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The Mikoyan MiG-29 "Fulcrum"

v2.1.1 / 01 mar 14 / greg goebel / public domain

* The Mikoyan MiG-29 "Fulcrum" was one of the Soviet Union's most important combat aircraft in the last years of the Cold War, and remains an important military asset for the successor Russian Republic. It has been widely exported, and is now being updated with improved systems to keep it in service well into the 21st century. This document provides a history and description of the MiG-29.

Mikoyan MiG-29 Fulcrum-A


[1] MIG-29 ORIGINS
[2] MIG-29 FULCRUM-A IN SERVICE
[3] TWO-SEAT MIG-29UB FULCRUM-B / MIG-29 FULCRUM-C
[4] IMPROVING THE BREED: MIG-29S, MIG-29M, & MIG-29K
[5] UPGRADES: MIG-29SMT / MIG-29UBT
[6] INDIAN MIG-29K & MIG-29KUB
[7] MIG-29 IN FOREIGN SERVICE
[8] COMMENTS, SOURCES, & REVISION HISTORY

[1] MIG-29 ORIGINS

* In the late 1960s, the US Air Force began work on the development of a next-generation fighter under the "Fighter Experimental (FX)" program. In 1969, McDonnell Douglas won the FX competition with what would become the "F-15 Eagle." The Soviet Union followed the FX program with great interest. Obviously, if the West had improved fighters, the VVS (Voyenno Vozdushniye Sily / Red Air Force) USSR had to have comparable fighters to counter them, and that same year, 1969, the Soviet government issued a requirement for an "anti-F-15" heavy fighter, under the designation "Prospective Frontal Fighter (Perspektivnyi Frontovoi Istrebitel / PFI)".

Both the Mikoyan and Sukhoi experimental design bureaus (OKBs in the Russian acronym) began work on PFI concepts, basing their designs on recommendations from the "Central Aerodynamics & Hydrodynamics Institute (Tsental'ny AeroGidrodinamicheski Institut / TsAGI)". The PFI requirement was extremely ambitious, specifying long range; sophisticated weapons and fire-control systems; high performance; superior agility; and operation from short, rough airstrips.

As it turned out, the requirements were so ambitious they could not be reasonably met with a single type of aircraft. Recognizing the problem, MiG OKB Director Artem Mikoyan successfully lobbied to split the PFT specification in two, resulting in 1970 in the "Heavy PFI (Tyazholyi PFI / TPFI)" and "Lightweight PFI (Logiky PFI / LPFI)" specifications. In fact, the US Air Force had come to a similar conclusion, if through a somewhat different line of reasoning, and had followed up the F-15 program with a lightweight fighter effort of their own, which would result in the General Dynamics F-16 Falcon. Mikoyan was forced to step down as director-general of the MiG OKB after a heart attack, and then died on 9 December 1970. His place was taken by Rostislav Belyakov. Under Belyakov's direction, the MiG bureau went forward on both TPFI and LPFI designs.

The MiG OKB developed a number of TPFI design concepts, but the Sukhoi OKB won the competition for the TPFI requirement, resulting in what would become the Sukhoi Su-27. The MiG heavy fighter designs were never built. The MiG lightweight fighter design, with the bureau codenumber "9-11", won the LPFI award, and would become the MiG-29 as it is known today. The MiG-29 was to replace MiG-21, MiG-23, Su-7, and Su-17 fighters in the VVS "Frontal (Tactical) Aviation (FA)" component. The primary mission of the MiG-29 was to be battleground air superiority, though it would have a secondary attack role. The development work went forward under a team under Mikhail Waldenburg. The VVS was confident enough in the MiG-29 design to award a production contract along with the development assignment.

* The initial prototype, number "901", performed its first flight on 6 October 1977, with MiG OKB chief test pilot Alexander Fedotov at the controls. It was followed by three more development prototypes, numbered "902" though "904", with shorter nose gear and other changes. The "903" development prototype was lost when its engine caught fire in flight on 15 June 1978, the pilot, Valeriy Menitskiy, ejecting safely. It was replaced by a new "908" development prototype, but ironically this aircraft was lost as well under similar circumstances on 31 October 1980, the pilot, Alexander Fedotov, also ejecting safely.

