Attrition: MiG-23s Fade Away Loudly

Archives

October 14, 2009: A Libyan MiG-23 fighter crashed on October 7th, during a demonstration flight. Both pilots were killed. During the Cold War, Libya bought over 150 MiG-23s from Russia, and most are currently in storage. The rest will probably join them, as Libya receives newer, and safer, jets. There are still several hundred MiG-23s in use worldwide. But several thousand have been retired since the end of the Cold War in 1991. The remaining operators are dumping their MiG-23s as quickly as possible.

For example, the Indian Air Force is retiring the last of its Russian MiG-23BNs, ending an unimpressive career. India bought 72 of the 18 ton, single engine, swing wing fighter-bombers in the early 1980s, but never used them in combat.

The MiG-23 was the Russian answer to the 1960s era U.S. F-4, but with only one engine, and swing wings (like the U.S. F-14 and F-111). It was the (then new and revolutionary) F-111 that inspired the swing wing design of the MiG-23 that really screwed up the MiG-23. The technology didn't work well with the F-111, and the rather more crude version in the MiG-23, worked less well. Thus the successor to the MiG-21 put the Russians even further behind the West in aircraft performance. When the successor of the F-4, the F-16 and F-15, showed up in the 1970s, and the F-18 in the 1980s, the Russians found themselves way behind. By the end of the Cold War, the Russians had recovered somewhat with the introduction of the MiG-29 and Su-27. But by then, 5,000 MiG-23s had been manufactured, and most were still in service, at great expense, and will little prospect of accomplishing much in combat.

The MiG-23 had a top speed of 2500 kilometers per hour, combat range of 1,150 kilometers and max bomb load of three tons. The MiG-23BN was optimized for ground-attack missions. It had a laser designator and a bomb sight. The only air-to-air missiles it carried were heat seekers. Half the Indian 72 MiG-23 BNs bought were lost in accidents. An air-superiority version, the MiG-23MF, was retired from Indian service two years ago.

A more advanced ground attack version of the MiG-23, called the MiG-27, was built under license in India. This 20 ton aircraft had a four ton bomb load and a 30mm cannon optimized for ground attack. India built nearly 200 of these, and they are still in use. This model saw some combat in Kashmir in 1999.

The MiG-23/27 was not a successful design. The Russian swing-wing mechanism was not as effective as the American one, and the aircraft was difficult to maintain. The F-4 was more maneuverable and carried a larger bomb load.

 

 


Article Archive

Attrition: Current 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 


X

ad
0
20

Help Keep Us Soaring

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling. We need your help in reversing that trend. We would like to add 20 new subscribers this month.

Each month we count on your subscriptions or contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close