History of MiG-3 family

The I-200 prototype was the materialization of the K-project (or X-project) begun in 1939 from the Polikarpov bureau.

The project bore some resemblance in philosophy with the He-100, an aircraft that was well-known to the Soviet designers and probably gave inspiration for the project. Other aircraft that could have influenced the project were the well-known I-16, the fast I-17 of 1935, and the American XP-37.
He-100 I-16
I-17 XP-37

The development  of the project K initially was slow due to the efforts of the bureau to improve the  I-180, designed as the subcessor to the I-16. This machine met many difficulties, leading to the loss of many prototypes. This led Stalin to lose a part of his high expectations of this bureau.
In december 1939 a portion of the technicians of the Polikarpov bureau were assigned to a new OKO whose chief was Artyom Mikoyan and whose main collaborator was Mikhail Gurevich, to continue the promising project K.
Nikolai Polikarpov, then on official visit in Germany, was distraught from his fall from "king of fighters" position.

The project K was envisioned as the smallest aircraft possible, designed around the large, heavy and powerful Mikulin AM-37 engine and optimized for high altitudes and high speed combat. Secondarily, the less powerful AM-35A was chosen as a backup alternative, being that the AM-37 was still unreliable. The aircraft was first referred to as the I-200.

The war appeared close, and so the government offices gave to Mikoyan the date of July 1st 1940 as a deadline for state acceptance trial; it was a result difficult to achieve, because they had started slowly, and because the Lavockin I-301 and Yakovlev I-26 projects had already months of advantage in development.

As many other Soviet fighters, the MiG-3 was made partially of layered and resined wood (alpha wood); this led to a higher weight than aluminium-alloy structures, but reduced the need for strategic materials. The rear fuselage and the outer parts of the wing were similarly constructed.


The mid and aft fuselage were made with a structure of welded steel tubes, covered with aluminium alloy panels. The central part of wing was made of aluminium alloys; the control surfaces were a aluminium alloy strut covered with fabric.

Thanks to a great effort from his bureau, the I-200 prototype was ready to fly on April 5th, 1940, and some days later it reached the speed of 648 km/h at an height of 6,900 m; an exceptional performance not only for the Soviet Union--the only faster semi-operative aircraft was the Heinkel He-100.

Unfortunately, the I-200 had serious problems: poor stability, unreliable canopy opening system, poor braking, poor cockpit visibility and poor cockpit ventilation. This condition was unpleasant because the radiator was just below the pilot's seat, and could cause burns if the pipes should be damaged.

Being a brilliant aircraft, production was begun immediately, with a list of recommended modifications: greater longitudinal and directional stability, self-sealing wing fuel tank, slats, new wheels, rubberized tailwheel, two further removable guns, and an increased fuel capacity for a range of at least 1,000 km.

By the end of 1940, the first 20 I-200 were delivered to the VVS.Tthe pilots had many complaints, particularly about the side opening canopy, being operable from the outside only; this led most pilots to fly without it to escape rapidly if necessary. Besides, the aircraft was difficult to fly and could fall into an unrecoverable spin at high angles of attack.

After this feedback, a new version was developed, with the radiator moved forward and a new fuel tank added behind it; the engine was moved forward some 10 cm for cg reasons, the wing dihedral was augmented from 6° to 7°, the supercharger inlets were moved 10 cm forward, a inert exhaust gas was installed for fuel tanks, a second oil tank was added, the propeller was changed and automatic slats were added on the wing leading edges. These modifies were gradually introduced in production during the following months, beginning with the cockpit change.

In January 1941 the 100 aircraft already built were officially named MiG-1, and the following were named MiG-3 as recognition of the improvements made from early types. To tell the truth, it is not clear if the last MiG-1 had any difference with respect to the first MiG-3; we recognize as MiG-1 the aircraft with some resemblance to the prototype, as with the short water radiator and the early type undercarriage.

During February 1941 MiG-3s began production at Zavod 1 in Moscow-Vnukovo at rate of 70 per week, and were widely distributed to the air defense regiments of the VVS.

