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Digital Archive International History Declassified

July, 1953

REPORT FROM THE 64TH FIGHTER AVIATION CORPS OF THE SOVIET AIR FORCES IN KOREA

This document was made possible with support from the Leon Levy Foundation

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    The Soviet Air Forces report on the number of aircrafts which were shot down during the Korean War and the reasons for the decline in the effectiveness of the fighters.
    "Report from the 64th Fighter Aviation Corps of the Soviet Air Forces in Korea," July, 1953, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, TsAMO RF. F. 64 iak. Op. 174045. D. 186. pp. 21-32. Translated for NKIDP by Gary Goldberg. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/114963
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Nº 226

From a report of the commander of the 64th iak [Fighter Aviation Corps] of the Soviet Air Forces with a brief analysis of the combat operations of units of the corps in the Korean theater of combat operations during the period from June 1951 through 27 July 1953.

In connection with the approach of the Chinese-Korea border by forces of the American occupiers in November 1950 our fighter formations (the 28th and 151st iad [Fighter Aviation Divisions]) were assigned the task of protecting the most important industrial and administrative centers of Northeast China and the rear installations of the forces of the DPRK People's Army and Chinese volunteers from strikes of the USAF. These included the bridges across the Yalu River, airfields in the area of Dandong, and the hydroelectric station in the area of Sinuiju.

The depth of the area of combat operations of our fighters was bounded by the Yalu River and the coastline of the Korea Strait.

With the advance of the Korean and Chinese forces to the south an additional task was assigned of protecting the installations and communications of North Korea to a depth of up to 75 km.

The 64th Fighter Aviation Corps, composed of the 28th, 151st, and 50th iad, was formed at the end of November 1950.

As a rule, the Corps was composed of two or three fighter aviation divisions, one independent night iap [fighter aviation regiment], two zenad [anti-aircraft artillery battalions], and one anti-aircraft searchlight regiment; however the composition of the corps was not constant and periodically changed.

After the conclusion of the Korean armistice on 27 July 1953 by the end of August two fighter aviation divisions, one night iap, two zenad, and one anti-aircraft searchlight regiment remained in the Corps.

Until June 1951 part of the forces of the Corps, consisting of approximately two regiments with a total number of up to 60 combat-ready crews, were used to retrain Chinese and Korean pilots to conduct combat operations because of limitations of the airfield network near the Chinese-Korean border and in connection with the performance of missions by the Corps' formations.

And only since July 1951, after the Miaogou airfield was put into operation, was an opportunity presented to increase the number of forces involved to five regiments (120-150 combat-ready crews).

From the inception of combat operations in Korea until the end of 1951 the main strike force of the USAF during the day was bombers (B-29 and B-26 aircraft) and accordingly the Corp's main efforts were directed at combating them. Subsequently, ground attack aircraft became the main strike force of the enemy in the daytime and accordingly the main efforts of the Corp's fighters were directed against them.

It was necessary to fight not only bombers and ground attack aircraft in order to protect the installations and communications of North Korea from bombing but also the enemy fighters which supported their operations.

From November 1950 through January 1952 the Corp's units and formations made 19,203 sorties when performing combat missions […]

The Corp's fighters fought [3]07 formation air battles in daytime during this period, of which 19 were pairs, 112 were squadron, 64 were regimental, 50 were divisional, and 42 were corps.

Seven thousand nine hundred and eighty-six crews participated in air battles, which were 43% of the total number of crew sorties.

Five hundred and sixty-two enemy aircraft were shot down as a result of the air battles: 58 B-29's, one B-26, two RB-45's, two F-47's, 20 F-51's,, 103 F-80's, 132 F-84's, 218 F-86's, eight F-94's, 25 Meteors, and three F-6's and F-5's.

Sixteen individual air battles were conducted at night. Two enemy B-26 aircraft were shot down.

A total of 564 enemy aircraft were shot down in air battles during the period from November 1950 through January 1952.

Our own losses for the same period were 34 pilots and 71 aircraft.

The overall loss ration was 7.9 to 1 in our favor.

Thirty-three sorties were made for each enemy aircraft shot down and 285 sorties for each aircraft lost.

The average expenditure of shells [snaryady] for each enemy aircraft shot down was 212.

On average, each formation air battle lasted 15 minutes with bombers and fighters, during which an average of two or three attacks were made by our fighters; and 10 minutes with fighters, with an average of two attacks.

Our fighters went into battle in small and large formations.

The primary altitudes for air battles were: against fighters - 8000-12000 meters, against bombers and ground attack aircraft - 7000 meters and below.

