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MiG-23 Flogger

MiG-23 prototypes and variants

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The origins of the MiG-23 and its legacy
MiG-23 prototypes and variants
MiG-23M and its siblings
The MiG-23 light
The MiG-23 in France and Finland
The MiG-23ML manual
The MiG-23MLD Flogger K
The MiG-23 versus other fighter aircraft
The Soviet Phantom
The MiG-23 combat record
MiG-23 users
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Production of the MiG-23 was completed in 1985 after 4,278 single-seat and 769 trainers had been built.

 
The MiG-23 variants are:

MiG-23PD
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Aircraft 23-01 or MiG-23PD this was the tailed delta wing direct jet lift prototype. The MiG-23PD was equipped with a 7,800-kg of thrust R27F-300 turbojet engine designed by the Tumansky design bureau , its side intakes were made semicircular with half cones acting as shock wave inducers, and the front part of the fuselage was designed to house a powerful radar. Production of the test model of the MiG-23 aircraft with two auxiliary 2,350-kgf strong RD36-35 lift engines auxiliary lift engines commenced in March 1966 and lasted eight months. On 30 November 1966, the aircraft was moved to the design bureau's flight testing facility in the town of Zhukovsky. While waiting for the R27F-300 engine to be delivered, the aircraft underwent ground tests. The first and the only one MiG-23PD (23-01) wasn't fitted with the radar, command-guidance equipment niether fixed armament. Instead, test equipment units were installed into the aircraft. The MiG-23PD prototype 23-01 test model's first flight took place on 3 April 1967. The aircraft was flown by Mikoyan Bureau test pilot Pyotr Ostapenko, who, on 9 June of the same year, performed take-off and landing at the air parade in Domodedovo. However, very soon the work on the aircraft stopped.

First MiG-23 aircraft 23-11
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Aircraft 23-11 first Variable Geometry swing wing MiG-23 prototype 

Variable-geometry wing MiG-23 variant's development started after an order of the Aviation industry's Minister in February 1966, however the design work began in May 1965 and was conducted in parallel with the development of the MiG-23PD variant with auxiliary direct jet lift engines. The aircraft was designated 23-11. A  highly advanced shoulder mounted swing wing with three in-flight sweep angle settings of 16, 45, and 72 degrees was designed for this model. The swept angle of 16 deg was provided for take-off, landing, and long-range flights, the 45 deg sweep position is used for subsonic and supersonic manoeuvrability, while the third one is ideal for high supersonic speed cruising. The 23-11 aircraft was planned to be powered by a more powerful R27F2-300 engine developing the thrust of 9,300 kgf. It was also planned to be equipped with modern controllable supersonic rectangular side-intakes; new undercarriage with sophisticated kinematics, allowing sufficient wheel track despite the landing gear inward retraction and a single folding ventral fin. The use of the variable-geometry wing improved the aircraft take-off and landing characteristics, increase its range and time of flight compared to the more conventional fixed wing configuration aircraft and allowed to dispense of the direct jet lift engines. 

The first MiG-23 (23-11/1) model was produced by the design bureau in conjunction with MMZ Znamya Truda plant. The aircraft, like the 23-01, wasn't equipped with a standard weapons suite and was powered by the R27F-300 engine. It had been built by May 1967, and on 26 May it was ferried to the Zhukovsky-based Flight Testing Facility. The 23-11/1 (designated 231) aircraft made its first flight on 10 June 1967. It was flown by the bureau test pilot Aleksandr Fedotov. A month later, Fedotov flew the aircraft at Air parade in Domodedovo.

In 1968, the second and third swing wing prototypes(designated 23-11/2 and 23-11/3 respectively), and in 1969, the fourth (23-11/4) aircraft entered the test trials phase. All of them were equipped with the R27F2-300 engines, and the second and third ones featured the Saphir-23 weapons suite. The MiG-23 first flights showed that the light fighters featured better characteristics in terms of the take-off/landing run distance, indicated speed, flight range and time, handling ease. On order of Aviation industry's Minister as of 30 December 1967, MMZ Znamya Truda plant started the MiG-23 manufacture. 


