Arch rival to the U.S. F-86 in Korea, the MiG-15 shocked the West with its capabilities. The Soviets designed the aircraft in 1946 to answer an urgent need for a high-altitude day interceptor. It first flew in late 1947. The MiG-15 was the first Soviet jet to benefit from the British sale to Russia of the new Rolls Royce Nene and Derwent jet engines, which the Soviets immediately copied and refined. The resulting RD-500, Klimov RD-45, and modified VK-1 engines gave a powerful boost to Soviet jet technology.
The MiG-15 featured the first production swept wing, pressurized cockpit, and ejection seat on a Soviet aircraft. Although Mikoyan and Gurevich were aware of German turbojet and swept-wing work, this design was wholly Russian, except for the engine. This MiG-15bis is a Chinese Ji-2 modification. The Smithsonian acquired it in 1985.
Designed in 1946 to answer Soviet premier Joseph Stalin's urgent call for a high-altitude day interceptor, the MiG-15 was destined to shock the West with its capabilities and make the acronym "MiG" synonymous with "Soviet fighter plane." It was the first Soviet jet to benefit from the British sale to Russia of the new Rolls Royce "Nene" and "Derwent" jet engines. These were immediately copied and refined by the Soviets, and as the RD-500, Klimov RD-45 and modified VK-1, they gave a powerful boost to Soviet jet technology.
First flown on December 30, 1947, the MiG-15 featured the first production swept wing on a Russian aircraft, the first pressurized cockpit, and the first ejection seat. Although Mikoyan and Gurevitch were aware of German turbojet and swept-wing work, this design was wholly Russian--except for the engine. The Cold War had just begun and Stalin was readying the B-29 clone, the Tu-4, and was developing the atomic bomb, both in high-priority programs. MiG-15 production was authorized in March 1948, only 3 months after first test flight, and substantial numbers were in service by the end of 1948 with the both Soviet Air Forces (VVS, the tactical air arm) and IA-PVO (the air defense arm).
Late in 1950, MiG-15s piloted by Russians appeared over North Korea, and their prowess "shocked and stunned" Americans. Their deadly attacks, using one 37mm and two 23mm cannon, quickly ran all piston-engined aircraft from the skies, including the B-29. First generation jets like the F-80 and F-84 were no match, and America had to rush the F-86 into Korea to reestablish air superiority. Despite its high speed, excellent maneuverability, and high service ceiling, the MiG-15 was not very stable as a gun platform, with a tendency to Dutch roll at high speeds because of wing flexing and poor aileron effectiveness. Its cockpit instrumentation was primitive and stick forces were heavy. In combat against the F-86, a much more advanced fighter but with very similar performance, the MiG-15 suffered a 10:1 loss ratio.
Russians were joined by Chinese and North Korean MiG-15s before the Korean War ended, and the MiG-15 was ultimately flown in some 35 countries, remaining in service in China as late as 1978, where it was called the J-2 (F-2 in an export version). The MiG-15UTI trainer version, also used throughout the world, is still in common service today. More than 12,000 MiG-15s were built in 17 versions, in Poland, Czechoslovakia, and China, as well as in the USSR. Many Chinese F-2s have made their way to the United States, where they can be seen in flight displays at air shows. Based on lessons of the Korean combat, the MiG-15 was later upgraded as the MiG-17, which also served throughout the world, including combat in Vietnam and the Middle East.
The MiG-15 on display at the National Air and Space Museum, serial number 4320, is a Chinese F-2, acquired in September 1985 through an exchange with the Champlin Fighter Museum, Mesa AZ. There is no record of its production or service history before the aircraft's arrival in the U.S.
Document: NASM 7435; 2003-06-26
Photographic print, color: 19860066000a; Color
Photographic print, color: A19860066000CP; Cockpit; Color
Digital Photo: A19860066001cp1; Color; 2000-03-01
Digital Photo: A19860066002cp1; Color; 2000-03-01
Digital Photo: A19860066003cp1; Color; 2000-03-01
Digital Photo: A19860066004cp1; Color; 2000-03-28
Digital Photo: A19860066004cp2; Color; 2000-03-28
Digital Photo: A19860066005cp1; Color; 2000-03-28
Digital Photo: A19860066000cp03; 2003-07-28
Bibliography: Abakumov, B.S. "Neizvestnaya Voyna [The Unknown War]." Kursk: Raguda, 1997.
Belyakov, R. A., and Marmain, J. "MiG: Fifty Years of Secret Aircraft Design." Shrewsbury, England: Airlife, 1994.
Gordon, Yefim, and Rigmant. "MiG-15." Osceola, Wisc.: Motorbooks International, 1993.
Gunston, Gunston. "The Osprey Encyclopedia of Russian Aircraft 1875-1995." London: Osprey, 1995.