The MiG-17 design was generally based on a previously successful Mikoyan and Gurevich fighter, the MiG-15.The major novelty was its introduction of a swept wing with a "compound sweep" configuration: a 45° angle near the fuselage, and a 42° angle for the outboard part of the wings. Other easily visible differences to its predecessor were the three wing-fences on each wing, instead of the MiG-15's two, and the addition of a ventral fin. The MiG-17 shared the same Klimov VK-1 engine and the rest of its construction was similar. The first prototype, designated "SI" by the construction bureau, was flown on the 14 January 1950, piloted by Ivan Ivashchenko.
Despite the SI prototype's crash on 17 March 1950, tests of another prototype "SI-2" and experimental series aircraft "SI-02" and "SI-01" in 1951, were generally successful, and on 1 September 1951 the aircraft was accepted for production. It was estimated that with the same engine as the MiG-15's, the MiG-17's maximum speed is higher by 40-50 km/h, and the fighter has greater manoeuvrability at high altitude.
Serial production started in August 1951. During production, the aircraft was improved and modified several times. The basic MiG-17 was a general-purpose day fighter, armed with three cannons. It could also act as a fighter-bomber, but its bombload was considered light relative to other aircraft of the time, and it usually carried additional fuel tanks instead of bombs.
The second prototype variant, "SP-2", was an interceptor equipped with a radar. Soon a number of MiG-17P all-weather fighters were produced with the Izumrud radar and front air intake modifications. In the spring of 1953 the MiG-17F day fighter entered production. Fitted with the VK-1F engine with an afterburner, which improved its performance, it became the most popular variant of the MiG-17. The next mass-produced variant with afterburner and radar was the MiG-17PF. In 1956 a small series (47 aircraft) was converted to the MiG-17PM standard (also known as PFU) with four first-generation Kaliningrad K-5 (NATO reporting name AA-1 'Alkali') air-to-air missiles. A small series of MiG-17R reconnaissance aircraft were built with VK-1F engine (after first being tested with the VK-5F engine).
Several thousand MiG-17s were built in the USSR by 1958.
Day-fighter variants (MiG-17, MiG-17F) were armed with two NR-23 23 mm cannons (80 rounds each) and one N-37 37 mm cannon (40 rounds), which were mounted on a common bed under the central air intake. The gun bed could be easily wound down for maintenance. On radar-equipped variants (MiG-17P, MiG-17PF), the N-37 37 mm cannon was replaced with a third NR-23 23 mm cannon (carrying 100 rounds each) to compensate for the weight aft of the radar. All variants could carry 100 kg bombs on two underwing pylons and some could carry 250 kg bombs; however, these pylons were usually used for 400l fuel tanks. The MiG-17R was armed with two 23 mm cannons. Most MiG-17s in third world service today fly as ground attack or trainer aircraft.
The only variant with air-to-air missiles was the MiG-17PM (or MiG-17PFU), which could carry four K-5 (NATO: AA-1 'Alkali'). It had no cannons. Some countries occasionally modified their MiG-17s to carry unguided rockets or bombs on additional pylons. MiG-17s in Cuba could be armed with AA-2 "Atoll" missiles.
The MiG-17P was equipped with the Izumrud-1 (RP-1) radar, while the MiG-17PF was initially fitted with the RP-1 which was later replaced with the Izumrud-5 (RP-5) radar. The MiG-17PM was also equipped with a radar, used to aim its missiles. Other variants had no radar.
In 1955, Poland received a license for MiG-17 production. The MiG-17F was produced by the WSK-Mielec factory under the designation Lim-5. The first Lim-5 was built on 28 November 1956 and 477 were built by 1960. An unknown number were built as the Lim-5R reconnaissance variant, fitted with the AFA-39 camera. In 1959-1960, 129 MiG-17PF interceptors were produced as the Lim-5P. PZL-WSK also developed several Polish attack plane variants based on the MiG-17: the Lim-5M, produced from 1960; Lim-6bis, produced from 1963; and Lim-6M (converted in the 1970s); as well as two reconnaissance variants: the Lim-6R (Lim-6bisR) and MR.
In China, an initial MiG-17F was assembled from parts in 1956, with license production following in 1957 at Shenyang. The Chinese-built version is known as the Shenyang J-5 (for local use) or F-5 (for export). According to some sources, earlier MiG-17s which had been delivered directly from the USSR were designated "J-4". From 1964, the Chinese produced a radar-equipped variant similar to the MiG-17PF, which was known as the J-5A (F-5A). The Chinese also developed a two-seat trainer variant, the JJ-5 (FT-5 for export), which integrated the cabin of the JJ-2 (a license-built MiG-15UTI) with the J-5. It was produced in 1966-1986, being the last-produced MiG-17 variant and its only twin-seater variant. The Soviets did not produce a two-seat MiG-17 as they felt that the training variant of the older MiG-15 was sufficient.
