In 1950 the Mikoyan-Gurevich (MiG) design bureau (also known as OKB-155) began work on a new fighter aircraft, intended to have a greater range than the existing MiG-15 and MiG-17 aircraft, and capable of reaching supersonic speeds in level flight. MiG chose to use two of the new Mikulin AM-5 axial jet engines (a scaled-down version of the Mikulin AM-3 that powered the Tupolev Tu-16 bomber) for its new fighter. As a test bed for the new engine, OKB-155 was authorised on 20 April 1951 to convert a MiG-17F, replacing the single Klimov VK-1F engine with two 19.60 kN (4,410 lbf) AM-5s (later replaced by 21.08 kN (4,740 lbf) AM-5As, with the testbed, designated SM-1 (or I-340), flying late in 1951. While the SM-1 was a useful testbed, its performance was less than expected, and first resulted in an afterburner being designed for the AM-5, resulting in the AM-5F (reaching 26.45 kN (5,950 lbf) with reheat).
While the SM-1 was a test bed, the SM-2 (or I-360) was intended as the required supersonic escort fighter, with work authorised on 10 August 1951. The SM-2 was a twin-engined, mid-winged aircraft. Its thin wings, which had been designed at TsAGI, the Soviet Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute, for supersonic flight were swept back at an angle of 55 degrees and had a single wing fence on each side. Unusually, a T-tail was fitted. Armament was two Nudelman N-37 37-mm cannon located in the leading edge of the aircraft's wings, near the wing roots - the guns had been moved compared to those in the Mig-15 and 17 to avoid ingestion of gun blast gases causing surging of the aircraft's engines. The first SM-2, the SM-2/1 was sent to the Letno-Issledovatel'skiy Institut (en:flight research institute) (LII) in April 1954 for testting, and was flown for the first time on 24 May 1952, with test pilot G. A. Sedov at the aircraft's controls. With the un-reheated AM-5A engines, the SM-2 could not exceed the speed of sound in level flight, so reheated AM-5F engines were substituted. While the new engines improved performance, the aircraft was found to have handling problems, particularly at high angles of attack, where the aircraft was prone to spinning. To solve these problems the aircraft's horizontal tail was lowered, with other changes including moving the aircraft's airbrakes and deepening the wing fences, with the modifications causing the aircraft to be redesignated SM-2A and then SM-2B.
The AM-5F still generated inadequate thrust and so the Mikulin engine design bureau developed a new engine to replace it, the AM-9B (later re-designed the Tumansky RD-9), rated at 25.5 kN (5,700 lbf) dry and 31.87 kN (7,160 lbf) with reheat. When fitted with the new engines, the SM-2B became the SM-9, first flying in this form on 5 January 1954. The SM-9's performance impressed the Soviet authorities, and it was ordered into production as the MiG-19 on 17 February 1954, despite the fact that factory testing had only just started.
The rush to get the MiG-19 into service resulted in initial production aircraft having a number of serious problems. The type suffered a number of in-flight explosions, eventually traced to poor insulation between the aircraft's engines and fuel tanks in the rear fuselage - overheating of these tanks could cause fuel explosions. This was eventually partly solved by fitting a metal heat shield between the engines and the tanks. The aircraft's elevators proved ineffective at supersonic speeds, and an all-moving slab tail was tested by the second and third SM-9 prototypes, and later included in the major production type, the MiG-19S, which also featured an improved armament.
At the same time that the daylight escort fighter was developed from the SM-2 and SM-9 into the MiG-19 and Mig-19S, work went on in parallel to design and build a radar-equipped all-weather fighter, with the first prototype SM-7/1 flying for the first time on 28 August 1954. This prototype had a similar airframe to the first SM-9, including the conventional fixed horizontal tail, with the second and third SM-7s introducing similar changes to those tested on the SM-9 prototypes, including the slab tail. The all weather fighter entered production as the MiG-19P in 1955. Major differences from the MiG-19S included RP-1 Izumrud radar in the aircraft's nose, with small radomes in the centre and on the top lip of the air intake and an armament of two cannon in the aircraft's wing roots. From 1957, production of all weather fighters switched to the missile equipped MiG-19PM, with an armament of four K-5M air-to-air missiles, with the cannon removed.
In 1955, following American introduction of high-altitude reconnaissance balloons and overflights by British Canberra aircraft, which could not be intercepted by existing aircraft, together with intelligence reports of the development of the Lockheed U-2 with an even greater ceiling, development began on a specialist high-altitude version of the Mig-19, the Mig-19SV, which entered limited production. This had more powerful engines and was lightened, with seatback armour and one of the guns removed, while flap settings were adjusted to give greater lift at higher altitudes and a new pressure suit was introduced. These changes increased the aircraft's ceiling from 17,500 m (57,400 ft) to 18,500 m (60,700 ft). The prototype MiG-19SV was further modified (as the MiG-19SVK) with increased wingspan, giving a ceiling of 19,100 m (62,700 ft) , but this was still inadequate to deal with the U-2, and effort was switched to adding rocket boosters.
