Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 Fishbed

MiG-21 Fishbed fighter

This supersonic tailed-delta fighter was in production for more than twenty years, and the final production aircraft were very different from the initial version. The early MiG-21Fs were simple good-weather interceptors with only a ranging radar, inadequately armed and with a very short operational range. The MiG-21P(F) introduced a limited all-weather capability, with a longer shock cone in the nose intake for a more powerful radar, a bigger fuselage spine. The second generation MiG-21M had a new engine and an again enlarged fuselage spine, containing additional fuel. The third generation MiG-21bis introduced yet another engine and a new avionics upgrade. The MiG-21U 'Mongol' is the trainer version. Recently a series of upgrades of MiG-21s has begun, usually with Western electronics. India did build MiG-21s until 1987; China still builds MiG-21s, exporting them with the F-7 designation. Probably over 10,000 have been built.

Type: MiG-21F 'Fishbed-C'
Country: Soviet Union / Russia
Function: fighter
Year: 1959
Export: Operators: Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Congo, Republic of the, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Egypt, Ethiopia, Finland, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, India, Iraq, Laos, Libya, Madagascar, Mali, Mongolia, Nigeria, North Korea, Poland, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, Slovakia, Sudan, Syria, Uganda, Vietnam, Yemen, Zambia
Crew: 1
Engines: 1 * 5740 kg R11F-300
Wing Span: 7.15 m
Length: 13.46 m
Height: 4.10 m
Wing Area: 23.00 m2
Empty Weight: 4980 kg
Max. Weight: 8625 kg
Speed: 2175 km/h
Range: 2030 km
Armament: 1*g23mm, 2 missiles

Type: MiG-21MF 'Fishbed-J'
Function: fighter
Year: 1970
Crew: 1
Engines: 1 * 6600 kg Tumanski R-13-300
Wing Span: 7.15 m
Length: 15.76 m
Height: 4.50 m
Wing Area: 23.0 m2
Empty Weight: 5842 kg
Max. Weight: 9400 kg
Speed: 2230 km/h
Ceiling: 15250 m
Range: 1800 km
Armament: 1*g23 mm 2500 kg

Type: MiG-21bis
Function: fighter
Year: 1972
Crew: 1
Engines: 1 * 70 kN Tumanski R-25-300 afterburning turbojet
Wing Span: 7.15 m
Length: 15.76 m Height: 4.12 m
Wing Area: 23.00 m2
Wing loading: 379 kg/m²
Empty Weight: 5350 kg
Max. Weight: 9660 kg
Thrust/weight: 0.82
Speed: 2230 km/h
Rate of climb: 120 m/s
Ceiling: 19000 m
Range: 450-500 km
Armament: 1*g23 mm 1500 kg

The MiG-21F is a short-range day fighter-interceptor and the first major production version of the popular MiG-21 series. It is one of many versions of this aircraft that have served in the air arms of many nations around the world. The E-5 prototype of the MiG-21 was first flown in 1955 and made its first public appearance during the Soviet Aviation Day display at Moscow's Tushino Airport in June 1956. During the Vietnam War, MiG-21s were often used against U.S. aircraft. Between April 26, 1965, and January 8, 1973, the USAF downed 68 MiG-21s. More than 30 countries of the world-including nations friendly to the U.S. -have flown the MiG-21. At least 15 versions of the MiG-21 have been produced, some outside the Soviet Union. Estimates place the number built at more than 8,000, a production total exceeding that of any other modern jet aircraft.

The Soviets licensed the manufacture of the MiG-21F and its engine to China in 1961, and assembly of the first J-7 (Jianjiji-7 Fighter aircraft 7) using Chinese-made components began early 1964. The first flight of the Shenyang-built J-7 came on 17 January 1966, and Chengdu production of the J-7-I began in June 1967. Neither version was produced in large numbers. Subsequent modifications included development of the J-7-II / J-7B which began in 1975 with production approved in September 1979. Development of F-7M and J-7 III started in 1981. The J-7 III is the Chinese equivalent of MiG-21MF. Substantially reworked from the J-7 II, the J-7 III first flight occurred on 26 April 1984. Jointly developed by Chengdu and Guizhou (GAIC), the J-7 III entered PLA Air Force and Navy service beginning in 1992, with production continuing thereafter.

Other development efforts extended through the F-7M Airguard which received a production go-ahead in December 1984. In 1988 China delivered the first 20 of 60 F-7M Skybolts to Pakistan. As upgrades, Karachi reportedly was leaning to a totally indigenous Chinese aircraft over the Grumman-influenced Sabre II, or F-7P. Development of the "Super 7" upgrade was terminated with the end of American technical assistance following the Tienanmen repression of 1989.

The aircraft has mid-mounted delta wings with small square tips. There is one turbojet inside the body. There is a small round air intake in the nose. There is a single exhaust. The fuselage is a long, tubular body with a blunt nose and bubble canopy. There is one belly fin under the rear section. There is a large dorsal spine flush with the canopy. The tail fin swept-back and tapered with a square tip. The flats are mid-mounted on the body, swept-back, and tapered with square tips. The J-7FS modification adds a radar to a reconfigured air intake, while the "Super 7" upgrade would have completely reworked the front end of the aircraft, adding a much larger radar and ventral air inlets, along with various other less pronounced improvements.

By 1989 Chinese production was running at a rate of as much as 14 aircraft per month, primarily for export. The J-7 aircraft was the most widely produced Chinese fighter, replacing older J-6 fighters, the Chinese version of the MiG-19. In 1995 it was projected that J-7 production would continue for at least another decade, resulting in a total inventory of nearly 1000 aircraft by 2005, but in fact the PLAAF inventory has remained static since then at about 500 aircraft, suggesting that production has either been suspended or terminated.

MiG-21 aircraft acquired by the United States under the Foreign Materiel Acquisition/Exploitation program are designated as the YF-110.


The first generation of MiG jet fighters was based on designs similar to late-WWII German jet designs, starting with the subsonic MiG-15, MiG-17, and the low supersonic swept-wing 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 delta wings, of which the MiG-21 would be the most successful.

The E-5 prototype of the MiG-21 was first flown in 1955 and made its first public appearance during the Soviet Aviation Day display at Moscow's Tushino Airport in June 1956. The first delta-wing prototype, named "Ye-4", (also written as "E-4") flew on 14 June 1956, and the production MiG-21 entered service in early 1959. Employing a delta-wing 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 speed using 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.

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