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MiG-23MLD Comparisons New

MiG-23MLD Comparisons New

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Published by: gippolau on Sep 12, 2013
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 MiG-23MLD vs Western Fighters – the Soviet Air Force View
Alexander Mladenov looks at the former Soviet Air Force concepts,dating from the mid-1980s, for the MiG-23MLD’s employment in theair superiority role pitted against the F-15A, F-16A, F-4E and Kfir C.2
Although this article can be regarded as being of somewhathistorical value, in fact it still has a certain practical valuefor the present day. In Russia, the other CIS republics andEastern Europe the aging
was retired from servicecompletely between 1997 and 2002, but in the Third Worldcountries, considered hostile to the West, the type is regardedyet as mature and capable enough design, performing useful work inthe air-to-air role, with perhaps better mission capable ratesthan the early-series MiG-29s operated by those nations. As manyas 30 fighter
are believed to be maintained in combat-ready state by the Iraqi Air Force; no less than 60 more are inservice with the Syrian air arm (including more than 40 highly-modified MiG-23MLDs); the Cuban Air Force has on strength slightlyless than three dozens MiG-23MF/MLAs; and more than 40
continue to soldier on with the North Korean Air Force. Some ofthe countries on the rogue list have determined and skilled
pilots and to underestimate them and their mounts would befoolish, and, in case of war, potentially dangerous.
The Bekaa Valley Defeat – a Stimulus for Further
In June 1982, the Soviet-style air superiority/air defence ratherorthodox doctrine, training and tactics have proved to be fullyinadequate and ineffective when employed against the IsraeliDefence Force/Air Force (IDF/AF). Syrian losses fighters,fighter-bombers and helicopters between June 6 and 11 - numberedsome 85 (between 82 and 92 according to some sources) whileSyrians claimed for some 27 IDF/AF fixed- and rotary-wing aircraftshoot down which is obviously a bogus. It is well known thatIsraelis deny losing any aircraft in air combats during the 1982Lebanon war though such statements may also be considered, to someextent, as dubious. According to the authoritative researcharticle
Early MiG-23s in Operational Service
, written by the
1960s-1980s local conflicts researcher Tom Cooper (published in
Air Enthusiast
, Vol 100, July-August 2002, p56-67), the Syrianfighter
played only a secondary role in the conflict.Confirmed losses during the clashes over the Bekaa Valley betweenJune 9 and 11 comprised four MiG-23MS’ and six MiG-23MFs, whiletheir pilots claimed at least five enemy aircraft shoot thoughmost if not all of these kills cannot be confirmed by independentsources and thus could be regarded more as bogus rather than ofrealistic reports.
 MiG-23MLD’s pros and cons – the Soviet view of the 1980s
The most significant post-Bekaa Valley undertaking of the SovietAir Force was the crash-programme upgrade of the huge VVS-FA MiG-23ML/MLA
fleet to the MiG-23MLD
standard, alsoknown as
Izdelye 23-18
in the internal designation system of theMiG Design Bureau. In the early 1980s, the MiG-23 made up thebackbone of the VVS (
Voenno-Vazdushni Sili
- the Soviet Air Force)Frontal Aviation (FA) air defence/air superiority assets. No lessthan 1,100 MiG-23M/ML/MLAs were in service with the Soviet front-line combat units by that time and more than 600 of them used toequip at least 15 fighter regiments based in Central Europe thatwere considered to be the spearhead of the Soviet air superiorityassets at the most probable theatre of operations during the ColdWar era.The
upgrade package is known to had been prepared evenbefore the Lebanon war and a total of 560 VVS MiG-23ML/MLAs wereupgraded while only 66 improved interceptors (with only newavionics) are reported by Russian sources as being newly-builtbetween mid/late 1982 and December 1984; these are known as theMiG-23MLD(Export) (
Izdelie 23-19
or the alternative designation
Izdelie 23-22)
and were only exported to Syria and Bulgaria – 50and 16 examples respectively. Interestingly,
the NATO reportingname
was retained, as these aircraft were hardlydistinguishable from the basic MiG-23ML/MLA. Unlike its exportcounterparts, the VVS-FA MiG-23MLDs boasted much-improvedmaneuvering performance thanks to a host of airframe and flightcontrol system upgrades.It would be interesting for the Western public to examine andanalyse in details the content of a Soviet Air Force supplementary
air combat manual. This particular 32-page manual titled
 Aide Memorie for the MiG-23 Pilot on Air Combat vs F-15A, F-16A, F-4E and Kfir C.2 
was published not long after the Bekaa Valleyclashes. By that time both the Soviet and client states pilotsstill trained mainly in the orthodox - and often described asinflexible - air intercept tactics, derived from the 1960s andmastered to perfection during the MiG-21 era. Traditionally, inthe 1970s and early 1980s, the Soviet and client air arms flew theMiG-23M/ML/MLD like the MiG-21 – as a high-speed point interceptorclosely guided and supported by the GCI, and it took no less than12 years to employ the
as a true air superiorityfighter.
 Aide Memorie for the MiG-23 Pilot on Air Combat vs F-15A, F-16A,F-4E and Kfir C.2 
refers to the MiG-23MLD(Export) version, poweredby the R35-300 turbojet, rated at 28,700 lbs (127kN or 13,000kg)in full afterburner, without the aerodynamics and flight controlsystem improvements of the VVS-FA MIG-23MLDs. According to themanual, the aircraft’s main parameters defining the energymaneuverability performance turn out the fighter slightly betterthan the McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom II and definitely betterthan the IAI Kfir C.2. However, the MiG-23MLD’s air combatperformance aspects, as given in the manual, are quoted asdefinitely inferior to those of the McDonnell Douglas F-15A andGeneral Dynamics F-16A. There are only few areas within the MiG-23MLD’s envelope where it could boast equal or slightly betterperformance aspects when pitted against the third generation USfighters.For example, the manual’s authors claim that compared than the F-4E (not specified whether the slated or non-slated sub-version ofthe Phantom is concerned), the MiG-23MLD has superior sustainedturn performance throughout the entire envelope, excluding therange between 377 and 540kts (700 and 1,000km/h) bellow 21,000ft(7,000m) as well as an edge over the Phantom II in the zoom climbperformance at all altitudes and speeds, excluding the trueairspeed range between 485 and 647kts (900 and 1,200km/h) above18,000ft (6,000m).Pitted against the F-15A, the MiG-23MLD has the only notableadvantage in the zoom climb performance at speeds above 620kts

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