|Armament(s)||WS-16 Assault Cannon|
A quasi-2nd generation Tactical Surface Fighter, the MiG-23 Cheburashka (МиГ-23 Чебурашка) is the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics's first attempt at a "true" domestic design, unlike the F-4R Phantom-derived MiG-21 Balalaika.
Produced as an attempt to create an indigenous Soviet design, the MiG-23 is notable for its ambitious attempt at incorporating variable-wing technology into its Jump Units. The usage of US-originated technology has given the machine the distinction of being a quasi-2nd generation TSF; however, this has resulted in the machine having inferior maintainability and poor operational uptime as compared to the MiG-21 Balalaika. Its low rate of operational readiness made it unpopular amongst pilots; it was soon replaced in Soviet service by the MiG-27 Aligatori. It is interesting to note that its design bears signs of influence from the F-5 Freedom Fighter.
Its body frame is lightweight by comparison to the MiG-21, and built for improved speed and maneuverability; the MiG-23's design, overall, is notable for being the basis of most MiG-based designs to appear later. Its forearms sheaths contain knives for close combat, and the head-mounted wire cutter, already present, is carried on to the MiG-23; this, too, would later become part of the standard MiG design.
It is possible to use parts from the MiG-21 on the MiG-23, as demonstrated by Theodor Eberbach's unit, which used the head of a MiG-21PF. The unit was dubbed the "Cheburashka Zwei" by the mechanic who built it.
DeploymentEditDespite its components being more prone to wear and tear than the well-used MiG-21, the MiG-23's combat performance overshadowed a good deal of TSFs that were deployed to the frontlines at that time, including the MiG-21 used by most communist countries. Entering service in 1980, several MiG-23s saw deployment to Europe, African and Asian combat theaters to justify its production.
A more infamous utilization of the MiG-23 would be with the GDR's Ministerium für Staatssicherheit, known in short as the Stasi. Duties of the Stasi include weeding out and hunting down defectors, and to that end the Stasi's Werewolf Battalion, commanded by Major Beatrix Brehmer, were equipped with MiG-23s to hunt down those who attempted to betray the nation or flee for West Germany.
One such encounter took place on March 27, 1981, when a flight of MiG-21s from the NVA's 609th TSF Squadron attempted to flee to West Germany via the Harz mountain ranges, and were subsequently shot down and executed by an element of MiG-23s from the Werewolf Battalion. This incident also served as an announcement to the people of the GDR about the strength of the Stasi, and as a deterrent to all would-be defectors.
MiG-23s of Werewolf Battalion were also present as military enforcers during the retreat from Poland, although they were not above coming to the aid of other TSF units in combat.
The difference in combat capability between the base MiG-23 and the MiG-27 Aligatori was made apparent to the GDR's forces during a combat simulation exercise on the August 16, 1982, where a flight of MiG-23s of the Stasi were soundly routed by an element of Soviet MiG-27s in close-quarters urban combat.
An upgraded variant, the MiG-23MLD was the result of hasty modifications done to the MiG-23, in order to fix the flaws of the original model. This variant was offered to various Asian and African nations at a lowered price as part of Soviet efforts to maintain political relations with them.
- There is no official name for the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23 in real life. Its NATO reporting name is "Flogger".
- In real life, "Cheburashka" is the name of the protagonist in a 1966 childrem story by Soviet writer Eduard Uspensky. It was an iconic Russian classic cartoon character and later, a popular character in Russian anecdotes. The name has been applied to numerous Soviet/Russian aircraft with side-mounted intakes, in mimicry of Cheburashka's ears; the MiG-23 is one of those aircraft.
- The real-life MiG-23MLD ("Flogger-K") is the ultimate fighter variant of the MiG-23. All Soviet MiG-23MLD were former MiG-23ML/MLA aircraft upgraded to the new standard, while export versions offered to Bulgaria and Syria were new airframes (although they lacked the aerodynamic refinements of the Soviet model).