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MiG-21bis

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BetaIcon.png This is a beta module.

This module is still being developed and may still be missing some features and equipment options. It is playable and most of the content is there, but some final touches and fixes for minor bugs are still in the works. It is probably safe to buy unless you crave absolute fidelity and/or very few bugs.

MiG-21 icon.png

In DCS World, the MiG-21bis is the logical continuation of the MiG-15bis (and also, in the real world, except the actual lineage between the two have many more intermediate steps). The MiG-15 was designed to intercept high-flying B-29 strategic bombers, and as those bomber designs evolved into the B-52, the interceptors needed to evolve as well. The MiG-21 is designed to quickly scramble, climb to high altitude, and either catch up with or rapidly close with incoming aircraft. Operational range was not a huge concern, nor were sensors since GCI radar stations would guide the interceptor to the target. The on-board radar in the bis variant depicted in DCS is more for the employment of radar missiles than for detecting anything.

Even with those design constraints in mind, the MiG-21bis is also reasonably capable of performing limited air-to-ground attacks, and while not the most agile thing in the world, its engine allows it to engage in dogfighting without necessarily being on the defensive.

Features

The MiG-21bis is as old as they come in DCS without being hopped-up prop planes (or just regular prop planes), and as such comes with all kinds of old-timey toys:

  • СПРД-99 (JATO) rockets and a drag chute for (some semblance of) STOL operations.
  • A reasonably competent autopilot system that even includes ILS (or rather PRMG) following approach automation.
  • The even-simpler-than-normal СПО-10 RWR.
  • A very temperamental (but strong) engine that will stall out, flame out, or just starve if you try anything fancy.
  • The even more temperamental РП-22СМ «Сапфир-21» radar that lacks look-down capability and gets easily confused by chaff, clouds, or the ground.
  • A whole slew of IR air-to-air missiles, but also the R-3R and RS-2US SARH missiles. Sometimes, they even track.
  • Kh-23 and Kh-66 radar beam-riding AGMs.
  • Nukes. When temperaments just get too high.

Comes with the built-in campaign Stillness in Time.

Missing features

In spite of being quite old at this point, the MiG-21bis remains marked as “early access” in the DCS shop for the simple reason that it was never actually finished for complex business-splitting reasons. It is sold and maintained as a Magnitude 3 product; early presentations and previews talk of it as being made by Leatherneck; and it often comes up in discussions with the Heatblur developers. So… yeah.

At any rate, this early-access:ness reveals itself in a couple of ways:

  • Alterations are made very slowly, and bad ones tend to stick around for a very long time. In particular it has been plagued with numerous art issues, such as 3D mesh errors and overly enthusiastic shaders.
  • The manual is laughably lacking in actual in-depth description of how to operate much of the MiG-21bis' equipment.
  • Some custom features (kneeboard, RSBN navigation suite) are not updated to be fully compatible with more recent features and modules or to make use of new generic solutions that have built into DCS since the MiG-21bis' initial release.

Of these, strangely enough, the ones that seem to be the biggest bother are the art problems, especially the (currently) famous over-smeary and over-reflective canopy shader that can make it more difficult than usual to see far away targets from inside the cockpit. There are numerous mods to fix this, and plenty of community resources to fill in the other gaps. It is still a fully working aircraft with a proper flight model, unlike such disasters as the C-101 or Hawk modules.

Flying the MiG-21bis

The MiG-21bis is a high-thrust delta wing, which makes it interesting, let us say, to fly. It climbs like a rocket, goes very fast, but those tiny wings make it wobbly at low speeds and does not like to change directions in a hurry. Or, rather, while it is more than able to pull the nose in any direction you might desire, doing so only results in truly horrendous AoA:s that lead to rapid energy losses, and possibly even engine flame-outs, but very little in the way of actual turning speed.

At the same time, if you keep the balance right, it can sustain a high-speed turn almost indefinitely, and can maintain surprisingly high turn rates — it just will not translate into staying on a the enemy's tail. It will do very well in boom-and-zoom engagements, even compared to much more modern aircraft, but will be woefully out of its depth if lured into a turn fight.

