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I've been reading Steve Davies' book Red Eagles: America's Secret MiGs and it's been a real eye opener.

I can remember back in the 70s and 80s when we were all frightened of the MiG-23. When we first saw that swing-wing we thought it was a miniature F-14. Just goes to show how wrong our intelligence can be.

Once we got our hands on a few and started flying them we quickly realized that it's junk. Junkity junk junk junk! Seriously. This thing is as likely to kill its pilot as the enemy.

Smokin!

Let me start with my standard disclaimer: I was a bomber guy. The only fast-mover time I logged was as a T-38 instructor. I am not an expert on fighter tactics. My experience with fighters mostly consists of trying to hide from them! If any fighter jocks want to correct me here feel free.

It was never a very well kept secret that we had MiGs at a base in Nevada. I remember fighter pilot friends of mine talking about the "petting zoo" out at Nellis where you could see a MiG up close and sit in it.

What I never knew, until it was recently declassified, was that we actually had an operational unit out there that flew MiGs as adversaries against US pilots. It sounds like the plot of a made-for-HBO movie but it's true.

It's well known that we used USAF F-5s and Navy A-4s as stand-ins for MiG-21s and MiG-17s in exercises. Both services had "Aggressor" pilots that specialized exposing US forces to Soviet-style tactics in a peacetime environment.

There was another unit, however, that did the same thing with actual MiGs. These guys were hand-picked from the ranks of the USAF, Navy and Marines and appropriately named the "Red Eagles". They operated MiG-17, MiG-21 and MiG-23 aircraft that we had obtained from various countries by various means. The story of how we got hold of these aircraft and managed to keep them flying is right out of Tom Clancy. It's not like we could call up the Russians back in 1982 and say "Hey, would mind selling us a spare engine for a MiG-21? Um, no reason, just curious."

What I found most interesting is just how good the MiG-21 was and just how awful the MiG-23 is. When they screw up they do it in a big way!

A little history. The MiG-23 was developed in the mid 1960s to have greater range than the MiG-21 and to carry an improved radar and radar-guided missile. It has those F-4 looking side intakes, so that it can carry a larger radar in the nose. It was the first MiG to have a Beyond Visual Range capability with its AA-7 missile.

The swing-wing design seemed like the hot setup back in 1960s and early 70s. It was supposed to give the best of both worlds - high speed flight plus low speed handling.
The downside was increased weight and complexity.

Libyan 2-seat version with wings swept part way.
In the MiG-23's case it was meant to give it the ability to operate from short, unimproved airstrips. The MiG-21 had notoriously short range and needed a fairly long runway. This limited its tactical usefulness. The '23 was to have better range and the ability to operate closer to the front.

It entered Soviet service in 1967 and starting in the early 1970s was exported to pretty much everybody. Just over 5000 were built and they're still in service with 11 countries.

So what does the "Flogger" (Who comes up with these names!) as it's code-named have going for it?

1. Speed, speed and more speed! With the wings swept all the way back it's a manned missile. Mach 2.3 at altitude and over 900 knots at low altitude! They could actually catch an F-111 down low and I didn't think anything could do that. Acceleration was also very impressive. I've seen pictures of it spitting out an afterburner plume as long as the aircraft. Top speed was limited by the canopy imploding (bad).

Look at the size of that afterburner plume. This thing was pure thrust.
2. It's small and hard to see. Especially from the front.
This shows the small front cross-section. Very difficult to spot when it's pointing at you.
3. They had 5000 of 'em. It was cheap to build and they built plenty.

So what's not to like?

1. Limited radar. It's supposed to have (limited) look-down/shoot-down capability. The US pilots who flew it said that the radar wasn't all that useful. It could only lock on to a target directly in front of it.

Soviet tactics relied heavily on ground controllers to direct the pilot to a stern conversion (rear shot). Then and only then would the MiG pilot would lock on his radar and fire.

2. Terrible visibility both front and rear. There was actually a periscope to look rearwards. US pilots found that to be appropriate because it "handled like a submarine".

3. The engine only lasts 150 hours. This was common with Soviet fighters and was possibly a feature rather than a bug. Soviet client-states that got out of line found their spare parts pipeline shut off by Moscow. Their MiGs quickly turned into static displays when the engines wore out.

