The Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 (Микоян и Гуревич МиГ-21) (NATO reporting name "Fishbed") is a supersonic jet fighter aircraft, designed and built by the Mikoyan-Gurevich Design Bureau in the Soviet Union. It was popularly nicknamed "balalaika", from the aircraft's planform-view resemblance to the famous Russian stringed musical instrument or ołówek (pencil) by Polish pilots due shape of its fuselage. Some 50 countries over four continents have flown the MiG-21, and it still serves many nations a half-century after its maiden flight. The fighter has the distinction of holding a number of aviation records, including 1) most produced supersonic jet aircraft in aviation history, 2) most produced combat aircraft since World War II, and 3) longest production run of a combat aircraft. Its Mach 2 capability exceeds the top speed of many later modern fighter types. It has been estimated that more than 10,000 MiG-21s were built.
The MiG 21 jet fighter was a continuation of Soviet jet fighters, starting with the subsonic MiG-15, MiG-17, and the low-supersonic MiG-19. A number of experimental Mach 2 Soviet designs were based on nose intakes with either swept-back wings, such as the Sukhoi Su-7, or tailed deltas, of which the MiG-21 would be the most successful.
The E-5 prototype of the MiG-21 was first flown in and made its first public appearance during the Soviet Aviation Day display at Moscow's Tushino Airport in June . The first delta-wing prototype, named Ye-4 (or E-4) flew on 14 June 1956, and the production MiG-21 entered service in early . Employing a delta configuration, the MiG-21 was the first successful Soviet aircraft combining fighter and interceptor characteristics in a single aircraft. It was a lightweight fighter, achieving Mach 2 with a relatively low-powered afterburning turbojet, and is thus comparable to the American F-104 Starfighter and French Dassault Mirage III.
When the MiG-21 was first introduced, it exhibited several flaws. Its early version air-to-air missiles, the Vympel K-13 (NATO reporting name AA-2 'Atoll'), were not successful in combat, and its gyro gunsight was easily thrown off in high-speed maneuvers, making the initial version of the MiG-21 an ineffective aircraft. These problems were remedied, and during the Middle Eastern and Vietnam wars, the MiG-21 proved to be an effective aircraft. Subsequent MiG-21 models added design modifications to incorporate lessons learned in these wars.
Like many aircraft designed as interceptors, the MiG-21 had a short range. This was not helped by a design defect where the center of gravity shifted rearwards once two-thirds of the fuel had been used. This had the effect of making the plane uncontrollable, resulting in an endurance of only 45 minutes in clean condition. The delta wing, while excellent for a fast-climbing interceptor, meant any form of turning combat led to a rapid loss of speed. However, the light loading of the aircraft could mean that, at 50% fuel and with two Atolls, a climb rate of 58,000 ft (17,670 m) per minute was possible, not far short of the performance of the later F-16A. Given a skilled pilot and capable missiles, it could give a good account of itself against contemporary fighters. It was replaced by the newer variable-geometry MiG-23 and MiG-27 for ground support duties. However, not until the MiG-29 would the Soviet Union ultimately replace the MiG-21 as a maneuvering dogfighter to counter new American air superiority types.
The MiG-21 was exported widely and continues to be used well past the time where it might have been considered obsolete. The aircraft's simple controls, engine, weapons, and avionics were typical of Soviet-era military designs. While technologically inferior to the more advanced fighters it often faced, low production and maintenance costs made it a favorite of nations buying Eastern Bloc military hardware.
Due to the lack of available information, early details of the MiG-21 were often confused with those of the similar Sukhoi fighters also under development. Jane's All the World's Aircraft 1960-1961 describes the "Fishbed" as a Sukhoi design, and uses an illustration of the Su-9 'Fishpot'.
