|This page is about the Soviet jet fighter MiG-23MLD. For other versions, see MiG-23 (Family).|
In the dawn of the 1980s, the refinements to the MiG-23 airframe in the MiG-23ML and MLA variants were deemed "still insufficient" and too difficult to use in combat against the latest 4th generation aircraft (as demonstrated in combat in the Middle East and Africa). As a result, until the (then) early MiG-29 could have its early production issues ironed out, an "ultimate" refinement of the MiG-23 was ordered, based on the upgrades applied to the ML and MLA variants previously and incorporating new technology from the then new MiG-29. The new plane had a complete overhaul to not only its avionics, but the airframe as well. The airframe was lightened even further over the ML "lightweight" variant, the wings were upgraded to the new strengthened "Type 4" wing with the "dogtooth" wing root for increased AoA at higher speeds, and were also given new slats and vortex generators to increase low speed performance. And to top off the flight performance upgrades, the powerful R-35F-300 engine providing extra thrust over older MiG-23 models was installed. The radar was replaced with the brand new N-008 (Sapphire-23MLA-II) radar, featuring electronic countermeasure resistance, vertical scan "dogfight" modes, Track-While-Scan capability, and far greater range over previous Sapphire-23 models. The avionics suite was completely overhauled with new smaller and lighter electronics, including new GCI and autopilot systems, multiple new new safety systems, and most importantly, the major upgrade from the previous SPO-10 RWR to the new SPO-15L "Breyoza" RWR system from the MiG-29. The reinforcement and lightening of the airframe resulted in the MiG-23MLD, when in the hands of experienced pilots in Maryi airbase (the Soviet equivalant to the American "Top Gun" aggressor training school) being able to beat even the new MiG-29 regularly in hit-and-run dogfights. Almost all MLDs were rebuilt from older ML and MLA aircraft, with the exception being the 62 export MLDs sold to Bulgaria (12) and Syria (50), being the last brand new single-seat MiG-23 airframes to roll off the production line.
The MiG-23MLD, introduced in Update "Ground Breaking", is the ultimate culmination of the Flogger family of aircraft. Building upon everything learned from the previous MiG-23 variants, this plane not only refines all of it to near perfection, but also introduces new gameplay elements that are required before advancing to the formidable MiG-29 that follows it in the tech tree. The lightened and strengthened airframe plus the increased engine power over its predecessor, the MiG-23M, will be instantly noticable as they provide a major advantage during manoeuvring, allowing the MLD to dogfight almost every 3rd generation fighter it faces, and some heavier 4th generation aircraft too. The aircraft is no slouch in relying on its weapons systems either, being outfitted with a generous amount of R-60M all aspect missiles in addition ot the potent R-24R/T missiles, a strong radar system, and a IRST targeting set. Manoeuvrability is exponentially increased over the previous MiG-23M with the replacement of the SPO-10 with a SPO-15L RWR from a MiG-29, and the addition of BDS-50-60 countermeasure dispensers increasing the amount of countermeasures you can take by six times. All in all, the MiG-23 is a very easy plane to learn and use, but a difficult one to master, as the player is forced to learn about enemy aircraft he faces, and decide accordingly for each engagement whether he needs to utilize the aircraft's great flight performance in a dogfight or employ its strong weapons systems in hit-and-run tactics, a very important note as the skill of picking your engagements and how to fight them is a important skill you will need for the succeeding aircraft in the tech tree, the venerable MiG-29.
The MiG-23MLD's performance leaves little to be desired. The MiG-23M boasted a high top speed but was somewhat underpowered; this is very much fixed on the MLD because its engine is 20% more powerful, and as a result its thrust-to-weight ratio practically matches the F-104S and MiG-21bis. It has an excellent climb rate exceeding 200 m/s at sea level and fantastic acceleration, particularly at transonic or supersonic speeds when the wings can be swept back. Thus, the MLD will have few issues rushing to the front lines, climbing for an altitude advantage, or chasing down a fleeing opponent.