Western intelligence was aware of the development effort, a US spy satellite having spotted one of the MiG-29 prototypes at the Zhukovsky flight test center in November 1977. Since the proper name of the secret center was not known to Western intelligence at the time, the site was referred to as "Ramenskoye" after the name of a nearby town, and so the mystery aircraft was assigned the designation "Ram-L".

Nine preproduction prototypes, numbered "917" through "925", followed the development prototypes, the last of this series of aircraft performing its initial flight in December 1982. Of course, each successive aircraft in this sequence was closer to full production specification, with the final "925" prototype serving as the model for operational aircraft. Production MiG-29s went into service with the VVS-FA June 1983. All the prototypes and production single-seaters had the bureau codenumber of "9-12". The design was fundamentally the same as that of the original 9-11 concept, though the 9-12 had a longer nose, taller tailfins, and a simplified canopy.

Once Western intelligence acquired reliable details of the new type, the first-generation MiG-29 was given the NATO codename "Fulcrum-A". The USSR finally publicly "unveiled" the type to the West with a visit to Finland in July 1986.

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[2] MIG-29 FULCRUM-A IN SERVICE

* Following the Finland visit, commentaries on the MiG-29 ran wild in the Western aviation press. Critics claimed it was a warmed-over rehash of Western designs and technologies, but the reality was that the fighters of the era drew on a similar pool of design concepts and resemblances between them were almost inevitable.

The 9-12 MiG-29 Fulcrum-A was mostly built of aluminum alloy, with some use of composite materials. The aircraft had a high-mounted wing, all-moving tailplanes, and twin tailfins with a slight outward cant. Flight controls were hydraulic. The wing was blended to the fuselage, with leading-edge root extensions (LERXs) and full-span leading-edge maneuvering flaps. There were conventional inboard flaps and outboard ailerons on the trailing edge of the wing. A dive brake was fitted to the back of the aircraft, with another fitted to the belly.

Early production Fulcrum-As had small ventral fins on the bottom of the tail, directly under the tailfins, but they were judged unnecessary and deleted. Chaff-flare dispensers were then added, in the form as distinctive "strakes" fitted on top of the wing as forward extensions of the tailfins. Each dispenser could accommodate 30 chaff cartridges or 30 flare cartridges, for a total load of 60. This addition was a direct consequence of Soviet combat experience in Afghanistan, where American "Stinger" heat-seeking man-portable surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) provided to the Afghan mujahedin warriors had proven a dangerous threat to Soviet aircraft.

The Fulcrum-A was powered by twin Klimov RD-33 afterburning bypass turbojets, with 49.4 kN (5,040 kgp / 11,100 lbf) dry thrust and 81.4 kN (8,300 kgp / 18,300 lbf) afterburning thrust each. Two engines were selected to improve aircraft survivability. The engines were in separate housings under the fuselage. To permit operation from rough fields, each main intake had a door that closed whenever the main landing gear was in touch with the ground to prevent "foreign object damage (FOD)" from engine ingestion of stones and the like. When the doors were shut, the engines obtained airflow from spring-loaded louvers on top of the wingroots. The transition between the louvers and the front intakes was said to be smooth and almost unnoticeable. There was a container between the engine exhausts that stored a cruciform drag parachute.


   MIKOYAN 9-12 MIG-29 (FULCRUM-A):
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________
 
   spec                    metric              english
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

   wingspan                11.36 meters        37 feet 3 inches
   wing area               38.0 sq_meters      409.04 sq_feet
   length                  17.32 meters        56 feet 10 inches
   height                  4.73 meters         15 feet 6 inches

   empty weight            10,900 kilograms    24,030 pounds
   loaded weight           18,500 kilograms    40,785 pounds

   max speed at altitude   2,450 KPH           1,520 MPH / 1,320 KT
   service ceiling         17,000 meters       55,775 feet
   range (internal fuel)   1,500 kilometers    930 MI / 810 NMI
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

The Fulcrum-A had a built-in single-barreled GSh-301 30 millimeter cannon with 149 rounds firing out the left LERX, for close-in dogfighting and ground attack. The initial prototype had featured a two-barreled GSh-23-2 23 millimeter cannon, but the heavier weapon was adopted for all later MiG-29s.