The early version of MiG-3 was still short-nosed and without slats. In spring 1941, before the official beginning of the war, the MiG fighters intercepted subcessfully some German Ju-86P reconaissance planes, that had felt safe flying at 12,000 m altitude; the Germans didn't know of the existence of a Soviet fighter able to operate so high.

During 1941, the dispersal and camouflaging of aircrafts was ordered, and the airfields and pilots training were prepared for the oncoming war.

On June 22, 1941 the Germans invaded the Soviet Union, and the Great Patrioctic war began.
At that moment, 1309 MiG fighters had been built, but most of the VVS consisted of outadated Polikarpov fighters.

Besides, this transitional moment was unfavourable for the full operational deployment of both old and new types. The MiG-3 was considerably better than the early MiG-1; many aerodinamic refinements were made after wind-tunnel tests, flight characteristics were better, and the range increased. Some defects were not deleted: limited firepower, high landing speed, poor maneuvrability at height below 6,000 m, irregular response of engine to throttle. Most of them wre the consequence of this project's philosophy: the smallest possible airframe around a heavy engine optimized for high altitude performance.
Unfortunately, most war-time operations on the Russian front were made at medium and low altitudes, where both the MiG's speed and maneuvrability were unsatisfying.

The attempt to improve armament with two underwing pods with UBK 12,7 mm guns led to a five-gun MiG-3, but this caused deterioration of flight characteristics and was not widely applied.

The introduction of wing slats and the moving forward of the engine were introduced in summer 1941, leading to the late (long-nosed) MiG-3.

During August 1941, Stalin decided to move the war industry eastwards, far from the menaced zones. In August the design bureau was moved to Kuybyshev, 885 km east of Moscow. Then, in September and October the machines were rapidly disassembled, moved, and 'production' (reassembly) began in Kuybyshev immediately after the arrival, assembling components already built in Moscow. In spite of improvised installation, extreme cold and problems, a total of 1,811 MiGs were completed within the last half of 1941.

In the middle of the moving of the plant, Soviet government has decided that the production of MiG-3 should cease in october 1941, because of its unsatisfactory war results. But, the aircraft had still the possibility to be improved, and its defects were not sufficient to stop the production in a moment which required any fighter, so it therefore continued till the end of the year.

The end of the MiG-3 production was due to the fact that both engines AM-35A for MiG-3 and AM-38 for Il-2 were built in the same plant at Kyubyshev. The production of the Il-2 was slow because the principal factory producing the AM-38 engine had been in Belorussia, and was captured by Germans. The easiest way to increase the production of AM-38 was to stop the production of the similar AM-35A, and Stalin wrote an angry telegram to the factory directors, that caused the immediate cessation of the AM-35, and few weeks later, of the MiG-3.

Mikoyan tried to save the MiG-3 programme by adapting the aircraft to accomodate the easily available M-82 radial. But the thusly built aircraft, called I-210, suffered from disappointing performance, far worse than the original MiG-3, the similar looking Polikarpov I-185, and the La-5 using the same engine.
This was due to the difficult adaptation of the narrow fuselage to the wide radial that gave a wide cross-section, unfavourable air flow and consequently high drag. Besides that, the poor visibility and the exhaust fumes completed the disappointing performance of the machine, which was built in 5 examples in December 1941.

The Mikoyan team received the status of OKB (experimental design bureau) and were moved to Moscow, now out of German menace, during March 1942. They were accommodated in a spartan facility where they built a further 50 MiG-3s with unused parts; these last fighters were assigned to the Moscow defence. With these aircraft, the production totalled 3,322 MiG-3, plus 100 MiG-1.

During february 1943, the bureau built a strongly improved MiG-3 with an improved M-82F. This plane, called I-211, was built in 10 examples that demonstred excellent characteristics, such as a speed of 670 km/h, a max altitude of 11,300 m, and was armed with two ShVAK guns. These excellent performance parameters were not sufficient to replace the LA-5 which was already in production. The I-211 were operationally used.

The MiG-3U, also known as I-230 or aircraft D, and sometimes referred erroneously as MiG-3D, was a far improvement of the original MiG-3, with a lighter and easier to build structure, metal wing, two syncronized 20 mm ShVAK guns, extended canopy, and a new undercarriage and radiator. Finding an engine was problematic: engines for four aircraft were assembled with spare parts from some AM-35A and AM-38F engines.

