MiG-23ML Analysis

Cold war, Korea, Vietnam, and Desert Storm - up to and including for example the A-10, F-15, Mirage 200, MiG-29, and F-18.
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nastle

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Unread post30 Apr 2020, 04:26

milosh wrote:
mixelflick wrote:Why Western designs are so different in comparison is beyond me. In the European theater, were we really expecting that our airfields would remain in pristine condition? Or that we'd have the luxury of having a team of conscripts walk the length of a runway multiple times per day, to ensure there's no FOD?


Soviets learn to win battles without air power. So Soviets developed tactics in which control of sky is just plus to their offensive not imperative.

mixelflick wrote:
!

interesting , I always wondered that too

I do understand that soviets had quite a liberal amount of SAMs with at divisonal , army and army group level plus most static areas of importance like airbases naval bases depots HQ were defended by the static SAMs but was this expected to withstand NATO air strikes in even a conventional war ?
critics of this policy would argue that
1-This was a inflexible approach and static SAM sites are easy meat for any airpower with ARM /SEAD aircraft like bekaa valley showed
2-Gulf war 1991 showed that even a relatively modern army with a plethora of mobile SAM units is far from immune when it comes to airstrikes, albeit in europe we could argue WP had better SAM systems , a denser concentration and more ECM assets

Since the soviets mostly relied on SAMs to protect their ground units is that why they focused so much on having a dis-proportionally large number of tactical bombers/strike aircraft in their frontal aviation units ?
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hornetfinn

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Unread post30 Apr 2020, 13:17

I think there would be some important differences in conventional war between WP and NATO forces in 1980s from Desert Storm for example.

First the WP forces would likely be attacking with all their means. There would be massive artillery barrages from both sides and especially WP forces would be using a lot of tactical ballistic missiles like OTR-21 Tochka (SS-21), OTR-23 Oka (SS-23) and also Scuds. These are not the most accurate (Scuds especially) or longest ranged weapons, but would likely be making operations a lot harder in NATO air bases in West Germany. This would've been very different from Desert Storm and Operation Mole Cricket 19.

Another thing is that WP air power would be used offensively and trying to inflict as much damage to NATO forces and infrastructure as they possibly could. In Desert Storm Iraqi forces were very passive the whole fight as they didn't have capability to do much else.

Soviet Union also had a lot more capability for electronic warfare compared to Iraq or Syria. How effective this would've been against NATO forces and equipment is difficult to say. Same thing with their reconnaissance capabilities which were pretty impressive on paper at least.

One interesting aspect IMO would've been how the Soviets would've used their bombers. They had quite a lot of Tu-16, Tu-22, Tu-22M and even Tu-95. These were mostly used for anti-ship role and strategic bombers but they also had capability to attack early warning radars and large installations with their large and long ranged missiles.

A lot of NATO air power would be needed to stop the WP ground forces. I don't doubt that NATO would've won the air superiority after a short while especially after F-16 and F-15 became operational in Europe. Stopping WP ground forces would likely take a little longer. The whole situation would've been very chaotic with a lot of troops and equipment being moved all the time and a lot of weapons flying around. It would be a lot harder to control the situation and get accurate intelligence than what happened in Desert Storm or Bekaa Valley. I'd say that this would also make the SEAD/DEAD efforts a lot harder even if the enemy equipment wasn't much different from what Iraq and Syria had. Of course there were some important systems that weren't used by those countries. Namely S-300 (SA-10), Tunguska and later possibly Tor (SA-15).

I think their fighter force was their weakest link with having mostly MiG-21s, MiG-23s and some MiG-25s in Europe. MIG-21s would've been only useful as point defence fighters against NATO attack aircraft inside the SAM umberella. MiG-23 did have some BVR capability and more capable equipment, but likely would not have done well against F-16s and F-15s. Maybe against F-4s and Mirages (not Mirage 2000 though).
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mixelflick

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Unread post30 Apr 2020, 13:23

I'm not sure what the Soviet strategy was "then".

Now, it seems to be a bit different. They've apparently learned from Desert Storm, much like the rest of the world has - wherever you concentrate your forces on the ground, American air power will decimate them. So looking at more recent conflicts... their road mobile "big" SAM systems forced fixed and rotarty wing assets to low level - which were then decimated by MANPADS. Some of these MANPADS were equipped with an electro-optical seeker, which means just kicking out a dozen or more flares isn't going to cut it anymore for defensive purposes.

Which makes the F-35 coming online all the more important IMO. It regains the high ground, and won't be forced to low altitude by the S-300/400. It'll drastically shrink their engagement envelope, and locating/destroying them will now be possible (if not easy).