The MLD is also very competitive in dogfights. As on the MiG-23M, the swing wings fundamentally allow for good sustained turning at low to medium speeds provided the wings are swept forward. The MLD's vortex generators, dogtoothed wing gloves, and superior thrust-to-weight enhance its turning performance further. It can reliably beat any F-4 Phantom in a turning engagement, and it can at the very least keep up with if not outplay agile opponents like the MiG-21bis and JA37C.
There are a few quirks to watch out for. First, the MiG-23MLD's excellent engine power means that it will quite easily reach its rip speed when flying in a straight line on full afterburner, so be mindful of the IAS. Second, though it has great acceleration and climb rate at transonic and supersonic speeds, the manoeuvrability in these zones can be a bit sluggish or wobbly at times, so keep that in mind when trying to score high-speed snapshots, and in situations requiring turning or precise aim it's best to slow down and allow the wings to sweep forward a bit.
|Characteristics|| Max Speed
(km/h at 13,000 m)
| Max altitude
| Turn time
| Rate of climb
| Take-off run|
|Combat flaps||Take-off flaps||Landing flaps||Air brakes||Arrestor gear||Drogue chute|
|Limits||Wings (km/h)||Gear (km/h)||Flaps (km/h)||Max Static G|
|Optimal velocities (km/h)|
|< 665||< 650||< 700||N/A|
|Engine name||Number||Wing loading (full fuel)|
|Tumansky R-35-300||1||10,705 kg||374 - 422 kg/m2|
|Engine characteristics||Mass with fuel (no weapons load)|| Max Takeoff|
|Weight (each)||Type||9m fuel||20m fuel||30m fuel||31m fuel|
|1,760 kg||Afterburning axial-flow turbojet||11,815 kg||13,020 kg||14,178 kg||14,405 kg||17,800 kg|
|Thrust to weight ratio @ 0 m (WEP)|
|Condition||100%||WEP||9m fuel||20m fuel||30m fuel||31m fuel||MTOW|
|Stationary||7,103 kgf||10,305 kgf||0.87||0.79||0.73||0.72||0.58|
|Optimal|| 8,368 kgf
| 15,787 kgf
Survivability and armour
Examine the survivability of the aircraft. Note how vulnerable the structure is and how secure the pilot is, whether the fuel tanks are armoured, etc. Describe the armour, if there is any, and also mention the vulnerability of other critical aircraft systems.
Modifications and economy
|CCIP (Guns)||CCIP (Rockets)||CCIP (Bombs)||CCRP (Bombs)|
The MiG-23MLD is armed with:
- 1 x 23 mm GSh-23L cannon, belly-mounted (200 rpg)
- 60 x large calibre countermeasures
The MiG-23MLD still retains the 23 mm GSh-23L cannon with 200 rounds from the MiG-23M. It has an excellent rate of fire and will likely do significant damage if it hits a target, but the muzzle velocity is unimpressive and it can be a challenge to aim it properly in high speed engagements. It's generally best to reserve the gun for extended dogfights where the MLD can use its manoeuvrability to pull lead on a slower target. The limited ammunition supply means that the average pilot can only expect a kill or two with the gun before needing to go back to base.
The MLD has a far healthier supply of countermeasures than the MiG-23M. It retains the pack of 12 countermeasures installed in the central underbelly pylon but now features the twin 30-round dispensers installed on the wing gloves, first seen on the MiG-27M. There is no need to be as stingy when flaring incoming IR missiles or using chaff to disrupt a radar lock. Also, these are still "large calibre countermeasures", so on a unit basis they have stronger effects than standard flares or chaff.
The MiG-23MLD can be outfitted with the following ordnance:
|23 mm GSh-23L cannons (250 rpg)||1||1|
|100 kg OFAB-100 bombs||4||4†||4†||4|
|250 kg FAB-250M-62 bombs||1||1||1||1|
|500 kg FAB-500M-62 bombs||1||1|
|ZB-500 incendiary bombs||1||1|
|S-5K rockets||16, 32||16||16||16, 32|
|Large calibre countermeasures||12|
|Delta-NG targeting pod||1*|
|800 l drop tanks||1†|
| * It is required to equip the Delta-NG targeting pod with the Kh-23M missiles |
† The drop tank cannot be equipped in conjunction with quad bombs on adjacent hardpoints
|Default weapon presets|
The MiG-23MLD has similar loadouts to the MiG-23M. The main difference is that it has access to R-24R and R-24T missiles, which are straight upgrades to the R-23R and R-23T missiles. The R-24s are deadly missiles, but the MLD is still limited to carrying only two of them. The R-23s should only be used as stopgaps before the R-24s are unlocked.
