excited about obtaining intact.

People still have to agree what the exchange ratio was. Overall it seems to have been around 6-6.5:1 (270-320 Russian depending on source, 224 Chinese and est. ~50 NK MiG’s, no one outside NK knows the latter for sure, v. around 90 F-86’s downed by MiG’s), not 10:1 (792 MiG’s v. 78 F-86’s often printed). And it was lower v. Soviets only, a guesstimate based on equal claim accuracy of the Russians, Chinese and NK’s (per lowest NK claims known) is 4.5:1 v. Russians, 10-11:1 v. the other two. Anyway 10:1 speaking of the Soviets is not accurate.

That’s what I believe based on my research. At the other extreme the Soviets say it 3:1 in *their* favor, based on gross inflations of claims though in my view. You see people still claim the US losses were much higher though (articles on this very site imply that, see Russian Aces article crediting US non-MiG losses, or just plain non-losses per US records, as verifying the counts of Soviet aces; see my rebuttal on Sutyagin score thread).

MiG vs. Sabre – Some questions about fighters, by max_g_cunningham

One perhaps fairly significant element not mentioned is radar ranging lead computing K-14 gunsights on F-86’s

Good point about the gunsights, which falls under the category of the Sabre being more sophisticated overall, electronics etc., a design philosophy that carries through to today, and has brought us to the platinum plated, diamond encrusted F22.

As far as gun damage is concerned, we recognize that range of engagement and firing would be decisive and critical. The 6 x 50cals could be highly effective, at very close range, and so it was incumbent on the pilot and his skills to get there in the first place. The MiG armament had the decided advantage at greater distances. The F86 had some cockpit armour, the MiG had little or none, one primary reason the MiG was lighter, a little faster in acceleration, and could climb higher, and faster. An interesting co-incidence, and even ironic to the point where one would suspect collaboration, that the MiG had the superior weight of fire, against the Sabre, which carried re-enforcement and could therefore absorb more, and conversely, the Sabre with the by comparison anemic firepower, actually needed less at close range to inflict fatal injury on the opponent.

What are the sources for these kill ratio figures you’re quoting? I have yet to come across anything that refutes the 10:1 ratio.

MiG vs. Sabre – shortage of drop tanks, by Miss Behaving

Along with parts problem the 4th Fighter Group had to deal with was a shortage of drop tanks. Many of the Sabres of went to MiG Alley in early 1952 only carried one drop tank! Many of the K-14 gunsights failed in combat, and several Sabre pilots found themselves going to war with a gunsight fixed in one position with a cotter pin! K-13 & K-14 were in bad shape having been lost and taken back twice. The ground crews did a great job out in the open air, with no spare parts.

The job that the 4th did when they were the only Sabre unit in Korea ranks up there with the R.A.F.’s stand during the Battle of Britain.

MiG vs. Sabre – losses and claims, by JoeB

I have yet to come across anything that refutes the 10:1 (Sabre-to-MiG kill) ratio.

On protection again it’s relative, no protection on the F-86 could stop 23 or 37mm rounds. Also the visibility benefit of the F-86 was partly at the expense of pilot vulnerability since the pilot sat up higher above the fuselage centerline less protected by the engine from behind. It’s not true the MiG had no pilot armor. Earlier ones had a 20mm thick headrest impervious to .50 cal, relying on the engine again to protect the pilot’s body. Later production MiG-15bis’s extended that to a seat plate also. They had armored windshield and front plate also but head-on hits seem really rare for either side, closing at 1200mph.

On kill ratio the whole point is that at some point you have to try to find how many planes you really downed, not just how many you claimed. The 10:1 is based on claims not real MiG losses. And the 78 has some problems see below. For MiG losses:

Russian: The number 345 total MiG losses of which 335 in combat is quoted in many general Russian texts, but only 10 to operational causes seems much too low. Seidov/German’s “Krasnye Diavoli na 38i Paraleli” gives 319 Soviet MiG’s lost in combat describing individually 295 of them if you count up in the book day by day. Naboka’s “Natovskie iastreby v pritsele stalinskikh sokolov: Sovetskie letchiki na zashchite neba Kitaia i Korei (1950-1951)” covers only to July 1951. From limited declassified Soviet records I’ve seen directly, Naboka seems to be a literal transcription of those records. Seidov/German leaves out a few losses mentioned in Naboka for the overlapping period. Therefore I believe the Soviet losses were probably in the range normally given, give or take some probably left out of say Seidov. There is no positive evidence otherwise.

