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Commemorative Air Force, Arizona Wing, Part 8

Stepping outside the hanger into the hot noontime Arizona sun, we encounter a Mikoyan–Gurevich MiG-15bis. It was built in late 1950/early 1951 then sent to China. The markings are of the North Korean Air Force.

According to Wikipedia, "The MiG-15 was one of the first successful swept-wing jet fighters, and it achieved fame in the skies over Korea, where early in the war, it outclassed all straight-winged enemy fighters in most applications. The MiG-15 also served as the starting point for development of the more advanced MiG-17. The MiG-15 is believed to have been the most widely produced jet aircraft ever made, with over 12,000 built. Licensed foreign production perhaps raised the total to over 18,000. The MiG-15 is often mentioned along with the North American F-86 Sabre as among the best fighter aircraft of the Korean War and in comparisons with fighters of other eras."

The MiG-15 incorporated 2 23mm Nudelman-Rikhter NR-23KM cannons (80 rounds per gun, 160 rounds total) plus 1 37mm NL-37D cannon (40 rounds). Externally, it carried 2 100 kg (220 lb) bombs, drop tanks, or unguided rockets on under-wing hard points. The drop tanks are pictured here.

Although this aircraft is not flight-worthy, the MiG-15 was powered by a Klimov RD-45 turbojet engine. Curiously, this was a copy of a Rolls-Royce RB.41 Nene centrifugal compressor turbojet engine. The fact that the design was copied without license was not discovered by the British until 1958 at which point Rolls-Royce attempted to claim £207,000,000 from the Soviets. I am sure the Soviets had a good laugh at that — Rolls-Royce never did collect that fee.

Note the speed break in the deployed position. It is curious that aircraft designers work so diligently to streamline an aircraft only to have to put a break on it.

In the very next parking spot was another MiG-15 — this one a MiG-15UTI. Note that it is a two-seater and thus was used as a trainer.

You may have noticed the little pimple on the nose of both MiG-15s — here is a closer shot. If you think about it, it does make sense that the pilot would have better success using a camera to line up for a shot.

I had to chuckle that the label on this Soviet aircraft is in English.

Here is the rear end of the same aircraft showing the speed brake in the closed position — complete with a danger warning above it.

It is also interesting to note this flight-worthy MiG-15 is powered by a Rolls-Royce engine. I assume that during the refurbishment, it was easier, and perhaps safer, to obtain the British engine than to acquire the inferior Soviet copy.

Next is a English Electric Canberra TT.18 first-generation jet-powered light bomber. The Canberra could fly at a higher altitude than any other bomber through the 1950s and set a world altitude record of 70,310 ft (21,430 m) in 1957. Due to its ability to evade the early jet interceptors, and its significant performance advancement over contemporary piston-engined bombers, the Canberra was a popular export product and served with many nations.

I find it interesting that the first British jet bomber had the engines embedded in the wings much like the de Havilland DH 106 Comet, which was the first production commercial jetliner. A bit of research showed that the earliest American jet bombers had a similar configuration.

I tend to think of the pre-stealth jet bombers as having the engines mounted below the wings — which I assume would be easier to service or replace than the in-wing design. But I was a software engineer so what do I know of aircraft design (other than building a model B-52 Stratofortress when I was a kid)?

Back to the Canberra, Wikipedia says, "In addition to being a tactical nuclear strike aircraft, the Canberra proved to be highly adaptable, serving in varied roles such as tactical bombing and photographic and electronic reconnaissance. Canberras served in the Vietnam War, the Falklands War, the Indo-Pakistani Wars, and numerous African conflicts. In several wars, both of the opposing forces had Canberras in their air forces. The Canberra was retired by its first operator, the Royal Air Force (RAF), in June 2006, 57 years after its first flight. Two of the Martin B-57 variant remain in service, performing meteorological work for NASA, as well as providing electronic communication (Battlefield Airborne Communications Node or BACN) testing for deployment to Afghanistan."

To be continued...

Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com