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Early Soviet Jet Fighter Development

Early Soviet Jet Fighter Development

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Early Soviet Jet Fighter Development

Even before the end of World War 2 it was clear that the future of combat aircraft lay with jet engine power. German designs, although limited in their application, had shown to many the shape of things to come and the British and Americans were moving quickly to develop their jet fighters.

The Soviets were at first slow to catch up mainly due to the fact that they had no domestic turbojet engine which was effective enough to base a fighter upon. The Soviet designer Arkhip Lyul’ka had been working on axial turbojets during the war but they weren’t as effective as the German engines, while the Americans and British, seen now as the main rivals to the Soviet Union, were far advanced with good coaxial engines and some centrifugal jet engines. The leading jet engine of the time was the British Rolls-Royce Nene, which with nearly 5,000lbs of thrust had double the power of any German engine as well as other advantages.

The Russians had decided at the end of the war to loot what they could of German industry and talent to rebuild their economy and this attitude continued in their approach to jet fighter development. The Soviet design bureaus (OKBs) responded to Stalin’s order to quickly develop jet fighters by using former German specialists in gas turbines, aerodynamics and other technologies to catch up with the Western powers’ technological advantage. The three main Soviet aircraft designers Mikoyan and Gurevich (MiG), Yakovlev (Yak) and Lavochin (La) were tasked to build jet fighters based on soviet air frames but using German engines.

The first of these two hybrids were the MiG-9 which had engines based on BMW 003A engines and the Yak-15. The MiG-9 had been on the drawing board before the German surrender and was to use the weaker Lyul’ka engines. A fourth designer (Sukhoi) had also been developing a jet fighter - the Su-9 - which apart from having straight rather than swept wings looked remarkably like a Me262. It was this similarity which was to doom the aircraft when in 1946 Alexander Yakovlev went to see Stalin and told him that the Su-9 was just a Me262 copy and outdated and dangerous. It was cancelled and Yakovlev had effectively put a rival out of the race. Yakovlev’s design was based on his successful Yak-3 design (variants of which would continue to serve into the Korean War). The design drawings were finished in just 3 days and three months later in May 1945 detailed plans were complete for what was to become the Yak-15 ‘Feather’. The Yak-15 was short ranged but agile and well armed with two 23mm cannon. Despite his political and design skill Yakovlev was to loose the race to have the first Soviet jet fighter to fly. Ready to fly at the end of 1945 a water logged runway at the Moscow test site and internal politics meant that the Yak-15 was made to wait till the MiG-9 ‘Fargo’ prototype was also ready. On 24th April 1946 both were ready. Apparently a coin was tossed to see which plane flew first and the MiG team won, so the MiG-9 flew first followed by the Yak-15 a few minutes later.

Both of these fighters were simple but gave Soviet pilots valuable experience of jets. The MiG-9 was used mainly as a ground attack fighter while the Yak-15 developed into the Yak-17 which had wingtip fuel tanks, tricycle landing gear and a more powerful engine. Over 400 were built and some exported. Meanwhile Yakovlev’s old rival, Lavochkin was having little success. In September 1946 the La-150 flew but was outdated in its design and performed poorly compared to the Yaks.

On 24th June 1947 the La-160 flew the world’s first swept wing fighter but Lavochkin had fallen from favour and was destined to create ‘also rans’ for the rest of the early Soviet jet fighter race. He was aided by some strange good fortune when the Soviets were given some of the best British jet engines by the Labour government of Prime Minister Attlee. Lavochkin quickly produced the La-168, 174D, 176 and 180 all using engines based on the Rolls-Royce engines the Soviets had been given. The La-176 was the first aircraft in the world to have wings swept back at 45 degrees and with the help of its engine based on the Rolls-Royce Nene it was the first European fighter to break the sound barrier (Mach 1) in a shallow dive on 26th December 1948. About 500 of Lavochkin’s fighters were produced but handling problems dogged them and they were soon over shadowed by the success of MiG.

Meanwhile MiG whose OKB had been founded in 1939 began to dominate Soviet combat aircraft design - a dominance that continues to this day to a large extent. MiG also benefited from the British engines as some of their best designs were hampered by the lack of a good engine. This problem now solved, their aircraft S was to become the legendary MiG-15 ‘Fagot’, which flew on 30th December 1947. The Nene engine fitted it perfectly and the combination of a great design and a great engine was to be a world beater. The impact of the MiG-15 on the Korea war was drastic; facing the US F-86 Sabres it could match them for speed but had longer range and longer ranged more powerful guns in the shape of its one 37mm cannon and twin 23mm cannons compared to the Sabre’s six 12.7mm machine guns. This meant that although the Sabre pilots could hit more often the MiG pilots could open fire at far greater range. The MiG-15 was produced in huge numbers and some were still being used more 40 years after the first one flew.

Not one to rest on their laurels the MiG team quickly started design of the MiG-17 ‘Fresco’. Although on the face of it very similar to the MiG-15 it was a redesign.The first MiG-17 flew on 13th January 1950 and was to go on to outstrip the MiG-15 in numbers produced. The MiG-17 confirmed MiG dominance of Soviet fighters but the next target was to break mach 2. This was going to be the role of the MiG-19 ‘Farmer’ whose final prototype flew on 18th September 1953 and was soon in production. The MiG-19 had twin axial engines with afterburners and a leading edge wing sweep of 58 degrees and could break the sound barrier in level flight. Fewer MiG-19s were built than MiG-17s but it was an excellent fighter and superior in many ways (climb, turn rate, radius, and use of rough airstrips) to its main rival the American F-100 Super sabre.

After a slow start the Soviets had by 1953 caught up on Western jet fighters mainly due to the copying of British Rolls-Royce engines. MiG had now become the dominant aircraft designer and its fighters would see service round the world for more than 40 years. This lead in aircraft design would not last and by the end of the Cold War western aircraft design and technology would once more be more than a match for the Soviets.

9 Soviet Fighter Planes of WW2 – Some fantastic Airplanes Here

When we talk about Soviet military vehicles of the Second World War, the focus is usually on tank production. But while that’s where the Soviets made the biggest mark, they also produced a wide range of fighter planes in defense of the motherland.

Lavochkin LaGG-3

Built almost entirely out of wood, the LaGG-3 was a stopgap plane, developed and put into action while Lavochkin worked on more advanced models.

It compared poorly with the Axis fighters that it faced, being outclassed by Messerschmitt Bf109s, Focke-Wulf 190s, and Macchi C.202s, but it became the basis for a far more effective plane.

A series 66 LaGG-3 before take off

Lavochkin La-5

The La-5 took the fundamentally sound airframe of the LaGG-3 and turned it into something better. The in-line V-12 engine was replaced by a Shvestov M-82 14-cylinder radial model.

With a supercharger and a top speed of 403mph (over 648 kph), it was a huge step up from what had come before. Maneuverable, fast, and responsive, it out-flew anything else the Soviets had, as well as most of the opposition.

Preparing Lavochkin La-5 FNs for takeoff at the Brezno airfield, now in Slovakia

The La-5 retained the wooden body of its predecessor, to save on scarce materials needed for other weapons and vehicles. After taking flight in 1942, it continued to be refined as engineers used aerodynamics and weight savings to improve the plane’s performance.

Lavochkin La-5, possibly at Kursk. Photo: Unknown CC BY-SA 3.0

Carrying 20mm cannons, the La-5 had the firepower to punch through opposing armor and self-sealing fuel tanks. The wooden frame might be vulnerable, but so were enemies faced with its guns.

Lavochkin La-5 Soviet fighter aircraft “Red 66” of the 21st Fighter Aviation Regiment. Photo: Soviet propaganda – Russian memorial, La-5, series Voyna v vozdukhe (War in the Air) №69 by S.V. Ivanov CC BY-SA 3.0

Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-3

The third in a series of fighters designed by Artem Mikoyan and Mikhail Gurevich, the MiG-3 was the one that had the biggest impact on the Second World War.

Mig-3(65) Cockpit. Photo: Aleksandr Markin CC BY-SA 2.0

Based on its predecessor, the poorly performing MiG-1, the MiG-3 incorporated improvements to the wings, propeller, armor, and armament. It had better range, better firepower, and better protection for its pilot.

Soviet Aircraft Mig-3

The MiG-3 still had some serious flaws. It was difficult to fly and performed relatively poorly below 5,000 feet (1,524 meters). But at high altitudes it came into its own, and its high speed gave Luftwaffe planes a real challenge.

Mig-3 in hangar. Photo: Aleksandr Markin CC BY-SA 2.0

MiGs were withdrawn from front line combat in the winter of 1942-3 as they were being badly beaten by improved German planes. They were retained for close support and reconnaissance.

Operation Barbarossa – Destroyed Russian Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-3 plane

Petlyakov Pe-3

Developed from a dive-bomber which had itself been adapted from an interceptor, the Pe-3 was designed as a multi-role fighter. Only 23 were produced before the German invasion, at which point production of Pe-2 dive-bombers was altered so that half became Pe-3s.

The Pe-3 carried two cannons in its former bomb bay, one in the dorsal turret, and either two more cannons or two machine guns in the nose. Bristling with weaponry, it became a crucial part of the Soviet inventory early in the war, with around 300 taking to the skies.

Unlike most fighters of World War Two, the Pe-3 had twin engines mounted in the wings instead of a single engine in the body of the plane.

Polikarpov I-15

First flown in 1933, the Polikarpov I-15 biplane was one of the Soviet Union’s best inter-war planes. During the Spanish Civil War, it was exported to the Republican side and license-built in Spanish factories. There, it proved to be a tough fighter that performed well against enemy planes.

Thousands of I-15s were built. They were used by the Soviets against the Japanese and Finns, as well as being sent to China for use against Japan.

I-15bis RA-0281G. Photo: Aleksandr Markin CC BY-SA 2.0

1,000 were still in use when the Germans invaded in 1941. By now, they were regularly being out-classed by enemy monoplanes, so were mostly used in ground attack operations. They were all pulled from the front line by late 1942.

Aircraft in repair at a Moscow factory during WWII. Photo: RIA Novosti archive, image #59544 / Oustinov / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Polikarpov I-16

A contemporary of the I-15, the I-16 took to the air mere months after its sibling. A tiny monoplane with a wooden fuselage, it was one of the most innovative fighters of the early 1930s, though most of the world didn’t see this until the Spanish Civil War.

With a top speed that was 70mph (112 kph) faster than its peers, highly maneuverable, and equipped with four machine guns, it was a great fighter.

I-16 with Chinese insignia, flown by Chinese pilots and Soviet volunteers

The I-16 had a similar career to the I-15. It made its mark in Spain, flown by both Spanish and Soviet pilots, before serving against the Japanese and Finns. Still in use in 1941, it was by then out of date and suffered heavy casualties when fighting Germany planes.

