Modern Airplanes/Jets


MiG-15 bis

Nation Flag

Soviet Union

Model Box

Date Deployed: December 30, 1947
MiG-15 bis North Korea with Ambush Camouflage, Korean War, 1951
Manufacturer: Mikoyan-Gurewitsch 
Model from Tamiya Kit # 61043 Built on 03-27-2007        1/48 scale



   The Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 (Russian: Микоян и Гуревич МиГ-15) (NATO reporting name "Fagot") was a jet fighter developed for the USSR by Artem Mikoyan and Mikhail Gurevich. The MiG-15 was one of the first successful swept-wing jet fighters, and it achieved fame in the skies over Korea, where it outclassed all enemy fighters except the F-86 Sabre. The MiG-15 also served as the starting point for development of the more advanced MiG-17 which would oppose American fighters over Vietnam in 1960s. The MiG-15 is believed to have been the most numerous jet aircraft ever made, with over 12,000 built (and licensed foreign production perhaps raising this to over 18,000)

   Most early jets, especially those of the Western powers, were designed like piston-engined fighters with straight wings, and had only slightly better performance. German research during World War II had showed that swept wings would perform better at transonic speeds, and Soviet aircraft designers were not slow to take advantage of this information. However, claims that the successful Soviet piston-engined fighter designers Artem Mikoyan and Mikhail Gurevich (the lead designers of the "MiG" bureau) were heavily influenced by the Focke-Wulf Ta-183 have been discredited. Although the abortive late-war German jet had swept wings and bore a superficial resemblance to the later MiG-15, the two aircraft are very different in structure and general design. The Soviets did seize plans for the Ta-183, but most Focke-Wulf engineers were captured by Western armies. Currently, most sources acknowledge that the MiG-15 is an original design and that Western aircraft industries benefited from German aerodynamic research just as much as Soviets. 

   By 1946, Soviet designers were finding it impossible to perfect the German-designed HeS-011 axial-flow jet engine, and new airframe designs from Mikoyan were threatening to outstrip development of the jet engines needed to power them. Soviet aviation minister Mikhail Khrunichev and aircraft designer Alexander Sergeyevich Yakovlev suggested to Joseph Stalin that the USSR buy advanced jet engines from the British. Stalin is said to have replied: "What fool will sell us his secrets?" However, he gave his assent to the proposal and Artem Mikoyan, engine designer Vladimir Klimov, and others traveled to the United Kingdom to request the engines. To Stalin's amazement, the British Labor government and its pro-Soviet Minister of Trade, Sir Stafford Cripps, were perfectly willing to provide technical information and a license to manufacture the Rolls-Royce Nene centrifugal-flow jet engine, a move which even Russian sources have mocked. This engine was reverse-engineered and produced as the Soviet Klimov RD-45 jet engine, subsequently incorporated into the MiG-15. (Rolls-Royce later attempted to claim 207 million in license fees, but without success.)

   In the interim, on April 15 1947, the Council of Ministers issued decree #493-192, which ordered the Mikoyan OKB to build two prototypes for a new jet fighter. As the decree called for a first flight as soon as December of that same year, the designers at OKB-155 fell back on an earlier troublesome design, the MiG-9. The MiG-9 suffered from an unreliable engine and control problems; the first would be solved by the excellent new Klimov engine, and to solve the second, the designers began experimenting with swept wings and also redesigned the tail unit. The resulting prototypes were designated I-310.

   The I-310 was a clean, swept-wing fighter with wings and tail swept at a 35 angle. The I-310 had exceptional performance, with a top speed of over 650 mph (1,040 km/h). The I-310's primary competitor was the similar Lavochkin La-168. After evaluations, the MiG design was chosen for production. Designated MiG-15, the first production example flew on 31 December 1948. It entered Soviet Air Force service in 1949, and would subsequently receive the NATO reporting name "Fagot." Early production examples had a tendency to roll to the left or right due to manufacturing variances, and so aerodynamic trimmers called "nozhi (knives)" were fitted to correct the problem, the knives being adjusted by ground crews until the aircraft flew right. 

   An improved variant, the MiG-15bis ("bis" being Latin or French for "encore"), entered service in early 1950 with a Klimov VK-1 engine, an improved version of the RD-45/Nene, plus minor improvements and upgrades. (Visible differences are: a headlight in air intake separator and horizontal upper edge of air brakes in MiG-15).

   The MiG-15 arguably had sufficient power to dive at supersonic speeds, but could not do so because it did not feature an "all-flying" tail. As a result, the pilot's ability to control the aircraft deteriorated significantly as Mach 1 was approached. Later MiGs would incorporate all-flying tails.

   The MiG-15 was originally intended to intercept American bombers like the B-29, and was even evaluated in mock air-to-air combat trials with interned ex-U.S. B-29 bombers as well as the later Soviet B-29 copy, the Tupolev Tu-4. To ensure the destruction of such large bombers, the MiG-15 carried heavy cannon armament: two 23 mm cannon with 80 rounds per gun and a single massive 37 mm cannon with 40 rounds. These weapons provided tremendous punch in the interceptor role, but their limited rate of fire and relatively low velocity made it more difficult to score hits against small and maneuverable enemy jet fighter aircraft in air-to-air combat. The 23 mm and 37 mm cannon also had radically different ballistic characteristics, and some United Nations pilots during the Korean War had the unnerving experience of having 23 mm shells pass over them while the 37 mm shells flew under them. The cannon were fitted into a neat pack that could be winched down out of the bottom of the nose for servicing and reloading, in principle allowing a pre-prepared pack to be switched in for rapid turnaround. (Some sources claim the pack was added in later MiG-15 production but it was fitted from the outset.) 

   A variety of MiG-15 variants were built, but the most common was the MiG-15UTI (NATO reporting name "Midget") two-seat trainer. Because Mikoyan-Gurevich never mass-produced the transition training versions of the later MiG-17 or MiG-19, the 'Midget' remained the sole Warsaw Pact advanced jet trainer well into the 1970s, the primary training role being fulfilled exclusively by Czechoslovak Aero L-29 Delfin (NATO: 'Maya') and the L-39 Albatros jet trainers (save for Poland, which used their indigenous TS-11 Iskra jets). While China produced two-seat trainer versions of the later MiG-17 and MiG-19, the Soviets felt that the MiG-15UTI was sufficient for their needs and did not produce their own trainer versions of those aircraft.



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