The aircraft had three stores pylons under each wing, for a total of six. In the air-superiority role, it carried a mix of two "beyond visual range (BVR)" "R-27R / AKU-470" semi-active radar homing (SARH) air-to-air missiles (AAMs), with the NATO designation of "AA-10 Alamo-A", and four "R-60 (NATO AA-8 Aphid)" AAMs or "R-73 (NATO AA-11 Archer)" heat-seeking short-range "dogfighting" AAMs.

The R-73 / AA-11 Archer was one of the first "off-boresight" AAMs, capable of being locked on a target using a helmet-mounted sight, provided as part of the Fulcrum-A's kit. It is regarded as agile, with good counter-countermeasures, and vastly superior to the R-60 / AA-8 Aphid, which was only carried by Soviet MiG-29s early on. However, export users rarely got the R-73 / AA-11 and had to make do with the R-60 / AA-8. The Fulcrum-A could also occasionally carry a single long-range "R-27B (NATO AA-10 Alamo-B)" heat-seeking missile in place of one of the R-27R Alamo-As. The Alamo-B allowed long-range attacks without requiring telltale radar emissions from the launch aircraft.

The outboard pylon on each wing was reserved for AAMs and could not be used to carry attack stores. The inboard pylon on each wing was "wet" and could be used to carry a 1,150 liter (303 US gallon) external tank. A 1,500 liter (396 US gallon) external tank could be mounted on the centerline for ferry flights. Although the Fulcrum-A lacked the combat avionics systems for the strike role, it could carry dumb bombs and unguided rocket pods, and it is believed that some MiG-29 squadrons were equipped with the RN-40 tactical nuclear weapon.

The Fulcrum-A was fitted with two sensors: a Phazotron "N-019 (NATO Slot Back)" pulse-Doppler multimode radar, and an "infrared search and track (IRST)" sensor combined with a laser rangefinder. They were regarded as effective, but not the equal for contemporary Western systems. Pilot workload was high by Western standards -- though this was not seen as a major problem, since Soviet doctrine relied on "ground controlled intercept (GCI)" tactics, with the aircraft being guided to a target semi-automatically by a ground station, the pilot more or less merely acting as a supervisor.

Cockpit layout for the Fulcrum-A was generally regarded as middling to poor, even by the standards of its era. It had an analog layout, though it did feature a head-up display (HUD) and limited "hands on throttle and stick (HOTAS)" controls. In some compensation, the MiG-29's cockpit layout did have a clear evolutionary relationship with those of the MiG-21 and MiG-23, easing pilot conversion. In another compensation, a Fulcrum-A pilot sat on one of the best ejection seats in the world, the rocket-boosted Zvezda "K-36D" seat with "zero-zero (zero speed, zero altitude)" capability. The West got an impressive demonstration of the K-36D at the Paris Air Show in 1989, when pilot Anatoliy Kvotchur had to leave his MiG-29 in a big hurry after losing an engine due to a birdstrike. The ejection seat got him out neatly in the split second before the aircraft smashed into the ground and became a fireball.

* The Fulcrum-A was very agile, though since it lacked the advanced fly-by-wire (FBW) flight controls of its Western counterparts, that meant it placed a premium on pilot skill. Flight controls had "soft limits", allowing the pilot to exceed recommendations if needed. However, the MiG-29 was not an unfriendly machine either, giving plenty of warning before departing controlled flight. It also did not spin easily, and a spin could almost always be easily corrected by neutralizing the controls. The MiG-29 had good handling at low speeds and remained controllable at very high angles of attack.

The Fulcrum-A was regarded as more agile than its Western counterpart, the F-16A, and was a particularly dangerous adversary in a low-speed turning fight. Its biggest limitation was poor range, sometimes being described as a "fighter for use over the airfield beacon".

* Two subvariants of the MiG-29 Fulcrum-A were built:

Both retained the "Fulcrum-A" codename. While production quantities of MiG-29s are unclear, it appears that a total of about 840 Fulcrum-As was built for the VVS-FA and for export.

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[3] TWO-SEAT MIG-29UB FULCRUM-B / MIG-29 FULCRUM-C

* Although the MiG-29 was basically docile, it was still a high-performance aircraft, and the MiG OKB accordingly developed a tandem two-seat operational conversion trainer, designated "9-51 MiG-29UB".