At times during the invasion, desperate Soviet pilots used these planes to ram their opponents rather than give in.

The I-16 was finally withdrawn from the front lines in 1943, long after it should have been.

Khalkhyn Gol, Soviet i-16

Yakovlev Yak-1

Originally designated the I-26, the Yak-1 was renamed during production. Only a few had been made by the time the Germans invaded, but it had been designed to be built as simply as possible and mass production now took off, with over 8,700 eventually built.

An I-26 prototype of the Yak-1

Relatively fast and agile, the Yak-1 could sometimes hold its own against the Messerschmitt Bf109. It helped the Russians to catch up with the capabilities of the Luftwaffe.

The Yakovlev Yak-1 was a World War II Soviet fighter aircraft. Produced from early 1940, it was a single-seat monoplane with a composite structure and wooden wings.

Yakovlev Yak-3

Developed from the Yak-1, the Yak-3 was faster, more maneuverable, and had an excellent rate of climb. It reached the front line in July 1944 and soon got into combat. That month, a flight of 18 Yak-3s defeated a force of 30 German fighters, killing 15 for only one loss.

Yakolev, Yak-3 in flight

Equipped with cannons and machine guns, the Yak-3 was a deadly dogfighter that kept improving thanks to better engines.

Yakovlev Yak-9

Designed in parallel with the Yak-3, the Yak-9 entered production in October 1942 and so beat the Yak-3 into action. It was another success for this line of fighters, effective in combat and with an increasingly impressive range.

While keeping its shape, the construction of its body changed over time, using more aluminum to make it lighter and stronger.

Russian Yakovlev Yak-9.Photo: ddindy CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Yak-9 was flown by Free French and Free Polish squadrons as well as Soviet pilots. It continued in use until the 1950s, when it was used in the Korean War.

Early Soviet Jets II

After a slow start the Soviets had by 1953 caught up on Western jet fighters mainly due to the copying of British Rolls-Royce engines. MiG had now become the dominant aircraft designer and its fighters would see service round the world for more than 40 years. This lead in aircraft design would not last and by the end of the Cold War western aircraft design and technology would once more be more than a match for the Soviets.

Its development started at the end of World War II, when the Soviet Union captured numerous German components, including Junkers Jumo-004 jet engines. This engine was studied in the USSR, and the Klimov OKB created a domestic counterpart under the designation RD-10. In turn, the Yakovlev OKB used the design to produce a jet fighter based on the latest version of the well-liked Yak-3.

The designers decided in favor of the pod-and-boom layout. A turbojet engine with 900 kg thrust was mounted instead of the old VK-107A piston engine. The engine was inclined so that the jet stream exited underneath the fuselage and wing. The rest of the airframe was left almost unchanged, except for an additional heat shield, made of refractory steel, located in the exhaust section. The aircraft’s armament included two Nudelman-Suranov NS-23KM cannons with 60 rounds each. The cannons were housed in the forward fuselage above the engine. The new Yakovlev fighter was originally called the Yak-Jumo but later obtained the designation Yak-15.

The first flight of the Yak-15 was on April 24, 1946, and the plane was launched into full-scale production in the autumn of the same year. Production Yak-15 planes had a different engine, the RD-10, manufactured in the USSR. The service life of the earliest engines was officially claimed to be 25 hours, but in reality it was 17 hours at best. Nevertheless, the Yak-15 was very easy to pilot, and its steering was similar to that of the Yak-3, which had been the basis of its development. As a result, it was decided that although the Yak-15 did not meet the requirements of the Air Force for a modern combat fighter, it was perfectly suitable as a transition from prop to jet aircraft.

In addition to its engine’s limited service life, the Yak-15 had a number of distinctive disadvantages. The most commonly encountered defects during its operation included hydraulic fluid leaks (through the sealing rings of the landing gear shock struts), the rupturing of rudder control cable threads, and the deterioration of tail wheel springs (probably caused by overheating). But the Yak-15’s main disadvantage was its very short flight range.

Nevertheless, the significance of the Yak-15 in the history of Soviet aviation should not be underestimated. Hundreds of pilots underwent training on planes of this type, and it was the Yak-15 that became the first Soviet jet aircraft officially accepted for service in the Air Force as well as the first jet fighter that enabled military pilots to master advanced aerobatics.

Production of the Yak-15 was discontinued in 1947. In all, 280 planes were constructed.

An all-metal, single-seat cantilever monoplane with two turbojet engines, mid-mounted wings, and retractable tricycle landing gear. It was clear by the end of World War II that the piston-engine-and-propeller combo had reached the limit of its potential. Soon it would be necessary to switch to new engine types.

Jet aviation in the USSR changed for the better at the very end of the war when captured German turbojet engines, particularly the BMW-003, arrived in the Soviet Union. The aforementioned engine was studied in the shortest time possible, and a Soviet copy, the RD-20, was launched into mass production.

In the end of 1945, the Mikoyan Design Bureau began the development of a jet fighter with two BMW-003 engines (producing 800 kg of thrust). On 24 April 1946, test pilot A.N. Grinchik first flew the prototype I-300 (F-1), the first Soviet fighter with a turbojet engine. The plane reached a speed of 920 km/h and had powerful armament: a 57mm N-57 cannon and two 23mm NS-23 cannons.

In 1946, the I-300 began full-scale production and was accepted for service with the Air Force under the designation of MiG-9 (Product FS). Before producing it on a full-scale basis, the designers of the Mikoyan Design Bureau reworked the fighter’s construction (particularly its fuselage) from scratch to adapt it to production in large quantities.

The power unit of production MiG-9s consisted of two RD-20 turbojet engines producing 800 kg of thrust apiece. At first, planes of this model had RD-20A-1 engines, with a service life of 10 hours. Actually, these engines were captured BMW-003s, reassembled in the USSR. Subsequently, MiG-9s featured only Soviet-produced turbojet engines: the RD-20A-2, with a service life of 25 and 50 hours, and later the RD-20B, with a service life of 75 hours.

The armament of the production planes differed from that of the prototypes. The MiG-9 (Product FS) had one 37mm Nudelman N-37 cannon with 40 rounds and two 23mm Nudelman-Suranov NS-23K cannons with 80 rounds each.

In 1947, it was decided to equip the MiG-9 with RD-21 uprated engines producing 1,000 kg of thrust. The engine was uprated due to increased gas temperature and turbine revolutions.

A prototype I-307 (Product FF) aircraft was built and tested with these engines in 1947. The testing showed that the I-307 had higher flight characteristics than production MiG-9s. The I-307 remained a prototype, since in March 1948 a decision was made to start the full-scale production of the more advanced MiG-15.

The last production aircraft were handed over to the Air Force in December 1948, and in factories they were supplanted by a new plane from the Mikoyan Design Bureau, the MiG-15. A total of 602 MiG-9 fighters were produced.

The MiG-9 was the beginning of the jet MiG’s history. The success of the MiG-15 fighter all over the world would have been impossible without the experience gained in the processes of design, building, testing, mass production, and operation of the first Soviet jet fighter, the MiG-9.

As new fighters were received by the Air Force, some MiG-9s would be delivered to China. These planes became the first jet fighters of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force of China.

In 1948, Soviet high command issued a requirement for a two man, all-weather, twin -engined jet interceptor that would be capable of carrying a new type of radar system called “Toriy” (Thorium). All three Soviet design bureaus (Lavochkin, MiG, and Sukhoi) developed a prototype for testing.

Lavochkin’s design, the La-200, had a long fuselage to accommodate its two turbojet engines, swept wings, and a large cockpit for two men. The La-200 took its maiden flight on September 9th, 1949. It was the only aircraft of the three designs to pass initial trials.

By the early 1950s, the La-200 was ready to enter production under the official designation La-17. However, due to the appearance of the Yak-120 (later known as Yak-25), which surpassed the La-200’s performance in testing, the La-200 order was cancelled in favor of the Yakovlev design.

Only a single prototype of the La-200 was ever built, and it was modified several times during development to improve performance, correct flaws, and test other radar systems.

The IL-28 was created to meet a requirement for a bomber to carry a 3,000-kilogram payload at 800 kph (500 mph). Although there were several previous attempts to create such an aircraft the IL-28 was the first successful design. It incorporated the new Rolls-Royce Nene engines, produced as the unlicensed “RD-45”. After the completion of testing in 1949, the aircraft was ordered into production on 14 May 1949, with the new Klimov VK-1, an improved version of the previous RD-45. The IL-28 was widely exported and was utilized by almost all of the Warsaw Pact nations along with various Middle Eastern and African nations. It was license-built in China as the Harbin H-5 and in Czechoslovakia as the Avia B-228. It is known to still be in service today in the Korean People’s Air Force (KPAF). Although few in number, they provide North Korea with a means of strategically bombing targets.

An all-metal cantilever monoplane with a crew of three. Created at OKB S.V. Ilyushin.

S.V. Ilyushin put forward his preliminary design for the Il-28 on 12 January 1948. By 8 July 1948, the test pilot V.K. Kokkinaki took the Il-28 out for its maiden flight. It was equipped with two turbojet Rolls-Royce Nene engines. On 30 December 1948, the Il-28 underwent in-plant tests with the Russian series-produced RD-45F engine – a licensed version of the English engine.

But the decision on the aircraft’s fate was delayed until 14 May 1949, when the Council of Ministers decided to increase the Il-28’s speed to 900 km/h by installing more powerful VK-1 engines with a maximum thrust of 2,700 kgf. In only three months, on 8 August 1949, the Il-28 took its maiden flight with the VK-1 engines.

The turbojet VK-1 engines were located under the wing in streamlined engine nacelles.

The Il-28’s armament included two turrets – one to the fore and one to the rear. Two frontal 23 mm Nudelman-Rikhter NR-23 cannons with 100 shells each were mounted in a fixed position in side compartments in the front fuselage. The pilot acted as gunner for the frontal cannons.

The movable Il-K6 tail turret also contained two 23 mm Nudelman-Rikhter NR-23 cannons, these with 225 shells each.

The aircraft could carry bombs of various calibers internally, up to and including the FAB-3000. Its bomb compartment could contain 12 FAB-100 bombs or eight FAB-250s, or between two and four FAB-500s, or a single FAB-1500 or FAB-3000.

The Il-28 became the most mass-produced jet-powered bomber. The aircraft was easy to manufacture and reliable in use. It was in series production between the years of 1950 and 1956. The Il-28 reached peak production during the Korean War: in 1953, six plants were building them at once. In total, 4,405 Il-28 bombers were produced. In the 50s, the Il-28 was the main front-line bomber in the Soviet Air Forces.