Even with this hybrid engine, the four aircrafts flew well and reached a speed of 656 km/h; they were delivered to the 12 Gv.IAP defending Moscow in August 1943.

With the availability of a single AM-39 engine, it was possible to build the powerful I-231 (sometimes erroneously called MiG-3DD) that reached a speed of 707 km/h at an altitude of 7,100 m; despite this exceptional performance, the aircraft was lost due to engine malfunction, and then the project was abandoned because of the cancellation of AM-39 (due to its unreliability).

The I-230 and I-231 were the last of the MiG-3 family, and were thought as a backup program for a more innovative family of large high-altitude fighters, the I-220/221/222/223/224/225. This family of fighters was developed between 1943 and 1945 and never become operational due to the advent of the jet age.

MiG-3 family data
I-200 prototype MiG-1 MiG-3 early MiG-3
underwing guns
MiG-3 late I-210 I-211 I-230 I-231
first flight april 1940 late 1940 jan. 1941 jan. 1941 mid 1941 early 1942 early 1943 late 1942 mid 1943
built 4 100 about 1,300 enclosed about 2,000 5 10 4 1
AM-35A AM-35A  AM-35A AM-35A AM-35A/
M-82 AsH-82F hybrid AM-35A/
power  1,350  hp 1,350 hp 1,350 hp 1,350 hp 1,350/1,600 1,500 hp 1,700 hp 1,350 hp 1,700 hp
Max speed
with closed canopy 
648 km/h
at 7000 m 
630 km/h
at 7000 m 
640 km/h
at 7000 m
at 7000 m
640 km/h
at 7000 m
615 km/h
at 6000 m
670 km/h
at 7000 m
656 km/h
at 7000 m
707 km/h
at 7,100 m
max speed at sea level 486 km/h 495 km/h 477 km/h ? 477 km/h 475 km/h ? 505 km/h ?
ceiling  12,200 m 11,000 m 12,000 m ? 12,000 m 8,700 m 11,300 m 11,900 m 11,400 m
climb to 5,000 m 5'18'' 6'30'' 5'40'' ? 5'40'' 6'42'' 4' 5'12'' 4'30''
lenght 8,16 m 8,16 m 8,16 m 8,16 m 8,25 m 8,07? m 7,95 m 8,62 m 8,62 m
wingspan 10,2 m 10,2 m 10,2 m 10,2 m 10,2 m 10,2 m 10,2 m 10,2 m 10,2 m
wing area 17,6 sq.m  17,6 sq.m 17,6 sq.m 17,6 sq.m 17,6 sq.m 17,6 sq.m 17,44 sq.m 17,44 sq.m 17,44 sq.m
empty weight 2600 kg 2600 kg 2600 kg 2760 kg 2600 kg 2700 kg 2600 kg 2600 kg 2600 kg
gross w. 3100 kg 3100 kg 3350 kg 3500 kg 3350 kg 3400 kg 3100 kg 3260 kg 3280 kg
fuel (kg) 310 kg 310 kg 495 kg 495 kg 495 kg 360 kg 385 kg 324 kg 333 kg
fixed armament 1x12.7 mm UBS

2x 7.62 mm ShKAS
1x12.7 mm UBS

2x 7.62 mm ShKAS
1x12.7 mm UBS

2x 7.62 mm ShKAS
3x12.7 mm UBS

2x 7.62 mm ShKAS
1x12.7 mm UBS

2x 7.62 mm ShKAS
3x12.7 mm UBS 4x12.7 mm UBS 2x 20 mm ShVAK 2x 20 mm ShVAK
fall or launch armament ? 6x 82 mm rockets
or 2x100 kg bombs
or 4x25 kg bombs
6x 82 mm rockets
or 2x100 kg bombs
or 4x25 kg bombs
  6x 82 mm rockets
or 2x100 kg bombs
or 4x25 kg bombs
6x 82 mm rockets
or 2x100 kg bombs
or 4x25 kg bombs
? ? ?
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