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The Fishbed MIG-21 prototypes appeared at the June 1956 Tushino Air Show. The E-5 prototype of the MiG-21 was first flown in 1955. During the Vietnam War, MiG-21s were often used against U.S. aircraft. Between April 26, 165, and January 8, 1973, USAF F-4s and B-52s downed 68 MiG-21s. More than 30 countries of the world-including nations friendly to the U.S. have flown the MiG-21. At least 15 versions of the MiG-21 were been produced, some outside the Soviet Union. Estimates place the number built at more than 8,000, a production total exceeding that of any other modern jet aircraft.

The MiG-21's amazing record includes service with no less than 56 air forces and action in 30 shooting wars. The little delta's phenomenal production tally of 13,500 aircraft is more than two-and-a-half times that of the F-4, the MiG's long-time adversary in Vietnam and the Middle East.

In the former USSR this aircraft was manufactured between the late 50s and the middle 1970s. The MiG-21 is the world champion in the number of the air vehicles produced (11,000) and in airframe service life (up to 30 years). That is why about 3,000 MiG-21 are now operated by the air forces of more than 40 countries. The MiG-21 is close to setting another world record in the amount of the upgraded aircraft.

To improve on the MiG-15, Russian designers experimented with a tailed delta-wing configuration that soon became the distinctive shape of the MiG-21. This durable and simple short-range fighter design has been improved over the years with modified radar, flaps, airframe construction, avionics, weapons, and engines. The aircraft has mid-mounted delta wings with small square tips. There is one turbojet inside the body. There is a small round air intake in the nose. There is a single exhaust. The fuselage is a long, tubular body with a blunt nose and bubble canopy. There is one belly fin under the rear section. There is a large dorsal spine flush with the canopy. The tail fin swept-back and tapered with a square tip. The flats are mid-mounted on the body, swept-back, and tapered with square tips.

The MiG-21 had guns, missiles or rockets available for air-to-air use. Some models had one or two 30mm cannons with a 700 round per minute capability and enough ammunition for five seconds of firing. Since distinction between those models that had guns and those that did not was difficult, if not impossible, in an air-to-air engagement, a general assumption that all MiG-21s encountered had guns was made. Like the MiG-17, the MiG-21 could carry two Atolls, two Alkalis or two pods of 16 unguided rockets each. The external load had to be the same with no mixing of munitions.

The MiG-21, besides cockpit visibility limitation, had maneuvering problems at all altitudes when the airspeed is below 215 KIAS and above 510 KIAS. At low speeds, the aircraft may become uncontrollable, and longitudinal stick forces become extremely heavy at high speeds. The Fishbed, with a climbing spiral, zoom capability, can accelerate quickly from low and medium airspeeds because of its big thrust to weight ratio. During an engagement, forcing a MIG-21 to lower altitudes degrades its performance.

This jet fighter is limited to 595 KTs at sea level. For comparison, airspeeds of more than 700 KCAS are not uncommon for the F-105. The latter had a capability of sustaining higher indicated airspeed at low levels than any aircraft in SEA.

An F-105 pilot commented about speed comparisons: "The basic comparison I would like to make is the handling capability at extremely high airspeeds within our maneuverable range of ZO,000 down to 5,000 feet. With the airspeeds that we are capable of generating and the airspeeds that they are limited to as far as the handling characteristics of the aircraft, puts us in such an extremely good advantage that there is no comparison.

"Neither aircraft can, approaching our max airspeed, stay with the F-lOS. If we want to disengage, we can disengage. As you get into higher altitudes the F-05, with its high wing loading compared to the MIG-17 and MIG-21, cannot turn with then. We can still put the nose down and disengage."

The MiG-21 had an advantage over the F-105 and, to a lesser degree, the F-4 for combat survivability. A simple and unsophisticated hydraulic system design insures minimum damage to the MIG control system. In addition to this, a bladder type fuel tank, vented to the atmosphere, decreases effectiveness of an incendiary round or other hit. The horizontal stabilizer of this aircraft is the only flight-system requiring hydraulic boost for flight, although other control surfaces are boosted. Armor plate, lacking in US aircraft, affords considerable safety to the MiG-21 pilot.

The Soviets considered GCI essential to the use of the MIG-21 for effective attack. Because of forward visual acquisition limitations of the canopy, the aircraft is vectored to about a 20-degree angle from the rear of the target.

MiG-21-93 Upgrade

The high performance of the MiG-21 aircraft, which is the most popular supersonic fighter in the world, enables to effectively solve a wide range of flight missions even today.

