MiG-21 Fishbed and MiG-21 Lancer
MiG-21 LanceR A, the ground attack version, being parked on a platform. The 86th AFB is home to two LanceR A/B/C squadrons. The 861st "Titmice" sq. handles air superiority, while the 862nd is responsible for ground attack.
The MiG-21 is a story of success from the Soviet aircraft designers. It is one of the most longevive and versatile fighters ever built, still in active service in no less than 25 Air Forces worldwide. Many of the units still in usage today have enough resource left to stay that way for years to come, and many countries have expressed the wish or have already started to extend the resource and upgrade their existing fighters, therefore maintaining this flying piece of history where it belongs - up in the air.
MiG-21 is a supersonic Mach 2, single engine jet fighter.
Designed in the 1950s and built during the 1960s, 70s and 80s, the MiG-21 has a variety of versions and has been built in over 10,000 units. Few fighters have been built in such huge numbers, especially after World War II.
Although the MiG-21's First Flight was in 1955 (the first active service unit of the series), it has been in use ever since.
|Fortele Aeriene Romāne
MiG21 Fishbed tail 6946 flown by lt-col. Cmdr. Doru Davidovici, 1989
Engine and Performance
|"The Old Lady",
MiG 21 Mongol tail 1120, a retired two-seater, Borcea-Fetesti AFB
|MiG 21 Mongol at landing, flown by the Romanian Air Force Fighter elite pilot, and author, lt-col Cmdr
|MiG 21 Fishbed on ground with lt-col Cmdr Doru Davidovici entering the plane (1989)||Romanian Air Force MiG21 Fishbed single-seaters cell lead by a RoAF MiG21 Mongol two-seater|
The evolution of fighter aircraft of the past 20 years has meant a huge leap in technology, especially regarding the avionics and weapons systems (flight and navigation systems, target aquisition systems, "surgical" strike capabilities and precision, hostile environment survivability modes), but also in the construction of the airframe or the engines. However, purchasing new fighters can easily suffocate the defence budget of most countries that wish to acquire such formidable weapons. A modern jet fighter can cost anything between 25 and 30 million dollars (MiG29, 50 to 60 million dollars F-16, F-18, Saab JAS-39 Gripen) and 80 to 160 million dollars (F-22 Raptor and Eurofighter2000 Typhoon).
That is why many countries choose to upgrade fighters which are already in service, by fitting them with up to date electronics and radars. As such, they can operate modern weapons platforms for a much cheaper price.
From all of the fighters made by the Soviet Union, MiG21 represented a formidable opponent during the conflicts of the 60s and 70s (the ones between India and Pakistan in 1965 and 1971, the Vietnam war, the Arab-Israeli wars of 1967 and 1973), but with the appearance of the new fighter generation represented by F-16, F-18 and MiG-29, the MiG-21 was outperformed and outdated, especially regarding the radio-electronic and digital avionics which handle the flight control systems, firing systems, navigation systems, etc.
Altogether, 10,158 MiG21 fighters were built in three factories throughout the former Soviet Union: GAZ-21 Sokol factory from Gorki (Nijni Novgorod), GAZ-1 Znamia Truda from Moscow and GAZ-31 Gheorghi Dimitrov (currently located in Georgia). Added to these, are the fighters produced under licence in Czehoslovakia, India, China, as well as the Chinese J copies.
The first versions to be built, MiG21 F-13, MiG21 PF and MiG21 U were already retired from active service by the majority of their users except only the Third World countries, but more recent versions, built especially after 1970 are still in active service and they still have a sufficient flight resource, which allows their maintainence in active service until the year 2010.
The MiG21M, MiG21 MF (designated Fishbed J by NATO), MiG21bis (designated Fishbed L) single-seaters and the MiG21UM (designated Mongol B) two-seater make a total of 4500 aircraft, made in the Soviet Union, India and China, which are currently (january 1999) in service in over 35 countries and which are waiting for an update.