The Il-28 was widely distributed beyond the borders of the USSR. It served in the air forces or air-defense forces of: Algeria, Afghanistan, Bulgaria, Hungary, Vietnam, East Germany, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Yemen, China, North Korea, Morocco, Nigeria, Poland, Romania, Syria, Somalia, Finland and Czechoslovakia. The People’s Republic of China and Czechoslovakia produced them under license (with the designation B-228).

Korean War [ edit | edit source ]

A MiG-15 in Polish markings

After World War II, some additional aircraft were built using refinements of the ideas used in the first attempts. Some of these included a swept wing and some could break the sound barrier in a dive, but almost all of them lacked the thrust to do so in level flight. Radar was used in dedicated interceptors and night fighters but early models required a dedicated radar operator. These aircraft are mostly associated with the Korean War. Some interceptor designs, such as the F-94 used rockets such as the Mk 4/Mk 40 Folding-Fin Aerial Rocket as their primary weapon instead of guns.

Interceptors/Night fighters [ edit | edit source ]

Fighter-bombers [ edit | edit source ]

Air superiority fighters [ edit | edit source ]

Many of these also had fighter-bomber variants.

  •   Australia / United States
  • North American F-86 Sabre
  • McDonnell F2H Banshee
  • McDonnell F3H Demon
  • Grumman F9F CougarF7U Cutlass

IPMS/USA Reviews

This book covers the development, specifications and history of the first Soviet jet fighters. It is a massive tome that provides a great deal of detailed information on its subjects. The authors are certainly the current experts in the field of Soviet/Russian aircraft and after reading this book it is easy to see why.

I had really wanted to review this book as I have in my possession an ultra rare 1/48 Russian resin kit of the Mig-9 by Airkits. Since material on the Mig-9 and other early Soviet jets has been few and far in between, this is a welcome addition!

The book is broken down into 5 chapters by manufacturer. The order of their presentation is by their importance to the Soviet Union both in development and usage. The order of coverage is Mikoyan Migs, Yakovlev, Lavochkin, Sukhoi and jets of Semyon Alekseyev.

The Mig-9 and all its variants are covered in the first 84 pages. There are many B&W and a few color photos. The text traces the development and usage.

Next the various Yak jet fighters are covered from the early designs that put a jet engine in the nose of the Yak-9 piston engine fighter, up through more modern designs. It is this chapter that contains one of my favorite passages! The story of how a Romanian pilot defected and flew his Yak-23 to Yugoslavia,then how the US in cooperation with Yugoslavia took the aircraft back to Wright-Patterson AFB for testing in 1953. There the aircraft was painted in US markings, fight tested then the markings removed, the airframe disassembled loaded onto a C-124 and then returned to Yugoslavia. The Yugoslav government then returned the plane to Romania. All in all a great story of Cold War intrigue!!

The Lavochkin designs covered are mostly prototypes that did not see production. Several of these seem to be derived from the Me-262 design but with the engine in the nose-pod configuration used by the early Yaks as well. The production La-15 is given in-depth coverage and will aid those awaiting the new Scale Bureau kit in 1/48 scale.

Sukhoi's early jet, the Su-9 is an obvious follow on to the Me-262. This is not to be confused with the supersonic Su-9 Fishpot when the designation was reused. This design along with the follow on Su-11/Su-13 (looking like a Me-262 with Meteor style wing engine pods) never advanced beyond the prototype stage. The same fate awaited the more modern designs such as the Su-15 and Su-17 as the original Sukhoi design bureau was shut down in November 1949 over the strong objections of the air force.

Lastly, the authors cover the aircraft designs of Semyon Alekseyev. Until this book, I had never heard of this designer or his aircraft but he was one of the first in the Soviet Union to begin designing jet aircraft. His main designs, the I-210/211/215 bears a striking resemblance to the RAF's Meteor. While none of his designs went into production, his important contribution to early Soviet jet design is well covered.

This is a great book! The authors again demonstrate that they really know their subject and do an excellent job of communicating that knowledge to the reader. The photos and color profiles are gorgeous. Much of the information and history of these early Soviet jets has been unavailable till now! The secretiveness of the Stalinist era and communism in general have long kept this information locked away. Now it is here for all to see and learn from. If you have an interest in Soviet aviation, early jets, the Cold War or military aircraft in general, you will love this book! There is much here for the modeler too, inspiration to build some of these early jets and to add the level of detail each modeler wishes! I strongly recommend this book to all as well as any other by there two authors!

Our thanks to Specialty Press for the review copy and my thanks to IPMS/USA for the review opportunity!


Origins Edit

The MiG-21 jet fighter was a continuation of Soviet jet fighters, starting with the subsonic MiG-15 and MiG-17, and the supersonic MiG-19. A number of experimental Mach 2 Soviet designs were based on nose intakes with either swept-back wings, such as the Sukhoi Su-7, or tailed deltas, of which the MiG-21 would be the most successful.

Development of what would become the MiG-21 began in the early 1950s when Mikoyan OKB finished a preliminary design study for a prototype designated Ye-1 in 1954. This project was very quickly reworked when it was determined that the planned engine was underpowered the redesign led to the second prototype, the Ye-2. Both these and other early prototypes featured swept wings. The first prototype with delta wings as found on production variants was the Ye-4. It made its maiden flight on 16 June 1955 and its first public appearance during the Soviet Aviation Day display at Moscow's Tushino airfield in July 1956.

In the West, due to the lack of available information, early details of the MiG-21 often were confused with those of similar Soviet fighters of the era. In one instance, Jane's All the World's Aircraft 1960–1961 listed the "Fishbed" as a Sukhoi design and used an illustration of the Su-9 'Fishpot'.

Design Edit

The MiG-21 was the first successful Soviet aircraft combining fighter and interceptor characteristics in a single aircraft. It was a lightweight fighter, achieving Mach 2 with a relatively low-powered afterburning turbojet, and is thus comparable to the American Lockheed F-104 Starfighter and Northrop F-5 Freedom Fighter and the French Dassault Mirage III. [1] Its basic layout was used for numerous other Soviet designs delta-winged aircraft included the Su-9 interceptor and the fast E-150 prototype from MiG bureau while the mass-produced successful front fighter Su-7 and Mikoyan's I-75 experimental interceptor combined a similar fuselage shape with swept-back wings. However, the characteristic layout with the shock cone and front air intake did not see widespread use outside the USSR and finally proved to have limited development potential, mainly because of the very small space available for the radar.

Like many aircraft designed as interceptors, the MiG-21 had a short range. This was exacerbated by the poor placement of the internal fuel tanks ahead of the centre of gravity. As the internal fuel was consumed, the center of gravity would shift rearward beyond acceptable parameters. This had the effect of making the plane statically unstable to the point of being difficult to control, resulting in an endurance of only 45 minutes in clean condition. This can be somewhat countered by carrying fuel in external tanks closer to the center of gravity. The Chinese variants somewhat improved the internal fuel tank layout (also the second generation of Soviet variants), and also carry significantly larger external fuel tanks to counter this issue. [3] Additionally, when more than half the fuel was used up, violent maneuvers prevented fuel from flowing into the engine [ citation needed ] , thereby causing it to shut down in flight. This increased the risk of tank implosions (MiG-21 had tanks pressurized with air from the engine's compressor), a problem inherited from the MiG-15, MiG-17 and MiG-19. [4] The short endurance and low fuel capacity of the MiG-21F, PF, PFM, S/SM and M/MF variants—though each had a somewhat greater fuel capacity than its predecessor—led to the development of the MT and SMT variants. These had an increased range of 250 km (155 mi) compared to the MiG-21SM, but at the cost of worsening all other performance figures, such as a lower service ceiling and slower time to altitude. [1]

The delta wing, while excellent for a fast-climbing interceptor, meant any form of turning combat led to a rapid loss of speed. However, the light loading of the aircraft could mean that a climb rate of 235 m/s (46,250 ft/min) was possible with a combat-loaded MiG-21bis, [1] not far short of the performance of the later F-16A. MiG-21's Tumansky R-25 jet engine's specialty was the addition of a second fuel pump in the afterburning stage. Activating the ЧР (rus. "чрезвычайный режим" - emergency mode)(Emergency Power Rating, EPR in India) booster feature allows the engine to develop 97.4 kilonewtons (21,896 lbf) of thrust under 2,000 meters (6,600 ft) of altitude. The rpm of the engine would increase by 2.5% and the compression ratio would thus increase, with a rise in exhaust temperature. The limit of operation is 2 minutes for both practice and actual wartime use, as further use causes the engine to overheat. The fuel consumption increased by 50% over the rate in full afterburner. Use of this temporary power gave the MiG-21bis slightly better than 1:1 thrust-to-weight ratio and a climbing rate of 254 meters/second, equalling the F-16's nominal capabilities in a close-quarters dogfight. The use of WEP thrust was limited to 2 minutes to reduce stress on the engines' 750 (250+250+250) flight hours lifetime since every second of super-afterburner counted as several minutes of regular power run due to extreme thermal stress. With WEP on, the MiG-21bis's R-25 engine produced a huge 10-12 meter long blowtorch exhaust - with six or seven brightly glowing rhomboid "shock diamonds" visible inside. The Russians gave the emergency-power setting its "diamond regime" name, never used in India. [5] Given a skilled pilot and capable missiles, it could give a good account of itself against contemporary fighters. Its G-limits were increased from +7Gs in initial variants to +8.5Gs in the latest variants. [6] It was replaced by the newer variable-geometry MiG-23 and MiG-27 for ground support duties. However, not until the MiG-29 would the Soviet Union ultimately replace the MiG-21 as a maneuvering dogfighter to counter new American air superiority types.

