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Aviacion Cubana

The MiG-23 Flogger in Cuba

Ruben Urribarres

FAR This was the most important fighter of the USSR in the 70-80's, with variable-geometry configuration and nuclear capacity. 

Perform its first flight on June 10, 1967 by A. Fedotov.  Was built between 1969 and 1985 in two factories (Moscow and Irkutsk) in the quantity of 4,278 aircrafts of combat versions, 769 training and 560 in the attack version MiG-27, for a total of 5,607 aircrafts (more then the F-4 Phantom). 
MiG-23ML from Air Museum, Havana. Picture: Rubén Urribarres
MiG-23ML from Air Museum, Havana. Picture: Rubén Urribarres

It was exported to 18 countries. Fought in numerous conflicts as the Liban, Afghanistan, Persian Gulf, Angola, Iran-Iraq, Libya.

In those conflicts the MiG-23 achieved numerous victories. Only the Syrian MiG-23 in 1982-1985 shoot down 12 aircrafts (3 F-15, 5 F-16, 3 F-4, 1 BQM-34), losing 10. 

  The First MiG-23 flights in Cuba

The FAR receives the first MiG-23 on June 6, 1978, they were 14 MiG-23BN Flogger H and 2 MiG-23UB Flogger C, with serials from the 700. The reports that the airplanes that arrive to Cuba were MiG-23MS Flogger, or that was in 1977, or in number of 45 aircraft, are not correct. This first Squadron already was ready in September for the 231° Regiment of San Antonio of the Baños. 
MiG-23BN landing in San Antonio -Photo courtesy of Air & Space Power Journal
Their first action was already on October 3, 1978, when "they attack" the Naval Soviet Fleet on the sea 20km to the north of Matanzas. The MiG-21bis grasp the attention of the ships anti-aircrafts batteries, while the MiG-23BN appear in contrary direction in low level flight, and "strike". At the beginning of December of 1978 the MiG-23BN participate in the strategic exercises 'Granma XXII', where for them are assigned "objects' in US territory (as the air bases of Homestead and McDill). 

The MiG-23 appear for first time in public during the great military parade of January 2, 1979, by the XX Anniversary of the Revolution. In spite of the bad weather conditions (rain, low visibility), 9 MiG-23BN at the command of the Colonel Rafael del Pino pass over the Revolution Square in three groups ('Troikas') with the variable geometric wings in three different positions: 16°, 45°, 72°. The pass in low level of the nine MiG-23BN impresses to all, for the visible satisfaction of the brothers Castro, that were in the tribune (the MiG-21bis not pass for the bad weathers conditions). Like affirms the General Rafael del Pine, when the American troops landing in Granada, on October 30, 1983, is ordered to maintain ready the MiG-23BN to attacks objectives in the Florida, as the Homestead air base and the nuclear central Turkey Point, as an answer, in case of US attack to Cuba. The appear of the Cuban MiG-23 provokes too that the Government of Ronald Reagan decide to deliver 36 F-16 Fighting Falcon to Venezuela
MiG-23BN and MiG-23UB in San Antonio, January 1979
In 1982 arrives a second Squadron of 14 fighter-bombers MiG-23BN, and another in the second half of the 80's, until arrive at 45 fighters version. This permits that in 1991, with the arrival of the MiG-29, an Squadron with 14 MiG-23BN pass from San Antonio to Santa Clara, and later a second Squadron to Holguin. In 1984 the USSR delivers some 24 MiG-23MF Flogger E. These are the first MiG-23 air-air (equipped with a radar capable of detecting objectives to 45km to low level and under any weather condition) until the arrival of the MiG-23ML in 1985 with its 85 km range radar. The ML are the most capable MiG-23 version in Cuba, and various ML arrive from Angola in 1989-1990, after the victory of the Cuban troops. The reports that Cuba receives MiG-23MS Flogger not have any base, as does neither receive the MiG-27, that are confused for many people with the MiG-23BN by its shaped nose. 

  The Cuban MiG-23 Crisis

MiG-23BN N733 The appear in the FAR of these airplanes, considerably growed its attack capacity, which trembles the political circles in USA. Various congressman use American satelite photos where are seen the MiG-23BN in Cuba, and  declared that the agreements of the Crisis of the Missiles were violated with the USSR, therefore the MiG-23BN were evidently more effective that the Il-28 Beagle retired in 1962. The explication that the Cubans MiG-23 do not have nuclear weapons are not listened, and the Republican Congressman "discovers" too, that there is a Motorized Soviet Brigade in Cuba. This scandal was one of the factors of the rout of the President Carter in the following elections. 

The Congress then threatens with not ratifying the treated SALT-1 of strategic weapons with the USSR.  President Carter is seen obliged to authorize two flights of SR-71 over Cuba at the beginning of November of 1978, to verify the presence of the MiG-23. Havana protests for this air space violation. On November 16, twelve American senators visit Moscow for the SALT conversations, and ask for the theme of the Cubans MiG-23 with the Soviet Prime Minister Alexey Kosyguin, that denies every threat for US. The next day, on November 17, 1978, the USSR admits for first time officially (before that Cuba), about the delivery of MiG-23 fighters to the island, but is declared that they are aircraft of defensive character, and that its configuration does not threaten the north neighbor.  At the same time is admit the presence in Cuba of a Soviet Motorized Brigade. 