Typically, enemy fighters tried to wage air battles at altitudes of 8000 meters and below since the performance of F-86 aircraft fell sharply when climbing to an altitude above 8000 meters and they were considerably inferior to the specifications [dannye] of MiG-15 aircraft.

Suffering heavy losses in bombers, ground attack aircraft, and fighters, the enemy was forced to rapidly reexamine the problems of the combat use of their air forces, switch to new tactics, and reinforce the fighter group by rearming from the F-80 to the F-86 aircraft.

In the first air battles the enemy became convinced from their [performance] characteristics that the F-80 and F-84 fighters could not be used any further as fighters.

At the beginning of 1952 after a number of measures carried out by the American command by augmenting the air group, a qualitative improvement of the aircraft, and a change in tactics, the air situation in the Korean theater of military operations became more complex in both daytime and at night.

In the first half of 1952 the performance of combat missions became additionally complicated by the reduction of the strength of the Corps to two fighter aviation divisions (the 324th and 303rd iad operated until March, and the 97th and 190th iad from March through July).

In 1952, after the main strike force of the enemy air forces became ground attack aircraft, the performance of combat missions became even more difficult since it had about four times as many aircraft compared to bombers.

In order to use the maximum possible forces against enemy ground attack aircraft, combat against a "screen" of fighters was done predominantly in small groups (flights, squadrons) separated by altitude from 8000 to 14000 meters. This allowed comparatively small forces to tie down the large forces of the "screen" of fighters on a broad front and to create more favorable conditions for strike formations to operate against the ground attack aircraft.

Whereas in 1951 14,112, or 75%, of the 18,759 combat sorties were made in large formations (regiment, division, corps), in 1952 12,529  were made in the daytime in large formations, or 53% of the total number of 23,539 sorties.

Flights in large formation were made predominantly in units and formations operating against ground attack aircraft […]

One thousand and sixty-two combat sorties were made at night.

During 1952 the fighters of the Corps fought 868 battles in formation in which 9,014 crews participated.

Three hundred and seventy-nine enemy aircraft were shot down as a result of the air battles, which were: eight F-51's, 13 F-80's, 41 F-84's, 315 F-86's, one Meteor, and one F4u4.

Thirty-two individual air battles were fought at night in 1952 and 15 enemy aircraft (11 B-29's, three B-26's, and one F-94) were shot down.

A total of 394 enemy aircraft were shot down in 1952 in day and night air battles.

Our losses were 51 pilots and 172 aircraft.

The overall loss ratio was 2.2 to 1 in our favor. The intensity of combat operations increased considerably compared to 1951 and the number of combat sorties in 1952 increased monthly by an average of up to 600 sorties.

Enemy aircraft changed tactics as a result of the growing activity of our fighters and by the end of 1952, suffering considerable losses in fighters and ground attack aircraft, switched from large formation operations to operations in small formations on a broad front, trying to use the adverse weather conditions north of the [Anju-Gaeseong (Kaysen)] line as much as possible.

The effectiveness of air battles declined in 1952 in comparison to 1951.

The decline in the effectiveness of the operations of our fighters occurred for the following reasons:

1. Air battles were fought predominantly with enemy fighters which were not much inferior to the MiG-15 aircraft.

This is confirmed by the following data. In 1951 496 enemy aircraft were shot down in air battles, including 206 fighters of the F-86 type; in 1952 a total of 379 aircraft were shot down, including 315 fighters.

2. The probability of a kill in air battles with enemy fighters and fighter-bombers was considerably less than against bombers.

3. In 1952 the Corps performed the mission of introducing fighter units of the Chinese OVA [Combined Air Army] into battle at the same time as [performing] combat operations.

Beginning in November 1952 the command of the Corps devoted great attention to involving the OVA in active combat operations.

PRC Air Force units and staffs were given great assistance in the organization of combat operations, which consisted of the following:

a) passing on the experience of waging combat operations by holding meetings, critiques, and the study of the alternatives of joint flights to wage air battles with enemy fighters and ground attack aircraft;

b) the organization of command and guidance.

The commitment of OVA units to battle was done sequentially: initially against small formations of enemy aircraft, then when repelling mass enemy air attacks and consisted basically of three stages:

The first stage - joint flights by fighters of the Corps and the OVA. When doing this the Corps units took the main blow on themselves, tied down the enemy fighter "screen" in battle at distant routes of approach, from the [Anju-Gaeseong] line; units of the OVA were committed to battle from the line Haeju-Byeokjin to build up strength; IAK formations supported the disengagement of OVA units from battle;

The second stage - OVA units operated in the first echelon, but Corps fighters built up strength and covered their disengagement from battle;

The third stage - independent operations, mainly against enemy fighters.  Units of the Chinese Air Force operated on the west coast, the Korean Air Force on the east coast. Corps units were in readiness to help OVA formations, depending on the developing air situation.

