Czech MiG-21

The Czech MiG-21 – Deliveries of the MiG-21 F-13 (izdeliye 74) to the Warsaw Pact countries started in 1961, but Czechoslovakia was exceptional in that it was permitted to manufacture the new fighter under licence. The Mikoyan OKB worked very closely with the Aero Vodochody National Corporation, which built 194 MiG-21 F-13s under the local designation S-106.  All Czechoslovakia Air Force (CzAF) examples were locally built. At the end of the 1960s the designation S-106 was dropped and the Czech-built fighters were henceforth referred to as MiG-21 F-13s.

The first S-106 entirely manufactured by Aero was given the serial ‘0001 Black’ and was tested to destruction at the VZLU (Vyzkumni a Zkuiebni Letecky Usiav, Aeronautical Research and Test Institute). Czech-built MiG-21 F-13s had six-digit construction numbers. The first digit indicated the year of production, the second digit was always 6 (standing for S-106); the next two digits identified the batch number and the final two the number of the aircraft in the batch. For example, 460103 means the third aircraft of Batch 01, built in 1964. (Surprisingly, the first four machines assembled by Aero from Soviet-supplied kits had c/ns indicating Batch 99.) CzAF serials were black with thin white edges and usually matched the last four digits of the c/n.

The four S-106s assembled from CKD kits were identical to the Soviet-built version, but all subsequent examples featured a metal panel to replace the fixed transparency behind the pilot’s seat; a practice adopted on future variants of the MiG-21 built in the USSR.

The first unit to receive the S-106 was the 11. SLP (stihaci letecky pluk, fighter regiment) at Zatec. Other units supplied with new S-106 were, in chronological order; VSL (Vavikové stiedisko létectva, Flying Training Centre); 1. SLP at Pferov; 1. LSP (letecky Skolsky pluk, Training Air Regiment), also at Pferov; 4. SLP at Pardubice; 8. SLP at Mosnov; 9. SLP at Bechyne. Some S-106s were given the capability of carrying an under-wing pod holding cameras for photo reconnaissance missions and given the local designation MIG-21 FR.

When more modern variants of the MiG-21 were supplied from the USSR the S-106s were passed on to the VLU (Vojenskà Leteckà Uâliste, Military Flying School) at Pferov, 5 SLP at PIzen- Linë and 47. PZLP (pruzkumni letecky pluk, Reconnaissance Air Regiment) at Pardubice.

The S-106 was also exported. 26 examples were delivered new to Egypt in 1969 and eight ex-CzAF machines were transferred to Syria in 1973 to help replace the losses sustained in the Six-Day War with Israel.

Although the MiG-21 F-13 remained in licence production in Czechoslovakia until 1972, a more advanced version started to arrive in 1964 when the first of forty MiG-21 PF (izdeliye 76) fighters was received. These new aircraft were distributed between 1., 8. and 11. SLP. Subsequently some were transferred to 9. SLP before surviving examples were retired in 1990.

The MiG-21 PFM (izdeliye 94A and 94N) was the next variant to be delivered between August 1966 and January 1969. Initial deliveries with serials between 4311 Black and 5411 Black were not able to carry the GP-9 gun pod, but 7114 Black and later examples had this facility. The last nine aircraft in serial order represented the izdeliye 94N version able to deliver tactical nuclear bombs. Allocation of new aircraft was to 1., 8., 9. and 11. SLP. The survivors were withdrawn from use in 1991 but many of those not preserved were not scrapped until 1994.

The first of the third-generation MiG-21 s in CzAF service was the MiG-21 R (izdeliye 94RA); deliveries started in January 1969 and continued until January 1972 by which time 25 had arrived. All were initially allocated to 47. PZLP but, when replaced by more modern types in 1992-94, the MiG-21 Rs were transferred to 28. SBLP (stihaci-bombardovaci letecky pluk, fighter- bomber regiment).

The success of the MiG-21 R encouraged the OKB to develop better fighter versions and between July 1969 and the end of June 1970 the CzAF received 24 MiG-21 M (izdeliye 96) fighters. Compared with their Soviet counterparts (the MiG-21 S and MiG-21 SM) they had the less capable RP-21MA radar instead of the RP-22 Sapfir-21. All went at first to 4. SLP at Pardubice and were the first export variant with a built-in cannon. However, the baffle plates below the auxiliary air intakes to protect them from being blasted open when the cannon was fired were not installed when built and were fitted after delivery to the CzAF. Another important feature that was not initially included was the rear view periscope on the canopy.

It was subsequently discovered that the MiG-21 Ms were underpowered. To redress this shortcoming, their R11F2S-300 engines rated at 6,175 kgp (13,610 Ibst) in afterburner mode were replaced whilst in service by the R13-300 with an afterburner rating of 6,490 kgp (14,310 Ibst). The re-engined aircraft were given the local designation MiG-21 MA and the main visual difference compared with the MiG-21 MF was the slightly different shape of the airbrakes.

The Czechoslovak Air Force did not use the ultimate fighter variant, the MiG-21 bis, content­ing itself instead with the MiG-21 MF (izdeliye 96F) until the MiG-23MF became available. Developed from the MiG-21 M, the MiG-21 MF had the more powerful R13-300 engine and RP-22 Sapfir-21 radar. The MiG-21 MA had the same engine but carried the older RP-21MA Sapfir-21 radar. Altogether 102 MiG-21 MFs were delivered and when new, equipped 1. SLP, 4. SLP and 6. SBLP in substantial numbers and four went to 5. SLP.

After the Velvet Revolution of 1989, which was followed in 1991 by the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Czechoslovak armed forces suffered a dramatic reduction in personnel, number of bases and quantity of equipment. Further reorganisations took place after Czechoslovakia (then known as the Czecho­slovak Federal Republic) split into the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic on 1st January 1993. The CzAF’s aircraft fleets were divided between them 2 to 1 respectively.

Subsequently in 1994 the regimental system was abolished. Instead of regiments (pluk) five Air Bases (zakladna) were formed in the Czech Republic, retaining squadrons (letka) within each base. On 1st November 1997 the CzAF was once more subordinated to the Army, becoming officially the Air Force of the Army of the Czech Republic. The two Army were replaced by two corps.

No doubt because of lower operating costs, the MiG-21 MF remained in service in the Czech Republic after the MiG-23MF and MiG-29 were retired. In fact the last MiG-21 MF was only withdrawn from service in 2005 after the arrival of 14 leased SAAB JAS 39C/D Gripen fighters.

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