The Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23 is a variable-geometry fighter aircraft. It was the first attempt by the Soviet Union to design look-down/shoot-down radar and one of the first to be armed with beyond visual range missiles. Production started in 1970 and reached large numbers with over 5,000 aircraft built.
Today the MiG-23 remains in limited service with some export customers. The Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23 Flogger was the first Soviet aircraft to feature variable sweep wings and paved the way for the equally-successful MiG-27 Flogger ground strike variant.
The MiG-23’s armament evolved as the type’s avionics were upgraded and new variants were deployed. The earliest versions, which were equipped with the MiG-21’s fire control system, were limited to firing variants of the R-3/K-13 (AA-2 “Atoll”) missile.
The R-60 (AA-8 “Aphid”) replaced the R-3 during the 1970s, and from the MiG-23M onwards the BVR R-23/R-24 (AA-7 “Apex”) was carried. The MiG-23MLD is capable of firing the R-73 (AA-11 “Archer”), but this missile was not exported until the MiG-29 was released for export.
The helmet-mounted sight associated with the R-73 missile was fitted on the MiG-23 MLDG and other experimental MiG-23MLD sub-variants that never entered production as had been originally planned.
The reason was that these MiG-23MLD sub-variants had less priority than the then ongoing MiG-29 program, and the Mikoyan bureau, therefore, decided to concentrate all their efforts on the MiG-29 program and halted further work on the MiG-23.
Nevertheless, a helmet-mounted sight is now offered as part of the MiG-23-98 upgrade. There were reports of the MiG-23MLD being capable of firing the R-27 (AA-10 “Alamo”) beyond experimental tests; however, it seems only Angola’s MiG-23-98s are capable of doing so.
A MiG-23 was used to test and fire the R-27, R-73, and R-77 (AA-12 “Adder”) air-to-air missiles during their early flight and firing trials. Ground-attack armament includes 57 mm rocket pods, general purpose bombs up to 500 kg in size, gun pods, and Kh-23 (AS-7 “Kerry”) radio-guided missiles. Up to four external fuel tanks could be carried.