Country of origin Soviet Union
Manufacturer Mikoyan-Gurevich OKB
First flight 14 February 1955 (Ye-2)
Introduced 1959 (MiG-21F)
Produced 1959 (MiG-21F) to 1985 (MiG-21bis)
Numbers built 11,496
(10,645 produced in the USSR, 194 in Czechoslovakia, 657 in India)
Unit costs Data is not available
Max speed Maximum speed: 2,125 km/h (1,385 mph)
Maximum speed: Mach 2.05
Max range Range: 1,580 km (981 miles)
Service ceiling: 19,000 m (62,335 ft)
Dimensions Length: 15.76 m (51 ft 8.47 in)
Wingspan: 7.154 m (23 ft 5.66 in)
Height: 4.1 m (13 ft 5.41 in)
Wing area: 23.0 m2 (247.3 ft2)
Weight Empty weight: 4,871 kg (10,738 lb)
Gross weight: 7,100 kg (15,650 lb)
Powerplant 1 × Tumansky R11F-300, 37.27 kN (8,380 lbf) thrust dry, 56.27 kN (12,650 lbf) with afterburner each
Armament 1x internal 30 mm NR-30 cannon, plus
2x K-13 or K-13A (R-3S) AAM or
2x 500 kg (1,102 lb) of bombs
Operators Current operators:
Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Croatia, Cuba, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, India, Libya Libyan Republic, Mali, North Korea, Romania, Serbia, Syria, Uganda, Vietnam, Yemen, Zambia
Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Bangladesh, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Chad, China, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of the Congo, Czechoslovakia, Czech Republic, East Germany, Finland, Germany, Georgia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Hungary, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Libya, Madagascar, Mongolia, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Somalia, Soviet Union, Sudan, Tanzania, Turkmenistan, United States, Ukraine, Yemen, Yugoslavia, Zaire, Zimbabwe
The Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 Fishbed, nicknamed Balalaika by Polish pilots describing the shape of its fuselage, is a supersonic jet fighter aircraft, designed and developed by the Mikoyan-Gurevich Design Bureau in the Soviet Union era. The MiG-21 falls into two generation categories as the early MiG-21s are taken into consideration as second-generation jet fighters, and the next versions are deemed to be third-generation jet fighters.
MiG-21 is one of the most used jet fighter as there were about 50 countries over four continents assigned the MiG-21 as their wings protecting their airspace and even some of the MiG-21s still serve in several air forces a half-century after its first flight. MiG-21 is the most-produced supersonic jet aircraft in aviation history and the most-produced combat aircraft since the Korean War. The Soviet fighter also had the longest production run of a combat aircraft which lasted since 1959 to 1985.
The Development of MiG-21
The Soviet Union built the MiG-21 to continue the generation of older subsonic jet fighters such as MiG-15 and MiG-17 and supersonic fighter MiG-19. The design of MiG-21 was successful as it implemented nose intakes and swept-back wings or tailed deltas and the design finally was applied to the Sukhoi Su-7.
The Mikoyan OKB started developing the MiG-21 in the early 1950s, reworking its prototype Ye-1 and the study led to the development of the Ye-2. The development continued until the Mikoyan OKB produced the Ye-4 which had its maiden flight on 16 June 1955 and revealed to public during the Soviet Aviation Day display at Moscow’s Tushino airfield in July 1956.
Another remarkable note should be granted to the MiG-21 as it was the first successful Soviet aircraft incorporating fighter and interceptor capabilities in a single aircraft. It was a lightweight fighter, with the maximum speed of Mach 2 only using a relatively low-powered afterburning turbojet, and the fighter consequently comparable to the American Lockheed F-104 Starfighter and Northrop F-5 Freedom Fighter and the French Dassault Mirage III. The Soviet Union continued deploying MiG-21 until the next generation of jet fighter, the MiG-29, came into service to counter any threat of American air superiority fighters.
A total of 10, 645 aircraft were built solely in the USSR and many others were developed under licence. The MiG-21 was exported widely and continues to be upgraded and used. A number of Russian, Israeli and Romanian firms have commenced to provide upgrade services to MiG-21 operators, intended to lead the aircraft to meet a modern standard, with considerably upgraded avionics and armaments. The MiG-21 features simple controls, engine, weapons, and avionics. It stability and control at the extremes of the flight envelope, increasing safety for lower-skilled pilots; this consequently boosted its marketability in exports to developing countries with reasonably limited training programs and reduced pilot pools.
There are a number of variants of this legendary fighter of the Cold War since the development of Ye-1 prototype. Some of the variants are MiG-21P-13, MiG-21F-13, MiG-21FR (reconnaissance), MiG-21F-13R (reconnaissance), MiG-21PF (interceptor), MiG-21PFM Fishbed-F (modernised interceptor and nuclear-capable), MiG-21R Fishbed-H (export version of the MiG-21R, delivered with the Type D and Type R pods), MiG-21N or MiG-21SN which is capable of delivering one RN-25 tactical nuclear weapon, MiG-21bis which is the ultimate development of the MiG-21, fitted with the Tumanskiy R25-300 turbojet engine and a great number of other advances over previous types, Chengdu J-7 (Chinese version) and MiG-21FL Trishul (Indian version).
The Design of MiG-21
The MiG-21 features a delta wing. The fuselage is a semi-monocoque with an elliptical profile with a maximum width of 1.24m (4 ft 1 in). The air flow to the engine is controlled by a cone in the air intake. The intake control had three stages. At speeds up to Mach 1.5 the cone is fully retracted, between Mach 1.5 and Mach 1.9 the cone is in the middle position, and when speed reaches higher than Mach 1. 9 it is in the maximum forward position.
The MiG-21 features pressurized and air conditioned cabin covered with a front-hinged canopy. The pilot seats on the SK-1 ejection seat hooks up with the canopy creating a capsule to enwrap the pilot and give protection to the pilot from the airflow, and after that it would split and the pilot would open its parachute. Unfortunately, the canopy required a long time to separate and several pilots were killed following ejecting at low altitudes. The manufacturer tried to fix this problem on the MiG-21PFM with the canopy is hinged on the right side of the cockpit.
The empennage of the MiG-21 consists of a vertical stabilizer, a stabilator and a small fin on the bottom of the tail to enhance yaw control. The vertical stabilizer features a sweep angle of 60° and an area of 5.32 m² (on earlier version 3.8 m²) and a rudder. The stabilator has a sweep angle of 57°, an area of 3.94 m² and a span of 2.6 m.
MiG-21s in Action