Cuban MiG-21

Cuban MiG 21 Fishbed – The first MiG-21 F-13 fighters to arrive in Cuba in 1962 belonged to the 213th IAP, PVO, USSR. This regiment, when based at Kubinka as the 32nd GvIAP, was the first in the USSR to receive the MiG-21 F-13, becoming operational in 1961. Its designation was changed and it was secretly moved in June 1962 to a Baltic port and, together with its 40 fighters and six UTI MiG-15 trainers, transhipped to Cuba, arriving in September and taking up residence at Santa Clara. As a sensible precaution after the Cuban Missile Crisis started on 22nd October, its aircraft were prudently dispersed to San Antonio de los Baños, Santa Clara and Camagüey at the end of October. At first the fighters carried no national insignia but after a potentially perilous confrontation with two Lockheed F-104C Starfighters of the USAF’s 479th Tactical Fighter Wing, FAR insignia were hastily added.

After the resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis on 28th October 1962, the regimental staff returned to the USSR leaving behind their 46 aircraft (including two MiG-21 U trainers), which were used in the formation of the first Cuban MiG-21 F-13 regiment on 10th August 1963 at San Antonio de los Baños.

In FAR service the serial numbers 01 to 46 were used. It is possible but unlikely that more MiG-21 F-13s were subsequently delivered; more probably, existing aircraft were re-serialled. The FAR received at least one squadron, and probably two, of MiG-21 PF (izdeliye 76) interceptors in 1964 but no further details are available, except that some Hungarian sources suggest that the Soviet PVO’s 234th IAP (also from Kubinka AB) was based at San Antonio de los Baños for a while in October 1962, flying MiG-21 PFs.

In 1966-67, the FAR took delivery of between 24 and 36 MiG-21 PFMs (izdeliye 94A) with known red tactical numbers 361 to 384. The Cuban MiG-21 PFMs were able to carry the GP-9 gun pack with its GSh-23 cannon under the fuselage and ultimately, if not when delivered, had four wing pylons. Two squadrons were formed at San Antonio de los Baños, displacing the MiG-21 F-13s to Holguin. The MiG-21 PFMs were, in turn, replaced in 1968 by MiG-21 MFs. However, at UM 7000 Escuela de Aviación Militar Comandante Ché Guevara’ (Military Flying School; UM = Unidad Militar – military unit) at Ciudad Libertad, the Escuela de Enseñanza de Preparación Combativa (Combat Training School), had a squadron of MiG-21 PFMs, believed to be UM1650, which survived the school’s disbanding. Any left intact have been withdrawn from use and stored. One MiG-21 PF and one MiG-21 PFM have been preserved with spurious four-digit serials.

Twelve examples of the MiG-21 R (izdeliye 94RA) reconnaissance version arrived in 1968 and equipped a squadron. Known examples had black serials. This variant carried a reconnais­sance pod on the centreline, two undenting drop tanks and two air-to-air missiles.

In all, 60 MiG-21 MFs (izdeliye 96F) were delivered to the FAR between 1972 and 1974, initially replacing two regiments of MiG-21 PFMs. Two squadrons, each with twelve MiG-21 MFs, were airlifted to Angola in 1975-76 to take part in the fighting there.

The last fighter variant was the MiG-21bis, deliveries of which reportedly began in 1981. Altogether 80 (some Cuban sources suggest 90) were reportedly received, serving at their peak in four regiments. There is some confusion and the danger of double counting deliveries of MiG-21 bis fighters, as several Cuban squadrons served in Angola. Serials were probably in the range 600-680. Cuban sources suggest that 270 MiG-21 s in total were delivered to the Cuban Air Force.

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