The MiG-21 was exported widely and remains in use. The aircraft's simple controls, engine, weapons, and avionics were typical of Soviet-era military designs. The use of a tail with the delta wing aids stability and control at the extremes of the flight envelope, enhancing safety for lower-skilled pilots this, in turn, enhanced its marketability in exports to developing countries with limited training programs and restricted pilot pools. While technologically inferior to the more advanced fighters it often faced, low production and maintenance costs made it a favorite of nations buying Eastern Bloc military hardware. Several Russian, Israeli and Romanian firms have begun to offer upgrade packages to MiG-21 operators, designed to bring the aircraft up to a modern standard, with greatly upgraded avionics and armaments. [1]

Production Edit

A total of 10,645 aircraft were built in the USSR. They were produced in three factories: AZ 30 [N 1] (3,203 aircraft) in Moscow (also known as MMZ Znamya Truda), GAZ 21 (5,765 aircraft) in Gorky [N 2] and TAZ 31 (1,678 aircraft) in Tbilisi. Generally, Gorky built single-seaters for the Soviet forces. Moscow constructed single-seaters for export, and Tbilisi manufactured the twin-seaters both for export and the USSR, though there were exceptions. The MiG-21R and MiG-21bis for export and for the USSR were built in Gorky, 17 single-seaters were built in Tbilisi (MiG-21 and MiG-21F), the MiG-21MF was first constructed in Moscow and then Gorky, and the MiG-21U was built in Moscow as well as in Tbilisi. [1]

Gorky 83 MiG-21F 513 MiG-21F-13 525 MiG-21PF 233 MiG-21PFL 944 MiG-21PFS/PFM 448 MiG-21R 145 MiG-21S/SN 349 MiG-21SM 281 MiG-21SMT 2013 MiG-21bis 231 MiG-21MF
Moscow MiG-21U (all export units) MiG-21PF (all export units) MiG-21FL (all units not built by HAL) MiG-21M (all) 15 MiG-21MT (all)
Tbilisi 17 MiG-21 and MiG-21F 181 MiG-21U izdeliye 66–400 and 66–600 (1962–1966) 347 MiG-21US (1966–1970) 1133 MiG-21UM (1971 to end)

A total of 194 MiG-21F-13s were built under licence in Czechoslovakia, and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. of India built 657 MiG-21FL, MiG-21M and MiG-21bis (of which 225 were bis)

Cost Edit

Due to the mass production, the aircraft was very cheap: the MiG-21MF, for example, was cheaper than the BMP-1 [7] The F-4 Phantom's cost was several times higher than MiG-21. [ citation needed ]

The MiG-21 has a delta wing. The sweep angle on the leading edge is 57° with a TsAGI S-12 airfoil. The angle of incidence is 0° while the dihedral angle is −2°. On the trailing edge there are ailerons with an area of 1.18 m 2 , and flaps with an area of 1.87 m 2 . In front of the ailerons there are small wing fences.

The fuselage is semi-monocoque with an elliptical profile and a maximum width of 1.24 m (4 ft 1 in). The air flow to the engine is regulated by an inlet cone in the air intake. On early model MiG-21s, the cone has three positions. For speeds up to Mach 1.5, the cone is fully retracted to the maximum aft position. For speeds between Mach 1.5 and Mach 1.9 the cone moves to the middle position. For speeds higher than Mach 1.9 the cone moves to the maximum forward position. On the later model MiG-21PF, the intake cone moves to a position based on the actual speed. The cone position for a given speed is calculated by the UVD-2M system using air pressures from in front and behind the compressor of the engine. On both sides of the nose, there are gills to supply the engine with more air while on the ground and during takeoff. In the first variant of the MiG-21, the pitot tube is attached to the bottom of the nose. After the MiG-21P variant, this tube is attached to the top of the air intake. Later versions shifted the pitot tube attachment point 15 degrees to the right, as seen from the cockpit, and had an emergency pitot head on the right side, just ahead of the canopy and below the pilot's eyeline.

The cabin is pressurized and air-conditioned. On variants prior to the MiG-21PFM, the cabin canopy is hinged at the front. When ejecting, the SK-1 ejection seat connects with the canopy to make a capsule that encloses the pilot. The capsule protects the pilot from the high-speed airflow encountered during high-speed ejections. After ejection, the capsule opens to allow the pilot to parachute to the ground. However, ejecting at low altitudes can cause the canopy to take too long to separate, sometimes resulting in pilot death. The minimum height for ejection in level flight was 110 m. Starting from the MiG-21PFM, the canopy is hinged on the right side of the cockpit.

On the underside of the aircraft, there are three air brakes, two at the front and one at the rear. The front air brakes have an area of 0.76 m 2 , and a deflection angle of 35°. The rear air brake has an area of 0.46 m 2 and a deflection angle of 40°. The rear air brake is blocked if the airplane carries an external fuel tank. Behind the air brakes are the bays for the main landing gear. On the underside of the airplane, just behind the trailing edge of the wing are attachment points for two JATO rockets. The front section of the fuselage ends at former #28. The rear section of the fuselage starts at former #28a and is removable for engine maintenance.

The empennage of the MiG-21 consists of a vertical stabilizer, a stabilator and a small fin on the bottom of the tail to improve yaw control. The vertical stabilizer has a sweep angle of 60° and an area of 5.32 m 2 (on earlier version 3.8 m 2 ) and a rudder. The stabilator has a sweep angle of 57°, an area of 3.94 m 2 and a span of 2.6 m.

The MiG-21 uses a tricycle type undercarriage. On most variants, the main landing gear uses tires that are 800 mm in diameter and 200 mm in width. Only the MiG-21F variants use tires with the size 660×200 mm. The wheels of the main landing gear retract into the fuselage after rotating 87° and the shock absorbers retract into the wing. The nose gear retracts forward into the fuselage under the radar. The nose wheel can be lowered manually by simply unlocking its hatch from inside the cockpit. Thus, landing with undercarriage locked in the up position due to an internal failure was not a major issue, with a number of such successful landings on the nosewheel and ventral fuel tank or the airbrake.

India Edit

Overview Edit

India is the largest operator of MiG-21s. In 1961, the Indian Air Force (IAF) opted to purchase the MiG-21 over several other Western competitors. As part of the deal, the Soviet Union offered India full transfer of technology and rights for local assembly. [8] In 1964, the MiG-21 became the first supersonic fighter jet to enter service with the IAF. Due to limited induction numbers and lack of pilot training, the IAF MiG-21 played a limited role in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965. [9] However, the IAF gained valuable experience while operating the MiG-21 for defensive sorties during the war. [9] The positive feedback from IAF pilots during the 1965 war prompted India to place more orders for the fighter jet and also invest heavily in building the MiG-21's maintenance infrastructure and pilot training programs.

Since 1963, India has introduced more than 1,200 MiG fighters into its air force. As of 2019, 113 MiG-21s are known to be in operation in the IAF. [10] However, the plane has been plagued by safety problems. Since 1970 more than 170 Indian pilots and 40 civilians have been killed in MiG-21 accidents. At least 14 MiG-21s have crashed between 2010 and 2013. [11] Over half of the 840 aircraft built between 1966 and 1984 were lost to crashes. [12] When in afterburner, the engine operates very close to its surge line and the ingestion of even a small bird can lead to an engine surge/seizure and flame out.

On 11 December 2013, India's second-generation supersonic jet fighter, MiG-21FL was decommissioned after being in service for 50 years. [13]

During the 2019 Jammu and Kashmir airstrikes, the Pakistan Air Force had shot down a MiG-21 and captured its pilot.The MiG-21's debris had fallen in Pakistani-administered Kashmir and the pilot was taken prisoner by the Pakistani Forces. He was later returned to India. [14]

In view of the several incidents that have occurred after the 1999 Kargil War, the modernized MiG-21 Bison seems to have at present the role of an interceptor and possibly a limited role of a fighter aircraft. [15] [16]

1971 Indo-Pakistan War Edit

The expansion of the IAF MiG-21 fleet marked a developing India-Soviet Union military partnership, which enabled India to field a formidable air force to counter Chinese and Pakistani threats. [17] The capabilities of the MiG-21 were put to the test during the Bangladesh Liberation War. During the war, the MiG-21s played a crucial role in giving the IAF air superiority over vital points and areas in the western theater of the conflict. [18]

The 1971 war witnessed the first supersonic air combat in the subcontinent when an Indian MiG-21FL claimed a PAF F-104A Starfighter with its GSh-23 twin-barrelled 23 mm cannon. [19] By the time the hostilities came to an end, the IAF MiG-21FLs had claimed four PAF F-104As, two PAF Shenyang F-6, one PAF North American F-86 Sabre and one PAF Lockheed C-130 Hercules. But only two kills were confirmed (Both F-104As). [ citation needed ] According to one Western military analyst, the MiG-21FLs had clearly "won" the much anticipated air combat between the MiG-21FL and the F-104A Starfighter. [20] On 17 December 1971, A MiG-21 was completely outwitted by F-86E it was trying to intercept. PAF S/L Maqsood Amir spotted an IAF MiG-21FL flown by Flight Lieutenant Tejwant Singh and took a pot shot using his cannons [ citation needed ]

Because of the performance of India's MiG-21s, several nations, including Iraq, approached India for MiG-21 pilot training. By the early 1970s, more than 120 Iraqi pilots were being trained by the Indian Air Force. [21]

Kargil War Edit

One MiG-21 was shot down by a Pakistani soldier using a shoulder-fired MANPADS missile during the Kargil war. [22]

On 10 August 1999, two MiG -21FLs of the Indian Air Force intercepted and shot down a Pakistan's Naval Air Arms Atlantic maritime patrol aircraft with an R-60 missile after it allegedly entered Indian airspace for surveillance, killing all on board. [22]

Indonesia Edit

The Indonesian Air Force purchased 22 MiG-21s. In 1962, 20 MiG-21F-13s and MiG-21Us were received during Operation Trikora in the Western New Guinea conflict. Indonesian MiG-21s never fought in any dogfights. Right after the U.S.-backed anti-communist forces took over the government, 13 Indonesian MiG-21s were delivered to the U.S. in exchange for T-33, UH-34D, and later, F-5 and OV-10 aircraft. All remaining MiG-21s were grounded and retired due to a lack of spare parts and the withdrawal of Soviet maintenance support.

The MiGs were added to the 4477th Test and Evaluation Squadron ("Red Eagles"), a USAF aggressor squadron at Tonopah Test Range. [23]

Vietnam Edit

As may be seen from its range figures, the MiG-21 was designed for very short ground-controlled interception (GCI) missions. It became renowned for this type of mission in the skies over North Vietnam. [24] The first MiG-21s arrived directly from the Soviet Union by ship in April 1966. After being unloaded and assembled [25] they were given to the Vietnam People's Air Force's (VPAF) oldest fighter unit, the 921st Fighter Regiment (921st FR), which had been created on 3 February 1964 as a MiG-17 unit. Because the VPAF's 923rd FR was newer and less experienced, they would continue to operate MiG-17s, while the arrival of the MiG-19s (J-6 versions) from China in 1969 would create North Vietnam's only MiG-19 unit, the 925th FR. On 3 February 1972, North Vietnam commissioned their fourth and last fighter regiment created during the war with South Vietnam, the MiG-21PFM (Type 94) equipped 927th Fighter Regiment. [26]

Although 13 of North Vietnam's flying aces attained their status while flying the MiG-21 (cf. three in the MiG-17), many VPAF pilots preferred the MiG-17 because the high wing loading of the MiG-21 made it relatively less maneuverable and the lighter framed canopy of the MiG-17 gave better visibility. [27] However, this is not the impression perceived by British author Roger Boniface when he interviewed Pham Ngoc Lan and ace Nguyễn Nhật Chiêu (who scored victories flying both MiG-17 and MiG-21). [28] [29] Pham Ngoc Lan told Boniface that "The MiG-21 was much faster, and it had two Atoll missiles which were very accurate and reliable when fired between 1,000 and 1,200 yards." [30] [31] And Chiêu asserted that ". for me personally I preferred the MiG-21 because it was superior in all specifications in climb, speed and armament. The Atoll missile was very accurate and I scored four kills with the Atoll. . In general combat conditions I was always confident of a kill over an F-4 Phantom when flying a MiG-21." [32] [33]

Although the MiG-21 lacked the long-range radar, missiles, and heavy bomb load of its contemporary multi-mission U.S. fighters, with its RP-21 Sapfir radar it proved a challenging adversary in the hands of experienced pilots, especially when used in high-speed hit-and-run attacks under GCI control. MiG-21 intercepts of Republic F-105 Thunderchief strike groups were effective in downing US aircraft or forcing them to jettison their bomb loads.

