The First Fighter Jet Fight Took Place During the Korean War (North Korea Lost)

Dario Leone
By B. Butcher, USAF - National Museum of the U.S. Air Force photo 100604-F-1234S-126, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10563700

Dario Leone

History, Asia

Here's the story.

The First Fighter Jet Fight Took Place During the Korean War (North Korea Lost)

Although serving pre-war as the USAF’s first successful jet fighter interceptor, the F-80 actually made a name for itself in combat as a fighter-bomber in the Korean War. Indeed, during the first four months of the conflict, F-80Cs bore the brunt of the fighting against a numerically superior communist force by flying more than 15,000 sorties. A Shooting Star also shot down the first MiG-15 to fall to the USAF in the world’s first jet-versus-jet combat.

AS told by Warren Thompson in his book F-80 Shooting Star Units of the Korean War, the first sightings of Russian-built MiG-15s south of the Yalu River in early November 1950 changed the freedom with which the F-80s overflew North Korea. The first knowledge the USAF had of the existence of the superlative communist fighter came via blurred imagery caught on F-51 gun camera film in late October. The communist fighters were aircraft of the Soviet 29th Fighter Aviation Regiment, which had secretly deployed 40 MiG-15s from Kubinka, near Moscow, to China as early as March 1950. It had subsequently been joined by the 151st Aviation Division to form the 64th Fighter Aviation Corps. By November, the MiG regiments were ready for combat.

After initially engaging F-51s, the Soviet pilots claimed that they intercepted ten F-80s on Nov. 1 and shot one of them down. The USAF list two Shooting Stars losses for that date, with a 51st FIG jet falling to AAA during a morning strike on Sinuiju airfield and the second F-80 (from the 49th FBG) having also been downed by ground fire during a rocket attack near Unsan. There is no mention in the records of any interception by MiG-15s, however.

It quickly became obvious to the Far East Air Force (FEAF) that the MiG-15 posed a serious threat to the UN’s continued air supremacy in-theatre, so the decision was made to post the F-86A Sabre-equipped 4th FIG to Korea. The plan was for the very latest USAF jet fighter to counter its Soviet counterpart, while F-80s and F-51s continued to pound targets on the ground. However, the Sabres would not arrive in Korea until mid-December, and it was inevitable that Shooting Stars would clash with MiG-15s again well before then. In fact, the two types fought each other as early as Nov. 8, 1950.

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