As well as in other countries from the ex-Eastern Europe block, the MiG21 built for Romania is the backbone of the Romanian Air Force. In february 1962, a first squad was equiped with 12 MiG21 F13s, (designated by NATO as Izdelie 74 or Fishbed B) on the Deveselu airfield. The second squad equipped with MiG21 F13s (15 august 1963) was located on the Mihail Kogalniceanu airfield. This version was retired from active service between 1975-1976, and the MiG21 F13 was followed by the MiG21 PF (designated Izdelie 76 or Fishbed E), but designated MiG21 RFM in Romania (arrived in 1965), the two-seater MiG21 U (designated Izdelie 66 or Mongol A, arrived in 1965, 1966 and 1968), MiG21 PFM (designated Izdelie 94 or Fishbed F), but designated MiG21 RFMM in Romania, arrived in 1966, 1967 and 1968, the MiG21M (designated Izdelie 96A), arrived in 1968, MiG21 R (designated Izdelie 94R or Fishbed H), but designated MiG21 C in Romania (arrived in 1968 and 1972), MiG21 MF (designated Izdelie 96F, arrived in 1971) and the two-seaters MiG21 US (designated Izdelie 96F, arrived in 1971) and MiG21 US (designated Izdelie 68, arrived in 1969) and MiG21 UM (designated Izdelie 69, which have entered service beginning from 1971). As well as in most in service jet aircraft, all the MiG21 versions specified upwards, as well as the engines and the additional installations were fixed beginning from 1968 at URA Bacau (later IARv, IAv Bacau, and since 1991 - Aerostar SA).
At the beginning of the 1990s, the reduced defense budget due to economic problems in Romania didn't allowed the acquisition of new fighters, but the various recources allowed the upgrading of older aircraft. So the Romanian Air Force had a good solution in updating the existing park of aircraft. In 1992, the Romanian Defense Ministery emitted a request for updating those MiGs to 5 companies:
- MAPO Mikhoyan-Gurevich (Russia) ;
> - Thomson (France) ;
- GEC Marconi (UK) ;
and Elbit Ltd and IAI Lahavi (Israel).
Since the beginning, the intention was that participating at the upgrading would also be Aerostar SA, who allready had more than 25 years in repairing the MiG21s and the existing facilities. At the end of 1992, Aerostar SA and IAI Lahav begun the work at the functionable mock-up MiG21-2000, which was presented at LeBourget Air Show '93. At the middle of 1993, Elbit Ltd was chosen as an integrator of the updating, and the contracts with the Defense Ministry and Aerostar SA were signed. In the 15th of november 1993 the upgrading contract was authorized. The sellection of Elbit was made due to its experience in upgrading L39s and F5s and due to the high degree of implication proposed to the Romanian aircraft industry (other key-contracts are working in the integrator's facilities, at high-prices).
At a short time after the authorization, the projecting of the new systems begun at Aerostar SA by mixed teams of Israeli and Romanians working with CAD software.
The MiG-21 Lancer 714 prototype displayed at Farnborough in 1996
|The Program for upgrading 110 of Romania's MiG-21 Fishbeds was named Programul Lancer "D.D." in the memory of the Romanian fighter pilot and author of the 1980s, lt-col Doru Davidovici. Lt-col Davidovici died in the crash of his MiG-21 Mongol in the morning of the 30th of April 1989 on Borcea-Fetesti AFB due to a wrong manoeuvre at the initial landing approach. Doru Davidovici allowed another, younger pilot to land first. When his turn came, an error in manoeuvering plumitted the plane into the ground.|
In the DD program the MiG-21 was reconfigured in the following versions:
MiG-21 A Lancer
- the single-seat close-air support and ground attack version
The prototype of this version, and actually the first MiG-21 Lancer upgrated in Romania, no 9809, designated before the updating "The Protocole" first flew in the 22nd of august, 1995 for 37 minutes.
This is tail 6001 MiG-21 A Lancer, Mihail Kogalniceanu AFB
...one of the Lancers which participated at the Romanian-French trainings in 1998 and 1999
Tail 6001 crashed in 2002; the pilot did not eject.
|Twenthe AFB, Holland, 2000||Expomil 99, Bucharest, oct 1999|
|Photo by Robin Polderman||photo: Danut Vlad|
MiG-21 B Lancer tail 9501
|click the pictures for the real size version||
Excellent image of the interior of the MiG-21 B Lancer
The prototype of this version (327) had its first flight on the 6th of may, 1996. The aircraft took-off at 16:00 hrs Bucharest Time, and it flew for 40 minutes. The official first flight was on the 8th of may, 1996.
