In the 1960’s the Soviet military required a replacement for the MiG-21 that could compete with the USAF F-14 Tomcat. It had to be very fast, rapid acceleration, carry a larger payload, capable of a high service ceiling, long range and beyond visual range intercept capabilities. The project was given to the Mikoyan- Gurevich Design Bureau that produced the Model 23-11 that first flew on June 10, 1967. Production began in 1969 and eventually completed over 5,000 swing-wing MiG-23s. A ground-attack variant was also produced, the MiG-27.
The 4477th Test and Evaluation Squadron is based at the Tonopah Test Range Airfield, Nevada and was tasked with training USAF, USN and USMC crews how to better fight Soviet aircraft. The 4477th pilots would act as aggressors called Bandits flying Soviet built aircraft acquired by countries friendly to the US. Some of the aircraft used were MiG-17, 21, 23 and the Chinese Shenyang F-7B. MiG-23MS “Red 49” was used by Major Thomas Drake in 294 sorties and was the most experienced pilot of the 69 Bandits.
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