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MiG 15 vs. F86 Sabre

Courtesy of Rowan Software

Performance characteristics of the Classic Jets

1 Summary

Chuck Yeager once said (1), "The pilot with the most experience is going to whip your ass, no matter what you were flying- it's that simple". Yeager had just proven his point by beating a Lieutenant Colonel in two dogfights. In the first Yeager had the MiG 15 and the Colonel had the Sabre. In the second the pilots swapped aircraft. The result though was the same: Yeager stuck to the tail of the Colonel as if he was attached by glue.

MiG Alley

This article is about the two key aircraft in Rowan's Korean War Flight Sim entitled: MiG Alley. The MiG15 and the F86 Sabre fought for air dominance in the skies over MiG Alley during the world's first jet vs. jet air war. It is true that the first jet v jet combat did not feature the F86 but it was soon realised that the Sabre was the only UN aircraft that had a chance against the MiG. In this note the strengths and weaknesses of the two aircraft are explored in as much depth as possible. The aim is to produce a set of data that can be used to tune the MiG Alley flight model so that a thoroughly realistic experience of flight and combat can be enjoyed.

Most written accounts are necessarily qualitative in nature. For flight sim work we must adopt a much more quantitative approach. It takes time to dig out this data and we are sure that more exists. If you come across any, please pass it on: a flight sim is never finished and we can always improve it.

As Yeager said, it is experience that counts. Part of that experience is knowing the strengths and weaknesses of yours and your opponent's aircraft. The data in the appendices of this note should certainly help you fly smarter.

2 Background

The first jet v jet combat took place over Korea on the 8th November 1950. Lieutenant Russell J. Brown(2) flying an F80C "Shooting Star" shot down a MiG15, which was one of a flight of four that had dashed across the Yalu. Despite this first success, it was soon apparent that the "Shooting Star" was no match for the MiG. With a speed advantage of over 100mph, the MiG was able to evade the F80C with ease and attack the B29 bombers tasked with bombing missions on the Chinese Border.

The two straight winged USAF fighters: the F80C and the F84E, were relegated to strike missions. Along with the F51D, a veteran from the Second World War, these aircraft took on the ground attack missions: the grunt work of the war.

It was left to the swept wing F86 Sabre to face up to the MiG and grab the glory. The MiG15 and the F86 are very similar in design. They are both all-metal, single seater monoplanes powered by a single turbojet with the wing swept back at 35 degrees and swept tail surfaces(3). However there are differences that the flight model must address and the pilot can use to his advantage.

Click to continue . . .


MiG Alley F86 Cockpit

3 Variants

MiG15s were available to the communist forces very early in the Korean War. In 1951, a more powerful version, the MiG15bis appeared in Korea.

The first F86A Sabre mission over Korea took place on the 17th December 1950. One MiG out of a flight of four was shot down. On December 22nd 1950, the MiGs shot down a Sabre, but later that day six MiGs out of a flight of 15 were destroyed.

The E was the next variant to enter active service in Korea. The only difference from the A was the "all-flying" tail. In this modification, the horizontal stabiliser pivoted on its rear spar so that the leading edge moved up and down with the normal action of the elevator controls. The "all-flying" tail eliminated the undesirable compressibility effects of the F86A (2). Recovery from supersonic dives was much easier.

MiG Alley Campaign GUI

The F86E first saw action in Korea with the 4th Wing in September 1951. The F86F reached Korea in June and July 1952. Essentially the F86F was an F86E with a more powerful engine. In September 1952, the "6-3" wing modifications were fitted to F86Fs in the field. The "6-3" wing modification consisted of adding 6 inches to the leading edge of the wing root. The extension tapered to 3 inches at the tip. In addition the leading edge slats were removed.

The F86F could out-turn and outrun the MiG15bis. However, for most of the war, it was the MiG that enjoyed the performance advantage. In fact the action in the MiG Alley flight sim is centred on the Spring Offensive and so we concentrate on the F86A v the MiG15 and MiG15bis.

Go to Part II

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Last Updated August 20th, 1998

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