On November 30, 1950 a U.S. Air Force B-29 Superfortress, attacking an air base in North Korea, was lightly damaged by a lightning-fast, unidentified fighter. The B-29’s gunner was unable to fix the fast enemy fighter in the gunsights of his tracking system. The straight-wing Lockheed F-80 jets that were escorting the bomber made a token pursuit, but the enemy fighter rapidly disappeared.
The Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 was one of the first successful jet fighters to incorporate swept wings to achieve high transonic speeds (flying at or near the speed of sound – 767 mph at sea level) under average conditions).
In combat over Korea the Mig-15 outclassed straight-winged jet day fighters, which were largely relegated to ground-attack roles
Originally intended to intercept American bombers like the B-29s, the MiG-15 carried autocannons: two 23 mm with 80 rounds per gun and a single 37 mm with 40 rounds. Although these weapons provided tremendous punch in the interceptor role, their limited rate of fire and relatively low velocity made it more difficult to score hits against small and maneuverable enemy jet fighters in air-to-air combat.
The Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star was the first turbojet-powered fighter used operationally by the United States Army Air Force. Although developed in 1943, it saw only limited service in Italy just before the end of WWII.
Outperformed by the swept-wing transonic MiG-15 in Korea, the F-80 and was quickly replaced with the transonic F-86 Sabre.
Developed in the late 1940s, the F-86 was one of the most important fighter aircraft in the Korean War.
The F-86 was produced as both a fighter-interceptor and fighter-bomber. The fighter-bomber version (F-86H) could carry up to 2,000 lbs. of bombs and an external fuel-type tank that could carry napalm.
Both the interceptor and fighter-bomber F-86 versions carried six 12.7 mm M3 Browning machine guns with electrically boosted feed in the nose that could fire at a rate of 1,200 rounds per minute. The guns, using armor-piercing incendiary rounds, were synchronized to converge at 1,000 ft in front of the aircraft
While many American pilots in the Korean war were experienced WWII veterans, the North Koreans and the Chinese pilots lacked combat experience.
Although denied at the time, former Communist sources later acknowledged that, while North Korean and Chinese pilots increased their combat participation as the war went on, Soviet pilots initially flew the majority of MiG-15s that fought in Korea.