East German MiG 21 – Ultimately equipping in various guises six JG and two Taktische Aufklärungsfliegerstaffel (Tactical Air Reconnaissance Squadron, TAPS), the MiG-21 played a major role in the EGAF (East Germany Air Force) right up to the reunification of East and West Germany on 3rd October 1990. At that point, although 50 MiG-21 s had been withdrawn from EGAF service in 1989 as part of a friendly gesture by all Warsaw Pact countries, 251 MiG-21 s of seven different versions were transferred to the unified Luftwaffe. Not accepted as a standard type, the MiG-21s were rapidly phased out of Luftwaffe service.
The MiG-21 F-13’s inception into service (with JG 8) began in August 1962. JG 3 ‘Wladimir Komarow ‘ (the German spelling of the name) at Preschen converted to the type in October 1964. Later, JG 9 ‘Heinrich Rau’ at Peenemünde also flew this variant.
When withdrawn from first-line duty, many EGAF MiG-21 F-13s served with Jagdfliegerausbildungsgeschwader 15 ‘Heinz Kapelle’ (Fighter Training Wing, JAG) at Rothenburg, which was subsequently redesignated FAG 15 (Fliegerausbildungsgeschwader – Flying Training Wing).
Like the other EGAF single-seat fighters, the MiG-21 s were given red three-digit serials, which were occasionally reused. For security reasons the EGAF often changed the serials on aircraft intended for public view (museum exhibits or publicity photos/films) – usually by obscuring or adding a digit or two. Aircraft with such ‘doctored’ serials are duly indicated in the fleet lists.
Aerotec is a company at Rothenburg where many ex-EGAF aircraft were sent for disposal after being stored after withdrawal. This maintenance organisation moved there from Saarbrücken and has developed a business converting military aircraft for civil use. It helped support the Luftfahrttechnischer Museumverein Rothenburg.
‘Q-mark’ on MiGs indicates that the aircraft sported the winged Q (for Qualität) maintenance award badge used in the EGAF as an incentive for keeping the aircraft in excellent condition. This mark had several grades and could be revoked if the aircraft was not maintained well enough afterwards.
A total of 76 MiG-21 F-13s was delivered; initial deliveries were Gor’kiy-built examples, but the machines delivered from 1963 onwards were Moscow-built. The last survivors were not withdrawn from service until 1985.
The last MiG-21 F-13 for the EGAF arrived in June 1964 and very shortly afterwards in November of the same year, the initial consignment of its replacement, the MiG-21 PF (izdeliye 76), was delivered. Lacking any cannon armament, the new variant did, however, have radar and a longer range. There seems to have been some confusion with the designation. As far as the OKB and the Soviet Air Force were concerned it was MiG-21 PF as stated above but the EGAF stubbornly called them MiG-21 PFM. The explanation given was that the MiG-21 PFs delivered in 1965 emanated from a later production series which differed from earlier deliveries by having improved radar protection against ground clutter and to mark this difference an ‘M’ for ‘modified’ was added by the EGAF to its designation.
No doubt the EGAF authorities were unaware that there was already a variant in the USSR designated MiG-21 PFM (izdeliye 94), which was similar but sported a new canopy, a broader tailfin and a parabrake relocated from its original position under the fuselage to a faring below the rudder. Thus, when the real MiG-21 PFMs arrived in East Germany they had to be given a different local designation, MiG-21 SPS, by the EGAF in order to avoid confusion – thus creating more confusion.
A total of 52 MiG-21 PFs were delivered, the first batch going to JG 8 at Marxwalde and the second to JG 1 Fritz Schmenkel’ at Cottbus. When the true MiG-21 PFMs arrived in 1964-65 they re-equipped JG 1 and JG 8 whose old MiG-21 PFs were then passed on to JG 2 and JG 9. Any survivors were withdrawn from service in 1988 and an attempt to sell 12 to Iran was unsuccessful.
