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Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23 (Flogger) Interceptor Aircraft / Fighter (1970)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 11/3/2014

The MiG-23 Flogger was the Soviet Union's first variable swing-wing fighter and paved the way for the equally-successful MiG-27 Flogger ground strike variant.

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The Mach 2-capable MiG-23 "Flogger" became the first true "swing-wing" fighter to enter service with the Soviet Union and went on to become a primary mount of the Soviet air services (replacing the range-limited MiG-21 "Fishbed") making it one of the most-produced and successful aircraft of the Cold War. The MiG-23 was made into a dedicated strike / fighter-bomber in the similar-yet-modified MiG-27 series. The MiG-23 itself went on to prove a reliable and robust performer through decades of service (and several notable wars and conflicts) and continues in active service with some air forces today. Relatively cheap for its time (between three and six million dollars a plane), the Mikoyan-Gurevich product was an easy sell to Warsaw Pact nations and Third World allies alike. In all, the MiG-23 represented the most important Soviet fighter for a good part of the 1970s and the early 1980s and were made all-the-more potent by their ability to carry nuclear-tipped weapons.

It should be noted that through most of the Cold War, the MiG-23 was thought to be nothing more than a "serviceable" and "highly utilitarian" aircraft at best. It was only some decades later that the old Western observations were upgraded to conclude that the MiG-23 was an impressive design in its own right, one that could match or (in some cases) out-best many of the available Western counterparts of the time.

About the MiG-27 "Flogger"

The MiG-27 "Flogger" is a direct development of the MiG-23 detailed in this entry and has its own write-up elsewhere on this website. The MiG-27 is essentially a dedicated ground-attack fighter-bomber form of the MiG-23 "Flogger" fighter / interceptor. It features the same swing-swing capability but is armored for low-level strike runs, has a broadened ground ordnance role across more external hardpoints and sports new fixed intake inlets. Its engine is decidedly less-complicated and features a simpler nozzle for the reduced-performance role. The twin-barrel cannon of the MiG-23 has given way to a multi-barrel type and special target acquisition systems are standard as is a terrain avoidance radar. The MiG-27 is discernable from the MiG-23 by its sleeker tapered nose cone assembly (promoting better "lookdown" capabilities). The MiG-27 was developed in two major derivatives under the NATO codenames of "Flogger-D" and the "Flogger-J". Use of the MiG-27 was primarily with the Soviet Union and India and began deliveries in 1975, ultimately seeing retirement with Russia in the 1990s. India took up license production of the type under the Hindustan Aeronautics banner as the Bahadur (or "Valiant").

Background

Mikoyan-Gurevich began as a manufacturer of piston-powered fighters during World War 2 with their most notable creations being the "hotrod" MiG-1 and MiG-3 fighters. Success continued in the post-war world with the unveiling of their revolutionary single-seat, single-engine MiG-15 "Fagot" jet-powered fighter in the Korean War - coming as quite the surprise to NATO forces to which the North American F-86 Sabre was directly developed to counter the new threat. The MiG-15 was followed into service by the much-improved MiG-17 "Fresco", another single-seat, single-engine implement with greater handling and performance overall. The MiG-19 "Farmer" then appeared as a twin-engine solution with supersonic (Mach 1.0) capability. Mikoyan-Gurevich found additional success with the development of the MiG-21 "Fishbed" - a Mach 2-capable single-seat, single-engine fighter that went on to be used throughout the world as both an interceptor and a limited strike fighter. This lengthy history had cemented Mikoyan-Gurevich as a major player in the development of Cold War jet fighters and solidified valuable experience gained in the design and development of different wing systems to solve different speed criteria and furthered the firm's understanding of jet-powered machines to keep Soviet air forces on par with their American counterparts.

By this time, McDonnell Douglas had brought online the fabulous F-4 Phantom II, a twin-seat, twin-engine Mach 2-capable fighter with a strong dogfighting prowess and inherent strike capabilities. The F-4 featured a powerful radar system coupled with high performance specifications and quickly became the primary mount of the USAF, USN and the USMC during her reign and, later, was fielded across Europe as an ultimate Soviet deterrent. The F-111 Aardvark was another American Cold War fighter design intended to solve a need for both the USAF and USN in one fail swoop. It featured a twin-seat, side-by-side cockpit, powerful twin engines and variable geometry wings for different flight performances. However, this expensive design bloated to become a long-range strike aircraft and was far from a fighter in the end product. Regardless, the F-4 and the F-111 would be the MiG-23's principle adversaries during the latter's design and development stages.

