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MiG-17 in Action

The MiG-17 was widely used in a number of wars, the first of which began fighting in Egypt in the autumn of 1956. Air opponents MiG-17 F in the war were French fighter Dassault Mystere IV and Hurricane. The Egyptian Air Force had only 12 MiG-17F aircraft, so as a result of this war played a much smaller role compared to the much larger number of MiG fighter aircraft in the fleet such as the MiG-15bis. According to Egyptian figures, in the air battle over the airfield Kabrit three MiG aircraft F-17 fighter shot down three Mystere IV, the Egyptian aircraft suffered no losses.

The MiG-17 was used in the Arab-Israeli war in 1967 and in 1973 but already by the time the Six Day War in 1967 up the air forces of Egypt and Syria came third generation jet fighters: supersonic MiG-21F, which, along with MiG-19 and the most widely used against Israeli fighter French production in an unsuccessful attempt to win Arab domination in the air.

Prolonged air war in Vietnam started for American aircraft with an unfortunate failure. MIG fighter aircraft did not pose a serious threat in the Vietnam conflict before the last quarter of 1966, as only sporadic, unpredictable contact took place between them and U.S. aircraft. The big threats to strike aircraft were active SAM and AAA/AW defense. The MIG threat was only a potential factor, since active opposition in the air was unusual. In the first raids on North Vietnam on April 2 1965, the US lost two supersonic F-105 fighter-bombers, shot down by North Vietnamese subsonic MiG-17 as a result of sudden "gun" attack from low altitude. This were the only USAF aircraft downed that year by enemy aircraft.

MIG-17s covered low altitudes because of their high maneuverability and the MIG-21s covered the high altitudes. From the higher altitudes, the MIG-21 could begin an intercept from a combat air patrol position by executing a normal or slight descending turn, followed by a dive to the target altitude, or, with good weather conditions only, by performing a split "S". A missile attack is attempted first, followed by cannon fire. The attack is begun by using a normal pursuit curve starting from one NM out to the side and about 5,000 feet above the target.

On 10 July 1965, two F-4Cs, manned by Capt, Kenneth Holcombe and his pilot, Capt. Arthur Clark, and Capt. Thomas Roberts, with his pilot, Capt. Ronald Anderson, each downed a MIG-17. Although the MIG-15/17 force was in-being before continuing airstrikes by U.S. forces in early 1965, and the NVNAF had received some MIG-21s, no other significant engagements occurred that year.

By the last quarter of 1966, a significant change took place as MIG activity and aggressiveness increased. From 4 September, with the exception of four days, until January 1967, the MIG was flown every day, marking the first continuous use of these aircraft as active defense weapons.

Even though it was considered obsolete by the mid-1960s, the MiG-17 gave a good account over Vietnam, being flown by most of the top North Vietnamese pilots, including the leading ace, Colonel Tomb. The North Vietnamese Air Force (VPAF) created its first MiG-17 unit, the 921st Fighter Regiment, in February 1964, after its pilots had received training in communist China. The VPAF also flew Chinese-built MiG-17s (called J-5s). North Vietnamese MiG-17 pilots typically wore soft leather flight helmets much like those used by North Korean MiG-15 pilots during the Korean War.

The key mission for US Air Force fighter escorts (or MiGCAPs) over North Vietnam was to prevent enemy MiG fighters from interfering with American strike aircraft. The MiG pilots' primary goal was to force strike aircrews to jettison their bombs early, thereby disrupting the bombing mission. In 1965, the small North Vietnamese Air Force (also known as the Vietnam People's Air Force or VPAF) was equipped with somewhat outdated, gun-armed MiG-17s. The entry of missile-armed, supersonic MiG-21s in early 1966, however, dramatically increased the VPAF threat.

