Tag Archives: Mig-21

North Korea hosts first air show ever

As U.S. B-1Bs fly south of the DMZ, the rather geriatric North Korean aircraft take part in the nation’s first-ever airshow in Wonsan.

Last weekend North Korea hosted its first-ever air show at the Kalma International Airport, in the eastern port city of Wonsan.

The event, attended by both civilian and military aircraft, has represented an unbelievable opportunity for aviation enthusiasts from all around the world to photograph some of the world’s rarest combat planes, including the North Korean Air Force Mig-29 Fulcrum, Su-25 Frogfoot, Mig-21Bis Fishbed, Mi-8T Hip and Y-5s.

Among the aircraft that took part in the air show, there was also a formation of four Hughes 500E helicopters: exposed in 2013 during the traditional flying parade over Pyongyang, the North Korean “Little Birs” have long been surrounded by mystery. There were no images that could prove their presence in DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) in spite the news that they had been illegally supplied to the regime had been unveiled in the ’80s.

Even the state airline Air Koryo took part in the air show with its Tu-134, Tu-154 and Il-62 aircraft.

Pyongyang’s first air show took place amid growing tensions with the U.S. over North Korea’s continued development of missiles and nuclear weapons.

Following the fifth nuclear test this month, U.S. Air Force B-1Bs bombers have conducted extended deterrence missions south of the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone).

Whilst international sanctions restrict the regime’s international trade, air shows like the one held this year are probably one of the ways to attract some tourists in a country almost inaccessible to foreigners (especially those keen on ultra-rare military hardware!) until a few days ago..

Image credit: Ed Jones/AFP

 

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How to survive in a dogfight, alone against six MiGs: the lesson learned from Richard Schaffert dogfight.

An incredible air-to-air engagement, where one U.S. pilot alone survived to six North Vietnamese MiGs.

A true milestone in the progress of naval aviation, the Vought F-8 has been one of the few carrier-based fighters that could outperform most land-based counterparts.

Being the first genuinely supersonic naval aircraft, the Crusader, was a single seat, single engine swept fighter that introduced an unusual feature, the variable incidence wing. Armed with four Colt Mk 12 cannons,  the F-8 was called “The last gunfighter”: these guns combined with its high thrust-to-weight ratio and with its good maneuverability, made of the Crusader a good dogfighter.

The Crusader showed its ability in close combat during the Vietnam war, especially on Dec. 14, 1967: in fact, as explained by Barrett Tilman and Henk van der Lugt in their book “VF-11/111 Sundowners”on that day, Lt. Cdr. Richard “Brown Bear” Schaffert (the VF-111 Sundowners operation officer during the 1967 deployment  onboard the CV-34 USS Oriskany), were involved in an aerial combat which became a classic dogfight of the jet age, even if did not result in any MiG kill.

Schaffert was escorting an A-4E Skyhawk, piloted by Lt Charles Nelson, tasked in an Iron Hand anti-SAM (Surface to Air Missile) mission in the area between Hanoi and Haiphong, when “Brown Bear” saw two MiG-17s (“Fresco” based on NATO designation).

Schaffert immediately started a descent from 18,000 ft and when he recovered at 3,000 ft, he looked for Nelson but he found two more MiGs. Having lost the sight of the A-4E, Brown Bear understood that he had to rely on his 3500 hours of flight experience to face four bandits alone. He started the dogfight with an 8 Gs break forcing the first Fresco to overshoot, but Schaffert knew very well that he had to fight working in the vertical, since the F-8 couldn’t turn as fast as a MiG-17.

As it became obvious that the four bandits had split into two sections,Schaffert started a series of yo-yo maneuvers using the afterburner, trying to reach an advantage position against the MiGs, leaving the chance to Brown Bear to conduct the dogfight as a 1 vs 2 engagement.

Schaffert got a “good tone” from one of its Sidewinders, but the second pair of MiG-17s shot at him with their cannons and he had to perform three more yo-yos before launching a Sidewinder….which didn’t explode. Now he had only two missiles left since one of the four AIM-9s carried by the F-8 had already experienced a failure before take off.

Executing reversal maneuvers and pulling high Gs to defeat the superior turning radius of the MiG-17, Schaffert shot another missile which failed to explode.

Then, two MiGs fired a couple of IR-guided K-13 missiles (AA-2 Atoll as reported by NATO designation) which failed to get on target because they were launched out of the missile operative envelope. Brown Bear found himself once again in a good firing position but this time the guidance system of the last Sidewinder failed, leaving Schaffert with only the rounds of his plane’s four Colt cannons.

After another 5 Gs turn, he had a good tracking solution on a MiG but when he pulled the trigger, all the four 20 mm cannons…choked!

