Unlike the Americans who basically designed the A-10 aircraft around a big gun, their Soviet counterparts were actually doing the opposite.
What they did is that they already took an existing fighter aircraft, and created an enormously powerful gun for it.
When compared to the MiG-23, the MiG 27’s design was slightly simplified by getting rid of unnecessary “fighter elements” such as the variable intake ramps and exhaust nozzles which in turn, offered some weight savings that engineers used for adding cockpit armor, installing a new engine, and strengthening the airframe.
However, the most recognizable change was its nose. The aircraft’s nose was simply cut off an at 18-degree downward angle from the canopy edge. This gave pilots excellent forward visibility and a very recognizable aircraft appearance. This also earned the MiG-27 its famous nickname, “The Flying Balcony.”
The aircraft also became the first fighter bomber in the USSR that was armed with a precision-guided munition. In fact, in terms of electronic equipment, the MiG-27 was for quite some time, arguably, the most advanced aircraft in the Soviet Air Force.
Generally, the Air Force Command was quite happy with the aircraft’s performance, with only one exception- the gun. The Soviets wanted the aircraft with a gun that could penetrate the armor of the soon-to-come American M1 “Abrams” tank.
However, it soon became obvious to the Soviet engineers that this journey of building a new gun is not going to be an easy one.
Gryazev & Shipunov
In 1975, a new Soviet gun was accepted into service under the designation Gsh-6-30A. This new gun has impressive characteristics and showed absolute superiority over most Western models existing at that time.
However, apart from issues squeezing the gun into the aircraft, the main problem was the gun’s powerful recoil. The initial burst from the gun during the first in-flight firing test instantly knocked out all the instruments in the MiG-27’s cockpit.
Firing the Gsh-6-30 did not leave anyone indifferent. The sound of its burst wasn’t unlike that of an ordinary gun- just one short and deafening rolling blow, which in just a few seconds launched a hundred-kilogram burst toward the target.
Those that were there during the ground tests recalled having an instinctive urge to duck and cover their ears every time the gun was fired, so impressive was the effect.
Military pilots were no exception either- the rolling thunder that in a second threw out a hundred shells, and the recoil’s thrilling vibration that pulsed through the flying machine offered an incomparable feeling of enormous power in your hands.
Despite numerous improvements in the gun and the MiG-27’s airframe, the engineers didn’t succeed in countering the destructive recoil of its powerful gun. The recoil of the gun constantly damaged the aircraft’s frame and “knocked out” its equipment.
The pilots say that if a quick burst of 30 to 40 rounds usually would be tolerated by the aircraft without any consequences, the slightly extended 2 to 3-second burst would often be accompanied by a “cracking and crunching” sound.
Many pilots believed that installing the gun was a mistake. As a result, firing the Gsh-6-30 officially remained one of the “risk factors” when flying the MiG-27 through all the years of its military service in the Soviet Air Force.