Man, nothing gets me airplane shopping like being grounded, and with my leg and the current weather outside (snow, lots of snow) I've been looking for a replacement for my trusty Cessna 172G.
This time, my inquiries were stoked by the latest issue of Air & Space Smithsonian (January, 2014), and a nifty article about the MiG 15.
When it first appeared over the skies of Korea to savage our formations of B-29 bombers (downing six of them out of a flight on nine on it's debut attack, the West was caught completely flat-footed. If nothing else, it showed us that our "regional" fight with North Korea and it's puppetmasters in China had now expanded to include the Russians too. For the MiG 15 was a Russian fighter first and foremost, that is if you consider an airframe design ripped off from the Germans at the close of the war and a ripped-off British engine to be "Russian".
To be fair, our own F-86 Sabre jet airframe was designed using the same German research, which is why it and the MiG looked so similar.
Both were inspired by the swept-wing R&D that Focke Wulf was working on right up until war's end. The Allies captured the FW plant in Bad Eilsen, Germany and found all of the models and wind tunnel data for the TA-183 concept aircraft that they were working on but the Russians also scored a set of blueprints for the TA-183 when they took Berlin. As a result, both sides developed a jet aircraft with 35-degree swept wings and a high-T tail, although the Russians lacked a proper engine or the know-how to create one. This changed in 1946 however, when the new British Labor Government, headed by Clement Attlee, decided to make nice with the Russians and offered them the Rolls Royce Neene jet engine provided that the Russians promised to use it only for peaceful, non-military applications. The Russians agreed and sent their experts, including military aircraft designer Arten Mikoyan (The Mi in MiG), to the Rolls plant to see how they made the engines. The US State Department protested strongly to no avail, and even Stalin himself was surprised that the British could be so gullible. The Russians quickly took the test samples that the British gave them and reverse-engineered them right into the new MiG airframe. When the British objected, the Russians claimed to have made changes that rendered the engine, now called the VK1, a "Russian design".
I'd slap at the Brits more for this except that our own Bill Clinton fell for pretty much the same thing in the 1990s when, in return for bundles of campaign cash he and Al Gore gave the Red Chinese advanced computers that helped them develop advanced ICBM MIRV technology that they'd likely not have today.
The Russian MiG, while crude, still had comparable performance to the American F-86, and in the first year that it was flown over Korea by pilots whom we now know to have been seasoned Russian WW2 veterans, it was an aircraft to be respected. Indeed, it's presence put an end to US daylight bombing of North Korean targets as it knocked down one B-29 after another with almost total impunity. Finally we just stopped flying the B-29s by day.
Aviation technology continued to improve, but the Russians and their satellite countries continued to produce and fly the MiG 15 and it's upgraded version, the MiG 17, well up into the 1980s. Now the darn things are for sale all over the place, and at low, low prices, especially when compared to an F-86.
F-86A for sale. $795,000.
MiG 15 for sale. $55,000.
And here's a MiG 17 (an upgraded 15) for $75.000.
What I like about this 17 is that it still has the white stripe down the center of the dash panel.
Seriously, I could have a genuine sub-mach jet fighter for about the cost of a ragged-out Stearman biplane and a lot cheaper than a decent Beech T-34.
And here's a cherry MiG 21 for sale for just $69,500.
Red Eagles that discusses this once-secret program in which the US Air Force obtained and flew MiGs to train American pilots.) they're now being dumped on the market all over the world for anyone to buy. According to the FAA, there are currently 44 operational MiG 21 fighters in private ownership in the US, with at least three companies importing and refurbishing them today.
This thing is supersonic and still a formidable fighter within it's own performance envelope. It was more than a match for it's contemporaries in the 60s and 70s if flown to it's own strengths, especially when guided to it's targets by ground controllers.
Damn, I could SO have fun with that, roaring eastward over the Blue Ridge in full afterburner towards Washington DC. Bet the F-16 guys at Andrews AFB'd be up in no time to admire it and maybe try a bit of mock dogfighting. (Uh, F-16 guys...remember that "mock" part, ok?)
So with all these cool MiGs floating around cheap, why am I still even looking at old prop stuff?