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My wife came home from work one day telling me about this strange plane she'd seen fly over on her drive home.

"It was a small jet and it had triangle shaped wings."

Hmmmmm. Not many delta-winged airplanes flying around these days.

F-102? Long gone.
B-58? Not a chance.
F-106? All turned into target drones and shot down years ago.
Concorde? Long since retired.
Mirage 2000? Maybe, but what would one be doing in Ohio?
Wait, could it be?

"Did it have a tail like a normal airplane or was it all wing?"
"It had a tail."

Ah ha! I brought up a picture and sure enough, she'd seen a MiG-21!

I got my first look at a MiG-21 a few years back while I was still flying tankers. I was sitting out on the ramp at Rickenbacker when I heard a jet take off with afterburner lit.

At first I figured it for one of the F-16s from Springfield or Toledo. It wasn't unheard of to see them beating up the pattern at Rickenbacker. I looked over anyway and Holeeeeee Shit! That's a Fishbed! Yep, my old adversary from the Cold War days except now it was somebody's expensive toy.

Slovak MiG-21 in full blower (afterburner)
What's a Fishbed? Heck if I know. It's just another one of those NATO code names we came up with. F for Fighter and two syllables for jet. The Russians just called it a MiG-21 but they nicknamed it the "Balalaika" because it was shaped like the musical instrument.
The guy on the right is playing an electric Balalaika.
The MiG-21 is one of the most successful fighter aircraft ever built by anyone. Designed in the mid 1950s it's still in service with 17 countries. Over 11,500 were produced in Russia, India and Czechoslovakia plus 2,400 of its Chinese copy the Chengdu J-7. It was in production from 1959 all the way to 1985. It's had six decades of service with over 60 countries, including the United States (more on that later).
Early Fishbeds had the canopy hinged at the front and a smaller shock cone in the nose. Later models have the canopy hinged at one side.
So what made the MiG-21 so great? Several reasons.

1. It's fast. Mach 1.7 or so. Not the fastest, but plenty fast enough. It could outrun anything it couldn't outmaneuver.

2. It's highly maneuverable. The combination of light weight, and excellent aerodynamics gave it incredible turn performance. It could outmaneuver anything it couldn't outrun. Later models were stressed for 8.5 G's and supposedly could hold their own against an early F-16 in the turns. Even as slow as 150 knots it could still track its nose while other jets would be dead in the water.

3. It's very small and hard to see. Roughly the size of a T-38. At 5 miles it's almost invisible compared to a huge, smoke belching F-4 Phantom.

A MiG-21 is roughly the size of an F-5/T-38. A jet that size is almost invisible at 5 miles if it's pointing straight at you.
4. It was reasonably well armed. There were many versions, but the "classic" setup would be two heat seeking AA-2 missiles (a copy of the US Sidewinder) plus a 23mm cannon. Perfect for close in dogfights or hit-and-run attacks, at which it excelled.
Typical 1960s fighter cockpit. Note the radar scope in the center. Some civilian owners have removed the large gunsight to improve visibility.
5. It was cheap to build. Quantity has its own quality.

6. It was simple and easy to maintain. They could easily be kept flying by less developed countries who frequently relied on poorly trained conscripts.

This shows the relatively small size of the MiG. This is a MiG-21bis (improved) in Slovak markings. The later models had a larger "hump" behind the cockpit.
The closest US counterpart would be either the F-5 or the F-104, both lightweight fighters. The difference being that the MiG is almost as fast as the F-104 but turns like the F-5.

We first encountered MiG-21 during the Vietnam conflict. There are many reasons for the generally disappointing performance of US Air Force and Navy fighters in Vietnam. That's a whole diary unto itself. One of those reasons was that the MiG-21 turned out to be a pretty damn good aircraft.