A total of 10158 (some sources say 10645) were built in the USSR. They were produced in three factories, in the GAZ 30 in Moscow (also known as Znamiya Truda), in GAZ 21 in Gorky and in GAZ 31 in Tbilisi. The type of "MiG" manufactured differed. Gorky built single-seaters for the Soviet forces. Moscow built single-seaters for export and Tbilisi manufactured the twin-seaters both for export and for the USSR. However, there are exceptions. The MiG-21R and MiG-21bis for export and for the USSR were built in Gorky, 17 single-seaters were built in Tbilisi (probably MiG-21F), the MiG-21MF was first built in Moscow and then Gorky, and the MiG-21U was built in Moscow as well as in Tbilisi. The count for each factory is:
The MiG-21 is a single-engined jet fighter aircraft capable of supersonic flight. Wing The MiG-21 has a delta wing. The sweep angle on the leading edge is 57° with a TsAGI S-12 airfoil. The angle of incidence is 0° while the dihedral angle is -2°. On the trailing edge there are ailerons with an area of 1.18 m², and flaps with an area of 1.87 m². In front of the ailerons there are small wing fences.Fuselage A semi-monocoque with an elliptical profile with a maximum width of 1.24m. The air flow to the engine is regulated by a cone in the air intake. Up until the MiG-21PF it is three staged. On speeds up to M=1,5 it is fully retracted, between speeds of M=1.5 and M=1.9 it is in the middle position, and with speeds higher than M=1.9 it is in the maximum forward position. However, on the MiG-21PF it adapts to the actual speed, according to the UVD-2M system aboard the aircraft, which monitors the pressure in front and behind the compressor of the engine. On both side of the nose there are gills to supply the engine with more air while on the ground and during takeoff. In the first variant of the MiG-21, the pitot tube is on the bottom of the nose; after the MiG-21P, every version of the -21 has this tube situated on the top of the air intake. The cabin is pressurized and air conditioned. The canopy up until the MiG-21PFM opens on a hinge on the front of the canopy. When ejecting, the SK-1 ejection seat connects with the canopy making a capsule to enclose the pilot and protect him from the airflow, after which it would separate and the pilot would parachute down. However, the canopy took too long to separate and some pilots were killed after ejecting at low altitudes. On the MiG-21PFM the canopy opens on a hinge on the right side of the cockpit. On the belly of the plane there are three air brakes, two at the front and one at the back. The front brakes have an area of 0.76 m², and a deflection angle of 35°. The back one has an area of 0.46 m² and a deflection angle of 40°. The usage of the back air brake is blocked if the plane carries an external fuel tank. Behind the air brakes are the bays for the main landing gear. Under the body, just behind the trailing edge of the wing, two JATO rockets can be attached. The front part of the fuselage ends with former #28. Beginning with former #28a is the back part of the fuselage, which is removable for engine maintenance.Empennage The empennage of the MiG-21 consists of a vertical stabilizer, a stabilator and a small fin on the bottom of the tail to improve yaw control. The vertical stabilizer has a sweep angle of 60° and an area of 5.32 m² (on earlier version 3.8 m²) and a rudder. The stabilator has sweep angle of 57°, an area of 3.94 m² and a span of 2.6m.
Landing Gear A tricycle type undercarriage with a nose gear. The main landing gear has tires 800 mm in diameter and 600 mm in width (till the MiG-21P 660x200). The wheels of the main landing gear retract in the fuselage after rotating 87°, the shock absorbers retract in the wing. The nose gear retracts forward in the fuselage under the radar. The wheel base is 4.71m, the track width is 2.69m.Engines The MiG-21 engine was produced in several variants.
|R-11F-300||38.2/53.4||F, F-13, U|
|R-11F2-300||38.7/60.0||F-13 (refitted), PF, FL|
|R-11F2S-300||38.2/60.6||PF, PFS, PFM, R, S, M, US, UM|
|R-13-300||39.9/63.7||M (refitted), MF, RF, SM, SMT, UM (refitted)|
|R-25-300||40.2/69.9 97,1kN with "extreme afterburner"||bis|
The MiG-21 initially achieved renown in the Vietnam War, during which it saw frequent action. It was one of the most advanced aircraft at the time; however, many North Vietnamese aces preferred flying the MiG-17, since the high wing loading on the MiG-21 made it less maneuverable than the MiG-17. Although the MiG-21 lacked the long-range radar, missiles, and heavy bombing payload of its contemporary multi-mission U.S. fighters, it proved a challenging adversary in the hands of experienced pilots especially when used in high speed hit and run attacks under GCI control. MiG-21 intercepts of F-105 strike groups were effective in downing US aircraft or forcing them to jettison their bomb loads.
By the bombing halt in Operation Rolling Thunder in 1968, poor air-to-air combat loss-exchange ratios against smaller, more agile enemy MiGs during the early part of the Vietnam War eventually led the USAF to establish Dissimilar Air Combat Training programs such as Navy "Top Gun", these two programs employed subsonic A-4 Skyhawk and F-5 Tiger II aircraft to mimic the performance of more maneuverable opponents like the MiG-17 and MiG-21.
A VPAF MiG-21MF flown by Phạm Tuân over Hanoi, North Vietnam on December 26, 1972 was apparently responsible for the only claimed air combat kill of a U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress in history. The B-52 had been circling above Hanoi during Operation Linebacker II. Over the course of the Vietnam War, between April 26, and January 8, 1973, each side claimed favorable kill ratios.
