Bulgarian MiG 21 Fishbed
In September 1963 the Bulgarian PVOiWS (Air Defence Force and Air Force) took delivery of 12 MiG-21 F-13s. The new aircraft were taken from the 10th and 11th batches of production at Moscow zavod 30 ‘ZnamyaTruda’, which in 1962 had introduced a production line for export customers; the factory at Gor’kiy having switched to building a later model, the IVIiG-21 PF, for the Soviet Air Force. The MiG-21 F-13s were all initially based at Graf Ignatievo AB, Burgas, with 2 Iztrebitelna Avioeskadrila (IAE – Fighter Squadron) of the 19 Iztrebitelen Aviopolk (IAP – Fighter Regiment), that is, 2/19 IAE.
In 1974 all existing MiG-21 F-13 fighters were transferred to M26 Razuznavatelna Avioeskadrila (RAE – Reconnaissance Air Squadron) at Dobrich (prior to 1990 known as Tolbukhin). By 1976 they had been fitted with an AFA-39 camera, receiving the unofficial local designation MIG-21 F-13R. The surviving nine MiG-21 F-13Rs were withdrawn from service in 1988, three having crashed. Some aircraft deactivated under the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty had the national insignia painted out and additional identification numbers applied to the forward and rear fuselage.
The next version of the Fishbed to arrive was the MiG-21 PF all-weather fighter, of which 12 were delivered in January 1965 to Gabrovnitsa for 2/18 IAE. They were from the 8th and 9th batches built at MMZ No. 30 ‘Znamya Truda’, Moscow. About eight were transferred in 1984 to 2/21 IAE at Uzundzhovo. There they served until 1988 when all surviving MiG-21 PFs were redeployed to 1/26 RAE to replace the reconnaissance-configured MiG-21 F-13 that had been withdrawn from service.
The surviving eight MiG-21 PFs were retired in 1991, four having been lost in accidents.
In 1965 twelve MiG-21 PFM interceptors were delivered to 1/15 IAE a Ravnets from zavod 21 in Gor’kiy. This variant was a development of the MiG-21 PF with blown flaps, a larger tailfin, a parabrake relocated to a fairing below the rudder and a new KM-1 ejection seat, and hence a fixed windshield and a hinged canopy opening to starboard.
Between December 1977 and April 1978 the BWS received 32 more MiG-21 PFMs built in the mid-1960s but later relegated by the Soviet Air Force to surplus stock. Also supplied at about the same time from surplus stock were four MiG-21 PFS which were identical to the MiG-21 PFM apart from the cockpit and ejection seat, identical to those fitted on the MiG-21 PF. A final delivery of two MiG-21 PFMs took place in 1986, making a grand total of 46 (plus the four MiG-21 PFSs).
The OKB retained the same MiG-21PFS product code for both variants, which were coming off the production lines at zavod 21 at this time, thus causing confusion, particularly with construction numbers. The first nine batches of the MiG-21 PFS had received the same narrow-chord fin as the MiG-21 PF, all later batches had the enlarged fin of the MiG-21 PFM and subsequent variants but all the aircraft sent to Bulgaria had the larger tailfin.
The entire 1965 batch served at first with 15 IAP at Ravnets; subsequent deliveries went to 2/15 IAE at Baltchik, 1/15 IAE at Ravnets and 2/18 IAE at Gabrovnitsa. The last mentioned were replaced in 1984 by MiG-23MLDs and the MiG-21 s transferred to 1/2 UBAE (Uchebna Boen Avioeskadrila, Combat Training Air Squadron) at Kamenets. Seven aircraft were lost in accidents and four exported to Nigeria in 1994. The last unit to use the MiG-21 PFM was the 12th Uchebna Aviobasa (Training Base), alias 1/2 UBAE, at Kamenets, from which all survivors were withdrawn from use in 1992.
The MiG-21 R was the tactical reconnaissance version with a deeper dorsal spine and ECM equipment in wingtip fairings. To increase the range a 490-litre (108 Imp gal) drop tank could be carried under each wing; all the cameras and other reconnaissance sensors were in a pod on the fuselage centreline. Six MiG-21 Rs were delivered in the second half of 1969 to 1/26 RAE at Dobrich. The type was withdrawn from service in 1995.
Fitted with the R13-300 turbojet, the MiG-21 MF was a more powerful version of the MiG-21 M with a better radar. Twenty were delivered between August 1974 and October 1975, nine going to 2/19 IAE at Graf Ignatievo AB and eleven to 1/18 IAE at Dobroslavtsi AB near Sofia. In 1978, after 1/18 had switched to MiG-23MFs, their superfluous MiG-21 MPs replaced the MiG-19s in 1/19 IAE. 19 IAP changed over to the MiG-21 bis in 1983-84, passing their MiG-21 MPs on to 21 IAP until they, in turn, were replaced in 1990 and moved on yet again, this time to 1/26 RAE. In the course of 1995-96 six MiG-21 MFs were modified for the tactical reconnaissance role and locally desig¬nated MiG-21 MFR until finally withdrawn from use in 2000. MiG-21 MF-75 was another local and unofficial designation as far as 0KB MiG is concerned, applying to the MiG-21 MFs built at Gor’kiy from 1975 onwards with cockpit instru¬mentation identical to that of the MiG-21bis.
The ultimate version of the MiG-21 was the MiG-21Ws being produced for both home and export markets at zavod 21, Gor’kiy.
30 brand-new MiG-21 bis (izdeliye 75B) fighters were delivered in 1983, followed by six more from Soviet WS stock in 1985, all of which were used to replace earlier variants of the MiG-21 in two eskadrila of 19 IAP at Graf Ignatievo.
Thirty-six MiG-21Ws (izdeliye 75A) fighters were delivered in 1990 from Soviet Air Force stocks to 1/15 IAE at Balchik and 3/19 IAE at Uzundzhovo.
The MiG-21 UM (izdeliye 69A) was the ultimate trainer version and 27 were delivered from Tbilisi between 1974 and 1982. A further six (izdeliye 69) were obtained from surplus Soviet stock in 1990 as attrition replacements. Three still serve with 3 IAB at Graf Ignatievo AB where about a dozen were still in store a few years ago whilst some were sold to India in 1994. Eight are known to have been written off in accidents. To comply with the terms of the CFE Treaty the gun sights and weapons pylons of some active examples were removed and they were given the local designation MIG-21 UM-2.