MiG Killers

The day he scored his fifth victory, World’s first jet-versus-jet ace Capt. James Jabara was nearly shot down by future ace Capt Boris Abakumov

Having shot down his fifth MiG during the late afternoon of May 20, 1951, thereby becoming the first “ace” of the jet age, Jabara of the 334th FS/4th FW dived solo after his sixth in F 86A 5 49 1318…

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The world’s first jet-versus-jet ace was US Air Force USAF Capt. James Jabara.

Having shot down his fifth MiG during the late afternoon of May 20, 1951, thereby becoming the first “ace” of the jet age, Jabara of the 334th FS/4th FW dived solo after his sixth in F 86A 5 49 1318 as his wingman, 1Lt Salvadore “Jack” Kemp, had become separated early on in the engagement. As told by Peter E. Davies in his book F 86A Sabre Korea 1950–51, by then more than 50 MiG-15s were dogfighting Sabres high above “MiG Alley.”

Jabara hit the aircraft flown by Capt V. A. Nazarkin of 196th IAP, causing white smoke to stream from its jet pipe. The MiG-15 entered a terminal spin, slowing to 195mph. Jabara followed it down to 6,500ft, at which point he was suddenly aware of red tracers passing close to his aircraft. Jabara had become the target for future five victory ace Capt Boris Abakumov and his unnamed wingman. The newly crowned ace found it difficult to maneuver because his right external fuel tank had remained stubbornly under the wing when he tried to jettison it earlier in the action, so his jet kept dipping to the right.

After a tense chase, Jabara was rescued by squadronmates Capt “Mo” Pitts and 2Lt Rudy Holley, who chased the MiGs off his tail, damaging one. Nazarkin ejected and his jet exploded at 3,500ft. Soviet sources claimed that Jabara’s fifth victim, Snr Lt Mikhail Zykov, flew his damaged MiG back to Antung despite having suffered severe wounds during the clash.

However, after his fifth and sixth victories Jabara was then ordered back to the US for special duty.

At his own request, he returned to Korea in January 1953. By June, he had shot down nine more MiG-15s, giving him a total of 15 air-to-air jet victories during the Korean War. Jabara was also credited with 1.5 victories over Europe during World War II. (The German Luftwaffe had 22 jet pilot aces during WWII but all claims were Allied prop-driven aircraft.)

In November 1966, Jabara, then a colonel, was killed in an automobile accident while traveling to a new assignment.

F 86A Sabre Korea 1950–51 is published by Osprey Publishing and is available to order here.

Photo credit: U.S. Air Force, Gareth Hector and Jim Laurier

#K6896 Major James Jabara, 835 So Dellrose Str., Whichita, Kansas of the 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing, who became the 1st jet ace of the Korean Conflict on 20 May 1951, is shown standing in the cockpit of his F-86 “Sabre” jet in full combat fluing gear. April, 1953 (U.S. Air Force Photo)
Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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