I read a book entitled America's Secret MiG Squadron by Gaillard Peck some time ago. Just occurred to me though, how exactly did the US maintain these birds? Did we write any tech data? Did we acquire and translate it from elsewhere?


1 Answer 1


Its a combination of those. US did have manuals for quite a few of the Migs- Cold war alliances were shifting too frequently to prevent any leak of military technology. As warisboring.com notes:

Because Baghdad re-established its cooperation with London and the United States in late 1963, U.S. intelligence services not only received the opportunity to test-fly MiGs in Iraq, but also received all the related technical and training documentation.

Manual mig

The title page of the English translation of the tactical manual for MiG-21F-13 and MiG-21PF, as prepared by the USAF’s Foreign Technology Division. Notable is the date of issue — Nov. 5, 1965 — meaning that the original document must have been obtained much earlier. Tom Cooper Collection photo; Image from warisboring.com

As the Mig program was established in late 70's US would have had the required documentation for quite a few of the aircraft before that. The rest were done during the project using inputs from US intelligence and pilots themselves writing the flight manuals.

The Soviets sold their aircraft to many countries, the manuals for which could've been obtained from any of them. Also, there are multiple instances of pilot defection with manuals, which provided most of the required technical data for flying, though maintenance would have been difficult. As airforcemag notes:

This led to the second maintenance problem—the lack of instruction manuals and tech data. US intelligence supplied some of the information they needed but not nearly enough ...

Parts were their third, and maybe biggest, problem. “For things like hydraulic pumps, we would use American components that looked about right,” said Stringer. “But it was only about five to 10 percent replacement. Most of the time we tried to recondition.”

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ and don't forget Israeli capture of Soviet hardware and manuals in their many wars with their Arab neighbours, quite a bit of it made its way to the US and UK. And later of course stuff obtained from former East Germany, Poland, Hungary, etc. when they joined NATO. $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Dec 30, 2016 at 7:21

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .