You have probably seen videos of fighter jets operating from long stretches of highway before, but check out these MiG-21 Fishbeds launching and recovering from a grass field!
The video above was shot at Kenyari Airfield in 1992, and by airfield, they really mean field.
The fact is that most Russian fighters and attack aircraft were built to operate in pretty horrific conditions, ones that would chew up and destroy their western counterparts. Features that allowed them to do this usually included twin tire nose gear and a mud and debris catcher located behind the nose wheels. The MiG-29 Fulcrum included full on doors that snap down over its twin intakes when the jet is on the ground during startup and taxi operations, with air being provided to its twin RD-33 engines via a pair of auxiliary vents located on top of the jet’s leading edge root extensions.
These hardy features were also a result of the quality and upkeep of Russian airfields. Seamless concrete aprons, constant sweeping machine operations and tight control over foreign object debris (FOD) that is so common on western air bases simply does not exist at many Russian and ex-Soviet Bloc ones. It is simply a more “rural” concept of operations than what is found in Western countries and the gear reflects that reality.
The fact that Russia’s fighters could operate from large fields was probably a bigger threat to NATO than they were willing to realize, although some countermeasures were put into place in regards to finding Eastern Bloc dispersed aircraft operations should the Cold War have turned hot. Mainly this included investing in tactical reconnaissance aircraft that could scour the countryside for actionable intelligence and using espionage to find out where planned dispersal areas were.
Still, many would argue that none of these tactics really mattered as a growing nuclear exchange would be well underway long before fighters had time to disperse across the countryside.
MiG-29 startup shot via USAFE, MiG-29 departure shot via Dmitry A. Mottl/Wikicommons
Tyler Rogoway is a defense journalist and photographer who maintains the website Foxtrot Alpha for Jalopnik.com You can reach Tyler with story ideas or direct comments regarding this or any other defense topic via the email address Tyler@Jalopnik.com