Today in Technology History

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November 8

Airplanes were first used in warfare less than six years after their invention. A few years later, with the famous dogfights of the first world war, the romanticized fighter pilot became an icon around the world. The best planes used in that war had a top speed of about 100 or perhaps 120 miles per hour. As engines improved, planes started to move faster -- so fighter planes during WWII could fly about three or four times faster than the planes during the first world war.

Yet even as the flying aces of World War Two were racking up kills, engineers in several countries were using a new kind of engine -- the jet engine -- to make planes even faster. Jet planes played a small part in WWII, but they were much more important in the Korean War (1950-1953). In fact, according to the U.S. government, the world's first battle in which a jet plane shot down another jet plane was early in the Korean War, on November 8, 1950 at about 10 a.m.

On that date, the U.S. sent several bombers on a major bombing raid near the Yalu River separating Korea and China. A group of about ten silver Soviet MiG-15 jet fighters started to approach the American bombers, but there were four U.S. fighter jets escorting the bombers. The U.S. fighters, all Lockheed F-80 "Shooting Stars," engaged the Soviet fighters at about 600 miles per hour. By the time the battle was over five minutes later, one MiG was destroyed, another was damaged, and the rest had retreated. None of the U.S. jets were damaged. U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Robert Brown gets the credit for being the first jet fighter pilot to take down another jet fighter.

Soviet MiG-15s continued to confront American jets throughout the war, although they more often faced the F-86 Sabre, an aerodynamic marvel that handled better than the MiG-15.

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