This is the classic Soviet color scheme. Silver with dark green. I had a plastic model that looked just like this when I was a kid.
How good was it? Here are a few quotes from Steve Davies' book Red Eagles: America's Secret MiGs by the Americans who got to fly the MiGs at Tonopah:
The MiG -21 was a super airplane that flies as good as it looks.
USAF MiG-17 (front), MiG-21 (rear) plus a pair of F-5s.
We were learning that once supersonic you could pull the throttle back to mil power and it would stay supersonic for a long time. It would almost supercruise, it was so clean. This is what we’d seen in tactics in Vietnam – the MiG-21 pilot would run away, climb to a higher altitude while supersonic, and then he could sit there for a long time without burning a lot of fuel.
If the North Vietnamese Air Force had been any good, they could have really kicked butt in Vietnam.
The F-4, which was a mainstay of the Air Force, Navy and Marines in Vietnam had originally been designed as a high-speed interceptor and ground-attack aircraft for the Navy. It was built to go fast in a straight line and shoot somebody with a radar-guided missile from beyond visual range. Dogfighting with nimble little MiGs was not its strong point. Early versions of the Phantom didn't even have a gun, although they could sometimes carry an external gun pod.
The F-4 was built to shoot missiles at long range, not for a "knife fight in a phone booth".
Here's how USAF instructors who flew the MiGs described the outcome:
In the hands of a good pilot, versus the F-4, the MiG-21 wins every time.
Vietnamese ace Nguyễn Nhật Chiêu said much the same thing:
For me personally I preferred the MiG-21 because it was superior in all specifications in climb, speed and armament. The ATOLL missile was very accurate and I scored four kills with the ATOLL. In general combat conditions I was always confident of a kill over a F-4 Phantom when flying a MiG-21.
The North Vietnamese used the MiG-21s for hit and run style attacks. Using their excellent GCI controllers they would vector the MiGs in behind the US formations. Often your first clue that the MiG was there was an AA-2 missile flying up your tailpipe. You know you're having a bad day when....

The aircraft that did best against the MiG-21 was the Navy's supposedly obsolete F-8 Crusader. During the war F-8s shot down 19 MiGs (3 of them MiG-21s) with only 3 losses in air-to-air combat.

Vought F-8 Crusader. The Navy's "Mig Master".
Oh, you know who else did well against the MiG-21? My old friend the B-52. You just knew I would go there, didn't you? B-52 gunners shot down two MiG-21s in Vietnam. Depending on who you believe, a North Vietnamese MiG-21 may have shot down a single B-52. They claim one of their MiGs got it while we claim it was hit by a SAM. This sort of disparity is common in the "fog of war".
MiG killer. B-52D gunner's station. The gunner sat in the tail on the old "tall tail" models.
It's a tough call, but I'd probably believe the Air Force on this one. First because I'm biased, but secondly the bomber is described as having exploded in mid-air. An AA-2 missile had a fairly small warhead (16 lbs) and being a heat-seeker would most likely take out one of your engine pods. An SA-2 SAM on the other hand had a whopping 430 lb (yikes!) warhead and could very well make you go all explody.

The MiG-21 has seen extensive service with the Indian Air Force since the mid 1960s. Many wondered what would happen when it met its closest US counterpart, the Pakistani Air Force's F-104 Starfighters. Long story short, Pakistan lost several Starfighters. On paper the two planes look like a pretty even match. Both lightweight single-engine/single-seat fighters with heat-seeking missiles and cannon. The big difference was that F-104 could go really fast, and that's about it. The MiG-21 could still go pretty fast and turn on a dime.