The RAC "MiG" jointly with the SOKOL aircraft-building plant of Nizhniy Novgorod and in cooperation with other Russian enterprises and organizations have worked out the upgrade program of the MiG-21 family aircraft, aimed at expansion of armament nomenclature and modes of its application that allow these aircraft to be still successfully operated by Air Force of different countries for some years. Combat capabilities of upgraded MiG-21 aircraft correspond to those of the up-to-date fourth generation fighters.

The upgrade project offered by RAC "MiG" and named MiG-21-93 is based on the use of "Kopyo" ("Spear") airborne radar, new weapons and equipment. This project has been developed jointly by RAC "MiG", Phazotron-NIIR Company, GosNIIAS and "Sokol" Joint-Stock Company under the general patronage of "Rosvooruzhenye" company. Due to high technical characteristics and reasonable cost, the project has won the Indian tender for MiG-21 fleet retrofitting. The "Kopyo" radar is designed for controlling the full aircraft weapons spectrum: built-in gun, rockets, advanced missiles with homing heads and guided bombs. This makes it possible to enhance qualitatively the MiG-21 following characteristics:

  • air target detection and lock-on range both in look-up and look-down with using R-27 and RVV-AE middle-range missiles ( the latter can be launched against several targets simultaneously);
  • ground and sea-surface target detection and improved communication, EW and navigation aids;
  • air target detection and engagement range in action in the front hemisphere;
  • improved guidance and engagement capabilities in action against ground targets of any type;
  • track-while-scan mode with the capability of tracking up to 10 targets and engaging two of them;
  • capability to battle successfully with forth-generation fighters;
  • effective destruction of ground targets covered by enemy air defense.
  • In accordance with the Indian party request, a number of systems of Western and Indian make have been combined in a single avionics complex.

The main objective of the MiG-21-93 project was to achieve the maximum combat effectiveness with minimum aircraft changes and extend the service life of this reliable aircraft (up to 40 years and 4,000 flying hours). Also, this rational approach to MiG-21 upgrade allows the Customer to save great funds to the utmost. Essentially the tests of the aircraft had been completed and the series production of the upgraded MiG-21bis aircraft for the Indian Air Force was launched.

In 1998-2005 the Indian Air Force upgraded fundamentally 125 MiG-21 fighters on the basis of the MiG-21-93 project developed by the RAC "MiG". In the course of upgrading the MiG-21bis was equipped with a new armament control system including the multi-function radar "Kopyo", helmet-mounted target designation system, data display equipment based on the up-to-date head-up and multifunctional displays.

The radar "Kopyo", designed by the "Fazatron-NIIR" Corporation, provides for the acquisition and attack of targets (including with the middle-range missiles) in look-up and look-down as well as the detection of radar-contrast surface and ground targets. The radar "Kopyo" is capable to track up to 8 targets and attack simultaneously two most dangerous ones. The radar has the terrain mapping mode.

The fighter is equipped with new systems of navigation, communication, electronic counter measure, video recording, integrated system of monitoring, recording and processing of the flight data. The electrical supply and air conditioning systems have been improved.

The fighter weapon suite is significantly expanded: it is added with RVV-AE, R-27R1, R-27T1, R-73E "A-A" missiles and KAB-500Kr guided bombs. Concurrently with upgrading the aircraft service life and lifetime can be extended.

At the customer’s request the available MiG-21 aircraft of the customer can be subjected to upgrading of various complexity level and provided with equipment and armament of foreign production.

MiG-21-2000 / MiG-21bis Upgrade [Israel]

Lahav's avionics upgrade packages have enhanced the performance of different Soviet Fighter aircraft and provided them with new mission performance capabilities, enabling them to meet today's operational requirements. IAI has installed these packages in several types of Soviet aircraft (MiG-21, MiG-29, SU-22, SU-27) for customers from around the world.

The Lahav upgrade packages are based on integrating new, advanced mission systems, and reducing the pilot workload by providing clear displays of relevant data with easy system control.

Typical elements included in these upgrade packages include reconfiguration of the cockpit replacing old and obsolete instruments and systems with new displays for optimized pilot mission performance.

Replacement of original navigation system with advanced highly accurate Ring Laser Gyro Embedded Global Positioning System/Integrated Navigation (EGI) System. In addition to support navigation and mission planning, Lahav's upgrades includes the Digital Moving Map feature.

