Two downgraded export versions of the MiG-23M were produced. The MiG-23MS Flogger-E had the MiG-21's 'Jay Bird' radar in a short radome and therefore no beyond visual range missile capability. The MiG-23MF retained the 'High Lark' radar, AA-7 missile capability and Flogger-B reporting designation.
The MiG-23ML Flogger-G was intended to have improved handling especially at high angles of attack, enhanced maneuverability and higher 'g' limits. It featured a lightened airframe, more powerful R-35-300 engine, improved, lightweight Sapfir-23L radar adding a new dogfight mode, more capable defensive avionics and a new infra-red search and track. It formed the basis for the MiG-23MLD Flogger-K that had a number of aerodynamic modifications to increase high angle-of-attack capability and controllability.
By 1999 the MiG-23 had been phased out of front-line service from Russian PVV interceptor and VVS units and now equips reserve and training units only. However, MiG-23 fighters remain in widespread service with export customers. The basic MiG-23M serves with the Turkmenistan PVO while Algeria operates the MiG-23MS. MiG-23MFs serve with Cuba, North Korea, Iraq and Romania. India's surviving MiG-23MFs have been relegated to an air defense training unit. MiG-23MLs serve with Angola and Yemen while a combination of MiG-23MF/ML/MS/MLDs constitute the backbone of the air defense forces of Libya and Syria. Bulgaria operates a mix of MF/ML/MLDs. MiG-23MLDs also equip fighter regiments in Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine.
The MiG-23UB Flogger-C is the two-seat trainer and operational conversion variant and remains active with all MiG-23 operators. Phazotron offers a MiG-23 upgrade based around its N019M Topaz multimode radar compatible with R-77 BVR active radar air-to-air missiles.