4. It can't turn - period. We assumed that the wing could be swept forward for low-speed dog-fighting but we were mistaken. The plane was very unstable with the wing swept forward. This feature was only used for takeoff and landing.

Wings swept forward.
5. Ergonomics were terrible. Modern fighters like the F-15/16/18 are set up for the pilot to be able to do everything without taking his hands from the stick and throttle. I've heard them refer to this as "playing the piccolo". The MiG-23 has switches all over the place and requires a lot of switch-flipping by the pilot to employ the systems. They also stuck the flight instruments wherever they had room for them rather than in a well thought out pattern.
MiG-23 cockpit showing poor visibility and lack of attention to human factors.
6. This is the big one: IT WILL KILL YOU.

Keep in mind that the Red Eagles were some of the best fighter pilots the USAF, Navy and Marines had to offer. They were all Fighter Weapons School or Top Gun graduates and they'd all flown as aggressors. They were almost to a man afraid to fly this airplane. One US pilot said:

Every time I put my foot on the ladder I would say to myself "This plane will kill you today if you let it."
It was unstable at low speeds and it could also be unstable at high speeds. If you got into trouble at high speed there was no way to slow down quickly short of shutting down the engine. A throttle interlock prevented rapid deceleration because the engine would otherwise be torn from its mountings!

Landings, especially in a crosswind, were "an event". The narrow landing gear and yaw instability made the plane quite a handful to land.

Part of the problem was that we didn't trust the ejection seats. The explosive cartridges have a shelf-life and replacements weren't available so we had to reverse engineer them. There were many cases of MiGs being dead-sticked into Tonopah after an engine failure.

The KM-1 ejection seat used in the MiG-23 and later model MiG-21s. Note how the headrest blocks rear visibility.
In combat the Flogger is pretty much a one-trick airplane. Crank that Tumansky R-29 engine up to "Ludicrous Speed", get vectored in for what is hopefully a surprise attack, take the shot and run like hell. There's a good chance the Flogger will be out of missile range by the time somebody figures it out.
Firing an AA-7 missile. Roughly equivalent to the US AIM-7 Sparrow.
Its disadvantages become less of an issue when employed in large numbers. If they come at you from multiple directions, then whichever way you turn there's probably one pointing at you. Quantity has its own quality comrade.

The Flogger's actual combat record depends on who you ask. The Iranians claim to have shot them down in large numbers during the Iran-Iraq War. Most of the Iranian kills recorded were against ground-attack models, however.

In the 1980s the Israelis achieved favorable kill ratios against Syrian MiG-23s in various engagements.

In Desert Storm we claimed 8 MiG-23 kills while the Iraqis claimed 2 F-16s and a Tornado as kills plus 2 F-111s as damaged. We denied the F-16 kills, claiming they were shot down by SAMs.

I have talked to some F-15 and F-16 pilots who got to fly against the USAF Floggers. They didn't consider it to be much of a threat.

In the B-52 community we respected the MiG-23 but I think he'd have had a very tough time finding us down low. His "look-down" capability was pretty limited and our countermeasures could likely have defeated his missile shot. The MiG pilots said that at Red Flag the B-52s flew so low their wings masked the engine's heat signatures, preventing a heat-seeking missile lock-on. I always thought that would work but it's nice to have it confirmed. Still didn't want to meet one, mind you.

These have been replaced in Russian and Eastern European service by newer aircraft but there are still quite a few in service with other countries. Mostly the "usual suspects" like North Korea, Cuba and Syria.

There are actually a handful of these in civilian hands. If you have money where your brains ought to be there are even a couple up for sale. You too can fly your very own Soviet death-trap! Paging Tom Perkins....

I like this quote from one of the Red Eagles:

The best thing we could have done was buy as many as we could afford and then give them all to our enemies so that they could all kill themselves flying it.
Perhaps we can talk the Koch brothers into buying a two-seater?

Originally posted to Kossack Air Force on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 06:37 AM PST.

Also republished by Central Ohio Kossacks, History for Kossacks, and Aviation & Pilots.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I've got a friend who was in the Red Eagles. (26+ / 0-)

    Retired now, but he is still our FAA liaison.  Good guy to have on our side :)  He flew all the MiGs...loved the 21, hated the 23.

    "Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana." --Townes Van Zandt

    by Bisbonian on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 06:51:52 AM PST

    •  Yes........ (14+ / 0-)
      He flew all the MiGs...loved the 21, hated the 23.He flew all the MiGs...loved the 21, hated the 23.
      This seems to be the 'common' reaction!

      'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

      by shortfinals on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 07:51:16 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  (I apologize in advance) I'd like to piggyback on (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Major Kong, polecat

      here since there are a lot of pilots and milpeeps here.

      I would like to drum up some support for a USMCR LtCol, genuine carrier fighter jock, and FedEx pilot (like MajKong), Wesley Reed, who is running as a Democrat in a now gerrymandered Texas Congressional District (TX-27).

      I'll put some links below after I summarize a bit (I hope y'all cut me a little slack here, the site is ultimately for this purpose).

      His name is (LtCol) Wesley Reed, and he's running in a district, TX-27, that we might be able to pick up now with such a great candidate; after it was sandbagged by a truly loathsome TX teabagger, Rep. Blake Farenthold (another 'entitled' heir who thinks he 'built it').

      Reed lives with his family in Flour Bluff, TX, which is where the Navy's NAS-CC is located.

      The 27th District includes Corpus Christi, and runs up the coast close to Houston, and almost to Austin, in a boot-shaped district. Let's all help 'boot' Ducky Farenthold out of Congress this year.

      We have a real chance at winning this race if enough of us can pitch in and help the GOTV effort down here (I take a special interest because I've always had ties here, and some very close kin is stationed/serving at the NAS right now).

      From his campaign website, Wesley Reed is touching all the Democratic base issues as far as I can see, but he sure could use some help (like any Texas Dem running).

      There is an effort to get his campaign some national attention over at JJ's website (links below), so help light this sortie off and kick in some afterburner for one of the good guys, Wesley Reed...

      wesleyforcongress.com

      Flip a District

      Blake (Ducky) Farenthold

      "The church of life is not in a building, it is the open sky, the surrounding ocean, the beautiful soil"...George Helm, 1/1977

      by Bluefin on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 08:48:04 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  No need to apologize (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Bluefin, RiveroftheWest

        The name isn't familiar but I've probably met him at some point.

        If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

        by Major Kong on Sun Feb 02, 2014 at 08:07:18 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thanks. I should make a modification, might (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RiveroftheWest

          have misinterpreted his bio, don't know if he flew carrier ops or fighters for sure; he didn't list NAS-Pensacola, so... (y'all know the saying about "assumptions", urk...).
          Doesn't matter much, Marine LtCol Reed sounds like a fantastic candidate against a loudmouth chickenhawk like Ducky Blake, especially in this wingnut/BBelt territory (although the district was predominately Hispanic before, gerrymandering has diluted that, see the 27th link district maps before and after, huge difference).

          "The church of life is not in a building, it is the open sky, the surrounding ocean, the beautiful soil"...George Helm, 1/1977

          by Bluefin on Sun Feb 02, 2014 at 09:53:46 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  lol (11+ / 0-)
    The best thing we could have done was buy as many as we could afford and then give them all to our enemies so that they could all kill themselves flying it.
    They said that about the M16 too

    Happy just to be alive

    by exlrrp on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 06:55:47 AM PST

    •  Buy them? Give them? (0+ / 0-)

      Golly, that seems very expensive.

      The M16 fiasco proved there was a much cheaper way to win the Cold War.

      All we had to do was convince the U.S. Army Ordnance Corp to defect to the Reds and to convince the Reds those Ordnance guys were incredibly smart. Then, the U.S. Army Ordnance Corp would have had free reign to apply their oh-so-invaluable know-how to all the weapon projects of the Soviet  Empire. Given what those guys managed to do to the AR-15 to make it into the M16, they would have turned the entire Soviet arsenal into a giant scrapyard in a matter of two years.

      OK. I may be a bit hyperbolic.

      Three years. Top.

      I deal in facts. My friends are few but fast.

      by Farugia on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 10:14:02 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  The actual Soviet 23's might have been better, (4+ / 0-)

    the 'export' versions were 'stripped', it was an SOP for the old Sovs, they made a top drawer model for their own use, and a 'wartime' stripped model for export to their 'friends', it was so they would have experience and production of a 'wartime' version, for aircraft, tanks, whatever.

    May you live in interesting times--Chinese curse

    by oldcrow on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 06:59:30 AM PST

    •  Better but still not that good (11+ / 0-)

      What we were told after the Cold War pretty much matched our conclusions.

