Warplanes: The F-4ski Fades Away

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March 22, 2007: The Indian Air Force is retiring the last of its Russian MiG-23s, marking the end of this plane's service for one of its major users. India's MiG-23s were one of the larger forces outside that of the Soviet Union (and later, Russia).

The MiG-23 was the Russian answer to the F-4, albeit using a single engine. The MiG-23 had a top speed of 2500 kilometers per hour, and a combat range of 1,150 kilometers. The primary variants India used were the MiG-23MF air-superiority fighter, the MiG-23BN ground-attack plane, and the MiG-23UB trainer. The MiG-23MF, also known as the Flogger B, was capable of carrying four R-23/AA-7 Apex air-to-air missiles or four R-13/AA-2 air-to-air missiles. Each of the R-23s or R-13s could be replaced by two R-60 air-to-air missiles.

The MiG-23BN, or Flogger F, is a somewhat different plane. It is optimized for ground-attack missions. It replaced the radars things like a laser designator and a bomb sight. It was widely exported. It can carry a variety of dumb bombs, or four rocket pods. It only carries heat seeking air-to-air missiles, usually the R-13 or the R-60.

The MiG-23UB is a two-seat trainer based on the MiG-23MF, with some of the combat capabilities removed. Known as the Flogger C, it was used by any country that had the MiG-23 in service. Most fighters have two-seat versions for operational training and conversion.

More advanced versions of the MiG-23 were used by Russia, and a dedicated ground-attack version, the MiG-27, was also built, both in Russia and India. The MiG-27 has a multi-barrel thirty-millimeter gun and improved ground-attack systems. It was slower (top speed of 1,880 kilometers per hour), but was easier to maintain. India's were later upgraded with French avionics, including a radar.

India's MiG-23s are high-mileage, due to India's tendency to train and operate like Western Air Forces. Russian equipment tends to not last as long, and often there were problems, like India had with its MiG-21s until recently. India will be replacing the MiG-23s with newer planes, primarily the Su-30MKI. The last Indian MiG-23s will be used as historical exhibits. - Harold C. Hutchison (haroldc.hutchison@gmail.com )

 


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