MiG-23MLD vs F-16

Agreed, it will never be a fair fight but how would the F-16 match up against the ... ?
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basher54321

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Unread post14 Jul 2017, 11:18

mixelflick wrote:It's tempting to trash the Mig 23 for all the reasons given here, but it would be a mistake to dismiss its chances out of hand.


Not trashing or dismissing anything, the MiG-23MLD was an effective aircraft used in the right way with the right tactics however its real world attributes were its speed and small RCS when the wings were back meaning with numbers it could likely cause big problems.

On the other side there were X amount of tactics F-16 pilots could use to negate this and they had to really - hence an example provided to get away from Wiki paper capabilities where radar range and big missile means win every time.

Another real world example would be Bekaa Valley, the Syrians had MiG-23MS and MIG-23MF, the MF having a paper BVR capability - however the Syrians lack of SA over the battlefield and total lack of EW capability means they could have had MLDs and the result wouldn't have been any different - I could even go as far to say that if Israel only had F-16s the result still wouldn't have changed much.

Fortunately not too many examples from real world - from exercises Lossimouth early 80s where F-16s shot down 80-1 (?) F-4s & Lightnings, and a similar score from Red Flag the year after - would hope the F-4s were simulating BVR Floggers with their AWGs - if not pointless exercise.
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f-16adf

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Unread post14 Jul 2017, 18:14

The US Navy F-4J Phantom originally used the AWG-10/APG-59, which was the world's first in service pulse doppler radar. Later F-4J's were upgraded to AWG-10A standard, and the F-4S was upgraded further to AWG-10B (which by all accounts was considered by the USN/USMC/RAF (used on the F-4J (UK)) to be a superb air interception unit). In fact, back in 1988 (at an airshow), a USMC F-4S RIO would not even let anyone into his office (he kept his canopy closed, while the A/C kept the front one open) because he said there were "sensitive" things back there-obviously radar related.

The Mig-23MLD radar probably was equivalent to the AWG-10B or slightly inferior. But remember the AWG-10B is circa 1979/80 technology, the the MLD radar is early/mid 1980's. Obviously, by the mid 1980's the Navy was not going to keep the F-4S or upgrade the -10B any further because the Hornet was coming into service. It would have been an illogical waste of money.

The Air Force Phantom radars -100/-109/-120 were all pulse radars (so was the original F-4B). The F-4E's -120 was supposed to get CORDS back in the late 1960's, but it never happened.

Only the F-4J/S and F-4K/M had actual LD/SD radars. RAF Phantom driver David Gledhill confirms this, as does RAF F-4J (UK) pilot Tony Dixon, and US Navy F-4J pilot Chesire. The Skyflash (UK) and AIM-7F (USN/USMC) were the weapons of choice. The AIM-7E was considered generally useless for these type of intercepts.


Also, lighter or not, no Mig-23MLD would ever match an F-16A/C from 0-30K ft. in ACM. Would never happen-
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Unread post14 Jul 2017, 21:24

Yes the RAF F-4s at Lossimouth would have had AWG-11 or 12 depending on M or K - these were also upgraded over their lifetime (I Black) but had a PD mode (Vc only) as one of its 5 radar modes.

N008 was probably inferior to upgraded AWG-10s of the same year for several reasons -(although both could probably be classed as limited in LD/SD capability).


A prior confidential 1960s Mcdonnell report on the AWG-10 gives (in PD Mode) a max range of 60nm (Narrow search) and 37 nm (Wide Search) and claims this for uplook, co-alt and downlook for a "five metre squared" target, head on aspect. Not bad when Westinghouse advertised 30+ miles for a fighter sized target in look down mode on the APG-66 in 1980.

Mladenovs figures (Usually from Soviet / Block Air Force tech manuals) on the N008 give (for a "bomber sized" target / head on) 40.5nm search at high altitude and 12.5nm search in LD/SD mode.

What has been released from the CIA in recent years has shed more light on the information Tolchachev provided to them in the early to mid 80s - and it appears a main target was the Sapphire 23 (Sapfir 23) - this also paints a picture they were still having immense problems solving the look down problem even then.

Exploitation of the late 1980s NO-19.



