Mig-29 'Fulcrum' Front View

Mig-29 'Fulcrum' Front View

Mig-29 'Fulcrum' Right-side View

Front view of the Mig-29 "Fulcrum"


Mikoyan MiG-29 (Fulcrum)

The Mikoyan MiG-29 "Fulcrum" did much to further Soviet/Russian aviation technology and, along with the Sukhoi Su-27 "Flanker", formed a powerful and highly-capable one-two punch for the Soviet Air Force and its allies through the 1990s and the new millennium. The potency of the MiG-29 has since grown over the decades thanks to programs that have evolved the system from a deadly lightweight fighter to a potent, multi-faceted tool of warfare. The MiG-29 has proven a success worldwide with operators beyond the Soviet Union/Russia being Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bulgaria, Cuba, Czech Republic, Eritrea, Hungary, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Myanmar, Peru, North Korea, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia, Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Yemen. East German/German MiG-29s were eventually sold to Poland. Iraq no longer fields the Fulcrum while Romania has since retired her small fleet. Israel procured at least one example for aggressor training considering its most potent ally in the region would have been Russian-made MiG-29s. Yugoslavia is a former operator and these later fell into Serbian use during the Serb-Croat War.

Today, Russia maintains some 445 MiG-29s in inventory as of early 2011. India also currently manages several dozen MiG-29s for its air force and navy air arms making it one of the primary export operators of the aircraft. North Korea operates at least 40 Fulcrums which were purchased from both Russia and Belarus. In 1997, even the United States purchased 21 Fulcrums from Moldova in an attempt to keep these Russian fighters from falling into rogue hands - giving American engineers unprecedented access to this fine fighter. Several of these MiG-29s went on to become museum displays across America. While an excellent proven fighter platform over the years, the MiG-29 has had her share of notable and much-publicized crashes, some resulting in fatalities. Nevertheless, her potency today is a far cry from what she was at inception and programs have brought about the best in her base design.

In 1979, the US Pentagon received a blurry satellite overhead profile image of what was the actual prototype MiG-29 and, in accordance with past NATO designation standards, afforded the new Soviet model the nickname of "Fulcrum". The image was not overly clear and subsequent artist impressions of the aircraft were well-off base and led to much deviation. Once further versions of the aircraft were identified, the primary fighter variant became known to NATO as "Fulcrum-A". The MiG-29 was formally introduced into the Soviet Air Force in August of 1983 and operational service was achieved in 1984. The first operating wing became the 234th Proskoorovskiy Fighter Wing. At their peak, some 800 MiG-29s would stock the inventory of the Soviet Union / Russia across 25 different fighter groups. The largest group was naturally stationed in East Germany to showcase the new fighter against its Western counterparts. In 1988, the MiG-29 was demonstrated to audiences at Farnborough, UK. There, pilots entertained crowds with an unprecedented "tailslide" maneuver - a feat which, up to this point, had never been accomplished by a combat aircraft.

In 1991, the political climate across Europe saw the end of the Cold War, essentially bringing an end to Soviet rule in the region and an end to the Soviet Empire proper. Russia entered a period of uncertainty and defense funding was drastically cut from what was enjoyed throughout the blank-check "glory days" of the Cold War prior. Production of MiG-29s was therefore slowed to the point of near full stoppage. The reunification of Germany allowed Western observers full access to East German MiG-29s for extensive scrutiny.

The original MiG-29 was fitted with a pair of Klimov RD-33 series afterburning turbofan engines delivering up to 18,300lbs of thrust each. This supplied the mount with a top speed in excess of Mach 2.25 (1,490 miles per hour), a service ceiling of nearly 60,000 feet and a range of 888 miles on just internal fuel. Performance was such that the MiG-29 could get airborne and achieve vertical flight within a short amount of time. Standard armament was a 1 x GSh-30-1 internal cannon which could be supplemented with external ordnance across seven hardpoints, six underwing and a fuselage centerline position. Such munition options included air-to-air missiles, air-to-surface missiles and conventional drop bombs as well as external fuel stores and Electronic CounterMeasure (ECM) pods.

The Fulcrum sported excellent maneuverability and could maintain a high angle-of-attack (AoA) at top flight speeds. Agility was equally excellent and low-speed handling a true strength. Targeting was possible through the internal RP-29 pulse-Doppler radar suite that allowed for "look down, shoot down" capability - a must for modern aircraft. The pilot's helmet-mounted sight delivered pertinent target information and could be used to guide infrared air-to-air missiles towards a target that were not in the immediate vision arc of the HUD (Heads-Up Display). The integrated IRST system allowed for passive detection and engagement of multiple enemy aircraft. As mentioned above, prevention of debris ingestion into the low-slung intake openings during warm up and taxiing actions was handled by the automatically sealing intake doors. Upon the aircraft beginning to move, the leading edge inlets would give way to the primary intakes.

The MiG-29 was naturally branched out into a two-seat conversion trainer variant and designated by Mikoyan as "MiG-29UB". The type first flew on April 28th, 1981 and development involved three prototypes. The major obvious difference in this model was its two-seat, tandem cockpit arrangement with its rear-hinged canopy. To make room for the second cockpit, the production model's fire control radar was omitted but for the most part the MiG-29UB stayed faithful and fully combat-capable and, as such, could be relatively easily converted back into its combat form if need be. Without the radar, however, student pilots could only train for air-to-air missions. Upon identification of this model within NATO, the nickname of "Fulcrum-B" was afforded.