MiG-23BN prototype
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This is the early aircraft 23-11-04 from which the MiG-23BN was developed

Early MiG-23S Flogger A
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MiG-23S Flogger A (aircraft 23-11S, 23-21; 23-22) Pre-production fighter used for evaluation

This is the first mass-produced model of the MiG-23 frontline fighter. Due to the fact that by the beginning of the MiG-23 mass production the development of its Saphir-23 weapons control system hadn't been completed when the MiG-23S aircraft production began. The MiG-23S then was fitted with the MiG-21S's (MiG-21SM's) S-21M weapons control system that consisted of the Sapphire-21M (RP-22SM) radar and the ASP-PF sight. It included four R-3S or R-3R shorter-range air-to-air missiles with heat seeking and radar homing devices respectively. Ground targets could be destroyed by two Kh-23 radio guided missiles or a total of 2,000 kg of dumb bombs.

Aleksandr Fedotov took the first mass-produced MiG-23S (23-11/5) to air for the first time on 28 May, 1969. During 1969-1970, about 60 MiG-23S aircraft were built.


MG-23 Etalon 1971
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This is a MiG-23M subvariant an early 1971 model

MiG-23 etalon 1971 (aircraft 23-11; 2), early MiG-23M subvariant

This is the first series-produced model of a frontline fighter with the S-23 standard  weapons control system consisting of the Sapphire-23L radar, TP-23 thermal direction finder, and the ASP-23D sight. Its weapons included two R-23R or R-23T medium range and two R-3S or R-60s short-range missiles. Major design differences between the MiG-23 (23-11), also called the "MiG-23, vintage 1971", and MiG-23S consisted in an upgraded wing with additional 3 sq. m. of the wing panel, wing twist, non-mechanised wing leading edge as well as an increased tail length: the fin and the tailplane were moved 860 mm backwards. The aircraft was powered by the enhanced 10,000-kgf strong R27F2M-300 engine. Fuel capacity was increased by 470 litres through installing an additional fourth fuel tank in the rear part of the fuselage. The mentioned measures enhanced the aircraft flight characteristics and combat capabilities, as well as its reliability. The MiG-23 (23-11) was series-produced in 1970-1971.

MiG-23M
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MiG-23M Flogger B (aircraft 23-11M and 23-11M2), First truely mass production fighter
1972, a third wing configuration with the mechanised leading edge was developed. At the same time a new and more powerful R29-300 engine was tested on the aircraft, and a bit later tested was an upgraded armament control system. All these improvements were implemented in the MiG-23M aircraft. Listed below are the main differences from the MiG-23 aircraft:

 The  R29-300 engine of 12500-kg of thrust.

The S-23D-III upgraded weapons control system consisting of the Sapphire-23D-III radar, the TP-23 thermal direction finder, and the ASP-23D sight.

 The wing of the third version with the four-section movable leading edge, two optional 800-liter fuel tanks mounted under the rotating wing panels (in this case the wing could stay in the minimum sweep position).

The main armament included: two R-23R or R-23T and two to four R-60 missiles, optional were the R-3S and R-13M shorter-range missiles, the Kh-23 air-to-surface missiles and dumb bombs used by the MiG-23.

The SAU-23A automatic control system and the Polyot-1I flight/navigation system.

The MiG-23M prototype was test flown by Aleksandr Fedotov in June 1972. The aircraft was series-produced in 1972-1978 reaching a total of more than 1,300 planes. The MiG-23M became the first mass-produced MiG-23 version for the USSR Air Force and later Air Defence.

MiG-23MF Flogger B; MiG-23M intended for export to Warsaw pact allies;
 

MiG-23UB
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MiG-23U Flogger C Two-seat combat-capable trainer based on MiG-23MF (aircraft 23-51/1)

This is the MiG-23M two seat combat capable trainer variant powered by the R27F2M-300 engine, without the radar and the R-23 medium range missiles its weapons control system included the ASP-23D sight, the Kh-23 Delta-NM missile guiding equipment, photo machine gun, the R-3S and R-13M missiles.

The development of the MiG-23 combat capable trainer variant was ordered by the Council of Ministers of the USSR in November 1967.

The prototype construction began in 1968 and was over in 1969. Like the first mass-produced MiG-23S aircraft the MiG-23UB was equipped with the first configuration wing, the R27F2-300 engine, and the S-21M weapons control system with the Saphire-21M radar but later on, the radar was removed from the two-seaters. The second cockpit was situated in the forward part of the fuselage that was changed by decreasing the first fuel tank capacity and relocating the nose compartment equipment. To compensate for the fuel capacity lost, tank number 4 was installed in the rear part of the fuselage (the same idea was implemented in the MiG-23 (23-21) and MiG-23M). In order to provide flight safety, restriction system and angle of attack indicator, the Poliot-1I-23 flight/navigation system with the SAU-23UB automatic control system, failure warning system and rear cockpit periscope were installed.

