Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 Balalaika (Fishbed) Fighter Aircraft
by Tim Wing
The Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 (Russian: Микоян и Гуревич МиГ-21; UEDF reporting name: Fishbed) was a supersonic jet fighter aircraft, designed by the Mikoyan-Gurevich Design Bureau in the Soviet Union. It was popularly nicknamed “Balalaika”, from the aircraft’s resemblance to the Russian stringed musical instrument.
Though considered antiquated by the beginning of the Robotech era, due to the type’s high production numbers it remained in service well into the inter-war period. When the SDF-1 crashed landed on Earth, the MiG-21 was no longer in service with the Soviet Air Force. It did, however, make up the bulk of many third world air forces all over the world. After the end of the 1st Robotech War, these planes continued with many of these air forces, simply because there was no other choice for the time being. After the formation of the Eastern Block of Soviet Independent States (EBSIS), the MiG-21 saw a brief period of renewal, as many of the member states had their gaining fleets upgraded with newer technology. This of course was little more than a stop gap. By 2022, all MiG-21s had been retired in the EBSIS, having been replaced by newer aircraft. As an interesting side note, the MiG-21 even saw use in the United Earth Defense Force (UEDF), for a very brief period of time, as former Indian Air Force squadrons were integrated in 2018.
Though the MiG-21 was by no means a match for modern fighters in the early part of the 21st Century, it did have the ability to surprise those who failed to take it seriously. In upgraded form, the MiG-21 had an excellent thrust to weight ratio and its small size made it a very hard to spot target. From the front, the MiG-21 presented a very small radar cross section. This allowed the plane’s pilots to get well within the firing envelope of its air to air missiles. If the MiG-21 was lucky enough to make it to the merge, its excellent maneuverability at least gave it a fighting chance against adversaries several generations newer.
- Role: Fighter
- Manufacturer: Mikoyan-Gurevich OKB
- First flight: 14 February 1956 (Ye-2)
- Introduction: 1959 (MiG-21F)
- Status: Retired
- Primary users: Soviet Air Force, Indian Air Force
- In service: 1960-2022
- Produced: 1959 (MiG-21F) to 1985 (MiG-21bis)
- Number built: 11,496
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Content by Tim Wing
Copyright © 2015 Tim Wing