The Russians are apparently doubling down on the claim their S-300/400 can defeat the F-35, although given the number of ways it can locate and destroy said SAM assets.. I wouldn't want to be part of an S-400 battery. Time will tell who's approach works best, but the smart $ is on the F-35 IMO...
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nastle

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Unread post30 Apr 2020, 17:12

hornetfinn wrote:
Another thing is that WP air power would be used offensively and trying to inflict as much damage to NATO forces and infrastructure as they possibly could. In Desert Storm Iraqi forces were very passive the whole fight as they didn't have capability to do much else.

MiG-23 did have some BVR capability and more capable equipment, but likely would not have done well against F-16s and F-15s. Maybe against F-4s and Mirages (not Mirage 2000 though).


WP can afford to use their airforces offensively as they have required numbers.Iraqis are outnumbered almost 5 to 1 in the air and a lot of their spares/supplies are dependent on foreign suppliers

Numbers are most important, intially WP had an advantage but with US assistance the numbers will tip in the favor of NATO and quite decisively
as far as air war is concerned [if it stays purely conventional] WP best chance to win the air war is in the first week, after that numerical superority will be with NATO

anyway more to the point raised earlier so what extent does having a good SAM umbrella compensate for lack of airpower ? Personally i dont see this strategy working against 1st rate airforces like USAF , IDAF, RAF, French etc but can be an effecive tactic in relatively static frontal battles where soviets have to just defend the border and "hold the line" against less sophisticated airforces like Turkish , iranian, pakistani, chinese etc [ talking about the cold war era airforces]
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milosh

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Unread post30 Apr 2020, 18:34

If we look ODS, MiG-25 was problem. Iraq had less then 20 and not all were P version. Soviets had ~250 MiG-25P/PS in late 1980s. They also had ~500 MiG-31 which would be very useful in antiawacs and mini awacs roles.

Iraq didn't had R-73 for MiG-29 which was big disadvantage in dogfight, because they used small R-60 against latest AIM-9, and they had maybe two green squadron of MiG-29s.

So I don't see how ODS can be used as example of Soviet capabilities in air war.

Also SAM role is also questionable. Iraq best SAM was S-125. It was lower tier soviet SAM from 1960s.
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basher54321

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Unread post30 Apr 2020, 21:43

nastle wrote:WP can afford to use their airforces offensively as they have required numbers.Iraqis are outnumbered almost 5 to 1 in the air and a lot of their spares/supplies are dependent on foreign suppliers

Numbers are most important, intially WP had an advantage but with US assistance the numbers will tip in the favor of NATO and quite decisively
as far as air war is concerned [if it stays purely conventional] WP best chance to win the air war is in the first week, after that numerical superority will be with NATO



Although purely conventional was doubtful - that type of war if prolonged might see another side to the Soviet strategy which was producing equipment very quickly and in numbers that could be used from austere fields. If USSR (and China?) can keep producing aircraft and things are static on the ground when would they ever run out?

I think outlaw here described the 1980s as not far off WW2 with Jets - well Germany won the air war initially and invaded well into the USSR. Didn't stop the appearance of a few million troops and ever advanced equipment rolling into the battlefield. In WW2 Germany had over 40,000 claims for Soviet aircraft shot down and yet the Soviet aircraft still kept coming in their thousands!
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nastle

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Unread post01 May 2020, 01:36

basher54321 wrote:
nastle wrote:WP can afford to use their airforces offensively as they have required numbers.Iraqis are outnumbered almost 5 to 1 in the air and a lot of their spares/supplies are dependent on foreign suppliers

Numbers are most important, intially WP had an advantage but with US assistance the numbers will tip in the favor of NATO and quite decisively
as far as air war is concerned [if it stays purely conventional] WP best chance to win the air war is in the first week, after that numerical superority will be with NATO

Good points although few things to consider
1 aircraft esp those of 80s are far more sophisticated to produce and train pilots on than in 40s
2 ussr had assistance from western allies in terms of raw materials
3 only had one front while east was totally quiet
4 germans were a weak industrial power. far weaker than even british empire When USSR against the whole industrialized world it's a different story



Although purely conventional was doubtful - that type of war if prolonged might see another side to the Soviet strategy which was producing equipment very quickly and in numbers that could be used from austere fields. If USSR (and China?) can keep producing aircraft and things are static on the ground when would they ever run out?