The high-speed characteristics also make it terrifying to land. You will not employ any kind of glidepath approach where you lazily waft down to the runway. Doing so means you will have to maintain such a high AoA that you can not see the runway until you notice that it is 400m to your left and you have just parked inside the control tower. Instead, you dive in at high speed (190-200kts or somewhere just below 400km/h or thereabouts will do just fine), with a shallow approach and low AoA, and rely on a sturdy landing gear, speed brakes and a drag chute to not completely overshoot the runway.

Cockpit overview

The MiG-21bis cockpit has to be the least user-friendly workspace, if not in the world, then at least in the DCS World. Based on placement alone, vertical velocity and radar coverage seems to be the most important thing to keep track of, never mind that engine performance and speed are more critical to monitor and that to actually manipulate the Sapfir, you have to keep track of controls scattered over four different panels.

Indeed, that last detail is a recurring theme for the MiG-21bis cockpit: only in rare instances will a significant number of controls for a given system be grouped together or be logically placed. The huge slab of circuit-breaker switches on the right wall might seem enough to cover the activation of almost all on-board systems, and might even be a candidate for the kind of logical grouping seen in the Mi-8MTV2, but no such luck. Instead, some systems will have their CB:s scattered over other available surfaces with no rhyme or reason going into what goes where.

The MiG-21bis definitely puts the “study” into study sim as you will require a good study of the map or you will get lost in this particular maze of switches.

MiG-21bis dashboard. MiG-21bis cockpit.

Getting into the air

In spite of the confusing cockpit layout, the MiG-21bis is very quick and easy to get into the air — designed as an alert interceptor, it would hardly have become as successful if it did not at least get that one detail right. Much like the MiG-15bis, it requires some care in the early execution so as to not overload the electrical system and break things, but once everything is connected and the engine is going, most of that switch craziness falls into the class of “turn it on and forget about it”, although a checklist is generally still a good idea to ensure that you have actually remembered everything you need.

Radar?!

As usual, Chuck's guide linked below is a useful resource for the full procedure (as opposed to the lacklustre and cumbersome manual), but the general gist of it is:

  • Inverters and battery heaters on.
  • Batteries and generators on.
  • Get the radio going to call for startup clearance and for ground power.
  • Fire-suppression and APU on.
  • Move the throttle out of detent, press and hold the start button to get the needles moving, and push the throttle to idle once RPM reaches 35%.
  • While the engine spools up, turn on any take-off equipment and instrumentation: gyros, countermeasure pod, JATOs (if carried), radio compass, radio altimeter, RSBN, ADI and HSI, autopilot, and hydraulics — basically the top two rows of the system electrics panel.
  • Flaps to middle position, align HSI needle.
  • Close and lock the cockpit.
  • System heating (pitot and missiles in particular).

With some practice, the whole process should be doable in less than a minute. With all this done, it is just a matter of disconnecting from ground power and making your way to the runway using the standard old-fashioned brake-lever-and-rudder arrangement of differential braking. On the runway, remember to line up, straighten out, and lock the nose wheel or it will become very exciting very quickly.

Shooting something

Setting up an IR shot.

In contrast to getting the MiG-21bis started, making it shoot something is to dive straight down the instrumentation maze, in part because it involves manipulating the fairly complex ASP sight, and in part because you might be tempted to try to use the Sapfir radar. Making use of the radar for the employment of SARH missiles goes beyond what fits here — again, consult Chuck's guide (and, again, not the manual).

To get an IR missile off the rails is a bit easier, and requires the following steps:

  • On the system electrics panel, turn on weapon systems, pylons, and ASP sight (or do that already on the ground during start-up).
  • Turn on the radar if you absolutely want to (takes 5 minutes to heat up so this is also something that should be started on the ground) and put it inot standby mode to save on coolant.
  • On the weapon selection panel, set air-to-air mode and select IR missile mode.
  • Select the correct pylon on the dial.
  • Turn on the ASP sight pipper and grid.
  • Set the sight functionality to Launch, Shooting mode, Automatic, and Missile mode.
  • Find your target (possibly using the radar) and manoeuvre into position to make the sight track it — radar helps with detection and ranging, but what matters is that you hear good tone and that the ASP is tracking the target correctly.
  • Launch.

All in all, this is usually your best option. Not only do the more advanced IR missiles offer more range, but they operate independently from the troublesome radar, and are therefore not only more reliable — flare spam aside — but also allow for a much more stealthy GCI-based approach and attack strategy.

Links and files

More information

DCS World
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