      If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

      by Major Kong on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 07:01:28 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Wouldn't change basic flying characteristics (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest

      The top drawer model perhaps had better radar and weapons systems than the export model, but that wouldn't change the basic flying characteristics because it was the same airframe, just different content inside it. If its flying(and landing!) characteristics sucked in the export model, they sucked in the domestic model too.

      BTW, selling crippled export models is SOP for the US too -- we may have sold F-15's to the Saudis, but we didn't sell them our latest weapons systems for the plane. Wouldn't want to upset the Israelis, after all...

      [Extremists] are motivated by the sneaking suspicion that someone, somewhere, is having fun -- and that this must be stopped. -- H. L. Mencken

      by badtux on Sun Feb 02, 2014 at 01:08:26 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  In fighter pilot heaven the Mig 23 jocks probably (8+ / 0-)

    hang out with the ME 163 vets.  

    Rivers are horses and kayaks are their saddles

    by River Rover on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 07:03:33 AM PST

  •  One thing I find fascinating about Russian (10+ / 0-)

    mechanical engineering is the robustness of the equipment. These are a tool designed to be used. Not pretty and delicate playthings that require pampering.

    For example, some MIG designs have doors over the engine intake that will close. When the door is closed another opens on the top quadrant of the plane allowing the powerful jet intake to suck in air. See on jets that air being sucked in creates a vacuum that pulls debris that might be present on a recently bombed airstrip into the impeller causing catastrophic bearing failures. Having the upper door available made their planes more reliable in actual combat situations.

    As to the planes being dogs in the sky part of the problem is the mechanical robustness. That robustness comes at a cost, in weight. Which reduces maneuverability.

  •  I've always been suspicious of kill ratios . . . (6+ / 0-)

    In virtually every modern war, what we've seen is one well-trained well-equipped side taking on a half-trained ill-equipped side. I think we could have put the Iraqi, Syrian, and Egyptian pilots in F-22s and they'd still have been shot down in droves. It's sort of like the situation on the Russian front in WW2, where over 100 German pilots scored over 100 victories against semi-trained Russian pilots flying outdated junkheaps, or Japanese Zero pilots in the early Pacific war, who racked up insanely high scores against inexperienced pilots in P-39s and P-40's.

    So I'd be far more trusting of the results in exercises like the Red Eagles, where both sides had pilots of roughly equal ability.

    In the end, reality always wins.

    by Lenny Flank on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 07:08:19 AM PST

    •  If you look at the Korean War (11+ / 0-)

      When flown by Soviet pilots that MiG-15 had almost a 1 to 1 kill ratio against the F-86.

      As long as the two planes are in the same class the pilot seems to make the big difference. The plane just has to be "good enough".

      If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

      by Major Kong on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 07:38:44 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  And if you look at the Vietnam war, (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RiveroftheWest

        You'll see the two planes don't even need to be in the same class, as proven by Mig-17s shooting down F-105s.

        A good, well-trained pilot in a mediocre plane will best a mediocre or poorly-trained pilot in a top-notch plane most of the time. Pilots, training and tactics are what matter above all, the plane itself a fairly distant fourth.

        At least, no proposition to the contrary has ever been validated in a shooting war*, the kind of ignorance we can only be glad for. All-aspect sensors and weapons and (one day) AI may change that equation. But not yet, as far as we know.

        [* And from the Vietnam war, we also know what peace-time assessments of weapon systems are worth: less than zero.]

        I deal in facts. My friends are few but fast.

        by Farugia on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 09:30:35 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  One must be careful taking lessons from Vietnam (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RiveroftheWest

          There were a lot of political constraints that were unique to that particular conflict.

          The NVAF airfields were off limits for political reasons.

          They wouldn't have had an Air Force for very long if we'd been able to attack them on the ground (as we did in Desert Storm).

          A MiG-17, though unsophisticated, is a formidable day VFR dogfighter. It's very hard to see and could turn rings around most anything in the US inventory circa Vietnam War. It doesn't have a radar to speak of, but a good GCI controller can make up for that.

          It's interesting that the NVAF pilots never like the MiG-19. The '21 was fast and the '17 was maneuverable but the '19 split the difference.

          If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

          by Major Kong on Sun Feb 02, 2014 at 08:19:41 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I disagree with you (0+ / 0-)

            The political constraints were grounded in very real military realities.

