The Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23 (NATO reporting name 'Flogger') is a variable geometry, swept-wing fighter aircraft, originally built by the Mikoyan-Gurevich design.
DevelopmentThe MiG-23's predecessor, the MiG-21 Fishbed, was fast and agile, but very limited in its operational capabilities.The MiG-23 was to be a heavier, more powerful machine designed to remedy these deficiencies, and, it was hoped, rival Western aircraft like the F-4 Phantom.
A major design consideration was take-off and landing performance. The Soviet Air Force demanded that the new aircraft have a much shorter take-off run.
Also, low-level speed and handling was to be improved over MiG-21The second prototype, known as 23-11, featured variable-geometry wings which could be set to angles of 16, 45 and 72 degrees, and it was clearly more promising.
The order to start series production of the MiG-23 was given in December 1967.
Service careerThe first MiG-23s to see combat were export variants with many limitations. For example, MiG-23MS lacked such a basic system as radar warning receiver. In addition, compared to MiG-21, the aircraft was mechanically complex and expensive.
In the 1980s, an improved MiG-23ML was widely exported, which performed better and was met with more enthusiasm by its users.It is known that some number of air victories were scored by MiG-23s in the Iran-Iraq War.
Cuban MiG-23MLs and South African Mirage F.1s had several encounters during Angolan War.
Soviet MiG-23MLDs and Pakistani F-16s clashed a few times during Afghan-Soviet War; one F-16 was reportedly lost in a friendly fire incident (according to the Pakistanis), but Russian reports claim the F-16 was shot down by a MiG-23MLD .
Western pilots who flew the MiG-23 said its handling was similar to something between the F-4E and the Panavia Tornado in some parts of the flight envelope, and more like the F-105 in others.
Soviet manuals considered the MiG-23MLD's performance and handling superior to that of the F-4E and, in some parts of the flight envelope, better than the F-16A's, but admitted that the F-15 has an overwhelming superiority over the MiG-23 family.
The Israelis tested the MiG-23 and found that it had better acceleration than the F-16 and F-18. Overall, the MiG-23 represents the final incarnation of the late 1960s fighter technology which, despite being developed close to its full potential, was quickly overtaken by next generation.
The MiG-23's closest contemporaries are perhaps the Mirage F.1 and Saab Viggen, which ended up with fairly similar careers.
Specifications (MiG-23MLD Flogger-K)
1× Khatchaturov R-35-300 afterburning turbojet, 83.6 kN dry, 127 kN afterburning (18,850 lbf / 28,700 lbf)