APQ-120 may have lacked in look down capability & range - but expect was more likely to actually work when you needed it - the AWG-10 sounds like a reliability nightmare - especially carrier based!


I will add to this Cuban flown MiG-23MLs were employed with some success against SAAF Mirage F.1s it seems by the late 80s.
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Unread post14 Jul 2017, 22:49

Even though the old APG-66 had a smaller antenna, it put out far more power than any of the Phantom radar sets. I believe (I could be totally wrong though) it even put out more power than the early APG-63 on the F-15A. The ultimate set of the day (1970's/80's) as far as antenna size and power was probably the AWG-9.

Those figures about the Mig-23MLD in A-A combat (the turning numbers against the F-16A ) should be taken with a grain of salt. No MLD will ever touch a -200/220 A model in A-A combat whatever the altitude. It's greatest strength is raw acceleration/speed with the wings back. I bet a slatted Phantom could probably beat it in ACM.


Sorry to go off topic here: I think the meanest looking Phantoms were probably the shark teeth painted USAF F-4Es, but I think the most BEAUTIFUL were the very colorful RAF M/K and NAVY/USMC J/S with that clean slick nose radome. They were just stunning-
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Unread post14 Jul 2017, 23:45

As far as I understand the only variable you could really play with back then regarding the basic "radar range equation" was Antenna Gain - as in make the antenna bigger thus you could clearly get great range even with these old analogue computers - someone like HornetFinn probably knows tons about this stuff.

All info tells me the APG-66 was a digital solid state computer that should have had processing power and reliability on another level - so it might not have had the range of the AWG-10 in some circumstances on paper, but with processing power should have been able to use better techniques to filter out ground clutter or any jamming, and provide better information to the pilot far more quickly - thus its actual usable search/track range / capability in reality could have been better.
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Unread post14 Jul 2017, 23:45

Ergonomix.
Cockpit lay-out, and ease of system control.

All Russian A/C are build like tanks, and their switches are well, "strong".
Instruments and handles and switches everywhere.

But they never heard about cockpit lay-out and pilot ergonomix.
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Unread post14 Jul 2017, 23:49

vilters wrote:Ergonomix.
Cockpit lay-out, and ease of system control.

All Russian A/C are build like tanks, and their switches are well, "strong".
Instruments and handles and switches everywhere.

But they never heard about cockpit lay-out and pilot ergonomix.

They have, they just take a different approach. From the MiG-21 up to the Su-33 all their cockpits had the same general layout so that transfer from one type to the next was easier on the pilot. Short term that may have been fine, but the long term is that the cockpits of early 2000s planes looks the same as 1960s planes.
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Unread post15 Jul 2017, 16:08

f-16adf wrote:Those figures about the Mig-23MLD in A-A combat (the turning numbers against the F-16A ) should be taken with a grain of salt. No MLD will ever touch a -200/220 A model in A-A combat whatever the altitude. It's greatest strength is raw acceleration/speed with the wings back. I bet a slatted Phantom could probably beat it in ACM.


No doubt it could with the right pilot - however you will probably find examples over the years of F-4s beating F-16s, F-16s beating F-22s and MiG-23s beating MiG-29s in these kinds of exercises. Not aware of such claims - only ones regarding acceleration and vertical performance over the A / B. The only place the MiG-23 you would expect can turn well would be slow speed with the wings out - but not necessarily much use for this - I'm certain the Sopwith Camel also had an even tighter turn performance there.

Found this - regarding the F-5E captured from South Vietnam Vs the MiG-23M - the only thing I can conclude by looking at F-104 data is that adding 3000 lbs thrust to the same airframe and weight does improve acceleration significantly.


An excerption from the book "Life-Long Runway" written by the Soviet Air Force test pilot Vladimir Kondaurov. The story is that in 1976 the Soviets got an F-5E to test.

Then the MiG company representatives suggested:

- "Let's set MiG-23M against him."

- "But they cannot be compared to one another; they are from different generations." The chief of our research institute objected.

The chief of our institute, colonel general I. Gaidayenko had been a fighter-pilot during World War II and a wingman of the very P. Kutakov, who was the supreme commander of the Air Force at the time of our struggle with the F-5. The result of the test flights was supposed to be reported to Kutakov.

- "So what? We will kick his a$$ anyway!" 2nd lead engineer of MiG-23M spoke out, rubbing his hands in expectance of the revenge.

Well, the a$$ was kicked, for sure... but one of our own. The result was the same with the only exception that the agony lasted for 4-5 minutes. You have also to keep in mind that I had been considered a pilot capable of any stall and spin recovery and I had been permitted to break any angle of attack limitations. In the dogfight, I set the optimal wing sweep manually, but all in vain. The foreigner would slowly, but steadily, approach my tail. After these flights all calmed down for some time, all discussions ceased. The chief of the RI ordered to promptly compile a statement on the tests and directed me and Stogov to Moscow, to the Central Research Institution No. 30, which was involved in elaboration of the long-term problems of aviation advancement.
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Unread post15 Jul 2017, 17:29

OK.... and what was the compilation of the tests/lessons learned? Did you need to "skew" it any to favor the Mig-23? Or did you feel comfortable enough stating that the Mig-23 was inferior as your account suggests?

It doesn't surprise me the F-5 won, as it's been known to give F-14/15's fits in WVR fights..
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Unread post15 Jul 2017, 18:48

In the "right hands" many 3rd gen jets can wax various 4th gen jets.

For example:

https://ibb.co/f0OLNv


Now I'm sure the F-16 guys who were killed were probably relatively inexperienced and the NJANG F-4E Phantom pilots were probably very good.


My point is that pilot skill aside, any Mig-23 version is hopelessly outclassed by basically any Viper version (prolly even the Block 32) in WVR parameters. If the A model F-16 could out turn (radius/rate) even the Tomcat with its wings at 20 degrees I seriously doubt the Mig-23MLD could do any better.
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Unread post15 Jul 2017, 19:13

mixelflick wrote:OK.... and what was the compilation of the tests/lessons learned? Did you need to "skew" it any to favor the Mig-23? Or did you feel comfortable enough stating that the Mig-23 was inferior as your account suggests?






No secret the first Generation MiG-23 was terrible in this department due to accounts from multiple airforce nationalities (Libyan/Egyptian pilots) who had the misfortune to fly it. Both the Export MiG-23MF and MS were essentially the MiG-23M airframe with avionics changes. The MS had a smaller lighter nose and as already stated was exploited and flown by the USAF Red Eagles during the 80s of which there are now several books based on the declass findings.
Alexander Zuyev flew the MiG-23M for the VVS and even he went as far to suggest it was forced upon the Soviet Union due to the political power MiG had at the time. (Note his book is in English!)


However the second Generation MiG-23ML/MLD were intentionally improved and changed over the generation 1 to be better at close in combat.



The above was translated from Chapter XVI
http://testpilot.ru/review/runway/volga/volga_xvi.htm or http://royallib.com/book/kondaurov_vlad ... _gizn.html


In the summer of 1976 a disassembled American F-5 fighter jet was delivered to our base at Aktubinsk. To be correct, it was F-5E - the latest variant with increased engines thrust. By the size it was smaller than MiG-21, had two engines installed side-by-side in the fuselage, a sharp swept-down nose and short tapered wings. The war in Vietnam had finished, and the United States Air Forces were leaving this long-suffering country, hastily abandoning several aircraft of this type on one of the airfields. One of them was handed over to the USSR together with its pilot manual. There were no technical descriptions, but our engineers figured everything out, assembled it to the last bolt and made it flyable, bringing not only the foreign hard pieces together, but also tons of electric wiring. A test brigade was formed to conduct special flight tests, and a program was written, which assumed 35-40 test flights. I was one of the test pilots, our lead was Nikolay Stogov.

After a proper training I was trusted to perform the first speed run on the runway and then a run with a 3-6 feet jump. These precautions had their reasons in our uncertainty, that all the systems had been assembled and connected correctly.