I think outlaw here described the 1980s as not far off WW2 with Jets - well Germany won the air war initially and invaded well into the USSR. Didn't stop the appearance of a few million troops and ever advanced equipment rolling into the battlefield. In WW2 Germany had over 40,000 claims for Soviet aircraft shot down and yet the Soviet aircraft still kept coming in their thousands!
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milosh

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Unread post01 May 2020, 08:17

nastle wrote:Good points although few things to consider
1 aircraft esp those of 80s are far more sophisticated to produce and train pilots on than in 40s
2 ussr had assistance from western allies in terms of raw materials
3 only had one front while east was totally quiet
4 germans were a weak industrial power. far weaker than even british empire When USSR against the whole industrialized world it's a different story


There are soviet designs for post nuclear war! Crazy stuff they combine things from couple planes/helicopters.

Main reason why soviet economy in 1980s was awful was huge stockpiles of military important materials, something which west stop doing decades ago. So if war is prolonged Soviets planned to have stockpiles for at two years of normal production. That is why soviet citizen would wait on lada for years, car production lack steel.
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sdkf251

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Unread post01 May 2020, 11:14

If I remember correctly, there was great anticipation that the Warsaw Pact countries would start
with Tactical nukes when they invade. Everyone was anticipating at least Chemical warfare to be standard fare.
The strategy solves a lot of problems for Warsaw Pact. As long as they advance fast enough tactical nuke
retaliation is going to be a problem. Nuking the NATO airfields would make airpower useless.
Not sure if this strategy was in the the 60's or 70's.

NATO had nuclear response plans. Assuming retaliation is possible the focus will be to nuke choke points and
support areas then front lines. Poland would be the staging point considering they have the nearest
advance lines and the most number of troops. It would probably receive a lot of tactical nukes.

The main objective Warsaw Pact would be to stop reforger capability before it becomes a problem.
Nukes were not so taboo before as it is today.

But by the 80's when the western European countries were more richer, nuking became kind of out of fashion.
Today nukes are definitely a non starter, and the invasion threat is really not possible anymore.

In any case Mig 23 is really a classic plane. (wow, that is a statement I would never have thought to say)
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mixelflick

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Unread post01 May 2020, 15:20

milosh wrote:If we look ODS, MiG-25 was problem. Iraq had less then 20 and not all were P version. Soviets had ~250 MiG-25P/PS in late 1980s. They also had ~500 MiG-31 which would be very useful in antiawacs and mini awacs roles.

Iraq didn't had R-73 for MiG-29 which was big disadvantage in dogfight, because they used small R-60 against latest AIM-9, and they had maybe two green squadron of MiG-29s.

So I don't see how ODS can be used as example of Soviet capabilities in air war.

Also SAM role is also questionable. Iraq best SAM was S-125. It was lower tier soviet SAM from 1960s.


And yet, ODS was an indictment of former Soviet military hardware that reverberates (in some cases) until this very day. So while it's true more plentiful Foxbats and Foxhounds would have helped, it's far from certain they would carried the day. And yes, you can argue that Iraq didn't have the latest Soviet equipment/weapons systems, but then again neither did many of the WP countries.

Iraq's armed forces were also battle hardened from a 10 year war with Iran (operating against in some cases, hamstrung American equipment). This less than ideal equipment sure didn't hurt Iran though in the air war. Their Tomcats were dominant over Iraqi Migs, despite the fact they only had the Phoenix and had never flown the aircraft in combat. Yet the Iraqi's eventually learned a few tricks of their own, killing 2-3 Tomcats by ambusing them with Mirage F1's in the war's closing days. So combat experience edge went to the Iraqi's in ODS (and in talking to vets, combat experience is the most significant edge you can have).

R-60's vs. AIM-9's of the day (M model?) were a fairly even match, as were the air platforms (Mig-29 roughly as maneuverable as an F-15). The Iraqi's had home field advantage, and used the traditional Soviet GCI model most of the WP would have used. They were trounced, albeit these engagements were hard fought and not always as one sided as they seem. Most were heavily dependent upon coalition/US E-3 AWACS spotting Iraqi aircraft early, in some cases on takeoff. Had more Foxbats/Foxhounds been around, the Iraqi's may have destroyed those assets and things might have been very different.

Their SAM network was considerable as well. Perhaps not as dangerous as the S-300/400 today, but nothing you could take lightly. The effectiveness of the F-117 and later, F-4G's and F-16's was remarkable in that regard.

So I'd say there were elements of DS that were representative of what may have happened in the event of a NATO/WP confrontation. I do think the Desert terrain helped, meaning nowhere to run and nowhere to hide from American airpower. Once we established air superiority, their fate was sealed...
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milosh

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Unread post01 May 2020, 18:39

mixelflick wrote:R-60's vs. AIM-9's of the day (M model?) were a fairly even match, as were the air platforms (Mig-29 roughly as maneuverable as an F-15).