The MiG-23UB prototype (23-51/1, number251) made its maiden flight on 10 April 1970. It was flown by test pilot Mikhail Komarov. That same year the aircraft mass production commenced at the Irkutsk-based aircraft production plant. Since 1971 the mass-produced MiG-23UBs were equipped with the wing of the third configuration, which allowed for the additional fuel tanks to be mounted under the wing panels, and were powered by the R27F2M-300 engine of 10000kg of thrust. In terms of combat capabilities the twin-seater was considerably inferior to the single-seaters because of the lack of the radar, thermal direction finder and medium range air-to-air missiles. The Irkutsk-based plant produced the MiG-23UB aircraft for the USSR Air Force until 1978, while the export version was produced till 1985. All in all a total of more than 1,000 two-seaters were produced.

MiG-23UB/UM Flogger C Two-seat combat-capable trainers with Tumansky engine (aircraft 23-51and 23-51-2U);

MiG-23MS
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MiG-23MS Flogger E ( aircraft 23-13; 23) Export version of MiG-23M series with downgraded avionics ;
MiG-23B Flogger F  (aircraft 32-24 and 32-23; 24A; 24B)  Attack fighter with Lyulka engine, revised forward fuselage and armor protection;
Syria flew the MiG-23BN
MiG-23BM Flogger F (aircraft 32-25), An upgraded version of the attack MiG-23BN variant first MiG-27 variant;

MiG-23ML prototype
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Aircraft 23-14

MiG-23MF/ML Flogger G (aircraft 23-12;3) Lightweight fighter with improved engine and avionics

This is a thorough modernisation of the MiG-23M, it is powered by the 13,000-kgf Max thrust R-35 engine, equipped with the S-23ML enhanced weapons control system and featuring a lighter structure. The number 4 fuselage-mounted fuel tank was removed, flaps were three-sectional, dorsal fin area was decreased, and landing gear was changed. The work on decreasing the weight of the aircraft and its equipment (the MiG-23ML take-off weight was 1,250 kg lighter compared to that of the MiG-23M) resulted in the fighter's enhanced performance. The S-23ML weapons control system included the Saphir-23ML (N003) radar, the TP-23M IRST and the S-17ML  sight. The late production MiG-23ML  (MiG-23MLA) were equipped with the S-23MLA weapons control system with the Saphir-23MLA (Ametist, N006) radar that boasted even higher characteristics. Added to the aircraft weaponry were the R-24R and R-24T missiles - upgrades of the R-23R and R-23T respectively. Flight/navigation and radio communication equipment were also modernised and the SAU-23AM automatic control system, the R-862 radio, the ARK-19 ADF, the RV-5R radio altimeter were installed. The MiG-23ML prototype (23-12/1, number121) made its maiden flight on 21 January 1975. It was flown by test pilot Aviard Fastovets.

During the 1976-1983 mass production MAPO produced a total of more than 1,000 aircraft.
MiG-23P Flogger G (aircraft 23-14) Fighter with digital autopilot that can be controlled from ground radar stations or guided by other aircraft

This is a single-seater fighter-interceptor that was in service with the former USSR Air Defence, a version of the MiG-23ML with the S-23MLA weapons control system (the Ametist (N006) radar, the TP-23M IRST system, the S-17MLP sight, the R-24R/T (or R-23R/T) and R-60 missiles), dedicated radio command guidance equipment that provided the aircraft use in conjunction with the country's air defence system. The aircraft was series-produced at MAPO in 1978-1983.

MiG-23P
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The MIG-23Ps or Aircraft 23-16 that was basicly a subvariant of the MiG-23ML  was equipped with an ASP-23PM gun sight; the SAU-23PM automatic control system; and the Saphire-23P" radar.
The MIG-23P airframe structure was similar to that of its counterpart MIG-23ML since it was manufactured at Moscow aircraft building factory "Znamya Truda" and even rolled off the same assembly line. But differences in assigned task (the principal one consisting in the interaction with the national air defense system) determined the choice of the equipment that MIG-23Ps had to be provided with which in its turn, caused the partial relocation of some service hatches. The MIG-23Ps were equipped with: the ASP-23PM gun sight; - SAU-23PM automatic control system; - "Saphire-23P" radar; all this equipment enabled to the interceptor to be vectored automatically onto its target following the signals provided by automated command guidance system.
 

