When the propeller defeated the reactor for the last time

When the propeller defeated the reactor for the last time

It was August 8, 1952, when British Air Force Lieutenant P. “Hoagy” Carmichael flew in formation with three other model fighters. peddler sea ​​fury. One by one, they all took off from the deck of the aircraft carrier HMS Ocean. It must carry out one of the many “ground attack” missions in the vicinity of what has become known as 38th degree of latitude. All three are part of 802 Squadron, an embarked air group of the Fleet Air Force, which appears in the long list of units sent to the Korean War by the Western Bloc. One of the most acute and dangerous phases of that Cold War, which threatened imminently to erupt in a clash between the powers that had established themselves in the post-1945 bipolar world order.

To support efforts aimed at repelling the occupation of the entire peninsula by communist forces, London has dispatched two aircraft carriers (a third is Australian) and the task is always the same. They provide close air support and hit “key” targets while a devastating trench warfare is fought on the ground along the Suwon-Wonju-Samcheok Line. The British Sea Fury, low-wing fighter-bombers developed by the Tempests that have earned their well-deserved fame in the Normandy skies, must attack a strategic supply route carrying Chinese supplies. Pyongyang. The sortie is usual: the time to drop 2000-pound bombs on the designated target and whirl away – always keeping an eye out for the Moscow-supplied MiGs, which could surprise them at any moment and engage in a dogfight with certain fates. At least that’s what they thought.

Dawn breaks as the sun breaks through the mountain peaks, some of which are still snow-covered, and Carmichael’s wingman warns over the radio, “Mig! Mig at five o’clock!“. Two jets appear to the left of the formation MiG-15 wrapped in the sun reflecting off the silver of her spartan cloak pointed directly at her. Soviet-produced fighter jets sponsored by China, or perhaps the USSR directly, responding to the war effort being supported by the Washington-led blockade. These MiGs will turn out to be no fewer than 8. And with their jet engine, they herald overwhelming air superiority in a duel.

Instead of making a sharp turn and retreating behind the “safe line” guaranteed by Allied anti-aircraft defences, the three British pilots broke formation according to the manual. You are ready to go into battle with the enemy pilots. A duel between piston engines from England and jet planes from the Soviet Union (although directly inspired by Rolls-Royce engines found in England by Soviet engineers, ed.).

A duel that will make history

Royal Navy pilots open up to attract pursuers. Each of the Sea Furies tries, given the opportunity, to work out a deflection angle of the fire, hoping that the pilots of the jet cars are not veterans of this aeronautical engineering prodigy, which was invented – at least in theory – by a Romanian engineer in the distant 1910.

The MiGs split into groups of two, each flying on one of the seabroods that broke formation. In the whirlwind of aerial maneuvers that open the aerial duel, a MiG immediately penetrates the collimator of “Hoagy” Carmichael, who takes advantage of it, and the split second Lucky unloads a salvo from his four 20mm Hispano cannons. More failed changes in the clouds, tight turns and pull-ups will follow. It’s all over in just three minutes. Then the MiGs hit it. They’re heading north.

Lieutenant Haines, Lieutenant Davis and Lieutenant Ellis also fired their cannons and took part in the duel that caused the dreaded MiGs to retreat, perhaps entrusted to truly inexperienced pilots. One of them, hit by Carmichael, leaves a long trail Black smoke. Hoagy craned his neck to look out over the retractable roof from the cockpit as the formation reassembled to return to the aircraft carrier. Only then will he realize that this MiG takes a sharp turn and then loses altitude and one day falls to the ground among the snow-capped mountains. It will be the first and thatlast win British registered during Korean War; but also one of the last historical aerial duels in which an old Guard aircraft, a propeller plane, beat a jet of undoubtedly superior maneuverability.

What passed for a one-on-one victory was defined by the Fleet Air Arm squadron commander, who had been the architect, as “a victory shared and sustained by an excellent man team play“. The tactics employed by the Chinese instead demonstrated the inability to exploit the superiority of their aircraft and the advantage of their speed. For the first time since the end of World War II.

The historical context

The first duel between “jet planes” had taken place only two years earlier on the scene of the same conflict. On November 8, 1950, US Air Force Lt. Russell J. Brown shot down a pair of North Korean MiG-15s near the Yalu River while at the controls of his P/F-80 Shooting Star. He managed to trip them both up, ending – and successfully – the first fight airplane between nozzles of history, in the course of a war which, as we would have learned to understand, was nothing more than a clash of bilateral agreements that threatened to draw the world into a global conflict that could also have led to the use of tactical or strategic means nuclear weapons.

Before that, the technology of jet jets was already theorized by the Romanian engineer in the decade of the twentieth century Henri-Marie Coandadesigned by the British Frank Whittle, and successfully tested by Germans Italian First, it had already found combat use, albeit marginally, in the latter stages of World War II, with the pioneering Heinkel He-178 and Caproni Campini N.1 in 1939 and 1940 respectively. It was indeed the Messerschmitt I 262 the first turbojet-powered fighter to go into action and found as opponents the ancestors of this article’s Sea Fury protagonist: the Hawaker Typhoon and Tempest, the fastest British fighters at the time before the Glooster Meteor first went into action British Royal Air Force jet fighter used in 1945 solely as a V-1 aerial bomb hunter and in a ‘fighter-bomber’ role. Reason why it would have to happen five years ago two years ago jet Jets collided in battles that have never stopped shaking the world by their hands ever since.