Overnight, 12 Chinese MiGs were dispatched to intercept a single CIA B-17 spy plane. They failed and two of them crashed.

On the night of March 13, 1958, a Mig-17PF piloted by Wang Guo Shan of the 18th Division was the PLAAF’s last chance against a 34th Squadron (Black Bat) B-17 which had flown over the southern provinces for six hours.

After Mao’s Communists took control of mainland China in 1949, the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) developed a difficult partnership with the Chinese Nationalist government in Taiwan for covert air operations over the mainland. – dropping agents and propaganda, and collecting signals, images and nuclear weapons. intelligence. But Communist China’s air defenses reacted with determination and ingenuity to unwanted intruders.

In fact, as explained by Chris Pocock with Clarence Fu in The Black Bats CIA Spy Flights Over China from Taiwan 1951-1969, Chinese military technicians adapted Soviet equipment and tactics. In 1957, the 11th Aviation School of the People’s Liberation Army (PLAAF) and the 14th and 18th Air Divisions worked to improve the performance of the newly arrived MiG-17PF fighters. The shortcomings of the aircraft‘s RP-5 interceptor radar were already apparent to Western and Chinese intelligence services. First, the effective range was only two and a half miles. Second, operating below about 3,000 feet, it could not distinguish aircraft targets from the echo on the ground.

One solution explored by the Chinese to the second problem was to inhibit the radar’s downward sweep by -14 degrees in elevation. The upward sweep started from two degrees below the horizontal and could still be adequate for interception, provided the MiG pilot is properly guided by the Ground Controlled Intercept (GCI) to fly towards the target at the same altitude. But the PLAAF soon realized that in order to intercept a relatively slowly flying target like the B-17, the MiG-17 had to fly at an angle of attack (AoA) of 4 to 5 degrees to prevent it from stalling. . At this attitude, the -2 degree sweep was unnecessary, unless the target was over the interceptor. As the Taiwanese intruders flew at 1,000 feet, they were usually found below the interceptors. And it would be suicide for MiG pilots to try to fly lower at night.

Chinese pilots and technicians have still thought about it. The downward sweep of the radar was inhibited by only seven degrees. When the MiG was flying at 4-5 degrees AoA, the radar was effectively 2-3 degrees below horizontal. This could provide a target sweep without including a lot of ground clutter.

MiG-17PFs equipped with radars were launched into the battle to intercept intruders. On the night of March 13, 1958, a Mig-17PF piloted by Wang Guo Shan of the 18th Division was the PLAAF’s last chance against a 34th Squadron (Black Bat) B-17 which had flown over the southern provinces for six hours. No less than eleven MiG-15s had already been dispatched further north when Wang took off from Shati airfield in Guangdong. As the B-17 left the mainland and flew at low altitude, Wang pursued it for 50 miles. Running out of fuel, it was directed by GCI to land at Shuixi Airfield on the Leizhou Peninsula north of Hainan Island. But fog blanketed the airfield and Wang crashed and was killed as he tried to approach.

It was the second fatal loss of the night for the PLAAF. Earlier, a MiG-15bis piloted by Yang Yu Jiang had taken off from Changsha to serve as a radio relay plane in the search for the B-17. Contact with the pilot was lost shortly after takeoff, and the MiG crashed near Datuopu airfield at 11:00 p.m.

The Black Bats CIA Spy Flights Over China from Taiwan 1951-1969 is published by Schiffer Publishing and can be ordered here.

At night, 12 Chinese MiGs were dispatched to intercept a single B-17 spy plane.  They failed and two of them crashed.

Photo credit: US Air Force

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