Aerial combat victories 1966–1972 Edit

The VPAF flew their interceptors with guidance from ground controllers, who positioned the MiGs in ambush battle stations to make their "one pass, then haul ass" attacks. [37] The MiGs made fast and often accurate attacks against US formations from several directions (usually the MiG-17s performed head-on attacks and the MiG-21s attacked from the rear). After shooting down a few American planes and forcing some of the F-105s to drop their bombs prematurely, the MiGs did not wait for retaliation but disengaged rapidly. These "guerrilla warfare in the air" tactics [37] generally proved successful during the course of the war. In December 1966 the MiG-21 pilots of the 921st FR downed 14 F-105 Thunderchiefs without any losses. [38]

The USAF and the US Navy had high expectations of the F-4 Phantom, assuming that the massive firepower, the best available on-board radar, the highest speed and acceleration properties, coupled with new tactics, would provide Phantoms with an advantage over the MiGs. But in confrontations with the lighter MiG-21, F-4s began to suffer losses. From May to December 1966, the USAF lost 47 aircraft, destroying only 12 VPAF fighters in return. From April 1965 to November 1968, over 268 air battles occurred over the skies of North Vietnam. North Vietnam claimed 244 downed U.S. aircraft while admitting to the loss of 85 MiGs. Of these, 46 air battles conducted between F-4s and MiG-21s – the losses were 27 F-4 Phantoms and 20 MiG-21s. [39]

After a million sorties and nearly 1,000 US aircraft losses, Operation Rolling Thunder came to an end on 1 November 1968. [40] A poor air-to-air combat loss-exchange ratios against the smaller, more agile enemy MiGs during the early part of the war eventually led the US Navy to create their Navy Fighter Weapons School, also known as "TOPGUN", at Naval Air Station Miramar, California, on 3 March 1969. [41] The USAF quickly followed with their own version, titled the Dissimilar Air Combat Training (sometimes referred to as Red Flag) program at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. These two programs employed the subsonic Douglas A-4 Skyhawk and the supersonic F-5 Tiger II, as well as the Mach 2.4-capable USAF Convair F-106 Delta Dart, which mimicked the MiG-21. [42]

The culmination of the struggle in the air in early 1972 was 10 May, when VPAF aircraft completed 64 sorties, resulting in 15 air battles. The VPAF claimed 7 F-4s were shot down (the U.S. confirmed five F-4s were lost. [43] ) Those, in turn, managed to destroy two MiG-21s, three MiG-17s and one MiG-19. On 11 May, two MiG-21s, who played the role of "bait", brought four F-4s to 2 MiG-21s circling at low altitude. The MiGs quickly stormed the Phantoms and 3 missiles shot down two F-4s. On 13 May, a MiG-21 unit intercepted a group of F-4s, the second pair of MiGs made a missile attack and were hit by two F-4s. 18 May, VPAF aircraft made 26 sorties, eight of which resulted in combat, costing four F-4s while the VPAF did not suffer any losses.

Over the course of the air war, between 3 April 1965 [44] and 8 January 1973, each side would ultimately claim favorable kill ratios. In 1972 the tally between American and Vietnamese planes stood at 201 air battles. The VPAF lost 54 MiGs (including 36 MiG-21s and one MiG-21US) and they claimed 90 U.S. aircraft were shot down, including 74 F-4 fighters and two RF-4C reconnaissance jets (MiG-21 shot down 67 enemy aircraft, MiG-17 shot down 11 and MiG-19 shot down 12 enemy aircraft [ citation needed ] ).

One MiG-21 was shot down on 21 February 1972 by a USAF F-4 Phantom piloted by Major Lodge with 1st Lt Roger Locher as his WSO based at Udorn RTAFB, Thailand. This was claimed to be the first-ever USAF MiG kill at night, and the first in four years at that time.

Two MiG-21s were claimed shot down by USAF Boeing B-52 Stratofortress tail gunners the only confirmed air-to-air kills made by the B-52. The first aerial victory occurred on 18 December 1972 by tail gunner Staff Sgt Samuel Turner, who was awarded the Silver Star. [45] [ unreliable source? ] The second air-to-air kill took place on 24 December 1972, by A1C Albert E. Moore downing a MiG-21 over the Thai Nguyen railroad yards. Both actions occurred during Operation Linebacker II (also known as the Christmas Bombings). [46] These air-to-air kills were not confirmed by VPAF.

The biggest threat to North Vietnam during the war had always been the Strategic Air Command's B-52 Stratofortress. Hanoi's MiG-17 and MiG-19 interceptors could not deal with those bombers at their flying altitude. In summer 1972 the VPAF was directed to train 12 MiG-21 pilots for the specific mission of attacking and shooting down B-52 bombers, with two-thirds of those pilots specifically trained in the night attack. [47] On 26 December 1972, just two days after tail gunner Albert Moore downed his MiG-21, a VPAF MiG-21MF (number 5121) [48] from the 921st Fighter Regiment, flown by Major Phạm Tuân over Hanoi, claimed the first aerial combat kill of a B-52. [49] The B-52 had been above Hanoi at over 30,000 feet (9,100 m), when Major Tuân launched two Atoll missiles from 2 kilometres, claiming to have destroyed one of the bombers flying in the three-plane formation. [49] Other sources argue that his missiles failed to hit their mark, but as he was disengaging, a B-52 from a three-bomber cell in front of his target took a hit from a SAM, exploding in mid-air: this may have caused Tuân to think his missiles destroyed the target he had been aiming for. [50]

The Vietnamese claim another kill to have taken place on 28 December 1972 by a MiG-21 from the 921st FR, this time flown by Vu Xuan Thieu. Thieu is said to have perished in the explosion of a B-52 hit by his own missiles, having approached the target too closely. [51] In this case the Vietnamese version appears to be erroneous: while one MiG-21 kill was claimed by Phantoms that night (this may have been Thieu's MiG), no B-52s were lost to any cause on the date of the claimed kill. [52]

  • 1966: U.S. claimed six MiG-21s destroyed North Vietnam claimed seven F-4 Phantom IIs and 11 F-105 Thunderchiefs shot down by MiG-21s.
  • 1967: U.S. claimed 21 MiG-21s destroyed North Vietnam claimed 17 F-105 Thunderchiefs, 11 F-4 Phantom IIs, two RF-101 Voodoos, one A-4 Skyhawk, one Vought F-8 Crusader, one EB-66 Destroyer and three unidentified types shot down by MiG-21s.
  • 1968: U.S. claimed nine MiG-21s destroyed North Vietnam claimed 17 US aircraft shot down by MiG-21s.
  • 1969: U.S. destroyed three MiG-21s one Ryan Firebee UAV destroyed by a MiG-21.
  • 1970: U.S. destroyed two MiG-21s North Vietnam claimed one F-4 Phantom and one CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopter shot down by MiG-21s.
  • 1972: U.S. claimed 51 MiG-21s destroyed North Vietnam claimed 53 US aircraft shot down by MiG-21s, including two B-52 Stratofortress bombers. Soviet General Fesenko, the main Soviet adviser to the North Vietnamese Air Force in 1972, [51] recorded 34 MiG-21s destroyed in 1972. [51]

On 3 January 1968, a MiG-21 pilot, Ha Van Chuc, alone entered into battle with 36 American planes and claimed one F-105 Thunderchief. [53]

During the war, the VPAF claimed 103 F-4 Phantoms were shot down by MiG-21s, and they lost 60 MiG-21s in air combat (54 by Phantoms). [54] [1]

According to Russian data, in air battles the VPAF MiG-21s claimed 165 air victories, with the loss of 65 aircraft (few by accident or friendly fire) and 16 pilots. The losses of MiG-21 pilots were the smallest in comparison with all other airplanes. [55]

Egyptian–Syrian–Israeli conflicts Edit

The MiG-21 was also used extensively in the Middle East conflicts of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s by the Egyptian Air Force, Syrian Air Force and Iraqi Air Force. The MiG-21 first encountered Israeli Mirage IIICs on 14 November 1964, but it was not until 14 July 1966 that the first MiG-21 was shot down. Another six Syrian MiG-21s were shot down by Israeli Mirages on 7 April 1967. MiG-21s also faced McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom IIs and Douglas A-4 Skyhawks, but were later outclassed by the more modern McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle and General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon, which were acquired by Israel beginning in the mid-1970s. During this period, Syrian pilots flying MiG-21s also independently discovered the Cobra maneuver which became a standard defensive maneuver under the name "zero speed maneuver" (Syrian: مناورة السرعة صفر). [ citation needed ]

During the opening attacks of the 1967 Six-Day War, the Israeli Air Force struck Arab air forces in four attack waves. In the first wave, IDF aircraft claimed to have destroyed eight Egyptian aircraft in air-to-air combat, of which seven were MiG-21s Egypt claimed five kills scored by MiG-21PFs. [56] During the second wave Israel claimed four MiG-21s downed in air-to-air combat, and the third wave resulted in two Syrian and one Iraqi MiG-21s claimed destroyed in the air. The fourth wave destroyed many more Syrian MiG-21s on the ground. Overall, Egypt lost around 100 out of about 110 MiG-21s they had, almost all on the ground Syria lost 35 of 60 MiG-21F-13s and MiG-21PFs in the air and on the ground. [1]

Between the end of the Six-Day War and the start of the War of Attrition, IDF Mirage fighters had six confirmed kills of Egyptian MiG-21s, in exchange for Egyptian MiG-21s scoring two confirmed and three probable kills against Israeli aircraft. During this same time period, from the end of the Six-Day War to the end of the War of Attrition, Israel claimed a total of 25 Syrian MiG-21s destroyed the Syrians claimed three confirmed and four probable kills of Israel aircraft, although Israel denied these. [1]