It was only a matter of time before the Fulcrum was open to foreign export orders and this produced the "MiG-29, Export Version A", also known to NATO as the "Fulcrum-A", with production spanning from 1988 to 1991. While most everything remained faithful to the Soviet production mount, it was, on the whole, downgraded to keep the latest Soviet technology intact. The export version was also delivered to select Soviet Warsaw Pact nations and included the Cold War frontline force of East Germany. This export variant was naturally followed by the similar "MiG-29B-12" meant for Soviet-friendly nations outside of the Warsaw Pact. These were also fielded with more basic radar and engine installations and lacked nuclear weapons capability. Saddam Hussein's Iraq was a customer of this type, as was Syria and India.

The dedicated Fulcrum fighter mount became the MiG-29 Tactical Fighter, known in NATO nomenclature as the "Fulcrum-C". These types were noted for their bulged fuselage spines designed to house additional fuel for improved operational ranges and a new Electronic CounterMeasures (ECM) suite. This model was demonstrated in three prototypes with production beginning in 1986 and spanning into 1991. The raised spine of these types went on to earn it the unofficial nickname of "Hunchback" or "Fatback".

An developmental Fulcrum-C existed to test out smart munitions and made its first appearance in 1985. The type was heavily evaluated but never selected for serial production. Other test aircraft appeared as one-off experimental mounts to evaluate forms of stealth technology, carrier operations, digital avionics and newer engines and improved radar systems. One of these more famous test aircraft became known to the world after its crash at the 1989 38th Paris Air Show. Another such accident occurred in the 1993 Royal International Air Tattoo display when a pair of MiG-29s collide midair, both pilots ejecting safely. The MiG-29OVT trialed thrust vectoring engine technology as well as improved fly-by-wire technology.

The next major Fulcrum-C development became the MiG-29S Tactical Fighter ("Fulcrum-C"). It mated the all-new Vympel R-77 (AA-12 "Adder") radar-guided active homing air-to-air missile to a Phazotron N019M radar system. The system now allowed the Fulcrum pilot to let loose two missiles and have the radar guide each missile against two targets simultaneously. Maximum take-off weight was further increased for a broadened range of munition options. The flight control system was improved as was operational range with three hardpoints plumbed for external fuel droptanks. The MiG-29S became the new Soviet Fulcrum standard in the early 1990s to which previous Fulcrum-A and Fulcrum-C production models were brought up to. The Fulcrum-A models simply lacked the hunchback spine and, thusly, held less internal fuel volume and fielded decreased operational ranges. The MiG-29S was fitted with a pair of Klimov RD-33 turbofan engines producing 18,300lbs of thrust. Maximum speed was Mach 2.3 with a rate of climb nearing 65,000 feet per minute. Service ceiling was just under 60,000 feet and maximum take-off weight was rated at 43,430lbs. She was armed with a 30mm GSh-301 series internal cannon and could make use of missiles, rockets and bombs as needed.

The MIG-29S became an export product under the MiG-29SD designation ("Fulcrum-A"). It was much improved over the initial export offering and began production in 1995. One key addition was its introduction of in-flight refueling to make limited operational ranges something of a moot point to an extent. Malaysia became the first export customer of this model and western-style systems were integrated into their final delivery forms per the customer. A 1994 addendum brought over a dozen of the existing Malaysian Fulcrums to a standard that included an in-flight refueling probe.

Another export model became the MiG-29SE ("Fulcrum-C") and these were noted for their "hunchback" fuselage spines mentioned earlier. As expected, the larger spine included larger internal fuel volume thusly producing inherently higher operational ranges than the MiG-29SD. Beyond this difference, both the MiG-29SD and MIG-29SE were largely similar.

The MiG-29SM ("Fulcrum-C") was a multi-role fighter development. Since the early Fulcrum forms were primarily air-to-air in their basic usage (as were early F-15 Eagles), the MiG-29SM was a leap forward for the Fulcrum family line, integrating ground attack into the forte of this already formidable airframe. The design change necessitated some upgrading and introduction of modern attack systems and the end-product had precision-guided strike capabilities through use of missiles and bombs. In-flight refueling was also standard in this version as range was a key concern for strike aircraft of any design.

The MiG-29G and MiG-29GT designations (single-seat fighter and two-seat trainer, respectively) involved existing East German Fulcrums in the post-Soviet world being brought up to NATO standard. As reunification of East and West Germany commenced, two established air forces had to be melded into one cohesive standardized fighting force. These modifications were accomplished by a previously unheard of joint venture between DaimlerChrysler and MiG. Similarly, Slovakia upgraded their MiG fighters and trainers to a NATO standard producing the MiG-29AS, MiG29UBS and MiG-29SD designations.

In 1997, Mikoyan worked on improving the inherent ranges of its Fulcrum family line beyond what was being accomplished with its "hunchback" and probe-installed initiatives. The MiG-29SMT multi-role platform emerged from the MiG-29S design with a different molded fuselage spine while an in-flight refueling probe was standard fare and support for droptanks was included. Munitions capacity was increased to four hardpoints under each wing so the fighter could mount ordnance as well as external fuel in a single sortie, doubling its lethality and reach in the process. The aircraft was also fitted with an improved N019MP radar installation and a single-piece dorsal airbrake was fitted as was a "beaver" tail assembly. Russian digital processing technology had improved dramatically by this point that the internal workings of the Fulcrum were further streamlined for better response and lower operating costs. Production began in 1998 and marked a major improvement over the original Fulcrum offerings.

The MiG-29UBT became an advanced combat trainer based on the original MiG-29UB trainer mentioned. The major difference in its design was the inclusion of the "hunchback" fuselage spine for additional internal fuel. Consistent with the times, the cockpit was also upgraded to a more standard "glass" design featuring the latest in Russian aviation systems technology. Primary customers of this model were Algeria and Yemen.

