Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23 (Flogger) History

The Mach 2-capable MiG-23 "Flogger" became the first "swing-wing" fighter to actually enter service with the Soviet Union, and later became the main mount of the Soviet Air Force (replacing the range-limited MiG-21 "Fishbed"), Making it one of the most built and successful aircraft of the Cold War. The MiG-23 was made into a dedicated strike/fighter-bomber of the similar but improved MiG-27 series. The MiG-23 itself has proven itself to be a reliable and strong performer over decades of service (and several notable wars and conflicts) and is still in active service with some Air Forces today. Mikoyan-Gurevich's products were relatively cheap at the time (between $3 million and $6 million per plane) and were easily sold by the Warsaw Pact countries and Third World allies.

Overall, the MiG-23 represented the Soviet Union's premier fighter for most of the 1970s and early 1980s, made even more powerful by its ability to carry nuclear weapons.

It should be noted that for most of the Cold War, the MiG-23 was considered at best a "usable" and "very useful" aircraft. Only decades later, old observations from the West were updated to conclude that the MiG-23 itself was an impressive design that would match or (in some cases) exceed many of the available Western MiG-23 counterparts time is comparable.

About the MiG-27 "Lasher"

The MiG-27 "Flogger" is a direct development of the MiG-23 described in this entry and has its own description elsewhere on this site. The MiG-27 is essentially a dedicated ground fighter-bomber version of the MiG-23 "Whiplash" fighter/interceptor.

It has the same swing swing capability, but provides armor for low-altitude strike operations, has an expanded ground combat role through more external hardpoints, and has new fixed air intakes. Its motor is significantly less complex and has simpler nozzles for derating the reels. The MiG-23's twin-barreled cannon has given way to a multi-barrel version, with a dedicated targeting system and terrain radar as standard. The MiG-27 differs from the MiG-23 in its slimmer, tapered nose cone assembly (which encourages better "looking down" capabilities). The MiG-27 developed two main variants under the NATO codenames "Flogger-D" and "Flogger-J".

The MiG-27 served primarily in the Soviet Union and India, with deliveries beginning in 1975 until its eventual retirement in Russia in the 1990s. India began to license production of this type of aircraft under the banner of Hindustan Airlines as Bahadur (or "Valiant").


Mikoyan-Gurevich started production during World War II as a manufacturer of piston engine fighter jets, their most famous work being the "hotrod" MiG-1 and MiG-3 fighter jets. Success continued in the postwar world, and they introduced the revolutionary MiG-15 "Fagot" single-seat, single-engine fighter in the Korean War - a surprise for NATO forces, for whom the North American F-86 Sabre Developed directly in response to new threats.

The MiG-15 was followed by the greatly improved MiG-17 "Fresco", another single-seat, single-engine aircraft with better overall handling and performance. The MiG-19 "Farmer" then appeared as a twin-engine solution with supersonic capability (Mach 1.0).

Mikoyan-Gurevich had additional success by developing the MiG-21 "Fishbed" - a Mach 2 single-seat, single-engine fighter that later entered service around the world as an interceptor and limited fighter. This long history cemented Mikoyan-Gurevich's key role in the development of Cold War jet fighters, consolidated valuable experience gained in designing and developing various wing systems to address different speed standards, and encouraged the company's commitment to jet-powered machines.

Understanding kept the Soviet Air Force on par with its American counterparts.

By this time, McDonnell Douglas had introduced the mythical F-4 Phantom II, a two-seat, twin-engine, Mach 2 fighter with great air combat capability and inherent strike capability. Boasting a powerful radar system and high-performance specs, the F-4 quickly became the premier mount for the U.S.

Air Force, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Marine Corps during its reign, and later deployed across Europe as the ultimate Soviet deterrent. The F-111 Aardvark was another U.S. Cold War fighter jet designed to meet the needs of the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy in one fell swoop.

It features a two-seat side-by-side cockpit, powerful twin engines and variable-geometry wings for varying flight performance. However, this expensive design swelled into a long-range attack aircraft, a far cry from the fighter jets in the final product.

In any case, the F-4 and F-111 will be the main opponents of the MiG-23 during the design and development phase of the latter.


The MiG-21 "Fishbed" was good for what it was originally designed for - speed. It can climb quickly and reach speeds of up to Mach 2, while deploying powerful avionics and weapons systems, including short-range cannons and long-range missiles for most missions. However, if the MiG-21 is deficient in any area where it is within operational range, the payload and its reliance on ground interception to direct the system to the target area should be addressed (there are no self-sufficient sensors onboard to manage such operations).

Jet engines have been thirsty since World War II, and post-war jet technology around the world has yet to fully address the need for engines with longer range performance - although progress is certain and steady in the MIG era - 23 development. The MiG-21's trimmed delta wings and slender fuselage limited its weapon potential to only four hardpoints in later production models.

All in all, this tail delta design is adequate for interception missions, and while it is developing into a ground-attack variant, it is far from the answer to the true multi-role enforcer that the Soviet Air Force is now looking for.

Development of the MiG-23 began in the early 1960s as MiGang attempted to deal with the limitations of its MiG-21 product. As Soviet authorities became increasingly frustrated with the range of their MiG-21, new official specifications were drawn up in 1965.

The specification calls for the production of a modern, larger and heavier aircraft in two different forms - an interceptor for the Soviet Air Defense Forces (PVO) and a ground attack for the Soviet Tactical Air Force frontal aviation type aircraft - although the planes don't have to use as many runways.

