In September 1963 twelve MiG-21F-13s from batches 10 and 11 were delivered to 19 IAP of the BVVS. They received three-digit bort numbers of which the first digit was often changed to confuse Western observers. The last examples of this classic fighter were phased out with 26 RAP in 1988. The surviving examples had been modified to MiG-21F-13R fitted out with some recce-equipment. During their 25-year career only three examples were lost in accidents of which one was fatal. Between the mid-eighties and early nineties one F-13 went missing, it was probably scrapped at Uzundzhovo in an arms-reduction gesture made by the Bulgarian government (before the CFE-treaty came into effect). Another one was scrapped at Graf Ignatievo in 1994/1995. Seven F-13s survive and can be found at various locations in Bulgaria. Picture: MiG-21F-13 741018/518 preserved at Raduil wearing the new roundel.


In January of 1965 the 2/18 IAE which was permanently deployed to aviobasa Gabrovnitsa became the second Bulgarian unit to operate the Fishbed. Twelve examples from batch 8 and 9 entered service wearing a two digit bortnumber. To confuse the West some aircraft had a third digit (0,1 or 2) added in front of their original code. The PF ended its career with 26 RAP at Dobritch in 1991. Four aircraft were lost in crashes or ground- incidents with a further five facing the axe at Graf Ignatievo in the mid-nineties. Three MiG-21PFs remain today.

Picture: MiG-21PF 760815/125 in storage at Graf Ignatievo.


Another dozen Fishbeds found their way to Bulgaria in 1965 when the 15 IAP at Ravnets received the MiG-21PFM. These were followed by 36 examples in 1977/78 and two in 1984, all ex-Soviet AF aircraft delivered free of charge. The trainingbase at Kamenec was the last unit to operate the PFMs until their retirement in 1992. With only a single exception the PFMs received a two-digit bortnumber not connected to the manufacturer-serial. Seven MiG-21PFMs were lost in accidents, the last one crashing in October 1989. Four aircraft were exported in 1992 and 23 (!) were scrapped at Graf Ignatievo in line with the ultimate destoyer of aviation-heritage, the CFE-treaty. At least fourteen PFMs survived at various locations throughout Bulgaria. Picture: MiG-21PFM 94MO08/39 at the museum in Burgas.


Only half a dozen MiG-21R recce-Fishbeds entered BVVS service. They were delivered in 1969 to the 26 RAP at Dobritch and were phased out at the same base during 1995. Two MiG-21Rs were lost in accidents and another was written off after a hard landing at Dobritch. A retired MiG-21R was scrapped at Graf Ignatievo post-1995 while work on scrapping another two Rs luckily stopped after removal of the engine and aft fuselage. Today three recce MiG-21s, including the two without aft-section, remain in Bulgaria. They carry a three-digit bortnumber on the nose.

Picture: MiG-21R 94R01716/326 in a sorry state at Graf Ignatievo.


The 19 IAP at Graf Ignatievo took delivery of (again) twelve MiG-21M type 96 aircraft from batch 6 and 7 in August 1969. These were followed by three batch 23 aircraft in early 1970 (build 1969). All aircraft received a three-digit bortnumber. Five were lost in crashes (of which two were fatal) before the type was phased out at Uzundzhovo with 21 IAP in 1990. Another five were scrapped at Graf Ignatievo with a further five surviving to this day at Graf Ignatievo, Krumovo or Uzundzhovo.

Picture: guarding the gate at the deserted base of Uzundzhovo is MiG-21M 960611/411.


In 1974 and 1975 a total of twenty MiG-21MF (and MiG-21MF-75) entered BVVS service. They were delivered to the units at Graf Ignatievo and Dobroslavtsi. Some aircraft ended up with the 26 RAP at Dobritch where they were modified to carry the recce- and ELINT-pods of the MiG-21R. The aircraft have two- or three-digit bortnumbers. Six MFs were lost in accidents (none of which was fatal) and one was scrapped at Graf Ignatievo. Today a number of MiG-21MFs remain in storage at Dobritch and Graf Ignatievo.

Picture: MiG-21MF-75 96O07177/177 on short finals for Dobritch.


The 'ultimate' Fishbed variant, the MiG-21bis-SAU, was delivered to Bulgaria in December 1983. The 19 IAP at Graf Ignatievo received two squadrons (36 aircraft) to replace older Fishbed types. Another 36 MiG-21bis (with Lasur-system) were transferred free of charge from the Soviet airforce in 1990. The original aircraft carry three-digit bortnumbers. The examples received in 1990 were split evenly between Balchik (two-digit bortnumbers between 80 and 97) and Uzundzhovo (three-digit bortnumbers starting with 5). In its almost twenty-year career with the BVVS only two aircraft (one 'original' and one ex-Soviet) were lost with the loss of one pilot. Picture: Wearing an attractive colourscheme, 75094240/240 is one of the 'originals'.


Strangely only one MiG-21U-400 found its way to Bulgaria. The aircraft was delivered in 1966 and was used with the MiG-21 regiments on a rotational basis. The 'Sparka' survived and retired in the early nineties. It now serves as a ground instructional airframe at Dolna Mitropolia.

Picture: MiG-21U-400 662216/01 at Dolna Mitropolia. Copyright Vladimir Petrov


Following the delivery of the MiG-21PFM and MiG-21M the need for additional twoseater aircraft arose. In 1969 the BVVS took delivery of one MiG-21US from batch 34. This machine was followed by four US twoseaters (batch 43) in 1970. They were put to good use and the last one was phased out in 1992. Today only one remains at the museum in Krumovo. The fate of the other four: one crashed with fatal result in 1985, another was written off after a hard landing in 1982 and one was exported in 1992. The final example was scrapped at Graf Ignatievo in the mid-nineties. Bortnumbers allocated were 02 through 06. Picture: the sole remaining MiG-21US in Bulgaria is 07685143/05 at Krumovo.


The final twoseatervariant of the Fishbed, the MiG-21UM, entered BVVS service in May of 1974 when four examples touched down at Graf Ignatievo. Seven years later the 27th and final newly acquired UM was delivered. The 36 ex-Soviet AF MiG-21bis received in 1990 were accompanied by six MiG-21UM aircraft from various productionbatches bringing the UM-total in Bulgaria to 33. Today little over a handful remain in use with the 3 IAB at Graf Ignatievo. Eight were lost in various accidents, of which five were fatal. Many UMs have weaponpylons and gunsight removed to comply with the CFE-treaty. The remaining UMs can be found at Graf Ignatievo with a small number in storage at Dobritch where the type was overhauled. They carry numbers in the range of 07 to 39. Picture: One of the ex-Soviet Airforce MiG-21UMs, 516999133/36 soldiers on in BVVS service.

More about MiG-21 twoseaters

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©Robin Polderman 2002 / updated 18 March 2002