The MiG-29MF was a multi-role fighter mount born out of a Philippines aircraft requirement. Historically, the Philippines had largely operated with American military firepower so this deal was something new. Talks between the two parties began in 1997 but the MiG-29MF was never realized.

The MiG-29M designation marked a major upgrade initiative in the Fulcrum lineage. The end-product represented a "4.5 Generation" jet fighter beyond the scope and capabilities of the original MiG-29 production fighter. The MiG-29M was a multi-role airframe and fitted with improved avionics and internal systems. The airframe was refined for the better (revised intakes, greater use of lighter composites). An analog-based fly-by-wire system was introduced for improved handling. The cockpit was further raised for better pilot visibility and stronger landing gear legs meant a higher maximum take-off weight. The cockpit itself implemented more in the way of digital technology (including a pair of large liquid crystal multi-function displays) - a far cry from the original's analog displays - and sported a more useful HUD (Heads-Up Display). HOTAS (Hands-On Throttle and Stick) was also brought into the fold, keeping more controls at the hands of the pilot. An optional laser designator now allowed the MiG-29M to self-designate its own targets, no longer needing to rely on ground-based forces or other allied aircraft to "laze" a target when using so-called "smart" guided munitions. This served to ease pilot workload and improve mission efficiency. Range was further addressed as was in-the-field ruggedness and general manufacture. Klimov supplied new RD-33K engines which were managed by a digital onboard suite known as FADEC (Full-Authority Digital Engine Control). Overwing air intakes were deleted and replaced by the inclusion of retractable perforated doors while the internal cannon ammunition store was lessened to make more room. The chaff/flare countermeasures dispenser was relocated from the fins to the spine and all major wing surfaces were slightly revised with extensions.

Key to the MiG-29M development was the Phazotron N-010 Zhuk series pulse-Doppler radar capable of tracking up to ten targets at once out to 152 miles away. It prioritized the threat level of each target and, upon launching of the MiG-29s four air-to-air missiles, the radar system could then guide each missile to their respective targets without pilot input - true "fire and forget". Like other Fulcrums before it, the N-010 system was tied into the pilot's helmet-mounted sight which relayed pertinent target information in real-time. Additionally, the system allowed for inherent air-to-ground attack functionality from the get-go.

The initial MiG-29M prototype flew on April 25th, 1986 and resulted in seven total test airframes being built. However, the intended RD-33K engines were not yet ready so RD-33s were utilized instead. Results were encouraging to say the least with Russian authorities claiming capabilities on par with the newer "Fifth Generation" Lockheed F-22 Raptor air superiority fighter. An RD-33K powered form went airborne in 1989. After some delays and lack of funding across the collapsed Soviet Empire (now Russia), the new Fulcrum type was slowly added to existing Fulcrum production facilities, eventually slated to overtake both Fulcrum-A and Fulcrum-C derivatives within time. The MiG-29ME (also known as the "MiG-33") became the export variant of the MiG-29M albeit with less of the top Russian technology as standard. An advanced two-seat trainer of the MiG-29M was to be the MiG-29UBM but this version was never furthered. The MiG-29M and MiG-33 designations are known to NATO as "Fulcrum-E".

MiG-29K was a proposed navalized form of the MiG29M and highly modified for possible use aboard Russian aircraft carriers. This included the requisite installation of a tail arrestor hook, reinforced undercarriage and folding wings. The latter facilitated ship-borne storage. The MiG-29K initiative was initially killed by Russian authorities in 1992 but resurfaced once more in 1999 - this time for purchase by India. India acquired the MiG-29K as well as its two-seat trainer variant, the MiG-29KUB, to which NATO recognized the breed as "Fulcrum-D". For the Russian Navy, a navalized version of the Sukhoi Su-27 was elected instead of the MiG-29K. The basic Indian Air Force MiG-29s will undergo upgrade to the proposed new standard of "MiG-29UPG". The type will include an all-new Phazotron Zhuk-M series radar suite as well as improved avionics. Engines will consist of a newer type of RD-33 series powerplant. First flight of a development model occurred in February of 2011 with future production believed to be forthcoming as of this writing.

The MiG-35 is known today as the latest available Fulcrum incarnation (known to NATO as "Fulcrum-F") and is based on the impressive MiG-29M. The type goes beyond the previous "4.5 Generation" jet fighter assessment of previous marks and represents the pinnacle of the Fulcrum family lineage to date. It achieved first flight in 2007 and at least three examples were known to be built by the end of 2010. The MiG-35 was first shown in public in 2007 during the Aero India exhibition and further demonstrators have since come online - no doubt to showcase the type to potential customers, including India itself. Like other Fulcrum designs, there exists a single-seat and two-seat version of the MiG-35. The MIG-35 is believed to mount a Phazotron Zhuk-AE phased array radar system as well as Klimov RD-33K series afterburning turbofan engines with possible thrust vectoring. More digital components have been added than previous Fulcrum marks including three full-color multi-function displays (MFD) consistent with Western offerings. Avionics have been kept modular meaning that any customer interested in the MiG-35 could address the avionics suite from another global customer. Armament of the MiG-35 remains the 1 x 30mm GSh-30-1 internal cannon and external ordnance can be spread across nine total hardpoints including a fuselage centerline location. The MiG-35 retains support for air-to-air missiles, air-to-surface missiles, guided bombs, conventional drop bombs and unguided rocket pods.

As far-reaching as its sales and history have been, the MiG-29 has never truly seen combat - at least in capable hands. While the Iraqi Air Force maintained a collection of these modern Soviet fighters during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Iraqi pilots were generally poorly trained in comparison to their coalition counterparts and use of these aircraft to stem the coalition invasion was terrible at best. At least eight total MiG-29s that were sent aloft were downed to coalition F-15 Eagles and F/A-18 Hornets in the conflict while a further nine retreated to neighboring Iran. Iran elected to keep these examples as "payment" for the losses it incurred in the bloody Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s at the hands of Saddam Hussein.

