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Fighter Mig-21 Fishbed

W. (tons):


Speed (km/h):


Dimensions (m):

7,2 x 15,8 x 4,5

Alt. (m):


Range (km):



1 TRDR-25-300, 1 x 7'300 kgs







23 mm DP GSh-231


bombs (c/nucl.)


   Among the developers of airborne radar equipment, the Phazotron-NIIR company is Russia's sole developer of airborne radar and weapons control systems for fighter aircraft. 

On the one hand, this necessitated the use of the most promising circuit engineering and design solutions in order to minimize size and weight. On the other hand, many years of cooperation with the General Designers of different aircraft has made it possible to create images of new machines, their capabilities and likely combat uses, as well as of the requirements for the radar systems to be installed on these machines. It is obvious that the service life of the airframes is considerably longer than that of the installed radars, which become outdated long before the airframes. This occurs mainly due to the appearance of new weapons systems, new missions, methods of combat employment of aircraft and air tactics and requires that the airborne weapons control systems should be much "smarter". 
Taking into account all of this, in the late-1980s we decided to focus our own resources on the development of a radar, to our own specifications, that would serve on a wide range of fighter and attack aircraft, rather than on a single type. The radar was primarily designed for installation on various types of fighter and attack aircraft as an upgrade, as it features low weight, small size and incorporates a more capable computer. 

The radar developed by the company from 1988 to 1990 was dubbed Kopyo. It is basically a coherent multi-functional multimode airborne radar used to control modern missiles, bombs and cannons in service with the aircraft. Designed for installation on a wide range of fighter and attack aircraft and bombers during their modernization, the radar can be built into the airframe or mounted in a pod. 

Our first proposals to commission the Kopyo radar as a baseline upgrade of the world's most numerous fighter, the MiG-21, were given a hostile reception by the Russian structures then in charge of the export of domestically-produced arms and aircraft manufacturing plants. It was alleged that it would have a negative effect on the export of modern Russian aircraft and promote outdated aircraft onto the international market, which would result in the decrease of revenues from the arms sales. 

However, current global changes that have eliminated the threat of the third world war have brought about a dramatic reduction in strategic nuclear missile forces, increasing the role of aviation in the defense of each country significantly. 

Due to the ever increasing role of aviation as a whole, and fighter aviation in particular, in the conduct and repulsion of air attacks, its combat effectiveness has become of prime concern to the nations strengthening their security. 

At the same time, due to a considerable decrease in resources available for defense, new aircraft development programs were noticeably cut and, consequently, modernization of the present inventories of aircraft became the basic trend in maintaining defensive capability. This immediately changed the situation in the market. Sales of the latest types of aircraft dropped, while an appreciable growth in the retrofit market occurred, because the cost of an upgraded aircraft featuring characteristics and combat efficiency approximating those of a new type of aircraft is ten times less than the price of a new aircraft. 

Therefore, aircraft manufacturers and other organizations involved in the export of domestically-produced weapons systems again focused on the MiG-21 upgrade project. In the USSR, this aircraft was manufactured from the late-1950s until the mid-1970s and in other countries (China, India, etc.) it is on the production line even today. The MiG-21 is the world's champion in the number of machines produced (12,000) and airframe longevity (up to 40 years). For this reason about 5,000 MiG-21s are now operational in the air forces of over 40 countries.

Kopyo radar


Today, the MiG-21 can set another world record: the number of aircraft of one type being upgraded and the savings obtained by the operators of the aircraft through their modernization are unsurpassed. It is not accidental that notable interest in the MiG-21 upgrade programs has been displayed by the world's leading developers of airborne radars and weapons control systems, because it is the radar alone that can turn the aircraft, a second-generation front-line fighter used to carry out a limited range of missions in the 1960s to 1980s, into a modern multi-functional fighter-bomber capable of performing a broad range of missions of the late 1990s and featuring the characteristics of a fourth-generation fighter. 

Various foreign firms offer their versions of MiG-21 upgrade projects. However, only two projects are competing today and their authors are looking for customers. The first project, designated MiG-21-93, is based on the Kopyo radar. This project has been developed by a conglomerate of such influential Russian organizations as the Rosvoorouzhenie State Corporation, Sokol Aircraft Manufacturing Plant (Nizhni Novgorod), Phazotron-NIIR Company, MAPO-MIG, and GosNIIAS. Presently, a prototype of the MiG-21-93 aircraft is undergoing comprehensive flight tests. In the course of the tests the Kopyo airborne radar demonstrated a high level of performance characteristics and proved that the MiG-21-93 aircraft shows promise as a good combat aircraft. 

This project's higher performance characteristics and better economics resulted in that it has won India's tender for the refit of the MiG-21bis aircraft. Apart from Russia, the invited bidders were firms from Israel, France, Great Britain and Italy. 

As a result, India and Russia entered into a contract for the update of the first batch of the MiG-21bis aircraft. Today, the fleet of MiG-21bis aircraft in service with the Indian Air Force and manufactured by HAL under Russian license is 125 machines. 

