Skip to comments.How the Israelis got their hands on an Iraqi Mig-21 Fishbed
Posted on 04/28/2014 9:14:47 PM PDT by sukhoi-30mki
A 007-style of mission to capture a Mig-21 in the 1960s.
Built in more than 11,000 examples and acquired by countless countries around the globe, the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 was introduced in several Arab arsenals in the early 1960s, becoming the most modern among the Soviet jets flown in the Middle East in that period.
After it entered the active service, Israelis feared that the Fishbed was superior to the Mirage III fighter jets hence they needed as much details about it as possible to assess its capabilities since any information about this new fighter could give to the Israeli Air Force aircrews an edge over the enemy pilots in combat.
Therefore, the IAF made it clear to Israeli national intelligence agencies that it needed detailed information on the MiG-21 and, preferably, an example to test.
The interesting story of how the IAF was able to procure a MiG-21 is reported in Bill Norton book Air War on the Edge, A History of the Israel Air Force and its aircraft since 1947.
According to Norton, Captain Munir Radfa, an Iraqi MiG-21 pilot, was convinced to fly his Fishbed to Israel, with the promise that his family would be brought out from Iraq and that he would be paid $ 300,000 to re-establish himself in Israel.
After the transfer of his family initiated, Captain Radfa waited to be assigned a long range training sortie over the western desert during which he would try to reach Israel.
On Aug. 16, 1966, while flying in aircraft 534, a MiG-21F-13 Fishbed-C with a full load of fuel, Radfa broke away from his formation and made his way to Israel.
The MiG-21 flew across Jordan and entered Israeli airspace just south of the Dead Sea thanks to a flight path provided by the Israelis that would have avoided his detection by Jordanian radar stations.
As described by Norton, two Jordanian Hunters pursued the MiG, but the Fishbed flew at high speed at an altitude of about 30,000 ft, making the intercept impossible. Moreover the flight path of the MiG-21 to enter Israel was chosen far from populated areas, allowing the shooting down of the Iraqi fighter in case of false defection.
After Radfa crossed Israeli border, the Mig-21 was flanked by two Mirages IIIs flown by two of the best IAF pilots, Major Ran Peker, 119 Squadron Commanding Officer, and Lieutenant Colonel Shamuel Shefer, who was Tel Nof Air Base Commander, who escorted the jet to Hatzor avoiding sensitive areas.
According to another story, Radfa flew to Turkey escorted by U.S. F-4s then, after refueling, he took off again heading out to the Mediterranean Sea where it was met by IAF fighters that escorted the defecting Mig-21 into Israeli airspace.
Even if Israel tried to keep the defection secret, the MiG-21 sporting Iraqi markings was clearly seen landing at Hatzor escorted by two IAF Mirages. Almost immediately the defection gained the world headline news and Iraqis and Russians demanded the return of the aircraft. Obviously, the Israelis rejected these requests and applied the 007 number to the aircraft, reflecting the James Bond manner in which it had come to them, as told by Norton.
Finally Israel had its MiG-21 and Danny Shapira, the legendary IAF test pilot, flew it in mock air engagements against the Mirage III.
What he discovered is that even if the Fishbed was a good high-altitude fighter and an easy aircraft to fly, it was also underpowered in many important areas of the flight envelope. However the two aircraft were found to be nearly evenly matched, and it was the pilots skill and determination that largely determined the outcome of an engagement between the two.
But aircraft 007″ also served in QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) service during the Six Days war, when it was painted with red stripes in order to prevent it from being mistaken for an enemy and attacked by other Israeli fighters.
Moreover the MiG-21 007 was sent to the U.S. in January 1968, to be evaluated alongside with captured MiG-17s, in a secret unit which had the task to fly Soviet combat aircraft against the most modern American fighters under Operation Have Doughnut.
In 1982 the Israelis requested the Mig-21 007 back, since they wanted to expose it in the IAF Museum in Hatzerim.
However, the U.S. sent them another MiG-21. Israel tried once again to have the real 007 but, once again, the U.S. sent a wrong Fishbed: at this point it was clear that the Americans had too many MiG-21s and Israel could only accept this last one that was soon put on display at the Museum.
Image credit: IDF
You can buy them online today
Just out of curiosity, has any American pilot ever defected with a new aircraft type?
Nope-according to this link
Didn’t think so...
Where does the RADAR go?
I love it.
“Fishbed”?? Who the hell picked that one?
Not that I am aware.
However, a Taiwanese pilot did, reportedly, take a US made F-16 Block 15 with enhanced capabilities into China.
It really caused an uproar and a refit to newer technology for the Taiwanese fleet of F-16’s.
Not yet,,, but give Obama a few years. Im under the theory that the average German didn’t know they were the bad guys in WWII. The Average Russian didn’t understand they were the evil empire.
Regular people went to work, bitched about repression here and there, but always assumed it was kinda justified by the threat from the Jews, Kulaks, saboteurs, counter-revolutionaries, etc. Kinda like us today seeing “terrorists” everywhere and half the ads on the radio are public service announcements about “having an emergency plan”,, “see something say something”,, etc.
We already harass citizens at the border. Claim legal arrest authority on Americans world wide who violate foreign laws from exotic wood, who have sex outside of American law but within local law, etc. We are one of the few countries that taxes income earned by citizens living outside the country.