Regardless, the MiG-29 remains a favorite export product and staffs many-an-air-force-inventory the world over. Her near future seems in check though the arrival of the F-22 and Lockheed F-35 Lightning II will more than likely signal the end of the long term legacy of the MiG-29. The Sukhoi firm has also debuted their developmental PAK FA aircraft which incorporates more of what is found in the competing American F-22 - beginning to make more "conventional" minded aircraft like the MiG-29 something of an obsolete breed of fighter. Time will only tell.


Contents

In the mid-1980s, a development of the original MiG-29 was proposed to meet the Soviet western frontline requirement. It was required to be a multirole fighter for the frontline defensive air force to gain offensive strike ability. [3] This development resulted in a single-seat and a two-seat variant. The proposal was then grounded as a result of shifts in military strategy. The model was named "MiG-33" and later received the MiG-29ME designation for the export market in the mid-1990s. A two-seat model of the standard, commonly known as the MiG-29MRCA, was the MAPO-MiG's primary contender for many international fighter aircraft bids, later evolved into the Mikoyan MiG-35. Six of these models were built before 1990. [4] They were constantly upgraded with various components and one received experimental vector thrust engines which eventually became the MiG-29OVT.

Current model with designation MiG-29M is developed as land variant of MiG-29K with whom it shares avionic and other components and now belongs to the "new unified family" instead of the "MiG-29 fighters family" which comprise the older variants. [5] MiG-29M2 represents two seat variant of MiG-29M.

MiG-33 Edit

During the early 1990s, it became briefly popular for Sukhoi and Mikoyan to assign new designations for upgraded models to make them appear "new and improved" instead of just "improved". The VVS did not accept these marketing designations and most were soon dropped. Following Sukhoi's initiative in this approach, Mikoyan's first such offering was the MiG-29ME, which first publicly appeared as the MiG-33 at the 1994 Farnborough Airshow. The MiG-29ME was the export version of the MiG-29M (Product 9.15) "Super Fulcrum", a comprehensively upgraded, fully multirole version of the MiG-29.

Although the MiG-33 designation was soon dropped, the MiG-29M may have merited a new designation in that it is in many ways a thoroughly redesigned version of the MiG-29. While external differences are few, the MiG-29M was a fully "multifunctional" fighter capable of performing air-to-ground combat with precision-guided munitions (PGMs), along with air-to-air roles of earlier MiG-29 versions. Pilot-aircraft interfaces in the cockpit were also improved and a wide range of new-generation equipment installed. The aircraft's internal fuel capacity was also increased to add combat range.

Procurement Edit

In November 2013, it was reported that Egypt and Russia were negotiating an order of 24 MiG-29M/M2s for the Egyptian Air Force. [6] [7] In April 2015, Egypt became the first export customer when it signed a $2 billion contract for the purchase of 46 MiG-29M/M2 multi-role fighters [8] [9] On October 26 it was reported that Algeria become second country outside Russia to procure MiG-29M. [10] In March 2021 there were talks between Argentina and Russia regarding the purchase of MiG-29M and MiG-35. [11]

Overview Edit

The MiG-29M/M2 aircraft is a revision of the basic MiG-29. It achieved a more robust multi-role capability with enhanced use of air-to-air and air-to-ground high-precision weapons. [5] It also featured a considerably increased combat range, owing to an increase in its internal fuel capacity. [5]

A few changes took place during the aircraft's development. The redesigned airframe was constructed from a lightweight Aluminium-lithium alloy to increase the thrust-to-weight ratio. The air intake ramps' geometry was revised, the upper intake louvers were removed to make way for more fuel in the LERXs, mesh screens introduced to prevent foreign object damage (FOD) and inlet dimensions were enlarged for higher airflow. [ citation needed ]

The aircraft is built with an inflight-refueling (IFR) probe and is able to carry three fuel drop tanks. The redesigned airframe also significantly increased internal fuel capacity in the dorsal spine and LERXs fuel tanks. [ citation needed ] These give the single-seat aircraft an operational range of 2,000 km with internal fuel, 3,200 km with three fuel drop tanks, and 6,000 km with three drop tanks and inflight refueling. [5]

Powerplant Edit

The RD-33MK, the latest revision of the RD-33, has 7% more power in comparison to the baseline model due to the use of modern materials on the cooled blades, and provides a thrust of 9,000 kgf. In response to longtime criticism, the new engines are smokeless and contain improvements that reduce its infrared visibility. Thrust vectoring nozzles are now offered upon customer's request. [12] [13] Dry weight is 1,145 kilograms (2,520 lb) compared to the baseline model through modern materials used on the cooled blades, although it retains the same length and maximum diameter. Incorporated is an infrared and optical signature visibility reduction system. Service life has been increased to 4,000 hours. [14] [15]

Cockpit Edit

The cockpit has been redesigned to incorporate contemporary features. While some analogue instruments have been retained, two monochrome liquid crystal (LCD) multi-function displays (MFD) have been introduced and new weapon controls have been incorporated in a HOTAS concept. Other new features include the Zhuk-ME radar, an infra-red search and track (IRST) system and a helmet-mounted target designation system (early head-mounted display). [ citation needed ]

Sensors Edit

Main upgrades consist of the Zhuk-ME pulse-Doppler airborne radar, along with revised IRST systems, [5] a helmet-mounted target designation system and electronic countermeasures. New radar is capable of detecting air targets at ranges up to 120 km, track-while-scan of ten targets and attack of four targets at a time. [ citation needed ]