High losses to Egyptian aircraft and continuous bombing during the War of Attrition caused Egypt to ask the Soviet Union for help. In March 1970, Soviet pilots and SAM crews arrived with their equipment. On 13 April, during the air battle over the Red Sea coast, the Soviet MiG-21MFs, according to some data, shot down two Israeli F-4 fighters [57] [58] On 18 April, one Israeli scout RF-4E "Phantom" were damaged by Soviet MiG-21MF. [58] On 16 May, an Israeli aircraft is shot down in air combat, probably by a Soviet MiG-21 [59] On 22 June 1970, a Soviet pilot flying a MiG-21MF shot down an Israeli A-4E. After that, some more successful intercepts by Soviet pilots and another Israeli A-4 being shot down on 25 June. [58]

Israel decided to plan an ambush (Operation Rimon 20) in response. On 30 July, Israeli F-4s lured Soviet MiG-21s into an area where they were ambushed by Mirages. Asher Snir, flying a Mirage IIICJ, destroyed a Soviet MiG-21 Avihu Ben-Nun and Aviam Sela, both piloting F-4Es, each got a kill, and an unidentified pilot in another Mirage scored the fourth kill against the Soviet-flown MiG-21s while the IAF suffers no losses except a damaged Mirage. Three Soviet pilots were killed and the Soviet Union was alarmed by the losses. While a morale-boosting achievement, Rimon 20 did not change the course of the war. After the operation, other IAF aircraft were lost to Soviet MiG-21s and SAMs. Few days later, on 7 August, the Soviets respond by luring Israeli fighter jets into a counter-ambush, downing two Israeli Mirage-IIICs [60] and deploying more aircraft to Egypt, known as "Operation Kavkaz". [ citation needed ] Totally, during March and August 1970, Soviet MiG-21 pilots and SAM crews destroyed a total of 21 Israeli aircraft (eight by SA-3 missile systems and 13 by MiG-21s) at a cost of 5 MiG-21s were shot down by IAF, which helped to convince the Israelis to sign a ceasefire agreement. [61]

In September 1973, a large air battle erupted between Syria and Israel Israel claimed a total of 12 Syrian MiG-21s destroyed, while Syria claimed eight kills scored by MiG-21s and admitted five losses.

During the Yom Kippur War, Israel claimed 73 kills against Egyptian MiG-21s (65 confirmed). Egypt claimed 27 confirmed kills against Israeli aircraft by its MiG-21s, plus eight probables. [1] However, according to most Israeli sources, these were exaggerated claims as Israeli air-to-air combat losses for the entire war did not exceed five to fifteen. [62] [63]

On the Syrian front of the war, 6 October 1973 saw a flight of Syrian MiG-21MFs shoot down an IDF A-4E and a Mirage IIICJ while losing three of their own to Israeli IAI Neshers. On 7 October, Syrian MiG-21MFs downed two Israeli F-4Es, three Mirage IIICJs and an A-4E while losing two of their MiGs to Neshers and one to an F-4E, plus two to friendly SAM fire. Iraqi MiG-21PFs also operated on this front, and on that same day destroyed two A-4Es while losing one MiG. On 8 October 1973, Syrian MiG-21PFMs downed three F-4Es, but six of their MiG-21s were lost. By the end of the war, Syrian MiG-21s claimed a total of 30 confirmed kills against Israeli aircraft 29 MiG-21s were claimed (26 confirmed) as destroyed by the IDF. [1]

Between the end of the Yom Kippur War and the start of the 1982 Lebanon War, Israel had received modern F-15s and F-16s, which were far superior to the old Syrian MiG-21MFs. According to the IDF, these new aircraft accounted for the destruction of 24 Syrian MiG-21s over this period, though Syria did claim five kills against IDF aircraft with their MiG-21s armed with outdated K-13 missiles Israel denied they suffered any losses. [1]

The 1982 Lebanon War started on 6 June 1982, and in the course of that war the IDF claimed to have destroyed about 45 Syrian MiG-21MFs. Syria confirmed the loss of 37 MiG-21s. 24 MiG-21bis and 10 MiG-21MF were downed and 2 MiG-21bis and 1 MiG-21MF were written offs [64] Syria claimed two confirmed and 15 probable kills of Israeli aircraft. [1] Two Israeli F-15 and one F-4 were damaged in combat with the MiG-21. [65] [66] One Israeli F-15 was heavily damaged by a Syrian MiG-21 by a R-60 (missile) but it was able to make back at the base and was repaired. [66] This air battle was the largest to occur since the Korean War.

Syrian civil war Edit

Starting in July 2012, after more than a year of the Syrian civil war had seen no aerial action, the Syrian Air Force started operations against Syrian insurgents. MiG-21s were among the first combat-ready aircraft used in bombings, rocket attacks and strafing runs with many videos recorded from the ground showing the jets in combat. [67]

The rebels had access to heavy machine guns, different anti-aircraft guns and Russian and Chinese MANPADS up to modern designs such as the FN-6. The first loss of a MiG-21 was recorded on 30 August 2012. Its registration was 2271. It was likely downed on takeoff or landing at Abu al-Duhur Military Airbase, under siege by rebels, by heavy machinegun fire. [68] A few days later a second MiG-21, registered 2280, was shot down and recorded on video on 4 September 2012. It was likely downed on takeoff or landing at Abu Dhuhur air base, under siege by rebels, by KPV 14.5 mm machinegun fire. [69]

On 10 November 2014, a Syrian Air Force MiG-21bis, serialed 2204, was shot down by rebels either using a MANPADS or antiaircraft guns, near Sabboura town, 45 km east of Hama airbase where it was likely based. The pilot was killed. [ citation needed ] Video and picture evidence of the crash site surfaced. [ citation needed ]

After four months, during which the Syrian Air Force suffered no losses to enemy fire, the last being a MiG-23, on 12 March 2016, a Syrian MiG-21 was shot down by Jaysh al-Nasr over Hama near Kafr Nabudah. There were conflicting accounts of how it was brought down, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported the warplane had been downed by two MANPADS, while Jaysh al-Nasr militants say they shot it down with anti-aircraft guns. [70] Video evidence suggesting it was a MANPADS. It seems the pilot ejected, but died, either killed by ground fire while descending or other causes. [ citation needed ]

On 4 March 2017, SyAAF MiG-21bis from No. 679 squadron operating from Hama AB and piloted by Col. Mohammad Sawfan was shot down by rebels and subsequently crashed in Turkish territory nearby the borders the pilot in question has successfully ejected but been arrested and taken to a hospital in Antakya. The pilot returned to service recently and this mission was his first sortie after suspension years before. A recording of the last conversation between the pilot and the ground controller clearly shows the pilot's disorientation due to a technical failure with a malfunctioning compass first then the whole navigation system. After that, the pilot could not recognize his way back to base, as requested by the ground controller and ended under range of AAA of Ahrar Al-Sham rebels. [ citation needed ]

Libyan–Egyptian War Edit

Egypt was shipped some American Sidewinder missiles, and these were fitted to their MiG-21s and successfully used in combat against Libyan Mirages and MiG-23s during the brief Libyan-Egyptian War of July 1977.

Libya vs Egypt conflicts: MiG-21s in air-to-air combat [1]
Date Aircraft scoring kill Victim
22 July 1977 LARAF Mirage 5DE EAF MiG-21MF
23 July 1977 EAF MiG-21MFs 3 (or 4) LARAF Mirage + 1 LARAF MiG-23MS
1979 EAF MiG-21MF LARAF MiG-23MS

Iran–Iraq War Edit

During the Iran–Iraq War, 23 Iraqi MiG-21s were shot down by Iranian F-14s, confirmed by Iranian, Western and Iraqi sources [71] and 29 MiG-21s by F-4s. [72] However, from 1980 to 1988, Iraqi MiG-21s shot down 43 Iranian fighter aircraft against 49 MiG-21 losses in the same period. [73] [74]

Libya Edit

Libyan Civil War (2011) Edit

Libyan MiG-21s saw limited service during the 2011 Libyan civil war. [ citation needed ] On 15 March 2011, one MiG-21bis and one MiG-21UM flown by defector Libyan air force pilots who joined the rebellion flew from Ghardabiya AB (near Sirte) and landed at Benina airport to become part of the Free Libyan Air Force. On 17 March 2011 the MiG-21UM suffered a technical fault and crashed after takeoff from Benina airport. [75]

Libyan Civil War (2014–present) Edit

In the ongoing Second Libyan Civil War (2014–present), the Libyan National Army, under the command of Khalifa Haftar is loyal to the legislative body in Tobruk, which is the Libyan House of Representatives, internationally recognised until October 2015. It fights against the now internationally recognized Government of National Accord and the Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries as well as Islamic State in Libya which are common enemies for both the Government of National Accord and the Libyan National Army. Both the Libyan National Army and the Government of National Accord field small airforces. As such, a number of former Libyan Arab Air Force (LARAF) MiG-21s were returned to service with the Tobruk-based Libyan National Army, thanks to spare parts and technical assistance from Egypt and Russia, while a number of former Egyptian Air Force MiG-21s were pressed into service as well. [ citation needed ] MiG-21s under the control of the Libyan House of Representatives have been used extensively to bomb forces loyal to the rival General National Congress in Benghazi during the 2014 Libyan Civil War. [76] [77]

On 29 August 2014, an LNA MiG-21bis, serial number 208, after a bombing mission over Derna, crashed in Bayda according to an official statement as a result of a technical failure of the plane, while Islamist Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries claimed it was shot down. The pilot did not eject and died in the crash. [78] [79]

On 2 September 2014 an LNA MiG-21bis, serial number 800, crashed in a city block of Tobruk, due to pilot error during a pull-up maneuver. [80] It is unclear whether the pilot had been on a bombing mission on the way to Derna, further East, or had been performing an aerial ceremony for the MiG-21 pilot who died a few days earlier. [ citation needed ]

Part of the 2019 Western Libya offensive, on 9 April 2019, a Libyan National Army MiG-21 made a low altitude diving rocket attack, probably firing S-24 rockets on Mitiga airport in Tripoli, making limited damages to one of the runways. [81] On 14 April 2019, a Libyan National Army MiG-21MF was shot down by a surface-to-air missile, probably a MANPADS fired by the forces of the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) south of Tripoli. Video evidence confirmed the MiG-21 came under fire from anti-aircraft guns, small arms and two SAMs, one of which apparently hit the target. The pilot, Colonel Jamal Ben Amer ejected safely and recovered to LNA-held territory by a Mi-35 helicopter. LNA sources confirmed the loss but blamed a technical problem. [82] [83] [84] [85]

Horn of Africa Edit

During the Ogaden War of 1977–78, Ethiopian Air Force F-5As engaged Somali Air Force MiG-21MFs in combat on several occasions. In one lopsided incident, two F-5As piloted by Israeli advisers or mercenaries engaged four MiG-21MFs. The MiGs were handled incompetently by the Somali pilots, and the F-5As destroyed two while the surviving pilots collided with each other avoiding an AIM-9. [1] [86]

