The Smithsonian's MiG-21
The MiG-21's Known History
In the Vietnam Era section of the Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles, Virginia there is a Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21F-13. For many years this aircraft was in an aircraft hanger at Bolling Air Force Base (AFB) as part of a Soviet Awareness display. Then with the break-up of the Soviet Union, and with the display taking up valuable storage space, the Air Force gave away the artifacts in its display. This is how the Smithsonian acquired this aircraft in 1992. They stored it at the Paul E. Garber Facility at Silver Hill Maryland. At Paul E. Garber’s open house in April 1992 they had it on display along with some of the posters from the Soviet Awareness exhibit. The aircraft was painted in the colors of an Air Defense unit. In May 1995 this aircraft was on display at the Andrew AFB, MD open house. It was undergoing restoration. The name below the canopy was Boris Badenov, the name of the Communist spy in the 60’s animated series “Rocky and Friends”. The aircraft has been on display at the Udvar-Hazy Center since its opening day on December 15, 2003. The National Air and Space Museum’s web site states: “Its service history remains unknown.”
On August 16, 1966 Iraqi Air Force Captain Munir Redfa, flew a MiG-21F-13 to Israel. Rather than the usual opportunistic defection this defection was planned by the Mossad. When Captain Redfa landed in Israel it marked the successful completion of Operation Diamond. This incident was dramatized in the 1988 made for television movie “Steal the Sky”. In 1968 Israel gave Captain Redfa’s MiG-21 to the United States. From January 23 to April 8, 1968 the U.S. Air Force (USAF) Foreign Technology Division evaluated the MiG-21. This was an Area 51 project named The Have Doughnut Project. While undergoing evaluation in the U.S. it had the tail number 80965. In 1982 Israeli Air Force Brigadier General Ya’acov Turner asked the USAF for the return of the MiG-21 so it could be displayed in the Israeli Air Force Museum. According to Mr. David Pride the USAF sent the Israelis a MiG-21 which wasn’t the one the Israelis sent to the U.S. so the U.S. sent another MiG-21 which wasn’t the correct aircraft either. The MiG-21 on display at the Israeli Air Force Museum has the appropriate nose number 007.
Could the MiG-21 at the Udvar-Hazy Center be the MiG-21 Captain Redfa flew to Israel? What is the history of the MiG-21 at the Udvar-Hazy Center? Hopefully some of those who may have encountered this aircraft will come forward before its history is forever lost to history.
The MiG-21 in Combat
The MiG-21 was the premiere Soviet Block fighter in the 1960s. The Israelis made good use of the information they learned from the MiG-21 they acquired. The Israeli Air Force fighters reigned supreme in the 1967 war. In the War of Attrition they shot down 56 MiG-21s.[i] More MiG-21s fell to Israeli fighters in the 1973 war and subsequent air engagements.
The MiG-21s fared better against the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy in Vietnam. During that conflict the MiG-21s had a ratio of 1:2 against American aircraft. The other North Vietnamese fighters had a ratio of 1:4. In the 1971 conflict between Pakistan and India the MiG-21 proved superior to the F-104 Starfighter.
[i] The Israeli Air Force by Moshe Hadar and Mejor Yehuda Ofer, published by the Ministry of Defense Publishing House and the Israeli Air Force,
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2014 Robert Sacchi
Robert Sacchi (author) on September 09, 2017:
Yes, how Israel acquired its first MiG-21 is like something out of a spy novel. I remember the first time I saw the Smithsonian's MiG-21. I was sent to an old hanger and had no idea what was in the hanger.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on September 09, 2017:
That is interesting how first Israel and then the U.S. acquired this MiG-21. I do not know that much about airplanes but even I had heard of those Soviet airplanes.