Soviet account like Seidov/German quote MiG losses for the “Unified Air Force” command of the Chinese and NK’s as 231. However on the 50th anniversary of the war a Chinese official publication listed theirs alone as 224, so we again have to estimate NK losses. However the general similarity of the post Soviet Russian and Chinese numbers for the Chinese losses seems to indicate the right ballpark.

The NK defector No Gum-suk estimated his own AF’s MiG losses as 100 to all causes. Since his all-cause estimates of Russian and Chinese losses were accurate, the 100 probably is too. So 50 NK combat losses is a good guess IMO. All three countries’ accounts (including No’s) say there were relatively few NK MiG units and they often didn’t actively seek combat so it’s not surprising their losses were much less than Russian and Chinese. Also the lowest NK claim ever published said they downed 44 F-86’s. The Chinese also claimed about as many F-86’s as they lost MiG’s (211 from memory). Both seem to be ridiculous exaggerations given US losses and Soviet claims, but the idea was probably to claim about as many they lost.

Therefore a total MiG combat loss number might be 593. (319+224+50=593) Which would be a very respectable % of the ~819 credited (762 by F-86’s, ~32 by other fighters incl. USN, USMC, RAAF and RN, and 25 by B-29’s, but only 3 MiG’s seem to have been downed by B-29’s). Note these are official US Korean War credit numbers from early 1960’s, a little lower than totals at the time of the war. In WWII actual US victories were a smaller % of claims than that on average, so the MiG losses estimated don’t seem too low at all actually. Not counting B-29 claims and MiG losses to them the UN fighter claims would be 74% accurate.

The US F-86 loss of 78 is from the “USAF FY 1953 Statistical Digest”. That’s what Futrell footnoted the number to in his official history, and almost everyplace else gets it from Futrell. But surveying that number by month against each incident it clearly excludes some F-86 known air combat losses, and OTOH includes some “code M” losses, “loss on a combat mission” not really caused by MiG’s (e.g. some fuel and engine failure losses away from combat areas are included, others aren’t, it tends to include such losses early on but not later in the war). IMO that’s a not very good number though it happens to still be fairly close to the real one.

Counting plane by plane I get no fewer than 82 F-86’s certainly directly downed by MiG’s (*not* the same 78 plus another 4) but no more than ~100. Weighing probabilities in cases where an unclear loss cause matches up at least in date with a Soviet or Chinese claim I believe the right number is around 90. Still needs to be clarified further.

Therefore if 74% claim accuracy for the F-86’s like the UN average, and real losses 90, then the exchange ratio was ~6.3:1, fairly sensitive to confirming a few more F-86 losses, not very sensitive to finding a few more MiG losses. And also lower than that v. the Russians, higher v. the Chinese and NK’s.

To add one thing, 6:1 is an exceptional *real fighter to fighter* kill ratio for an extensive air campaign against a very serious opponent. It can’t be compared directly to e.g. 19:1 for the Hellcat in WWII, or 6:1 for the F4F because those are *claimed* ratio’s not real ones, and involved many non fighter targets, esp. F4F’s case. The F4F v. Zero ratio in 1942 based on Japanese losses from their records in was right around 1:1. The performance of the F-86 units in Korea was remarkable.