Egypt Edit

Egypt signed a contract for 46 MiG-29M/M2 in April 2015, [16] with deliveries to be completed by 2020. [17] The Egyptian variant is designated as the MiG-29M (9.41SM) for the single seater, and MiG-29M2 (9.47SM) for the two seater. They are in many aspects similar to the MiG-35, which was first displayed in Lukhovitsy in January 2017. [18]

The Egyptian MiG's include the upgraded RD-33MK smokeless engines, [19] Zhuk-ME pulse-doppler radar, latest OLS-UE electro-optical targeting station, which feeds both TV and IR imagery to the cockpit display and includes a laser rangefinder, unlike previous IRSTs installed on MiG-29s that only featured IR imagery, [20] and the T220/e targeting pod, allowing the utilization of precision-guided munitions, as well as unguided bombs with a low circular error probability. [21] [22] For electronic warfare purposes, the aircraft will be supplied with the MSP-418K active jammer pod which uses DRFM technology to spoof radar-guided missiles. [ citation needed ] The pod was previously displayed at MAKS air shows and is yet to enter service with the Russian Air Force. [20]

The country received its first batch of MiG-29M/M2s in April 2017, and by the end of the year had 15 aircraft in its inventory. [23] [24] A proposed modernization is intended to follow in 2020, providing refinements to the airborne radar, software and other avionics. The Egyptian Air Force is expected to keep its MiG-29Ms in service until 2060.

On 3 November 2018, an Egyptian Air Force MiG-29Ms crashed due to a technical malfunction when on a routine training flight. Pilot ejected safely. [ citation needed ]

Syria Edit

The Syrian Air Force reportedly agreed to buy 24 MiG-29M/M2s in 2012. [25] [26] In July 2012 at the Farnborough Air Show, Russia announced it would not deliver weapons, including combat aircraft, to Syria due to the ongoing Syria Civil War. [27] On 31 May 2013, RSK MiG's director general, Sergei Korotkov, stated that the company plans to sign a contract with Syria to deliver "more than 10" MiG-29 M/M2 and that a Syrian delegation was in Moscow to discuss terms and deadlines of a new contract supplying fighter jets to Syria. [28] [29] At the end of May 2020, a batch of MiG-29 of unknown version has been delivered. [30]

Serbia Edit

The Serbian Air Force intended to buy several MIG-29M/M2s to replace its aging MiG-21 fleet. [31] [32] [33] In 2013, media reports indicated that Serbia planned to purchase six MiG-29M/M2 fighters. [34] Instead of buying MiG-29M in October 2017, Russia donated six used MiG-29 fighters to Serbian Air Force, with Serbia paying to upgrade them. [35] These upgrades are to begin in 2021. [ citation needed ]

Peru Edit

The Peruvian Air Force showed its intentions to purchase at least 8 MiG-29Ms to reinforce its aerial power. [ citation needed ]

Algeria Edit

Algeria procured 14 MiG-29M/M2 according to a contract signed in 2019 during the international military fair MAKS. [36] Deliveries started in October 2020. [37]


Mikoyan MiG-29 (Fulcrum)

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 05/30/2021 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.

The Mikoyan MiG-29 "Fulcrum" did much to further Soviet/Russian aviation technology and, along with the Sukhoi Su-27 "Flanker", formed a powerful and highly-capable one-two punch for the Soviet Air Force and its allies through the 1990s and the new millennium. The potency of the MiG-29 has since grown over the decades thanks to programs that have evolved the system from a deadly lightweight fighter to a potent, multi-faceted tool of warfare. The MiG-29 has proven a success worldwide with operators beyond the Soviet Union/Russia being Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bulgaria, Cuba, Czech Republic, Eritrea, Hungary, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Myanmar, Peru, North Korea, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia, Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Yemen. East German/German MiG-29s were eventually sold to Poland. Iraq no longer fields the Fulcrum while Romania has since retired her small fleet. Israel procured at least one example for aggressor training considering its most potent ally in the region would have been Russian-made MiG-29s. Yugoslavia is a former operator and these later fell into Serbian use during the Serb-Croat War.

Today, Russia maintains some 445 MiG-29s in inventory as of early 2011. India also currently manages several dozen MiG-29s for its air force and navy air arms making it one of the primary export operators of the aircraft. North Korea operates at least 40 Fulcrums which were purchased from both Russia and Belarus. In 1997, even the United States purchased 21 Fulcrums from Moldova in an attempt to keep these Russian fighters from falling into rogue hands - giving American engineers unprecedented access to this fine fighter. Several of these MiG-29s went on to become museum displays across America. While an excellent proven fighter platform over the years, the MiG-29 has had her share of notable and much-publicized crashes, some resulting in fatalities. Nevertheless, her potency today is a far cry from what she was at inception and programs have brought about the best in her base design.

By the end of the 1960s, both the East and West were well on their way towards development of Fourth Generation jet-powered fighters. Fourth Generation jet fighters originated in the 1970s and introduced a myriad of new features to make for more capable, ever more lethal fighter mounts. The United States went on to introduce the venerable McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle in 1976 and the fleet was further strengthened by the arrival of the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon in 1978. The long-standing McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II was still a fixture worldwide and since 1974 the Grumman F-14 Tomcat interceptor would patrol the skies wherever American carriers were. On the other side of the world, the Soviet Union was holding ground with their fabled MiG-21 "Fishbed" fighter of 1959 and the Sukhoi Su-15 "Flagon" of 1967. However, the Mikoyan concern also unveil their MiG-23 "Flogger" in 1970 which was then evolved into a capable ground-attack platform in the MiG-27. To counter new American and NATO developments, Mikoyan OKB was one of three Soviet firms tabbed with beginning work on a new Fourth Generation mount in 1970 - the other two being stalwart competitors Sukhoi and Yakovlev. Mikoyan-Gurevich became a household name in the dark days of World War 2, responding with the excellent single-seat, piston-powered MiG-1 fighter aircraft to match wits with German Messerschmitt Bf 109s and Focke-Wulf Fw 190s.

