Although the title suggests focus on the F-86A Sabre, this book really looks at the battles between the F-86A and the MiG-15.
The ‘Setting the Scene’ chapter starts with a look at the urgent move of the first F-86s to Korea, then goes back to set the background for the war and outlines the course of the war.
Path to Combat looks at how the rival sets of aircraft and aircrews reached the Korean theatre, how they were organised, how they coped with the often primitive conditions on the ground, how the pilots were trained etc. Both sides are covered, so we get the American and Russian picture.
Tactics are covered in the Air of War chapter. The most interesting feature of this section is that this was the first direct clash between jet fighters, so both sides were evolving their tactics as they went. As a result a series of different approaches were used. Here the US forces had a clear advantage – their squadrons remained in Korea and received replacement pilots, so any lessons learned were passed on to the newcomers. In contrast the Soviets replaced entire fighter units in one go, with no attempt to pass on any lessons.
The F-86A and MiG-15 appear to have been well matched, with each having advantages and disadvantages compared to its rivals (although at the time the Americans over-estimated the MiG’s top speed, handling and the number in theatre). The Americans appear to have had better pilots on average, with MiG-15 pilots split between a group of similar quality to the Americans and a less skilled group (estimated at a 50/50 split in one contemporary US report). However there are quite a few examples here of American pilots who reached Korea having never fired their aircraft’s guns! The combat section is supported by a series of lengthy eye witness accounts from US pilots, often matched up to Soviet reports of the same action.
This book focuses on the period when the battle in the air over Korea was pretty well balanced. Later in the war the UN forces had larger numbers of more capable aircraft, and gained control of the air, but at this early point the two main fighters each had an area where they outclassed their opponents, making this an interesting period to examine.
1 – In Battle
2 – Setting the Scene
3 – Path to Combat
4 – Weapon of War
5 – Art of War
6 – Combat
Author: Peter E. Davies