Nellis AFB Threat Training Facility Aircraft

This MiG-17 "Fresco" is the oldest design of fixed wing aircraft at the Threat Training Facility, a slightly larger refinement of the MiG-15 "Fagot".   This one is in North Korean markings and, as you can see, it was flight tested by Lt Gen David J McCloud.

MiG-17 Fresco

This Sukhoi Su-7 fighter has the NATO reporting name "Fitter".   Since the official names of Russian aircraft were classified, NATO came up with a system of naming in which arbitrary names were assigned, the first letter of the name signifying whether the aircraft was a fighter (like the "Fitter"), a bomber (like the "Bear"), a helicopter (like the "Hind") or a cargo plane (like the appropriate named "Crate"!).

Su 7 Fitter

The Su 7 was really a second generation jet fighter/ground attack aircraft, capable of Mach 1.6 and armed with two 30mm cannons, one of which you can see here in the wing root.

Su 7 Fitter

The Threat Training Facility also has a MiG-21 "Fishbed" jet fighter parked across the road which I didn't photograph because of a lack of time - however fans of this type can enjoy this page of Vietnamese Air Force MiG-21s in Action from a visit I made to Danang airport in 2004.   Here's something I made sure not to miss out on - the MiG-23 "Flogger" and MiG-29 "Fulcrum" which are the pride and joy of the collection.

MiG-23 'Flogger' and MiG-29 'Fulcrum'

The MiG-23 is a large improvement on the MiG-21 which it replaced from the early 1970s.   Capable of Mach 2.35, it has variable sweep wings which can be set to 16 degrees of sweep during takeoff and landing, 72 degrees for high speed flight, and 45 degrees for mid-range operation; the dogtooth you can see in the outer wing section fits in to the inner wing section when in the 16 degree position.   The MiG-23s acquired by the US military are designated YF-113s (MiG-21s are YF-110s); this particular one is a MiG-23ML, the last production version, though aerodynamic and other changes continued for a few years after production ended in 1981.   The MiG-23 is still operated by a long list of countries, so it's of obvious interest to American military planners.

MiG-23 'Flogger'

Here's the somewhat cramped cockpit of the MiG-23.   Seeing all of those gauges and controls makes you respect the capabilities of those fighter jocks.   The Russian designers have a well-deserved reputation for being less technologically sophisticated than their western counterparts, but you can see that the Flogger has a heads-up display, and it also has fairly fancy missile and IFF (identification - friend or foe) systems.

MiG-23 cockpit

And here's the sign describing what all of those knobs and switches do.  I particularly like item 38 "RI-60 Female Voice System Test", though I'm not sure if the female voice is that of the pilot's mother or an attractive SIRENA (items 1, 52 and 53 - actually the name of the radar system).  You can also see that item 54 is the self-destruct button for that IFF system, to prevent it falling into enemy hands (a bit late now, of course).

MiG-23 cockpit description

This MiG-29S "Fulcrum-C" was one of 21 bought from the cash-strapped republic of Moldova for $1 million each.   The United States was eager to buy these because Iran, which already has the MiG-29 "Fulcrum-A", was also interested in buying this batch of aircraft, which consisted of six A models, one B and fourteen Cs.   It was considered especially urgent to buy these aircraft, since they're capable of delivering nuclear weapons.

The MiG-29 first flew in 1977 and was intended as a lightweight advanced tactical fighter to counter the American F-15 Eagle.   It was a replacement for the MiG-23 and, although they share a similar top speed, the MiG-29 is considerably more capable.   The MiG-29 can perform the unusual "Cobra" maneuver, and has excellent missile systems, but it cannot be refuelled in flight and has shorter range and loiter ability than western fighters.   Nevertheless many people feel that the MiG is superior to the F-15 at close range because of the MiG's excellent maneuverability and a helmet mounted weapons sight that responds to the direction in which the pilot is looking.   Since it is a relatively small and lightweight aircraft, and also has the safety margin that comes with having two engines, the MiG-29K was also developed as a carrier-borne fighter.   One unusual feature is that the main engine intakes have covers which close when taxying, to prevent stones and other debris from being sucked into the engines; when this is done, air for the engines is taken in through vents on the top of the wing.  These covers can even be activated in flight, up to speeds of 800 km/h.

The MiG-29 was exported to many countries, and when the Soviet Union collapsed many of the former republics, such as Moldova, ended up with them.   With the reunification of West Germany and East Germany, a number ended up in the combined German Air Force, so the MiG-29 has the distinction of being the only Russian designed aircraft to serve with members of NATO!

MiG-29 'Fulcrum'

Here's the cockpit of the MiG-29, which immediately appears more spacious and modern than the MiG-23 cockpit; it also has much better all-round visibility than previous MiGs.   I don't have an identification chart for this cockpit, so you'll have to rely on my limited knowledge of military avionics for a description.   OK, let's begin.  That thing between my legs must be the joystick, and as you can clearly see there's a TV screen on the right hand side for in-flight movies on long trips, and venetian blinds at the front of the canopy if the pilot gets tired and wants to sleep for a while!   I'd better stop there, in case I get any of the details wrong.

MiG-29 'Fulcrum' cockpit

As well as Russian jets, the Threat Training Facility also has a number of Russian helicopters.   They're hoping to acquire an Mi-8 "Hip", but until that time visitors will have to make do with this Mi-14 "Haze", which is a naval variant of the "Hip", with a large radar dome under the nose for anti-submarine warfare, together with a boat-like fuselage and pontoons to allow operation from water.

Mi 14 Haze maritime helicopter

This Mi-24 "Hind-D" gunship was captured during the first Gulf War, and is still shown with Iraqi markings.   The somewhat strange looking bubble canopies of this helicopter became familiar to the western public because of its use by Soviet forces in Afghanistan.   Unlike American helicopter gunships like the venerable AH-1 Cobra and Super Cobra, or the more modern AH-64 Apache, the Hind is also capable of carrying up to 8 combat troops, in the compartment visible on the right-hand side of this photo.   The stub wings are used to carry cannons, rocket pods and anti-tank rockets, and also provide between 20 and 30 percent of the lift when in forward flight.

Mi 24 'Hind-D'

Here's the pilot's cockpit, which is behind the gunner's cockpit; both are armored and can withstand hits by 20mm cannon shells.   Several Hinds are operated by the US military, though they're not often seen.   I presume that this example was also flown after its arrival in the country, since many of the gauges are marked in English.

Mi 24 'Hind-D' helicopter cockpit