Many Soviet and licence-built examples remain in service to this day, though not all are currently active, making the MiG-17 one of the longest serving fighters ever built.
The strategic purpose of this, and most other Soviet fighters, was to shoot down US bombers, not engage in dogfights. This subsonic (.93 Mach) fighter was effective against slower (.6-.8 Mach), heavily loaded US fighter-bombers, as well as the mainstay American strategic bombers during the MiG-17's development cycle (such as the B-50 or B-36, which were both still powered by piston engines). Even if the target had sufficient warning and time to shed weight and drag by dropping external ordnance and accelerate to supersonic escape speeds, doing so would have inherently forced the enemy aircraft to abort its bombing mission. By the time the USAF introduced strategic bombers capable of cruising at supersonic speeds such as the B-58 Hustler and FB-111, however, the MiG-17 became obsolete in PVO service and was supplanted by supersonic interceptors such as the MiG-21 and MiG-23.
Twenty countries flew MiG-17s. The MiG-17 became a standard fighter in all Warsaw Pact countries in the late 1950s and early 1960s. They were also bought by many other countries, mainly in Africa and Asia, that were neutrally aligned or allied with the USSR. The MiG-17 flies today in several of these nations air forces. Including Angola, Mali, Mozambique, North Korea, Sudan, and Tanzenia.
MiG-17s were not available for the Korean War, but saw combat for the first time over the Straits of Taiwan when PRC MiG-17s clashed with ROC F-86 Sabres in 1958. The MiG-17 was the primary interceptor of the fledgling Vietnam People's Air Force in 1965 and scored its first victories and saw considerable action during the Vietnam War, when they frequently worked in conjunction with MiG-21s and MiG-19s. Some North Vietnamese pilots, in fact, preferred the MiG-17 over the MiG-21; it was more agile, though not as fast.
The American fighter community was shocked in 1965 when elderly, subsonic MiG-17s downed sophisticated Mach-2-class F-105 Thunderchief fighter-bombers over North Vietnam. To redress disappointing combat performance against smaller, more agile fighters like the MiGs, the Americans established dissimilar air combat training (DACT) in training programs such as "TOPGUN", which employed subsonic A-4 Skyhawk aircraft to mimic more manoeuvrable opponents such as the MiG-17. The US Navy also set Adversary squadrons equipped with the nimble A-4 at each of its fighter and attack Master jet bases to provide DACT.
MiG-17s also flew against Israel in the various Arab-Israeli conflicts, with very disappointing results. This was mostly due to poor pilot skills on the Arab side of the conflicts. At least 24 of them served with the Nigerian Air Force and were flown by a mixed group of Nigerian and mercenary pilots from East Germany, Russia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and Australia during the 1967-70 Nigerian Civil War. Four were hurriedly supplied by the USSR to Sri Lanka during the 1971 insurgency and were used for bombing and ground attack in that conflict.
Basic fighter version powered by VK-1 engine ("aircraft SI").
Fighter version powered by VK-1A engine with longer lifespan.
Multirole conversion, fitted to carry unguided rockets and the K-13 air to air missile.
All-weather fighter version equipped with Izumrud radar ("aircraft SP").
Basic fighter version powered by VK-1F engine with afterburner ("aircraft SF").
All-weather fighter version equipped with Izumrud radar and VK-1F engine ("aircraft SP-7F").
Fighter version equipped with radar and K-5 (NATO: AA-1 'Alkali') air-to-air missiles ("aircraft SP-9").
Reconnaissance aircraft with VK-1F engine and camera ("aircraft SR-2s")
Experimental variant with twin side intakes, no central intake, and nose redesigned to allow 23 mm cannons to pivot to engage ground targets. Not produced.
Some withdrawn aircraft were converted to remotely controlled targets.
Length: 11.36 m (37 ft 3 in)
Wingspan: 9.63 m (31 ft 7 in)
Height: 3.80 m (12 ft 6 in)
Wing area: 22.6 m² (243.2 ft²)
Empty weight: 3,930 kg (8,646 lb)
Loaded weight: 5,354 kg (11,803 lb)
Max takeoff weight: 6,286 kg (13,858 lb)
Powerplant: 1× Klimov VK-1F afterburning turbojet, 33.1 kN with afterburner (7,440 lbf)
Maximum speed: 1,144 km/h at 3,000 m (711 mph at 10,000 ft (3,000 m))
Range: 1,080 km, 1,670 km with drop tanks (670 mi / 1,035 mi)
Service ceiling 16,600 m (54,500 ft)
Rate of climb: 65 m/s (12,795 ft/min)
Wing loading: 237 kg/m² (48 lb/ft²)
1x 37 mm Nudelman N-37 cannon (40 rounds total)
2x Nudelman-Rikhter NR-23 cannons (80 rounds per gun, 160 rounds total)
Up to 500 kg (1,100 lb) of external stores on two pylons, including 100 kg (220 lb) and 250 kg (550 lb) bombs or fuel tanks.