Between the 8th and the 12th of december 1998, the aircraft was shown at Aero India '98 in Bangalore. The two-seater Lancer B has advanced ground-attack capability, completely unexistent in the unupdated Mongol two-seater version. The avionics installed on both Lancer A and B permitts an increase of the accuracy of hitting the targets, due to continuous calculation of the impact point, launching a bomb on re-established coordinates and dive bombing facilities. The ground-attack aircraft are painted in 2xgreen and 2xbrown colors on the extrados and in light blue on
MiG-21 C Lancer - the air superiority version
The prototype of this version, tail 6607, first flew in the 6th of november 1996, a flight which lasted 40 minutes.
|MiG-21 LanceR C
6th of november 1996
Photo by Aerostar SA
(photo via ing. Danut Vlad, Marketing Manager - Aerostar SA)
|MiG-21 C LanceR. Notice the new cone
Click the photo for the large version
Inside view of the Aerostar SA Bacau factory
MiG-21 Lancer 810, the same one which was in the 6 Lancer formation when flying with the two dutch F-16AM Fighting Falcons (tails 365 and 535 from Twenthe AFB) that came to Romania in the spring of 2000, is shown here during maintainence procedures.
This picture does not represent a threat to the National Security of Romania, and therefore it is moral and legal to display it on my website. No classified materials and/or activities are being portrayed here
Copyright ©2000 Sorin A. Crāsmarelu
/ photo via Netwalker
Lancer C is painted in 3 colors of grey on the extrados and light blue on the intrados.
Lancer A and Lancer C were realized by updating the single-seaters MiG21 M/MF aka Lancer I.
In the unupdated version, MiG21 M/MF was equiped with an RP-21 radar with a reduced range, it could only fire russian missiles and it had limited air-ground capabilities (only unguided russian-made bombs, similar with F-16A which also can not drop smart-bombs).
Lancer B was realized by updating the MiG21 UM two-seater aka Lancer II.
Because half of the MiG21s still in service around the world are MiG21bises, Aerostar SA and Elbit Ltd have updated such an model. The upgraded MiG21bis model is named MiG21bis Lancer III and compared to the previous versions, the MiG21bis is the most advanced MiG21 version in the world.
It has an R-25-300 turbofan, which developes 71kN at afterburner (7,239.9 kgf), and 95kN (9,687.3 kgf) with its superafterburner (ChR), but which can only be held for 3 minutes in a supersonic flight at altitudes between 0 and 4000m (only other planes capable of sea-level supersonic flight I know of are some of the 5th generation fighters), and the fuel load has increased with 190kg compared to the old MF version.
I still have no idea where the MiG-21bis unit came from, since Romania does not have any such aircraft in storage, nor where that MiG-21bis Lancer III is now. If you do, please tell me.
MiG-21bis Lancer III
Inside view of the cockpit.
Click the picture for the real size version
Captain Commander Laurentiu "Kiru" Chirita
For the integration of the avionics pack, two avionics simulators have been built separatly, one by Aerostar and the other one by Elbit. These two set the bases for the build-up of the new Lancer Flight Simulator which is located in Romania at Simultec.
|That squadron is located here, at Centrul 95 Trecere pe Avioane Supersonice in Bacau AFB|
MiG21 Lancer A
MiG21 Lancer B
MiG21 Lancer C
MiG21 Lancer A
MiG21 Lancer B
MiG21 Lancer C
|That base was Borcea-Fetesti AFB, home of the Grupul 86 Aviatie Vānatoare si Vānatoare-Bombardament|
861st Fighter Squadron
MiG21 Lancer A
MiG21 Lancer B
MiG21 Lancer C
former 2. Escadrila
this squadron was disbanded in late 2001 and merged with former 1/86 to form the new 861st Fighter Squadron
Fortele Aeriene Romāne
MiG-21 Lancer As and a MiG-21 Lancer C on the platform
MiG-21 Lancer was the world's first widely used operational aircraft which incorporated the HMD (Helmet Mounted Display System) since 1995 in active service. HMD was introduced on F-22 Raptors in 2006, and was used on a small number of Israeli F-15I and F-16I's since the early 2000's.
