The Korean War - Mig Alley

The Korean War – Mig Alley

The Korean War is a war I know relatively little about, other than it was the real setting for M*A*S*H (not as thought by many, Vietnam) and the famous last stand of the Glouster’s on a place now known as Glouster Hill, was made. A British Army last stand like most British Army last stands, being tragically heroic but a battle that in reality was or should never have been fought in the way it was. I have the Max Hastings Korean War book on my shelf (both real and Audible) long overdue to be read. However, within teh Korean War the Air War was a bit of a mystery to me other than the enigmatic 10:1 kill ratio claimed in favour of the United Nations (aka the United States of America) pilots. It was also the training ground and inspiration for the Mad Major (Boyd of the USAF in his air war combat theories) producing the OODA loop which also decades later greatly influence AGILE software development! The Thomas McKelvey Cleaver „Mig Alley“ book came as a revelation to me in many way (see below, the enigmatic F-86 Sabre USAF jet – its aerial combat versus the Mig-15 is of legendary proportions): 

I can highly recommend the book as it came as a shocking myth buster to me – (spoiler alert if you read on) as it revealed recent statical analysis of Soviet era and USAF era data shows the 10:1 claim to be far closer to propaganda that fact. That is taking nothing from the USAF pilots who attained air supremacy over the North Korean (aka Soviet) pilots and Chinese PLAAF pilots. The revelation is that in the early combat Soviet pilots in 1951 were on the better end of kill ratio [0.8 – 1.0] because they were filled with combat veterans from  WWII – both sides were learning first hand „jet combat“. The USAF was by comparison trained but unbloodied. The longer term operational mistake the Russians made was to swap in and out whole Air Regiments at a time, whereas the USAF consciously only replaced individual pilots so there was always a combat capable cadre for new, the younger pilots to learn from. They were slowly bloodied from „wingman“ status to „guns“ – learning their trade in the skies above Korea. Boyd himself never shot a Mig down but flew 22 missions as „wingman2, then returned stateside (as all/many other aircrew did) to teach tactics to the rookies before they went out. The clever American logic was assisted by the fact that there was only two Sabre air groups „spare“ so rotating formations out of theatre was too troublesome whereas the Soviets had plenty of air regiments – all of which were bloodied in turn, each experiencing there own costly combat learning curve. Then towards the 1952/53 period the Chinese pilots took over the bulk of combat. A statistical ratio of 4:1 (in favour of the UN) was more likely over the whole war, but the early war was very touch and go – Boyd’s first gut instinct about the Mig-15 being „theoretically“ better than the F-86 may well be true [Boyd came to think better US canopy (observation) and automatic hydraulics (reaction time) were the difference, but in reality was combat experience of the man in the plane]. For me the software development implications are stark (for Agile), never underestimate the value of experience – aka don’t go for cheapest staff available no matter how great your AGILE SCRUMMASTER and method is (or what the Accountant says)!   

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