Let’s face it: Russia built weapons of war that weren’t based on the most rational thinking. We could simply say that the MiG-27 could be in this class of aircraft. While having clear positive traits, the MiG-27 could have been more of a hassle than an asset in the sky: Once an important workhorse of the Soviet Union’s late Cold War air force, the MiG-27 has fallen into relative obscurity compared to many similar Russian aircraft produced by Mikoyan-Gurevich and the rest of the Soviet Union and Russia’s aerospace defense sector. While it was one of the last attack aircraft developed to serve the Soviet Union and other Moscow-friendly states, it was eventually phased out of service before similar designs by nearly every state that exploited it.
The MiG-27: an upgrade of the MiG-23
Nicknamed the “Flogger” under its NATO designation, the MiG-27 was designed as an upgrade to the older MiG-23, which was a fighter rather than a ground-attack aircraft, the MiG’s intended role. -27.
The main improvements to the Flogger (a name the MiG-27 shares with the MiG-23, although a D or J label is added to the Flogger designation of the MiG-27) that were incorporated into the MiG-27 were a updated, angled-down for better visibility of attacks, increased armor around critical sections of the aircraft, and improved avionics systems related to jamming and radio navigation.
In keeping with its changed role, its original radar system was replaced with a laser rangefinder. Guided by a single pilot, the MiG-27 was powered by a single Khachaturov R-29B-300 engine, which gave the aircraft operational range at an altitude of 1,304 miles and a top speed of 1,120 miles per hour. altitude.
The MiG-27 also used a variable swept wing system, which allowed the aircraft to adapt its lift, speed, and handling characteristics on the fly to match the combat situation it was in. found.
The powerful but dangerous gun of the MiG-27
One of the most famous elements of the MiG-27 was its massive cannon armament which practically shook the aircraft to its core when fired. The MiG-27 featured a six-barreled 30-millimeter GSh-6-30 cannon that is positioned in a gondola under the aircraft’s fuselage. When fired, the gun produced about 6 tons of recoil, which had the ability to sometimes damage the structure of the aircraft and its avionics.
In addition to this heavy gun, the MiG-27 could carry a variety of air-to-surface missile types and laser or TV-guided bombs.
The MiG-27 and its MiG-23 progenitor suffered from various built-in technical issues that hampered the aircraft’s effectiveness and presented pilot challenges. Its engines reportedly suffered from frequent accidental explosions and its air conditioning system worked minimally at low altitudes, which presented a significant challenge for the many Indian pilots who flew the Flogger.
MiG-27s go global
In 2019, India retired its last MiG-27s, leaving Kazakhstan as the last state still operating the aircraft. India had previously operated a total of 165 MiG-27s produced in the country, of which around 10% were lost in accidents. Sri Lanka acquired several MiG-27 aircraft from Soviet successor states in the 1990s to fight Tamil Tiger insurgents. These aircraft were flown by Ukrainian mercenaries and also proved to be extremely accident prone, as the Sri Lankan Air Force had a poor record of maintaining what was already an unreliable aircraft.
The Flogger also saw service in the 1999 Kargil War between India and Pakistan. In addition to service in India and Sri Lanka, the MiG-27 saw service with the air forces of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, but was gradually withdrawn from service in each of the years following the launch. collapse of the Soviet Union.
While the MiG-27 had a powerful gun and a variable swept-wing configuration that gave it noticeable flexibility in combat situations, the Flogger was ultimately doomed by its dangerous unreliability compared to other ground-based aircraft developed at the end of the Soviet Union.
Wesley Culp is a researcher at the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress. He writes regularly on Russian and Eurasian leadership and national security topics and has been published in The Hill as well as the Diplomatic Courier. It can be found on Twitter @WesleyJCulp.