Russian MiGs are often a punchline for a joke.
In fact, the U.S. Air Force’s 555th Fighter Squadron, now based at Aviano Air Base and part of the 31st Fighter Wing, was once famous as the “World’s Largest Distributor of MiG Parts” due to shooting down 39 MiGs during the Vietnam War.
But some MiGs weren’t exactly slouches. In 1971, the Soviet Union put the MiG-23 Flogger into service. The Flogger was a variable-geometry aircraft, which meant that its wings were capable of being swept or extended, depending on the situation.
According to MilitaryFactory.com, the Flogger was capable of a top speed of 1,553 miles per hour, a range of 1,752 miles, and it was capable of carrying AA-7 Apex radar-guided missiles, AA-8 Aphid missiles (either radar-guided or infra-red guided), and it had a twin 23mm cannon with 200 rounds of ammo.
In essence, it was intended to be an answer to America’s wildly successful F-4 Phantom.
Like the Phantom, it was widely exported, mostly to Warsaw Pact countries and to Soviet allies in the Middle East. Like past MiGs, the parts were often forcefully distributed – albeit this time by the Israeli Air Force in the 1982 Bekaa Valley Turkey Shoot. The United States Air Force got into the business of distributing Flogger parts during Operation Desert Storm, and Navy F-14s shot down two Libyan MiG-23s in 1989 over the Gulf of Sidra.
Some MiG-23s did find their way to the United States during the Cold War. Egypt had purchased about 20 Floggers in the 1970s, but eventually sold a dozen to the United States Air Force, which took them somewhere in Nevada for testing.
Today, the MiG-23, like the F-4 Phantom, is fading away as the last airframes are being retired. The Flogger, though, holds a place in history as one of the Soviet Union’s first swing-wing fighters. You can see a video on this plane below.