R-60 is more agile but what good of that if its range is joke.

Soviet and WarPact MiG-29s have R-73 missile. Soviets had experienced MiG-29 pilots in late 1980s compared to Iraqis which were green.

Also soviet MiG-29 had GCI data link, I think WarPact MiG-29 also had that data link but downgraded. Iraq didn't had data link.

To me Iraqi MiG-29 is similar story as their T-72, on paper it is same thing as best MiG-29 or T-72 of 1980s but when you inform more you see how poorer it was compared to best versions.
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Unread post01 May 2020, 21:01

mixelflick wrote:Their SAM network was considerable as well. Perhaps not as dangerous as the S-300/400 today, but nothing you could take lightly. The effectiveness of the F-117 and later, F-4G's and F-16's was remarkable in that regard.

So I'd say there were elements of DS that were representative of what may have happened in the event of a NATO/WP confrontation. I do think the Desert terrain helped, meaning nowhere to run and nowhere to hide from American airpower. Once we established air superiority, their fate was sealed...







On the face of it - however the core of the IADS was called KARI (Irak backwards) - this was a French designed and built system for a small scale war with Iran only. Simply put was no where near adequate for a conflict with NATO and was totally overwhelmed.

All of Iraqs SAMs were known systems - Roland (French) , SA-2, SA-3, SA-6 - NATO had obtained examples of all of these in the 1970s.

This rather important aspect was touched on earlier - Iraq was almost entirely dependent on external support and supply for the vast majority of its weapons. All of these suppliers particularly France and the Soviet Union as is known withdrew their support so essentially Iraq was screwed in that regards.

As you say a static conscript army stuck out like a sore thumb in the desert with no air support from day one.

Saddams only real option was to negotiate - however everything points to the regime thinking a war with NATO would be similar to a war with Iran.

Now Iraq might have had a few lucky moments but these are totally irrelevant because pretty clear there was little they could have done to stop them being nothing more than a baby Seal getting hit with a club.


Still not an easy task to make it look as easy as they did - however USSR & Allies would have been nothing like the above outside of some of the individual systems - and individual systems have not always won wars.
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Unread post01 May 2020, 21:35

nastle wrote:Good points although few things to consider
1 aircraft esp those of 80s are far more sophisticated to produce and train pilots on than in 40s
2 ussr had assistance from western allies in terms of raw materials
3 only had one front while east was totally quiet
4 germans were a weak industrial power. far weaker than even british empire When USSR against the whole industrialized world it's a different story



I would hope you were considering these as a matter of course - I suppose the point is there was a large industrial capability in USSR and China to implement that strategy based on any number of scenarios that you may wish to come up with. Oh and conventional bombing with mostly dumb bombs may take a while to degrade it especially without air superiority :D

SAM Umbrella - the only one I know of that denied an air force almost completely was Egypt V Israel (1973). The IDF eventually got round that by rolling tanks over it.
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Unread post01 May 2020, 23:21

basher54321 wrote:
nastle wrote:

SAM Umbrella - the only one I know of that denied an air force almost completely was Egypt V Israel (1973). The IDF eventually got round that by rolling tanks over it.

during this era i.e 1970-1990 can a mechanized army of a 2nd tier power [like india/pak, iran/iraq, south korea, turkey egypt libya etc ]survive against the airpower of a similar opponent[not talking about israelis, USAF?USN, frontline NATO etc] ? That is in the total absence of friendly airpower

Can the mechanized forces use optical AA, MANPADs , mobile SAM batteries to successfully defend against such an opponent and move mostly at night ? as most 2nd tier airforces in that era had poor night attack capability
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Unread post02 May 2020, 14:27

Not all debt is in money. The Soviet doctrine was a political shell game, exploiting partners (and their own people) with empty promises. When debts were called it wasn't unusual that payment made was in blood and bullets. Atrocities and the Communists go hand in hand.

They pushed the KISS method to the extreme. Rather than shore up supplies of crucial supplies for technological solutions, they solved problems through brute force. So instead of pushing scarce materials for better sensors and electronics, they pushed tried and true fabrication methods. They were pushing 40's era engines in their automotive industry rather than developing production lines dependent on machines because it didn't fit their doctrine. They could pump out 37 ton main battle tanks, but somehow a 37hp automotive engine was too difficult. So when push came to shove and they actually had to demonstrate their new gadgets against Western designs, there was an obvious delta in quality standards. But even a blind squirrel occasionally finds a nut, so after the fall of the wall there were good developments from ex-Soviet partners to behold. It just wasn't in their aircraft like MiG-23ML, etc.
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