The West judges MiG-23 to be one of the worst fighters in the world. However, the Flogger itself once made Europe panic. July 4, 1989 was a memorable day for the 32nd Air Operations Squadron, “Wolfhounds”, a US air force unit station at Soesterberg Air Base, Netherlands.

Commenting on MiG-23 Flogger on Dung Tran Military channel

MiG-23 caused a stir in Europe

Two F-15C Eagle fighters were ordered to intercept a MiG-23 fighter jet flying into NATO airspace. However, the irony was, this was a “ghost fighter”, no pilot on the plane.

On that day, Soviet pilot Colonel Nikolai Skurigin conducted a normal training flight on a Mig-23M fighter. Shortly after taking off from Kolobzreg airport in Poland, Skurigin discovered that the engine had a problem and the plane was in danger of falling in seconds, so he decided to parachute.

But while hovering in the air, Skurigin was shocked to find that the Mig-23M was not falling to the ground, but was regaining its altitude and rushing towards NATO airspace as if it had a pilot.

At around 9.30 am, NATO radar stations spotted the Soviet Mig-23 into airspace. Two F-15C fighters were ordered to sortie, ready to shoot down the enemy aircraft.

Shortly thereafter, two F-15Cs caught up with the Soviet aircraft, but the pilot reported to headquarters that the cockpit of the Mig-23 was empty, while the glass canopy and pilot seat had disappeared.

They also realized that the Soviet fighter was unarmed so it was not a direct threat. F-15 pilots said that if they launched a missile to shot down the Mig-23, it could fall into the residential area below, endangering civilians.

The MiG-23 often had trouble flying and was difficult to maintain
The MiG-23 often had trouble flying and was difficult to maintain

So they decided to escort the plane, waiting until it reached a safe area to destroy. NATO military air traffic controllers immediately informed civilian air traffic personnel, coordinating to avoid flight route of this Mig-23.

The two F-15s flew with the “ghost fighter” to the southeast, passing through Dutch airspace and into Belgian airspace, where the plane without a pilot began to gradually lose altitude.

Belgian authorities ordered F-15 to shoot down the Mig-23 as soon as it reached the sea. The police and the fire-rescue teams on the flying route of Mig-23 were placed in an alert state, ready to deploy.

Near the border area between Belgium and France, the Mig-23 suddenly soared to a altitude of 12,000m until it ran out of fuel and began to plunge into the ground.

Ground experts predict the plane will crash near the border town of Lille. However, they did not expect that the Mig-23 after flying nearly 900 km fell on a farm in Wevelgem, 80km west of Brussels.

The accident killed an 18-year-old man. Both NATO and the Soviet Union quickly identified this as an unexpected accident, and both sides expressed regret about the incident.

The proud combat history of MiG-23

When the MiG-23s were initially deployed, they were considered the elites of the Eastern Bloc air forces. However, very quickly the disadvantages became evident and the MiG-23 did not replace the MiG-21 as initially intended. The aircraft has several deficiencies such as engine durability, as well as hourly operating cost was higher than the MiG-21s.

However, until the production line stopped in 1985, a total of 5,047 MiG-23s were produced. Its operators amount to about 40 countries around the world.

Today the MiG-23 remains in limited service with some export customers such as Angola, Cuba, Congo, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria.

Soviet documents noted that on June 7, 1982, a squadron of three MiG-23MFs of the Syrian Air Force shot down two Israeli F-16 4th-generation fighters with the R-23 medium-range air-to-air missile. Over the next two days, the Syrian Air Force continued to use the MiG-23 with the R-23 missile, destroying two more F-16s, despite the loss of two MiG-23s.

The US military must also acknowledge the capabilities of the MiG-23
The US military must also acknowledge the capabilities of the MiG-23

On June 11, 1981, the Syrian Air Force MiG-23MS shot down an Israeli Air Force F-4 Phantom II fighter jet with two K-13 missiles.

According to Soviet documents, at least three F-15 fighters and one Israeli F-4 were shot down by the new generation MiG-23ML in October 1983. However, as usual Western scholars deny this information and speak the opposite. War is like that, the data given by each side is always different.

In 1987, Soviet pilots used MiG-23MLD fighters to shoot down an F-16 and two AH-1J helicopters of the Pakistan Air Force during the Soviet–Afghan War.

In the conflicts of the late 1980s, Syrian and Iraqi MiG-23 fighters lost to the newer US F-14 and F-16 aircraft. However, the overall combat history of MiG-23 was not bad at all. It proved to be a nasty opponent, the rest lies in the ability of the pilot. The history of the war proves that modern weapons are needed but good people are needed to win.

Reviews of rivals

Many countries hostile to the Soviet Union were eager to have the opportunity to evaluate the strength of MiG-23 fighters. In the 1970-1980 period, in many ways, the Americans received some MiG-23MS/ML aircraft from their Egyptian ally. Immediately, they were put to the evaluation test.

Documents show that Dutch pilot Leon Van Maurer, who spent more than 1,200 hours flying with the F-16, flew with the MiG-23ML at air bases in Germany and the United States during assumed combats.

Leon Van Maurer commented that the MiG-23ML proved superior to the early versions of the F-16 in flight operations, and the Beyond Visual Range combat system.

MiG-23 fighters were on par with F-4 and F-16 fighters between 1982-1985 in air conflicts between Syria and Israel.
MiG-23 fighters were on par with F-4 and F-16 fighters between 1982-1985 in air conflicts between Syria and Israel.

Israel also obtained a MiG-23MLD from Syria and embarked on an evaluation. They had to make a bitter statement that it was faster than the advanced F-16 and F/A-18 fighters.

After learning about another MiG-23, the Americans and Israel concluded that, in addition to a display in front of the pilot HUD, it also has another HUD displayed as a distance radar screen, allow pilots to observe unlimitedly and work more simply with their radar system. This feature is also mounted on the MiG-29, although on the plane there is a CRT monitor that acts as the other system.

In general, experienced pilots of NATO, USA and Israel share the view that MiG-23 fighter is a difficult opponent to play in the sky. Many features of MiG-23 surpass the first generation F-16, F-4, and F/A-18. From this perspective, it can be said that MiG-23 was one of the best fighters in the world, rather than a disaster.

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