Also, the MiG21 Lancer was the first aircraft in the world to operate weapon pylons which are capable of use both Eastern as well as Western military equipment, bombs and missiles
(recently, the Su-25 Scorpion, as well as other Elbit Ltd upgrades for various countries, usually incorporate such a system)
I had the opportunity to see this awesome fighter quite a few times during the past decade. My first "encounters" with the Lancer took place when it was flying so close to my roof that I was more preocupied of it not falling onto my head rather than of looking at the plane at the time.
It was a cloudy day still waiting for the rain in October 1998. I was in my room, writing articles for this very site (not this particular page), when, all of a sudden, a very loud noise came out of nowhere and the walls started to shake.
As I used to jump out of anywhere just to see what is flying above the neighborhood (usually choppers) when I was a young kid, I jumped from my chair and managed to see this dark-green-brown painted jet aircraft which was definetly a fighter and which was flying at an amazingly low altitude (lower than 100 m) above my neighborhood in the evening. It came straight from NW and it was heading SE. My room and especially my roof was shaking so hard that I was seriously concerned about the possibility that it might colapse and I remember being mad at whoever was flying it that he might be responsible for the colapse of at least one building... Just when I was gathering my thoughts, a second Lancer, this one flying rather strangely, with its nose pointing leftwards but still flying straight forward followed right through.
After the second one, although they gave me quite a shock (I haven't seen jet fighters flying so low and slow above my city before), I was amazed.
The event was followed by long debates with my friends in school that time, as we had never seen the new painting schemes before. We all concluded that these must've been the new Lancer upgrades. It remains however quite surprisingly that they passed above my city, since its located far away from the AFB which had received the Lancer at that time. The air base close to my city would only receive this upgrade roughly 6 yrs after the event.
It would be 3 years later until I will see the Lancers again, but this time I saw them in a Wednesday and a Friday afternoon, between 2:30pm and 6:00pm, when they kept on passing above downtown and some other locations above my town.
Sometimes the Lancers flew above the local airfield, above the river which passed through the city and sometimes above downtown itself, at very low altitudes. One time, a Lancer A flew about 200m above the airfield, disappeared into the clouds and got out remarcably fast and in a totally diffrent position heading back up again. On another day, I saw a Lancer A again, about 100m right above downtown Tārgu-Mures. What struck me is that nobody even gave a damn to look up to see what's causing all the noise. The jet was so low that it almoust touched the top of the 4-stories medeval buildings downtown. Such a pity I didn't have my camera with me that day...
Soon after that, I had what I describe as "the opportunity" to be a spectator at the biggest airshow ever staged in Romania at that time, RoIAS 2001. The show took place between the 25th and 26th of August, 2001 at Mihail Kogalniceanu AFB, 25 KM NW of Constanta. I got to see and take photos of the Lancer in there, as well as some other 'goodies'. Photo Galleries to be uploaded soon! :)
Years later, the base near by at Campia Turzii finally converted its fleet to the Lancer standard, being the last out of four bases at that time to do so. One particular guy who was a fighter pilot there had spent his youth years in the local Airclub here. In the early 2000's, he used to fly low over city at least once a week, ending his tour over our airfield. In his words, he was giving us "a wake-up call". On his free days, he used to drop by at the airclub and have a laugh with our instructors, promising them that they'll have their butts shaking again by next week. By all means, he never failed to keep his word, and that's exactly why you won't get his name from this website :).
I would get the opportunity of seeing the Lancers and even sit in the simulator again in 2005, when I finally got to visit the Borcea-Fetesti air force base.
Yet again, at RoIAS 2006, the Lancers made a lasting impression for me, during the largest airshow ever in Central and Eastern Europe. RoIAS 2006 was even bigger than the previous record holder, RoIAS 2001, and not surprisingly, took place at the same Mihail Kogalniceanu AFB, 25km NW of Constanta.
|MiG21 B Lancer in Belgium
...impressing the world yet again, 2000
Photo by Peter Steehouwer
|cpt. Cmdr. Dorel Luca
...chief of the RoAF MiG-21 Lancer Demo Team at that time, pilot and Cmdr. of the Borcea-Fetesti AFB until the year 2000 is flying this two-seater which was the star of the Air Show in Belgium.