For ground attack, the MLD can use various unguided bombs and rockets. The only guided air-to-ground option is the Kh-23M MCLOS missile. It does have a ballistic computer but it can only provide CCIP guidance for the guns/gun pods and rockets. As dedicated attackers, the related MiG-27M and MiG-27K are much better options.
Usage in battles
The MiG-23MLD is a fairly forgiving fighter that can be used for many approaches. Players who want to beeline straight into battle and jump in dogfights will be satisfied by its great acceleration and dogfight performance. Those who prefer to hang back can use its climb rate to build up altitude and energy while observing the battle below. From this point, fans of long range combat can sling the R-24R radar-guided missiles to snipe targets at long range or low altitude, and opportunistic pilots can sneak in from the sidelines and use the IRST in conjunction with the R-24T IR missiles to eliminate distracted targets. The MiG-23MLD does not reign supreme in the pure beyond-visual-range role because it can only carry two R-24Rs compared to the four AIM-7E-2s or Skyflashes carried by the F-4EJ Kai Phantom II and Phantom FGR.2 for example, so one should plan on getting close and dogfighting at some point to not let the MLD's full capabilities go to waste.
The R-24s should be used wisely because of their limited capacity. R-24Ts in particular are excellent for sneak attacks against distracted targets because of their range, manoeuvrability, and tracking, but they can still be spoofed by flares if the target sees it coming. The R-60Ms are more plentiful, which offsets their high flare sensitivity, and should be preferentially used in close combat. Ideally, one can wait until opponents have run out of countermeasures and/or are no longer in a good position to make evasive manoeuvres.
The MLD can pull harder than the MiG-23M because of its aerodynamic improvements, which is definitely good for nosing onto targets, but if optimal rate fighting performance is desired, it's best to keep the airspeed at or above 600 km/h by managing the elevator.
The MLD's radar now features an ACM mode to quickly and conveniently acquire targets in dogfight scenarios, which can be helpful if one needs to use the R-24R or desires radar cueing for the IR missiles.
- Fighting the F-14A Early
The F-14 Tomcat is a very capable and popular aircraft in the American tech tree. Facing against a F-14 will be inevitable for pilots of the MiG-23MLD. However, there are certain actions a MiG-23MLD pilot can take to make the encounter a more even fighting chance.
Firstly, a MiG-23MLD pilot should be familiar with how to defeat certain radar search and tracking ability. While flying low can help with defeating the standard searching radar, the F-14 like the F-4J before it is equipped with Pulse-Doppler (PD) radar. PD radar can enable the aircraft to lock onto other aircraft against the ground clutter. However, this can also be countered by "notching" the aircraft by flying perpendicular to the PD radar lock (as in making sure the PD radar lock in the Radar Warning Receiver (RWR) is at the 3 or 9 o'clock direction from the aircraft). This will interfere with the PD radar's ability to lock onto the MiG-23MLD. However, be aware that the MiG-23MLD is unlikely to be "invisible" to a F-14's radar as the F-14 has the ability to use a "Track-While-Scan" mode to identify enemy aircraft on the horizon. So while the MiG-23MLD pilot can deny the F-14 an easy lock for them to utilize a SARH or ARH missile, they will be aware that the MiG-23MLD is present in that general direction.
Once a F-14 has been identified, three different threat envelopes need to be recognized.
