MiG-9

The initial-production 1-300s (by then the type had been allocated the service designation MiG-9) were to be powered by BMW 003A engines, a small stock of which had been captured in Germany. Known in service as the RD-20 Series A1, these original German engines had a TBO of only ten hours. Subsequently the Kazan’ engine factory No. 16 managed to increase the TBO of 50 hours; the longer-life Kazan’-built engines were designated RD-20 Srs A2.

The time limits set for the manufacture of small batches of jet fighters seemed absolutely impracticable; nevertheless, all the plants did what they were expected to do. The first production MiG-9 (c/n 106001) was completed on 13th October; the remaining nine aircraft (c/ns 106002 through 106010) were assembled by 22nd October. All of them were virtually hand-made, next to no production tooling being available; structurally they were basically identical to the second and third prototypes. The fighters were transported to the airfield in Ramenskoye by rail, and as early as 26th October Mark L. Gallai flew the first production machine. In addition to Gallai and Shiyanov, production MiG-9s were flown by GK Nil VVS test pilot L. M. Koovshinov; later, other military pilots selected for demonstrating the aircraft over the Red Square on 7th November joined in the conversion to jet fighters. Preparations for the aviation part of the military parade were fully completed, yet the flypast on that festive day had to be cancelled due to adverse weather.

In October, while military pilots were preparing for the anniversary parade, the final stage of the 1-300’s manufacturer’s flight tests began, preceded by live weapons trials at a shooting range. Mark Gallai was tasked with testing the armament in the air. This was the most dangerous mission, since there was no prior experience in the USSR of large-calibre automatic cannons being fired in the air on jet aircraft. On 10th and 17th October Gallai performed flights to an artillery shooting range in Noginsk east of Moscow where he fired the weapons; these flights showed that the aircraft behaved normally when the 37-mm cannon mounted in the air intake splitter was fired.

Generally the performance figures obtained in the course of the 1-300’s manufacturer’s flight tests were fairly impressive. The range at an altitude of 5,000 m (16,404 ft) and 563 km/h (304 kts) indicated airspeed was 633 km (393 miles), the endurance being 1 hour 2 minutes. With one engine shut down and the fighter flying at 360 km/h (194.6 kts) IAS, the maximum range at 5,000 m increased to 726 km (451 miles), the endurance being 1 hour 40 minutes. Remarkably, the aircraft showed no tendency to yaw when flying on the power of one engine.

When the manufacturer’s flight tests were coming to an end, M. Gallai had a narrow escape on the F-3 when the horizontal tail disintegrated; the pilot had to muster all his skill to make it back to base and land the damaged aircraft in one piece. A while later, in February 1947, a similar accident happened on the F-2 flown by GK Nil WS test pilot Yuriy A. Antipov during the State acceptance trials – it also suffered a structural failure of the stabiliser. Fortunately, once again the pilot managed a safe landing. As a result, urgent steps had to be taken to reinforce the fighter’s airframe and make some other improvements; both affected aircraft were repaired.

Manufacturer’s flight tests of the F-2 went on through the second half of November and the first half of December; on 17th December the machine was handed over to GK Nil WS for State acceptance trials. The F-3 had been handed over to the military institute ten days earlier, on 7th December 1946. However, in 18 accordance with the Council of Ministers directive No. 1249-511 ss dated 5th June 1946 the 1-300 (MiG-9) was to be presented for State acceptance trials as early as 1st September. Thus, the design bureau was nearly three and a half months late in handing the machines over to GK Nil WS. Later, in the autumn of 1946, the Government revised the State acceptance trials commencement date and the number of machines to be handed over was increased to four (they included the first two machines of the initial-production batch and the two surviving prototypes). However, bearing in mind the haste in which the small batch had been built in Kuibyshev, the transfer of the production fighters to GK Nil WS was delayed in order to subject the airframes to a more thorough check.

The State acceptance trials of the F-2 were interrupted on 5th April 1947 when test pilot D. G. Pikoolenko had to make a belly landing because of an engine failure. There were also other flight incidents. In one of the flights Pikoolenko discovered that the aircraft tended to pitch up in maximum-speed flight. Antipov decided to repeat the flight profile and get a personal impression of what had happened, but when the machine was flying at approximately 5,000 m (16,400 ft) the stabiliser suddenly disintegrated (this accident happened in February). In both cases the aircraft was saved thanks to the skill and courage of the pilots. Fortunately, in each case the pilots succeeded in landing the fighter safely at the risk of their lives, using ailerons for lateral control and ‘playing’ with the throttles for pitch control. This made it possible to trace the causes of the accidents and make appropriate changes to the tailplane design.

After repairs and necessary improvements had been made, the trials of the second prototype resumed on 21 st May and were duly completed on 29th May. Somewhat earlier, on 19th May, the testing of the F-3 was completed, too. Between 2nd June and 24th June the institute held armament trials on the F-2; these were not part of the State acceptance trials programme.

State acceptance trials of the second production machine (c/n 106002) were started on 8th May 1947, continuing until 21 st June. Testing of the first production MiG-9 (c/n 106001) which had passed manufacturer’s flight tests with two 260-litre (57.2 Imp gal) drop tanks under the wingtips between 27th December 1946 and 5th April 1947, began on 28th April (also with drop tanks); on 8th May the fighter had to be grounded because its RD-20 engines had to be replaced but no replacement engines were available at the institute. The aircraft rejoined the State acceptance trials programme on 2nd June, this time in ‘clean’ configuration, completing them on 21 June together with the second production machine.