Lots of little red flags, but my warning sign that we have become a dictatorship is when our first flyer defects.
Just last night I watched the Clint Eastwood movie “Firefox.”
What?!? The purge of Flag Officers isn't enough?
“Fishbed?? Who the hell picked that one?”
NATO. They picked all the names. Bear, Bison, Fishbed, Fagot, Farmer, etc.
Wonder what happened to the family of that defecting Iraqi pilot?
“However, a Taiwanese pilot did, reportedly, take a US made F-16 Block 15 with enhanced capabilities into China.”
Never heard that. Sure he was handsomely paid, but you never know with the Chinese. They may have decided they couldnt trust his and have him breaking rocks somewhere. They can be inscrutable. I’m going to google to look for THAT story. Unreal.
why can’t the Israelis desist from the garish paint jobs?
You know,, the purge is indeed a big one. Good call.
That NATO code name is better than the one for the MiG-15.
The best ever paint jobs were the USN and USMC in the 70s and early 80s. Those were the days.
That’s the NATO designation. Fighters are usually given an “F” name of some kind.
. . .High losses to Egyptian aircraft and continuous bombing during the War of Attrition caused Egypt to ask the Soviet Union for help. In June 1970, Soviet pilots and SAM crews arrived with their equipment. On 22 June 1970, a Soviet pilot flying a MiG-21MF shot down an Israeli A-4E. After some more successful intercepts by Soviet pilots and another Israeli A-4 being shot down on 25 July, Israel decided to plan an ambush in response. On 30 July Israeli F-4s lured Soviet MiG-21s into an area where they were ambushed by Mirages. Asher Snir, flying a Mirage IIICJ, destroyed a Soviet MiG-21; Avihu Ben-Nun and Aviam Sela, both piloting F-4Es, each got a kill, and an unidentified pilot in another Mirage scored the fourth kill against the Soviet-flown MiG-21s. Three Soviet pilots were killed and the Soviet Union was alarmed by the losses. However, Soviet MiG-21 pilots and SAM crews destroyed a total of 21 Israeli aircraft, which helped to convince the Israelis to sign a ceasefire agreement. . .
NATO codenames for Soviet aircraft are all mildly insulting and not at all what the host air force would have chosen.
Would a Soviet pilot be proud to fly his own “Fishbed”?
The world’s largest helicopter was the Soviet Mi-12 “Homer”, I mean, come on.
Heh heh, true enough.
Undoubtedly named that by some GS-14 tennis-shoe wearing grandma at Fort Fumble.
If the _resident flew a Soviet aircraft, would it be a MiG-15?
Yeah, but what does it cost to run one?
Always thought they were beautiful airplanes.
Seems to always be the case.
“Just out of curiosity, has any American pilot ever defected with a new aircraft type?”
You did have that P3 crew surrender their plane to the Chinese in 2001 or so...rather than acting in their country’s interested and taking it down in the ocean.
Do you suppose all those ads portraying/promoting military service as a “job” might have created a different ,less patriotic, attitude in the crew?
Some Soviet aircraft are shamless copies of US aircraft, like the B-29, the F-111, and the Spcace Shutle.
Maybe the next obvious knock-off will be the Mig-69 Fluffer. Huh-huh-huh.
Ten years late Viktor Belenko defected with a MIG-25 “Foxbat”. The late Moody Suter was a key member of the AF team that debriefed him after his arrival in 1976. To learn how the US used 007 at the secret facility in Nevada I urge you to read “America’s Secret MiG Squadron: The Red Eagles of Project Constant Peg” by Gail Peck. It is a great book written by a true American Patriot.
It’s so they wouldn’t shoot the plane down by mistake.
The Tu-4 Bull was a shameless copy reverse engineered from three interred B-29s. Apparantly Stalin wanted exect copies (altho the engines were different), and they even included service dings/scratches and patches over flak damage that were present on the originals.
The Su-24 and Buran shuttle may look similar to, but are indeed very different aircraft from, the F-111 and Space Shuttle. Think of them more as applying similar enough engineering knowledge to common challenges, resulting in aircraft that bear a passing cosmetic resemblence to each other. But not anywhere close to shameless copies.
Same is true of both the Tu-160 Blackjack (looks sorts like a B-1), An-124 Condor (C-5) and even the MiG-25/31 family (they look like fat, twin-tailed A-5 Vigilantes)
“Do you suppose all those ads portraying/promoting military service as a job might have created a different ,less patriotic, attitude in the crew?”
I think a number of factors, including what you listed. Another factor is the refusal to take China as a serious threat. Yet another is the feminizing of the military - I suspect there were some women on that plane and the men lost track of their prime directive, which is to protect the country first, not themselves, and certainly not the women.
The flip side: my sister married a Taiwanese. His father was a sailor in the communist Chinese regime, but managed to escape, and joined the Taiwanese Navy. He was treated with so much suspicion, and distrust, even though he wanted to stand on guard vs. communists, that he ended up moving to Canada. Thanks.
Very interesting. Poor guy, that must be a disappointment. I kind of suspected a defector would be treated that way, and would likely find it impossible to ever win the trust of the country they defected to. Probably especially true in Asia where the aspirations of the individual have historically been very low on the list.
Your comment sums up his experience, very well !