The MiG-21 PFM (izdeliye 94A), the next fighter variant to arrive, had the benefit of blown flaps which, when selected by the pilot, increased lift and reduced the landing and takeoff runs. A new canopy was also fitted, with a fixed windshield and a hinged section opening to starboard; the KM-1 ejection seat could operate up to 25,000 m (82,000 ft) and at speeds between 130 and 1,200 km/h (about 80 to 750 mph). Further differences from the MiG-21 PF were the new broader tailfin with the parabrake relocated from under the fuselage to just below the rudder. The new tail had previously been tried on the MiG-21 PL (izdeliye 77) export version for India but this version did not have the other abovementioned innovations. As mentioned earlier, since the EGAF had already used the MiG-21 PFM designation for MiG-21 PF with improved avionics, the MiG-21 PFM (izdeliye 94A) received the local designation MiG-21 SPS, – a cross between the service designation and the manufacturer’s designation Ye-7SPS (sdoov pogranichnovo sloya- Russian for ‘boundary layer blowing’). The ability to carry a GP-9 gun pack under the fuselage was not available on the MiG-21 PFM when the first machines were delivered. It was not until appoximately two years later that it was incorporated into new machines, which were designated locally MiG-21 SPS-K (the K stood for Kanone, cannon).
Altogether 82 MiG-21 PFMs of the original cannon-less version were delivered, remaining in service until 1990. Some of them received Luftwaffe serial numbers after German reunification but were not considered standard types and did not equip line regiments. Luftwaffe serials consist of two pairs of digits separated by the Balkenkreuz national insignia, the first two digits being a code for the given aircraft type. However, since the crosses are only applied to aircraft in active service, very few MiG-21 s nominally taken over by the Luftwaffe actually wore them: most had a blank space between the two pairs of digits.
The updated version of the MiG-21 PFM (izdeliye 94A) compatible with the GP-9 gun pod entered EGAF service in December 1967, and the order was fulfilled in May 1968 with the delivery of the 54th aircraft. JG 1 completed its requirements and JG 9 re-equipped with the cannon-armed MiG-21 PFM (‘MiG-21 SPS-K’). When replaced by more modern versions the aircraft from these Wings were redeployed to JG 2, JG 7 and the JAG 15 training wing (later redesignated FAG 15).
Third-generation MiG-21 s started to arrive in East Germany in November 1968. They were built by MMZ No. 30 ‘Znamya Truda’ in Moscow, at the same time as zavod 21 in Gor’kiy was completing MiG-21 S production and switching to the MiG-21 SM, both types heading for the Soviet Air Force. Thus the MiG-21 M (izdeliye 96) could be considered as the export version of either the MiG-21 S with a built-in cannon or the MiG-21 SM with a less powerful R11F2S-300 turbojet and a less sophisticated radar.
The MiG-21 MF (izdeliye 96F) was the export equivalent of the MiG-21 SM (izdeliye 95M, later changed to izdeliye 15), or from the point of view of the OKB a more powerful version of the MiG-21 M. 50 aircraft powered by R13-300 turbojets were delivered to the EGAF from MMZ No. 30 ‘Znamya Truda’ in Moscow. Deliveries began in February 1972, initially to JG 8 at Marxwalde, and then to JG 9 at Peenemünde, the order being completed in February 1974.
The final fighter variant was the MiG-21 bis (izdeliye 75A and izdeliye 75B). It was given a new engine, the R25-300, to redress the criticism that the MiG-21 was inferior to its contemporaries at high speeds in low altitude flight. In addition, a slightly enlarged fuselage spine allowed 230 litres (51 Imp gal) extra internal fuel to be carried compared with MiG-21 MF. The more powerful engine with its higher afterburning ratio was thirstier than its predecessor, the net result being a slightly shorter range, 1225 km (761 miles) compared with 1300 km (808 miles). However, the fighter’s performance at low and medium altitudes, at which all recent conflicts had been fought, was significantly improved. So was its manoeuvrability thanks to the new engine’s diminished sensitivity to fluctuations in inlet airflow, an advantage that drastically reduced the likelihood of violent compressor stalls and flame-outs as the pilot threw the aircraft around in combat.
Survivors were withdrawn from service in late 1990. JG 1 and JG 2 both had a squadron of ‘MiG-21 SPS-Ks’ until they were formally disbanded.