Using archival photographs sourced directly from Vietnam, specially commissioned diagrams and combat accounts from veterans, István Toperczer reveals how the MiG-21 defended Vietnam between 1966 and 1968.
One of the most successful communist jet fighters ever built, the MiG-21 “Fishbed” was involved in a series of deadly duels with American fighters over North Vietnam as the USAF and US Navy ramped up strike missions during Operation Rolling Thunder, culminating in the destruction of over 70 US aircraft for the loss of 35 “Fishbeds.”
Having honed their skills on the subsonic MiG-17, pilots of the Vietnam People’s Air Force received their first examples of the legendary MiG-21 supersonic fighter in 1966. Soon thrown into combat over North Vietnam, the guided-missile-equipped MiG-21 proved a deadly opponent for the American crews striking at targets deep into communist territory. Although the communist pilots initially struggled to come to terms with the fighter’s air search radar and weapons systems, the ceaseless cycle of combat operations quickly honed their skills. The best fighter then available to the VPAF, more than 200 MiG-21s (of various sub-types) were supplied to the North Vietnamese.
In this study, leading VPAF authority István Toperczer analyzes the tactics used by the MiG-21 pilots over the bitter fighting in North Vietnam during Rolling Thunder. The highspeed ‘hit and run’ attacks employed by the communist pilots proved to be very successful, with both R-3S air-to-air missiles and heavy-caliber cannon inflicting a rising toll on American jets. Using first-hand accounts from MiG-21 pilots, battlescene artwork, combat ribbon diagrams, and armament views, the author details the important role played by the “Fishbed” in the defense of North Vietnam.