Military Aviation

Russia wants to develop a new fighter based on MiG-23 and MiG-27 aircraft. US Navy Operations Specialist explains why it’s not a wise idea.

Russia to develop a new fighter based on MiG-23 and MiG-27 aircraft

Russia is set to relaunch its military aviation capabilities with the development of a new fighter aircraft based on the Cold War era MiG-23 and MiG-27 aircraft the Russian media Kherson News reported on Apr. 2, 2024. The news was relaunched by Army Recognition website that explains that the decision comes in response to the operational insights gained from recent military engagements in Ukraine, underscoring the significant impact of high-precision weaponry on the battlefield.

Kherson News states that “The military operations experiences in Ukraine highlighted the critical role of high-precision weapons in advancing the front line. Thus, there’s a pressing need for a fighter jet that combines ease of production with the capability to carry a substantial arsenal.”

Noteworthy, even though as explained by Army Recognition, this information surfaced near April 1st, it remains credible. It’s important to note that the Russian Army is utilizing T-54s and BTR-50s, which trace their origins back to the Second World War. Additionally, they are in the process of modernizing T-62s, preparing to deploy BTR-90 prototypes, restarting production of Tu-22 supersonic bombers, and planning to reintroduce into service an Antonov An-124 Ruslan aircraft that has been exposed to the elements for 25 years.

Increasing and boosting the Russian Air-Space Force

The initiative to produce heavily upgraded MiG-23/MiG-27 aircraft aims to increase and boost the Russian Air-Space Force (RuASF or VKS) with a mass-produced, easily manufactured fighter jets capable of deploying an increased volume of armaments.

MiG-27

Efforts to develop this new fighter, drawing inspiration from the Soviet-era MiG-23 and its derivative, the MiG-27, are reportedly in progress. The project seeks to blend the legacy of these aircraft with contemporary systems and armaments, addressing modern warfare requirements. “We’re leveraging the proven design of our Soviet fighters, the MiG-23 and MiG-27, infusing them with modern technology and weaponry. This venture is about crafting a novel aircraft that pays homage to its predecessors while being fully equipped for contemporary combat scenarios,” said a member of the Russian defense industry.

But will such a decision save Russian pilots involved in the war following the Russian invasion of Ukraine [and in other future wars] or perhaps even take more Russian lives in the long run?

‘It will get some of the precious few qualified Russian pilots…killed,’ Eric Wicklund, former US Navy Operations Specialist, explains on Quora.

West had ample time to test MiG-23/27 performance

‘The West had ample time to test MiG-23/27 performance during the HAVE PAD and HAVE BOXER programs. Former Russian client states, like Egypt, turned over several examples of MiG-23s for the US to evaluate.

‘The West found:

  • That in high AoA conditions (e.g., “hard turns) the MiG-23 became unstable and was liable to depart flight (stall out and crash). Russians knew about this, and this is what led to hypermaneuverable designs like the Mig-29.
  • Pilots noted that accelerated very well, making it a good interceptor, they noted that the airframe was easily overstressed.
  • Photo credit:
  • The narrow landing gear tended to slip and slide on the runway in rainy conditions. Unusually, this Russian design also tended to suck in FOD (Foreign Object Debris), an unusual feature in a Soviet aircraft.
  • Here’s a quote from one of the evaluation pilots, Col Paco Geisler, 4477th Test and Evaluation Squadron.
MiG-23

“We taught the guys that if you were defensive with a Flogger right behind you, then you were automatically offensive, because even the worst pilot in the world would be able to deny him the shot. You would turn, he would try and turn with you, but he would never be able to turn the same corner as you.”

Wicklund concludes;

‘If Russia is pulling MiG-23s out, that tells me they are quickly wearing out their MiG-31, Su-35, and Su-30s. Too many flight hours (like the kind flown during a war) overstress an airframe, and shorten its life. Russia has been flying CAP missions daily for two years now, and it’s a wonder they have very many flying at all by now.’

The MiG-23 / MiG-27 series

The MiG-23/ MiG-27 series of aircraft was used extensively by the former Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies.

The MiG-23 “Flogger” was designed to replace the widely-used MiG-21. The MiG-23’s advanced radar and fire control system could fire missiles at targets beyond visual range. Variable “swing” wing geometry, similar to that of the General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark, and robust landing gear allowed the MiG-23 to operate from short, remote runways. The pilot could select the wing sweep for low-speed take-off and landing or for supersonic flight.

The variable-sweep fighter-bomber Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-27 (NATO designation Flogger D), was developed by the Soviet aviation industry from the airframe of the Mig-23 fighter to make it more operationally effective, in both ground attack and close support roles. The aerodynamic layout was essentially that of the MiG-23 fighter but with a different nose configuration. To better meet the new role assigned to the aircraft, the on-board avionics were upgraded with new electronic counter measure systems and radar equipment for detecting, acquiring and ‘painting’ ground targets. The offensive armaments were further upgraded with the adoption of a new, more powerful 6-barrel 30 mm cannon than that of the MiG-23, and the option of carrying an offensive load up to 4,000kg, which included the new air-to-surface missiles.

MiG-27

Photo credit: U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force and Rob Schleiffert from Holland via Wikipedia

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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