Ethiopia claimed to have shot down 10 Somali MiG-21MFs while Somalia also claimed to have destroyed several Ethiopian MiG-21MFs, three F-5Es, one Canberra bomber and three Douglas DC-3s. [1] Ethiopian MiG-21s were deployed largely in the ground attack role, and proved instrumental during the final offensive against Somali ground forces. [1]

Ethiopian pilots who had flown both the F-5E and the MiG-21 and received training in both the US and the USSR considered the F-5 to be the superior fighter because of its manoeuvrability at low to medium speeds, its superior instrumentation and the fact that it was far easier to fly, allowing the pilot to focus on combat rather than controlling his airplane. [87] This effect was enhanced by the poor quality of pilot training provided by the Soviets, which provided limited flight time and focussed exclusively on taking off and landing, with no practical training in air combat. [87] [88]

Angola Edit

During Angola's long-running civil war, MiG-21s of the Cuban Air Force were frequently deployed to attack ground targets manned by rebel forces or engage South African Air Force Mirage F1s conducting cross-border strikes. Most MiG-21 losses over Angola were attributed to accurate ground fire, such as an example downed by National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) insurgents near Luena with an American FIM-92 Stinger. [89]

Despite extensive losses to man-portable air-defense systems, MiG-21s were instrumental during the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale Cuban pilots became accustomed to flying up to three sorties a day. Both the MiG-21MF and the MiG-21bis were deployed almost exclusively in the fighter/bomber role. As interceptors, they were somewhat unsuccessful due to their inability to detect low-flying South African aircraft. [90] On 6 November 1981, a Mirage F1CZ achieved South Africa's first confirmed air-to-air kill since the Korean War when it destroyed Cuban Lieutenant Danacio Valdez's MiG-21MF with 30mm cannon fire. [91] On 5 October 1982, Mirages escorting an English Electric Canberra on routine reconnaissance over Cahama were engaged by at least two MiG-21bis. A South African radar operator picked up the attacking MiGs and was able to alert the Mirage pilots in advance, instructing them to change course immediately. As they jettisoned their auxiliary tanks, however, they were pinpointed by the Cubans, who opened pursuit. In a vicious dogfight, SAAF Major Johann Rankin closed range and maneuvered into the MiGs' rear cones. From there, one of his two R.550 Magic missiles impacted directly behind the lead MiG and forced it down. The second aircraft, piloted by Lieutenant Raciel Marrero Rodriguez, could not detect the Mirage's proximity until it had entered his turn radius and was perforated by Rankin's autocannon. This damaged MiG-21 landed safely at Lubango. [91]

Contacts between MiG-21s and SAAF Mirage F1s or Mirage IIIs became increasingly common throughout the 1980s. Between 1984 and 1988, thirteen MiG-21s were lost over Angola. [92] On 9 August 1984, a particularly catastrophic accident occurred when the 9th Fighter Training Squadrons and the 12th Fighter Squadrons of the Cuban Air Force attempted to carry out an exercise in poor weather. A single MiG-21bis and three MiG-23s were lost. [90]

On 14 December 1988, an Angolan Air Force MiG-21bis, serial number C340, strayed off course and being low on fuel executed an emergency landing on an open field in South West Africa, modern-day Namibia, where it was seized by local authorities. Since Angola did not request its return after the South African Border War, the MiG was restored by Atlas Aviation and till September 2017 it was displayed at Swartkops Air Force Base, Pretoria. [93] The jet was returned to Angola, flying in an Angolan Il-76 cargo plane, as a sign of goodwill on 15 September 2017. [94]

Congo Edit

The MiG-21MFs of the 25th Fighter Aviation Regiment of the National Air Force of Angola flew ground sorties during the Second Congo War, sometimes being piloted by mercenaries. The Chinese-made F-7 Skybolt also saw combat with the Air Force of Zimbabwe. [95] Some six MiG-21s were imported into the country during the First Congo War for the Congo Air Force, but do not appear to have seen operational service. (Cooper and Weinert, "African MiGs: Volume 1: Angola to Ivory Coast").

Yugoslavia Edit

Yugoslavia purchased its first batch of MiG-21s in 1962 from the Soviet Union. In the period from 1962 to the early 1980s, Yugoslavia had purchased 261 MiG-21s in ten variants. There was 41 MiG-21f-13, 36 MiG-21PfM, 25 MiG-21M, 6 MiG-21MF, 46 MiG-21bis, 45 MiG-21bisK, 12 MiG-21R, 18 MiG-21U, 25 MiG-21UM and 7 MiG-21US. [96] Yugoslav Air force units that operated MiG-21 were the 204th Fighter-Aviation Regiment at Batajnica Air Base (126th, 127th and 128th fighter-aviation squadrons), 117th fighter-aviation regiment at Željava Air Base (124th and 125th fighter-aviation squadron and 352nd recon squadron), 83rd fighter-aviation regiment at Slatina Air Base (123rd and 130th fighter aviation squadron), 185th fighter-bomber-aviation squadron (129th fighter-aviation squadron) at Pula and 129th training center at Batajnica air base.

During the early stages of the 1990s' Yugoslav wars the Yugoslav military used MiG-21s in a ground-attack role, while Croatian and Slovene forces did not have air forces at the beginning of the war. Aircraft from air bases in Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina were relocated to air bases in Serbia. Detailed records show at least seven MiG-21s were shot down by AA defenses in Croatia and Bosnia. [97] A MiG-21 shot down an EC helicopter in 1992. [98]

Croatia acquired three MiG-21s in 1992 through defections by Croatian pilots serving with the JNA, [99] two of which were lost in subsequent actions – one to Serbian air defenses, the other a friendly fire accident. [100] In 1993, Croatia purchased about 40 MiG-21s in violation of an arms embargo, [100] but only about 20 of these entered service, while the rest were used for spare parts. Croatia used them alongside the sole remaining defector for ground attack missions in operations Flash (during which one was lost) and Storm. The only air-to-air action for Croatian MiGs was an attempt by two of them to intercept Soko J-22 Oraos of Republika Srpska's air force on a ground attack mission on 7 August 1995. After some maneuvering, both sides disengaged without firing. [100]

The remaining Yugoslav MiG-21s were flown to Serbia by 1992 and continued their service in the newly created Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. During the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, 3 MiG-21s were destroyed on the ground. [97]

Romania Edit

In 1962, Romanian Air Force (RoAF) received the first 12 MiG-21F-13, followed by another 12 of the same variant in 1963. Deliveries continued over the next years with other variants: 38 aircraft of MiG-21RFM (PF) variant in 1965, 7 MiG-21U-400/600 in 1965–1968, 56 MiG-21RFMM (PFM) in 1966–1968, 12 MiG-21R in 1968–1972, 68 MiG-21M plus 11 MiG-21US in 1969–1970, 74 MiG-21MF/MF-75 in 1972–1975, and 27 MiG-21UM in 1972–1980 plus another 5 of the same variant in 1990, for a total number of 322 aircraft. [101]

Beginning in 1993, Russia did not offer spare parts for the MiG-23 and MiG-29 for the RoAF. Initially, this was the context for the modernization of the Romanian MiG-21s with Elbit Systems, and because it was easier to maintain these fighter jets. In 1995–2002, a total of 111 MiG-21s were modernized, of which 71 were M and MF/MF-75 variants modernized under the LanceR A designation (for ground attack), 14 were UM variant as LanceR B designation (trainer), and another 26 MF/MF-75 variant were modernized under LanceR C designation (air superiority). [101] Today, only 36 LanceRs are operational for the RoAF. It can use both Western and Eastern armament such as the R-60M, R-73, Magic 2, or Python III missiles.

They will be replaced by a squadron of 12 F-16AM/BM fighters by 2020 with the first aircraft arriving in the second half of 2016. [ needs update ] Another squadron will be purchased with newer versions of the F-16 or other types of multirole plane jets like Dassault Rafale-B/C/M, used McDonnell-Douglas F/A-18C/D Hornet, Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet or Eurofighter Typhoon, to complete the minimum number of 48 multirole fighters, required in 2004 by NATO when Romania joined. [102] [103]

Despite being one of the newest MiG-21 fleets in service, the Romanian MiG-21 LanceR fleet was grounded due to difficulties maintaining the aircraft, and since 1996 it has had an accident rate of over 30 per 100,000 hours. Serviceability rates below 50% are not uncommon. [104]

The Romanian Air Force has suffered numerous events in recent years with its arsenal of MiG-21s. On 12 June 2017, a MiG-21 crashed in Constanța County, with Adrian Stancu, the pilot, managing to escape in time. [105] On 7 July 2018, Florin Rotaru died during an airshow in Borcea with some 3,000 attendants while piloting a MiG-21 that suffered technical difficulties, choosing to deflect the plane and die to protect the attendants rather than ejecting himself in time. [106] In 20 April 2021, during a training flight, a MiG-21 crashed in an uninhabited zone in Mureș County. The pilot, Andrei Criste, managed to eject safely and survived the crash. [107]

Bulgaria Edit

The Bulgarian Air Force received a total of 224 MiG-21 aircraft. From September 1963 the 19th Fighter Regiment of the Air Force received 12 MiG-21F-13s. Later some of these aircraft were converted for reconnaissance as MiG-21F-13Rs, which were submitted to the 26th Reconnaissance Regiment in 1988. In January 1965 the 18th Fighter Regiment received a squadron of 12 MiG-21PFs, some of which also were converted and used as reconnaissance aircraft (MiG-oboznachevnieto 21PFR). The 26 Regiment reconnaissance aircraft from this squadron were removed from service in 1991, the 15 Fighter Regiment in 1965 received another 12 MiG-21PF fighters and in 1977–1978 operated another 36 refurbished aircraft. This unit received two more aircraft in 1984 and operated them until 1992.

For reconnaissance, a regiment received 26 specialized reconnaissance MiG-21Rs in 1962, and in 1969–1970, 19 Fighter Aviation Regiment received 15 MiG-21m aircraft, which operated in 21 Fighter Aviation Regiment and were removed from active service in 1990. An additional 12 MiG-21MF fighters were received in 1974–1975, with a reconnaissance version of the MiG-21MFR provided to the 26th Reconnaissance Regiment and eksloatirani until 2000, when removed from active service.

From 1983 to 1990, the Bulgaria Air Force received 72 MiG-21bis. Of these, 30 (six new and renovated) are under option with ACS and provided to the 19th Fighter Regiment the rest are equipped with the "Lazur." This batch was taken out of service in 2000.

Besides fighters, the Air Force has received 39 MiG-21U trainers (one in 1966), five MiG-21US in 1969–1970 and 27 MiG-21UM (new) during 1974–1980, another six refurbished ex-Soviet examples in 1990. In 1982, three MiG-21UM trainers were sold to Cambodia and in 1994 another 10 examples. MiG-21UMs were also sold to India. Other training aircraft were removed from active service in 2000. A total of 38 aircraft were lost in the period 1963–2000.