Cpt cmdr Dorel Luca was a guru of the MiG-21. He actually performed acrobatic maneouvres with the MiG-21 which weren't thought possible even by the Russian designers of the jet. He retired in the early 2000's with over 3,000 hrs on the MiG-21.
Photo by Peter Steehouwer
Lancer at exercises and applications
This section will soon feature a list of some of the many international exercises in which the MiG-21 Lancer had participated.
Until then, here's a small list I've put up together, until I will get the full list, as well as pictures.
Flights in France
Exercises with French Alpha Jets
(Mihail Kogalniceanu AFB, Romania, 1998)
Flights in Romania
(with high-ranking NATO officials in the backseat of a Lancer B, 1999)
Exercise with French Alpha Jets
(Mihail Kogalniceanu AFB, Romania, 1999)
Exercise with Dutch F-16AM/BM's
(Mihail Kogalniceanu AFB, Romania, 1999)
Flights in France, 2000
NATO/PfP's "Cooperative Key 2000"
(Mihail Kogalniceanu AFB, Romania, 2000)
NATO/PfP's "Cooperative Key 2001"
(Graf Ignatievo and Krumovo AirBases, Bulgaria, 10-21 september 2001)
03-11 october 2001
Romanian MiG-21 Lancer A, B, C and MiG-29 Fulcrum B and C trained with French updated Mirage F3CT, at Mihail Kogalniceanu AFB, near Constanta (which only one month before has been the scene of the largest airshow ever staged in Eastern Europe, RoIAS 2001).
These are not by far "all" of the exercises and display opportunities in which MiG-21 Lancer's were used to interact with NATO partners, not even an attempt of a "list". I have promises to get the full list, as well as photos, wherever possible, soon.
As I've stated before, no matter the new equipment that has been installed and the reinforcements and modifications of the fuselage, the MiG-21 Lancer is still... a MiG-21. Although the 110 aircraft that have undergone the upgrading process were all made in the late 1970's and still had enough flight resource, the jets were still old. As such, it is of no surprize that many MiG-21 Lancers have crashed in recent years, especially around mid-late 90's and the year 2002 (with no less than three crashes, an absolute record).
I will soon upload a list of the Lancer crashes, with details of every incident.
The Russians wanted to develop their own upgrade of the MiG-21 and MiG-23, just as they did with the MiG-29, so resulting the MiG-29SMT, MiG-29UDT and the MiG-29UBT Fulcrum.
The Russians installed a new HUD, two monochrome single-function digital displays, replaced a few analogycal panels, representing an affordable upgrade plan for developing nations. The result could be considered as a level two upgrade. On contrast, the Lancer is internationally considered as a post level five upgrade.
|MiG21-93, the Russian upgrade
The Russian media printed false data regarding the Lancer and the MiG-21-93, stating that the latter has a longer radar detection range. They also stated that by that time (the year 2000), 14 Lancers have crashed, killing 8 pilots. The more accurate count until that year is 3 crashes, and no deaths.
Even more so, all the 3 crashes happened due to engine failure, which has nothing to do with the upgrading program, but with, ironically, Russian engines.
|Range||56 km||60 km to 80 km|
Now what would you buy, an Israeli radar made in the late 90's, or a Russian radar made in 1988? A radar that has a range between 60 and 80 km, or one with 56 ? Oh I bet you'll buy the Russian radar ! ;) This page is the largest and most complete MiG-21 Lancer page on the Internet (I checked that out), and one of the largest about the MiG-21 in general. However, in my opinion, it is very very small for such a great fighter and such a daring upgrade. Thus, I can only end it by reminding some of the features that made the MiG-21 such a widely produced fighter, and the LanceR such a successful upgrade: in the 1950's and 1960's, the MiG-21 had a design ahead of its time, tremendous acceleration, fantastic maneouvrability, it was rugged, it could be used both in the jungles of Vietnam as well as in the winters of Siberia, and last but not least, it had the aggressive, determined look which we appreciate so much today. On the other hand, the LanceR upgrade program gave the MiG-21 multiple-weapons loading, higher payload, longer range, higher thrust, higher maneouvrability, more powerful radar, most advanced locking and firing system in the world at that time, the first HMD system in the world until the F-22 entered active service (2006), encrypted communications and new jamming units, more fuel, recon pods, facilities for dive bombing, ...etc etc etc.
