Jet Fighter Showdown
Developed by the Soviet Union, the MiG-15 first flew in 1947 and entered service in June 1950, just in time for the Korean War. The appearance of MiG-15s over North Korea in November 1950 – flown secretly by Soviet pilots – put a stop to daylight bombing raids by U.S. Air Force bombers. On November 1, 1950, MiG-15s took part in the world’s first jet-versus-jet dogfight, when four MiGs encountered four Lockheed F-80s over North Korea. Though externally similar to the MiG-15, the MiG-15bis incorporated many improvements, including a more-powerful engine, and entered service in 1951.
The Museum’s MiG-15bis was acquired from China in 1990 by J. Curtis Earl, and was donated to the Museum by the American Fighter Aces Association in 2003. The aircraft carries the colors of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force, including nine kill markings.
The MiG Legacy
Following the success of the MiG-15 (with more than 16,000 built), the name “MiG” became synonymous with “Communist Fighter” and thousands of MiGs have served with some 60 nations since 1950. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union also licensed MiG production to other nations, including China, Czechoslovakia, India, and Poland.
Flying the MiG-15 to Freedom
On September 21, 1953, a North Korean pilot in search of freedom landed his MiG-15 on Kimpo Air Base, South Korea. Unknown to the pilot, No Kum-Sok, a $100,000 reward was waiting for him, so anxious was the United States to get its hands on a MiG-15. No Kum-Sok became an American citizen and his MiG-15 is now displayed at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.