Cold War Era

The story of the Soviet MiG-15 pilot who claimed to have shot down a USAF F-80 in the first-ever dogfight between jet fighters

Snr Lt Khominich opened fire and peppered one of the F-80s with a three-second burst of cannon fire, ceasing when the range was down to 200 m (220 yrd). The Shooting Star was deemed to have been shot down by the Soviet pilots in what had been the first-ever dogfight between jet fighters.

Shortly before daybreak on Sunday, Jun. 25, 1 950, North Korean forces invaded South Korea. Three days later the South Korean capital, Seoul, was captured and the UN sanctioned the despatch of military assistance, under US leadership, to repel the North Korean invaders.

The first US Army units — from the 8th Army — were committed to battle on Jul. 5. On Aug. 4 North Korean troops reached the Nakdong River in die southeast corner of the Korean Peninsula, trapping UN forces in the Pusan Perimeter. Gen Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander of UN Forces in Korea, concentrated his forces inside the Pusan Perimeter for over a month, pending a counter-offensive. Finally, on Sep. 15, he ordered an amphibious landing at Inchon to take the North Korean troops in the flank. A week later he ordered the 8th Army to advance north from Pusan. By October, North Korean forces had been driven back behind the pre-war demarcation line formed by the 38th parallel of latitude. UN units reached the Yalu River, on the Korean-Chinese border, on Oct. 26.

As told by Leonid Krylov and Yuriy Tepsurkaev in their book Soviet MiG-15 Aces of the Korean War, when the Chinese government’s warning that it would come to North Korea’s assistance if the 38th parallel was crossed by non-South Korean units was ignored, its direct participation in the war became inevitable. During preparations for the resulting offensive, Soviet Air Force units in-theatre were tasked with providing air cover for the Chinese troops, their supply lines and for key points in the northeast of the country.

The key unit involved in supplying aircraft for these missions was 151st GvIAD (Guards Fighter Air Division) of the Soviet Air Force based in Manchuria. From August 1950, three of its regiments — 28th, 72nd and 139th GvIAPs (Guards Fighter Air Regiments) — were based at Anshan and Liaoyang airfields, near Mukden, where they trained Chinese pilots to fly jets and then to defend the northeast. In late October 151st GvIAD allocated personnel to form 67th IAP, which, together with 139th GvIAP, comprised the new 28th IAD.

At 1350 hrs on Nov. 1, 1st Squadron of 72nd GvIAP was ordered into the air. This unit was led by Hero of the Soviet Union (HSU) Maj N V Stroykov, who had flown 245 combat sorties in World War 2, fought in 66 air battles and had 16 personal and 21 group victories to his credit. Flying the MiG-15s in his formation on that day were Snr Lts Guts and Kaznacheev and Lts Monakhov, Chizh and Sanin. As it happened, only five MiG-15s took off because Sanin’s was unserviceable. The others were told to head for Antung, on the Yalu River, close to the border with North Korea. When the group arrived here, it was ordered to cross the border, start hunting for enemy aircraft and attack any that were detected. The five MiGs headed southeast, deep into Korean territory.

At 1415 hrs Guts, leading the second pair, detected three USAF F-51D Mustangs. All five MiGs attacked simultaneously, but the American pilots initially managed to avoid a dogfight the nigh some skillful flying. Two F-51s made sharp turns and one half-rolled, dived and headed south at full speed. According to Soviet documents, Chizh downed a Mustang during a second attack (USAF records state that no Mustangs were lost), while the third F-51 dived steeply and broke away to the south.

Four MiGs from 72nd GvIAP’s 2nd Squadron left for Antung 26 Minutes after Stroykov’s group had arrived overhead the Yalu River, these aircraft being led by the squadron leader, Maj Bordun. Some 25 minutes later the MiG pilots were told to return to base by their ground controller, and they headed back to Anshan. However, less than three minutes later they received orders sending them back to Antung to repulse an enemy air strike that had just been reported by ground troops.

Maj Bordun, Snr Lt Khominich and Lc Sukhov altered course for the Korean border, while Lt Esyunin returned to base, as his jet was not fitted with external tanks – he was now running low on fuel. At 1550 hrs, Snr Lt Khominich spotted ten F-80C Shooting Stars ahead of him, and he attacked the leading group of four from out of the sun. He opened fire and peppered one of the F-80s with a three-second burst of cannon fire, ceasing when the range was down to 200 m (220 yrd). The Shooting Star was deemed to have been shot down by the Soviet pilots in what had been the first-ever dogfight between jet fighters.

The USAF admitted losing two F-80s on Nov. 1, one of which had been shot down by anti-aircraft artillery during a morning air strike on Sinuiju airfield. The second jet, from the 49th Fighter-Bomber Group (FBG), was listed as having been shot down on the afternoon of the 1st during a rocket attack near Unsan, but USAF records make no mention of the dogfight between the F-80s and the MiGs. Despite the Shooting Star pilot having been killed in the engagement, it is hard to believe that his squadronmates had failed to notice the attack by the Soviet fighters.

The archives on both sides are uncertain as to whether Khominich really did score a victory during this all-jet clash, with details about what caused the F-80’s demise being unclear. Clearly a second Shooting Star was lost on Nov. 1, but where did it crash? Did it explode in mid-air or come down in the sea? Such questions still remain unanswered.

Soviet MiG-15 Aces of the Korean War is published by Osprey Publishing and is available to order here.

Photo credit: U.S. Air Force

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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