Sorin MiG-21 Fishbed, MiG-21 Mongol and MiG-21 LanceR page is Copyright 1998-2006 by Sorin A. Crasmarelu
In addition to the crashes fiasco and the radar fiasco, the two Russian engineers seemed to have forgotten one crucial thing: In their use of the words "project" they 'mistakenly' swapped the Lancer and the 21-93, stating that the Lancer is a "project" while the MiG-21-93 is a "service plane". At that time however, LanceR ceased to be only a "project" and was already an active service aircraft for several years, while the MiG-21-93 remained a project and didn't have any ferm orders yet.
MiG-21-93 did enter service much later, in october 2002, with the Indian Air Force, also the only one to purchase that program. Looking at the Indian military acquisions of the past decade, one could ironically state that they would've purchased it anyway, regardless of the competition, simply because it comes from Russia.
Finally, after inventing 11 crashes and 'killing' 8 Romanian pilots ;), after stating that 56 means more than 60 and 80 (maybe it does, who knows...I just did school in Romania..God knows what they teach us here...), and finally, after mistaking the words project and active service, the two Russian engineers hit the jackpot with their final and most irritating statement. They stated - and this is a good one - that the rest of the Lancer upgrading are "for the comfort of the pilot only".
So now we know that the "east-west" pylons, the helmet-mounted display and firing system (which enables the pilot to fire a missile wherever his eyes can look), the encrypted communications, chaff, flares, and all the rest, are just for "the comfort of the pilot only". Now, I'm really starting to doubt my engineering classes. God, isn't it comfortable to fly a jet ? ;)
Instead of a conclusion...
The MiG-21 LanceR is still a MiG-21, the airframe is the same, while the engine suffered minor modifications. However, just as long the radar and weapons systems installed onboard will be competitive, just as long the helmet mounted display and firing system will continue to represent the edge of technology, and just as long the Romanian fighter pilots will continue to win international exercises, the MiG-21 Lancer will remain a formidable opponent, often underevaluated by foreign analysts.
Some will argue that they have the best planes in the world and no MiG-21, no matter what it carries onboard, will ever be able to face an F-15, F-18 or F-16 in combat. Well, all those pilots who have flown the Lancer, may they be French, American, Dutch, Belgian or British have been extremely impressed of its performances and the American fighter pilots have stated that the Lancer has real chances to win a dogfight with any of their fighters.
See other Romanian -built fighters !
IAR-93 Vultur, only plane which could not be jammed by EA-6B Prowlers during the Kosovo war
IAR-99 Soim, affordable, maneouvrable jet trainer which also incorporates the HMD
What ?? Only +1,850 hits for this page since the 27th of March 2001 ? ;)
(counter has been reseted in May 2003. Add 1,850 hits to the number you see displayed above)
This page is the largest and most complete MiG-21 Lancer page on the Internet (I checked that out), and one of the largest about the MiG-21 in general. However, in my opinion, it is very very small for such a great fighter and such a daring upgrade. Thus, I can only end it by reminding some of the features that made the MiG-21 such a widely produced fighter, and the LanceR such a successful upgrade: in the 1950's and 1960's, the MiG-21 had a design ahead of its time, tremendous acceleration, fantastic maneouvrability, it was rugged, it could be used both in the jungles of Vietnam as well as in the winters of Siberia, and last but not least, it had the aggressive, determined look which we appreciate so much today. On the other hand, the LanceR upgrade program gave the MiG-21 multiple-weapons loading, higher payload, longer range, higher thrust, higher maneouvrability, more powerful radar, most advanced locking and firing system in the world at that time, the first HMD system in the world until the F-22 entered active service (2006), encrypted communications and new jamming units, more fuel, recon pods, facilities for dive bombing, ...etc etc etc.
Sorin MiG-21 Fishbed, MiG-21 Mongol and MiG-21 LanceR page is Copyright 1998-2006 by Sorin A. Crasmarelu