Russia's MiG-21 vs. America's F-4 Phantom: Who Won This Death Match?

Warfare History Network

Key point: Proxy wars provided battlefields for each superpower to test their best weapons against each other.

During the protracted air war in the skies over Vietnam, two fighter interceptor and air superiority planes emerged as the most prominent aircraft of their type. These were the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom and the Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-21. When these supersonic fighters met in combat, the skills of the individual pilots and sometimes sheer luck were often the deciding factors, and more than 40 years after the end of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War debate continues as to the accuracy of kill ratios and claims made by both the sides.

Interestingly, though they were common adversaries, the appearances of the Phantom and the MiG-21 could scarcely have been more different. The big, burly Phantom weighed nearly 19 tons, while the MiG-21 weighed slightly less than 10 tons. The Phantom was 63 feet long with a wingspan of more than 38 feet. The MiG-21 with a much smaller profile and more nimble appearance stretched just under 48 feet in length, and its wingspan was just under 24 feet. Both aircraft were capable of speeds of at least Mach 2.

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Relative Strengths & Weaknesses

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