Air Force at the End of World War II

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Updated: Apr 30, 2022
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The Korean War was fought between North and South Korea. It began in June of 1950, at the end of World War 2. The United States and the Soviet Union were two of the biggest super powers during this time, each one with a very different perspective of what a society would look like. The battle between Communism and Capitalism would continue for decades. However, the war first began in East Asia in the Korean Peninsula. At the end of World War 2 Korea was released from Japanese control, and the two super powers temporarily agreed to separate Korea into two distinct countries. They were separated by the 38th Parallel, which was a horizontal line that split the peninsula in two separate countries North and South Korea. This divide formed two separate countries, North and South Korea. North Korea was supported by the Soviets, and South Korea was supported by The United States. It was formed by an agreement set forth by the United Nations and the Soviet Union. As time went on and refugees fled from North to South Korea, it became clear that the two sides were at odds. “The two sides fought into a restricted perimeter war between the South’s recently formed Republic of Korea Army (ROKA) and the North’s, Korean People’s Army (KPA). By spring 1951, the Americans had pushed to the 38th parallel once again. That same spring, President Truman fired General MacArthur when MacArthur publicly challenged the administration’s strategy” (Millet, 2019). The Korean War was one of the first wars fought with jet aircrafts. The United States began to attack the Norths’ and China’s Air crafts using anti-aircraft guns. North Korea’s Air capabilities consisted of MI-2 Hoplites and Su-25 Frogfoots. This battle from the skies led to a variety of different Air Defense assets being employed throughout the peninsula to counter the North’s attacks from air. Air defense played a variety of different roles within the Korean War, and has also shown improvements throughout the years. Although it was a new tactic for its time Air defense has come a long way.

The three types of Antiaircraft Artillery systems, that were employed during the Korean War, were a combination of self-propelled and stationary systems. These systems did not evolve very much from the systems used during World War II. The systems used were the M16 Halftrack, with the turret mounted quadruple .50 caliber machine guns, M19 Full track, with twin 40mm turret mounted Bofors guns, and the 90MM Antiaircraft cannon. The M16 and the M19 are self-propelled systems and the 90MM antiaircraft cannon was a stationary weapon system.

The M16 Halftrack with a turret mounted quadruple .50 caliber machine gun was a self-propelled Antiaircraft weapon. The system was operated by a 3 man crew with a max speed of 42 mile per hour and a max range of about 175 miles. The .50 caliber machine guns “each gun firing 400-550 710 gr bullets per minute, with an effective range of 2500 yards” (M16 Half-Track Multiple Gun Motor Carriage, n.d.) was effective against short range aircraft, light armored vehicles, and personal.

The M19 Full track with twin 40mm turret mounted Bofors guns is another self-propelled Antiaircraft system. This system was operated by a 6 man crew with a max speed of 35 miles per hour and a range of about 99 miles. The 40mm Bofors guns had a firing rate of 240-330 round per minute with an effective vertical range of about 7,625 yards and an effective horizontal range about 10,820 yards. This system was effective against medium range aircraft, light armored vehicles, and personal.

For the 90mm Anti-Air Artillery (AAA) cannon was a stationary Antiaircraft system. Which was operated by an 8 to 10 man crew. This system consisted of the 90mm cannon, SCR-584 tracking radar, and a generator. “The 90mm AAA had an altitude capability of 30,000 feet and a range of 14 miles, firing a 24 pound shell.” (M2 90MM Anti-Aircraft Artillery, 2011) This system was used against high altitude aircraft, tanks, and used as indirect fire against personnel.

With all of these weapon systems, which happened to be the best way to defend the skies from the ground at that time, Air Defense made it a lot simpler for the US to gain air superiority. “The impracticability of gaining complete control of the air necessitates the constant maintenance of air defenses to limit the effectiveness of enemy air operations” (Gen. Lee, Gen. Momyer, & Lt. Gen. Quesada, pg. 7). What does this mean? In order for the enemy’s capabilities to produce a threat in the sky, the ground air defense capabilities need to be efficient enough to continue their mission, which is to defend against hostile aircraft and to defend friendly aircraft.

As aircraft became the new addition to the Korean’s weaponry, anti-aircraft guns had to measure up to the level of intensity these aircraft were putting on the opposing side. The M16, M19, and 90mm cannon were the counter measures for these “fast-movers”, which got the job done regardless of personnel or reload time requirements.

Air defense, before the Korean War kicked off, was not very efficient due to the lack of need and weapon systems. As previously stated, air defense was never taken that serious because there was really no need for it. The only systems that were being utilized was the radar systems that had been developed to help the Air Force with an early version of an air picture. As the war began, air defense capabilities were being vamped up to assist in other ways than just providing these radar systems. As the North Koreans didn’t really have any air defense capabilities during that timeframe, which was why the U.S. Air Force was the preferred method of defense. As a result of this, ADA units didn’t really have a purpose during the Korean War because the Air Force dominated the skies. Because this war was practically an “Air Battle”, most air defense units spent the majority of the war providing anti-armor and fire-support (Kim, 2016).

As air defense capabilities became a more reliable resource towards the end of the war, the aircraft, as well as their capabilities, began to evolve so that left no room for error when it came to upgrading these air defense weapon systems, including the radar systems that were incorporated in the air defense mission.

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Air Force at the end of World War II. (2022, Apr 30). Retrieved from