MiG-3 Aces of World War 2
Aircraft of the Aces 102
Authors : Dmitriy Khazanov & Aleksander Medved
Illustrator : Andrey Yurgenson
MiG-3 Aces of World War 2
is the sixth Osprey title about Soviet aircraft and pilots of World War 2. Fresh from their recent Osprey Duel book La-5/7 vs. Fw 190
, authors Dmitriy Khazanov and Aleksander Medved bring us another erudite volume full of photographs, technical information, pilot stories, and 32 high-quality full color aircraft profiles by artist Andrey Yurgenson.
The Soviets sent a great deal of aid to Spain during the Spanish Civil War. Ruminating lessons learned afterwards, VVS (VVS RKKA - Voenno-Vozdushnye Sile Raboche Krestiyankoy Krasnoy Armii
– Air Force of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army) generals realized their Polikarpov fighters were obsolescent and launched a program for a high-altitude high-speed fighter. Polikarpov Design Bureau designed an aircraft to use the powerful new AM-35 and -37 liquid-cooled engines and the design as accepted for development, the fruit of their labor becoming the I-200 project. Ironically, this Polikarpov aircraft was not named for him, rather for his employees; Artem Mikoyan, in charge of production, and project manager Mikhail Gurevich were given credit and the Polikarpov I-200 became the first of the MiG family of fighters.
OK, I admit it. I think the MiG-3 is one of the most aesthetically pleasing fighters of WW2, with lines surpassing the P-51 and even the Spitfire. From the spinner to the cockpit it resembles other long-nosed fighters such as the Dewoitine D.520 of France, the Macchi C.202 and the C.205, and Fiat G.55 of Italy, later marks of Spitfire, and early P-40s; behind the cockpit was a short fuselage and rounded empennage. The MiG-1 was a wood-metal hybrid airframe with advanced aerodynamics, powered by the AM-35 engine. The MiG-3 was the MiG-1 with increased fuel. Up high the 400mph-class MiGs were the fastest fighters in the Russian sky until the arrival of the Focke-Wulf 190, outperforming even the ultimate Messerschmitt dogfighter, the Friederich
. But at lower altitudes the MiG was slow. MiG did boast superior vertical maneuverability. However, the MiGs had the handling problems typical of new high-performance aircraft of the time and also lacked horizontal maneuverability, being described as ‘poor’ at low altitude. Ah, the idiosyncrasies of aerodynamics!
Hurried into production and into operations, MiGs were plagued with faults. Many units did not fully train on them before the Germans attacked. Roughly 80% were destroyed on the ground in the first 24 hours of Operation Barbarossa
. Instead of fighting up high Battle of Britain style, Barbarossa aerial combat was near the ground. There, the limitations of hastily converted pilots unable to exploit the aircraft's strengths lead to MiGs being inferior even to the Bf 110E! The type was also lightly armed with only a pair of light machine guns and a single heavy machine gun; VVS considered the He 111 to be heavily armed and armored! As the Germans would up gun the Bf 109 to tackle the Allied bombers, so did VVS bolt extra gun pods under the wings. This further degraded the aircraft performance, as the German pilots would eventually learn themselves.
Still, MiG pilots, when they could fly, could put up a fight. Until the MiGs were withdrawn from frontline service, some 50 pilots made ace in the type. Whether against Nazi aircraft or ground targets, MiGs used guns and RS-82 rockets to slow and blunt the Nazi advances. While the authors determined that wartime propaganda attributing the salvation of the Soviet Baltic Fleet and Leningrad to the MiG is exaggerated, MiG units did contribute. MiGs fought from Finland to the Black Sea, defended Moscow at night, and stood watch against Japanese malevolence in the Far East.
If good looks could kill, the MiG-1 and -3 would have swept the skies of their enemies. Unfortunately, beauty is only skin deep and aesthetics could not compensate for poor production quality control, poor training, poor command, poor deployment and employment, and the war being fought counter to the concept the MiG was designed for. Otherwise the MiG could have been a pretty good fighter. While I say that tongue-in-cheek , consider that the Brewster Buffalo and Bell Airacobra were “klunkers” against the Japanese and against the Luftwaffe in the west, yet flown down low in cool dense air, both were successful air superiority fighters over the Eastern Front. One can only speculate on this history of the MiG-1 and -3 if the Soviet-Nazi air war had been fought at higher altitudes.
Messr. Khazanov and Medved deliver MiG-3 Aces of World War 2
with 96 pages in six chapters with an appendices:
1. Development and Deployment
2. Baptism of Fire
3. Gain Experience
4. The Defense of Leningrad
5. Heroes of Moscow
6. Naval MiGs
Colour Plates Commentary
This book is full of official and pilot commentary and quotes, as well as their personal experiences. We learn of the circumstances of the last fight of the most successful MiG ace, Snr Lt Dmitriyev of 15th IAP, under the guns of I./JG 54 ace Heinrich Jung. Some of the accounts are quite lengthy and detailed, such as the report of Capt. Mark Gallay, who downed a Do 17 over Moscow during the night of July 21, 1941. This battle is the subject of the cover art by Mark Postlethwaite. I am very interested in some of the pilot evaluations of the aircraft, such as the report that the MiG was not fast enough to fight the Bf 110. Unfortunately, no clarification is included, i.e., at what altitude, did the MiG have the external gun pods, etc.? A Soviet aircraft performance graph is included showing the MiGs speed/altitude compared with the Bf 109, LaGG, and Yak-1.
Statistical orientation is in the form of several tables of data, such as the number of fighters of a subject IAP destroyed in the air, on the ground, through accidents, and fates of pilots, per regiment. Finally, two tables of the appendices list the most successful MiG-3 aces, and those who scored five or more kills with the MiG. The data included is the pilot’s name, number of kills with the MiG, total score, units, and fate.
I did find some mistakes. Typos include the double printing of a paragraph on page 8. The book claims that the I-153 was the only retractable landing gear biplane fighter. Maybe the authors mean only in the VVS, as the US Navy operated several retractable landing gear carrier biplanes.
Art and Photographs
Photographic support of the text is extensive. The Soviets valued publicizing their successful soldiers and employed a huge propaganda organization. As a result, this book is full of high-quality photographs of pilots, groups of airmen, and aircraft. There are plenty of good amateur photographs, too. Obviously, there are fuzzy pictures although they usefully convey the subject matter. Needless to say, many photographs are of downed MiGs in various conditions of damage.
A highlight of the book, at least for modelers, is the gallery of 32 full color profiles of MiG-3s. Some camouflage patterns are quite unique.
Lastly, line art details a MiG-3 early version and a late version in 1/72 scale.
Today MiG is a respected and feared name in aerial warfare. Thus it is surprising to learn that the first fighter of MiG Design Bureau was a turkey. This book does a great job of relating the story of the MiG-3 and the Soviet pilots who, despite severe obstacles, were successful with the type. Accounts by the pilots and unit reports are always fascinating. With exceptional research, captivating photographs, and outstanding artwork, students and modelers of MiGs, and WW2 Soviet planes and pilots should really appreciate this work. That proofreaders and editors missed a few things does not detract from the core value of this title. In the end, pilots of the MiG-3 played a dramatic yet minor role in defending Rodina. Flying an aircraft plagued with troubles, the pilots who mastered it deserve recognition for their effort. Yes, I recommend this book.