            NVA bases were out of reach because attacking them would have drawn the PRC and/or the USSR in the conflict. We couldn't get to them because they were in effect protected by a competent opposing force, albeit indirectly.

            In that respect, the Vietnam war was the last 'real war', a war where we did not enjoy overwhelming superiority on the enemy from the onset, a war where we didn't get to choose how and when we would fight, just like we wouldn't in a hot war against a significant enemy (none that exists at the time being).

            That's why I'd tend to think Vietnam is actually the most relevant and last truly useful point of reference, much more so than the very lopsided engagements* we have had since then.

            On the MiG-17 vs. F-105, the experience is actually not specific to Vietnam or the 17. The IAF got the same fairly poor experience after the Six Days war with their IIIs being frequently at serious pain against Iraqis and Jordanians flying harassment runs on Hunters, nice but old clunkers. I believe the IAF even lost a couple of IIIs. And Israeli pilots were neither mediocre nor poorly trained and the III was certainly a pretty good plane.

            [ * Although I will happily agree with you that when you are the one who gets to fly over Kuwait around SA-2s eager to get intimate with you, "very lopsided" is exactly the way you want your wars to be :) ]

            I deal in facts. My friends are few but fast.

            by Farugia on Sun Feb 02, 2014 at 08:53:16 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  They were named by NATO (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blueyedace2, Bluefin

    NATO reporting

    There is a whole system, like "one syllable for jet, two syllables for propeller" for bombers.

    "You can't run a country by a book of religion. Dumb all over, a little ugly on the side." Frank Zappa

    by Uosdwis on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 07:15:14 AM PST

  •  Excellent Space Balls reference... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ER Doc

    Well played, sir!

    My idea of the ideal GOP speech invariably involves negligent intoxication together with breathing helium for that special vocal nuance.

    by Superskepticalman on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 07:19:45 AM PST

  •  I remember reading the Reaganoid cold war DOD... (8+ / 0-)

    ....reports ('Soviet Military Power?') from the library.  They were always going on about how scary the MiG 23 & MiG 25
    were.

    That assessment turned out to be a bit premature

    This space for rent -- Cheap!

    by jds1978 on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 07:25:07 AM PST

    •  they thought the MiG-25 was lots more advanced (9+ / 0-)

      technologically than it really was. When they finally managed to get their hands on one (they offered a humungormous reward for somebody to defect with one), they were shocked utterly to find that it had riveted aluminum skin. They assumed it must have been some super-secret composite.

      But the plane I recall NATO really being scared pants-less by was the Backfire Bomber. They attributed nearly supernatural powers to that airplane . . . . .

      You have to keep in mind what a paranoid and fearful time the Cold War was, especially during the Reagan years. Both sides were utterly convinced that the other side was gonna invade and/or start throwing nukes sometime next week omigod !!!!!!!!

      In the end, reality always wins.

      by Lenny Flank on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 07:56:01 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not Even Flush Rivets Too (6+ / 0-)
        "...they were shocked utterly to find that it had riveted aluminum skin. They assumed it must have been some super-secret composite."
        They didn't use flush-headed rivets either, as I recall.  Good, old-fashioned, round-headed rivets.  If anything that should have put US aerodynamicists racing to research if the Rooskies had discovered some new technique related to reducing laminar friction along the airplanes skin at high speed.

        The Soviets were much less likely to have employed composites than some alternative metal, like titanium.  The Soviets invested a lot in titanium production and fabrication, including that one attack submarine class, the Alfa class, which had a titianium hull.  The boats were so expensive that they seemed to have acquired the nickname the golden fish"."

        "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

        by PrahaPartizan on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 08:26:11 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  We assumed it was much lighter than it was (6+ / 0-)

        We calculated a very low wing-loading, which would have made it a very maneuverable aircraft.

        Then we realized just how heavy it was and that it needed that much wing just to fly.

        If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

        by Major Kong on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 08:28:33 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I have vivid childhood memories of the .. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Tinfoil Hat

        ...Carter/Reagan Cold War.  I expected the world to end thanks to MX missiles/Russians in Afghanistan/'The Day After' et al.

        This space for rent -- Cheap!

        by jds1978 on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 12:57:32 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Viktor Belenko got his to Japan. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RiveroftheWest, terabytes, Bluefin

        The Japanese most graciously allowed the US to thoroughly check it out.  The Japanese eventually returned it to the USSR in pieces. They also tried to bill them for their troubles but I don't think they ever got a single ruble.

