Updated: December 6, 2010
MiG-23 was designed as the first Soviet fighter for the post-Nuclear war era, where large airbases with their long runways would be disabled or destroyed, forcing pilots to take off and land from improvised dirt strips. It follows on the Mirage III doctrine, but makes up for low-speed disadvantages with variable geometry wings, which help increase the loading and maneuverability in all regimes of flight. Then, it was also conceived as a muscled-up version of MiG-21, a direct counterpart of the American F-4, with look-down shoot-down capability and six missiles. Gradually, it grew into a flexible all-around combat platform, including bombing and strike missions, and even got to use its teeth and claws in Afghanistan, albeit with mixed success.
MiG-23 was a solid aircraft, but it never saw the action its predecessor did. Or rather, it did saw the action, but it was limited and usually ended up in defeat. MiG-23 was clobbered by Israelis and later by South Africans in the Angola war. A few were shot down off Libya during the Gulf of Sidra crisis. In the first Gulf War, the more poorly trained and equipped Iraqi fighters did not cope well with the superior American situational awareness and better missile armament, but this is hardly a MiG-23's fault. Even so, it faded from the annals of history without making a decisive impact or invoking the same amount of respect as some other Soviet planes.
My model is a later Flogger-K, 1/72 scale made by Italeri. It came with decent armament, but nothing grand or exotic. I had several camouflage designs available, and I chose the Soviet Central Europe four-color scheme, rather than going wild with my imagination.
MiG-23 is a fairly aesthetic airplane. It has lots of cool angles, including the prominent nose pitch, the swing wings and the folding tail fin, all of which add character. Throw in a Central European theater camouflage scheme, with lots of drab and brown heavily contrasted with the Soviet egg-blue internal paneling, and you get a lovely, photogenic model. If I remember correctly, I was true to the original paint scheme.
The plane looks fine. I had it armed with four Aphids, two red-coned, two yellow-coned, but beat me, I don't remember what the different coloring marks today. There's also a pair of FAB-500 free-fall fragmentation bombs under the wings, plus an under-fuselage 800-liter drop tank.
This was one of my latest models assembled. Already quite confident with my work, I decided to wing it a little and try a few modifications that were not included with the kit. For example, the cockpit and the airbrakes were designed to remain closed, even though they shipped as separate pieces. I did not like the idea, so I spent a whole day gently sawing through the cockpit piece and bending the airbrake hinges to keep them open. It was a delicate work, but I succeeded.
The combination of the folded fin tail, the four air brake panels in the open position, the open cockpit and the variable geometry wings make this model quite busy, almost as much as my F-15 design. I paid extra care painting the cockpit interior, too.
Another striking feature of this aircraft is the nose gear. Fat and robust, designed for takeoff and landing on rough, unpaved strips, with low-pressure double tires and a debris guard. Notice the careful coloring, with the shiny silver strut peeking just there.
Finally, a striking rear shot, which emphasizes MiG-23's striking looks. Truth to be told, Flogger does look more fragile than, say, Tornado, but it served the Soviets fairly well, although it never really got any chance to prove its real combat worth. Or, perhaps it has been a bad design in the first place, not quite the interceptor F-4 was, nor the fighter-bomber like Tornado. But it was completed well by Su-22, and it did strike fear in the heart of NATO commanders for close to a decade. All for nothing, it turns out.
That would be all, for today.
As a plastic replica, this 1/72 Flogger was done fairly well. Pieces fit accurately, not a bad achievement considering the swing-wing mechanism hidden inside the fuselage. The landing gear is strong and robust and still holds a decade later, despite the complex-looking main gear placement. I was rather pleased with the fact the model allowed quite some flexibility, with the airbrake panels and the cockpit design.
Grading my own work, I guess 8.5/10. Carry on, fellas.