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In May 1943, a specially established RAF squadron made its permanent imprint on military aviation history by flying a high-risk, low-level, nighttime attack against German hydro-electric dams vital to the Nazi armaments industry in the Ruhr Valley. A comparatively tiny part of Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris' four-month-long "Battle of the Ruhr," this one raid had an impact totally out of proportion to the small number of aircraft involved. It highlights the synergy of science and technology, weapons development and production, mission planning and practice, and the unflinching courage in the execution of a highly dangerous bombing raid. Furthermore, it established a legend that still resonates today.
As the routed North Korean People's Army (NKPA) withdrew into the mountainous reaches of their country and the People's Republic of China (PRC) funneled in its massive infantry formations in preparation for a momentous counter-offensive in the last months of 1950, both lacked adequate air power to challenge US and UN air supremacy over both the battlefields and the logistics channels from China into North Korea. Reluctantly, Josef Stalin agreed to provide the requisite air cover, introducing the superior swept-wing MiG-15 to counter the American's straight-wing F-80 jets and to repel the United States Air Force (USAF) B-29 bomber formations that were interdicting the PRC's flow of troops and supplies into North Korea. This in turn prompted the USAF, against its conventional wisdom of retaining its first-line air-defence fighters to face Soviet air forces across the 'Iron Curtain' in Europe, to deploy its very best - the F-86A Sabre - to counter this threat. Thus began a two-and-a-half-year struggle in the skies over a corner of North Korea known as "MiG Alley."In this period, the unrelenting campaign for aerial superiority witnessed the introduction of successive models of these two revolutionary jets - the MiG-15bis, the F-86E, and eventually the F-86F - into combat. It also saw the transition of operational leadership on the communist side from the Soviet "volunteers" to the newly formed Chinese PLAAF air divisions, and witnessed the re-introduction of the NKPAF, with its "just trained" MiG-15 units, into the air-combat arena. This meticulously researched study not only provides technical descriptions of the two types and their improved variants, complete with a "fighter pilot's assessment" of these aircraft, but also chronicles the entire scope of their aerial duel in "MiG Alley" by employing the recollections of the surviving combatants - including Russian, Chinese, and North Korean pilots - who participated.
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