The Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 (Russian: Микоян и Гуревич МиГ-21) (NATO reporting name “Fishbed”) is a supersonic jet fighter aircraft, designed and built by the Mikoyan-Gurevich Design Bureau in the Soviet Union. More than 30 countries of the world have flown the MiG-21, and it still serves many nations a half-century after its first flight. Its Mach 2 capability exceeds the top speed of many later modern fighter types. Estimates are that more than 10,000 MiG-21s were built, more than any other supersonic jet aircraft
A total of 10158 (some sources say 10645) were built in the USSR. They were produced in three factories, in the GAZ 30 in Moscow (also known as Znamiya Truda), in GAZ 21 in Gorki (Nishni Novgorod) and in GAZ 31 in Tbilisi. The type of “MiG” manufactured differed. Gorki built single-seaters for the Soviet forces. Moscow built single-seaters for export. And Tbilisi manufactured the twin-seaters both for export and for the USSR. However there are exceptions. The MiG-21R and MiG-21bis for export and for the USSR were built in Gorki, 17 single-seaters were bulit in Tbilisi (probably MiG-21F), the MiG-21MF was first built in Moscow and then Gorki, and the MiG-21U was built in Moscow as well as in Tbilisi. The count for each factory is:
* 5278(or 5765) in Gorki
* 3203 in Moscow
* And 1677 in Tbilisi
MiG-21PFM, Polish Air Force, markings of 10th Fighter Regt.
MiG-21PFM, Polish Air Force, markings of 10th Fighter Regt.
The MiG-21 initially achieved renown in the Vietnam War, during which it saw frequent action. It was one of the most advanced aircraft at the time; however, many North Vietnamese aces preferred flying the MiG-17, since the high wing loading on the MiG-21 made it less maneuverable than the MiG-17. Although the MiG-21 lacked the long-range radar, missiles, and heavy bombing payload of its contemporary multimission U.S. fighters, it proved a challenging adversary in the hands of experienced pilots especially when used in high speed hit and run attacks under GCI control. MiG-21 intercepts of F-105 strike groups became so effective in downing US aircraft or forcing them to jettison their bombloads by December 1966 that the USAF resolved to do something about it and launched Operation Bolo in January 1967 to draw the MiG-21s into an aerial engagement. By masquerading as a F-105 strike group, F-4 Phantoms led by Colonel Robin Olds lured the MiG-21s up through an overcast and claimed 7 of them shot down.
By the bombing halt in Operation Rolling Thunder in 1968, poor air-to-air combat loss-exchange ratios against smaller, more agile enemy MiGs during the early part of the Vietnam War eventually led the Americans to establish dissimilar air combat training programs such as “Top Gun”, which employed subsonic A-4 Skyhawk and F-5 Tiger II aircraft to mimic the performance of more maneuverable opponents like the MiG-21.
A VPAF MiG-21MF flown by Phạm Tuân over Hanoi, North Vietnam on December 26, 1972 was apparently responsible for the only claimed combat kill of a (U.S. Air Force) B-52 Stratofortress in history. The B-52 had been circling above Hanoi during Operation Linebacker II. During that operation, two MiG-21s were shot down by B-52Ds, the last air-to-air victories for American aerial gunners. Over the course of the Vietnam War, between April 26 1965, and January 8, 1973, USAF F-4s and A-4s downed 68 MiG-21s.
In October 1987, a North Vietnamese MiG-21 on a reconnaissance mission near the Sino-Vietnamese border was shot down by Chinese air defense forces with HQ-2 SAM. The pilot survived and was captured.
 Middle East
The MiG-21 was also used extensively in the Middle East conflicts of the 1960s and 1970s by the air forces of Egypt, Syria and Iraq against Israel. The MiG-21 first faced Israeli Mirage IIICs on April 7th, 1967 when six Syrian MiG-21’s were shot down by the Israeli Mirages. The MiG-21 would face F-4 Phantom IIs and A-4 Skyhawks later in the 1970s, but was later outclassed by the more modern F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon, which were acquired by Israel beginning in the 1980s. The MiG-21 was also used in the early stages of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December, 1979.
Interestingly, Egypt would eventually be shipped some American Sidewinder missiles, and these were fitted to their MiG-21s and successfully used in combat against Libyian MiG-23s during the brief 1977 war.
In 1991, two MiG-21s were downed by F/A-18 Hornets from USS Saratoga during Desert Storm.
The Indian Air Force has been one of the largest users of the MiG-21 since its initial employment of the plane in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 with good results. That war also witnessed the first supersonic air combat in the subcontinent when an Indian MiG-21 shot down a PAF F-104 Starfighter. The MiGs played an important role in air combat, ensuring an aerial superiority that ultimately resulted in Pakistan’s defeat in just a fortnight. It was also used as late as 1999 in the Kargil War, with mixed results. The MiG-21’s last known kill took place in 1999 during the Atlantique Incident when two MiG-21 aircraft of the Indian Air Force shot down a Breguet Atlantique reconnaissance aircraft of the Pakistani Navy, loitering over Indian airspace. Upgraded MiG-21 ‘Bison’ aircraft reportedly performed well against F-15 and F-16s of the USAF during Indo-US joint air exercises, surprising American pilots with its capabilities.
During 1991-1995, army of Yugoslavia and Serb forces used its MiG-21 Ms (about a hundred in total compromising 1/3rd of the entire air force) during the Slovenian War, Croatian War of Independence and the Bosnian War and again during the 1999 Kosovo War and NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. Except during the NATO intervention, the aircraft had no air opposition and was mainly used in a ground-attack role. During the NATO intervention, a substantial number of them was destroyed on the ground. In 1993. Croatia purchased about 25 MiG-21 in a violation of arms embargo and used them alongside the (by then) sole survivor of the three defectors from JNA in Operation Storm for ground attack missions with a few being lost.
During the Cold War MiG-21s were supplied to many sub-Saharan African nations by the Soviets. Their most notable use in combat occurred during the Angolan Civil War in the hands of the People’s Air and Air Defence Force of Angola. Cuban Air Force pilots also flew MiG-21s over Angola during the War. Both Angolan and Cuban MiG-21s often had encounters with and downed South African Air Force Mirages. In 2006, at least two MiG-21s were used to bomb the Somalian airbases loyal during Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia.