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The Allies Obtain A MiG

by Richard A Gilham A24184 No.77 (Fighter) Squadron

The armistice between North Korea and the United Nations was signed on the 27th of July 1953. On the 21st of September 1953, four Meteors had just left their security bunkers at Kimpo and were taxiing to the end of the runway to commence a mission along the 38th parallel to check that the armistice agreement was being adhered to.

The pilots of the Meteors were waiting for two American F86 Sabre jets to take off. Just as the Sabres became airborne, a MiG 15 appeared, travelling at high speed downwind towards them. One Sabre banked to port, the other to starboard. The MiG touched down about one third of the way down the runway and the pilot slammed on the brakes. There was a high pitched screech and large plumes of smoke appeared from the tyres as the pilot attempted to stop before the end of the runway. Unfortunately, he failed and the aircraft came to rest off the end of the tarmac in the dirt. As the Meteors were turning onto the runway, they switched on their gun cameras and took pictures of the MiG. Large prints of these photos were made and pinned up in the canteen later that night, even though the incident was meant to be highly classified!

The Australians were the first to arrive at the scene, and as the pilot, Senior Lt. Kum Sok-No of the North Korean Air Force, was out of the cockpit and walking around the aircraft, one of the Australians relieved him of his sidearm and waited for the military police to arrive. The captured pilot indicated he had broken away from a formation of four aircraft, and when the other three pilots realised what he was attempting to do, they tried to shoot him down. He realised it would have been unwise to attempt a circuit around the base, as the perimeter security battery would have fired upon him. He had decided to fly low over the hills and put the aircraft straight down on the strip.

Sabre jet

F86 Sabre Jet (Photo by Author)

The following day an American Globemaster aircraft landed at Kimpo to pick up the MiG and take it to the American base at Okinawa for test flying. The outcome of the tests indicated the MiG was not as sophisticated as the American F86 Sabre jet which was used in air-to-air combat against it. One of the few advantages the MiG had was the 2x23mm and 1x37mm cannons, as opposed to the .5 machine guns of the F86.

The Americans honoured their original offer, which was $100,000 to be paid to any MiG pilot who landed his aircraft on an allied airfield, made up of $50,000 for the aircraft and $50,000 for the pilot. The offer also included asylum for the pilot in the U.S.A. So far as I am aware, the pilot received the money and subsequently travelled to the States. A rumour went around that he had been killed within four months of arriving there; however, according to the US Air Force Museum site he changed his name, became a U.S. citizen, graduated from University, and was joined by his mother.

First Published in The Voice, October 2011