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by Cameron Lynch

Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15bis 
Col. Evgeni G. Pepelyaev Commander, 196th Aviapolk, 
Soviet Air Force Antung, China 1952





After the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) invaded Republic of Korea (South Korea) on the 25th of June, 1950 it was widely known that the Soviet Union supplied the North Koreans with substantial amounts of material and technical assistance. This was particularly true in the use of airpower.

The DPRK Air Force received large numbers of Soviet Yak-9 fighters, Il-10 ground attack aircraft and Po-2 liason/light bombers from the Soviets. Following the decisive intervention of United Nations forces led by the United States, the Soviets began to send the new MiG-15 jet fighter. While the Soviet support for the DPRK is widely known, evidence has emerged since the demise of the Soviet Union that the extent of Soviet support was much greater than originally estimated.



The People's Republic of China was quite forthright in its support of North Korea with material and manpower but the Soviet Union, fearing a super-power conflict, took a more secretive role. It was long suspected that Soviet pilots were in Korea and were helping to train the North Korean Air Force. American pilots reported encountering MiGs flown with considerably more skill and initiative than other North Korean aircraft. Such MiG pilots were called "honchos" by the American fighter pilots. There were even reports of several caucasian pilots bailing out of stricken MiGs. Recent documents from the former Soviet Union now confirm the speculation, and reveal the scope of Soviet support. Following the decimation of the DPRK Air Force the Soviets decided to intervene with the MiG-15 in November of 1950. In fact until almost 1952 all MiG-15s were exclusively flown and maintained by Soviet personnel. These pilots were prohibited from overflying UN controlled territory or the sea, lest they be shot down and captured. Some were also taught limited Korean to be used on the radio to deceive UN evesdroppers. While no known Soviet pilot was shot down over UN territory, the Soviet's radio discipline was not as good and orders to speak only Korean were quickly forgotten in the heat of battle.

Early in the war the Soviets hoped to achieve air superiority over the UN air forces, but the sheer size of the UN (and particularly United States) commitment ultimately forced the Soviets to change their plans. The Soviets instead chose to use the air war over North Korea as a training ground for pilots from the Soviet Union and the recently formed Warsaw Pact. A process was begun in which units were rotated to Korea for combat training. While not known at the time, American pilots quickly noticed a pattern in which the MiGs over the Yalu seemed to be organized in "classes". Groups of MiG's (whose operational ceiling was higher than that of the F-86) would loiter over the Americans and several would be led down on an attack by an experienced leader. They would then climb back up and the leader would take some more down on an attack. After a couple of months of this the "class" would "graduate" and be replaced by new pilots. It has been learned that the Soviet Air Force produced several jet aces during the Korean War, most successful of these was Col. Evgeni Pepylaev who commanded the 196th Fighter Aviation Regiment of the Soviet Air Force. Col. Pepylaev served in North Korea from April 1951 to January of 1952 and ended the war as the highest scoring Soviet ace with 19 kills over UN aircraft (surpassing the UN's top ace Capt. Joseph McConnell with 16 kills). Pepylaev was also one of 22 Soviet pilots awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union during their service in Korea.



The Model


When the Tamiya MiG-15bis came out I knew I had to build it. The MiG-15bis is a beautiful airplane with curves and angles that are almost sensual. (NOTE: I said almost). I couldn't come up with any more excuses after KMC released their detail set and a whole pile of Aeromaster and Cutting Edge decals hit the streets. I decided to model a Soviet flown MiG in Korea. I also wanted a natural metal finished aircraft.



I started with the KMC resin cockpit. This is a stunning little beauty that fits rather well. My research seemed to settle on a medium grey for the factory cockpit color of Soviet produced MiG-15s. After a little wash and a coat of PollyScale flat clear and the cockpit is a show stopper. Fit was very good.

I also used the the KMC photoetch for the dropped flaps and speed brakes, which turned out very nicely.

The KMC resin control surfaces were used too, but these were a disaster. I regret using them to this day. They were warped, the surface texture was bad (making a natural metal finish very difficult) and the aspect ratio is all wrong. Plainly KMC just cut the same parts off of a kit, glued them together and then cast them up. Unfortunately they glued them together once they had been removed because in some cases they are thicker than they should be and in others they are too thin. Avoid them at all costs!



This was the first natural metal aircraft that I ever attempted. I used SNJ Spray Metal and was very pleased with the results. After doing all the basic assembly and seamwork (VERY critical on a nmf aircraft), I gave the model an overall coat of SNJ. I then mixed about 8 different shades of SNJ using various shades of gray and blue enamels and an eyedropper. I then laboriously masked each and every panel and painted it a different shade from its neighbors. The results looked fabulous. Unfortunately when you polish it out with the SNJ powder, in addition to getting that beautiful metallic sheen, you also "even" out the paint shades. Much of my individual panel shading disappeared. In hindsight I would lean toward more color in my mixed shades as the powder will silver them back and make them more subtle. I used Gunze-Sangyo for the red nose and PollyScale acrylic for the wing walks.

The decals came from Cutting Edge.

The model was weathered with Liquitex acrylic artists oils thinned with water and mixed with a little matte medium to take out the oils' gloss.





  • Davis, Larry. Air War Over Korea. Squadron/Signal Publications, Carrollton TX. 1982. 
  • Davis, Larry. MiG Alley, Air to Air Combat Over Korea. Squadron/Signal Publications, Carrollton TX. 1978. 
  • Dorr, Robert F. and Warren Thomson. The Korean Air War. Motorbooks International, Osceola WI. 1994. 
  • Dorr, Robert F., John Lake and Warren Thompson. Korean War Aces, Osprey Aircraft of the Aces #4. Osprey Publishing, London. 1995. 
  • Gordon, Yefim and Vladimir Rigmant. MiG-15 Design, Development and Korean War Combat History. Motorbooks International, Osceola WI. 1993. 
  • Stapfer, Hans-Heiri. MiG-15 in Action. Squadron/Signal Publications, Carrollton TX. 1991. 
  • Zaloga, Steven J. "The Russians in MiG Alley," Air Force Magazine, February 1991, pages 74-77.



Article, Model and Images Copyright 1999 by Cameron Lynch
Page Created 10 December, 1999
Last updated 26 July, 2007

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