Deliveries of the new fighter to the Soviet Air Forces (VVS) began in June 1955, with the type being publicly unveiled on 3 July that year, when 48 MiG-19s took part in a flypast during an airshow at Tushino Airfield, Moscow.
During their service with Soviet Anti-Air Defense and in East Germany, MiG-19s were involved in multiple interceptions of Western reconnaissance aircraft. The first documented encounter with a Lockheed U-2 took place in the autumn of 1957. The MiG-19 pilot reported seeing the aircraft, but could not make up the 3,000 m (9,800 ft) difference in altitude. When Francis Gary Powers's U-2 was shot down in the 1960 incident, one pursuing MiG-19P was also hit by the salvo of S-75 Dvina (NATO: SA-2 "Guideline") missiles, killing the pilot Sergei Safronov. In a highly controversial incident, on 1 July 1960, a MiG-19 shot down an RB-47H (S/N 53-4281) reconnaissance aircraft in international airspace over the Arctic Circle with four of the crew killed and two captured by the Soviets (they were released in 1961). In another incident, on 28 January 1964, a MiG-19 shot down a T-39 Sabreliner which had strayed into East German airspace while on a training mission; all three crewmembers were killed.
Hanoi decided in early 1969 to strengthen its air defenses by creating a third jet fighter unit; the 925th Fighter Regiment. This unit would consist of late model MiG-17s and the newly acquired MiG-19s (nearly all of which were Shenyang J-6s from the People's Republic of China (PRC)). The regiment was established at Yen Bai, and by April 1969, nine combat-rated MiG-19 pilots were posted for combat duty. While some of North Vietnam's MiG-17s and all of their MiG-21s were supplied by the Soviet Union, the MiG-19s (J-6 models) were supplied by the PRC, which seldom exceeded 54 MiG-19s in number.
The first use and loss of a U.S. fighter to a MiG-19 (J-6) was in 1965 when a USAF Lockheed F-104 Starfighter piloted by Captain Philip E. Smith was attacked by a PLAAF aircraft over Hainan Island. His Starfighter took cannon fire which damaged a portion of his wing and missile mount. Smith gave chase and did receive missile tone on the MiG but, within a millisecond of pressing his missile firing button, his Starfighter lost all power. He ejected and was captured. Smith was held prisoner until released on 15 March 1973, due to improving US-China relations following U.S. President Richard Nixon's visit to China in 1972.
The Vietnam People's Air Force (VPAF) began receiving the MiG-19 at the end of Operation Rolling Thunder, which ended in 1968. Despite their limited numbers, MiG-19s were involved in extensive combat during Operations Linebacker and Linebacker 2. The VPAF claimed only seven victories over U.S. aircraft using the MiG-19, all of which were F-4 Phantom IIs. The MiG-19 was tested by U.S. pilots in the United States in 1969 after receiving a Chinese J-6 (F-6 exported model) from Pakistan.[N 1] In addition to finding the aircraft to have a good canopy allowing good visibility for the pilot, along with three hard hitting 30mm cannons, U.S. pilots found the MiG-19 (J6/F6) to be an excellent fighter, "like the MiG-17, it could easily out-turn the Phantom...and could out-accelerate the F-4 out to Mach 1.2, but was slower than the MiG-21.". However, the MiG-19's strongest fault was its extremely short range, as one U.S. test pilot remarked, "after going in full after-burner at low altitude for five minutes, the MiG driver will be looking for a place to land!" This, combined with the aircraft's twin engines, which were difficult to maintain, made the MiG-19 unpopular with North Vietnamese pilots.
VPAF and Chinese air-to-air kills; all six with 30 mm cannon.
MiG-19/J-6 Aerial combat victories in the Vietnam War 1965-1972
The MiG-19 lacked mounts for air-to-air missiles but it had the one advantage over the early model F-4 Phantom II: it was armed with a cannon. VPAF MiG-19s had three 30 mm cannons which "were notable for their large muzzle flash" when fired. The aircraft were loaded with 90 rounds per cannon, giving approximately six seconds of firing time. A single two second burst of 90 shells could impact a U.S. aircraft with 81 lb (37 kg) of metal. This contrasted to a U.S. 20 mm cannon such as the Vulcan which would deliver 39 pounds of metal.
