No such affection was earned by the MiG-21’s brutish follow-on. “The MiG-23 was a nightmare, maintenance was a nightmare. The guys hated flying it, and we checked people out when they had 3-5 months left.
“We had eight MiG-23s, two of them the air-to-ground version [MiG-23BN]. At high AOA (angle of attack) they were not as stable as the radar nose types.
“It would accelerate until it blew up. The limit was 720-710 knots, but guys would look down inside and see they were going 850-880.
“Everyone who flew it spun it at least once. You’d be in a separation maneuver at 1.4 and the nose would start searching from side to side. The stab-aug was terrible – although it was faster than anything we had, you weren’t ever comfortable.
“At Red Flag in the 1970s we were told that the MiG-23 would sweep its wings [forward] and kill you. Ron Iverson [4477th operations officer 1975-79, retired as a Lt Gen] flew one of the first ones. He said, “don’t worry about it — most of the time it’s trying to kill me”.
Overall, the operation was hazardous. Tactical Air Command “asked us for our accident rate. TAC average was three to four major accidents per 100,000 hours, Five to six was a concern. We had a rate of 100/100,000, and that wasn’t counting all of them. We spun one and we never flew it again, because you got a fire light every time you started it.”
“We had 210 maintainers,” Manclark recalled. “They were dedicated, just unbelievable, tech sergeants and master sergeants. The CIA gave us a flare dispenser from a Frogfoot [Su-25] that had been shot down in Afghanistan. We gave it to maintenance – it was just a thing with wires coming out of it. Four hours later they had it operational on a MiG-21.”
That proved to be a very important test.
You’ll want to read all of it, I assure you.
(Via CDR M)