        I heard a story that Andre Gromyko had to phone Henry Kissinger and ask if he could please have his aircraft back. Kissinger is supposed to have replied, "We've already made an exact duplicate. Which one do you want?"

        Yup. Those were the days.

        Any jackass can kick down a barn, but it takes a good carpenter to build one.--Sam Rayburn

        by Ice Blue on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 02:54:06 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  I recall finding one of the last of these tomes (6+ / 0-)

      ...in a college library not long after the fall of the Soviet Union.  

      I couldn't decide whether it was delusional or intended as fabrication.  The overestimates of the economic and societal capabilities of the USSR were particularly appalling.

    •  70s CIA "Team B" Arms Race Hype>90s Neocon Plan (6+ / 0-)

      http://en.wikipedia.org/...

      The CIA ginned up this report about Russian superweapons (dare I say WMD?) to ignite Reagan's arms race.

      In the 1990s, they dusted off the same script to get us into Iraq.

      Lest I sound to cynical, let me point out it was the same guys. Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and Bush 41 as CIA chief.

      Men are so necessarily mad, that not to be mad would amount to another form of madness. -Pascal

      by bernardpliers on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 10:07:39 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  So they had an engine and strapped wings to it? (5+ / 0-)

    (and a missile, of course)

    Happy little moron, Lucky little man.
    I wish I was a moron, MY GOD, Perhaps I am!
    —Spike Milligan

    by polecat on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 07:31:07 AM PST

  •  That was a great book... (5+ / 0-)

    ...I LMAO at the response to the visiting Soviet Generals when they asked about our "secret" MiGs.

    I also liked how they talked about why they preferred the older MiG-21's to the newer. I knew the wing loading obviously went up with the newer Fishbed's, but I hadn't realized they didn't add counterweight at the rear of the plane to make up for the heavier RADAR and nose assembly in the newer models. They probably should have lengthened the tail a little, but that would have increased their landing and take off speeds (Less rotation/AOA).

    As for the names given to Soviet/Russian aircraft, those come from NATO. They're usually two syllable words and begin with F if they're fighters or attack planes, B if their bombers, etc. "Bear" and "Bull" (reverse engineered B-29) the exceptions in that it doesn't have two syllables. But for fighters you had the Fagot, Flagon,  Fresco, Fitter, Farmer, Flogger, Fencer, Flanker, Fulcrum, Frogfoot, Fullback and we'll have to see what they call the T-50. The only bombers of significance really are the Bear and Backfire. I don't think there are enough Blackjacks to make a difference.

    Back in the 80's Vought was also working on a westernized MiG-21, with U.S. instruments, comms, etc. Also, when the cold war ended, we, the U.S., came very close to buying new build Flankers and Fulcrums from the Russians for our aggressor forces.

    Regulated capital serves the people, unregulated capital serves itself.

    by Alumbrados on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 07:56:44 AM PST

  •  Nice, interesting post as usual, MK (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RiveroftheWest

    Question--you mentioned reading the book 'Red Eagles'--I just checked on Amazon and there's two books using versions of that title, both published in 2012.

    One by Steve Davies and one by Gaillard Peck. Which one do you recommend?

    Thanks...

    When atlatls are outlawed, only outlaws will have atlatls.

    by wheeldog on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 08:02:38 AM PST

  •  Diary? Wonderful! (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    xaxnar, IndieGuy, RiveroftheWest, Bluefin
    there are even a couple up for sale. You too can fly your very own Soviet death-trap! Paging Tom Perkins....
    Priceless!

    "The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness." John Kenneth Galbraith

    by LeftOfYou on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 09:07:42 AM PST

  •  I grow ever more nostalgic for the Cold War days, (6+ / 0-)

    when national security required only that we spend astonishing sums on hardware and training, rather than spending astonishing sums to vacuum up the electronic communications of our friends and neighbors.

    There were a whole slew of swing-wing aircraft produced during that era: The F-111, F-14,  the Tornado, Mirage-G, the Mig-23 & 27, a couple of Sukhois, the B-1 and the ginormous Tu-160.

    Why did they all get replaced by fixed-wing designs? My guess would be improved flight controls?