MiG vs. Sabre – restrictions, by Miss Behaving

The MiG was a kick ass fighter, but the F-86 out scored it by approximately 7 to 1. That being said, the MiG was a great little fighter plane. Every fighter has it’s good and bad points. The MiG had a 5,000 foot higher ceiling, a faster climb, and better weapons. The Sabre could out turn the MiG at 30,000 feet, but the advantage went to the MiG the higher up they went. The Sabre was a better gun platform, and the gun sight, when working( it usually wasn’t) better. It was pretty much an even stand off, the deciding factor as always was with the pilot. The American pilots were better trained than the Russians. The Chinese and North Korans were poorly trained. Both the Russians and the Americans were restricted as to where they could fly. The Russians could not fly over the ocean, or near the front lines. The Americans could not fly over the Yalu River. The American pilots hated the restrictions, and the Russian tigers flying the MiG were chaffed by not being able to follow their foes out to sea, and not being able to help their comrades on the front.

MiG vs. Sabre – claims and nationalities, by JoeB

I do not believe the Russians, the Chinese, or the North Koreans.

It’s mainly *loss records v. claim records*. What country composed the records is worthy of some consideration, but also loss records should get more weight than claims, and the latter effect is much greater.

Judging just nationality of the records wouldn’t result in well written air warfare history. On that basis we’d just always take US claims as gospel, because we’re the Good Guys, really we are the goodest or least bad guys. So we’d also reject German and Japanese loss records for WWII, and say our 8th AF bombers shot down 1,000’s of German fighters that they pretty clearly didn’t, and that the Japanese suffered heavy losses in the air to us even early in the war, which they pretty obviously didn’t., because the Nazi’s and the Japanese militarists were “dogs”. Maybe they were, but that doesn’t mean their loss records, written to themselves in secret, were fake.

The NK’s haven’t ever released any credible details of their losses in the Korean War; there’s just the inference from the fact of their modest claims in some venues: it seems unlikely they lost more than they claimed to have destroyed, otherwise they’d just claim more, and no one in their power structure could ever prove it wrong.

For the Chinese we have a total, not individual incidents. But it tends to agree with declassified Russian accounts of Chinese losses.

And for the Russians we’re not going on official summary governmental statements of losses, but fairly extensive declassified records. I’ve seem some of those and they agree with Russian books for those incidents; making it likely IMO that those books’ accounts of other incidents based on the same records are also accurate. As to losses, not claims.

No one, hardline supporters of US claims over all evidence, or hardline supporters of Russian claims over all evidence, have ever shown evidence of things like detailed secret combat diaries of fighter units systematically leaving out losses of pilots or even outright losses of planes (as opposed to judgment calls about planes that returned too damaged to ever fight again, were they “lossed”?). Nor in debates on Japanese and German records vs. US claims in WWII, which people used to debate in defense of the full scores of US aces (like Boyington for example) has anyone ever shown that AFAIK.

MiG vs. Sabre – Pilots of all sides make exaggerated claims, by Lucky

Sometimes they can be proven (as in one Japanese claims to have shot down Spitfires over Perth when it is known there were no Spitfires in Australia at the time), other times not. The commonly quoted excellent kill ratios for the F4U and F6F for example include planes destroyed on the ground (and do not consider planes lost in landing accidents, bad weather, pilot error, friendly fire or anti-aircraft. In the case of the Japanese it’s especially hard to verify kill claims since they kept poor records and any kills were assigned to squads, not individual pilots. In the first reported combat between the Japanese Ki100 and the F6F, 14 hellcats were supposedly downed without a single Japanese lost plane. Similar results are described for Frank or George combat against the venerable F6F. What we do know is that up until mid 1943, in aerial combat the A6M2 Zero was pretty much the terror of the skies and bested everything thrown against it. We also know that it was very vulnerable to damage and thus when pitted against anti-aircraft in battles such as Coral Sea, their losses tended to be higher than the built-hell-for-stout US fighters.

MiG vs. Sabre – F7F Tigercat and P-47N, by R Leonard

I am trying to find out information on Grumman’s F7F Tigercat! I am interested in its involvement if any in the closing days of WWII and in the opening years of Korea. Also I find it sad that the Tigercats were ushered out so soon while other piston planes were still flying. I think the Tigercats could have stayed and performed very well.

Also I am looking for information on the P-47Ns that flew from carriers in the Pacific. Are there any sources or websites that say if they ever made carrier landings or been evaluated for the Navy? It seems strange for that because the F6F-5 was almost as good, little slower but better for the roll. On the Hellcat, any information that Grumman made a two seat variant?

