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Dmitry Yudo aka Overlord, jack of all trades
David Lister aka Listy, Freelancer and Volunteer

Sunday, November 5, 2017

First Jet

A few weeks (due to lead times it takes me a couple of weeks to respond) ago, Allan Rowland suggested an article on the first air to air kill between jets. As I'm always looking for suggestions I thought I'd see what I could find. Should be easy enough to do, I thought, I mean how hard can it be?

Well I'm going to start out by cheating. The first hot jet on jet action took place in 1944. On the 27th of July a Meteor F.1, flown by Squadron Leader Watts intercepted a German jet over Ashford in Kent. This happened just two weeks after Watts' squadron had first been equipped with Meteors. After diving onto the tail of the German jet Watts found that his cannons had jammed, and he had to abort the attack run. On the 4th of August another German jet was intercepted by Meteors, this time the cannons functioned as advertised and Pilot Officer Roger shot the German down. The jets in question were of course V-1's. 
 What do you mean that's cheating, and V1's don't count?

Well then, lets hop forward a few years to November 1950 and the Korean War. The first claim of a jet kill comes on November 1st, 1950. A flight of four MiG-15's had finished a 25 minute patrol, and were heading for home, when they spotted ten F-80 Shooting Stars. One Pilot Lieutenant Semyen Khomich dove on the F-80's, shooting one down, and then he broke off. The rest of the flight reacted to the attack and while concentrating on Lt Khomich, they were bounced by the rest of the MiG-15's. However, their attacks missed, and the combat broke up as the MiG's were short of fuel, and the F-80's were reported as fleeing the area.
There's two issues that can affect this claim, first the only F-80 lost on that day was lost to ground fire, according to US records. The US does also admit that a P-51 was shot down on the same day and if you look at a P-51 it does rather resemble a F-80 So there's a good chance these claims are getting mixed. Or alternatively the plane wasn't shot down, it just appeared to be, this happened on the next encounter between the F-80 and the MiGs.

A week after the first encounter a flight of F-80's was flying cover for even more F-80's who were launching a ground attack mission. The F-80 in question was flown by Lieutenant Russell Brown, upon seeing enemy MiGs lower than him heading towards the strike aircraft, he dove on them. For some unrecorded reason five of his six .50 cal machine guns failed to work. But in a remarkable stroke of luck, or brilliant shooting, Lt Brown was able to hit the enemy MiG with his single remaining gun. The MiG was seen to dive towards the ground breaking up.
If we again compare loss records however the Russians didn't lose a MiG on the 8th of November. It’s likely the Russian pilot in an untenable position dived towards the ground to escape, while jettisoning his drop tanks. Lt Brown would have seen these coming off the aircraft and could easily have mistaken them for the aircraft breaking up.
An A-1 Skyraider pulls out of its attack run on the bridge at Sinuiju
The first time the losses and claims do match up is on the following day, November 9th, 1950. Early in the day a flight of F5U Corsairs and A1 Skyraiders were dispatched to attack the bridge at Sinuiju. To provide cover for the strike two flights of F9F Panthers were provided, one off the USS Philippine Sea, the other from the USS Valley Forge. The fighters from the USS Valley Forge were to provide close in protection to the strike, while the others loitered above the low cloud base. Five MiGs were vectored onto the strike force by Communist ground control. They proceeded to head straight in, as they were closing one of the F9F pilots spotted them and in his excitement called out "20,000 MiGs coming in at five feet!". This was sufficient warning for the F9F's from above the cloud base to dive down. At the same time the strike package was beginning its bombing run.
As the F9F's dove through the cloud they popped into sight ahead of the MiGs. The Russian leading the MiGs ordered his planes to attack the bombing aircraft who were just pulling out. The F9F's committed to a head on with the MiGs, but neither side scored any hits, indeed the US pilots said that the MiGs didn't seem to be attempting to shoot them.
After blowing through each other’s formations, the F9F's retained their energy putting themselves into a climb, passing back through the cloud base they went through a loop and followed the MiGs. This meant they were diving out of the sun onto the MiGs, one plane attempted to make a turn, however, US pilot Lieutenant Commander William Amen brought his plane inside the turn and hit the MiG with his cannons. The shells hit the wing and the MiG flipped over on its back and began to dive. Lt Cmdr Amen lost sight of him at about 200 feet after following him down, however his wingman saw the MiG impact the ground, killing the pilot.
Lt Cmdr Amen climbing out of his Panther
That appears to be the first air to air kill, a battle between Lieutenant Commander William Amen of VF-111 and Captain Mikhail Fedorovich Grachev of 139th GIAP.

 Image Credits:
worldofwarplanes.eu, fly.historicwings.com and acesflyinghigh.files.wordpress.com

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