The mission computer provides for the optimized integration of the new systems. The mission computer performs mission calculations and graphics generation for the HUD, MFCD and other cockpit displays. The open architecture of Lahav's avionics allows both flexibility and growth potential to tailor the upgrade performance and new systems to the customer's specific requirements.

Almost all of its systems are quite simple and reliable. However, established in the late 1950s, the aircraft is hopelessly outdated armament, avionics and some of its parameters. Since it is in service in many countries, mostly not having a lot of money to buy new expensive aircraft, there was an idea to modernize the MiG-21. Here IAI decided to take up the case problem was this: making minor changes during the next scheduled maintenance on the airframe, systems, hydraulics, chassis, wheels - due to change weapons.. , avionics and possibly the power plant to create from normal MiG-21 aircraft, able to perform advanced tasks better than later and, accordingly, expensive aircraft.

In the first place it was necessary to replace the primitive for our time locator with direct sight, having a range of about 12 nautical miles (20 km). Together with the installation of a new multi-purpose radar M-2032, IAI had to replace the entire electrical system of the aircraft. In fact, a new cockpit with integrated Avio-ship is equipped with three displays and more top front panel, designed to simplify the control of all electronic systems. Pulse Doppler Radar EL./M 2032 MiG-21, 2000, provides an overvie. It can be effectively used to attack ground targets, even though limited bomb load.

Display by Elbit complements and helmet-mounted target designator produced by IAI simplifies the pilot of the MiG-21, 2000 to combat the problem and allows it to detect a target for its air-to-air missile. This device does not include a system of "friend or foe" with a range of detection is the line of sight. However, the company makes it clear that the western system of "friend or foe" is not likely to be widely used in Eastern Europe. The main fire control computer system information is displayed on the display is the latest development of Israel and can perform all the functions that are used on the Israeli Lavi attack aircraft provided eight computers. armament control system combined with the latest in electronic navigation system, almost completely freeing the pilot from navigational duties at any time. Further opportunities for the development of the MiG-21, 2000 concluded in adapting western digital fire control systems.

MiG-21 uses on two-shaft engine family R11-300. Modern engines are more economical than this, and when they are installed the aircraft will significantly improves their performance. Due to the reduction of the size of avionics and associated equipment in the MiG-21-2000, the design freed enough space for an additional 200 liters of fuel inside the aircraft. As a result, the total fuel capacity is 3000 liters. With considering the outboard fuel tank for 1200 liters, the operational combat radius of aircraft has been increased by almost 50% compared with the original version.

Of interest is the use of laser-guided bombs "Griffon" MK-82. Israel developed the system is compatible with many standard Western Force. The main air combat weapons can be used Israeli Python-3 - multipurpose missile air-to-air. The presence of powerful station EL / M 2032 in combination with such a rocket creates a system having a fighting distance is within line of sight. There are options for weapons with infrared guidance.

The company Rafael of Israel (not to be confused with the French Rafal) provides a laser detection and target tracking. To use the MiG-21-2000 for intelligence collection, removable pods with equipment are avasilable, including for thermal Imaging observation. In addition, the MiG-21-2000 received a new ejection seat.

The creators of the MiG-21, 2000, provide potential customers with reliable service, training pilots and technical staff.

IAI work on the modernization of the MiG-21 has a very significant drawback: it is not a company developed product. Director of Marketing and maintenance of state-owned IAI D.Levanok believes that this modernization is the best fit of the MiG-21bis and MiG-21MF. Of the more than 5000 MiG-21 which are currently in service today in various countries, there may from 200 to 500 units modified. Depending on the degree of upgrading it will cost two to five million dollars.

OKB Mikoyan workers are reluctant to answer the question it was obvious that they do not really believe in the realization of this idea. However, the option offered by them looked quite tempting: a new radar sight "Spear" with a range of target detection - 45 km, combined with on-board digital computer, avionics and excellent service. To improve LTH proposed to establish a new modification of the engine RD-33.

MiG-21-2000 / MiG-21bis - Program

After the end of the Cold War, Russia held talks on the modernization of MiG-21, with many countries, including Romania. Therefore, it came as an unpleasant surprise when in early 1993 an Romanian-Israeli agreement on the same subjectit was signed. The companied Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) and Elbit group undertook to prepare the documentation and sets of equipment for improvements, and the Romanian company Aerostar (formerly IAR Brasov) would mount the equipment on the aircraft. Under the terms of the contract, subject to finalization, some 100 MiG-21 Air Force Romania would be converted.

