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Mikoyan MiG-29 and MiG-35

Mikoyan MiG-23 and MiG-27 Book Review

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review January 2020 Title Mikoyan MiG-29 and MiG-35
Author Yefim Gordon, Dmitriy Komissarov Publisher Crecy
Published 2019 ISBN 9781910809310
Format 560 pages, hardbound MSRP (USD) $64.95

Review

Here is the latest gem from the Soviet/Russian Aviation duo of Yefim Gordon and Dmitriy Komissarov - the Mikoyan MiG-23 and MiG-27. I think I've mentioned in previous reviews of Gordon's books that I now automatically order anything from this duo and this latest title doesn't disappoint. We finally have the final installment in the lineage of MiG design bureau (OKB) from their first jet fighter, the MiG-15 to the latest off the production line, the MiG-35, though it seems like they took a Quentin Tarantino approach to get here. This title covering the Flogger family fills that last gap which sits in the middle of MiG OKB's timeline. When I was still active duty, the MiG-23 and MiG-27 were both at the tip of the spear for Soviet Tactical Aviation and MiG-23s also served as a primary interceptor for Soviet Air Defense forces (PVO) for many years.

As with other titles in this series, the first chapter or two set up the story about why this aircraft came into being. During the late 1960s, the major aviation powers had pushed their fighters through Mach 2 while evolving all-weather capabilities and guided missile technologies. The problem with all of the aircraft that came with these capabilities is their need for long runways to launch and recover them, and destroying runways was at the top of everyone's target lists to keep their adversaries on the ground. With the early MiG and Sukhoi tactical aircraft, they were built around robust landing gear that permitted operations from austere airfields, though some, like the Su-7, needed rocket-assisted take-off (RATO) to get out of some of these locations. While these aircraft needed highly swept wings for high-speed flight, they also needed little or no sweep to significantly reduce the distance needed to takeoff and landing. These were the engineering problems facing MiG OKB for a replacement airframe for the MiG-21. The authors show the various techniques used to augment lift (including lift engines) and their disadvantages learned from flight test. Enter variable geometry wings.

Looking at the chapter coverage, you can see the evolution of the Flogger family unfold:

  • Choosing the right way
  • Third time lucky: The real MiG-23 is born
  • MiG-23 fighter versions
  • The MiG-23 in detail
  • In Soviet service
  • Strike versions: The beginning
  • The 'duck-bills: New role, new name
  • The strike versions in detail
  • The strike versions in Soviet service
  • Foreign Floggers in action
  • The operators

The authors have compiled an impressive amount of information to fill these pages and provide some fascinating insight to the aircraft. There are hundreds of full-color photos detailing the different variants and prototypes of the Flogger family, including some of the first MiG-27 concepts that looked more like an F4D Skyray before they went with a modified MiG-23 airframe. The sections covering the Flogger in combat around the world is equally fascinating. Whether you're interested in Soviet operations in Afghanistan, the decimation of Syrian MiG-23s at the hands of the Israeli Air Force, or numerous other combat actions around Africa and more.

I get a chuckle out of the various online articles and videos that proclaim the MiG-23 series as one of the worst designs, as they clearly are looking at the aircraft out of context. The MiG-23 was never designed as a dogfighter, though it was equipped two or four R-60 (AA-8 Aphid) dogfight missiles that rivaled the AIM-9 Sidewinder (for a short period of time). Against the F-14 Tomcat, the MiG-23 didn't have much of a chance, though the F-14 came along much later than the MiG-23. When the MiG-23 came online, the only 'equivalent variable geometry design' at the time was the F-111, and that was never designed as a 'fighter'. As an interceptor, the MiG-23 only had one equivalent at the time - the F-4 Phantom II. There used to be fun 'unofficial' competition during the cold war - the Baltic drag races. A Soviet or East German MiG-23 would fly alongside the victim of the day and both would enter full afterburner to see who was faster. The MiG-23 would leave the F-15 in the dust as well as many other allied tactical aircraft. The F-4 could almost keep up with the MiG-23, but not quite. Only the F-104 could keep pace with the fast Flogger.

Whether you're an aviation historian or a MiG-23/27 enthusiast, this is the ultimate title on the subject and finally completes the MiG OKB story for production fighters. I'm sure there is far more material out there that will cover the non-fighter designs as well as the concepts that didn't quite make it off the drawing boards.

Definitely recommended!

My sincere thanks to Specialty Press for this review sample!