F7Fs (and F8Fs) were, unfortunately, outstanding developments that came along as the demise of the piston engined fighter was fast coming over the horizon. Neither saw combat in WWII, though both were in the process of being deployed. There was at least one USMC F7F squadron that went west, but was not committed to combat (I believe they only got as far as Guam in the summer of 1945). Same with the F8F, VF-19 was working up in Hawaiian waters when the war ended.

Production for the F7F ended in November 1946 with the last squadron to have them in inventory being VJ-62 (a photo-reconnaissance squadron) operating F7F-3Ns and -4Ns as late as March 1954. The last F8F was produced in May 1949. Last reported squadrons to operate F8Fs were Reserve squadrons VF-921 and VF-859, which were still using the F8F-2 in January 1953.

Unlike the F8F, the F7F saw some action in Korea; two Marine squadrons, VMF(N)s 513 and 542, (operating, first, out of Japan and then, later from Korean fields) utilized the F7F-3N in ground support and night fighter roles from September 1951 through November 1952. VMJ-1 also had F7F-3P in its mix of aircraft. What stands out with all of these squadrons was that they were already being equipped with jets at the same time they were operating F7Fs; F3Ds for the night fighters and F2H-2Ps and F9F-2Ps for the photo-recon squadron. This was the fate of the F7F, and the F8F, prime examples of the piston fighter that were OBE with the advent of jets that could do the same job. By the end of November 1952, the F7F had been phased out of combat.

The P-47 was never tested in a carrier operation model. The only AAF fighter so tested was the P-51D that Bob Elder operated off USS Shangri-La in tests of Norfolk in November 1944. (A fun day, reportedly, with Elder’s P-51 and Sid Bottomley’s PBJ (Navy version of the B-25) performing several traps and launches. Elder said that he really liked the P-51 in terms of performance, but that it had no place in carrier operations.) But, just like it’s stable mate, the P-40, P-47s were launched from escort carriers as a method of rapidly populating a captured enemy airfield with AAF fighters. The event that sticks out in my mind is a photograph of a gaggle of P-47 razorbacks from the 318th FS aboard USS Manila Bay (CVE-61) for delivery to Saipan with Japanese bombs blasting holes in the ocean near-by.

To my knowledge, there were no 2 seat F6Fs in the USN/USMC inventory, nor did Grumman produce any under an existing contract. All the bureau numbers are accounted for and no such variant appears. Like the F4F that could carry two passengers in the fuselage, any 2-seater F6F would be a civilian custom job.

MiG vs. Sabre – neither were “German planes”, by Al Lowe

re the debate about the F86 Sabre and the Mig15. It should come as no surprise that their performance was similar. Remember that both were German planes with British engines. They reflected of course the different military philosophies of their countries. The Mig15 the soviet one of toughness and serviceability, the F86 the American love of gadgetry and technology, but basically they were the same plane.

I disagree. There may have been SOME German influence in both designs, but both were far from being “German planes.” And the major factor for the US success in Korea wasn’t so much the F86, as much as it was pilot experience.

MiG vs. Sabre – pilots made the difference, by davep

The f86 had an decisive advantage because of American pilot training, plus the Russian pilots were rotated out of combat. This was because Stalin wanted a pool of combat experienced pilots. Another major factor was the superior American gunsight. The point is that all the correspondence about cover ups by the military and so on misses the point. The planes were approximately the same.

The difference in kills was due to other factors like pilots and gunsights, not any basic difference in the 2 planes.

MiG vs. Sabre – MiG 15 armament question, by davep

I have a query about the MiG15. It was armed with a 37mm cannon. I can not find out the weight of this weapon. The only website I can find is on ww2 guns. It lists an ns37 cannon which weighs 170kg (374lbs). This seems an enormous weight for the MiG to carry, and a handicap to its performance. Especially compared to the f86 whose 0.5 Brownings were only 29kg (64lb) each. The MiG also carried 2 23mm cannons. Was this the case or did the soviets manage to build a lightweight version in the intervening 5 years?