Fighters of the Korean War

As in the discussion of some WWII fighters, these aircraft are sorted by by hitting power, in terms of fired weight per second. The muzzle power is also given, in kilowatt.

North American F-86 Sabre


The F-86A was the first American swept-wing jet fighter, a development of the Navy's straight-wing FJ Fury based on German research. It was inferior to the MiG-15 in climb, in service ceiling, and in speed above 20,000 ft. But the Sabre had a good performance at lower altitudes and much better handling characteristics at high speeds. Better pilot training gave the USAAF the upper hand in its fight against the MiGs. [45]

Grumman F9F Panther


This F9F-2 is being loaded with bombs on a carrier off the Korean coast. The nose cone has been extended forward to make the ammunition boxes accessible. Although the F9F was outclassed, the first jet-versus-jet combat ended when a F9F-2 shot down a MiG-15. There is some irony in the fact that the J42 engine was a version of the Rolls-Royce Nene, just like the VK-1 of the MiG-15. [46]

Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15

MiG-15 MiG-17

The MiG-15 shocked Western complacency when in appeared in combat over Korea. The engine had British origins and the aerodynamics were inspired by German research, but nevertheless it was a powerful reminder that the USSR had an advanced aviation industry. The MiG-15 had a higher service ceiling than the F-86, outclimbed it and was faster at high altitude. Evaluation of captured examples such as this one had a high priority.[32] The picture on the right shows the gun installation, in this case in a Polish-built Lim-5.[76] The neat weapons tray could be lowered for reloading and maintance.

Comparison Table

Name Rounds Weight Energy
  (1/sec)(kg/sec) (kW)
North American F-86A Sabre 120 5.8 2203
Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 22 5.8 1066
Grumman F9F Panther 57 7.4 2660
Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15bis 35 10.7 1872

Beyond doubt the best armament in use consisted of four Hispano cannon, in either the American M3 or the British Mk.V version. This offered both high destructive power and a high muzzle velocity. But the two best fighters of the war were the F-86 and the MiG-15: The armament of the first had a high muzzle velocity but was deficient in destructive power, and for the second the reverse was true. This rather absurd situation was the result of different priorities and a too late understanding of the importance of sweptback wing desings.

Next: Fighter's Table

© 1998-1999
Emmanuel Gustin

Introduction What preceded Gun Tables Ammunition
WWII Fighters Analysis Firing Up Big Guns
Fighter Armour Bomber's Defense Postscript Korean War Fighters
Fighters Table Fighters Charts Ballistics  
Questions Answers Sources Notes