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    Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 (Fishbed) Fighter Aircraft

    The successful Mikoyan-Gurevich Mig-21 Fishbed was a giant leap from earlier MiG turbojet-powered, swept-wing fighters for the Soviets.

     Updated: 3/21/2017; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.MilitaryFactory.com

    The MiG-21 was undoubtedly the most successful Cold War fighter in terms of reach, operating in over 50 air forces around the globe and seeing production well past the 10,000 example mark. The aircraft was developed with lessons learned in the Korean War based on after-action reports and valuable pilot input. The end-product for the Mikoyan-Gurevich firm would be the pinnacle of MiG fighter development that began in 1938 during World War 2 and culminated in over a decade of research, testing and development to produce the exceptional MiG-21. Despite having limited range (common in many of the early thirsty jet-powered implements), the MiG-21 was none-the-less easy to operate, easy to maintain and cost-effective to the point that many-a-nation went on to field the type - some even to this day.


    Mikoyan-Gurevich was formed in the relatively early stages of World War 2 by the Soviet government. The firm's initial production offerings became the modestly-successful MiG-1 and MiG-3 piston-engined fighters that helped to stave off the German advance into Russia. While not an overly spectacular aircraft - utilizing a basic conventional light airframe with a very powerful engine - it gave Mikoyan-Gurevich some level of successful to build a foundation on for developments to come. By the end of World War 2, the firm had produced their first production jet-powered aircraft in the MiG-9 "Fargo". While unspectacular in itself and very prone to accident, the Fargo was still produced in nearly 600 examples and set the stage for the firm's next success in the smallish MiG-15 "Fagot".

    The jet-powered, swept-wing MiG-15 appeared as something of a surprise to UN pilots in their straight-wing Lockheed F-80 Shooting Stars and Republic F-84 Thunderjets. It was not uncommon for UN piston-powered aircraft to square off against these silver-colored nimble machines as well. The MiG-15 proved more than a handful to her adversaries - especially when in control by Soviet airmen - to the point that a counteragent - the North American F-86 Sabre - was brought in to force a political and military "tie" to the conflict, an "uneasy peace" more or less. Over 12,000 MiG-15's were ultimately produced with a further few thousand more coming under license outside of the Soviet Union.

    The MiG-15 was bettered in the development MiG-17 which was already in the works during the Korean War and made operational in the Soviet inventory in 1952. Though not utilized in the Korean conflict, it went on to see notable action in the Vietnam War and elsewhere. While an improvement over the MiG-15 in most regards, the MiG-17 was still a subsonic performer - that is, operating under the mach 1 speed ceiling. Production still topped over 10,000 examples.

    Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21bis (Fishbed) Technical Specifications

    Service Year: 1959
    Type: Fighter Aircraft
    National Origin: Soviet Union
    Manufacturer(s): Mikoyan-Gurevich - Soviet Union
    Production Total: 11,496

    Structural (Crew Space, Dimensions and Weights)

    Operating Crew: 1
    Length: 51.71 feet (15.76 meters)
    Width: 23.46 feet (7.15 meters)
    Height: 13.45 feet (4.10 meters)

    Weight (Empty): 11,464 lb (5,200 kg)
    Weight (MTOW): 17,549 lb (7,960 kg)

    Installed Power and Standard Day Performance

    Engine(s): 1 x Tumansky R-25 afterburning turbojet engine developing 16,535 lb of thrust.

    Maximum Speed: 1,386 mph (2,230 kph; 1,204 knots)
    Maximum Range: 721 miles (1,160 km)
    Service Ceiling: 59,055 feet (18,000 meters; 11.18 miles)
    Rate-of-Climb: 58,000 feet-per-minute (17,678 m/min)

    Armament / Mission Payload

    1 x 23mm GSh-23 cannon

    Maximum ordnance of up to 4,410 lbs on four underwing hardpoints. Can include 2 x K-13A (R-3R) air-to-air missiles, 4 x Molniya R-60 air-to-air missiles or 2 x 1,102 drop bombs.

    Global Operators / Customers

    Afghanistan; Algeria; Angola; Azerbaijan; Bangladesh; Belarus; Burkina Faso; Bulgaria; Cambodia; China; Republic of the Congo; Croatia; Cuba; Czechoslovakia; Czech Republic; East Germany; Eritrea; Egypt; Ethiopia; Finland; Georgia; Germany; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; Hungary; India; Indonesia; Iraq; Israel; Kyrgyzstan; Laos; Libya; Madagascar; Mali; Mongolia; Mozambique; Namibia; Nigeria; North Korea; North Vietnam; North Yemen; Romania; Serbia; Sudan; Syria; Uganda; Vietnam; Yemen; Zambia; Poland; Russia; Slovakia; Somalia; South Yemen; Tanzania; Soviet Union; United States; Ukraine; Yugoslavia

    Model Variants (Including Prototypes)

    Ye-1 - One-Off Prototype

    Ye-50 - Prototype

    Ye-50A (MiG-23U) - Prototype

    Ye-2 "Faceplate" - Prototype

    Ye-4 "Fishbed" - Prototype

    Ye-2A "Faceplate" - Prototype

    Ye-5 "Fishbed" - Prototype


    Ye-6 - Prototype

    Ye-6T - Prototype

    Ye-6U - Two-Seat Trainer Prototype

    Ye-6V - Prototype

    Ye-7SPS - Prototype

    Ye-7M - Prototype

    Ye-7R - Prototype

    Ye-7S - Prototype

    MiG-21 - Pre-Production Clear-Weather Interceptor


    MiG-21F ("Fishbed-B") - Pre-Production Models; fitted with 2 x 30mm cannons; centerline fuel tank for increased range; 40 examples produced.