And finally, we were alone. The "Foreigner" hid within. From the manual I knew, that it had had no problems in operation whatsoever. But I also knew that every manufacturer had their own zest in the product. Unlike our fighters in production, the "Foreigner" had brakes on pedals, which we had on heavy aircraft only. The cockpit was not cluttered by various switches and circuit breakers unneeded in flight. They were all concentrated in a single horizontal "stock" away from the working area. I understood that F-5 was a way not the most modern plane and that it was inferior even to MiG-21, but, nonetheless, I liked the cockpit layout. I decided to make the run on the second runway, which was the longest one. "There is never too much runway ahead," I thought, taxiing to the runway. It was the winter of 1976-77. Of course, there was no reason to hide I was proud that the only aircraft of this type available in the USSR was trusted to me.

I turned on the extension of the nose strut - the electrohydraulic retractor engaged, and the nose of the aircraft started to "crawl" up. "How about that?" I shook my head surprised. "Couldn't you do without it on this little one?" As for me, not a common way to reduce your takeoff roll. In the USSR, only Myasischev used this on M-3 and M-4 - the heavy long-range bombers with a tandem gear layout, thus with very short nose struts.

"Alright," I thought, "we kneeled, so let's run. It is awkward to fool around this way." I increased thrust and released the brakes. The aircraft started to roll. It rolled evenly, reluctantly gaining speed. Aha! That's why they raise the nose strut! The engines are feeble, and the wing is too small. I lifted the nosewheel off the ground and held the airplane from the premature liftoff. Enough for this time. I powered back and lowered the nose. And then... what the heck? The entire nose started to shake and vibrate, then it started to wander left and right so violently, I thought it would just fall the hell off in a moment. Something was screeching and rumbling below. My first thought was about the nosewheel shimmy, but then I realized the nosewheel had been destroyed. I pulled the drag chute handle. "Not the brakes... Main wheels damage is the last thing we need: we don't have spares," the thoughts were rushing in my mind. Gradually reducing the speed, I stopped. I switched everything off, opened the canopy and impatiently jumped down onto the tarmac. I looked and I was puzzled: the wheel was intact. "That's strange! So what were you so unhappy with?" I looked at the "Foreigner" suspiciously. It turned out that he was unhappy with our runway condition: rough grooves and seams were so deep, and the surface of the concrete was decayed, so he just didn't stand it. One bolt was cut off, and the strut together with the wheel was turning around.

- "Nice! Ours don't do things like that," I gave his nose a pat and whispered: "Don't worry, we'll find a new bolt for you and you'll gallop around again!"

As I got to know the "Foreigner" I grew up in my respect to him both as to the flying machine and as to the fighter jet. Unapt to aggressive maneuvering when in "cruise" configuration (flaps and slats up), he would have changed when the pilot put it into the "maneuvering" configuration (flaps and slats down). Then from a heavy clodhopper he turned into a swallow. Checking out the capabilities of the optical sight, I enjoyed keeping the reticle on the target while attacking with a 6g pull, whereas on MiG-21 it would disappear from the view at 3g.

After determining the basic specification we decided to set up for a mock air-to-air combat with MiG-21bis. I would fight on my "native" MiG-21, and Nikolay Stogov - on F-5. The close air combat started head-on in equal positions. Every flight ended with the same result: MiG-21 lost, although he had much higher thrust-to-weight ratio. I laid myself out just to keep the initial position. I took the most out of the aircraft, took all he could give, but the targeting angle grew steadily and in a few minutes the "bandit" was on my tail. Only tactics could save me. What I was stricken by the most is that the result of the mock fights took not only the generals by surprise (one could explain this somehow), but also the military research departments of the Air Force and even the aviation engineers. They would review the data records for thousand times, ask the pilots, especially me. Frankly, I was somewhat confused as well, but when I tried the F-5, I realized that it was not an ordinary one.

So, what was happening in flight? At the speeds of 800 km/h (430 kts) and above the fight was on equal terms, nobody had explicit advantages, but the fighting was not literally maneuvering because of the large radii of the maneuvers. We would both stay at the equal maximum allowable g-loads. Whilst at the speeds below 750 km/h (400 kts) one couldn't sustain these g-loads even with the afterburner. And the lower the speed was the faster it decayed, thus lowering the maximum available g-load. It turned out that the aerodynamics was what won the day, not the thrust/weight ratio. But how was I to explain all this to the people above? They wouldn't have patted our backs for this. Then the MiG company representatives suggested:

- "Let's set MiG-23M against him."

