February 14th, 2013 Sections: Bishkek, Chui, Soviet Union

The MiG 21-F on Kievskaya

One of the popular photo opportunities in Bishkek used to be the MIG fighter outside the headquarters of the National Guard on Kievskaya Street … although, these days, people tend to nonchalantly pass it by.

There are several examples of pensioned military equipment turned into monuments in Kyrgyzstan, for example:

  • this MIG;
  • another MIG fighter on the outskirts of Tokmak;
  • a field gun outside the Ministry of Defence on Logvinenko Street in Bishkek;
  • a tank in Park Pobeda, (Victory Park) in Naryn;
  • a tank in a park in Balykchy

The choice of MiG fighters is appropriate in that Kyrgyzstan used to house a flight training school which, at the time, was the largest earner in the republic and where pilots of the Soviet Union and their allies were trained. Students included former President Assad of Syria, (the father … not the son), and President Murbarak of Egypt who both trained here in the 1960s.


The plane mounted on it’s plinth is a MiG21 F-13.  The plane was developed in the mid 1950’s and manufactured by the company “OKB Mikoyan and Gurevich“, in its factories in Gorky (now, Nishni Novgorod), Moscow and Tbilisi between 1957 and 1985, (and the Chinese version – the Chengdu J-7/F1 – is still being produced … which means it has been in production for over 50 years).

The first prototype took off on its maiden flight on 14th February 1955, and prototypes appeared at the Tushino air display the following year.  Production began at the factory in Tbilisi in 1957.    On October 31st, 1959, a MiG21F set a new world speed record, (of 2388 km/h).  In April 1961 a MiG21 would set a new height record as well, (at 34174m)

The first production aircraft entered service with the Soviet air force in March 1960.

The MiG outside Tokmok

It was the most common supersonic combat airplane in the world with almost eleven and a half thousand units.  That also makes it the most numerous jet aircraft ever produced.

The single seater fighter could reach speeds of Mach 2 – twice the speed of sound, about 2230 km/h.  (The normal cruising speed, however, was just 1000 km/h.)  It had a range of 1225 kilometers, although additional fuel tanks could add another 250 kilometers to that.

The plane was just over 14 meters long, with a wingspan of just over meters, and when standing on the ground they reached almost 5 meters into the air.  The plane weighed 5460 kilograms when empty and could carry 2390 kilograms of fuel.

It could operate at heights up to almost 18,000 meters – that’s almost 60,000 feet.

Although the single engine wasn’t as powerful as the combined thrust provided by the two engines on earlier planes, improvements in the design meant that they were lighter, more maneuverable and faster.  Another difference was that they were armed with rockets, (and later air-to-air or air-to-surface missiles), in addition to cannon.  (the rockets/missiles could be replaced by bomb racks).

For some time the plane was a mystery in the West … until, (in what is considered to have been on of Mossad’s most successful and outstanding operations), the Israelis arranged for one to be hijacked by a defecting Iraqi pilot in August 1966.

The MiG21F has served in more than 65 different countries on four different continents; for example, in the air forces of the Soviet Union, and its allies, such as: Cambodia, China, Croatia, Cuba, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Libya, Madagascar, Mali, North Korea, Serbia, Syria, Uganda, Vietnam, Yemen, and Zambia.

Some 20 different versions of the plane have been manufactured over the years – as adaptations, modifications and new technological advances were introduced bringing improvements to the design and performance.  There was, for example, a special training version.

Some were manufactured under license in Czechoslovakia (from 1962 to 1972), India (from 1966 to 1984),  and China, (from 1966 – and it is still in production).  The Chinese version, (the Chengdu J-7/F1), has also proved to be popular and some actually served in the Soviet air force.

Apparently, Kyrgyzstan still has a number of the planes in service.


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