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.