The MiG-21 was also used extensively in the Middle East conflicts of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s by the air forces of Egypt, Syria and Iraq against Israel. The MiG-21 first faced Israeli Mirage IIICs on April 7th, 1967 when six Syrian MiG-21's were shot down by the Israeli Mirages. The MiG-21 would face F-4 Phantom IIs and A-4 Skyhawks later in the 1970s, but was later outclassed by the more modern F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon, which were acquired by Israel beginning in the 1980s. The MiG-21 was also used in the early stages of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December, 1979.
Egypt would eventually be shipped some American Sidewinder missiles, and these were fitted to their MiG-21s and successfully used in combat against Libyan MiG-23s during the brief 1977 war.
During the Yom Kippur War, in the "Air Battle of el-Mansoura" Egypt, Israel launched a large scale raid with over 100 aircraft – F-4 Phantoms and A-4 Skyhawks – attempting to hit the huge air base at el-Mansourah. It culminated in an almost continuous dogfight lasting no less than 53 minutes. According to Egyptian estimates over 180 aircraft were involved at one time, the majority belonging to the Israelis. At 10pm local time Cairo Radio broadcast “Communiqué Number 39”, announcing that there had been several air battles that day over a number of Egyptian airfields, that most intensive being over the northern Delta area. It also claimed that 15 enemy aircraft had been downed by Egyptian fighters for the loss of three Egyptian aircraft, while an even greater number of Israelis had been shot down by the Army and the Air Defense Forces over Sinai and the Suez Canal. For its part, Israel Radio claimed, early the following morning, that the IAF had shot down 15 Egyptian aircraft, a figure subsequently reduced to seven. . Following a more detailed analysis after the war had ended, the EAF actually increased its original claims and now asserts that the results of the el-Mansourah air battle were as follows: 17 Israeli aircraft confirmed shot down for the loss of six MiGs. Of the EAF aircraft lost, three were shot down by the enemy, two crashed because they ran out of fuel before their pilots could return to base and a third blew up after flying through the debris of an exploding Phantom which it had just shot down.
During 1991-1995, Yugoslav People's Army and Serb forces used its MiG-21 Ms (about a hundred in total compromising 1/3 of the entire air force) during the Slovenian War, Croatian War of Independence and the Bosnian War and again during the 1999 Kosovo War and NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. Except during the NATO intervention, the aircraft had no air opposition and was mainly used in a ground-attack role. One piloted by Emir Šišić shot down a UN helicopter that entered the Yugoslav airspace unannounced. Detailed records show at least six MiGs were shot down by AA defenses in Croatia and Bosnia and another 24 were destroyed by NATO, all while on the ground. Croatia acquired three MiG-21s in 1992 through defections by Croatian pilots of JNA, two of whom were lost in subsequent actions - one to Serbian air defenses, the other in a friendly fire accident In 1993, Croatia purchased about 40 MiG-21s in violation of arms embargo , but only about 20 of these entered service, while the rest were used for spare parts Croatia used them alongside the sole remaining defector for ground attack missions in operations Flash (during which one was lost ) and Storm. The only air to air action for Croatian MiGs was an attempt by two of them to intercept J-22 Oraos of Republika Srpska Air Force on ground attack mission on 7th of August 1995. After some maneuvering both sides disengaged without having fired a single bullet
The MIG-21s combat record in the Horn of Africa was dismal. During the Ethiopia-Somalia war of 1977-78, Ethiopian American supplied F-5Es shot down several MIG-21s of the Somali Air Force in dogfights without any air-to-air losses. Ironically, Ethiopia also received the advanced bis version of the MIG-21s which were initially flown by Cuban pilots. Ethiopian F-5Es flew several simulated dogfights against the top Cuban pilots flying the MIG-21s without any losses. In 1999-2000, it is reported that some Ethiopian MiG-21s where shot down by Eritrean MiG-29s.
Beginning in 1993, Russia did not offer spare parts for the MiG-23 and MiG-29 for the Romanian Air Force. Initially, this was the context for the modernization of the Romanian MiG-21's with Elbit systems, and because it was easier for the Romanians to maintain these fighter jets. 110 MiG-21's were modernized under the LanceR designation. Today, only 48 LanceRs are operational for the RoAF. It can use both Western and Eastern armament such as the R-60M, R-73, Magic 2, or Python III missiles. They will be replaced in 2012 when new fighter jets will arrive, such as the Eurofighter Typhoon or Gripen.
Ye-2 (NATO: "Faceplate")