India decommissioned its last Mig-23 in March, 2009. Bedazzled by new age fighters like Rafale, we sometimes get oblivious of the fact that Floggers too were once the cynosure of all eyes that served India many a time in its 28-year chequered history with Indian Air Force.
Taking off from airfields in Srinagar, Avantipur and Adampur they instilled the fear of God among insurgents perched on the hills of Kargil in 1999.
Flogger was a variable-geometry fighter designed by Mikoyan Gurevich, a 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. Their popularity across the world can be gauged from the fact that as many as 5047 Mig-23s were manufactured.
Mig-23MF: The air defence variant lovingly called by IAF ‘Rakshak’ or Saviour was fitted with an advanced R-29 engine, a J-band radar, a Sirena-3 Radar Warning Receiver, Doppler Navigation and a small IRST sensor pod under the cockpit. They were one of the first Russian aircraft to track and engage targets.
Mig-23BN: Fondly called ‘Vijay’ they were the ground attack version with a laser rangefinder in the nose, a raised seat, cockpit external armour plate and large low-pressure tires. On the bottom of each side of the fuselage, an RWR system had been added.
Third Mig variant in the possession of IAF was Mig-23 UM, the two-seater trainer-cum-combat aircraft. The rear seat was a little higher with a retractable periscope sight for an occupant.
Radar: The J-Band radar of Mig-23 had an impressive search range of 85 km and a tracking range of 54 km.
Armaments: Mig-23s were fitted with one 23mm GSh-23L twin barrel gun in the fuselage belly pack. The MF version carried air to air missiles like R-23, R-27, R-40, R-73. The BN version carried air to surface missiles like Kh-23 Grom, bombs, S-5 rockets and other ordnance.
Maximum Speed: 2.35 Mach
Payload: MF and UM – 1600 Kg
BN – 3000 Kg
IAF had around 70 Mig-23s in its inventory at the outset. Finally, Mig-23s formed two operational squadrons i.e. MF Squadron ( No. 224) and BN Squadron ( No. 221)
(Source: Bharat-rakshak, Hindustan Times, Wikipedia )