The MiG-23 served in both the Soviet Air Force and PVO [Air Defense] Aviation Troops inventory. The MiG-23 series served as fighter-interceptors, with a secondary capability of ground attack. Meant as a point defense fighter, the Flogger offered a powerful radar, an infrared search and track system, a selection of radar and infrared guided weapons and tremendous speed (Mach 2.35) to counter its adversaries. In addition to a much more powerful engine, the MiG-23's most significant new feature was its variable sweep wing. Like the USAF's swing wing F-111, the sweep of the wings could be changed in flight. Fully spread, this gives a shorter takeoff/landing roll while carrying a heavier weapons load. With the wings fully swept back, the MiG-23 has greater speed. The wing has three sweep settings: 16, 45, and 72 degrees. The MiG-23 was designed in 1964-66 as a successor to the MiG-21. The prototype first flew in April 1967 and MiG-23s began entering operational service in 1971.
In 1967 during the airshow at Domodedovo, thousands of spectators caught sight of an aircraft in the air forthe first time which changed its configuration three times in a single fiight. The OKB [Experimental Design Bureau] imeni A.I. Mikoyan gave the MiG-23 fighter aircraft itsticket to life with a swept-wing that varied its sweep in flight (range of the angle change is from 16� to 72�). The MiG-23's aerodynamic design provided the aircraft with high lift qualities, and flight at very low altitudes and in the stratosphere. An almost straight wing with a sweep angle of 16� ensured comparatively low take-off and landing speeds and the capability to operate at airfields with shortened take-off and landing strips (concrete or dirt). A wing with a sweep of 45� makes the fighter aircraft highly maneuverable in a dog fight. The aircraft can perform the entire series of aerobatic maneuvers. At a sweep angle of 72�, the MiG-23 becomes similar to an arrow that has been shot from a bow and successfully intercepts air targets at high altitudes and, when necessary, near the ground at supersonic speeds.
The wings are high-mounted, variable, swept-back, and tapered with blunt tips. There is one turbofan engine inside the body. There are rectangular, box-like air intakes forward of the wing roots and a single exhaust. The fuselage is long and tubular, except where intakes give a box-like appearance. It has a long, pointed nose and a stepped canopy. There is a large, swept-back, and tapered belly fin under the rear section. The tail is swept-back, has a tapered tail fin, has a curved dorsal in the leading edge and an angular tip. Swept-back, tapered flats have angular tips and are high-mounted on the fuselage.
The MiG-23 Frontal Aviation fighter aircraft could conduct a dog fight with any enemy of the time, thanks to improvements that have been made to the airframe design, equipment and weapons systems. The MiG-23's onboard systems and its missile armament provided the fighter aircraft with all angle intercept of air targets at a broad range of altitudes and speeds. The onboard radar is capable of operating in the back-ground of the earth and the all-angle of attack medium range missiles with the semiactive radar homing and heat seeking guidance heads permit the MiG-23 fighter to conduct successful dog fights at medium range. Six short-range missiles, a built-in high-speed 23-mm cannon and the onboard radar's rapid automatic target lock-on, and the capability for the pilot to select the optimal sweep wing angle makes the MiG-23 highly effective in dog fights.
During enemy use of electronic countermeasures, the pilot can utilize the TP-23 onboard IR radar that expands the aircraft's combat capabilities for detection and tracking of air targets and ensures un-detectability of attack. The flight-control and navigation equipment that has been installed on the MiG-23 makes the fighter anall-weather aircraft that actively operates during the dayand at night, and under conditions of limited ground radar support. The pilot can perform aircraft preparation for the next sortie when he is away from the aircraft's home base.