The second cockpit was not raised significantly, since that would have degraded performance. As a result, the back-seat instructor had a poor forward view, but was provided with a periscope that popped up when the landing gear was extended to provide a better forward view. Some fuel capacity was deleted to make space for the back-seat cockpit. Since the MiG-29UB was not intended to be combat-capable, the chaff-flare dispenser strakes were not fitted, and the N-019 radar was replaced by a onboard simulator module. Removal of the radar gave the MiG-29UB a smaller nose that arguably improved its appearance.

Mikoyan MiG-29UB Fulcrum-B

The "UB" suffix was misleading, since it stood for "Uchebno-Boevoi (Trainer-Combat)" when the variant was really a pure trainer. NATO swallowed this misinformation, designating the type "Fulcrum-B" instead of assigning it the "M"-series codename normally given to trainers, such as "Midget" for the MiG-15UTI or "Mongol" for the MiG-21UB. Russian crews called the MiG-29UB the "Sparka (Twin)", a general name for a two-seat trainer.

* While the 9-12 MiG-29 Fulcrum-A was going into volume production, the MiG bureau had been considering a refinement of the type, the "9-13", with tests of kit on various modified Fulcrum-As leading to the first flight of a new-build prototype in 1986. The new variant retained the "MiG-29" designation, but it seemed visibly different enough from the original Fulcrum-A variant to be given a new codename of "Fulcrum-C" by NATO. The main difference was a swollen spine, which led Soviet MiG-29 pilots to call the Fulcrum-C the "Gorbatyi (Hunchback)".

Mikoyan MiG-29 Fulcrum-C

Western analysts interpreted the Fulcrum-C's swollen spine as accommodation for increased fuel capacity to improve on the Fulcrum-A's limited range. In fact, the fuel capacity increase of the Fulcrum-C was modest, and most of the expanded space was used to house a "Gardeniya" active jammer module. The updated avionics suite also led to modifications of the wingtips and addition of antennas to the tail. About 200 Fulcrum-Cs were built, with initial introduction to service in 1986. They were not exported, due to worries over the security of the countermeasures system.

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[4] IMPROVING THE BREED: MIG-29S, MIG-29M, & MIG-29K

* The MiG OKB continued to make further tweaks that resulted in a set of "MiG-29S" demonstrators, which retained the NATO "Fulcrum-C" designation since external appearance remained largely unchanged. A few were built with a modernized "N-019M" radar and an improved jammer; some were fitted out to carry various "smart" air-to-ground munitions; and some were fitted with inflight refueling probes.

There was also an effort to produce a true "multirole" MiG-29, which emerged as a series of "MiG-29M" demonstrators. The first, the "9-14 MiG-29M", flew in 1985, and was essentially a Fulcrum-C modified to carry a targeting pod for ground attack. The second was the "9-15 MiG-29M", which was much more extensively redesigned. The initial flight of a MiG-29M was 25 April 1986; this aircraft was followed by a machine closer to full spec, which performed its initial flight on 1 November 1989. It featured:

The sensor system enhancements made the MiG-29M a true multirole aircraft. It was fitted with a total of eight stores pylons, four under each wing, as opposed to the total of six of previous MiG-29 variants. The wings were strengthened to carry a total warload of 4,500 kilograms (9,920 pounds). The two inboard pylons on each wing could carry a maximum of 1,000 kilograms (2,200 pounds) each, while the two outboard pylons could carry up to 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds) each. In addition to stores carried by the earlier variants, the MiG-29 could carry "smart" weapons. Typical smart munitions included:

The MiG-29M could also carry the advanced "R-77" (NATO "AA-12 Adder") AAM, sometimes referred to as the "AMRAAMski" since it is comparable to the US AIM-120 AMRAAM missile. The R-77 has a range of about 100 kilometers (60 miles) and a fully active radar seeker for "fire and forget" operation.

MiG-29 external stores

* The development of the MiG-29M coincided with the collapse of the Soviet Union, and though six MiG-29M prototypes were flown, the type did not enter production for the Russian Air Force. The service remained more or less fixated on the Su-27 during the Yeltsin era. The MiG-29M effort sputtered along on various hopes into the mid-1990s, and then finally went into limbo. Attempts to develop an export version, the "MiG-29ME", were not successful.