U.S. claimed 10 VPAF MiG-19s were lost in aerial combat. On 2 June 1972 a MiG-19 was the first recorded jet fighter to be shot down in aerial combat by cannon fire at supersonic speeds, by a USAF F-4 Phantom flown by Phil Handley. The VPAF claimed 12 enemy aircraft were shot down by MiG-19s, at a cost of 8 MiG-19s lost in air combat
In 1962, Egyptian MiG-19s saw some action in the ground-attack role during the civil war in Yemen that took place during the early 1960s. The first reported air combat in the Middle East with the MiG-19 happened on 29 November 1966 when an Israeli Air Force (IAF) Dassault Mirage III shot down two Egyptian MiG-19s which were trying to intercept an Israeli reconnaissance Piper J-3 Cub in Israeli airspace. The first MiG was destroyed with a R.530 radar guided missile fired from less than a mile away, marking the first aerial kill for the French made missile. The second MiG-19 was dispatched with cannon fire.
Around 80 MiG-19s were in service with Egypt during the Six-Day War in June 1967, but more than half were destroyed on the ground during the opening Israeli airstrikes of Operation Focus. Israeli pilots, however, did find the MiG-19 a potentially dangerous adversary because of its performance, maneuverability, and heavy armament.
Following the war, the Egyptians organized the surviving MiG-19 aircraft and assigned them air defense tasks of Egypt's interior. The Soviet Union did not supply Egypt with any replacement of the MiG-19s destroyed in the Six Day War, but Egypt might have received some from Syria and Iraq, so that by the end of 1968 there were 80+ MiG-19s in service with the Egyptian Air Force. The aircraft also saw combat during the War of Attrition; in one engagement on 19 May 1969, a MiG-19 aircraft engaged two Israeli Mirages, shooting down one with cannon fire while the other escaped. Egypt had around 60 Mig-19s in service during the Yom Kippur War of 1973 in which they served as close air support aircraft.
Iraq obtained some MiG-19S fighters in the early 1960s, but later sold most of them (a couple remaining in local museums), though a few remaining airframes did see some action against the Kurds in the 1960s. Iran acquired its own batch of Chinese J-6s, with 100 airframes being delivered between 1980 and 1987. 
The Chinese F-6 was inducted into the Pakistan Air Force PAF in 1970. Three operational F-6 squadrons were used extensively and effectively against Indian Air Force as well as providing ground support to Pakistan Army. Pakistani F-6s scored air to air kills on the enemy using gunfire as well as Aim-9B Sidewinders, that were modified to be carried under wing stations.
First production version. Conventional tail assembly with elevators attached to fixed horizontal stabiliser and armed with three 23 mm NR-23 cannon.
MiG-19P (NATO - "Farmer-B"; OKB - SM-7)
Version equipped with RP-1 Izumrud radar in the nose and armed with two 23 mm NR-23 (later two 30 mm NR-30) cannons in the wings. Had provision for an unguided rocket pack under each wing, elongated tailfin fillet, all-moving tailplane, third airbrake added behind the ventral fin. Vympel K-13 (AA-2 'Atoll') air-to-air missile (AAM) capability was added late in its service life; entered production in 1955.
Single-seat radar-equipped, all-weather interceptor fighter aircraft; built in small numbers.
MiG-19P equipped with the Gorizont-1 ground control datalink.
Improved day fighter with all-moving slab tail. Equipped with Svod long-range navigation receiver and armed with three 30 mm NR-30 cannons. Had provisions for an ORO-32K rocket unguided rocket pack or a FAB-250 bomb under each wing, and from 1957 modified to allow four rocket pods to be carried. Entered production in 1956.
Late production MiG-19S powered by the same uprated RD-9BF-1 engines as the MiG-19R.
High-altitude version to intercept the Lockheed U-2, equipped with a self-contained liquid-fuel booster rocket pack; appears to have been abandoned because of inability to control the aircraft at very high altitudes and the aircraft's tendency to enter supersonic spins.
Target drones converted from the MiG-19 and MiG-19S (M- mishen' - target.)
A research aircraft modified from a MiG-19 with a variable track / skid-base skid undercarriage (SL- samolyot-laboatoriya - aircraft laboratory).
:High-altitude version (MiG-19SU) to intercept the Lockheed U-2, equipped with a self-contained liquid-fuel booster rocket pack; appears to have been abandoned because of inability to control the aircraft at very high altitudes and the aircraft's tendency to enter supersonic spins.
High-altitude experimental version, (MiG-19PU), fitted with a U-19 booster rocket.
High-altitude experimental version, (MiG-19PU), fitted with a Sevrook re-usable booster rocket.
Missile simulator for testing the Raduga K-10 (NATO: AS-2 "Kipper") cruise missile.
Chinese-built version of the MiG-19. This version was inducted into the Pakistani Air Force as the F-6. The F-6 was later modified by the Pakistani Air Force to carry U.S.-built AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles.
Indonesian Air Force. The Indonesian Air Force acquired a number of MiG-19S in 1961 and used during the preparation of Operation Trikora in 1962 (the taking of Western New Guinea from the Netherlands) in Western New Guinea (now Papua and Papua Barat). Several of these aircraft crashed. All aircraft sold to Pakistan.
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