Romanian MiG-21

Delivery of MiG-21 PF (izdeliye 76) began in 1965. The Romanian AF gave the Romanian MiG-21 PF the local designation MIG-21 RFM (radar fortaj modernizat, radar/afterburner/mod­ernised) and on arrival equipped 86 RdeV at Borcea-Feteeti and 91 RdeV at Deveselu. The survivors were finally withdrawn from service and grounded in the early 1990s and all put into storage by 1999.

First deliveries of the MiG-21 PFM (izdeliye 94A) arrived in Romania in 1966, subsequently a total of 29 were in service before they were joined by 23 MiG-21 PFM (izdeliye 94N), each of which was capable of carrying a tactical nuclear bomb.

As a result of the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty of 19th January 1990 the aircraft with nuclear capability had that facility removed. Both variants were known in the RoAF as the MiG-21 RFMM. This version was not withdrawn from service until 2002 at which time they were serving with the second Escadrila of Baza Aeriana 86 Bombardament (86th Bomber Aviation Base, 86 BA) at Borcea-Feteeti; they were replaced by MiG-21 Lancer As. Eleven MiG-21 R (izdeliye 94RA) tactical reconnaissance aircraft, known in the RoAF as the MiG-21 C (cercetare, reconnaissance), were delivered from 1968, continuing in service at Timisoara-Giarmata AB until 1998.

60 MiG-21 M (izdeliye 96) fighters started arriving in Romania in 1969. They were a vast improvement on the MiG-21 PFM, having a built- in cannon in addition to other refinements, including four wing hardpoints instead of two. Over 40 MiG-21 Ms were delivered new to 57 BdeV.

The MiG-21 Ms and MiG-21 MFs were later selected as suitable variants for an upgrade. The Romanian government decided that, until resources were available for the new fighters, it would be expedient to retire the few more advanced but more expensive machines such as the MiG-23MFs and MiG-29s and to upgrade suitable MiG-21s, of which there was an abundance.

MiG-21 Ms received the Lancer A fighter- bomber upgrade only and could be distin­guished from Lancer C interceptors by the green, rather than black, radome and the light green/dark green/dark earth/tan camouflage rather than the Lancer C’s three-tone grey camouflage (occasionally with Forfele Aeriene Romane titles). The Lancer upgrade programme ultimately involved 99 single-seaters (73 Lancer As and 26 Lancer Cs) and 14 two-seat Lancer Bs.

The last fighter version purchased by the RoAF was the MiG-21 MF (izdeliye 96F). It came in two varieties: the first, totalling 36 built at MMZ No. 30 ‘Znamya Truda’ in Moscow, was the standard model which made its debut with the RoAF in 1972; the second (35 delivered) was built at zavod 21 imeni Sergo Orzhonikidze in Gor’kiy from 1975 onwards and was given the local designation MiG-21 MF-75 as it incorpo­rated the cockpit details of the new MiG-21bis. Surprisingly, at least two MiG-21 Lancer A have been seen carrying a laser designator pod associated with ground attack on the centreline pylon in spite of their air superiority role.

The first trainers arrived in Romania in 1965 about three years after the first MiG-21 F-13. They were four MiG-21 U (izdeliye 66-400) two-seaters, the first of four trainer variants, and were followed shortly afterwards by three MiG-21 U (izdeliye 66- 600), which had a broader tailfin with the parabrake just below the rudder.

The MiG-21 US (izdeliye 68A) had blown flaps and late production also sported a forward looking periscope on the canopy top for the convenience of the instructor in the rear seat. 14 were delivered to Romania starting in 1969.

The final version of the trainer was the MiG-21 UM (izdeliye 69) which had updated instruments. Externally it differed from the late- model MiG-21 US by having an angle of attack sensor on the port side of the nose and a dorsal aerial in front of the tailfin. 31 were delivered between 1972 and 1980. 14 of these were converted to Lancer B standard; the first flight of this version took place on 6th May 1996. Lancer Bs normally wear a light green/dark green/dark earth/tan camouflage with blue undersurfaces, a silver nose and, occasionally, white Forfete Aeriene Romane titles.

All four trainer variants were known locally as the MiG-21 DC (for dubla comanda – dual controls).

Although the RoAF did not operate the MiG-21 bis (izdeliye 75A), a single example appeared at the 43rd Paris Air Salon in 1999 in RoAF colours and roundels with the exhibit code 362. It was 165 Black (c/n 75001012, f/n 0102), the Lancer III prototype owned by Aerostar and currently stored at BacSu, where it was hoped that future upgrades for countries operating the MiG-21 bis would be performed.

One story in circulation suggests the RoAF was denied possession of any MiG-21 bis fighters because the Kremlin heard that in 1976 Chinese technicians had been allowed to inspect a MiG-21 MF too closely.

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