Air-to-air engagements over North Vietnam (NVN) during the first six months of 1967 were marked by an intensity of battle unmatched in the entire two previous years of airstrikes to the north. In this one six-month period, USAF pilots downed 46 MIG aircraft, which represents 75 percent of the total kills to date. The period is significant not only for the rise in MIG activity but for the marked desire to use the MIG weapons systems for active air defense. Noteworthy developments in fighter aircraft tactics by the North Vietnamese Air Force (NVNAF) and the United States resulted from the lessons learned during these engagements. On 21 January 1967, Panda Flight (four F-lOSs, flying IRON HAND support) was at 4,000 feet altitude when it was jumped by five, possibly eight, MIG-17s. Panda Four had just launched a Shrike at a FANSONG signal when two MIGs made cannon passes on all four members of the flight. With one to two MIGs on each aircraft, Panda Flight dropped ordnance and jinkedright, left, then down. Panda Four sustained damage from cannon fire in the left wing and flap. Despite the MIGs concentration on Panda Two, who was having afterburner trouble and falling behind, all aircraft did recover at home base. The QRC-160 ECM pods tied the strike flights into a less maneuverable formation; however, it was chosen because it provides optimum protection from all ground and air threats that the strike aircraft might encounter. The requirement of having sufficient fuel to recover to the tanker force was dictated by the environment. The fuel that must be carried added even more weight to the already heavy US aircraft, limiting the agility against the lighter MIGs. The NVNAF could afford an afterburner engagement because of the short distance to their recovery bases. USAF fighter pilots had better training and superior aircraft, but they endured several disadvantages. One serious issue was missile reliability and performance. Over one-half of the missiles fired by the USAF during the SEA War malfunctioned, and only about 1 in 11 fired scored a victory. The USAF rules of engagement dictated visual identification of an enemy aircraft before firing, which negated using the Sparrow missile at long range. US Air Force fighter pilots were careful to use their considerable speed advantage to shoot down the more maneuverable MiG-17. Between July 10, 1965, and Feb. 14, 1968, USAF F-105s and F-4s downed 61 MiG-17s.

The combat effectiveness of the MiG-17, with deficits of speed and weapons, was dependent on tactics. The situation forces seeking innovative solutions. The MIG-17 flew at dawn under cover of morning twilight at extremely low altitude. It flew at the forefront of the advance airfield, which was considered inactive by the Americans. It organizes an ambush on the ground - one of the forgotten techniques of the past generations of fighters. Notification of the appearance of the Americans was received by wire from the central gearbox. Upon receiving the signal, a pair MIGs attacked unexpectedly the tight battle formation F-105s.

Randy "Duke" Cunningham was the Navy's first pilot ace of the Vietnam War. While over North Vietnam on 8 May 1972, Cunningham engaged three MiG-17s and, despite being fired upon by two of them, destroyed the third, which was on the tail of his wingman. Two days later, Cunningham's section was on a flak suppression mission between Hanoi and Haiphong, when 22 enemy fighters attacked them. During the intense aerial combat that followed, he quickly destroyed a MiG-1 7 with a Sidewinder missile, then turned to assist a section of F-4s which had become boxed in by eight enemy fighters. Cunningham reentered the battle and saved his executive officer, while downing a second MiG-17 with another Sidewinder.

While heading for the coast, Cunningham encountered yet another MiG-17 head on. Cunningham tried to outclimb his adversary, but the MiG-17 stayed with him. Chopping the throttles and simultaneously extending his speed brakes, Cunningham forced the MiG to overshoot and, as they pitched over the top, destroyed the enemy aircraft with his last Sidewinder missile for his third kill of the day. The enemy pilot was later identified as the legendary Colonel Toon-North Vietnam's leading ace, with 13 American kills.

After retiring from the Navy in 1987, the people of California’s 44th Congressional District elected him in 1990 to the United States House of Representatives. On March 3, 2006 former Congressman Randall “Duke” Cunningham was sentenced to serve 100 months in custody, followed by 3 years’ supervised release, based on his convictions for conspiring to commit Bribery, Honest Services Fraud, and Tax Evasion, and for a substantive count of Tax Evasion involving more than $1 million of unreported income.

The last MiG kill by naval aviators came when the Fighter Squadron 161 crew of Lt. Victor Kovaleski and Ltjg. Jim Wise scored against a MiG-17 on 12 January 1973, resulting from the MiG-17’s pilot’s ejection without a shot being fired. While the retelling of the story over the years has established that the MiG pilot was probably surprised that his oncoming quarry was a section of F-8s and not F-4s, the actual explanation is probably more plausible: radio intercepts indicate the MiG pilot was experiencing control problems and was going to leave his aircraft anyway.