MiG-23MLD
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MiG-23MLD
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This is an Ukranian MiG-23MLD armed with AA-11 Archer

MiG-23MLD Flogger K ( aircraft 23-16) Upgraded MiG-23ML mutli-role tactical fighter with improved aerodynamics, weapons control system, and other avionics,

Work on the MiG-23ML fighter modernisation started in late 1970s. The first version, designated 23-16, housed an enhanced Saphire-23MLA-2 (N008) radar and carried the R-73 close combat missiles. Moreover, designers explored the possibility of introducing an additional (fourth) wing position with the sweep angle of 33 degrees. To increase the aircraft combat survivability it was equipped with the KDS-23 passive jamming automatic launchers. Later on, a number of aerodynamic improvements were made: the pitot static boom was equipped with special plates - vortex generators, with the same aim wing dogtooth extensions were upgraded (each extension became fitted with a tooth). The fighter was also equipped with the SOS-3-4 restriction signalling system, which increased the aircraft flight safety when flying at high angles of attack. With the above mentioned equipment (but without the fourth wing position) the aircraft was recommended as a standard model for the earlier produced MiG-23MLs' retrofitting.

The aircraft that were retrofitted at aircraft repair plants since 1982 were designated MiG-23MLD (23-18).   These are some of the experimental prototypes based upon the MiG-23MLD some were upgraded with avionics fitted to the MiG-29 such as a Helmet Mounted Sight (HMS):

 MiG-23MLG (aircraft 23-57), MiG-23MLS (aircraft 23-47), MiG-23MDG (aircraft 23-18) MiG-23MLDG (aircraft 23-35 and 23-57) 

In 1982, the 23-19 fighter prototype was built on the basis of the MiG-23MLD (23-18) aircraft. It housed a more effective Beryoza radar warning system and the Klistron short-range navigation system. Another variant, the MiG-23MLDG (23-35), was equipped with the Gardenia pod-mounted active jamming system. The former prototype was recommended as a standard model for the USSR Air Force's MiG-23ML upgrading, while the latter one - for series-production for export. In 1984, two more variants of the MiG-23MLD were designed, these being the MiG-23MLG (23-37) for the Russian Air Force and the MiG-23MLS (23-47) for export. Both models were equipped with the Gardenia pod-mounted jamming system, a new radar warning system, the VP-50-60 passive jamming devices, increased warload. In 1980s, the MiG-23MLGD (23-57) became one of the fighter's last version. The MiG-23MLG, MiG-23MLS, and MiG-23MLGD fighters carried the R-73 missiles, capable of effectively engaging targets manoeuvring up to 12g.

The aircraft effectiveness was further increased by installing enhanced radar, the Shchel-3UM helmet-mounted sight, and by improving the plane's operational characteristics. However, because of the fact that at that time MAPO assembly shop was engaged in producing the MiG-29 fourth generation fighters boasting higher performance, work on the above aircraft stopped.

MiG-27M (aircraft 32-29)
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MiG-23BK Flogger H (aircraft 32-26) This is a  version of the  MiG-27 known as MiG-27K.
Here we see a video of the MiG-23BN and MiG-27 History

MiG-23-98 prototype
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MiG-23-98 this is a highly modernized MiG-23 upgrade package of earlier MiG-23 variants based on the work experience of earlier MiG-23MLDG, MiG-23MLG, MiG-23MDG, MiG-23MLS and MiG-29MST.
This variant can use a great variety of weapons among them the X-31 Air to Surface Missile and the AA-12, AA-10, AA-11 Air to Air Missiles.
 
Angola has been the only customer so far

MiG-27 powered by an AL-31F
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During the early years of the 21st century, Lyulka started studies to upgrade the MiG-23 and MiG-27 with the AL-31 that powers the Su-27 and J-10, the indian air force was the main prospect customer, however Khazakhastan was consider another possible customer, the AL-31 adds reliability and extra power to the MiG-27 and also to the MiG-23 however so far here we have the only MiG-27M prototype powered by an AL-31F .