- "But they cannot be compared to one another; they are from different generations." The chief of our research institute objected.

The chief of our institute, colonel general I. Gaidayenko had been a fighter-pilot during World War II and a wingman of the very P. Kutakov, who was the supreme commander of the Air Force at the time of our struggle with the F-5. The result of the test flights was supposed to be reported to Kutakov.

- "So what? We will kick his a$$ anyway!" 2nd lead engineer of MiG-23M spoke out, rubbing his hands in expectance of the revenge.

Well, the a$$ was kicked, for sure... but one of our own. The result was the same with the only exception that the agony lasted for 4-5 minutes. You have also to keep in mind that I had been considered a pilot capable of any stall and spin recovery and I had been permitted to break any angle of attack limitations. In the dogfight, I set the optimal wing sweep manually, but all in vain. The foreigner would slowly, but steadily, approach my tail. After these flights all calmed down for some time, all discussions ceased. The chief of the RI ordered to promptly compile a statement on the tests and directed me and Stogov to Moscow, to the Central Research Institution No. 30, which was involved in elaboration of the long-term problems of aviation advancement.

Paying a visit to one of its departments we asked, what they could tell us about the MiG-21 advantages over the F-5E.

- "Oh!" The military scientists immediately exclaimed. "With pleasure! There is a fray right now between Ethiopia and Somalia, and these very aircraft fight each other there. And we are busy preparing recommendations for the pilots on how to successfully fight the F-5 in aerial combat."

- "And what you've got?" I asked with an interest.

- "Take a look at the graph of the attack success probability. See? We beat him everywhere."

- "Indeed," I droned, looking at the so familiar graph in front of me and feeling somewhat hurt for the "Foreigner".

- "And what're the odds?" My friend asked, making a face of a village gull.

- "We've got much better thrust-to-weight ratio," the scientist replied in a voice of a mentor, who knew his worth.

- "Alright, then could you read this Statement and give us your final conclusion, please? And..."

- "And we'll go have a lunch," Nikolay suggested, "You know, on an errand it's like in defense: the meal is the ultimate thing."

This was the end of our work on the comparative evaluation of the "Foreigner" and our Soviet fighters. I don't know what kind of discussions were held "up there", but I know for sure, that the recommendations for the Ethiopian pilots were changed. Our "experts" suggested not to engage in a close dogfight, but to use the "hit-and-run" tactics instead. What about MiG-23, everyone preferred to forget about it. You bet! It had been supposed to fight even more advanced aircraft! Our Statement was classified as top secret and removed somewhere away from the eyes. The "Foreigner" was given to the aviation industry specialists with a strict clause: no flying, but to disassemble and study the structural features to use the knowledge in further projects. Some time passed, and the Su-25 close air support aircraft emerged. It had the wheel brakes on the rudder pedals, "maneuvering" wing configuration and a different approach to the cockpit layout. In the terms of the pilot workstation our engineers went even further, and nowadays the cockpit of MiG-29 can serve as an exemplar for similar foreign combat aircraft. The same can be said about the aerodynamics. The aerodynamic capabilities of Su-27 fighter are considered unexcelled so far. It appears that what is clear for one is a revelation for the other. I believe that similar situations arose in the USA as well, as they got our aircraft at times from MiG-21 to MiG-29. We had luck only once.

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Unread post15 Jul 2017, 19:27

f-16adf wrote:My point is that pilot skill aside, any Mig-23 version is hopelessly outclassed by basically any Viper version (prolly even the Block 32) in WVR parameters. If the A model F-16 could out turn (radius/rate) even the Tomcat with its wings at 20 degrees I seriously doubt the Mig-23MLD could do any better.


If you just look at ability to turn in isolation at speed then sure I would agree with you, however there is a more to it than rate / radius - and the underlying problem of this thread is still that the actual performance of the MLD is wrapped in a few anecdotes (Going round for years) and assumptions.
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Unread post15 Jul 2017, 21:51

Correct, all are assumptions.

