Slipping the Bonds
by George Paterson


MiG-15 Nikolay Shkodin


I've made quite a few images of MiG-15's over the years, but most of them have been small secondary aircraft in images of F-86 Sabres or F-4 Phantoms, in the latter case usually MiG-17's, to be precise.

I have made only a few images using MiG-15's as the primary aircraft, the reason being that I've not been able to collect many model reviews that seemed capable of giving good in-flight pictures. But recently I have found more promising model images, and my MiG-15 archive has grown considerably.

The Initial Image

This is a photograph taken at a model show; the tag refers to IPMS 2007. The base has an inscription telling us that the model represents Nikolay Shkodin's MiG in Korea in 1953, and that he had a credited score of 4 F-86's and 1 F-84. The corresponding tally marks appear just below the sill of the canopy.

As often with show-bench photographs, the camera is further away from the model than is usual with reviews of model builds, and therefore the perspective recession is more suitable for the in-flight image I'm planning to create. The reason why this is so is possibly that a mildly telephoto lens was on the camera, say one of 85 mm. focal length, as that would be more versatile in a show environment.

I have a profile of Shkodin's MiG in my archive, that shows it in Korean markings. This may be because VVS aircraft were re-painted in North Korean markings to conceal the Soviet Union's participation in the war. Hence this model perhaps shows it shortly after its arrival in the theatre, before the re-paint had been done.

Treatment of the Image

I closed the canopy by selecting the sliding portion, copying it to a new file, and then pasting it back onto the master image as a fresh layer. It could then be slid forward till it fitted neatly behind the fixed part. I could now select the complete canopy and divide it into a framing section and a glazing section. Once this was all done, the image could be flattened back to a single layer.

The selection of the two 23mm. cannon and the mighty 37mm. cannon and their associated fairings and blisters was complicated by the nose-wheel assembly, which obscured part of the bigger cannon and made it difficult to see all the details of the smaller ones.

The internal details of panel lines were also rather difficult to read, but I was able to get most of the main ones in place. I didn't attempt to capture a lot of the smaller details.

I tried out several background images, and ended up preferring a low-altitude winter landscape.


It's interesting to compare the two main opposing fighters of the Korean War era, the MiG and the Sabre.

The F-86 Sabre is in many ways reminiscent of the P-51D Mustang, with a big and rather tall canopy which gave the pilot an excellent all-round view, the low-set wing, the fuselage/tailplane junction with boxed-out fairing, and many other smaller details.

The MiG, on the other hand, is a new configuration altogether. Its wing is set at mid height on a circular-section fuselage, rather like the F9F-8 Cougar, presumably using stout annular frames to carry the loads through. This mid-set wing is apparently aerodynamically more efficient than low or shoulder settings. The fairings between the wing and fuselage are very smooth, and the fairing of the fin is even more so. The tailplane is not faired to the fin, and in early MiG-15's was not “all-flying”, which meant that control was lost well below Mach 1, a serious limitation. The canopy is small and provides poor all-round view, and the cockpit is very cramped.

All in all, the MiG was aerodynamically more refined than the Sabre, but was let down by a lack of refinement in other important aspects of performance.