The last flight of a Bulgarian Air Force MiG-21 took off from Graf Ignatievo Air Base on 31 December 2015. On 18 December 2015, there was an official ceremony for the retirement of the type from active duty. [108]

Known MiG-21 aces Edit

Several pilots have attained ace status (five or more aerial victories/kills) while flying the MiG-21. Nguyễn Văn Cốc of the VPAF, who scored nine kills in MiG-21s is regarded as the most successful. [109] Twelve other VPAF pilots were credited with five or more aerial victories while flying the MiG-21: Phạm Thanh Ngân, [1] Nguyễn Hồng Nhị and Mai Văn Cường (both eight kills) Đặng Ngọc Ngự [1] (seven kills), Vũ Ngọc Đỉnh, [1] Nguyễn Ngọc Độ, [1] Nguyễn Nhật Chiêu, [1] Lê Thanh Đạo, [1] Nguyễn Đăng Kỉnh, [1] Nguyễn Đức Soát, [1] and Nguyễn Tiến Sâm [1] (six kills each), and Nguyễn Văn Nghĩa [1] (five kills).

Additionally, three Syrian pilots are known to have attained ace status while flying the MiG-21. Syrian airmen: M. Mansour [110] recorded five solo kills (with one additional probable), B. Hamshu [110] scored five solo kills, and A. el-Gar [110] tallied four solo and one shared kill, all three during the 1973–1974 engagements against Israel.

Due to the incomplete nature of available records, there are several pilots who have unconfirmed aerial victories (probable kills), which when confirmed would award them "Ace" Status: S. A. Razak [111] of the Iraqi Air Force with four known kills scored during the Iran–Iraq War (until 1991 sometimes referred to as the Persian Gulf War), A. Wafai [112] of the Egyptian Air Force with four known kills against Israel.

For specific information on kills scored by and against MiG-21s sorted by country see the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 operators page.

Guided Missiles

The real breakthrough for air-to-air missiles came with the development of guidance systems. They mostly came in two types.

Infra-red guided missiles have sensors that lock onto a heat source, such as the exhaust of a jet engine. They then pursue and explode on that heat source.

Radar initially aims radar guided missiles on a fighter, which illuminates the target. Once fired, the missile’s own radar targeting system takes over, steering it toward the target.

The way that missiles were fused also changed during the years following WWII. An explosive warhead does not necessarily need to hit a target directly. As long as it is close, its explosion can destroy an enemy plane. Proximity fuses, therefore, are the norm.

Short, medium and long-range missiles are all now in use, some with ranges of hundreds of miles. Planes continue to carry a cannon, such as the Aden, the British adaptation of the old German Mauser MG-213. With missiles flying at several times the speed of sound and locking onto targets hundreds of miles away, aerial warfare has changed dramatically.

The up close and amateurish combat of two flyers waving pistols from their cockpits is a long way behind us.

Charles Rivers Editors (2014), The Red Baron: The Life and Legacy of Manfred Von Richthofen
Francis Crosby (2010), The Complete Guide to Fighters & Bombers of the World

Berezniak-Isayev BI

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 06/26/2017 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.

Rocket- and jet-powered fighter aircraft were not the sole developments of Germany, Britain, and the United States during World War 2 (1939-1945) for the Soviets were undertaking such work prior to the war as well. The Bereznyak-Isayev BI series of rocket-powered prototypes became the culmination of these early efforts - it was designed to a Soviet Air Force need for a rocket-propelled, short-ranged defense fighter whose development was hurriedly spurred on by the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June of 1941 to open the "East Front". The aircraft first flew on May 15th, 1942 and was actively tested into March of 1945 across nine completed examples. It served as a vital piece of the development process for future Soviet aircraft seen in the post-war years.

The aircraft received its name and designation from its engineer pairing of Alexander Yakovlevich Bereznyak/Berezniak (1912-1974) and Aleksei Mikhailovich Isayev/Isaev (1908-1971). In July of 1940, work was ordered on a high-speed aircraft benefitting from rocket or ramjet propulsion. The propulsion system evolved along a slow but steady line until sped up by the German invasion. The design team was given just 35 days to come up with a viable platform and work began in July of 1941, the workers forced to live at the development facility.

The engineers devised a streamlined aircraft form of rather compact proportions and armed with a proposed battery of 4 x 14.5mm heavy machine guns. Its fuselage would be streamlined and well-rounded for aerodynamic efficiency. The cockpit was fitted forward of amidships and the nose section covered over in a pointed nose assembly. The rocket propulsion system would sit in the aft section of the fuselage which forced a raised fuselage spine. As the propulsion system utilized a liquid propellant, no air intake was required to aspirate any engine. The tail rudder extended over and under the aft fuselage with the usual horizontal stabilizer mid-mounted. This tailplane also fitted a smaller set of vertical planes at its outboard ends. The mainplanes were affixed as straight monoplanes under and aft of the cockpit. The undercarriage was of the "tail-dragger" arrangement and retractable under the aircraft.

Prototype aircraft were born through the initial BI-1 and BI-2 airframes. Construction included both fabric and plywood as well as metal and the original armament of 4 x machine guns had now given way to 2 x 20mm ShVAK cannons for a heftier offensive punch. The aircraft sat a single crewmember under a lightly-framed canopy. As finalized, the aircraft featured a running length of 21 feet with a wingspan of 21 feet, 3 inches. Its height (when at rest) measured 6 feet, 9 inches. Empty weight was 2,115lbs with a Maximum Take-Off Weight of 3,710lbs. Maximum speed with the intended Dushkin D-1A-1100 liquid-fueled rocket motor peaked at 497mph. Range was limited to just 15 minutes of powered flight.

As progress on the Dushkin rocket motor was slow, prototype BI-1 entered into controlled glider testing to help prove the airframe sound and improve on some of its inherent weaknesses. During October 1941, the development facility was cleared out due to the advancing Germans and worked moved to the Ural mountains. With some more controlled testing on the ground, the aircraft finally went airborne during May 15th, 1942. BI-2 then took over the program and found itself the center of several successful flights. On March 21st, 1943, prototype BI-3 was destroyed, killing its pilot, during a low-level, full-throttle flight run. The cause of the crash was ruled as "Transonic velocity" which showcased the aerodynamic limitations of the airframe design as-was, marking that it would soon prove itself a technological dead end in the scope of the program. Prototypes BI-5, BI-6, BI-7, BI-8, and BI-9 followed into 1944 and the final forms were finished with Merkulov DM-4 ramjets which required the airframe to be towed into the air prior to launch. Focus then shifted to Isaev's RD-1 rocket engine which covered no more than two flights. A total of twelve flights involving the BI prototypes were recorded.

By this time, the BI has reached its technological apex and no production forms succeeded them. The Soviet Air Force found little interest in a high-speed fighter with just a 15 minute endurance window and the war progressed favorably into Germany at that point. Nevertheless, the BI series served well in influencing future Soviet rocket- and jet-powered mounts still to come. The BI program was then ended.

Operational history [ edit | edit source ]

The La-15 was tested operationally by the 192nd Fighter Wing, based at Kubinka from 19 March 1949, and began appearing in front-line combat units later the same year. Introduction was accompanied by numerous accidents, but the competing Mig-15 design fared little better. However, although the La-15 had a number of technical advantages over the MiG-15, a combination of easier manufacture and lower costs led to the MiG-15 being favoured. The Soviet authorities decided to produce only one fighter, and they chose the MiG-15bis. The remaining La-15s in service were disarmed by 1953, and their engines reused on the KS-1 Komet air-to-surface missile. The aircraft were expended as targets at various nuclear bomb tests. Ώ]

Forget the Missiles: North Korea Flies Fighter Jets That Belong in a Museum

The Su-7 was an impressive and rugged plane used throughout the Warsaw Pact and its allies up until the 1970s.

Certainly not as iconic as the MiG-15 jet fighter, the Sukhoi Su-7 was one of the Soviet’s early efforts to develop a jet fighter. Originally designed to fill a role as a tactical, low-level dogfighter and interceptor, the Su-7B series proved ideal as a fighter-bomber and ground-attack aircraft in the 1960s.

Development began in the early 1950s, and the first prototype, dubbed the S-1 “Strelka,” made its first flight in 1955. Two years later, the modified Su-7—NATO codename “Fitter”—was unveiled at the Soviet Aviation Day display at Tushino Airport outside of Moscow. Built from 1958 to 1976, the Su-7B variant became the flagship fighter-bomber as it could withstand large amounts of combat damage. The aircraft proved popular with pilots who appreciated its docile flight characteristics and simple controls but also its considerable speed at low altitudes. It earned a reputation for its ruggedness as well as for its easy maintenance.

The swept wing, supersonic fighter aircraft was exported to Warsaw Pact partners including Czechoslovakia, Poland and Romania as well as trusted “Third World allies,” including China, North Korea, Vietnam, Syria, Egypt and India.

The Su-7 was armed with two 30mm NR-30 guns in wing roots, each with 70 rounds while under-wing pylons allowed for the carrying of two 742 kg or two 495 kg of bombs or rocket pods. It was powered by a Lyulka AL-7F-1 afterburning turbojet, 66.6 kN (15,000 lbf) thrust dry, 94.1 kN (21,200 lbf) with afterburner, which gave the Su-7 a maximum speed of 710 mph and a ceiling of 57,700 feet.

While a successful ground-attack aircraft, it required a long runway and it had a short combat radius with a range of just over 1,000 miles, each of which greatly limited it operational usefulness.

The Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies never used the Su-7 in combat, but the aircraft was flown in combat sorties with Egypt during the 1967 Six Day War and the subsequent War of Attrition (1969-70). The Su-7 also saw limited use in the Yom Kippur War, where the Egyptian Air Force employed the aircraft to attack Israeli ground forces.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) also utilized the Su-7 during its 1971 war with Pakistan. A total of six squadrons, totaling some 140 aircraft, took part in nearly 1,500 offensive sorties including the bulk of daytime attack efforts. During the brief conflict, fourteen Su-7s were lost, most from anti-aircraft fire. However, the aircraft proved rugged and able to remain airworthy even after receiving heavy damage.

The Su-7 jet fighter more than proved itself in combat, but by the 1970s it was largely antiquated and was replaced by newer aircraft. Between 1977 and 1986, the Soviet Air Force replaced it with the newer and more agile Su-17 and MiG-27. While the last of the aircraft were retired by most operators in the late 1980s or early 1990s, North Korea has continued to operate the Su-7—a testament to the ruggedness of the design and the ease/simplicity to maintain.

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