* The MiG OKB also developed a carrier-based advanced MiG-29 variant, the "9-31 MiG-29K", in parallel with the MiG-29M. The MiG-29K could be considered a "navalized" MiG-29M, differing in the fit of ruggedized landing gear; an arresting hook; new, extended, hydraulically-folding wings, with a double slotted flap system to improve low-speed landing; corrosion protection, including navalized RD-33K engines; and a retractable inflight refueling probe. Production aircraft were to have a fully automatic carrier landing system.

Work on the MiG-29K began in 1984. The initial development prototype was modified from an older MiG demonstrator and designated the "MiG-29KVP". It lacked folding wings and double slotted flaps, and may not have had ruggedized landing gear. The MiG-29KVP was used to demonstrate arrested landings, as well as "ski-jump" takeoffs, as the Soviets were having troubles developing catapult systems for the carriers they were building. Tests were apparently mostly conducted on a land-based replica of a carrier deck in the Crimea, since it could not perform a true carrier landing without reinforced landing gear. The first flight of a true MiG-29K prototype was on 23 June 1988. It was followed by a second prototype.

The fall of the USSR meant the MiG-29K also didn't enter production, at least as it was originally conceived. A two-seat trainer, with a stepped independent rear cockpit for the flight instructor to provide an adequate view on steep carrier landings, was considered but not built.

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[5] UPGRADES: MIG-29SMT / MIG-29UBT

* The failure of the MiG-29M and MiG-29K to enter production meant lean times for the MiG OKB, whose fortunes seemed to be on a steady decline in the new Russia. Outside observers wondered of the great name of MiG might be headed for extinction, as it steadily withered during the 1990s while the Sukhoi organization was awarded new fighter contracts. However, the new "Rossiskaya Samoletostroitelnaya Korporatsiya MiG (RSK MiG)", was energetic in promoting a range of improved MiG-29 variants.

While a ground-up redesign like the MiG-29M was out of the question, major improvements could be made with less drastic changes that could be implemented in either new-build aircraft or as upgrades to existing aircraft. The Russian Air Force wanted to upgrade over 400 existing MiG-29s, providing a strong incentive.

The result was the "9-17 MiG-29SMT", which could be considered a revival and extension of the various MiG-29S upgrade efforts of a few years earlier. The MiG-29SMT featured a glass cockpit based on that of the MiG-29M, but with twin 15 by 20 centimeter (6 by 8 inch) full color flat panel LCDs, instead of the smaller monochrome CRTs using the MiG-29M, as well as two smaller monochrome LCDs. Modern HOTAS controls were implemented as well, and the MiG-29SMT also featured a MIL STD-1553B compatible digital databus to link the cockpit and the avionics systems. An advanced navigation system, using laser gyros and a satellite positioning system receiver, was fitted, as well as built-in diagnostic systems to ease maintenance.

To deal with the range issue, the MiG-29SMT featured a particularly swollen "hunchback" spine, and could also could be fitted with a bolt-on inflight refueling probe. The spine terminated in a beavertail like that of the MiG-29M, which could accommodate one or two parachutes as required by aircraft load.

The MiG-29SMT retained the top-and-bottom airbrake scheme of the Fulcrum-A, though the dorsal airbrake was larger, and also retained the old scheme of chaff-flare dispenser strakes. Old MiG-29s upgraded to the MiG-29SMT specification were to be refurbished to give them 20 years of airframe life.

Unrefueled range of the MiG-29SMT was cited as 2,200 kilometers (1,370 miles) without external tanks, almost half again as great as that of Fulcrum-A. Multirole capabilities were provided by an improved N-019M Slot Back radar, with greater range, wider field of view, and the ability to track ten targets at once. External targeting and reconnaissance pods could also be carried. The MiG-29SMT could use all the advanced weapons that were qualified for the MiG-29M, with a total external stores load of 4,000 kilograms (8,800 pounds) on six stores pylons. Although early MiG-29SMTs retained the old RD-33 engines, full-specification machines were to be fitted with more powerful Klimov RD-43 engines with over 10,000 kilograms (22,000 pounds) afterburning thrust.