By the end of 1952 the OVA already had a sufficient number of combat units and took part in repelling not only echeloned operations but also mass enemy air attacks in cooperation with the Corps' fighters.

This allowed counteraction to enemy air formations to be increased, the operations of our fighters at distant routes of approach to be stepped up, and more appreciable losses to be inflicted on the enemy.

The constantly growing activity of the combat operations of our fighters forced the enemy by the end of 1952 to rearm part of their air groups from F-84 to F-86F-30 aircraft.

At the same time, with the beginning of 1953 the American command decided to step up the night operations of their bombers against targets and communications north of the Anju-Hamheung (Kanko) line and thus sort of compensate for the daylight operations of ground attack aircraft in these regions.

In the first half of January 1953 the Corps' fighters inflicted serious losses on enemy bombers with night operations. Seven B-29's were shot down in air battles, as a consequence of which beginning with the second half of January until the conclusion of the armistice the enemy used night bomber operations in North Korea only in adverse weather conditions.

Unlike 1951-52, the combat operations of the Corps in 1953 were conducted in more difficult air and weather conditions.

The American command began to use F-86's and F-30's [SIC, probably F-86-F30 was intended] as ground attack aircraft. Beginning in March 1953 in adverse weather conditions they operated in small formations in the area protected by the Corps.

The main burden of performing combat missions laid mainly on the Corps since it did not seem possible to use OVA units to wage combat operations because of the[ir] unpreparedness for operations in adverse weather.

Consequently, the intensity of the Corps' combat operations was very high beginning in January and until the conclusion of the armistice. The following data is evidence of this: whereas in 1952 23,539 sorties were made over 12 months, 1961 a month on average, in 1953 18,152 sorties were made, an average of 2,600 a month, during the seven months of combat operations. The average monthly number of combat sorties in 1953 rose by 650, or 33%.

The Corps' fighters designated to combat the fighter "screen" began to be committed to battle in small formations in order to create more favorable tactical conditions for strike formations to operate against the enemy's ground attack aircraft. Thirteen thousand and nine of the 18,152 combat sorties over seven months of 1953, or 72%, were made in pairs, flights, and air squadrons.

Enemy fighters encountering the active operations of our fighters committed to battle only when there were favorable tactical conditions or a clear superiority in numbers.

In spite of numerical superiority, the American command did not succeed in solving the problem of supporting the operations of their ground attack aircraft in open air battles and stepped up the operations of "hunters" in the area of airfields of the Dandong airfield complex for this purpose, tying down our fighters in air battles in clearly unfavorable tactical conditions.

Five hundred and eight formation air battles were fought in daylight in 1953 in which 3,713 crews participated. The air battles were fought at all altitudes, beginning with low altitude and ending with the practical ceiling of the MiG-15 aircraft.

One hundred and twenty-six enemy aircraft were shot down in the air battles, of which 12 were of the F-80 and F-84 ground attack type and 114 were fighters.

The results of air battles show that the Corps' fighters mainly fought battles with enemy fighters and in very rare instances with ground attack aircraft, whose operations in the area protected by the Corps were of an incidental nature.

One thousand three hundred and seventy-three combat sorties were made, 59 individual air battles were fought, and 13 enemy aircraft were shot down at night: one RB-29, six B-29's, one B-26, two F-84's, two F-94's, and one F-ZD [SIC].

A total of 139 enemy aircraft were destroyed in day and night air battles during the seven months of 1953. Our losses were 25 pilots and 76 MiG-15 bis aircraft. The overall loss ration for 1953 was 1.9 to 1 in our favor.

Unlike 1951-52, except for takeoffs from a [ground] alert posture at airfields in readiness one and three, in 1953 combat missions were performed by patrolling at distant routes of approach toward the main installations being protected and above the installations, since takeoffs from a [ground] alert posture in adverse weather conditions did not guarantee the timely intercept of the enemy.

Corps fighters shot down 1,097 enemy aircraft during the war in Korea. Our losses were 110 pilots and 319 aircraft. The overall ration of losses during the war in Korea were 3.4 to 1 in our favor.

Conclusion:

In spite of the obvious superiority in the strength of the US Air Force, the active and intense combat operations of Corps fighters from the start of combat operations in Korea to the conclusion of the armistice did not give them the opportunity to destroy the main installations being protected and inflicted considerable losses on the enemy in all types of aircraft.

Commander of the 64th Fighter Aviation Corps

Guards General-Lieutenant of Aviation Slyusarev

Chief of staff of the 64th Fighter Aviation Corps