Cold War Era

That Time an IrAF Commander painted a Female Lap on the Runway to help MiG-21 Pilots Accomplishing Successful Landings

The results of this exercise were unique: most of the pilots accomplished successful landings right ‘on the spot’ during their first, or at most their second attempt

The first Iraqi pilots to convert to the MiG-21 did so during a six-week course at Lugovaya air base in the USSR, in late 1961 and early 1962. They all returned to Iraq by June 1962. They were followed by 16 of their new aircraft, which arrived aboard ship in Basrah in July of that same year. After being assembled by Soviet technicians, the aircraft were officially handed over and entered service with the newly established No. 11 Squadron, then under the command of Maj Abd el-Munam Abd el-Emir, on Dec. 19, 1962.

According to Arab MiGs, Volume 2 by Tom Cooper and David Nicolle, since the Iraqi Air Force (IrAF) preferred to convert its other pilots to MiG-21s ‘at home’, an additional conversion course was organised at Habbaniyah, under the supervision of Soviet instructor Sergey Makarovich Kramarenko. Generally speaking, Iraqi pilots experienced very few problems when converting to the new type. The only real exception concerned landing. The landing speed of the original MiG-21F-13 was very high and required very long runways. This was very unfamiliar for the Iraqis, most of whom had previously flown the much more pilot-friendly Hunter. Very often, the pilots would touch down halfway down the runway, and thus engagements of the arresting barrier became a daily occurrence. Following several nerve-racking landings, Lt. Col el-Emir found a very ‘practical’ solution for this problem. He ordered the groundcrew to paint a big white ‘spot’ some 100m (328ft) down the runway, ‘roughly resembling’ the form of a female lap! The order issued to the pilots of No. 11 Squadron was simple: ‘Land straight into the lap of this sex-bomb!’

To the surprise of quite a few observers, the results of this exercise were unique: most of the pilots accomplished successful landings right ‘on the spot’ during their first, or at most their second attempt.

Unsurprisingly, this successful exercise was interrupted only two days later, when Gen al-Awqati arrived in Habbaniyah. The story goes that the good General, hardly believing what he could see from above while his Ilyushin Il-14 VIP transport was approaching the base, was less than amused by such ‘artistic creativity’ by his subordinates. Only seconds after the Il-14 landed, he jumped out of the aircraft and summoned the base CO, and ordered for the immediate removal of the ‘sex bomb’. Nevertheless, with or without, this and similar training aids, Iraqi MiG-21 pilots were soon considered to be among the most proficient in the Middle East.

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Photo credit: Screenshot from YouTube video

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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