    MiG-21F-13 ("Fishbed-B") - Refined MiG-21F Models; initial quantitative production service models; fitted with 1 x cannon and provision for 2 x AA-2 "Atoll" air-to-air missiles.

    MiG-21FL - Export Dedicated Interceptor of MiG-21PFS sans blown flaps or RATO provision; down spec radar and lower-rated powerplant.


    MiG-21PF ("Fishbed-D") - Limited All-Weather Fighter fitted with RP-21 Sapfir search and tracking radar; redesigned nose for R1L radar; improved R-11F2-300 turbojet; improved performance specifications.

    MiG-21U ("Mongol") - Two-Seat Conversion Trainer based on MiG-21F-13.

    MiG-21R ("Fishbed-N") - Tactical Reconnaissance Model based on the MiG-21PFM; centerline-fitted reconnaissance pod for SLAR, TV and IR sensors; fitted with lighter version of R-13-30 turbojet engine production more power.

    MiG-21RF - Reconnaissance Variant based on the MiG-21MF

    MiG-21P ("Fishbed-D") - Forward-Opening Single-Piece Canopy

    MiG-21PD ("Fishbed-G")

    MiG-21P-13 ("Fishbed-D") - Forward-Opening Single-Piece Canopy; overall refinements; sans cannon armament.

    MiG-21PFS ("Fishbed-F") - Dedicated Interceptor; minor design elements included blown flaps and RATO capability; two-piece canopy; upgraded radar system; improved engine.

    MiG-21PFM ("Fishbed-F") - Improved MiG-21PFS; two-piece canopy; upgraded radar; improved engines.

    MiG-21S ("Fishbed-H") - Improved Variant; multi-role fighter fitted with RP-22 radar; ventral cannon pod; enlarged dorsal hump for added fuel; 4 x underwing hardpoints.

    MiG-21SM ("Fishbed-H") - Fighter; fitted with ventral cannon pod; improved R-13-300 turbojet engine.


    MiG-21SMT - Aerodynamically Refined Variant based on the MiG-21MF; increased fuel capacity via an enlarged dorsal fairing; ECM capability.



    MiG-21M ("Fishbed-J") - Produced by HAL of India for export based on MiG-21S.

    MiG-21L - Redesigned nose section; fitted with new R1L radar system; movable conical center body assembly mounted in front intake; R-11F2-300 powerplant issued.

    MiG-21I ("Fishbed-J") - Wing Testbed

    MiG-21US ("Mongol-B") - Two-Seat Conversion Trainer

    MiG-21MF ("Fishbed-J") - Export Fighter Model with improved R-13-300 powerplant and improved MTOW; RP-22 radar; air-to-air missile capability across all four pylons.

    MiG-21SMT ("Fishbed-K")


    MiG-21bis ("Fishbed-L / Fishbed-N") - 3rd Generation; improved throughout; Multi-role capabilities; 4 x underwing pylons.

    MiG-21bis ("Lazur") - Sub-variant

    MiG-21bis SAU - Sub-variant; basis of export MiG-21bis

    MiG-21UM ("Mongol-B")


    MiG-21-93 - Modernized Standard offered as an upgrade package; Kopyo Pulse-Doppler radar; upgraded avionics; helmet-mounted target designator; dual-screen HUD; improved flight control system.

    MiG-21-2000 - Israel Aerospace Industries export product of modernized MiG-21.

    MiG-21 LanceR - Modernized Romanian MiG-21 for air defense; modernization completed by Aerostar SA of Romania and Elbit of Israel; ground attack variant for use with guided "smart" munitions.

    MiG-21 LanceR-B - Trainer version of the LanceR; tandem seat cockpit.

    MiG-21 LanceR-C - Air Superiority version of the LanceR; Elta EL/M-2032 series radar system; helmet mounted sight; twin liquid-crystal multi-function displays.

    MiG-21 "Bison" - Updated Export MiG-21; fitted with Phazotron Kopyo radar system; improved air-to-air capabilities.

    MiG-21-97 - MiG-21 upgrade package; fitted with Klimov RD-33 series engines; improved performance and air-to-air capabilities.

    MiG-21FL (Type 77) - Indian Production MiG-21s by Hindustan Aeronautics.

    Type 88 - Indian Production MiG-21M by Hindustan Aeronautics.

    MiG-21-93 - Indian Conversion Trainer Model Designation.

    Chengdu J-7 - Chinese license-production of MiG-21 series

    Chengdu F-7 - Chinese Export Model Designation for J-7; license-production.

    MiG-21F-13 - Czechoslovakian license-production MiG-21.

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