MiG-17 Fresco Soviet Fighter

MiG-17. US Air Force

With the introduction of the successful MiG-15 in 1949, the Soviet Union pressed forward with designs for a follow-on aircraft. Designers at Mikoyan-Gurevich began modifying the earlier aircraft's form to increase performance and handling. Among the changes that were made was the introduction of a compound swept wing which was set at a 45° angle near the fuselage and 42° farther outboard. In addition, the wing was thinner than the MiG-15 and the tail structure altered to improve stability at high speeds. For power, the MiG-17 relied on the older aircraft's Klimov VK-1 engine.

First taking to the sky on January 14, 1950, with Ivan Ivashchenko at the controls, the prototype was lost two months later in a crash. Dubbed the "SI", testing continued with additional prototypes for the next year and a half. A second interceptor variant, the SP-2, was also developed and featured the Izumrud-1 (RP-1) radar. Full-scale production of the MiG-17 began in August 1951 and the type received the NATO reporting name "Fresco." As with its predecessor, the MiG-17 was armed with two 23 mm cannon and one 37 mm cannon mounted under the nose.

MiG-17F Specifications


  • Length: 37 ft. 3 in.
  • Wingspan: 31 ft. 7 in.
  • Height: 12 ft. 6 in.
  • Wing Area: 243.2 sq. ft.
  • Empty Weight: 8,646 lbs.
  • Crew: 1


  • Power Plant: 1× Klimov VK-1F afterburning turbojet
  • Range: 745 miles
  • Max Speed: 670 mph
  • Ceiling: 54,500 ft.


  • 1 x 37 mm Nudelman N-37 cannon
  • 2 x 23 mm Nudelman-Rikhter NR-23 cannons
  • up t0 1,100 lbs. of external stores on two hardpoints

Production & Variants

While the MiG-17 fighter and MiG-17P interceptor represented the first variants of the aircraft, they were replaced in 1953 with the arrival of the MiG-17F and MiG-17PF. These were equipped with the Klimov VK-1F engine which featured an afterburner and significantly improved the MiG-17's performance. As a result, this became the most produced type of the aircraft. Three years later, a small number of aircraft were converted to MiG-17PM and utilized the Kaliningrad K-5 air-to-air missile. While most MiG-17 variants possessed external hardpoints for around 1,100 lbs. in bombs, they were typically used for drop tanks.

As production progressed in the USSR, they issued a license to their Warsaw Pacy ally Poland for building the aircraft in 1955. Built by WSK-Mielec, the Polish variant of the MiG-17 was designated Lim-5. Continuing production into the 1960s, the Poles developed attack and reconnaissance variants of the type. In 1957, the Chinese began license production of the MiG-17 under the name Shenyang J-5. Further developing the aircraft, they also built radar-equipped interceptors (J-5A) and a two-seat trainer (JJ-5). Production of this last variant continued until 1986. All told, over 10,000 MiG-17s of all types were built.

Operational History

Though arriving too late for service in the Korean War, the MiG-17's combat debut came in the Far East when Communist Chinese aircraft engaged Nationalist Chinese F-86 Sabres over the Straits of Taiwan in 1958. The type also saw extensive service against American aircraft during the Vietnam War. First engaging a group of US F-8 Crusaders on April 3, 1965, the MiG-17 proved surprisingly effective against more advanced American strike aircraft. A nimble fighter, the MiG-17 downed 71 American aircraft during the conflict and led the American flying services to institute improved dog-fighting training.

Serving in over twenty air forces worldwide, it was used by the Warsaw Pact nations for much of the 1950s and early 1960s until being replaced by the MiG-19 and MiG-21. In addition, it saw combat with the Egyptian and Syrian Air Forces during Arab-Israeli conflicts including the 1956 Suez Crisis, the Six-Day War, the Yom Kippur War, and the 1982 invasion of Lebanon. Though largely retired, the MiG-21 is still in use with some air forces including China (JJ-5), North Korea, and Tanzania.

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Hickman, Kennedy. "MiG-17 Fresco Soviet Fighter." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, thoughtco.com/cold-war-mig-17-2361063. Hickman, Kennedy. (2020, August 26). MiG-17 Fresco Soviet Fighter. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/cold-war-mig-17-2361063 Hickman, Kennedy. "MiG-17 Fresco Soviet Fighter." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/cold-war-mig-17-2361063 (accessed January 28, 2023).