In 1965, North Vietnamese air defenses multiplied, including Soviet-made SA-2 surface-to-air missiles. Hanoi established an advanced radar-controlled air defense system that combined surface-to-air missiles, antiaircraft artillery, and Soviet-produced MiG-17 and MiG-21 interceptors. Consequently, United States losses mounted without any visible effect from the air campaign.

By the fall of 1968, Air Force tactical aircraft had flown 166,000 sorties over North Vietnam, and Navy attack aircraft added 144,500. In the process, the enemy downed 526 Air Force aircraft: surface-to-air missiles accounted for 54, MiGs destroyed 42, and antiaircraft artillery claimed the remainder. Personnel losses were equally heavy. Of the 745 Air Force crew members shot down over North Vietnam, 145 were rescued, 255 were confirmed killed, 222 were captured, and 123 were classified missing in action. Air Force leaders found these results intolerable for an air campaign with virtually complete air superiority.

In Soviet data until 1970 in Southeast Asia, the ratio of losses in air battles with American aircraft was 2.3:1 in favor of MiG-17 with the loss of 59 MiG-17s. In 1972, which resumed after a break of active hostilities, Vietnam lost 35 combat aircraft, excluding the MiG-21, but given MiG-17. In western same data, only American Air Force pilots (excluding deck Aviation Navy), only during the period from July 10, 1965 on February 14, 1968, and for all the war in Vietnam was 92 MiG-17 shot down with the loss of 20 American planes in battles with the MiG-17, ie the loss ratio in air battles 4.6:1 for the Americans.

By this time, the MiG-17 fought in the Middle East as part of the Air Force of the Arab countries. Characteristically, Syria became the first hero pilot, shot down on the first MiG-17 supersonic Israeli Mirage. The confrontation beween the MIG-17 and Mirage used tactical principles developed in Vietnam.

In the late 1950s Egypt decided to court the Russians, who were eager to establish a foothold in the Middle East, which had previously been entirely the province of the British, French and Americans. Egypt was very successful in playing these rivals off against each other, and received a lot of financial and military assistance this way. The MiG-17 equipped the Egyptian Air Force from the 1950s well into the 80s. Hundreds of "17s" were purchased from various sources including the Czechs and the Russians.

By the time of the 1967 War with Israel, aircraft of the Egyptian Air Force tended to have rather gaudy markings, including unit insignia usually applied on front fuselage, and identification bands on rear fuselage and wings. After the 1967 "Six Day war" the Egyptians camouflaged their aircraft with a variety of color schemes applied over their natural metal finishes. Immediately after the Six Day War the Egyptians started camouflaging their MiGs - a late measure, proposed several times already before the catastrophe of the 5 June 1967. In emergency, and lacking other suitable colors, the Egyptians used a stock from a car factory at Hulwan. One particular scheme was called the "Nile Valley" and was basically a three color scheme of Green/ Sand/ and Black-Green on top and either sky blue or light grey on the underside.

The "Nile Valley" scheme went through a few transitions of pattern with the first planes being covered in large patches. Many Egyptian MiG-17Fs were later also modified by addition of hardpoints attached directly to the fuselage below the wings.

The Russian equipment certainly was cheaper than Western equivalents, but it wasn't as good and after the fighting with Israel had died down Egypt happily started buying American equipment.

Chinese J-5 participated in a number of incidents with Taiwan. According to Chinese sources, in 1958. J-5 aircraft of the Chinese Air Force shot down two Taiwanese fighter F-84G and six F-86, 7 October 1959. J-5 shot down a Chinese Navy intelligence officer Taiwanese RB-47D, was returning to the air base after a reconnaissance overflight of North China. MiG-17s were also used in a number of relatively minor conflicts. In March, 1963. MiG-17 Air Force independent North Yemen took part in air battles with aircraft "Hunter" RAF based in colonial South Yemen.

In 1967-1970,at the time of the civil war in Nigeria, government troops used air force MiG-17F to attack rebel forces of Biafra (which wsa tyring to form an independent republic). MiG-17F participated in combat during the border conflict between Uganda and Tanzania in 1972. And in Mozambique, MiG-17F (supplied from North Korea) were used in the early 1980s to suppress nationalist guerrilla forces. During the war in Afghanistan, the MiG-17 and MiG-17F government forces were used to attack positions of the Mujahideen in the mountainous areas.

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Page last modified: 30-01-2016 19:10:01 ZULU