The Starfighter never fared very well when it came up against the MiG-21 even though both were designed with the same idea in mind.
The MiG-21 first met its match in the French Mirage III, operated by the Israelis in the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War of 1973. In 1967 the Israeli Mirages accounted for 48 out of 58 kills against the Arab Air Forces. In 1973 a total of 246 Arab aircraft were shot down by Mirage IIIs and its Israeli-built copy the Nesher. A lot of that success must be attributed to the quality of the IAF versus the Arab air forces. However, some of the Egyptian MiGs shot down in 1973 were flown by Russian, ahem, "advisors". Israel also achieved favorable kill ratios with the F-4, but the top Israeli aces made most of their kills in the Mirage. Score one for the Frenchies.
Bane of the MiG-21. Mirage IIIs in IAF markings. The little French Mirage was very popular with Israeli aces.
Up through the 1980s the MiG-21 was involved on one side or the other (and sometimes both) in just about any conflict. Iran-Iraq, Cuba in Angola, India vs Pakistan, Egypt vs Libya, Ethiopia vs Somalia you name it. If there was ever an "AK-47 of jets" this is it.
Glimpses on preparation of  IAF on Fire Power Demonstration at Pokharan on FEB 28.
Gratuitous rocket picture. Because rockets are cool.
The MiG-21 is not without flaws. All that maneuverability came at a steep price. It's practically out of fuel the moment it takes off. Most versions lacked a decent radar or a radar-guided missile. It's purely a day, good weather, point-defense aircraft. It can, and has, carried bombs but it's pretty limited in the ground attack role. It can't carry much ordnance and it can't carry it very far. It also lacked air refueling capability, which would have extended its meager range.
Glimpses on preparation of  IAF on Fire Power Demonstration at Pokharan on FEB 28.
Indian MiG-21 in the ground attack role. Not really its strong point. It can't go very far and it can't carry very much.
While a great plane by 1960s standards, by the 1980s the MiG-21 was getting a bit long in the tooth. The Soviets had supplanted it with the MiG-23 and MiG-29, largely because of the Fishbed's short range and requirement for long runways. Advancing Soviet troops would have left their air cover behind as they moved away from their airbases.

So why didn't we build something like this? We tried. Our original "lightweight fighter" concept was the F-104 and it was deeply flawed. We finally succeeded with the F-16 in the late 1970s.

In 1982 the Israeli Air Force put their new F-15s and F-16s to the test and shot down 86 Syrian aircraft, many of them MiG-21s, without sustaining a single loss. Ouch.

Through various updates the MiG-21 has managed to stick around even to this day. China still operates their home-grown copy the J-7. Chinese J-7s have also been exported to several countries including Pakistan and Iran. Most interestingly, some former Soviet clients like Romania have upgraded their MiG-21s with western avionics. Some of the later models with upgraded missiles and avionics are still pretty capable aircraft.

Indian Air Commander with his MiG-21 "Bison". He's totally rockin' that 'stache!
I had the opportunity to fly with a former Navy Top Gun instructor and he gave me this description of the MiG-21:
We greatly overestimated the range of this aircraft. If you're fighting him, you're probably right over his airfield. Keep an eye out for his buddies because he's probably just the first hornet out of the nest.
You can own one of these if you have a spare $150,000 burning a hole in your pocket. I've actually seen them advertised for as little (relatively) as $70,000. I'm not sure I'd be brave enough to fly one. It's only got one engine and if it quits your life now depends on a decades old Soviet ejection seat. The Indian Air Force, after a rash of accidents, started calling them "flying coffins".

So how would the MiG-21 have stacked up in a hypothetical war with the West circa 1980s? My guess is we'd have shot a lot of these down. The question is, would we have shot enough of them down?

In the immortal words of Powers Boothe in Red Dawn:

It was five against one! I got four.

Originally posted to Major Kong on Sat Jun 14, 2014 at 04:55 AM PDT.

Also republished by Kossack Air Force and Central Ohio Kossacks.

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Comment Preferences

  •  the MiG-21 is the air equivalent of the AK-47 (20+ / 0-)

    It's tough and rugged, it always works anywhere, and you can make a zillion of 'em for just a few bucks.

    It's the embodiment of Russian military philosophy.

    In the end, reality always wins.

    by Lenny Flank on Sat Jun 14, 2014 at 05:32:07 AM PDT

  •  Oldest son had a wild hair a few years ago. (25+ / 0-)

    There were a couple in Trade-A-Plane. $60K each, and that was with a spare engine, and a truckload of spare parts. He tried to convince me that it would be a good idea to get one while the getting was good.

