Jets of the Chinese Civil War

After the cease fire agreement between the USA and Japan in March 1946 the situation in China became very confused. As part of the cease fire agreement the Japanese withdrew from most parts of China they had occupied. This caused the different Chinese fractions to try and grab power in the country.  

The Chinese Nationalist government tried to get control over all the territories the Japanese vacated but they were opposed by communist forces who, with the support of the Soviets, quickly made advances and established a communist state in the North of the country. There was bitter fighting in 1946 over a large front.  

To complicate matters further, the former Japanese puppet state of Manchuria also desperately tried to hold on to the position it had achieved under Japanese rule. Although Japan was officially prohibited from assisting Manchuria, it kept supporting itís former ally.  

Of course the warring parties were unable to continue their struggle without outside support. There was an official agreement between the former allies and Japan that nobody should become involved in the Chinese civil war. In practice however there were large scale weapon deliveries to all parties. Also there were large number of ďadvisorsĒ on the ground in China.    

Nationalist China Air Force

When the US forces left China in 1946 they abandoned large numbers of military equipment in the hands of the Nationalist Government. This included at least 250 P-51R Mustangs. In the hands of the Nationalist these fighters were less effective than they had been when flown by the very experienced US pilots. Their numbers swiftly reduced by accidents and bad maintenance and by attrition from the communist Yak-9 fighters.

Early 1947 only about 60 P-51s were left operational and the Nationalist government appealed to the USA for new fighters to combat the Communist forces. Negotiations were held for the delivery of surplus P-47s and more P-51s but before these were concluded the situation in the air over China changed drastically by the appearance of Communist Yak-15 fighters. The USA realized that the piston engined fighters would not be able to hold their own and that more modern aircraft were needed. Because all of the production of the P-80 was needed for the USAF, it was decided to deliver a number of the less advanced P-59 Airacomet to the Chinese. From September 1947 a total of 110 P-59C fighters were delivered. They were accompanied by a large number of USAF personnel to train and advice the Chinese in the use of the new jet fighter.  

Against the Communist Yak-15 and later Yak-17 fighters the P-59 was at a disadvantage in regard of its maneuverability. It was heavier and less nimble than the Yaks. It possessed a heavier armament though and was able to hold its own. The P-59s served with the Chinese Nationalist forces until 1952 when it was replaced by the F-86 Sabre.  

Chinese Communist Air Force

The Communist forces in China relied heavily on the support of the Soviet Union. In 1946 large numbers of Yak-9 and La-11 fighters were delivered from Soviet stocks. Like the P-51s with the Nationalist forces the Communist fighters suffered from poor maintenance and inexperienced pilots.  

To give the Chinese communists a boost a number of Yak-15 jet fighters were delivered from the Soviet Union in May 1947. Although initially the engine life of the jet engines was rather short, the appearance of the first jet in the skies of China had a large impact on the aerial fighting. The P-51s of the Nationalist forces were outclassed by this new fighter. In all, about 45 Yak-15s were delivered to China followed from 1948 by 150 Yak-17s. These served with the Communist Air Force until the introduction of the Sabre by the nationalist forces in 1952. This led to a request to the Soviet government for more advanced aircraft. By this time the Soviets had other priorities however and only a handful of the new MiG-15 fighters were sent to China. The lack of modern fighters caused the Communists to lose the initiative in the air war and the Nationalist were able to establish an dominance in the air.  

Manchurian Air Force

When Japan signed the cease fire with the Allies in March 1946 they were forced to withdraw from most parts of occupied China. This left the puppet state of Manchuria to fend for itself. The armed forces of Manchuria was ill equipped to defend the territory of the Manchurian empire. The air force could only field some obsolete Nakajima Ki-43 fighters. The only reason Manchuria was not immediately overrun by the Chinese Nationalist forces was the fact that the Nationalists were busy fighting the Communists.  

Although the Japanese were forced to leave China, they continued to support Manchuria. At first Japan needed all energy to repair the damage in Japan done by the US bombers during 1945 but from 1947 on they started shipping equipment to Manchuria again. Among the aircraft delivered were the Yokosuka R2Y Keiun and the Kyushi J7W Shinden.

In Japan meanwhile the development of jet aircraft progressed and in 1947 the Nakajima J8N4 Kikka fighter reached the squadrons of the Japanese Air Force. Where the earlier marks of the Kikka had been underpowered and very ineffective the J8N4 was a very good fighter. It was very maneuverable and well armed. In December 1947 the first Kikkas were delivered to the Manchurian Air Force and they caused a lot of concern with both the Nationalist and Communist forces. Together with the heavier Ki-201 and later also the Mitsubishi Ki-214 fighters the Kikka ensured the independence of Manchuria during the later half of the 1940s.

Last updated: 21/08/2012