Initial flight of the first MiG-29SMT prototype was on 29 November 1997, with Marat Alykov at the controls. This machine was a modification of a company demonstrator that had already been used in the earlier MiG-29S effort, and did not include all the features expected for the "production" MiG-29SMT. The first full-standard MiG-29SMT, also a conversion of a company demonstrator, performed its first flight on 14 July 1998, piloted by the MiG organization's new chief test pilot, Vladimir Gorbunov. This aircraft was demonstrated at the Farnborough Air Show in the UK in 1998.

* RSK MiG followed up the MiG-29SMT with a similar effort to produce a second-generation two-seater, the "9-51T MiG-29UBT", essentially a company 9-51 MiG-29UB fitted with improvements developed for the MiG-29SMT.

The MiG-29UBT featured a swollen spine to store more fuel, with the larger dorsal airbrake and the beavertail of the MiG-29SMT, and also could be fitted with a bolt-on inflight refueling probe. The front-seater's cockpit layout was very much like that of the MiG-29SMT; the back-seater still had flight controls, but the rear panel layout also featured a large CRT to display TV or infrared camera imagery provided by external pods. While the MiG-29UBT could be used as a trainer, its focus was clearly for roles such as precision strike, with the back-seater targeting and guiding smart munitions while the pilot flew the aircraft. No radar system was fitted to the MiG-29UBT demonstrator, but production machines were to be fitted with an advanced multimode radar.

* RSK MiG saw the MiG-29SMT as a demonstrator for a "Chinese menu" of possible upgrades, ranging in sophistication from a simple airframe overhaul with fit of a refueling probe and low-cost avionics improvements -- to the full-blown MiG-29SMT configuration, possibly even adding the high-end N-010 Zhuk-M radar.

The path towards upgrade of Russian MiG-29s was torturous. Limited funding kept the Russian Air Force from making any commitment to upgrades for years, but in 2005, with the economy doing fairly well from oil exports, the service decided to begin an upgrade of the MiG-29 fleet, focused on adding a strike capability. This upgrade actually features avionics developed for the Su-30 / Su-27 upgrade to reduce cost and logistical overhead, and retains the old N-019 radar with some upgrades. The airframe are being overhauled and reinforced to carry heavier warloads. The VVS has also obtained new-production MiG-29SMT fighters, though the details are unclear.

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[6] INDIAN MIG-29K & MIG-29KUB

* The Indian Air Force (IAF) was an early export user of the MiG-29, having obtained 70, including 5 two-seaters, from 1985 -- as early adopters they suffered from some technical problems, but they were eventually resolved. The Indian Navy was similarly an early export buyer of next-generation MiG-29s, obtaining 12 multirole "9-41 MiG-29Ks" for use on the carrier VIKRAMADITYA -- formerly the ADMIRAL GORSHKOV, which India purchased from Russia. The carrier was refurbished, being given a "ski jump" deck, and went into service with the Indian Navy in 2012.

The Indian MiG-29K -- here referred to as the "MiG-29KI" for to convenience, though that's not a formal designation -- was not the same as the navalized MiG-29K developed in the late 1980s. The MiG-29KI could be described as a MiG-29SMT with the navalization features of the MiG-29K, such as longer, folding wings; arresting gear; stronger landing gear to handle heavier warloads; eight stores pylons; and RD-33-3M navalized engines, featuring corrosion protection. Both the prototypes for the MiG-29KI were actually modifications of the two MiG-29K prototypes.

The MiG-29KI featured folding tailplanes and a folding nose radome to further reduce the aircraft's deck footprint. Production aircraft use the new, uprated RD-33-10M bypass turbojet with 4.76 kN (10,500 kgp / 23,150 lbf) thrust. The variant also featured a digital FBW system; N-010 Zhuk-M radar; state-of-the-art Geofizika OLS-M optical-infrared imager and laser targeting system; a modern helmet-mounted sight; radar homing and warning system. The type was fitted with Indian-specified inertial navigation system, IFF, and countermeasures systems.

