In an article titled “The 5 Worst Fighter Jets on Planet Earth,” the National Interest magazine ranked the Soviet-developed MiG-23 fighter as the most disaster fighter jet in history.
According to this website, the MiG-23 often has trouble flying and is difficult to maintain. American test pilots tasked with understanding the MiG-23’s features consider it a disaster. In 1984, US Air Force Lieutenant General Robert M. Bond died flying a MiG-23.
“By design, engines burned out quickly, meaning that export customers who had fallen out of Soviet graces quickly lost the use of their fighters. The Flogger’s combat record, generally in Syrian, Iraqi, and Libyan service, has not been positive. It’s hardly surprising that the MiG-23 will almost certainly leave service before its predecessor, the MiG-21,” wrote Nationnal Interest.
However, if you dig deeper into the combat history of MiG-23, you will have a different view of this fighter. MiG-23 is not a bad fighter, even the US Army has to admit the ability of MiG-23. In the air conflict between Syria and Israel in the early 1980s, the MiG-23 fighted on par with Israel’s latest F-4 and F-16 fighters.
The Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23, also known as Flogger, is a variable-geometry fighter developed by the Soviet Union in the 1960s. In an attempt to respond to the US F-111 and F-14 Tomcat, and to replace the legendary MiG-21, Mikoyan had to consider design options. Finally, a variable geometry wings design was chosen. The prototype was developed and named as MiG-23. The first flight was made in 1967 and was officially launched in 1970.
It was the first Soviet fighter to field a look-down radar, and one of the first to be armed with beyond-visual-range missiles. During its operation, the Soviet Union produced a total of more than 5,000 MiG-23s. In the 1980s, each MiG-23 cost between $3.6 and $6.6 million each. The design of the MiG-23 was also the basis for development on the Mig-27, a specialized ground attack variant.
The design of the MiG-23 is influenced by the F-111 and F-4 Phantom II. The designers kept the MiG-23 light enough weight and agility to dogfight with enemy fighters.
Flogger has a length of 16.7m (54 ft 9 in), a wingspan of 13.9m (45 ft 10 in) when fully-spread and reduced to 7.7m (25.52 ft) when fully-swept.
It has a height of 4.82m, an empty weight of 10.2 tons (22,487 lb) while maximum takeoff weight is 17.8 tons (39,242 lb). For comparison, the US F-111 has an empty weight of 21.4 tons (47,200 lb) and a maximum takeoff weight of 45.3 tons (100,000 lb).
The new radar system is housed in a conical nose. Behind it is a single cockpit. The pilot sits in a glass cockpit with great visibility forward, but is hindered by the fuselage spine and the hight-mounted wings.
On previous generations of MiG fighter jets, the typical nose-mounted intakes were very popular, but on the MiG-23 the rectangular side intakes is separate, each fitted to either side of the fuselage, right behind the cockpit. New style air intakes make the fuselage more square, instead of the tubular shape like on the MiG-21.
The empennage consisted of a vertical tail fin, blending with the fuselage spine, combined with the two conventional horizontal tailplanes. Below the engine exhaust housing is a ventral fin.
Interestingly, all the main landing gear of the MiG-23 are in the center of the fuselage, instead of being placed under the wings like its predecessors. It has a more sophisticated retractable mechanism than the traditional way. The nose landing gear, as usual, is the twin-wheeled just under the cockpit floor.
The most interesting part in the design of the MiG-23 is its variable-geometry wings. They are hydraulically controlled by a small lever placed below the throttle valve in the cockpit. There are three main sweep angles set by the pilot for different flight levels.
With the wings fully spread at 16°, used when cruising at below Mach 0.7 or when taking off and landing. The wings at mid-spread of 45° was used for basic fighter maneuvering, as well as cruising at high speeds or making low-altitude intercepts. Moving the wings to fully swept at 72° was reserved for making high-altitude intercepts or high-speed dashes at low altitudes.
Frogger is equipped with a Khatchaturov R-35-300 afterburning turbojet engine, producing 83.6 kN (18,800 lbf) thrust with variable-geometry nozzles dry, 127.49 kN (28,660 lbf) with afterburner.
The maximum speed it can achieve is up to 2,499 km/h at altitude, equivalent to Mach 2.35. At sea level, it can fly at a speed of 1,350 km/h, equivalent to Mach 1.1.
The standard range is 1,900 km (1,200 mi), which can be up to 2,550 km (1,580 mi) if it carries three 800-liter drop-tanks. The service ceiling is 18,300m (60,000 ft), the rate of climb is 230 meters per second (45,000 ft/min).
The variable-geometry wings design allowed the MiG-23 to carry a potent ordnance load across fuselage, wing root and underwing weapon stations while maintaining strong performance.
In the early versions, the MiG-23 was equipped with the fire control system of the MiG-21, so its weapons were quite limited, only variants of the R-3 Atoll missile.
From MiG-23M onwards, it was able to carry R-60 Aphid missiles, and later R-73 Archer missiles. Other ammunition includes R-23, R-77, R-27R air-to-air missiles. The air-to-surface missile is Kh-23 Grom. Frogger can carry up to 500 kg bombs on each of its hard points.
A total of 6 hard points, 2 on the fuselage, 2 on wing glove and 2 on wing pylons with a capacity of up to 3 tons (6,600 lb) of ammunition.
MiG-23 is still equipped with a 23 mm Gryazev-Shipunov GSh-23L autocannon with 260 rounds.
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