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What is a Russian MiG?

By Adam Hill
Updated May 23, 2024
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A Russian MiG is any aircraft designed by Mikoyan, a Russian military aircraft design bureau. It was a Soviet design bureau during the Cold War, and was founded as Mikoyan and Gurevich -- MiG, for short -- by Artem Mikoyan and Mikhail Gurevich. When Gurevich died in 1970, his name was removed from that of the company, but it was still referred to as MiG.

There were many types of MiG aircraft produced, and they were the best-known Soviet fighter aircraft during the Cold War. Many of these planes were sold within the area of Soviet influence. As a result, countries such as North Vietnam, North Korea, and China all used the Russian MiG to some degree to engage in aerial combat with American and other Western military forces. MiGs were, in some ways, superior to the planes that the American military had at its disposal, and this was especially the case with the highly maneuverable MiG-15 and MiG-17.

The Russian MiG is widely considered the best class of aircraft that the Soviet and Russian military had to offer. The MiG-29, in particular, is one of the best-made aircraft in the world. While its use is not as common as it once was, it is believed that a MiG-29 can outperform and destroy the American-made F-15. This is perhaps partly because it was not designed to carry as much weight in weaponry as the F-15 was, which could constitute a tactical disadvantage, but the MiG-29’s capabilities are no less impressive because of this.

The first time that the MiG-29 was publicly seen in the West was in Finland in July of 1986. They were displayed subsequently in air shows in Western Europe, where observers were highly impressed by its exceptional capabilities. After the fall of the Soviet Union, many Russian MiGs, including the MiG-29, fell into disrepair because of poor maintenance. This occurred despite the fact that they were still being used by the Russian Air Force. All Russian MiG-29s were grounded for a time at the end of 2008, after two crashes in Siberia involving these aircraft.

Many countries still operate Russian MiG aircraft such as the MiG-29, including such apparently unlikely places as Bangladesh, Peru, and Malaysia. However, with capabilities such as a top speed of 1,518 miles per hour (2,445 km/h) and a service ceiling of 59,100 ft (18,013 m) it is easy to see why these aircraft are still so desirable all over the world. In addition to their use in militaries, they are also on display in many museums in Russia, Europe, and the United States.

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