However, most actual USAF/USN scholarship paints the Mig-23 (once again, pilot skill aside, as generally equal to or worse than the slatted F-4E WVR). Sierra Hotel, F-15 Engaged, Red Eagles, .....etc. all say the same thing about it.

Various foreign sources that claim xxxx about it are reminiscent of the so called anecdote tale of Iranian F-14's shooting down 3 jets with one Aim-54. All just claims......


WVR against an F-16A, the MLD has inferior roll rate, inferior STR/ITR, probably inferior Alpha. It "may" have an equal to or worse T/W ratio. Some VG jets are only good with their wings out (hence low speeds) once they go back.... the show is over-
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Unread post15 Jul 2017, 22:57

f-16adf wrote:However, most actual USAF/USN scholarship paints the Mig-23 (once again, pilot skill aside, as generally equal to or worse than the slatted F-4E WVR). Sierra Hotel, F-15 Engaged, Red Eagles, .....etc. all say the same thing about it.



It is well established that the Gen 1 MiG-23M/MF/MS was a total lemon to everyone including the USSR - those sources you listed do not compare the MLD do they? (Sierra Hotel doesn't have a single instance of MiG-23 ).

The AoA Limiter on the MLD was pegged to 28 degrees - all prior versions would demonstrably flat spin over this.

A Syrian export MLD was evaluated by Israel when it defected in the late 80s - this is the information we need - (and not just a rehash of how it out accelerated the F-16Bs flying with it) ideally the Soviet version would be better!!

I won't be surprised if it turns out there was a significant difference between the MLD and the M - there were aerodynamic (Not just the vertical tail) as well as thrust/weight changes on the Soviet models.

I'm not going to dismiss the AIM-54 kills either just yet without seeing the actual Iraqi loss record for that day - Not just because Tom Cooper is / was a regular on here. :wink:
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Unread post15 Jul 2017, 23:41

The F-16B model is draggier than the A model obviously. It also is heavier. Also, not everything Israel says should be taken for gospel.

There is a tale on the net of a US NAVY B Tom supposedly "hanging" with an Israeli two seat Viper. Wow, guess what, all the Tomcat worshipers get wood from this. First, what model Viper was it? B or D? ...Well, every Israeli B or D model Viper is draggier and far heavier than the single seat and standard USAF versions. So here we only get part of the story not the entire incident-

But again, once the Top Gun/Tom Cruise fanatics hear that they immediately come to the conclusion: "see, with the new engines the Tomcat was equal to the F-16." Which again is complete garbage. I do not have to be on that Tomcat fanboy website to understand that...



I was too lazy to look into Sierra Hotel, my apologies for the error.


But the fact of the matter remains it is generally A NEAR IDENTICAL AIR-FRAME as the prior versions (yes some tweaks here and there). Extra thrust is not going to completely 180 degree change a crummy design.


The jet doesn't even have automatic sweep as the Tomcat.

So what sweep do you suggest the pilot puts the wings at? Once VG goes above 40 degrees (it is even rather weak in the 35-40 range) turn rates and radius worsen.

Look at the Tomcat charts, its only significance is low speeds. Once the pilot puts knots on it, everything falls apart. And even at low speeds the Tomcat (A-D, I have all their charts) is inferior to the original F-16A and even the F-16C Block 30 big mouth. And no i'm not going to reference the HAF Block 50 which is a poorer performer than the MCID Block 30. The only charts I have for the Block 30 are sea level and 30K. And even at 30K the Block 30 has a turn advantage (rate/radius) still over the Block 50.


Theoretically I could put canards on an F-4E, strakes on the nose, improved engines, and the jet is still an outdated 3rd gen jet. Same for the MLD. Plus I do not think a Viper driver is going to be terrified that the MLD has 3 degrees AOA better than he does. I think I will ask a few of my brothers old Viper squadron mates that question, and wait to see their faces turn white- :D

Same tales for its radar, it was "always suppose to be improving" what did it ever accomplish? A radar that by 1985 was probably still inferior to the AWG-10B in the F-4S? And the same tall tales for the Mig-25's ever, ever, ever, ever improving radar.
Last edited by f-16adf on 16 Jul 2017, 02:39, edited 2 times in total.
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