A "precious tidbit" of the project is the Kopyo radar (FK-04) that is designed to manage the full spectrum of weapons ranging from ordinary cannons and unguided rockets to the latest missiles fitted with IR and radar homing heads (including active), controlled bombs equipped with IR seekers and TV-guided bombs. 
Another project and principal rival of the MiG-21-93, is the MiG-21 Lancer program offered by Israel's Elbit, with participation  by Romania's Aerostar. This program envisions modernization of 110 MiG-21s in service with Romania's Air Force. Under this program, the first 85 machines, including 10 to be converted to a two-seat trainer (MiG-21UM), will be upgraded with only the EL/M-2001 radar rangefinder. In the second phase, 25 aircraft will be equipped with the EL/M-2032 radar manufactured by Israel's Elta. 

Comparison of the performance characteristics of the EL/M-2001 rangefinder and EL/M-2032 radar with those of the Kopyo radar and analysis of the performance characteristics of the fighter aircraft using them show that the Kopyo radar has a considerable advantage over the abovementioned sensors in the following areas: 

- greater air-to-air operating range due to the use of a high-power transmitter and availability of a high repetition frequency mode; 

- greater air target kill range in operation into the forward hemisphere due to the use of the missiles fitted with radar homing heads (semiactive R27R1 and active RVV-AE). 

In the MiG-21 Lancer project, operation into the forward hemisphere is substantially constrained due to the fact that missiles fitted with radar homing heads are not used; 

MiG-21-93 with missile armament

- high-resolution air-to-ground capability in the ground-mapping mode of operation via a synthesized antenna aperture, making it possible to guide the aircraft onto the target with a high degree of accuracy, to use air-to-surface weapons, including guided aerial bombs KAB-500KR which can be observed on a display 24 hours a day. (Under the MiG-21 Lancer project, control of the Opher bombs fitted with a laser homing heads is ensured via the installation of an additional laser range finder in a pod); 

- track-while-scan mode with the capability of tracking up to 10 targets while simultaneously engaging two of them with radar homing missiles in a long-range missile attack; 

- overall superiority in an aerial combat over fourth-generation fighters which are not armed with air-to-air active radar homing missiles; 

- effective engagement, by the MiG-21-93's X-25MP anti-radiation missiles, of ground targets protected by air defense gun-missile systems covered by radars; 

- operational efficiency in long-range aerial combat offered by the MiG-21-93 retrofit project outdoes that suggested by the MiG-21 Lancer project, under which the EL/M-2032 radar will be installed, by 10 times, while the overall efficiency in all types of aerial combat will be three times as great. 

Our belief is that the major difference between the two projects lies in the divergent character of their goals: while the primary objective of the MiG-21-93 project is to attain maximum combat efficiency of the aircraft with minimum changes of its cockpit, the MiG-21 Lancer project focuses mainly on pilot's comfort and envisions only minor enhancement of the aircraft's combat efficiency. 

This will enable the MiG-21-93 aircraft equipped with the Kopyo radar and armed with modern weapons to fly into the 21st century.

No.   Radar characteristics Phazotron-NIIR
Russia FK03
Elta Israel
Elta Israel
A. Function
1. Air-to-Air Capability
1.1.  Detection and ranging of targets:
- in high repetition frequency mode
- in medium repetition frequency mode 
1.2.  Tracking of single target
- in high repetition frequency mode
+ - -
1.3.  Track-while-scan mode:
- selection of a high-priority target
+ - -
- simultaneous engagement of multiple targets + - -
1.4.  Close air-to-air agile combat + + +
2.     Air-to-Ground Capability
2.1.  Ground mapping
- real beam
+ + -
- Doppler beam narrowing + + -
- synthesized antenna aperture + - -
2.2.  Map freezing + + -
2.3.  Detection of moving ground targets  + + -
B. Specifications 
1. Frequency band
2. Antenna
- type
slotted antenna
slotted antenna
slotted antenna
- diameter, mm
- built-in compensating channel
3.  Detection range for targets with s  = 5 m2 in the air-to-air mode, km:
- head-on targets
- receding targets
Against earth background:
- head-on targets
- receding targets
4.  Number of simultaneously tracked/engaged targets 10/2 8/1 -
Air-to-Surface Capability
5. Beam narrowing in ground mapping mode
? -
C. Design and Operating Characteristics
1. Built-in test (continuous test on call; 
through test in flight and on the ground)
98% + -
2. MTBF, h 120 ? -
D. Armament | | |
MiG-21-93 MiG-21 Lancer |
- IR homing missiles R-60MK R73E Piton-3 R73E |
- air-to-radar missiles Kh-25MP - -
- radar homing missiles for long-range head-on combat RVV-AE R27R1(T) - -
- guided bombs MK82, MK83 KAB500KR MK82, MK83 OPHER

Note: Other functions and comparative characteristics of the airborne radars offered 
by retrofit MiG-21-93 and MiG-21 Lancer projects are approximately equal.

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