    I talked him out of it. If he had gotten one, I figure that one of us would end up either dead or in jail. Knowing #1 son, he would have found it hard to resist trying it out supersonic.  The broken dishes and windows would have made the cost of the airplane pale in comparison. Then there was the matter of that ancient ejection seat in case the manure hit the ventilator.

    Besides, I had already discovered what the Cessna O-2/337 was like to maintain. Where warbirds are concerned, the initial cost is the tip of the iceberg.

    Rudeness is a weak imitation of strength. - Eric Hoffer

    by Otteray Scribe on Sat Jun 14, 2014 at 05:44:52 AM PDT

  •  Thanks for another great cold war diary! Fishbe... (9+ / 0-)

    Thanks for another great cold war diary!

    Fishbed.....what a crappy NATO nickname.

  •  We were supposed to keep our "eyes on the (10+ / 0-)

    skies" for these when I was a kid in the Civil Air Patrol.

    An artistic kid who sat behind me in high school geometry spent most of his time there drawing pictures of this plane.  He went on to be a body designer for GM.

    Building a better America with activism, cooperation, ingenuity and snacks.

    by judyms9 on Sat Jun 14, 2014 at 06:04:32 AM PDT

  •  Question about fuel; (6+ / 0-)

    Early in the diary, it says the plane could go supersonic and 'supercruise', fly off and then orbit for a long time; but towards the end it says it carried very little fuel and had an extremely short range?

    "Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail." - My President

    by Fordmandalay on Sat Jun 14, 2014 at 06:35:59 AM PDT

  •  Thank you Major Kong! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    River Rover, xaxnar, BlackSheep1

       Another interesting diary!

    Compost for a greener planet.............got piles?

    by Hoghead99 on Sat Jun 14, 2014 at 07:16:14 AM PDT

  •  When I was a kid, (7+ / 0-)

    in the late Eocene. I would hear a sonic boom just about every day. It always made us jump, but hey we were kids, a good startle was a grin. I never noticed any damage thereby, ba-bam!

    I support application of Common Core Standards to Congressmen.

    by Wood Gas on Sat Jun 14, 2014 at 07:25:24 AM PDT

    •  In SoCal we were treated to the "bam-bam" (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      subtropolis, Wood Gas

      every time a shuttle landed at Edwards. It took a while for us to stop thinking, "oh-shit-it's-an-earthquake", and enjoy being part of the space age.

      “It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing
      he was never reasoned into” - Jonathan Swift

      by jjohnjj on Sat Jun 14, 2014 at 01:31:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  We had to fill out a "boom log" (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      PrahaPartizan, subtropolis, Wood Gas

      When we took the T-38 supersonic we had to note when and where in case some farmer claimed the sonic boom scared his livestock.

      If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

      by Major Kong on Sat Jun 14, 2014 at 01:35:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Delta wings (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    xaxnar, Alumbrados, Simplify, subtropolis

    I have read that delta wings, like any air foil, have their drawbacks, one of the main ones being poor performance at low speed. Are planes like the 21, the old Saab Draken and the various flavors of Mirages, tricky to operate when landing?

    You may have covered this in the diary where you discussed the Delta Dart and Dagger. If so, sorry for the poor reading comprehension!  

    The all knowing ... knows all

    by hypernaught on Sat Jun 14, 2014 at 07:59:15 AM PDT

    •  Advantages and Disadvantages (7+ / 0-)

      Delta wings have low drag at high speeds and also give you a lot of room to carry fuel.

      They bleed airspeed quickly in turns, however. I was always told that the F-106 could make one awesome turn but then he'd be out airspeed.

      Other drawbacks were high approach speeds and very high nose angles on final approach. That's why Concorde had that funky nose that would droop down for takeoffs and landings.

      The MiG-21 also bled airspeed rapidly but it had good low speed handling. This may be due to the conventional tail versus a tailless delta.

      I did a diary on the F-106 and also on the B-58:

      http://www.dailykos.com/...

      http://www.dailykos.com/...