The new aircraft was designated MiG-21-2000. Its first copy was a modified MiG-21bis, bought from Israel in Nigeria. During rework most of the avionics of the aircraft equipment was replaced. At the Paris Air Show in 1993, Israel's MiG-21 appeared with the inscription on the plane: "MiG-21, 2000". There were two flags: Israel ... and Romanian, and the inscription "IAI" - Israeli aviation industry and "Aerostar" - Romania's corresponding structure. It turned out that the owner of the aircraft was Romania.

The director of the test center the IAI, who is also the chief pilot of the company, Shmuel Menachem said: "I flew in different versions.. And in my opinion, an outstanding aircraft of their time, speed, and to the present day."

The MiG-21 "Lancer" performed with Aerostar of Romania, transformed the MiG-21 combat aircraft into a high performance multi-role attack fighter, demonstrating its expertise in integrating Western-designed avionics and weapons into an Eastern platform.

However, by the end of 1994, information on Israeli-Romanian MiG disappeared. On the contrary, in 1995 there was a message that called the MiG-21-2000 listed third modernized "twenty-one" courtesy of the Air Force in Cambodia. The first flight of the machine took place on May 24, 1995 From the first version of the MiG-21-2000 machine different composition of the cockpit equipment.

By December 1996 an Israel Air Force (IAI) program to upgrade dozens of MiG-21 fighter plans belonging to the Ethiopian Air Force was in doubt, after it became clear Ethiopia’s government lacks funds to cover upgrade costs. A senior IAI official said the contract’s volume was $100-120 million.

"Ethiopia’s funding difficulties with the project have obliged us to find a financial solution, and assist the government of Ethiopia in receiving bank loans. We will have to enter a similar process concerning the Turkish upgrade project, a $600 million contract. We are very interested in carrying out the Ethiopian upgrade, as the sum of money is very significant and the project will help us in market penetration, offering upgrade and advanced modernization programs to additional countries in Africa."

Revenues and profits of Israel Aircraft Industries and Elbit Systems from the project for upgrading MiG-21 airplanes in Croatia, estimated at $90-120 million, are liable to plunge due to a Croatian government demand in February 1999 to conduct a major portion of the upgrading at its aircraft industry facilities in Zagreb.

In April 1998 Israel Aircraft Industries completed a series of flight tests of its MiG-21-2000, a heavily upgraded version of the venerable MiG-21 fighter featuring advanced avionics systems. The aircraft, by IAI's Lahav Division, completed its flight testing at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv. IAI was confident that upgrades that compose the MiG-21-2000 will be popular on the global export market for countries that want to upgrade their air forces at low cost by extending the MiG-21's service-life, allowing it to remain effective against newer and more costly fighters.

IAI had cntracts to upgrade Cambodian and Zambian Air Force MiG-21s. At a unit cost of between 1.5 and 3 million U.S. dollars. the Cambodian deal fell through when the USA and The World Bank cut their aid due to political developments in Cambodia. The four Cambodian aircraft that arrived in Israel were presumably never upgraded to MiG-21-2000s.

In July 1999 Israel Aircraft Industries, through its Lahav plant, and Elbit Systems, were bidding separately in a tender issued by the Vietnamese Ministry of Defence for the upgrading of MiG-21 aircraft. The Republic of Vietnam was executing a modernisation program for its air force, in which new aircraft were purchased from Russia, while aircraft previously acquired from the Soviet Union were being upgraded. The Vietnam Air Force operates 250 MiG-21s, of various sub-models. Also bidding was Mikoyan of Russia, manufacturer of the MiG.

In November 1999 Uganda purchase several Mikoyan MiG-21s from Poland in a deal that includes an upgrade package being undertaken by Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI). The ex-Polish Air Force fighters were first transferred to the facilities of IAI's Lahav division, in Tel Aviv, where they were upgraded. IAI helped the Ugandans to select the first batch of five MiG-21MFs and two MiG-21 UTI two seat fighters. The deal was worth an estimated $15 million to IAI, and sources say there is an option for additional MiG-21s to be purchased and upgraded. It was not clear what the upgrade will involve but the MiG-21-2000 upgrade package offered by the Lahav division is modular, and can include an Elta EL/M-2032 advanced multi-mode radar, multi-function displays and other advanced avionics.

The IAI has approached several nations, that currently have the MiG-21 in service, to propose various types of upgrades for their aircraft. Many of these nations located in Africa, Asia Minor, Asia, and Europe, have responded with great interest. With the several upgrades it seems that the MiG-21 will remain a major player in the world’s military scene for some time to come.

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