Along with the MiG-27KIs, India purchased four two-seat "9-47 MiG-29KUBs" as part of the order, essentially a navalized MiG-29UBT, fitted out in much the same way as the MiG-29KI with folding wings, arresting gear, and so on. Initial flight of the first MiG-29KUB was in the summer of 2008. A follow-on batch of 29 navalized MiG-29s was ordered in 2010.

The Indian Navy MiG-29s were well in advance of their IAF counterparts, but the IAF signed a contract to upgrade their 69 surviving machines. The upgrade will feature a glass cockpit, Zhuk-ME radar, RD-33 engines, and midflight refueling capability. The initial six were to be upgraded in Russia, with the first refurbished aircraft flying in early 2011 and initial deliveries in late 2012. The rest were updated by Hindustan Aerospace LTD (HAL) in India, with final deliveries in 2013.

* RSK MiG has promoted land-based counterparts to these Indian Navy variants in the form of the "MiG-29M1" single-seater and "MiG-29M2" two-seater. These machines retain the folding wings of the naval fighters but have some changes in kit. A demonstrator was also flown in 2003 with RD-33MK engines featuring vector-thrust nozzles that could be rotated 15 degrees in any direction. Burma did place an order for twenty MiG-29K machines in late 2009, but the exact configuration of these machines is unclear.

In 2012, the Russian Navy placed an order for 20 MiG-29K fighters and 4 MiG-29KUB two-seaters, for operational service on the Russian Navy's sole aircraft carrier, the ADMIRAL KUZNETSOV. These machines appear to be very similar to their Indian Navy equivalents; deliveries began in late 2013, to be completed by 2015.

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[7] MIG-29 IN FOREIGN SERVICE

* The Soviets heavily exported the MiG-29, with exports continuing in the post-Soviet era. Exact export quantities are somewhat unclear, with different sources giving contrary information, but a rough outline can be constructed. Of course, many Eastern European nations received the MiG-29:

The Russian Republic of course retains hundreds of MiG-29s, and the type is also operated by many of the other "successor states" of the Former Soviet Union:

Other nations that obtained MiG-29s include:

RSK MiG has tried, with some success, to discourage sales of MiG-29s from one foreign user to another by tactfully saying that sales of spares for such aircraft would not be guaranteed. As a result, the buyers of such used MiG-29s tend to be foreign users who already have MiG-29s and have established themselves in the spares pipeline.

Luftwaffe MiG-29 firing AA-10 Alamo

* Of course, with so many old MiG-29s in foreign hands, the need for upgrades is obvious. The Luftwaffe upgrades were among the first and led to the establishment of a new unified service organization, the "MiG Aircraft Product Support (MAPS) Group", which is now promoting similar upgrades for MiG-29 operators in Eastern Europe. Western firms have promoted their own upgrade programs. Romania is now modernizing their MiG-29s under the "Sniper" program, being conducted by DASA, Elbit, and Aerostar. RSK MiG has been even unhappier about such "unauthorized" upgrades, although the Russian organization is collaborating with DASA in MAPS.

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[8] COMMENTS, SOURCES, & REVISION HISTORY

* I've long liked the MiG-29, and I was inspired to write about it when I bought a 132nd-scale diecast model of it from Postage Stamp Planes. It was a cheap item and I couldn't pass it up. As it turned out, once I'd waded through the MiG-29's history, the model was a bit peculiar. It was MiG-29UB with AAMs, which seems a bit implausible, it was also fitted with a mixed load of AA-8, AA-11, and AA-10 AAMs, which was a slightly unusual configuration, though not outside the realm of possibility. The AAMs were very nicely done for the small scale, and the whole thing is still a pretty little piece and a nice buy for the price.

Mikoyan MiG-29

* Sources include:

* Revision history:

   v1.0.0 / 01 mar 02 
   v1.0.1 / 01 may 02 / Review & polish.
   v1.0.2 / 01 jun 02 / Added comments on the loss of PAK-FA.
   v1.0.3 / 01 jul 04 / Review & polish.
   v2.0.0 / 01 apr 07 / General rewrite and cleanup.
   v2.0.1 / 01 may 09 / Review & polish.
   v2.0.2 / 01 may 10 / Review & polish.
   v2.1.0 / 01 apr 12 / Russian Navy MiG-20K buy, cut comments on MiG 1.44.
   v2.1.1 / 01 mar 14 / Review & polish.
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