Development

The MiG-21 "Fishbed" was good for what it was initially designed for - speed. It could climb fast and achieve speeds of up to Mach 2 while fielding capable avionics and a weapons system that included both short-range cannon and longer-range missiles for most jobs at hand. However, if the MiG-21 was deficient in any areas it was in operational range, combat payload and its reliance on ground-based interception to help guide the system to a target area (no self-sustained sensors were onboard to handle such actions). Jet powerplants had always proven thirsty since the days of World War 2 and post-war jet technology the world over had yet to wholly solve the need for greater range output out of their engines - though progress was sure and steady by the time of the MIG-23 development. The clipped delta wings and slim fuselage of the MiG-21 had limited its armament potential across just four hardpoints by the time of the later production models. In all, this tailed-delta design was adequate for the interception role and, though it was developed into a ground strike variant, it was far from the answer of a the true multi-role performer that the Soviet Air Force was now looking for.


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Specifications for the
Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23 (Flogger)
Interceptor Aircraft / Fighter


Focus Model: Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23MF (Flogger-B)
Country of Origin: Soviet Union
Manufacturer: Mikoyan-Gurevich - Soviet Union
Initial Year of Service: 1970
Production: 5,047


Crew: 1


Length: 55.12 ft (16.8 m)
Width: 46.75 ft (14.25 m)
Height: 14.27ft (4.35 m)
Weight (Empty): 24,912 lb (11,300 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 40,786 lb (18,500 kg)


Powerplant: 1 x Soyuz (Tumansky) R-29 turbojet engine generating 27,550lbs of thrust.


Maximum Speed: 1,553 mph (2,500kmh; 1,350 kts)
Maximum Range: 808 miles (1,300km)
Service Ceiling: 61,024 ft (18,600 m; 11.6 miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 50,000 feet-per-minute (15,240 m/min)


Hardpoints: 6
Armament Suite:
STANDARD:
1 x 23mm Gryazev-Shipunov GSh-23L twin-barrel 23mm cannon in a GP-9 gun pod under the fuselage (200 rounds).

OPTIONAL:
As a multi-role fighter, the MiG-23 can be called upon to field a variety of ordnance including:


Variants:
Ye-231 (Flogger-A) / Model 23-11 - Prototype Designation


MiG-23 (Flogger-A) - Pre-Production Designation; sans hardpoints; "sawtooth" wing leading edge; 1 x dual-barreled 23mm NSh-23 cannon.

MiG-23S (Flogger-A) - Pre- Production Model for evaluation and testing as well as first production model of note; fitted with improved Tumansky R-27F2-300 turbojet engine; S-21 weapon system with RP-22SM radar; 60 examples produced between 1969 and 1970.

MiG-23SM (Flogger-A) / MiG-23 Type 1971 - Improved Pre-Production Model; S-23 weapons suite with Sapfir-23L radar; AA-7 "Apex" missile capability; increased wing area; revised sawtooth leading wing edge' wings sans slats; increased wing sweep and revised sweep degrees; tail fin relocated further aft; extra internal fuel tank added for increased range; 80 examples produced.

MiG-23M (Flogger-B) - Initial Mass-Production Model; first flight in June of 1972; leading edge wing slats; Fitted with R-29-300 (R-29A) series engine; Sapfir-23D "High Lark" radar system; TP-23 Infra-Red Search and Track (IRST) system; ASP-23D gunsight; Lasur-SMA datalink; AA-7 "Apex" and AA-8 "Aphid" missile capability; double-pylons appearing from 1974 onwards; some ground attack capability; nuclear capable; 1,300 examples produced.

MiG-23MF (Flogger-B) - Export Version of MiG-23M; Warsaw Pact and Third World sub-variants; Third World variant with downgraded radar and sans electronic countermeasures.

MiG-23U (Flogger-C) - Twin-Seat Trainer; based on the MiG-23MS export variant; lengthened cockpit area; deletion of one forward internal fuel tank while adding a new rear internal fuel tank; S-21 weapon system; later upgraded to MiG-23M standard.

MiG-23UB (Flogger-C) - Twin-Seat Trainer; similar to MiG-23U; R-29 engine; produced until 1985; 769 production examples with conversions from MiG-23U as well.

MiG-23MP (Flogger-E) - Similar to MiG-23M but more close to the MiG-23MS; never exported; limited production total.