      If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

      by Major Kong on Sat Jun 14, 2014 at 08:13:53 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  It depends on a couple of factors... (5+ / 0-)

      ...are they tailed deltas, like the MiG-21, or tailless deltas like the Mirage's and many Convair designs. The second point, is how much power they have.

      With a tailless delta, you have to use the controls on the wing to trim the aircraft out. So while pulling the nose up on a tailless delta, the flight controls actually dump lift, because they've reduced the camber of the airfoil to nose up. The same is true for a nose down pitching moment. The flight controls are always working the opposite of what you want to optimize the wing on a statically stable tailless delta.

      However, with a tailed delta, like the MiG-21 and the F-16, you have the tail to trim the aircraft out so the wing doesn't have to pay a penalty in terms of the lift to drag ratio.

      So why go with tailless deltas? Because they offer a lower weight solution than a tailed delta and are cheaper to build, easier to maintain and have less overall drag at supersonic speeds, which is great for an interceptor. Plus, that big delta  on tailless designs generally gives you a lot of volume for the fuel tanks.

      Now, the reasons, historically, that deltas had great instantaneous turn rates and poor sustained turn rates is the thrust versus drag reason. You see, deltas are actually the progenitors of high alpha designs that we use today. The high sweep of the leading edge, if designed properly, gives you a vortex coming off of the apex where it meets the fuselage at the front and act like strakes/lerxs act on modern designs. That vortex makes the aircraft capable of high alpha since it keeps the flow attached to the wing. However, that vortex creates a lot of drag; i.e. it uses up a lot of energy.

      Back when we started using these our engines had relatively low thrust; i.e., our aircraft had low thrust to weight ratios. However, with the advent of modern powerful engines, our aircraft have high thrust to weight ratios. That means the aircraft has excess power at lower altitudes, such that now they typically have more thrust than weight; Thrust to weight ratios greater than one. That means the engines can power the airplane uphill really fast, or all of that excess power can be used in a turn or other relatively high alpha flight, to over come all of that drag caused by the vortices. So deltas have virtually no drawback today. The F-22, Russian T-50 (PAK-FA Russia's new air superiority fighter), The Chinese J-20, The Eurofighter Typhoon and the French Rafale all have deltas or modified deltas. It's an outstanding wing design for high speed and maneuvering, with the advent of modern high thrust engines.

      Regulated capital serves the people, unregulated capital serves itself.

      by Alumbrados on Sat Jun 14, 2014 at 11:21:14 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        subtropolis

        Thanks for answering my question Major Kong and Alumbrados.

        Now I have to go read the B-58 Hustler diary by Maj. Kong. Ever since seeing the Hustler in Fail Safe as a kid, I've always thought it was one of the coolest war planes ever (next to the BUFF, of course!).

        The all knowing ... knows all

        by hypernaught on Sat Jun 14, 2014 at 11:34:26 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks. This was very informative. (0+ / 0-)

        If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

        by Major Kong on Sat Jun 14, 2014 at 11:51:31 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Excellent explanation (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        subtropolis, hypernaught

        Here's a photo of a MiG-21 "pulling vapor" in a vortex over the wing as the plane angles up into a climb. Compare to an F-16 with the vortex only over the inboard portion of the wing, while the flow outboard portion goes straight over.

        Interesting, modified MiG-21s were used to test wing shapes for their Tu-144 supersonic transport, much as the British did leading up to the Concorde.

        Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

        by Simplify on Sat Jun 14, 2014 at 01:50:25 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Fly-by-wire is the great enabler for deltas (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Major Kong, Alumbrados

        One of the biggest issues with early delta wings was the inability to use leading edge control surfaces. Hence the very poor handling at low speeds and the "upside-down" response.

        AFAIK, the first delta to use leading edge surface was the Mirage 2000, which also the first delta to implement deep negative stability and a full authority FCS.

        I deal in facts. My friends are few but fast.

        by Farugia on Sun Jun 15, 2014 at 04:16:28 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Although the first fly by wire FCS... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Farugia

          ...on a cranked arrow or cranked delta, well, any aircraft actually, was on the the Russian Sukhoi T-4.