- AIM-54 Phoenix: Perhaps the aircraft's most famous armament, the F-14's Phoenix missiles are unique in their extremely long firing range of tens of kilometers away. However, do not be discouraged! There are many limitations with missile that can be exploited to reduce the chance of a hit. First is that if fired at a long-range, the Phoenix missile can be identified by its long smoke trail from the F-14 aircraft. This allows not only a MiG-23MLD pilot to recognize a F-14 is present, but also perform evasive maneuvers. The second is that from a long-range firing, the Phoenix are not utilizing its "active-radar homing" (ARH) abilities and is instead utilizing inertial navigation at its launch. This means the missile is not actively tracking the aircraft, but simply homing towards the general direction of the MiG-23MLD's vector and once within range, will activate its radar for the active homing towards the final target. This means that until the active radar homing is on, the MiG-23MLD can evade and escape where the missile will think the MiG-23MLD will be. If successful and once the Phoenix turns on its radar, it will not be able to locate the MiG-23MLD and therefore not be able to home in. If the Phoenix does end up targeting right at the MiG-23MLD, a copious amount of chaff and maneuverability should be sufficient to perform an evasion against the missile's final run.
- AIM-7F Sparrow: A familiar missile that MiG-23MLD will know fighting against F-4Js, the AIM-7F is more lethal with the F-14 as the aircraft can carry more and has a more capable radar. In fact, it can be argued the Sparrow is a comparatively underrated weapon in the pylons of a F-14 due to the aircraft's capabilities enhancing the missile's own. By the time the F-14 is within optimum range to use the Sparrow, there is often very little time for the MiG-23MLD to perform the right action to evade the missile, especially during a head-on. A F-14 using a Sparrow less than 10 km away will be more dangerous than a F-14 using a Phoenix from 40 km away. Take extreme caution against F-14 pilots that bring Sparrows over the Phoenixes.
- AIM-9 Sidewinders: A very familiar missile all close-range dogfighters are familiar with. The F-14 has access to a wide variety of Sidewinder missiles, but its most lethal is the AIM-9H. Once again, though the missile's capability is not too dramatically different from past Sidewinders like the AIM-9G from the F-4J, the F-14's capabilities especially in slow maneuverability makes the Sidewinder a concerning weapon against even a unswept wing MiG-23MLD. While flares should be sufficient in interfering with a Sidewinder lock, maneuverability and engine management needs to be accounted so the Sidewinder still does not see the after-burning engine as a more enticing target than the flares.
So now that the F-14's capabilities are familiarized with, how should a MiG-23MLD pilot attack a F-14?
Perhaps the most successful way is to go after tunnel-vision F-14 pilots from medium range. F-14 pilots at any altitude would be concerned about using their radar to engage enemies with long-range missiles. Therefore, a MiG-23MLD would find it productive to instead fly towards the sides of the map, away from the straight path towards the enemy airfield. The loadout to bring would be the IR-guided R-24T and pilot's choice of R-13M1 or R-60Ms for the short-range IR missiles. Once a decent distance from the friendly airfield alongside the sides of the map (position roughly 30-40% between friendly airfield to enemy airfield), make sure there are no enemy aircraft also in the area before turning towards the center of the map, this way you can meet enemy F-14's vector perpendicularly for an optimum attack angle.
Utilize the MiG-23MLD's IRST function instead of the standard radar in order to not trigger the F-14's RWR, and use IRST to lock onto F-14s from a long-distance for the R-24T. Once a lock can be acquired, utilize the R-24T's extremely wide uncaged seeker to compensate the lead for the F-14's speed and direction. Once within an optimum distance (roughly 5 km), fire the R-24T towards the F-14. While it may be tempting to watch the R-24T seek its target, the MiG-23MLD pilot should instead disengage and try and locate another target for its other missile. It is up to luck at this point and the F-14 pilot's awareness if they notice the incoming R-24T before it destroys their aircraft.
If the F-14 notices the MiG-23MLD and its missile, the situation will quickly get out of hand as the F-14 has decent countermeasures to throw off the MiG-23MLD's IR missiles. Once a F-14 is aware of the MiG-23MLD position at its sides or rear, additional missiles may prove fruitless as the enemy pilot would have their countermeasures primed and ready. The MiG-23MLD pilot can now only hope that the F-14 is too pre-occupied at the tailing MiG-23MLD that allies can approach and take out the distracted F-14 pilot. If alone, the situation can go two ways:
- The F-14A will utilize its better engines and accelerate away from the MiG-23MLD while utilizing countermeasures to ensure missiles cannot reach it. While it may be hoped the F-14's evasive maneuvers would slow it down enough for the MiG-23MLD to catch up, this is unlikely and the F-14A may speed away and decide to re-engage the MiG-23MLD on its own terms or return to the airfield.