The problem was caused by a common defect of Crusader cannons: the pneumatic ammunition feed system disconnected after high-Gs maneuvers.

Two MiG-21s joined the air combat firing two more Atolls missiles, which Brown Bear was able to avoid.

Facing six adversaries, Schaffert started another series of high altitude yo-yos and engaged the enemy leader in a vertical rolling scissors; once he had reached the bottom of the maneuver, he accelerated towards the coast leaving the enemy behind. He returned safely to the USS Oriskany with almost no fuel left.

Despite the fact that Brown Bear didn’t shoot down any enemy fighter, he left an important lesson to Topgun instructors: how to survive in a dogfight alone against six MiGs, a good lecture to give to the Fighter Weapons School students in the following years.

F-8C_VF-111_over_USS_Intrepid_(CVS-11)_1967

Image credit: U.S. Navy

 

Surreal aerial footage of old Soviet warbirds in the east of Germany (filmed by drone)

Extremely cool footage of some old Soviet combat planes in a Cold War atmosphere.

Here’s a really interesting footage filmed by a quadcopter drone with some surreal close ups of MiG-15, MiG-17, MiG-21, MiG-23, Su-22, MI-8, L-29 Delfin and a Ilyuschin plane at the Aviation Museum in Finowfurt, near Berlin, Germany.

Finowfurt is an old Soviet military airbase that nowadays is being used as a museum where planes on display are being restaurated one by one.

 

Operation Bolo: how U.S. F-4C Phantoms disguised as F-105 bombers set a trap for North Vietnam’s MiG-21s

The famous mission planned to lure North Vietnamese MiGs into air-to-air combat.

During the last months of 1966 the North Vietnamese MiG-21s from Phuc Yen airfield claimed several victories against the American F-105 fighter bombers urging the Air Force to do something to reduce Thunderchiefs losses.

The solution was found by using the then new F-4C jets and came from a living legend among the fighter pilots, the 12-victory ace from the Second World War Col. Robin Olds, 8th Tactical Fighter Wing (Wolfpack) commander.

His plan was to fly the Phantoms at the same speed and altitude of the F-105s, in such a way the formation would appear on the Vietnamese radar screens as “standard” Thunderchief formations. Once the “simulated” Thud formation was spotted, Mig interceptors would be scrambled towards the intruders finding themselves to fight against the powerful Phantoms armed with air-to-air missiles instead of the bomb laden F-105s: an aerial ambush.

Olds studied a plan that saw the Phantoms simulate the routes, call signs, refueling areas, speeds and altitudes which would normally be used by the Thunderchiefs.

The F-4s from the 8th, 355th, 366th, and 388th TFWs took part to the mission, alongside with the F-105s from the 355th and 388th performing their regular Iron Hand duty. The Operation Bolo officially went off on Jan. 2, 1967 even if the meteorological conditions, especially over the target area, were bad.

Ubon RTAFB

Seven flights of four F-4Cs, using car company names as callsigns (Olds, Ford, Rambler, Vespa, Plymouth, Lincoln and Tempest), led by Olds himself (who obviously commanded “Olds” flight), were launched from Uborn airbase.

The first flight “Olds”, led by Olds himself arrived over Phuc Yen at around 15.00 local time but noticed no defensive reaction by the North Vietnamese Air Force. As Olds formation was about to leave the area of operations to leave room to the incoming Ford flight, the first MiGs (whose scramble had been delayed by 15 minutes by the GCI controllers because of the overcast conditions) emerged from the clouds below.

A 15 minutes battle against aggressive MiG-21 pilots raged in the skies within a 15 mile radius of Phuc Yen, with the Fishbeds that attacked in two pairs, one from 6 o’clock and the other from about 12 o’clock.

As told by Olds to Walter J. Boyne for his book “Phantom In Combat,” the F-4s turned against the nearest attackers.

Unfortunately, the first one to pop through came up at Olds 6 o’clock position. Olds broke left, trying to get away of the enemy line of fire, hoping that his wingman would take care of him. At the same time he saw another MiG pop out of the clouds in a wide turn about his 11 o’clock position, a mile and a half away. He went after it ignoring the one behind and fired missiles at the Mig just after this disappeared back into the clouds.

But another MiG appeared after few seconds: “I’d seen another MiG pop out in my 10 o’clock position, going from my right to left; in other words, just across the circle from me. When the first MiG I fired at disappeared, I slammed full afterburner and pulled in hard to gain position on this second MiG. I pulled the nose up high, about 45°, inside his circle. Mind you, he was turning around to the left, so I pulled the nose up high and rolled to the right. This is known as a vector roll. I got up on top of him and, half upside down, hung there and waited for him to complete more of his turn, and timed it so that as I continued to roll down behind him I’ d be about 20° angle off and 4,500 to 5,000 ft behind him. That’s exactly what happened. Frankly, I am not sure that he ever saw me. When I got down low and behind he was outlined by the sun against a brilliant blue sky. I let him have two Sidewinders, one of which hit and blew his right wing off” Olds explained in “Phantom In Combat.”