In 1974, Soviet authorities detailed a requirement for a new lightweight fighter with excellent agility to replace the MiG-21, MiG-23 and Su-15 series along the Cold War frontlines. By this time, technology made it such that the new fighter aircraft could be fitted with increased digital processing and utilize the latest in missile weaponry as well as radar systems. The new development would be powered by equally-new engines and field an array of short- and medium-range air-to-air missiles as well as an internal cannon for close-in work. The fighter would be charged with direct competition against the best that West had to offer.

Mikoyan engineers set to work on the new requirement and, based on past operational experience of previous jet aircraft to their name, settled on a two-engine design layout from the standpoint that it offered up inherent benefits - not the least of these being better performance and basic crew survivability. The new fighter was christened the "MiG-29" and its early design forms presented an aircraft design not unlike the boxy Mikoyan MiG-25 "Foxbat" - a large, flat-bodied interceptor built primarily for speed and utilized to intercept aerial threats with missiles and radar. The new design featured a forward-set cockpit with a raise fuselage spine, twin engines buried in the fuselage side-by-side and high-mounted wing assemblies with an elegantly contoured wing leading edge. Engine exhaust rings were straddled by rearward-extending booms mounting the twin vertical tail fin assembly. The engines were aspirated by a large pair of rectangular intakes fitted to either side of the forward fuselage. In all respect, the design was nothing more than a glorified MiG-25 in its current form. Other designs then emerged, one even appearing to resemble the upcoming McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet and still another seemingly mimicking the design style of the F-15 itself.

In 1971, it was resolved that the program should revolve around two distinct aircraft types based on the same overall airframe, only each were to be modified to suit different mission roles. This produced a dedicated interceptor form fitted with radar and increased fuel and a dedicated multi-faceted tactical fighter to work within shorter ranges and be faster to produce in number. In effect, each design was meant to counter the F-15 and F-16 in their respective primary roles. This approach also ensured commonality of parts across both mounts and improved logistics to an extent while also retaining inherent performance qualities regardless of mission role.

Of the three competing Soviet firms, only Mikoyan and Sukhoi's proposals were selected for further development and it was Mikoyan that would eventually prevail - at least in the short term. Mikoyan moved ahead to develop the MiG-29 and the similar MiG-29A and different radar systems were trialed. Both designs also fielded a helmet-mounted sight (HMS). Interestingly, flight controls would be handled by a less complex system utilizing basic linkage mechanics as opposed to "fly-by-wire" controls becoming ever more prevalent in Western fighters. On June 26th, 1974, Mikoyan's submission was officially selected ahead of Sukhoi's two attempts and the legacy of the MiG-29 was born.

However, in a turn of events on January 19th, 1976, Soviet authorities opted to develop a heavier dedicated fighter platform to match the F-15 directly and classified the MiG-29 as a "lightweight" fighter design meant to counter the reach of the F-16 directly. This initiative officially gave rise to the development of the much larger and highly-capable Sukhoi Su-27 "Flanker" series detailed elsewhere on this site. The two aircraft would, therefore, become the next generation mounts to welcome all upcoming Soviet fighter pilots and be fielded in strength side-by-side throughout the 1980s and 1990s while still serving operationally today. Interestingly, both fighters would also represent the first Soviet use of computer controlled avionics which further leveled the playing field between the Soviet Air Force and offerings of the West. New radar would also be developed specifically for these new breeds as would be more lethal air-to-air missiles based on the latest technologies available. The MiG-29 would. therefore, be more of a point defense fighter while the Su-27 would serve in the long-range role.

Development of the MiG-29 was no small feat for the Soviet aviation industry that generally lagged behind the West in terms of innovation. The MiG-29 program itself was to be a formidable foray into largely unknown territories and caution was exercised when possible in an effort to produce the very best end-product. Construction of the MiG-29 involved use of aluminum-lithium based alloys as well as composites, both measures to ensure that the airframe met Soviet weight specifications. Automatic flaps and LERXES would figure into the mix to provide for superb control and outstanding agility. Vision out of the cockpit was excellent thanks to a raised position and afforded the pilot a commanding view of the action ahead from all pertinent angles.

Mikoyan delivered their first of fourteen prototypes in the first "Aircraft 901" which more or less mimicked the design lines as found in production-quality MiG-29s to a certain extent. One major difference came in the well-forward positioning of the nose landing gear leg. Western observers were convinced that the new Soviet fighter featured "swing wing" (or variable geometry wing) technology to match the F-14 Tomcat, General Dynamics F-111 or the British Panavia Tornado but this was not the case - wings on the MiG-29 prototype were fixed in place and stemmed from a fixed fuselage root extension area - perhaps giving the impression to some of swing wings being used. The cockpit was held well-forward in the design with excellent visibility throughout. Large rectangular intake openings, slightly canted inwards at their top edges, were fitted under the fuselage and straddled the central tubular fuselage nacelle. Engines were low-set in the fuselage with wings shoulder-mounted. There were a pair of vertical tail fins outboard of each engine mount. Wings featured noticeable sweep along the leading edges and lesser sweep along the trailing edge. Horizontal tailplanes were fitted well-aft in the design, extending beyond the reach of the jet exhaust rings. The undercarriage was fully-retractable and of the tricycle arrangement with a pair of single-wheeled main landing gear legs and a double-wheeled nose landing gear. So as to not ingest potentially harmful field debris, the intakes could be sealed, taking in air from the leading edges during startup and taxiing actions. In many ways, the finalized form was not wholly unlike the original MiG-29 vision that borrowed so heavily from the MiG-25 - just excessively streamlined for a new generation of Soviet airman.

