Republic of China F-86's in battle
by Robert Keng
Republic of China (Taiwan) National Day 2003
The Chinese Nationalist Air Force on Taiwan was one of the first recipients of these surplus USAF Sabres. During December 1954 to June 1956, the Chinese Nationalist Air Force got 160 ex-USAF F-86F-1-NA through F-86F-30-NA fighters.
By June of 1958, the Nationalist Chinese had built up an impressive fighter force, with 320 F-86Fs and seven RF-86Fs having been delivered. All of these aircraft had the "6-3" wing and most were upgraded to F-86F-40 standards.
Sabres and MiGs were
shortly to battle each other in the skies of Asia once again. In August of 1958,
the Communist mainland tried to force the Nationalists off of the islands of
Quemoy and Matsu by shelling and by blockade.
Nationalist F-86Fs flying top cover over the islands found themselves confronted with Communist MiG-15s and MiG-17s, and there were numerous dogfights. During these
battles, the Nationalist Sabres introduced a new element into aerial warfare--many of them were carrying a pair of early model AIM-9 Sidewinder infrared-homing air-to-air missiles on underwing launching rails. The Sidewinder proved to be devastatingly effective against the MiGs. In one air battle on September 24, 1958, Nationalist Sabres succeeded in destroying ten MiGs and scoring two probables without loss to themselves. This was the first victory for the AIM-9B sidewinder "secret weapon". It was a new chapter for the modern aircombat.
In one month of air battles over Quemoy and Matsu, Nationalist pilots destroyed no less than 29 MiGs and got eight probables, against a loss of two F-84Gs and no Sabres. The Nationalist pilots had far more flying experience than did their Communist opponents. Many Nationalist victories were often against straggling MiGs left without wingmen. There have been some reports that US Navy pilots were flying many of the Sabres that participated in these battles.
A sort of urban legend has sprung
up surrounding these air battles. According to a widely-reported story,
during one of these air battles, one of the Sidewinders failed to explode when
it struck the tail of a MiG. The MiG pilot managed to stagger back home, and
found upon landing that the unexploded Sidewinder missile was still jammed in
his tailpipe. This Sidewinder missile was passed along to Soviet intelligence,
and the Soviets promptly proceeded to copy the design virtually bolt-for-bolt,
producing the K-13 (AA-2 "Atoll") air-to-air missile.
In the RoCAF archive, they record the worlds first F-104 victory on the day 13.
Jan.1968 over Taiwan strait.
The pilots names (in Chinese characters) are below their pictures
Photos and text © 2003 byRobert Keng