Mikoyan-Gurevich E-8 (Fishbed) / MiG-21M / "MiG-23" - 1962
One can find many aircraft in the history of domestic and foreign aviation that defined the level of perfection for their times. Some of them, unfortunately, were not further developed despite their highly promising tactical performance characteristics. This occurred for various reasons, chief among which was the absence of a reliable power plant. One of the original aircraft of the Mikoyan OKB, the Ye-8, which was by the intent of its creators to bear the name of MiG-23 in series production, did not escape a similar fate.
The experimental Mikoyan E-8 aircraft was born almost 15 years earlier than the American F-16. The Rockwell X-31 experimental aircraft, or later the Israeli Leo Lion Fighter (LAVI), the European Union EF-2000 Typhoon fighter, or the Chinese mainland’s J-10, are more or less similar to the design of the MiG-21E8. The MiG-21M, MiG-23, Ye-8 design had a superficial resemblance to the design of the Chinese Jianjiji-7 - J-7MF developed in the late 1990s, in that both feature a a chin inlet rather than a nose inlet, but otherwise the designs are entirely unrelated.
The E-8 resulted from a Kremlin decree calling for a version of a MIG-21 capable of destroying hostile aircraft at night or in bad weather. The original designation for the new E-8 next generation MiG fighter (aka Ye-8 because of the pronunciation of the Russian letter "E") was MiG-23. In 1960 during design phase the airplane had designation as MiG-23 since it was designed for S-23 armament complex, which included: "Sapfir-1" radar with pulse radiation (at the second phase - "Sapfir-II" with quasicontinuous radiation), two K-23 missiles, ASP-PF sight, infra-red direction finder "Spektr". In 1961 the aircraft E-8 was designated as MiG-21M since TsD-30TP radar, infra-red sight "Samotsvet" and two K-13 missiles were installed on this aircraft because S-23 armament complex was not ready.
The E-8 was created by decree of the USSR government as a deep modification of the production MiG-21PF aircraft, but had so much constructive novelty that it was decided to assign the future MiG-23 index to it at the initial stage in 1960. Machine design began in the early 1960s. The main goal was to use the experience gained in the design of the MiG-21 to create a maneuverable, mass front-line fighter of small weight and dimensions, capable of carrying an effective weapon system to hit targets in the front and rear hemispheres day and night.
The modernization of MiG-21 aircraft was carried out mainly along the path of installing new engines with increased thrust, increasing the fuel supply on board and equipping with various equipment and weapons. But the E-8 was significantly different from the standard MiG-21 with a new progressive aerodynamic design. The air intake was located under the fuselage. The streamlined nose of the fuselage was designed to accommodate the Sapphire-23 radar with a large diameter antenna.
The formation of the aerodynamic shape of the aircraft, which was assigned the serial number E-8 (the MiG-21F had the E-6 index, and the MiG-21PF was E-7), was determined by the relatively small amount of theoretical and experimental research. Particular attention was paid to the air intake and its location in order to ensure a uniform velocity field and reduce pressure losses over a wide range of angles of attack and slip. As a result of these experiments, the type of air intake, its geometry, plumage patterns, wing mechanization, and the general aerodynamic layout of the new fighter were determined. Another significant innovation is the placement in the head of the fuselage of the destabilizer - actually the front horizontal tail (PGO), which, however, did not have a control mechanism.
According to the initial draft, the aircraft was developed for the S-23 weapon system (hence its original name MiG-23). The complex consisted of: Sapphire-1 radar with pulsed radiation (Sapphire-2 with quasi-continuous radiation at the second stage), two K-23 missiles, an ASP-PF sight, an Spectrum infrared direction finder. However, since the development of the S-23 system was delayed, at the first stage it was planned to temporarily use the serial TsD-30TP (RP-2) radar, the Samotsvet infrared visor, and two K-13 missiles used on the MiG-21PF on the E-8.
The Ye-8 project was cancelled in 1963, but it served as testbed for testing new technologies for later generation of Fishbeds and also for MiG-23 Flogger, which had a longer range and a much better radar with side mounted air intakes and swing wings for rough field performance and high speed at low and high altitudes.
The achievements of the Ye-S/l and Ye-S/2 included maximum speed of 2,230 kmlhr, Mach 2.1 and ceiling of 20,000 meters. These were excellent characteristics for an aircraft with a takeoff mass of just S,200 kg (the mass of the empty aircraft, by the way, was just 5,670 kg). The creation of the Ye-8 experimental fighter using the basic components that had already been put out in 1962 for the series-produced MiG-21PF aircraft was undoubtedly a progressive step in Soviet aircraft construction, which was, unfortunately, not completed due to the engine that had not been brought to the necessary level of reliability. Work was already underway at full speed at the OKB by that time on the design engineering of a completely new fighter, the MiG-23, with variable-sweep wings, which also influenced the decision to curtail all work on the Ye-8.
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