Thursday, January 17, 2013

MiG-17 FRESCO-A of the 921st Air Regiment, Vietnamese People's Air Force (NVAF)

The MiG-17 as well as the Chinese version, the Shenyang J-5, was the most numerous fighter in the Vietnamese People's Air Force, with the first batch of 36 arriving as "gifts" from the USSR in February 1964 together with a few MiG-15UTI trainer aircraft to equip the 921st Air Regiment, which was the first unit to be formed by the NVAF. MiG-17s first saw action on April 3, 1965, when two groups of MiG-17s took off from Noi Dai Airbase under the command of Lieutenant Pham Ngoc Lan. The first group of two MiGs was to act as a bait for US aircraft while the second group of four MiGs was to engage enemy aircraft. The target was a US Navy strike package consisting of 80 aircraft that was tasked with the destruction of the Ham Rung bridge near Thanh Hoa.

The group of four MiGs attacked a group of F-8E Crusaders of VF-211 from USS Hancock, and Lieutenant Lan did damage a F-8E flown by Lieutenant Commander Spence Thomas, who had to perform an emergency landing ashore at Da Nang. Lieutenant Lan's wingman, Lieutenant Phan Van Tuc claimed a second F-8, although this was not corroborated by the the US Navy.

Three North Vietnamese aviators became aces while flying MiG-17s: Nguyen Van Bay with seven victories together with Luu Huy Chao and Le Hai who both scored six victories. MiG-17s accounted for 71shot down US aircraft, with most of the victories being supersonic-capable jets a generation ahead of the 1950s vintage MiG-17. Two MiG-17s were also the first aircraft to attack USN vessels since WW2, when the light cruiser USS Oklahoma City and the destroyer USS Higbee were bombed on April 19, 1972.

This model is the old Dragon FRESCO-A, the initial version of the MiG-17 that lacked an afterburner. The paint scheme can be found at the bottom of the page, and the camouflage pattern in intentionally splotchy and shoddy, since the NVAF often used automotive paints for camouflage. The paints would wear off more easily than proper aviation lacquer. The FAB-500 bombs were added to fill out space, but they were not used by NVAF MiG-17s (FAB-250 bombs were used against the USN vessels). The kit does have some issues, with the nose wheel well blocking the air intake, the flaps being slightly incorrect as well as some general fit issues, but the result is rewarding nevertheless. Now I'd like an F-4B, please.

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