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News from a wargamer with a special interest in the military history of the Balkans. It mainly covers my current reading and wargaming projects. For more detail you can visit the web sites I edit - Balkan Military History and Glasgow & District Wargaming Society. Or follow me on Twitter @Balkan_Dave
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Tuesday 31 October 2023

Korean War Aces

 I picked up this 1994 Osprey 'Aircraft of the Aces' book at the IPMS show in Glasgow last Saturday. It is very timely for my Korean War project and the new Blood Red Skies set, 'Mig Alley', that I bought at Partisan. The additional rules needed are in the Wing Commander supplement.

At the start of the war, the North Koreans flew Yak-9 fighters, which were quickly replaced by the Mig-15 with Russian pilots. The US counter to this was the F-86 Sabre, although the F-84 continued to fly in Korea as well. The Mig-15 had the advantage of a higher service ceiling and a shorter distance to their bases. The USAF had the pilot skill advantage because the Russians rotated whole units rather than the American practice of rotating pilots, which allowed their experience to be passed on. 

The RAF fielded the F.8 Meteor, which proved to be no match for the Mig, although verbal Russian kill claims exceeded anything the RAF could possibly have fielded. Prop aircraft did, on occasion, manage to defeat jets, using their slower speed to advantage in dogfights. One example of this was Fleet Air Arm Sea Fury fighters shooting down a Mig-15 in August 1952.

The Sabre was improved with a hard wing that enabled it to better the Mig's service ceiling. This significantly increased kills and the number of US aces. However, post-war victory claims by UN pilots turned out to be exaggerated when new information became available from Russia after the Cold War. This wasn't dishonesty but rather a loose criterion compared with the stricter Russian system. Many Mig's that appeared to be mortally wounded actually limped home due to the light calibre of the Sabre's guns. The author calculates a final kill ratio in favour of the Sabre of 3.5:1, although closer to 1:1 if the F-80s and F-84s are brought into the equation.

As you would expect from Osprey, the book contains period photos and at least 50 colour plates. Mostly Sabre aces, but also Corsairs, Panthers, Tigercats and the RAFs Meteor and Sea Fury fighters. There is, disappointingly, only one Mig-15. I assume sources for these were more challenging to obtain. Overall, it's just the job for Mig Alley modelling and background for wargamers.

The Warlord Mig Alley box comes with two Sabres and two Mig-15s, along with decals. The 'North Korean' ones are pretty straightforward; the USAF ones are a bit trickier, but some decal fix helps. You also get all the playing aids required for the Blood Red Skies game.

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