Mikoyan-Gurevich Mig-17-Most Successful Transonic Fighter

By Willie Bodenstein. Photos © Willie Bodenstein

Like its older brother the MiG 15 that was bloodied in the Korean War, the MiG 17 would also make its debut in another conflict in Asia, the Vietnam War. Over the Straits of Taiwan in 1958 it was used as an effective threat against supersonic fighters of the United States.

Photo © Willie Bodenstein

Photos © wiki.org

A high-subsonic fighter the MiG 17 that had its first flight on 14 January 1950 and was introduced into service in October 1952 was a development of the successful MiG 15. An incredible 8,00 were built by Mikoyan-Gurevich in Russia. More than 3,000 were built in Poland as the PZL-Mielec Lim-6 and in China as the Shenyang J-5.

The MiG-17 might strongly resemble the MiG 15 and share the same Klimov VK-1 engine, landing gear and gun installation and even though not a complete clean sheet design, it was essentially a completely different aircraft. Its new thinner and more highly swept wing with a third fence per wing and tailplane with ventral fin added enable it to reach speeds approaching Mach 1. The fuselage with less taper is three feet longer. Much of the forward fuselage was carried over. It was estimated that with the same engine as the MiG-15's, the MiG-17's maximum speed is higher by 40-50 km/h, and the fighter has greater manoeuvrability at high altitude.

Designed as a basic general-purpose day fighter the 17 was armed with one 37 mm (40 rounds) Nudelman N-37 cannon and two 23 mm (80 rounds) Nudelman-Rikhter NR-23 cannons. It could also act as a fighter-bomber carrying up to 500 kg (1,100 lb) of external stores on two pylons, including 100 kg (220 lb) and 250 kg (550 lb) bombs and unguided rockets. Its bomb load was considered light relative to other aircraft of the time and it usually carried additional fuel tanks instead of bombs. Some later versions were equipped with 3x NR-23 cannons and 4x K-13 missiles and had an afterburner added that which offered increased thrust on demand. The afterburner doubled the rate of climb and greatly improved vertical manoeuvres.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s the MiG-17 was the standard fighter in all Warsaw Pact countries as well as a large number of others mainly in Africa and Asia aligned with the USSR. In Africa the MiG 17 served with the air forces of Angola, Mozambique, Congo, Guinea, Mali, Madagascar, Sudan, Tanzania, Libya, Egypt, Burkina Faso, Algeria, Ethiopia, Morocco, Somalia, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Nigeria. The Nigerian Air Force received 14 that were flown by a mixed group of Nigerian pilots and mercenary pilots from East Germany, the Soviet Union, South Africa, the United Kingdom and Australia during the 1967-70 Nigerian Civil War.

In 1960, the first group of approximately 50 North Vietnamese airmen were transferred to the PRC to begin transitional training onto the MiG-17. These airmen would create North Vietnam's first jet fighter regiment. In Vietnam the untried MiGs and pilots of the North Vietnamese Air Force (NVAF) were be pitted against the most combat experienced airmen of the U.S. Air Force (USAF) and U.S. Navy (USN) flying Vought F-8 Crusaders, Republic F-105 Thunderchiefs and North American F-100 Super Sabres. Three North Vietnamese airmen gained Ace status while flying the MiG-17.

From 1965 to 1972, MiG-17s from the NVAF 921st and 923rd FRs would claim 71 aerial victories against U.S. aircraft: 11 Crusaders, 16 F-105 Thunderchiefs, 32 McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom IIs, two Douglas A-4 Skyhawks, seven Douglas A-1 Skyraiders (propeller driven strike aircraft), one C-47 cargo/transport aircraft, one Sikorsky CH-3C helicopter and one Ryan Firebee UAV.

The MiG 17 went on to become the most successful transonic fighter of all time and saw service in the military of some nations well into the 1970s

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