Vietnamese MiG-21 – The creation of an Air Force Research Committee on 9th March 1949 laid the foundations of the Khöng Quart Nhan Dan Viet Nam (Vietnamese People’s Army Air Force, VPAF). Its first unit, 919 Transport Regiment was created on 9th May 1949, and in 1963 the VPAF was merged with the Air Defence Forces to become Phong Khong – Khöng Quan Nhan Dan Viet Nam (Combined Air Force and Air Defence Force). The initial fighter regiment (Trung doan, FR) was created on 3rd February 1964 as 921 FR ‘Sao Do’ having flown from China where its personnel had been in training with their MiG-17s. A second fighter regiment, 923 FR ‘Yen The’, was formed on 7th September 1964. By the time the first MiG-21 s had arrived a war was gathering momentum between North and South Vietnam, the US forces no longer acting as advisers but fully involved militarily with some bizarre rules of engagement to placate any international opposition to their involvement. 921 FR received their first MiG-21 F-13 (izdeliye 74) fighters in 1965 and either 20 or 30 were ultimately delivered receiving the serials 4420- 29, 4520-29 and most likely 4620-29 – the last mentioned serials were delivered but the variant has not been confirmed. The 371 st ‘Thang Long’ Su Doan (old name of Hanoi Air Division) was created in December 1973, incorporating not only 921 and 923 FR but also 925 and 927 FR, both of which had MiG-17s or MiG-19s.
MiG-21 PFL (izdeliye 76) fighters built at plant No. 21 in Gor’kiy arrived in 1966 for the 921 FR and totalled 30. Some historians state the designation MiG-21 PFV (V for Vietnam) but this is denied by the Mikoyan OKB.
100 or 110 MiG-21 PFM (izdeliye 94A) fighters were delivered to Vietnam primarily for the 927 FR ‘Lam Son’, which was formed on 3rd February 1972 as the second and only other regiment to use MiG-21 s during the war. Some MiG-21 PFMs had gone to 921 FR ‘Sao Do’ as attrition replacements in 1968.
Sixty MiG-21 MFs (izdeliye 96F) were delivered around 1970 to re-equip the 921 FR, which became fully operational on the type at the beginning of 1972.
Commencing in 1979, several batches of MiG-21 bis (izdeliye 75B) were purchased, augmented by second-hand MiG-21 bis (izdeliye 75A) examples from Poland in 2005 (the batch of 18 aircraft included a few MiG-21 UMs). The MiG-21 bis reportedly equipped nine regiments but not necessarily all at the same time: 920 FR at Phu Cat, 921 FR at Noi Bai, 925 FR at an unknown base, 927 FR at Kep, 929 FR at Da Nang, 931 FR at Yen Bai, 933 FR at Kien An, 935 Dong Nai at Bien Hoa and 940 FR also at an unknown base. It is doubtful if all have or ever had a full quota of aircraft and several regiments probably included earlier variants.
A considerable number of MiG-21 trainers were utilised to service up to nine regiments and most of the trainer variants have been delivered since 1964 but MiG-21 UMs (izdeliye 69A) were in the majority. In addition to the routine supplies from the USSR, the Ukraine sold six MiG-21 UMs to Vietnam in 1996 and there were several more in the mixed bag of 18 fighters and trainers from Poland in 2005.
Although the VPAF has acquired some Sukhoi Su-27 fourth-generation fighters, a large number of MiG-21 bis, plus a few surviving MiG-21 MFs, were still in service in 2011; some reports suggest as many as 112. In the training role at least 24 MiG-21 UMs were retained. Three Air Divisions and the Air Academy were still equipped with MiG-21s in 2011.