Saturday, November 26, 2011

What Was More Dangerous Than the U.S. Airforce?

By Philip Gardocki

The winter weather over Germany is fairly hostile to aircraft, particularly to pilots with low levels of training and with poorly maintained equipment that was not designed with an all-weather capability. The Soviet Air Force, while huge, was not very well maintained, and, in spite of an effort to maintain combat readiness, the fear of pilots defecting meant the planes were not often flown. This led to a condition where it was dangerous to fly in inclement weather.
Dead MIG-23

This situation was exploited by the U. S. Air Force. Whenever the weather would turn bad, a training flight was scheduled along the East German border. The Soviets would respond with their own matching flight along their side of the border, and occasionally, they would lose an aircraft due to their poor maintenance and training.

However, the competition was not always so one-sided.

No war is completely unbalanced and no nation with military aspirations wants to be caught out of date, either technically, or doctrinally. The Korean War was no exception. Most nations were above board with their support and participation, but some were not. For political reasons, the Soviet Union chose not intervene with military forces in the Korean War, though it certainly provided most of the heavy equipment for the Chinese and the North Koreans.

In an effort not to fall behind in jet combat doctrine, the Soviets sent the 176th Guards Fighter Regiment to fight on the side of the North Koreans. This unit, which was populated with a fair number of Soviet World War II aces, was flying the first production model Soviet jet fighters and became a major thorn in the U. N. side. Some of their pilots became the first jet fighter aces in the world. Overall, they claimed a kill ratio of almost 3-1, despite the fact the Russians and North Koreans were outnumbered 10-1 in the air and the Russians were not allowed to communicate over their aircraft radios, except in Korean.

To be fair, the 176th numbers are in dispute and their professed "kills" exceeded the losses that the U. N. experienced. It still is a testament to of what can be done when you mix the right skills with good equipment.

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