MiG-23MS (Flogger-E) - Export Variant; based on the MiG-23M; based on the MiG-23M production model; S-21 weapon system; RP-22SM "Jay Bird" radar; smaller nose cone; sans Infra-Red Search and Track and Beyond Visual Range capability; limited to AA-2a "Atoll", AA-2d "Atoll" and AA-8 "Aphid" missiles; simplified avionics suite; production between 1973 and 1978.

MiG-23P (Flogger-G) - Air Defense Interceptor; similar to MiG-23L; improved avionics suite; Sapfir-23P radar system; sans Infra-red Search and Track; new digital computer for autopilot; Lasur-M datalink; Ground Control Interception-capable; 500 examples produced from 1978 to 1981; never exported.

MiG-23bis (Flogger-G) - Similar to MiG-23P; IRST brought back; new HUD.

MiG-23ML (Flogger-G) - Improved Flogger; redesigned airframe; lighter overall weight; deletion of rear internal fuel tank; aerodynamic refinements; sans dorsal fin extension; redesigned undercarriage; 8.5 G-limit; fitted with R-35F-300 series engine; improved thrust-to-weight ratio; improved avionics suite and autopilot; revised navigation suite; new datalink and radio system; first flight in 1976 with production beginning in 1978.

MiG-23MLA (Flogger-G) - Similar to MiG-23ML production model' improved ECM and radar systems; new ASP-17ML HUD and gunsight; capability for improved AA-7 "Apex" missiles; 1,100 examples produced for Soviet Union, Warsaw Pact nations and Third World export customers.

MiG-23MLD (Flogger-K) - Definitive MiG-23 fighter variant; vortex generators added to pitot boom and wing leading edges; improved avionics; Sapfir-23MLA-II radar system; SPO-15L radar warning receiver; chaff/flare dispensers on upper rear fuselage; capability for AA-11 "Archer" missiles; 560 conversions from 1982 to 1985; Warsaw and Third World exports were new-builds; production ceased in 1984.

MiG-23B (Flogger-F) -Fighter-Bomber Variant; first prototype flight on August 20th, 1970; redesigned forward fuselage; raised pilot seat; cockpit armoring; fire-proof fuel tanks; sans radar system; Sokol-23 ground attack sight system; laser rangefinder; PBK-3 bombsight; improved autopilot and navigation suite; increased ordnance load; electronic warfare suite; AL-21F-3 turbofan engine; limited production of 24 examples from 1971 to 1972.

MiG-23BK (Flogger-H) - Fighter-Bomber Variant; export model for Warsaw Pact countries; PrNK-23 navigation and attack system; intake-mounted radar warning receivers.

MiG-23BM (Flogger-H) - Fighter-Bomber Variant; upgraded MiG-23BK models; PrNK-23M system; digital computer.

MiG-23M (Flogger-H) - Revised Ground Strike Variant; ultimately becoming the MiG-27 dedicated ground strike variant.

MiG-23BN (Flogger-H) - Fighter-Bomber Variant; similar to MiG-23B production model; R-29-300 series engines; Type 3 wing; revised electronics; production from 1973 into 1985; 624 examples produced.

MiG-27 (Flogger) - Dedicated Ground Attack Version of the MiG-23.

MiG-23R - Proposed Reconnaissance Variant; never produced.

MiG-23MLGD - Further Upgrade; revised equipment and radar.

MiG-23MLG - Further Upgrade; revised equipment and radar.

MiG-23MLS - Further Upgrade; revised equipment and radar.

MiG-23K - Carrierborne Variant; based on the MiG-23ML; eventually cancelled.

MiG-23A - Multi-Role Variant; based on the MiG-23K model; eventually cancelled.

MiG-23AI - Proposed MiG-23A sub-variant; improved dedicated fighter; eventually cancelled.

MiG-23AB - Proposed MiG-23A sub-variant; improved dedicated attack platform; eventually cancelled.

MiG-23AR - Proposed MiG-23A sub-variant; dedicated reconnaissance platform; eventually cancelled.

MiG-23MLK - Proposed design with 1 x R-100 or 2 x R-33 engines.

MiG-23MD - Fitted with Saphir-23MLA-2 radar; based on the MiG-23M model.

MiG-23ML-1 - Proposed re-engined Flogger; 1 x R-100 or R-69F engine or 2 x R-33 engine.

MiG-23-98 - Proposed upgraded Flogger; new radar and defensive systems; revised cockpit; new avionics suite; helmet-mounted sight; AA-10 "Alamo" capability.

MiG-23-98-2 - Proposed radar upgrade to existing Floggers.


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