Interceptor Aircraft - 1945-1955
In the first post war decade, Soviet air defense was dominated by a concerted program to equip fighter forces with jet aircraft. A major commitment was made early in 1946 to focus on advanced jet engine development while using foreign technology to support intermediate aircraft development. The plan breaks down into three stages:
- The development of interim aircraft based on captured German engines. This stage resulted in the YAK-15 and MiG-9 aircraft which were first flown on April 24, 1947. These were produced in limited quantities-some 800 MiG-9's and 265 YAK-15's and 610 YAK-17's (an improved version of the YAK-15).
- The development of combat capabilities based on imported British technology, namely the Rolls Royce Nene and Derwent engines. This stage was to result in the YAK-23, the La-15, and the ubiquitous MiG-15. Altogether some 120 Lavochkin and 930 YAK-23 aircraft would be produced. Ultimately, approximately 12,500 MiG-15's would be produced in four variants: a day interceptor, an improved performance day interceptor, a limited all-weather interceptor, and a reconnaissance attack version.
- The development of advanced interceptors on the basis of native engine technology derived from the efforts of the Klimov, Lyulka, Mikhulin, and Zumansky engine design bureaus: Of the development efforts Klimov's V K-1 engine was the first and was used to power the MiG-15bis the improved day interceptor.
Soviet aircraft development in the immediate post war period quickly sought a jet fighter responsive to Stalin's reported injunction to the Soviet aircraft industry to build aircraft that would fly higher, faster and further than any in the world. With a high priority, three or four competing programs were established to meet interceptor requirements. The context of Soviet immediate post war interceptor development indicates that the aircraft were not specifically designed against the early U.S. bomber threat. The prime impression of the development effort is that it appears to have been viewed as a technological competition with foreign fighters.
In 1948, a requirement for an all-weather interceptor resulted in development of three different two-engine, radar-equipped prototypes-the Su-15, the La 200A, and the MiG-310. These were awkward designs which attempted to incorporate two centrifugal flow engines and a radar in the same fuselage. They were dropped in favor of a radar modification of the MiG-15 - a short-range interim expedient. Stalin personally was interested and, twenty months after the first Soviet jet fighters, the MiG-15 was displayed and quickly put into production. It is noteworthy that this decision took place soon after the establishment of a national air defense component in 1948.
As the 1946 plan was nearing fruition, the pattern of hectic development slowed. Instead of three or four prototypes being constructed in response to each established requirement, a strategy which focused on modification of the MiG-15 evolved. This strategy coincided with the Fifth Five-Year Plan which extended from 1951-1955. Only the MiG-17, a major redesign of the MiG-15, was committed to series production between 1950 and 1954. It was not until 1951, with the development of the Mikhulin AM-5 small, efficient, axial-flow engine that a long-range, all-weather interceptor became technically convenient. Such an engine made practical an alternate aircraft configuration which would accommodate the large radome associated with Soviet air intercept radars of that era.
There is sufficient evidence to believe that the aircraft which would eventually accommodate the "requirement" for an all-weather area interceptor, the YAK-25, arose outside of the normal process of Soviet research and development decision-making. The YAK-25 appears to have been the result of an initiative of the designer taken up directly with Stalin. Thus, the aircraft that was wanted concurrently with the formation of PVO in 1948 was not available until 1954.
In the early 1950's the predominant fighter in Soviet air defense was the MiG-15. By mid-1954, a trend had begun to employ fighters with airborne intercept (AI) radar capabilities. This had a marked effect on the character of the air defense system by providing an all-weather capability. Introduction of the YAK-25, MiG-17, and MiG-19 aircraft were evidence of the Soviet effort for improved interceptors with some electronic capability and improved armament.
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