- The situation may devolve into a close-range dogfight with IR missiles and gun, with energy management of the planes dependent on pilot's abilities between F-14 and MiG-23. However, this is a relatively disadvantageous situation for the MiG-23MLD pilot to get itself in as chances are if it is tangling with one F-14, there is another coming in from another angle ready to stick a Sidewinder up the MiG-23MLD's engine exhaust.
However the engagement carries out, the MiG-23MLD pilot needs to be aware that the F-14A is a formidable plane and should be prioritized appropriately with allies. Most importantly, recognize that fighting a team of F-14As is not a one-pilot deal; utilize allies to help break off tailing F-14s or take down distracted F-14s to whittle away their numbers to annihilate the enemy team.
Pros and cons
- Very high acceleration and top speed
- Agile in dogfights
- Good countermeasure supply
- Access to powerful R-24 missiles for distant targets
- Has an IRST for stealthy target acquisition
- Radar has ACM mode
- Extraordinarily fast, it will overspeed at any altitude, including at altitude 13 km at Mach 2.4
- Limited missile capacity
- Gun is finicky to use and has limited ammunition
- Limited ground attack ordnance and ballistic computer functionality, not very suited for ground attack
Describe the history of the creation and combat usage of the aircraft in more detail than in the introduction. If the historical reference turns out to be too long, take it to a separate article, taking a link to the article about the vehicle and adding a block "/History" (example: https://wiki.warthunder.com/(Vehicle-name)/History) and add a link to it here using the
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- Related development
|Mikoyan-Gurevich Design Bureau (Микоя́н и Гуре́вич Опытное конструкторское бюро)|
|Fighters||MiG-3-15 · MiG-3-15 (BK) · MiG-3-34|
|Jet fighters||MiG-9 · MiG-9 (l)|
|MiG-15 · MiG-15bis · MiG-15bis ISH|
|MiG-21F-13 · MiG-21PFM · MiG-21S (R-13-300) · MiG-21SMT · MiG-21bis|
|MiG-23M · MiG-23ML · MiG-23MLD|
|MiG-27M · MiG-27K|
|MiG-29 · MiG-29SMT|
|Export/Licensed||␗MiG-9 · ␗MiG-9 (l)|
|◊MiG-15bis · J-2*|
|MiG-17AS · J-4* · Shenyang F-5*|
|◊MiG-19S · J-6A*|
|◄MiG-21 SPS-K · ◊MiG-21MF · ◊MiG-21 "Lazur-M" · ▄MiG-21bis · ◊MiG-21bis-SAU · J-7II**|
|◊MiG-23BN · ◊MiG-23MF · ◊MiG-23MLA|
|◊MiG-29 · ◄MiG-29G|
|*Licensed and domesticated with Chinese designations.|
|**Unlicensed, reverse-engineered and domesticated with Chinese designations.|
|See Also||Shenyang · Chengdu|
|USSR jet aircraft|
|Yakovlev||Yak-15 · Yak-15P · Yak-17 · Yak-23 · Yak-28B · Yak-30D · Yak-38 · Yak-38M · Yak-141|
|Mikoyan-Gurevich||MiG-9 · MiG-9 (l) · MiG-15 · MiG-15bis · MiG-15bis ISH · MiG-17 · MiG-17AS · MiG-19PT|
|MiG-21F-13 · MiG-21PFM · MiG-21S (R-13-300) · MiG-21SMT · MiG-21bis|
|MiG-23M · MiG-23ML · MiG-23MLD · MiG-27M · MiG-27K|
|MiG-29 · MiG-29SMT|
|Lavochkin||La-174 · La-15 · La-200|
|Sukhoi||Su-9 · Su-11|
|Su-7B · Su-7BKL · Su-7BMK · Su-17M2 · Su-17M4 · Su-22M3|
|Su-25 · Su-25BM · Su-25K · Su-25T · Su-39|
|Ilyushin||IL-28 · IL-28Sh|