Designed to provide Frontal Aviation with a tactical fighter offering secondary ground-attack capability, and capable of meeting contemporary Western fighters on more than equal terms, the MiG-23 was designed around the primary aim of an aircraft that could operate effectively without being tied to massive concrete runways. The Mikoyan bureau is known to have adopted two approaches to this requirement: first was the Ye-23 (or Ye-230) prototype of tailed-delta configuration and incorporated high-lift devices to give STOL capability, powered by a single turbofan engine supplemented by a battery of Kolesov lift-jets amidships for VTOL operations; the alternative prototype was the Ye-231, which deleted the lift-jets and replaced the delta wing by a variable-geometry wing.
The prototypes were evaluated during 1966-67, with a decision to develop the swing-wing Ye-231 finalised probably during 1968, resulting in the pre-production MiG-23S 'Flogger-A' which, powered by a Tumansky R-27 turbojet with an afterburning thrust of 10200kg, first entered service for operational evaluation in 1970-71.
At about this time it must have been decided to optmise the MiG-23 as an air-combat fighter, and to develop a dedicated ground-attack parallel version, which was allocated the designation MiG-27. In consequence, aerodynamic changes were made to the MiG-23, the fuselage structure being lightened and more advanced avionics being introduced by the time the initial MiG-23M version entered service in 1973. More or less simultaneously the dedicated attack variant was developed and, while having much in common with the MiG-23, this was sufficiently different to warrant the allocation of the separate designation MiG-27.
The most significant differences are the MiG-27s fixed-geometry air inlets and afterburner nozzles, which indicate a simplicity of design permitted by the mission requirement of only transonic speed, compared with Mach 2.35 attainable by the MiG-23. The aircraft is capable of carrying large variety of bombs, unguided rockets, and missiles. The twin-barreled GSh-23 cannon was replaced with Gatling-type 23-mm one.
The maiden flight was performed in August 1970. First of the MiG-27 variants, the MiG-27 'Flogger-D' features a nose sharply tapered from the windscreen and containing a laser ranger and marked-target seeker, and a six-barrel 23-mrn gun is positioned beneath the belly. Pilot vision is improved for attack missions by a raised seat and canopy, and low-pressure tyres are compatible with rough-field operation. Issued in quantity to the Soviet tactical air force, Frontal Aviation, the 'Flogger-D' has an export counterpart in the MiG-23BN 'Flogger F'.
About 1978, the first MiG-27s became operational with the Soviet Air Force. Flogger D is distinguished by its armoured forward fuselage, which is steeply sloped in the absence of a radar.
In 1981, the MiG-27 'Flogger-J' was first noted, this differing from the 'Flogger D’ in further nose revision, with a lip on the top and a blister fairing beneath, and leading edge extensions. Podded guns on two wing pylons have barrels which can be depressed for attacking ground targets without recourse to a steep dive.
India has acquired a production licence for the 'Flogger-J' and began manufacture in 1985. Hindustan Aeronautics rolled out its first locally assembled MiG-27M, known as the Bahadur, for the Indian Air Force in December 1984. The first Indian Flogger J squadrons were declared operational during 1986.
Other Flogger variants identified by Nato are the MiG-23 Flogger K interceptor with dog-tooth notches in the wing gloves, and the MiG--27 Flogger J with revised under-nose sensors and leading-edge root extensions. Flogger F and Flogger H export models combine the Mig-27’s forward fuselage with the Mig-23’s airframe, intakes, and nozzle, while Flogger E has the M1G-21’s Jay Bird radar in place of the High Lark.
Both the MiG-23 and MiG-27 are in large-scale use with the former Soviet air force, an estimated 3,000 reported being operational. They served with the Warsaw Pact air forces, and were exported to t'he air arms of Algeria, Angola, Bulgaria, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Egypt, Ethiopia, Hungary, India, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Poland, South Yemen, Syria and Vietnam.
Type: single-seat variable-geometry strike aircraft
Engine: one 11500-kg (25,353-1b) (dry / reheat: 78 / 113 kN) thrust Tumansky R-29B-300 afterburning turbojet
Maximum speed Mach 1.5 at altitude
Maximum speed Mach 1.1 at sea level
Service ceiling 16000 m (52.495 ft)
Combat radius lo-lo-lo mission 390 km (242 miles) with four 500-kg (1,102-1b) bombs and two AA-2s
T/O run: 900 m
Ldg run: 900 m
Maximum take-off weight: 18000-20670 kg (39,863-45570 lb)
Empty wt: 11,000 kg
Warload: 4500 kg
Wingspan, full extension (16' sweep) 14.25 m (46 ft 9 in), fully swept (72') 8.17 m (26 ft 9½ in)
Length 16.00 m (52 ft 6 in)
Height 4.35 m (14 ft 4 in)
Wing area, spread 27.26 sq.m (293.4 sq ft)
Fuel internal: 5750 lt
Air refuel: No.
Armament: one fixed six-barrel 23-mm gun
Hardpoints: five weapon pylons and two rear-fuselage racks
External max weight: 4000 kg (8,820 lb)