While it may seem that the West was the only power at work on fantastical "x-planes" during the Cold War decades, Soviet engineers were constantly evolving technologies all their own. With the success of the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 "Fishbed" under their belt, engineers at the OKB continually developed the line through a series of test subjects largely for experimental purposes. One of these test subjects became the Ye-8 based heavily on the Fishbed and intended as the next incarnation of the line. However, engine difficulties ultimately doomed the project which stood as just two completed prototypes by the end - and one of these lost to an accident.
In 1961, Moscow authorities called for a new variant of the MiG-21 supersonic interceptor/fighter for use in day-night/all-weather interception scenarios. The aircraft would retain its single-seat/single-engine configuration and its primary armament would be 2 x Vympel K-13 air-to-air missiles directed by the RP-22 (Volkov "Sapfir-21") radar. Increased performance would come from an uprated engine fit. It was intended that the new design would carry the designation of "MiG-23" once in service and exist in its developmental stage as the "Ye-8". The former was eventually assigned to another Mikoyan-Gurevich product, the "Flogger".
The engine of choice became a Tumansky R-21F-300 turbojet based on the RD-11F series. Airflow was dramatically increased thanks to larger compressor inlets and a new afterburner component provided better short-term, high-speed output. This single installation would power the new design and provide the needed capabilities to rocket the aircraft into the air in short notice and propel the system towards the intended target zone.
On the whole, the airframe would remain faithful to the original MiG-21. Qualities carried over were the single vertical tail fin with low-mounted tailplanes, the delta-wing configuration and the tubular fuselage. The aircraft kept the sharp-angled lines along all of its wing surfaces.
However, that was where the similarities ended for the Ye-8 exhibited an all new nose section, an all new intake arrangement, and featured additional wing surface appendages for greater stability and control. The original MiG-21 carried the iconic nose-mounted intake that was so commonplace to post-World War 2 jets and its shock cone emanated from this opening. In the Ye-8, a complete nosecone assembly was introduced ahead of the cockpit in an effort to house the new radar. The engine aspirated through a bifurcated (split) air intake held under the cockpit (in fact very similar to the modern-day Eurofighter Typhoon) and nine fuel tanks were tied together to provide greater fuel delivery efficiency. Canard foreplanes were then added along the sides of the nose just ahead of the cockpit and a the raised dorsal spine of the MiG-21 remained, restricting rearward views to an extent. Slightly noticeable was the lower position of the tailplanes when compared to the MiG-21. Additionally, a sizeable ventral fin was added under the tail and made to fold sideways upon landing (this feature later standardized in the finalized MiG-23 "Flogger" design). A tricycle undercarriage was fitted with the nose leg longer than that seen in the MiG-21 - giving the aircraft a pronounced "nose up" appearance when on the ground.
Factory No.155 was charged with construction of two Ye-8 prototypes (Ye-8/1 and Ye-8/2) by June 1961 and the first was ready for display as soon as March 5th, 1962. Testing then began in April of that year which showcased the design sound after a few flights. However, engine issues began to arise from the fifth flight onward and nearly killed its test pilot. Ye-8/1 was lost on September 11th, 1962. Prototype Ye-8.2 began its flying phase in June of 1962. The two prototypes differed slightly between themselves but neither was fitted with their intended radar kit.
Engine reliability issues with the Tumansky R-21F-300 continued to dog the program throughout its development and this ultimately led to its cancellation despite the promising nature of the basic design. Radar and armament were never fitted. All was not lost, however, for experience and data garnered from the Ye-8 test phase helped to influence the aircraft that would become the official MiG-23 "Flogger" aircraft in the Mikoyan-Gurevich product line.
As completed, the Ye-8 held an overall length of 14.9 meters and a wingspan of 7.15 meters. The R-21F-300 turbojet engine outputted 10,330lbf on dry thrust and 15,820lbf with afterburner engaged. Performance specifications included a maximum speed of 1,385 miles per hour and a service ceiling of 65,600 feet.
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
✓Air-to-Air Combat, Fighter
General ability to actively engage other aircraft of similar form and function, typically through guns, missiles, and/or aerial rockets.
Ability to intercept inbound aerial threats by way of high-performance, typically speed and rate-of-climb.
✓X-Plane (Developmental, Prototype, Technology Demonstrator)
Aircraft developed for the role of prototyping, technology demonstration, or research / data collection.
48.9 ft (14.90 m)
23.5 ft (7.15 m)
14.3 ft (4.35 m)
11,464 lb (5,200 kg)
18,078 lb (8,200 kg)
+6,614 lb (+3,000 kg)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the Mikoyan-Gurevich Ye-8/1 production variant)
1 x Tumansky R21F-300 turbofan engine developing 15,820lbf with afterburner (10,330lbf dry thrust).
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