Mysterious YF-113G Was Actually A MiG-23
by David A. Fulghum
Aviation Week & Space Technology
04/13/00 06:19:10 PM U.S. EDT
The U.S. Air Force's classified YF-113G aircraft was a MiG-23, not an early effort to explore radar-evading technologies, as reported last week. The existence of the aircraft was verified by one service official, but a second had mistakenly identified it as a U.S. stealth testbed that was abandoned by the early 1980s.
The YF-113G designation was assigned to MiG-23s — a fighter built in the Soviet bloc that NATO code-named "Flogger" — flown clandestinely by two special projects units. The aircraft flew in the late 1970s along with "a whole range of aircraft that have operated [on the Nellis test ranges] for years," a senior Air Force official said.
An air traffic controller at Nellis AFB, Nev., who retired in 1981, told Aviation Week & Space Technology that pilots from a squadron called the Red Hats operated Soviet-bloc aircraft with the designations, among others, of YF-110, YF-112 and YF-113 with various suffixes.
During the 1970s and 1980s, numerical designations for captured or clandestinely obtained foreign aircraft and U.S. "black" projects were assigned numerical designations on a chronological basis by the Flight Records Group at Norton AFB, Calif., hence the F-117 stealth fighter and other classified, U.S.-built projects appears in the same sequence as re-designated Soviet aircraft.
In fact, the Air Force sources say, there were two classified units flying Soviet equipment on the Nellis ranges. Tactical Air Command had the Red Eagles, who operated the aircraft for dissimilar combat and tactics development. The Red Hats flew the aircraft while conducting engineering analysis and technical exploitation of the aircraft for Air Force Systems Command. The units recruited some of the services most talented pilots and engineers, such as Lt. Gen. David McCloud, the late commander of Alaska Air Command, who flew with the Red Eagles. The units were disbanded after the end of the Cold War.
The Soviet-built aircraft were primarily operated from the restricted Tonopah air base in the northwest corner of the Nevada range complex. Lt. Gen. Robert Bond, vice commander of Air Force Systems Command, died after ejecting near Tonopah from an "Air Force specially modified test aircraft" on April 26, 1984. It was thought to be a MiG-23.