First flight of the MiG-29 prototype was recorded on October 6th, 1977. After early evaluations of the system in flight, the nose landing gear was moved more aft to combat the leg perhaps encouraging the ingesting of debris into the awaiting intake systems for each engine. Direction stability was also improved by the addition of ventral strakes. Controlled spins were enacted by test pilots and it was soon found that the MiG-29's airframe design could actually self-recover our of potentially deadly in-air spins that would doomed most other aircraft. During development, another prototype - Aircraft 908 - was lost to an engine failure during a flight. The production-quality MiG-29 prototype became prototype Aircraft 917 and was noted for its extended rudder bases. Prototype Aircraft 918 then followed and was completed with an intact fire control radar (FCR) system. It was further used in testing of a possible navalized MiG-29 complete with an arrestor hook for carrier landings. Other prototypes followed that included a two-seat conversion trainer and mounts dedicated to the testing of specific onboard systems and components.

In 1979, the US Pentagon received a blurry satellite overhead profile image of what was the actual prototype MiG-29 and, in accordance with past NATO designation standards, afforded the new Soviet model the nickname of "Fulcrum". The image was not overly clear and subsequent artist impressions of the aircraft were well-off base and led to much deviation. Once further versions of the aircraft were identified, the primary fighter variant became known to NATO as "Fulcrum-A". The MiG-29 was formally introduced into the Soviet Air Force in August of 1983 and operational service was achieved in 1984. The first operating wing became the 234th Proskoorovskiy Fighter Wing. At their peak, some 800 MiG-29s would stock the inventory of the Soviet Union / Russia across 25 different fighter groups. The largest group was naturally stationed in East Germany to showcase the new fighter against its Western counterparts. In 1988, the MiG-29 was demonstrated to audiences at Farnborough, UK. There, pilots entertained crowds with an unprecedented "tailslide" maneuver - a feat which, up to this point, had never been accomplished by a combat aircraft.

In 1991, the political climate across Europe saw the end of the Cold War, essentially bringing an end to Soviet rule in the region and an end to the Soviet Empire proper. Russia entered a period of uncertainty and defense funding was drastically cut from what was enjoyed throughout the blank-check "glory days" of the Cold War prior. Production of MiG-29s was therefore slowed to the point of near full stoppage. The reunification of Germany allowed Western observers full access to East German MiG-29s for extensive scrutiny.

The original MiG-29 was fitted with a pair of Klimov RD-33 series afterburning turbofan engines delivering up to 18,300lbs of thrust each. This supplied the mount with a top speed in excess of Mach 2.25 (1,490 miles per hour), a service ceiling of nearly 60,000 feet and a range of 888 miles on just internal fuel. Performance was such that the MiG-29 could get airborne and achieve vertical flight within a short amount of time. Standard armament was a 1 x GSh-30-1 internal cannon which could be supplemented with external ordnance across seven hardpoints, six underwing and a fuselage centerline position. Such munition options included air-to-air missiles, air-to-surface missiles and conventional drop bombs as well as external fuel stores and Electronic CounterMeasure (ECM) pods.

The Fulcrum sported excellent maneuverability and could maintain a high angle-of-attack (AoA) at top flight speeds. Agility was equally excellent and low-speed handling a true strength. Targeting was possible through the internal RP-29 pulse-Doppler radar suite that allowed for "look down, shoot down" capability - a must for modern aircraft. The pilot's helmet-mounted sight delivered pertinent target information and could be used to guide infrared air-to-air missiles towards a target that were not in the immediate vision arc of the HUD (Heads-Up Display). The integrated IRST system allowed for passive detection and engagement of multiple enemy aircraft. As mentioned above, prevention of debris ingestion into the low-slung intake openings during warm up and taxiing actions was handled by the automatically sealing intake doors. Upon the aircraft beginning to move, the leading edge inlets would give way to the primary intakes.

The MiG-29 was naturally branched out into a two-seat conversion trainer variant and designated by Mikoyan as "MiG-29UB". The type first flew on April 28th, 1981 and development involved three prototypes. The major obvious difference in this model was its two-seat, tandem cockpit arrangement with its rear-hinged canopy. To make room for the second cockpit, the production model's fire control radar was omitted but for the most part the MiG-29UB stayed faithful and fully combat-capable and, as such, could be relatively easily converted back into its combat form if need be. Without the radar, however, student pilots could only train for air-to-air missions. Upon identification of this model within NATO, the nickname of "Fulcrum-B" was afforded.

It was only a matter of time before the Fulcrum was open to foreign export orders and this produced the "MiG-29, Export Version A", also known to NATO as the "Fulcrum-A", with production spanning from 1988 to 1991. While most everything remained faithful to the Soviet production mount, it was, on the whole, downgraded to keep the latest Soviet technology intact. The export version was also delivered to select Soviet Warsaw Pact nations and included the Cold War frontline force of East Germany. This export variant was naturally followed by the similar "MiG-29B-12" meant for Soviet-friendly nations outside of the Warsaw Pact. These were also fielded with more basic radar and engine installations and lacked nuclear weapons capability. Saddam Hussein's Iraq was a customer of this type, as was Syria and India.

