Declassified documents of MiG fighter jets testing activity at Area 51 available for download

Declassified photograph of Mig-21 used during Have Doughnut

In the late 1960s, CIA, U.S. Air Force, Navy and several other agencies were involved in highly classified programs whose purpose was to evaluate MiG fighter jets and study the best ways to face them in air-to-air combat.

Among these programs, “Have Doughnut” was aimed at exploiting a MiG-21 Fishbed-E that the U.S. acquired in 1967 from Israel that had obtained it in Aug. 1966, when an Iraqi Air Force pilot flew it in Israel during a training sortie that was actually a pre-arranged defection.

Have Doughnut saw the MiG-21, using cover designation YF-110, fly over Groom Lake against F-4, F-105, F-111, F-100, F-104, B-66, RF-101, RF-4 and F-5 during offensive and defensive missions that gave the evaluation team the opportunity to assess the effectiveness of the U.S. air combat tactics.

The outcome of the testing activity was that the Fishbed “has an excellent operational capability in all flight regimes. However, performance is limited below 15,000 feet due to severe airframe buffeting, which occurs above 595 KIAS”

Other limitations of the Fishbed were poor forward and rearward visibility, poor gun capacity, high longitudinal control forces, excessive airspeed bleedoff at high G loads, extremely poor engine response at throttle inputs.

The MiG-21’s capabilities were compared to those of the U.S. fighter jets that could meet the Fishbed over North Vietnam. For instance, the F-104 “should employ high-speed, hit-and-run tactics during offensive action and avoid prolonged maneuvering engagements. If the offensive situation deteriorates, the F-104 should separate by accelerate to above Mach .98 below 15,000 feet.”

Dealing with the F-4, although better equipped, with superior zoom and acceleration performance, the MiG-21 had more instantaneous G available than the Phantom at any given airspeed up to the limit load factor of the aircraft.

The F-111, F-105 and F-100 were instead suggested to avoid maneuvering against the MiG-21 that was far more maneuverable that those U.S. planes.

Italian Defense Blog Sobchak Security found, among the documents made available by George Washington University National Security Archive, the Have Doughnut report.

It’s a large pdf file (22 MB) but contains all the details about the flying activity conducted in 1968, therefore it’s worth a read. Others can be found at the GWU website.


Top Image: Declassified photograph of Mig-21 used during Have Doughnut

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. It was interesting to find out that the MiG-21 can out maneuver the F-35. What a piece of garbage that program is. The J-7 (Chinese variant with updated avionics and advanced air-to-air weapon systems) can apparently defeat it as well. Sad day for the US military.

    • well so can a extra ea-300 but who uses that for air to air combat. Its not a sad day for the US military, the priority is see first shoot first, manueverability is not essential nor a priority anymore.
      The US is a full generation ahead of its rivals, by the time any of the Chinese or Russian competitors are actually delivered, the next gen will be well underway.

      • They claimed the same thing back in the late 50s and early 60s, then we got our ass shot off in Vietnam by MIG 17s and 19s. The Russians are already equal and are soon to be superior.

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