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The MIG-17 is a single-engine fighter with a maximum range of 1,100 nautical miles, a maximum speed of 625 KT, and a service ceiling of 57,000 feet. The MIG-17 carries three guns as armament and the A, B, and C models carry one 37-mm and two 23-mm guns, while the D and E have three 23-mm weapons. All models carry air-to-air rockets but the D and E versions are the only AAM carriers.

The basic advantage of the MiG-17 aircraft was a very short turn radius. Experienced US pilots, who had engaged the MIG-17 in air-to-air combat, were also aware of its low-wing loading and excellent cockpit visibility which enabled it to defend itself quite capably in a turning battle.

Col. Robin Olds of the Eighth Tactical Fighter Wing said: "That little airplane can give you a tussel the likes of which you've never had before in your life. It's fast enough. It turns on a dime. It has a reasonable zoom capability. It has very light wing loading. I've seen them split "S" from 2,000 feet. It's absolutely impossible to follow them. I've seen the MIG turn from where I had him at a disadvantage, perhaps 30 degrees angle off about a mile and a half out, maybe two, trying to get a missile shot at him, and make a firing pass at me when I was doing .9 Mach and closing. Their turn radius has to be seen to be believed. It's incredible."

The design of the MiG-17 was undertaken to correct the deficiencies that the earlier MiG-15 had at higher speeds. It was the first Soviet fighter to have an afterburning engine, the Klimov VK-1. Although similar in appearance to the MiG-15, the MiG-17 had more sharply swept wings, a longer fuselage, an afterburner, and better speed and handling characteristics.

In 1949, the Mikoyan-Gurevich (MiG) design bureau began work on a new fighter to replace the MiG-15. Two features of the aircraft were a thinner wing of greater sweep and a redesigned tail that improved stability and handling at speeds approaching Mach 1 (speed of sound). Although similar in appearance to the MiG-15, the MiG-17 has more sharply swept wings, an afterburner, better speed and handling characteristics and is about three feet longer. The wings of the aircraft are mid-mounted, swept-back, and tapered with blunt tips. They have wide wing roots. The engine is one turbojet inside the body and has a round air intake in the nose. It has a single, small exhaust. The fuselage is short, thick, cigar-shaped and tapered to the rear. It has a blunt nose and bubble canopy. The tail fin is swept-back and tapered with rounded tip. Flats are high-mounted on the tail fin, swept-back, and tapered. Flats and fin overhang the exhaust.

The prototype MiG-17 (NATO code name Fresco) first flew in January 1950 and was reported to have exceeded Mach 1 in level flight. Production began in late 1951, but the aircraft were not available in sufficient quantities to take part in the Korean War. Deliveries to the Soviet Air Force began in 1952.

Five versions of the aircraft eventually were produced.

  1. MiG-17 Fresco-A - the original front-line fighter. Developed from the MIG-15, the Fresco-A and B MIG-17 models had improved performance characteristics which resulted in a more stable flight, a better rate of climb, and higher altitude and speed capabilities. The effect of the MIG-17 cannon was still limited because of insufficient improvement in the optical fire control system taken from the MIG-15. Early production MiG-17s were fitted with the VK-1 engine, a Soviet copy of the Rolls-Royce Nene.
  2. MiG-17 Fresco-B -
  3. MiG-17F Fresco C - uprated version with VK-1F engine. Appearing in 1954, a small afterburner and range-only SCAN FIX radar were added to the C model. The VK-1F, an improved version with a simple afterburner and variable nozzle, was developed for the main production version, the MiG-17F (Fresco C).
  4. MiG-17PF Fresco D - The 1955 D model possessed AI radar capability. In 1955 the radar equipped MiG-17PF (Fresco D) entered service as a limited all-weather interceptor. The MiG-17PF was an interceptor with two radar housings for RP-1 'Izumrud' radar system in the nose, and the large N-37 cannon replaced by the third NR-23 cannon, mounted in a smaller fairing on the starboard side of front fuselage.
  5. MIG-17E - The non-afterburner version, the MIG-17E, appeared in 1955.
  6. MiG-17P (SP-7) - Serial lightweight all-weather interceptor with radar RP-1 radar "Emerald-1."
  7. MiG-17PF Fresco D (SP-7F) - version of MiG-17P with a souped-up engine. It was built in Poland as the LIM-5P and Czechoslovakia as the S104.
  8. MiG-17PFU - version of the MiG-17PF, only instead of cannon armament used four UR radar-guided. The MiG-17PFU was armed with four AA-1 "Alkali" radar-guided missiles, making it the Soviet Union's first missile armed interceptor.
  9. MiG-17P (SR-2, Wed-2c) - Photo-Recon based on MiG-17F.

The Soviet concentration on the MIG type design for large scale fighter production during the 5 years 1948-1953 created an intelligence problem in the West of determining the MiG-15 succession pattern. The tentative conclusion was that (1) that the MiG-17 and the MiG-15Bis were basically the same aircraft, the versions of which probably differed mainly in electronic equipment and / or engine installation; (2) that the MiG-17 went into production in 1950 and by 1953 was the major fighter component of the Soviet air armies and fleet air forces; and (3) that a more advanced MiG (Type 38) went into production in 1952 and presumably was filling out important units in the heart of the USSR.

Seven new fighter regiments were created in the Sino-Soviet border area during the three years 1967-1969. The new regiments in the border area were equipped with older MIG-17 aircraft drawn from storage.

During the mid-Seventies, Soviet's primary requirement was replacement of its obsolescent MIG-17 fighters and IL-28 light bombers, which comprised over half the ground attack and tactical strike components of the force.

The MiG-17 served with nearly 30 air forces worldwide, including the Soviet Union, Warsaw Pact countries, China, Afghanistan, North Korea, Sri Lanka, Syria, Morocco, Cuba, Indonesia, and Cambodia. Though smaller than the USAF F-86 Sabre of Korean War fame, its weight and performance favorably compared to that aircraft.

Soviet production of the MiG-17 ended in 1958 with over 6,000 produced. It continued to be built under license in Poland as the Lim-5P and in China as the J-5/F-4. China's first reproduced jet fighter plane, the J-5, successfully flew in Shenyang for the first time on 19 July 1956, and General Nie Rongzhen went in person to Shenyang to offer congratulations.

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