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MIG-3 Aces of World War 2

by Dmitriy Khazanov and Aleksander Medved, Osprey Publishing, Oxford, England, 2012, $29.95.

The Soviet MiG-3 fighter of World War II was a flying disclaimer to the adage that if it looks right, it must fly right. According to Soviet air ace Aleksander Pokryshkin, the MiG-3 could be a“hot race horse,”but“when you lost control you could end up beneath its hooves.”

With its distinctive long nose and rakish lines, the MiG-3 had handling problems that it was never able to fully surmount. It entered service armed with machine guns that jammed when it was maneuvering and a PBP-1 gunsight that was repeatedly modified without ever becoming consistently reliable. The MiG-3’s long, sleek nose gave it an attractive if somewhat odd appearance, but pilots had poor visibility when taxiing at the crude airfields along the Eastern Front.

This well-illustrated volume follows the by-now-familiar Osprey format launched by editor Tony Holmes and author Jerry Scutts with Mustang Aces of the Eighth Air Force in 1994. The brilliant, colorful covers that have been so important to the series have suffered since Iain Wyllie hung up his paintbrush a few years ago. There’s an awkward feel to Mark Postlethwaite’s cover rendering of MiG-3s intercepting a German Dornier Do-17, as it is caught in a searchlight beam in the night sky over Moscow. Postlethwaite is a fine artist, but this isn’t up to his standards.

Less well known than the Yakovlev and Lavochkin fighters already covered in this series, the MiG-3 might have been named the Po-3 if design bureau boss Nikolai Polikarpov—famous for his prewar fighters and the Po-2 biplane—hadn’t fallen into disfavor with Soviet strongman Josef Stalin. As it happened, the fighter was designed by two of Polikarpov’s engineers, Artyom Mikoyan and Mikhail Gurevich, whose surnames combined to form the MiG appellation.

Test pilot Arkady Ekatov, who made the MiG-3’s first flight on October 29, 1940, was killed when the same airplane crashed six months later. By then, development was proceeding; the MiG-3, despite numerous flaws, managed to outmaneuver a Messerschmitt Me-109 at high altitude.

MiG-3 Aces takes readers through design, development and combat anecdotes so smoothly that they won’t notice Aleksander Medved was added as co-author after production of the book began. It’s hardly the authors’ fault that most well-known Soviet pilots who flew the MiG-3 went on to greater achievements in other fighters, leaving them with fewer hair-raising accounts than we might expect to see here.

This is a valuable history that’s useful as a reference source. If you want to know more about the MiG-3, you simply have to have this volume.


Originally published in the January 2013 issue of Aviation History. To subscribe, click here.