MiG-21 USAF

A surprising number of MiG-21 s of various types were presented to the USAF, no doubt in the hope, if not expectation of favours in return. Many of MiG-21 USAF never actually operated in the USA but were broken down and examined in minute detail. The USAF put a thick veil of secrecy over the proceedings and has not officially released any information on tests carried out after 1969.

In the 1960s about a dozen MiG-21 F-13 (izdeliye 74) fighters were presented to the USAF. The details are a closely guarded secret but it is well known from non-US sources that six Algerian Air Force MiG-21 F-13 fighters landed in error at an airfield recently seized by the Israeli army in the Six-Day War while en route to join the Egyptian Air Force; they were vectored to land there by air traffic controllers, who had not been kept up to date with the Israeli advance. Four of these aircraft found their way to the USA. There is also the oft-recounted story of the Iraqi Air Force defector who landed in Israel with MiG-21 F-13 534′, which was tested first by the Israeli Defence Force/Air Force as ‘007’ and then despatched to the USA. Indonesia is reported to have sent at least 13 MiG-21F-13s (izdeliye 74) and one MiG-21 U to the USA in the late 1960s after President Haji Mohammed Suharto switched from the USSR to the USA as his arms supplier.

19 other MiG-21 s have found their way to US museums and warbird collectors, particularly since the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact. What is not known are the origins and history of the MiG-21 F-13 that was flight-tested with the USAF serial 68-0965 under the ‘Have Doughnut’ programme (the use of the British spelling here is intriguing) between 23rd January and 8th April 1968. Tests took place at Groom Lake, Nevada by the Foreign Technology Division of the USAF Systems Command (AFSC), as indicated by the use of ‘Have’ in the project’s name. A specially instrumented North American T-39 Sabreliner was used to test its vulnerability to infrared- homing missiles. The MiG was pitched against most US types, including the Boeing B-52 to determine how it could be beaten. The final report suggested it was comparable to USAF types and although lacking range and payload, was very manoeuvrable with an excellent rate of climb and acceleration making it a good interceptor. Similar words would no doubt be used on a Supermarine Spitfire tested in the 1940s. One interesting item that was singled out for praise was its ‘smokeless’ engine.

No doubt later variants of the MiG-21 were tested after 1969 and the speculation of the existence of an organisation called ‘Red Hat’ Squadron operating a wide range of Soviet built aircraft has some basis in fact; the crash of a MiG-23M on the Nellis Range on 26th April 1984 which killed Lt General Robert M. Bond could not be hidden.

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