          Regulated capital serves the people, unregulated capital serves itself.

          by Alumbrados on Sun Jun 15, 2014 at 05:58:02 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Actually, that would be the Concorde (0+ / 0-)

            ... which flew in 69, three years earlier than the T-4. It had analog electric flight and thrust controls. But, those were not a FCS properly said, but rather electric command repeaters and augmenters.

            You would have to wait for the F-16 in 1974 then the Mirage 2000 in 1978 to find a true FCS in a production aircraft, with the computers fully inside the loop to make the plane stable against aerodynamics without a direct linkage between the pilot's controls and the surfaces.

            I deal in facts. My friends are few but fast.

            by Farugia on Sun Jun 15, 2014 at 08:11:21 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Oh, wait, no! Wouldn't that be the B-58? (0+ / 0-)

              Didn't that guy had an all-electric stick and rudder?

              I deal in facts. My friends are few but fast.

              by Farugia on Sun Jun 15, 2014 at 08:23:25 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Analog electric? (0+ / 0-)

              That sounds like a maintenance nightmare to me. It must have been fun trying to keep all that working properly.

              If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

              by Major Kong on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 03:08:33 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  The lesser of many evils? (0+ / 0-)

                I frankly don't know. Yes, I imagine it was a bit hairy

                But I'm dead sure it was a lot easier to maintain and keep working than hydraulic lines or cables running the whole length of the body in a plane that stretched then shrunk by about 10 inches in the course of a normal flight.

                Plus, analog servos and synchros were not exactly new technology at the 60s. They were used much earlier to control very precisely much bigger things. For example, the Iowa class 16" Mark 7 turrets were remotely pointed and gyro-stabilized from their inception in the early 40s, and each of things weighed 2,000 tons or so.

                By the way, the gen 1 FCS on both F-16 and M2000 were themselves analog computers. All op-amps and resistors and capacitors and whatnots. Digital FCS were not yet fast enough to do the job of keeping an unconditionally unstable airframe flying in a straight line.

                I deal in facts. My friends are few but fast.

                by Farugia on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 02:58:04 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  So what was the first fully digital FCS? (0+ / 0-)

                  F-22? Typhoon? Rafale?

                  On the whole static stability discussion, did you know the Hawker Hurricane was statically unstable in pitch as was the F4D Skyray?

                  Regulated capital serves the people, unregulated capital serves itself.

                  by Alumbrados on Thu Jun 19, 2014 at 09:05:33 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  It was the F-18 (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Otteray Scribe

                    The F-18 was the first production aircraft with a fully digital FCS. But it was for improved handling, not for stability. The plane is statically stable. So Northrop was able to use a digital FCS at the time (1978). It was too slow for a deliberately unstable airframe but good enough for the fairly staid F-18. And it was far easier to develop and cheaper to maintain than analog computers.

                    Funny you bring up the F4D and its interesting ... 'handling characteristics'. The worst part, it was all over the place and mostly sideways at low speeds. Very, very bad aboard a carrier.

                    If the YF-17 got a second life in the Navy as the F/A-18, it was probably in part because of the Navy's experience with planes like the F4D. The YF-17 was too stable for its own good in air combat against the F-16. But for the Navy, stable is good. A hot fighter is great but even greater is the ability to launch and recover consistently in one piece :-)

                    I deal in facts. My friends are few but fast.

                    by Farugia on Sat Jun 21, 2014 at 06:31:41 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks MK! Always a treat to read your diaries. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BlackSheep1, subtropolis

    Your inclusion of jargon, such as " beating up the pattern" put me right there in the cockpit listening to and watching "...one of the F-16s from Springfield or Toledo...".

    From there I was hooked, completely captivated.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences and providing a better sense of the world of commercial and military flight.

    "Trickle-down economics expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power." Pope Francis

    by SpiffPeters on Sat Jun 14, 2014 at 09:15:25 AM PDT

  •  Much obliged, Major. (0+ / 0-)

    Sad to note the demise of the last of the USAF hard-form Deltas.

