by Leonard "Viking1" Hjalmarson
MiG Alley is a sophisticated Korean war simulation that allows players to fly and dogfight MiGs in F86 Sabres, escort B29s into North Korea, pound the ground in Korea in an F51 or F80, or fly CAP in an F84? And you can do all this in one of three campaigns, the third being a fully dynamic campaign setting that allows you a level of interaction rivalling Falcon 4.0.
Recently I met Major General "Boots" Blesse, Korean ace and the author of "Check Six," and had a chance to hear some of his life stories as well as to chat with him afterwards. I've converted some of the tape to Real Audio clips and the links will appear at the end of this article.
"Boots" told many great stories from his Korean war days, and all of them confirmed actual events I have seen while flying Empire's latest release, MiG Alley.
For example, it was a rare flight to the North that actually encountered MiGs. And even when MiGs were spotted, they were often difficult to engage unless the MiGs themselves wanted to be engaged! (Similar top speeds and limited fuel made it difficult for the American Sabres to pursue them.)
"Boots" also related a time when he was on the tail of a MiG 17 and scored a hit. As he pulled onto the tail of the wing leader, the leader promptly ejected! While the Russians and Chinese also had many good pilots, there were also young and green pilots out there who simply panicked. If you've had a chance to fly MiG Alley, you may have had this happen to you, as I have.
We had a chance to talk to Boots about his experience flying the F4 in Vietnam as well as his experiences in Korea flying the F86 Sabre. One of the most astonishing facts came out as we listened to him talk about the "padlock" system. It turns out that the system was not in effect when Boots arrived in Vietnam, and that the Sabre squadrons were flying defensive.
Not with Boots around! He quickly came to see how ineffective the tactics were, and Major Blesse soon developed new tactics. Whenever the flight LEAD spotted an enemy aircraft, he would never take his eyes off his target. Wouldn't that leave him vulnerable?
Major-General (ret). "Boots" Blesse
The system he worked out ensured safety for the padlocked pilot. When his wingman heard him call, "Baker lead, padlocked," he understood that the flight LEAD was now engaged, and it was his job as number TWO to ensure the safety of the engaged pilot. Number three and four similarly ensured the safety of the engaged element. See the audio clip at right to hear Boots describe the tactic.
Boots himself transitioned from the P47 to the P51, and then to the F100 and F86 Sabre. The transition to prop vs prop tactics and then jet vs prop and jet vs jet tactics was a challenging one. Boots himself had the advantage of having trained against P51s in the United States. When he describes taking on an LA9 with the F86, you'll hear how the high yo-yo was an effective manouver.
The version 1.1 patch for MiG Alley is near to completion, and will include some navigation enhancements, improvements in air to ground AI, and allow MiG Alley to be networked at mplayer.com. If you haven't yet discovered MiG Alley, you'll have your chance when the US release ships on December 15th.
For a related story, go to Two Days in May
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Last Updated November 15th, 1999