Six more MiG-21s were shot down that day, followed by other two Fishbeds on Jan. 6 scored by 555th TFS aircrews. Nine MiG-21s lost in a matter of few days caused a post defeat stand down for the NVAF, a claim confirmed by the fact that once the MiG-21s reappeared in the skies they had changed their tactics in dogfight against US F-4s.

In fact ground control would vector them to a 6 o’clock position well outside the range of Phantoms radars. The MiG-21s would then go supersonic as told by Boyne, gathering plenty of “smash” by reaching Mach 1.4 or more, and once launched heat seeking Atoll missiles they would zoom-climb away to safety.

However as reported by Boyne in his book, a working paper produced by the U.S. Seventh Air Force Tactical Air Analysis Center, the success of Operation Bolo is largely attributable to several factors like:

  1. The overall planning and development of mission strategy and tactics, which accurately anticipated and fully exploited enemy reaction, and the attention to detail in the planning phase with particular focus on total force interaction in relation to both position and timing.
  2. An intensive training program for 8 TFW combat aircrews which emphasized every facet of total mission to include missile capabilities, aircraft and missile procedures, MiG maneuverability, radar search patterns, MiG identification, flight maneuvering and flight integrity, radio procedures, fuel management, tank jettison procedures etc.
  3. High degree of discipline, both ground and air, displayed by all participants.

Nevertheless the success of Operation Bolo was also the result of both leadership and tactical skills, two properties owned by Robin Olds, who still represents the natural embodiment of the fighter pilot.

McDonnell Douglas F-4C

In the video below you can see the facts described in the article as well as hear the explanation of the Operation Bolo from Robin Olds himself.

 

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

 

Stunning MiG-21 Highway Operations in the Polish equivalent of Top Gun

Regarding the last post about the Korean MiG-21s’ highway operations here’s another interesting thing.

It is a fragment of a Polish movie Na Niebie i Na Ziemii (In the Sky & On the Ground) which is an excellent example of Cold War propaganda. The given fragment of the 90-minute movie shot in 1973 shows a group of MiGs landing on the highway strip somewhere in Poland.

The production was to be an eastern equivalent of the Top Gun mixed with The Right Stuff.  It tells a fictional story about a young military pilot who wanted to become a test pilot but health problems prevent him from flying.

In opposition to Top Gun, where MiGs were played by F-5 Tigers painted in black color scheme with red stars, the Polish movie introduces us to the whole range of the authentic People’s Republic of Poland‘s Air Force airplanes.

Some scenes in the movie are very similar to those from the French contemporary production Skyfighters featuring Mirage 2000s, as the one showing the MiGs flying over the sea.

The camera work in the film is excellent, with various shots filmed with cameras mounted on different parts of MiGs and other planes.

Mig-21 landing gear

Image Credits: Tomasz Sowiński, Polish Air Force

The historical context imposed by the Cold War made the tactical experts wonder how to get rid off one of the basic drawbacks of an airplane – runway dependency. The reality of nuclear war to come was brutal; airstrips and their coordinates were not secret, neither in the West nor in Soviet Russia. Obviously they would be destroyed in the beginning of any conflict. Polish Highway strip

The air superiority could be achieved by destroying the infrastructure needed for the airplanes to operate. Dispersing the aircraft was an idea which was often talked about after the WWII and some countries developed a concept of highway strip.

The Polish Top Gun-like movie was shot in various locations, and makes extensive use of so called DOLs which stands for Drogowy Odcinek Lotniskowy, which is a Polish name for highway strips.

Poland had 21 highway strips. Usually these improvised runways are section of road with wider ends to provide parking spaces for the planes and ground crew.

The only DOL which still serves the initial purpose is located near Stettin (Szczecin). It is located north of the city nearby non-existent village named Rzęśnica on the Voyvodeship Road 142 nearby the S3 State Road on the German-planned highway towards Kaliningrad.

This highway was bulit in the 1930s by Adolf Hitler and was a part of the Reichsautobahn network which emerged before the WWII.

The remaining ones present different conditions, but they are mostly out of use due to the technical state.

Poland and Sweden were among the countries that trusted the idea of highway strip extensively. The picture here shows DOL in Przeździęk Wielki – Rustkowo (Wielbark Municipality).

Anyway, here’s the fragment of the movie.

Enjoy:

Jacek Siminski for TheAviationist.com

 

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