Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-3

When Germany attacked Russia in June of 1941, the Soviets had just begun a massive modernization program.


One of the “new” designs entering service was a high altitude interceptor.  After the jump, a look at the MiG-3.

A couple weeks ago we looked at the I-16, an obsolete type still in broad service with the VVS (Soviet Air Force) at the start of World War Two.  This is the opposite end of the spectrum.  The MiG-3 was a modern, high performance interceptor designed for high speed at altitude.  And as far as that goes, it was a reasonably capable aircraft.  It could reach almost 400 mph above 20000 feet.  MiG-3s brought down some of the very altitude Ju86P reconnaissance aircraft used by the Germans, not an easy task.


The MiG-3 was armed with a single 12.7 mm machine gun and two 7.62 mm machine guns; all in the cowling.  That's one heavy, and two light MGs, all with disruptor gear to fire through the propeller.  VERY light firepower for 1941.

The MiG-3 was armed with a single 12.7 mm machine gun and two 7.62 mm machine guns; all in the cowling. That’s one heavy, and two light MGs, all with disruptor gear to fire through the propeller. VERY light firepower for 1941. Six 82 mm rockets under the wings help a little, but only for air to ground work.

Unfortunately, the MiG-3 had clumsy handling, a slow rate of climb, and inferior performance at lower altitude.  And low altitude is where most of the war in the east was fought.  Even worse, when the Germans attacked in June of 1941, MiG-3 units were distributed fairly randomly along the front.  And few units had training on how to best use the type’s unique capabilities.  So while those few, who understood what their weapon was best at, had some success; most MiG-3 pilots were merely victims of the mass slaughter inflicted on the VVS by the Luftwaffe.



By the end of 1941, MiG-3 units had been pulled back to defend key cities while other, more suited types, fought the low tactical war at the front.  Production was ended in 1942, but MiG-3 units remained in defense of Moscow and other cities almost to the end of the war.  It was a specialized weapon, really only good at one thing, and the Soviets did not need very many of them.


This is the ICM kit with Aeromaster decals..  As is typical of ICM, the kit is over engineered with many fiddly parts in locations that will never be visible.  But the fit is acceptable, and the end result looks pretty good.


Three VVS fighters of 1941. The I-16 on the left was the most numerous type, but was obsolete and badly in need of replacing. The MiG-3 in the middle was modern and capable, but only in a very limited capacity. The Soviets had far too many of them at the front, with no specialized training. The Yak-1 on the right was the future of the VVS. A very capable aircraft, that would grow into the most important Soviet family of fighters in WWII. But it was in very short supply at first.


Up Next: Douglass TBD-1 Devastator     

About atcDave

I'm 5o-something years old and live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I'm happily married to Jodie. I was an air traffic controller for 33 years and recently retired; grew up in the Chicago area, and am still a fanatic for pizza and the Chicago Bears. My main interest is military history, and my related hobbies include scale model building and strategy games.
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6 Responses to Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-3

  1. Theresa says:

    MiG 3 was an advance aircraft for high altitude. Low altitude handling suffered.

  2. Ernie Davis says:

    I don’t know if this is actually true, but my impression from years of documentaries and reading is that the Soviets just loved rockets, or at least used them far more than the other combatants.

    • atcDave says:

      Yeah I think that’s true, they mounted rockets on about everything. I imagine it has something to do with their very light firepower. The rockets provide a significant air to ground capability.
      A Thunderbolt had eight heavy machine guns. A Typhoon, four 20 mm cannon. A MiG-3 had one heavy Machine gun and two light MGs! It no wonder they needed more for any sort of close support work!
      Of course the US and RAF also used rockets later. But there seemed to be less early urgency for it.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Yeah, later in ’44 when allied fighters were doing a lot of close air support and ground attack rockets were more prominent, but the incongruity of a high altitude interceptor fitted with rockets just struck me as a bit odd.

      Now I do know that the Luftwaffe did use rockets to break up allied bomber formations at times, but strategic bombing wasn’t really a feature of the eastern front.

      • atcDave says:

        I wouldn’t be shocked of the Soviets tried them in an air to air capacity. Physically there’s no reason why you couldn’t salvo all six rockets into a Bomber formation, and obviously it would do some significant damage if it hit anything. The Germans did do it with a couple different types of rockets, but they all had timed fuses. So more like air launched flak.
        As far as I know the Soviets only had impact fuses on these rockets, which would really limit effectiveness for that sort of use. And one of the criticisms I’ve seen about the usage of this type is that it was used in close support work, in spite of being very poorly suited for it.

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