January 23, 1968: Flight Test Center Examines Soviet MiG-21

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  • Air Force Flight Test Center

The Air Force Flight Test Center joined a Department of Defense team led by the Foreign Technology Division (AFSC) to carry out a clandestine examination of a Soviet-built MiG-21F-13 Fishbed E fighter. The three-month effort confirmed existing threat data and evaluated the effectiveness of U.S. combat tactics against the fighter, widely used by North Vietnam. The aircraft had only 135 hours on the airframe at the time it was acquired.

The Mikpoyan-Guirevich MiG-21 fishbed Fighter aircraft was a continuation of Soviet jet fighters, starting with the subsonic Mikpoyan-Guirevich MiG-15 Fagot and Mikpoyan-Guirevich Mig-17 Fresco and the supersonic Mikpoyan-Guirevich Mig-19 Farmer.  A number of experimental Mach 2 Soviet designs were based on nose intakes with either swept-back wings such as the Sukhoi  Su-7 Fitter or tailed deltas, of which the Mikpoyan-Guirevich MiG-21 fishbed would be the ,most successful.

Development of what would become the Mikpoyan-Guirevich Fishbed began in the early 1950s, when Mikoyan OKB finished a preliminary design study for a prototype designated Mikpoyan-Guirevich Ye-1 in 1954.  This project was very quickly reworked when it was determined that the planned engine was underpowered.  The redesign led to the second prototype, the Mikpoyan-Guirevich Ye-2.  Both of these and other early prototypes featured swept wings, the first prototype with delta wings as found on production variants was the Mikpoyan-Guirevich Ye-4.  The Mikpoyan-Guirevich made its maiden flight on June 16, 1955 and made its first public appearance during the Soviet Aviation Day display at Moscow's Tushino airfield in July 1956. 

In the West, due to the lack of available information, early details of the Mikpoyan-Guirevich MiG-21 Fishbed often were confused with those of similar Soviet fighters of the era.  In one instance, Jane's All the World's aircraft 1960-1961 listed the Fishbed as a Sukhoi design and used an illustration of the Su-9 Fishpot. 



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