The MiG-21 underlined the high standard of Soviet jet aircraft design, shown for the first time when the MiG-15 appeared and maintained until today. For more than 20 years three factories delivered aircraft of this type for both the Soviet Air Force and the export.
A total of 10158 (or 10645) aircraft was built. 5278 (according to other sources 5765) of them were manufactured in Gorki (GAZ 21), 3203 in Moscow (GAZ 30 also known as "Znamiya Truda") and 1677 in Tbilisi (GAZ 31). The tasks were divided clearly between the three factories: in Gorki (today again Nishni Novgorod) the single-seaters for the Soviet forces were built while Moscow made those for the export. Tbilisi delivered the twin-seaters for both the domestic and the export market. But no rule without exception: The MiG-21R and MiG-21bis were built for both the USSR and foreign countries in Gorki, the MiG-21U was also manufactured in Moscow and the MiG-21MF first came off the production line in Moscow and then in Gorki. But one principle was always retained: only when the production of a new version for the Soviet Air Force had started the previous version was released for the export.
Most sources say that series production of the MiG-21 in the Soviet Union ended in 1975 with the manufacturing of the MF-75 in Gorki. As newly built MiG-21s were delivered until the early eighties this seems implausibly. It is also doubtful that more than 2000 MiG-21bis have been built within less than three years by one single factory. More likely seems the information on SOKOL's (successor of GAZ 21) web site that MiG-21 were built in Gorki from 1957 (prototypes) to 1985.
Contradictory details are also given about the production of the MiG-21F. Some sources speak about manufacturing in Gorki, others about the series production in Moscow and Tbilisi. However, all authors agree that apart from 1660 twin-seaters exactly 17 single-seaters were built in Tbilisi. This makes a production of the MiG-21F at this place very likely.
The People's Republic of China just prepared the licence production of the MiG-21 when it came to the break between Moscow and Beijing. Despite the end of the Soviet support finally the series production of the J-7I (export designation F-7) started. After overcoming of the results of the cultural revolution the Chinese industry has managed to create an independent J-7 / F-7 airplane family which is continuously developed further.
The first version produced in China was the J-7I, an almost exact copy of the original MiG-21F-13. The first machine is supposed to have left the factory buildings in December 1964. Until the temporary cessation of production as a result of the cultural revolution in 1969 just a few aircraft were built. Only in 1972 the production could be resumed (with some minor changes, e.g. a second NR-30 cannon on the left side like the MiG-21F) and continued until about 1980. Some machines were exported to Albania and Tanzania as F-7A.
From 1976 on the J-7II was developed. This version differed from its predecessor by a rearward opening canopy and the braking chute container moved to the fin root. The export version F-7B was delivered to Egypt, the Iraq and Sri Lanka.
At Paris Aerosalon 1987 the F-7M was shown for the first time to the public. This modification is the base of the versions still produced till today. Essential features are four hardpoints and new avionics. F-7Ms fly in China as well as in Bangladesh, Iran, Myanmar (Burma), Pakistan and Zimbabwe. The production rate is said to have been 20 aircraft per month in 1987.
Something special in the Chinese MiG-21 family is the J-7III. Like the F-7M developed at the beginning of the eighties it looks externally the same like the MiG-21MF. The J-7III might have been developed using the knowledge earned by Chinese engineers from detailed analysis of a Romanian MiG-21MF in 1976 (in return the Romanians received Chinese H-5 (Il-28)). Till now, J-7III were not exported.
While the external appearance of the F-7M is very similar to its ancestor MiG-21F-13, the current production versions F-7E (for the PLAAF) and F-7MG (for export) differ in having a new double-delta wing. The new wings primarily improve the slow flying characteristics.
As in the case of the MiG-21 for the different J-7 / F-7 generations twin-seater trainers exist, designated JJ-7 and FT-7 (Export) respectively. In 1987 an FT-7 (together with the F-7M) was presented for the first time to the public at the Paris Le Bourget Aerosalon.
How many J-7 / F-7 have been produced by Shenyang, Chengdu and Guizhou (JJ-7 / FT-7) works in total and how many machines of this type the Chinese Air Force received, is not known. Estimations differ between 2400 and 2800 aircraft built. About 500 F-7 of all versions have been exported up to this day.
Unlike the neighboring countries GDR and Poland, at the beginning of the sixties Czechoslovakia still was considered as a reliable ally by the Soviet leadership. So it was only logical that the country with its powerful and experienced aerospace industry got the licence for MiG-21F-13 (as S-106) after it had produced the MiG-15 / 15bis / 17 / 19 (as S-102 to S-105) in the years before. All later MiG-21 versions of the Czechoslovak Air Force then came from the Soviet Union like those of all other Warsaw pact countries also. Whether the industrial capacities were needed for the production of L-29 and L-39 trainers or political reasons were the decisive factor is not known.
The assembly of the first Czechoslovak MiG-21F-13 from components delivered by the Soviet Union started in late 1961. The maiden flight of an aircraft from this batch took place on April 20 the following year. Series production at Aero Prague-Vodochody lasted until 1972 and comprised 194 aircraft. 26 of this were sold to Egypt at the beginning of the seventies, a further eight to Syria in 1973.
The last MiG-21 from Czechoslovak production were withdrawn from use in the early nineties.
Parallel to the procurement of the MiG-21F-13 from the Soviet Union and after a long planning stage India signed a licence agreement with the USSR in August 1962. It comprised the production of the MiG-21, the R11 jet engine and the K-13 air-to-air missile.
There was a reason for the hurry at this time: a Chinese attack on the India's northeast in October the same year made the obtaining of new technology urgent. When it became obvious that the roll-out of the licence built MiG-21 planned for 1965 would be delayed, the Indian government decided to obtain further MiG-21s for the Indian Air Force from the Soviet Union. These were of the MiG-21FL version (product 77), a less sophisticated derivate of the MiG-21PF.
The first Indian built MiG-21FL left the production line at Ozar (Nasik) factory in late 1966. MiG-21 FLs were delivered until 1973. At that time preparations were already made for licence production of another MiG-21 version, the MiG-21M. The last aircraft left the factory in 1981. Once again parallel to the manufacturing of the M the production of the MiG-21bis started in 1977 and lasted until 1984.
Since the middle of the nineties preparations run for an update of 125 MiG-21bis to MiG-21-93 standard. The two pattern aircraft were delivered by SOKOL (Nishni Novgorod / Russia) in December 2000. In August 2001, the first aircraft upgraded in India left the factory buildings in Nasik where it took off for its maiden flight on the 31st of the same month. The first operational upgraded MiG-21bis UPG was shown at a parade in Delhi on October 8, 2001.