During the State acceptance trials the MiG-9 was flown by GK Nil VVS test pilots A. G. Proshakov, A. Khripkov, A. G. Koobyshkin, Yu. A. Antipov, P. M. Stefanovskiy and D. G. Pikoolenko, while Engineer-Major A. S. Rozanov was in charge of the machine. The military test pilots performed hundreds of flights on the four jet MiGs, determining their performance, firing the weapons, studying and evolving the methods of their combat employment in first-line units. More than 200 aerobatic manoeuvres were performed and there was not a single case of the engines flaming out. The 1-300 has the distinction of being the first Soviet jet aircraft on which a spin was performed.

The use of four machines was due primarily to the wide scope of the trials programme which could not be effected within a short time frame on one or two aircraft. Thus, the F-2 (or MiG-9 No. 02, as it was referred to in the GK Nil VVS report) was used between 17th December 1946 and 5th April 1947 for determining the stability and handling characteristics, as well as field performance with American-made wheels borrowed from a Bell P-63 Kingcobra. Between 7th and 21 st May 1947 the institute assessed the changes made by the manufacturer when updating the aircraft; the armament was tested between 2nd and 24th June 1947, having been installed immediately prior to that.

Kuibyshev-built MiG-9 cln 106002 was used in May and June 1947 for determining the range and endurance, as well as field performance with Soviet-made wheels, and assessing the functioning of the radio equipment. MiG-9 c/n 106001 served for assessing the fighter’s agility, aerobatic capabilities and structural strength limits in June 1947. The F-3 (or aircraft No. 03) was used for determining the speed limits and basic flight performance (with the exception of range and endurance). Besides, in July-December 1947 the fifth aircraft of the ‘parade’ batch (MiG-9 c/n 106005) was used by GK Nil WS for special tests involving mock combat with the Lavochkin La-9, Bell P-63C Kingcobra, Supermarine Spitfire Mk IX and Yak-15. The fourth aircraft of the initial batch (MiG-9 c/n 106004) underwent State acceptance trials to determine the influence of firing the weapons on the engines’ operation at altitudes in excess of 7,000 m (22,965 ft); more will be said about this a while later.

Still, despite the numerous shortcomings and defects, the MiG-9’s assessment by the State commission can be considered favourable. Generally the military were quite pleased with the fighter’s handling qualities; as for speed, rate of climb at high altitudes and altitude performance, it was markedly superior to piston-engined fighters then in service with the Soviet Air Force. Also, the MiG-9 had no equals in the Soviet Union regarding its firepower – the other contenders from A. S. Yakovlev’s OKB-115 (the Yak-15) and S. A. Lavochkin’s OKB-301 (the ‘150’) were armed with only two 23-mm cannons (on the other hand, their engines did not flame out when the cannons were fired, ‘whereas much work was still needed to enable the MiG-9 to actually produce a high weight of fire). In comparison with the Me 262 Mikoyan’s fighter had a lower take-off weight and surpassed the German jet virtually in all performance characteristics except range. The British Gloster Meteor F. 3 and the American Lockheed P-80A Shooting Star which had been designed and built somewhat earlier were also inferior in performance to the MiG-9 (again with the exception of range). A while later, improved versions of the Western fighters outperformed the Mikoyan twinjet, but that was achieved primarily thanks to the installation of more powerful engines (the Soviet Union was still seriously lagging behind the Western world in aero engine design at the time). As regards the armament, the MiG-9 was roughly on a par with the Meteor (the latter was armed with a quartet of 20-mm cannons) but could not use the armament with the same efficiency (the Meteor’s wing-mounted engines could not possibly flame out when the cannons were fired in a salvo). The Shooting Star, on the other hand, was considerably inferior to the Soviet fighter as regards weight of fire (it was armed with six 12.7-mm machine-guns), but, again, it could fire its weapons without any limitations, since the six 12.7-mm (.50 calibre) machine-guns did not have such a marked effect on engine operation.

Despite obvious shortcomings and defects, full-scale production of the MiG-9 began at Plant NO. 1 in Kuibyshev when the State acceptance trials were still under way. The production version was known in-house at OKB-155 as the 1-301, aka izdeliye FS, the S standing for sereeynoye (production, used attributively). The haste with launching production was again due to the wish of the nation’s leaders to demonstrate the country’s air power at the 1947 May Day parade. Besides, the Soviet government strongly believed that for want of something better one should build in series aircraft that were available at the moment and rectify their shortcomings in the process of production.

As noted earlier, the majority of production MiG-9s were powered by RD-20 Srs A2 engines built by the Kazan’ engine factory No. 16. The armament of production fighters comprised one N-37 cannon and two NS-23K cannons. In March and April a batch of 48 aircraft intended for the May Day parade was manufactured, supplemented by one more machine for OKB-155, whereupon series production of the MiG-9 was suspended. Building on recommendations from TsAGI and the results of the manufacturer’s flight tests and State acceptance tests, the OKB introduced a number of changes into the fighter’s design in May and June 1947. The fuel system was improved; airbrakes were incorporated into the wing trailing edge just outboard of the flaps. The fin area was increased and a fin fillet added to improve directional stability; also, the rudder and elevator skin which had been made of elektron magnesium alloy was replaced by duralumin and the framework of these control surfaces was strengthened. Air suction inside the fuselage was eliminated and the shape of the fuselage fairing aft of the engine nozzles was changed in order to ensure a smoother flow of engine exhaust gases.

In the course of three years a total of 610 MiG-9s was manufactured, 604 of them being production machines. As noted earlier, the first ten examples of the initial-production (‘parade’) batch were manufactured in great haste in 1946.

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