The senator Richard Helms says that he has reports that the Cubans MiG-23 are being equipped with nuclear weapons, and appears an article of Rowland Evans and Robert Novak about it threatens to US. This obliges to President Carter to call a press conference on November 30, 1978. Carter explains that the Soviet Government assure it that those airplanes do not enter in the offensive weapons limitations by the agreements of 1962. The crisis is dissipated little to little, and January 17, 1979, the US Department of State declares that they have arrived at the conclusion, that the Cubans MiG-23 not they are configured to carry nuclear weapons, and therefore, they not violate the agreements Kennedy-Jrushov of 1962. 
Explains to the personal about the MiG-23BN
Technician comunicated with the pilot MiG-23BN
MiG-23MF with different camouflage
This MiG-23BN take part in the parade on January 2, 1979
Piloto to his MiG-23BN
Explains to the personal about the MiG-23BN (Photo Henry Pérez, Piloto Maestro)
The Technician in contact with the pilot of the MiG-23BN N°716
 MiG-23MF Pilots with different camouflage. 
San Antonio, 1985
One of the MiG-23BN that take part in the parade on January 2, 1979
A technician help this pilot to rise to this MiG-23BN N°717, San Antonio (Enrique Carreras, Por el dominio del aire)

The Cuban MiG-23 today 

MiG-23MF with missiles R-60 and R-24 -Photo courtesy of Air & Space Power JournalOn March 20, 1991 the major Orestes Lorenzo lands with its MiG-23BN N°722 in NAS Key West, Florida. Lorenzo was the second leader of the Santa Clara Air Base, and desert in his first flight in the MiG-23BN. The fighter was returned and Lorenzo ask for political asylum, but his family remain in Cuba.  Frustrated by not being able to achieve the exit of his family, on December 19, 1992 he secretly land in Cuba in a Cessna-310, he embarks his wife and two children, and returns to the US. This espectacular history was reflected in the book "Wings of the Morning', that describes inside the Cuban Air Force, including passages about the Angolan campaign, where Lorenzo flew in 40 combat missions. 
MiG-23BN FAR-722
Two versions of the camouflage of the Orestes Lorenzo´s MiG-23BN FAR-722
MiG-23BN of Lorenzo

Another event where participate Cubans MiG-23 was the shoot down on February 24, 1996 of the two airplanes Cessna-337 of the Cuban exiled organization 'Brothers to the Rescue'. In the action participated a MiG-23UB piloted by the colonel lieutenant Francisco Perez Perez, and the MiG-29UB of the too colonel lieutenant Alberto Perez Perez (brother of Francisco). The MiG-23UB served as radio delay between the ground radar controllers, while the MiG-29UB shoot down the two airplanes with R-60M missiles. The reports that that MiG-23 shoot down one of the Cessna-337 are not correct. But in detail this event is described in the MiG-29 section

By 1990 Cuba had in service 58 MiG-23 form versions BN, ML, UB:

  Zona Aérea Occidental.  2° Brigada de la Guardia "Playa Girón"

Regimiento de Caza / San Antonio de los Baños Air Base
Escuadrón de Caza with 12 MiG-23ML, 4 MiG-23UB (Air Defense/Attack)

  Zona Aérea Central.  1° Brigada de la Guardia "Batalla de Santa Clara"

Regimiento de Caza / Santa Clara Air Base
Escuadrón de Cazabombardeo, with 12 MiG-23BN, 2 MiG-23UB (Attack)
Escuadrón de Cazabombardeo, with 12 MiG-23BN, 2 MiG-23UB (Attack)

  Zona Aérea Oriental.  3° Brigada de la Guardia "Cuartel Moncada"

Regimiento de Caza / Holguín Air Base
Escuadrón de Caza, with 12 MiG-23ML, 2 MiG-23UB (Air Defense/Attack)