    “It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing
    he was never reasoned into” - Jonathan Swift

    by jjohnjj on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 09:14:20 AM PST

    •  Exactly (5+ / 0-)

      Improved leading and trailing edge devices in addition to computerized flight controls.

      If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

      by Major Kong on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 09:28:10 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I suspect the need for stealth too is a factor (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        IndieGuy, RiveroftheWest, Bluefin

        If you're trying to design an aircraft with as low a radar profile as you can manage, geometry is critical - and having the aircraft changing configuration in a significant way has to really add complexity to the problem.

        Look at all the effort going into conformal fuel tanks and munitions carried internally to avoid messing up the stealth features. It's a real concern.

        Then there's the F-35B. The STOVL variant looks like a step backward compared to the Harrier in one respect. I doubt you'd want to open the dorsal air intake at any kind of speed - it looks like a giant air brake. The Harrier, with it's swiveling engine nozzles, could deploy them throughout  its performance envelope, making it quite maneuverable. IIRC, one tactic Harrier pilots developed was to roll on their backs and 'push' straight down. (At altitude, of course!) Pretty tough for an adversary to counter.

             On the other hand, the F-35B is supersonic which the Harrier is not, and I believe they could still swivel the engine nozzle in flight for vectored thrust. I'm curious if and how they'd use that in a dogfight. The vertical landing capability is an interesting trade off in another way as well - the F-35B doesn't have to be beefed up to survive the 'controlled crash' of a normal carrier landing. Does that compensate for weight of the ducted fan and doors? Does it make deck ops for a carrier simpler?

        Any airplane is a bunch of design compromises flying in formation - the question is, how well do they work together when all is said and done?

        "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

        by xaxnar on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 09:56:16 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  at least during the Cold War there was an actual (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SCFrog, jjohnjj, RiveroftheWest, Bluefin

      potential threat to defend against (though it seemed crushingly obvious to me that the Soviet Union had no more desire for suicide than we did so the actual chances of anyone starting an intentional nuclear war were pretty close to zero, and most of the Cold War consisted of the Defense Department declaring that the Russians would invade tomorrow if we didn't double their budget).

      Today, the, uh, "terrist threat oh noez !!!" is a mere pissant compared to the actual threat that the world's 150,000 multi-megaton nuclear warheads could wipe out all of human civilization in less than half an hour.

      And the very idea that Iran or North Korea or even China is a military threat on the level of the USSR, is laughably silly.

      In the end, reality always wins.

      by Lenny Flank on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 09:32:40 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Nothing in the air's as pretty as (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest

      a Tomcat / Bone / Aardvark, for my money.

      I've loved folding wings since the F4U ...

      LBJ, Van Cliburn, Ike, Wendy Davis, Lady Bird, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

      by BlackSheep1 on Mon Feb 03, 2014 at 11:08:20 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Some years ago, I was in Romania on duty. (6+ / 0-)

    We were holding a joint exercise with the Romanians prior to their joining the EU, and were staying at MK Air Base near Constanza on the Black Sea. The airfield was lined with the rusting hulks of Soviet aircraft, including this specimen. If you zoom in you can see the tires are flat, it's been sitting for so long.

    Chatting with the airbase commander about it, he said, "We have deal with Russians to provide spare parts and maintenance." He thought about it for a bit and said, "Is not working out so well."

    •  As observed by MK (0+ / 0-)
      The engine only lasts 150 hours. This was common with Soviet fighters and was possibly a feature rather than a bug. Soviet client-states that got out of line found their spare parts pipeline shut off by Moscow. Their MiGs quickly turned into static displays when the engines wore out.
      There is also the consideration that the survival expectancy of a fighter or ground attack aircraft in actual war does not even come close to 150 flying hours, more like 10 sorties, 50 hours or so (and that's already a very optimistic estimate).

      So why bother ?

      I deal in facts. My friends are few but fast.

      by Farugia on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 09:52:15 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Yemen, 2009. (5+ / 0-)

    Our friends in Yemen, on the other hand, also seem to agree with this:

    He flew all the MiGs...loved the 21, hated the 23.
    I took this on my next-to-last mission to Yemen in 2009. Their air force is a sad mix of various kinds of old Soviet hardware. Unlike the Romanians, though, they've managed to keep these birds flying. They're in regular use against "insurgents" in the northern part of the country.

     photo 9db94d9e-2197-4460-a18c-889f35aea153.jpg

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