USAF MiG-21F-13s at Tonopah.


Before you read on if you haven’t been in-briefed on Have Doughnut go read.

MiG-21f-13 "Fishbed-C". Image credit Wikipedia.

MiG-21f-13 “Fishbed-C”. Image credit Wikipedia.

Have Doughnut was the combat evaluation of the Soviet-built MIG-21F-13 (NATO codenamed) “Fishbed-C.” The F-13 version of the -21 is an early version of the ubiquitous MiG-21 family. It was the first short range day fighter version of the -21 to be placed in mass production and was the first variant to use the K-13 air-to-air-missile. The -21F13 was also in service with the North Vietnamese Air Force and saw regular combat against USAF and USN combat aircraft in-theater.

Constant Peg was a training program that took Have Doughnut a step further an under the auspicies of the 4477th Test and Evaluation Force. The “Red Eagles” as they became known, equipped with the MiG-21F-13,  provided a somewhat formalized training environment, for both USAF and USN fighter pilots that saw the MiG as the primary threat aircraft.

From the Wikipedia page:

By the late 1970s, United States MiG operations were undergoing another change. In the late 1960s, the MiG-17 and MiG-21F were still frontline aircraft. A decade later, they had been superseded by later-model MiG-21s and new aircraft, such as the MiG-23. Fortunately, a new source of supply of Soviet aircraft became available, Egypt. In the mid-1970s, relations between Egypt and the Soviet Union had become strained, and Soviet advisers were ordered out. The Soviets had provided the Egyptian air force with MiGs since the mid-1950s. Now, with their traditional source out of the picture, the Egyptians began looking west. They turned to United States companies for parts to support their late-model MiG-21s and MiG-23s. Very soon, a deal was made. According to one account, two MiG-23 fighter bombers were given to the United States by Egyptian president Anwar Sadat. The planes were disassembled and shipped from Egypt to Edwards Air Force Base. They were then transferred initially to Groom Lake for reassembly and study.[2]

In 1987, the U.S. Air Force bought 12 new Shenyang F-7Bs from China for use in the Constant Peg program. At the same time, it retired the remaining MiG-21F-13 Fishbeds acquired from Indonesia.[citation needed][3]

The United States operated MiGs received special designations. There was the practical problem of what to call the aircraft. This was solved by giving them numbers in the Century Series. The MiG-21s and Shenyang F-7Bs were called the “YF-110″ (the original designation for the USAF F-4C), while the MiG-23s were called the “YF-113″.[2]

The focus of Air Force Systems Command (AFSC) limited the use of the fighter as a tool with which to train the front line tactical fighter pilots.[1] Air Force Systems Command recruited its pilots from the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base, California, who were usually graduates from either the Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards or the Naval Test Pilot School at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland. Tactical Air Command selected its pilots primarily from the ranks of the Weapons School graduates at Nellis AFB.[1]

The 4477th began as the 4477th Test and Evaluation Flight (4477 TEF), which began 17 July 1979. The name was later changed to the 4477th Test and Evaluation Squadron (4477 TES) in 1980. The 4477th began with three MiGs: two MiG-17Fs and a MiG-21 loaned by Israel, who had captured them from the Syrian Air Force and Iraqi Air Force. Later, it added MiG-21s from the Indonesian Air Force.

Here are some newer photos of those MiG-21F-13s at the Tonopah Test Range sporting Soviet Air Force markings and cavorting about the Tonopah Test Range, probably in the 1970s.

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Several of these photos are probably in Steve Davies “Red Eagles” and Gail Peck’s “America’s Secret MiG Squadrons.” According to both of these books, after the aircraft reached the end of their useful lives, they mysteriously appeared at several museums throughout the United States. Reportedly, as the aircraft were dropped off, curators were told not to ask any questions about the aircraft.

If you haven’t read either “Red Eagles” or “America’s Secret MiG Squadrons” you should. You’ll get more information than what you read on the Wikipedia page.

[UPDATED]:

Apparently, I have a cutaway drawing of the -21F-13 so if you’re wondering what it looks like under the skin, here ya go:

mig21f13

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “USAF MiG-21F-13s at Tonopah.

  1. Re: they mysteriously appeared at several museums throughout the United States – that’s precisely the story we heard when a MiG showed up at the SAC Museum in Nebraska. One day when driving into work, no MiG. The next day, have MiG. Pretty cool actually.

  2. SFC Dunlap 173d RVN

    Great time for the US Armed Forces acquiring those pieces of foreign gear. The Army had an Mi-8, AN-2, and Mi-24 gunship which flew with an Army OPFOR entity out of Ft. Polk, La. I myself was able to shoot the living heck out of Dragunov’s, and AKM-74′s as well as the venerable AK-47. Much ammo was available and I fired it down range (as in on the range). Good times.