MiG-23UB landing
MiG-29 overflight a MiG-23
MiG-23BN of Orestes Lorenzo
A MiG-23 is refueled
MiG-23UB N 704
 MiG-23UB FAR-704 with his wings at 16° for landing
(Photo courtesy of Air & Space Power Journal)
A FAR MiG-29 Fulcrum  over flight the tail of this MiG-23
Orestes Lorenzo´s MiG-23BN FAR-722 in Key West  ( cuortesy of Mike Little)
Technicians refueled this MiG-23BN.  Exercises of 1992
MiG-23UB FAR-704 in San Antonio 
(Photo courtesy of Air & Space Power Journal)
MiG-23 in Havana
MiG-23 in Havana
MiG-23ML in the DAAFAR Museum
Del Pino in a MiG-23BN
MiG-23ML exposed in the Revolution Square with missiles R-60 and R-24 (Courtesy of Tulio Soto)
The same MiG-23ML (Courtesy of Tulio Soto)
A MiG-23ML  veteran of Angolain the DAAFAR Museum (Rubén)
Rafael del Pino ready to take off  in a MiG-23BN (Rafael del Pino, Proa a la libertad)
A Pair of MiG-23BN, 1986
Technician work with a missil R-24 (AA-7 Apex)
Pair of MiG-23BN
Pilot and the MiG-23BN
China military delegation examine a MiG-23
MiG-23 profiles
Gunners placed radars missiles R-24R (AA-7 Apex C) under the fixed section of the wing of this MiG-23MF (from Air & Space Power Journal)
Pair of MiG-23BN in 1989
Piloto of MiG-23BN.  San Antonio Air Base, 1984
The General Colonel Yuan Shoufang of the People´s Army of  China in the San Antonio AB, August 2001
Profiles of the MiG-23MF with the wings at 16° and 72°
MiG-23ML and Mi-8
A R-24 missil is placed under the wing
The parachute
MiG-23MF Cockpit
Henry Perez and a MiG-23UB
A Helicópter Mi-8 above this MiG-23ML FAR-212 (From Air & Space Power Journal)
Gunners placed a Medium Range Radar Missil R-24R (AA-7 Apex C) under the wing
Technician placed the parachute in a MiG-23ML. San Antonio, 1992
Review of the cockpit of  a MiG-23MF,  stick,  HUD, panels with switches
The Colonel Henry Pérez besides a MiG-23UB (Henry Pérez, Piloto Maestro)
MiG-23ML FAR in the 2002
MiG-23BN at the 2002
MiG-23ML in the 2002 (Luis P.)
MiG-23ML in the 2002 (Luis P.)

Characteristics of the Cubans MiG-23 Flogger

MiG-23MF Flogger E. (Product 23-11M). Export version for nearby allies (Pact of Warsaw, Cuba and India) of the frontal fighter MiG-23M. Radar Sapfir-23D of 65 km range to objective fighter type.MiG-23MF
MiG-23ML Flogger G. (Product 23-12).  Air superiority version.  Radar Sapfir-23ML of 85km range. Chassis 175mm higher, vertical tail modified. New more powerful motor, although less fuel.MiG-23ML
MiG-23BN Flogger H. (Product 32-23).  Fighter-bomber version to ground attack. Nose modified for better visibility to the ground. In the radar place, have a annotation and navegation system Sokol-23, telemetric laser type Fon.MiG-23BN
MiG-23UB Flogger C. (Product 23-51). Two seat for combat trainning, with the same armament that the other versions. Radar Sapfir-21 of the "S" of 29 km range. Produced until 1978.MiG-23UM
Flogger E
Flogger G
Flogger H
Flogger C
Lenght, m
Wingspan, m (sweep 72°/ 16°)
Height, m
Wing area, m2
Max takeoff weight, kg
Normal takeoff weight, kg
Empty weight, kg
Internal fuel, kg
External fuel, kg
Combat load, kg
Max speed at sea level, km/h
Max speed, km/h
Ceiling, m
Climb, m/s
Range, km
Range with aditional fuel, km
Type (Tumansky)
Dry thrust, kg
After burning thrust, kg
Armament: All carry a 23 mm GsH-23L gun, with 200 rounds. In 7 points (3 under the fuselage and 4 under the wings) carries armament in diverse combinations, as 6 medium range air-air missiles R-23, R-24 (AA-7 Apex), or of short range R-13 (AA-2 Atoll), R-60 (AA-8 Aphid).  Air-ground rockets X-66, X-23 (AS-7 Kerry), or S-24, or 2 blocks with 16 rockets of 57mm UB-16, two blocks UB-32 with 32 rockets of 57mm, or two blocks of 20 rockets of 80mm S-80, two containers UPK-23 with GsH-23L guns, 4 bombs of until 500 kg, or 16 of 100 kg, etc. To the right, a plan with some load combat variants of the MiG-23.
Some variants of combat loads of the MiG-23


Roman Beliakov, G. Marmen. Samolety 'MiG'. Aviko Press, Moscou, 1996 
Henry Perez. Piloto Maestro, Ediciones Mercedes y Rio, Canada, 1994 
Rafael del Pino. Proa a la libertad. Editorial Planeta, Mexico, 1991 
Akleksey Illarionov, "Balcon with view to the battle field", Mir Aviatsii, Moscou 1/2001 
Cubans magazines Bohemia, Verde Olivo 
Autor´s archives 

  See also:
Cuban MiG-15
Cuban MiG-17
Cuban MiG-19
Cuban MiG-21
Cuban MiG-21 in action
Operación Pico: Cuban MiG-21 over Dominican Republic
Cuban MiG-17 and MiG-21 in the Ogaden War (Ethiopia)
Cuban MiG-23
Cuban MiG-23 in action (air-to-ground missions in Angola)
Cuban MiG-23 in action (air-to-air missions in Angola)
Cuban MiG-29

  External Links:
Cuban Air Force MiG-29 Fulcrum
Cuban MiGs
Cuban Military Forum
The MiG-29 Fighter
Cuban MiG-23 over Venezuela
Cuba in Africa, The Angola War

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