    The Lightning looks like it'd be fun to fly. Could it refuel A2A?

    LBJ, Van Cliburn, Ike, Wendy Davis, Lady Bird, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

    by BlackSheep1 on Sat Jun 14, 2014 at 09:58:43 AM PDT

    •  Yes it could (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BlackSheep1, subtropolis

      It used a probe-and-drogue setup.

      If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

      by Major Kong on Sat Jun 14, 2014 at 10:48:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        subtropolis

        I wondered. Similar to what the B-52/FB-111 and the KC-135 used?

        LBJ, Van Cliburn, Ike, Wendy Davis, Lady Bird, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

        by BlackSheep1 on Sat Jun 14, 2014 at 11:00:48 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  No, more like what the US Navy used (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          BlackSheep1, subtropolis

          The tanker, in this case probably a Victor or VC-10 trailed a hose with a basket on the end. The fighter had a probe on the front that would hook into the basket.

          We could do that in the KC-135, if they stuck a short hose with a basket on the end of our boom.

          If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

          by Major Kong on Sat Jun 14, 2014 at 11:03:56 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  We might have had more success against them in (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    last starfighter, subtropolis

    VN if Beyond-Visual-Range rules of engagement had been permitted. To the best of my knowledge, they never were, despite having the capability with Phoenix, et. al. Fighter sweep tactics with BVR ROE are quite different.

    Similar dynamic prevailed in Iraq, as discussed here (Chapter 3).

    •  1991 Gulf War was almost all BVR (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      valion, Alumbrados, Simplify, subtropolis

      It was mostly F-15s killing everything at long range with AIM-7s.

      The problem in Vietnam, besides the rules of engagement, was that the early Sparrow missiles just weren't all that good.

      There were other issues as well. USN and especially USAF tactics were pretty poor. The USAF had almost completely forgotten how to dogfight and dissimilar air combat training wasn't allowed. F-4 pilots only knew how to dogfight other F-4s.

      If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

      by Major Kong on Sat Jun 14, 2014 at 10:48:08 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I recall reading of 23 USAF BVR F-15 kills. nt (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        subtropolis
      •  Sparrow AAM Radar Change (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        subtropolis

        In the thirty years from Vietnam to Gulf War I, didn't the radar system on the Sparrow AAM undergo major changes?  Over Vietnam, the targeting plane needed to keep its radar on the target, because the firing aircraft's radar's return echo was being used to guide the missile.  By GWI, the missile itself was sending the beam and reading the response.  Clearly, during Vietnam, a radar-homing equipped plane was going to be tied to the target, making it pretty easy meat for any hostile friends lurking in the vicinity.

        "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

        by PrahaPartizan on Sat Jun 14, 2014 at 06:13:05 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  You're thinking of the AMRAAM (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          subtropolis

          The AIM-7 Sparrow always needed the aircraft's radar to "paint" the target. It's just that the radars and missile electronics got a lot better in the 1980s.

          The AIM-120 AMRAAM came into service just after the Gulf War. It's a true "fire and forget" missile which uses its own radar (as you suggested) to paint the target.

          If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

          by Major Kong on Sat Jun 14, 2014 at 07:05:21 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  US fighters in Vietnam? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BeninSC, Simplify
    "the generally disappointing performance of US Air Force and Navy fighters in Vietnam. That's a whole diary unto itself."
    I hope we get to see that diary soon.
  •  What I know about planes (0+ / 0-)

    could fit on my little fingernail, but I'm always thrilled when I read a new diary from you. Great reading. I can distinguish a Cessna from a Beechcraft from a Piper Cub flying overhead by sound alone most of the time. We're near a private air field and it's cheap amusement.

    Consumerism is the deepest shrinkage of what it means to be human. - Dr. Vandana Shiva

    by bisleybum on Sat Jun 14, 2014 at 04:38:21 PM PDT

  •  God I love these! (0+ / 0-)

    Thanks, Sir.

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