MiG-23SM is an upgraded MiG-23S, but still in a pre-production evaluation role. About 80 prototypes were eventually produced, and these MiG-23s were equipped with the full S-23 weapons suite (including the Sapfir-23 "High Lark" radar), upgraded Tumansky R-27F2M-300 engines, and AA-7 "Apex". "Semi-active radar homing missile system. These additions bring back over-the-horizon capability while redesigning the fire control system and improving the autopilot. Wing and wing swept positions (now three available positions are 18.5, 47.5, and 74.5 degrees) were slightly modified. An additional fuel tank was added internally to increase range.

These engines were later upgraded to Soyuz (Tumansky) R-29-300 series engines with a standard thrust of 27,557 lbs. with shorter Jet tube.

Ye-231, MiG-23, MiG-23S and MiG-23SM belong to the first generation NATO codename "Flogger-A".

The MiG-23M was the first "true" mass-produced Flayer. The first flight took place in June 1972, and production began shortly thereafter. The engine was further optimized and sensors were installed.

The Sapfir-23 "High Lark" is an improved version of the original Doppler system, mounted under a larger radome. The ASP-23D sight was installed and the vertical tail was moved further back, resulting in a definite change in the shape of the aircraft. The rear fuselage houses a new (fourth) internal fuel tank. Infrared Search and Track (IRST) came in the form of the TP-23 system, and the R-23 missile capability came online.

The M model brings a true "look down/shoot down" capability, allowing the aircraft to attack targets below the horizon. Introduced a new "Type 1" wing - a wing with an elongated leading edge - bringing a "dogtooth" appearance to the interior area of ??the wing (a "Type 2" wing is a wing structure that does not require leading-edge slats, and starting in 1973, the "Type 3" wing brought these wings back to a folded state). The MiG-23M was acquired by Frontal Aviation as a replacement for the MiG-21 air superiority fighter, with ground attack seen as a secondary role.

The M model was also supplied to the PVO and joined the existing "Filters", "Flags" and "Fishbeds" for anti-aircraft missions.

The MiG-23MF became a simplified export derivative of the MiG-23M production form. Among export customers, the MiG-23MF model proved more popular than the MiG-23MS (see below) and was therefore sold to many countries with different radar and communication setups according to each operator's specifications.

The radar is an RP-22 series mounted under a small radome.

The MiG-23M and MiG-23MF models are collectively referred to by NATO as "Flogger-B".

The MiG-23U is a two-seat trainer developed from the MiG-23S. Because the MiG-23 turned out to be unlike any previous aircraft used by Soviet pilots, they needed a proper mount to understand its intricacies.

Requests for the aircraft were made in May 1968, about six months after the main production model was approved. The first flight took place in May 1969. It consisted of a two-seat tandem arrangement, but used the new Tumansky R-29 family of engines. The instructor is responsible for driving the rear cockpit, the two positions are separated and housed under a separate canopy.

With the addition of the second cockpit, the forward internal fuel tanks were removed, but a new fuel tank was added to the rear of the fuselage. The aircraft is equipped with the S-21 weapon system.

During their tenure, many of these MiG-23U trainers had their radar systems removed, while others were upgraded to the new MiG-23M standard. Production began in 1971, but the MiG-23U was eventually replaced by the more powerful MiG-23UB trainer. MiG023U retains some combat capabilities.

MiG-23UB (prototype 23-51) is another MiG-23 trainer. While the MiG-23UB was relegated to flight and weapons training, it still retained some limited combat capabilities. These MiG-23s are identified by their two independent cockpits, Type 3 wings (with non-rotating underwing pylons), and conical fairings along the starboard wing root that house the AA-7 "Apex" missiles Lighting pods. Because the two cockpits are not "stepped" (one is taller than the other), the rear instructor has a retractable periscope mounted on the tail to give him a better view of forward movement.

Additionally, instructors have a number of pre-programmed situations to compete with student pilots. For safety reasons, the angle of attack (AoA) is limited. Production ended in 1975, with a total of 769 prototypes produced and widely distributed in Irkutsk.

Both MiG-23 and MiG-27 operators use the MiG-23UB trainer as a starting point for flogging pilots.

Both MiG-23U and MiG-23UB trainers are identified by NATO as "Flogger-C".

The MiG-23MS is a downgraded export version of the production model MiG-23M. This product is sold with the complete S-21 weapon system, but is associated with the RP-22SM "Jay Bird" radar. Missile capability is limited to the AA-2 Atoll and AA-8 Aphid missiles, a version that lacks "beyond visual range" capability.

Production took place from 1973 to 1978.

The MiG-23MP is similar to the MiG-23MS, but was never exported and only produced in limited quantities in the Soviet Union.

MiG-23MS and MiG-23MP are collectively referred to as "Flogger-E" in NATO terminology.

The MiG-23ML (from the prototype model 23-12) is a redesigned MiG-23 to counter the airframe fatigue and stress reports experienced by the early lashers, while also taking care to improve handling of high angles of attack. Improves mobility and encourages higher G limit (now from 8.0 to 8.5). The fourth rear internal fuel tank was removed, the aerodynamics improved, and the vertical tail was revised without lengthening the dorsal fin. All these changes result in a lighter body.

The landing gear was further modified, while new Soyuz (Tumansky) R-35F-300 series engines with 28,660 pounds of thrust and afterburners were installed. The rectangular air intakes have variable ramps that double as dividers to counteract slower-flowing air near the fuselage.

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