The dedicated Fulcrum fighter mount became the MiG-29 Tactical Fighter, known in NATO nomenclature as the "Fulcrum-C". These types were noted for their bulged fuselage spines designed to house additional fuel for improved operational ranges and a new Electronic CounterMeasures (ECM) suite. This model was demonstrated in three prototypes with production beginning in 1986 and spanning into 1991. The raised spine of these types went on to earn it the unofficial nickname of "Hunchback" or "Fatback".

An developmental Fulcrum-C existed to test out smart munitions and made its first appearance in 1985. The type was heavily evaluated but never selected for serial production. Other test aircraft appeared as one-off experimental mounts to evaluate forms of stealth technology, carrier operations, digital avionics and newer engines and improved radar systems. One of these more famous test aircraft became known to the world after its crash at the 1989 38th Paris Air Show. Another such accident occurred in the 1993 Royal International Air Tattoo display when a pair of MiG-29s collide midair, both pilots ejecting safely. The MiG-29OVT trialed thrust vectoring engine technology as well as improved fly-by-wire technology.

The next major Fulcrum-C development became the MiG-29S Tactical Fighter ("Fulcrum-C"). It mated the all-new Vympel R-77 (AA-12 "Adder") radar-guided active homing air-to-air missile to a Phazotron N019M radar system. The system now allowed the Fulcrum pilot to let loose two missiles and have the radar guide each missile against two targets simultaneously. Maximum take-off weight was further increased for a broadened range of munition options. The flight control system was improved as was operational range with three hardpoints plumbed for external fuel droptanks. The MiG-29S became the new Soviet Fulcrum standard in the early 1990s to which previous Fulcrum-A and Fulcrum-C production models were brought up to. The Fulcrum-A models simply lacked the hunchback spine and, thusly, held less internal fuel volume and fielded decreased operational ranges. The MiG-29S was fitted with a pair of Klimov RD-33 turbofan engines producing 18,300lbs of thrust. Maximum speed was Mach 2.3 with a rate of climb nearing 65,000 feet per minute. Service ceiling was just under 60,000 feet and maximum take-off weight was rated at 43,430lbs. She was armed with a 30mm GSh-301 series internal cannon and could make use of missiles, rockets and bombs as needed.

The MIG-29S became an export product under the MiG-29SD designation ("Fulcrum-A"). It was much improved over the initial export offering and began production in 1995. One key addition was its introduction of in-flight refueling to make limited operational ranges something of a moot point to an extent. Malaysia became the first export customer of this model and western-style systems were integrated into their final delivery forms per the customer. A 1994 addendum brought over a dozen of the existing Malaysian Fulcrums to a standard that included an in-flight refueling probe.

Another export model became the MiG-29SE ("Fulcrum-C") and these were noted for their "hunchback" fuselage spines mentioned earlier. As expected, the larger spine included larger internal fuel volume thusly producing inherently higher operational ranges than the MiG-29SD. Beyond this difference, both the MiG-29SD and MIG-29SE were largely similar.

The MiG-29SM ("Fulcrum-C") was a multi-role fighter development. Since the early Fulcrum forms were primarily air-to-air in their basic usage (as were early F-15 Eagles), the MiG-29SM was a leap forward for the Fulcrum family line, integrating ground attack into the forte of this already formidable airframe. The design change necessitated some upgrading and introduction of modern attack systems and the end-product had precision-guided strike capabilities through use of missiles and bombs. In-flight refueling was also standard in this version as range was a key concern for strike aircraft of any design.

The MiG-29G and MiG-29GT designations (single-seat fighter and two-seat trainer, respectively) involved existing East German Fulcrums in the post-Soviet world being brought up to NATO standard. As reunification of East and West Germany commenced, two established air forces had to be melded into one cohesive standardized fighting force. These modifications were accomplished by a previously unheard of joint venture between DaimlerChrysler and MiG. Similarly, Slovakia upgraded their MiG fighters and trainers to a NATO standard producing the MiG-29AS, MiG29UBS and MiG-29SD designations.

In 1997, Mikoyan worked on improving the inherent ranges of its Fulcrum family line beyond what was being accomplished with its "hunchback" and probe-installed initiatives. The MiG-29SMT multi-role platform emerged from the MiG-29S design with a different molded fuselage spine while an in-flight refueling probe was standard fare and support for droptanks was included. Munitions capacity was increased to four hardpoints under each wing so the fighter could mount ordnance as well as external fuel in a single sortie, doubling its lethality and reach in the process. The aircraft was also fitted with an improved N019MP radar installation and a single-piece dorsal airbrake was fitted as was a "beaver" tail assembly. Russian digital processing technology had improved dramatically by this point that the internal workings of the Fulcrum were further streamlined for better response and lower operating costs. Production began in 1998 and marked a major improvement over the original Fulcrum offerings.

The MiG-29UBT became an advanced combat trainer based on the original MiG-29UB trainer mentioned. The major difference in its design was the inclusion of the "hunchback" fuselage spine for additional internal fuel. Consistent with the times, the cockpit was also upgraded to a more standard "glass" design featuring the latest in Russian aviation systems technology. Primary customers of this model were Algeria and Yemen.

The MiG-29MF was a multi-role fighter mount born out of a Philippines aircraft requirement. Historically, the Philippines had largely operated with American military firepower so this deal was something new. Talks between the two parties began in 1997 but the MiG-29MF was never realized.

The MiG-29M designation marked a major upgrade initiative in the Fulcrum lineage. The end-product represented a "4.5 Generation" jet fighter beyond the scope and capabilities of the original MiG-29 production fighter. The MiG-29M was a multi-role airframe and fitted with improved avionics and internal systems. The airframe was refined for the better (revised intakes, greater use of lighter composites). An analog-based fly-by-wire system was introduced for improved handling. The cockpit was further raised for better pilot visibility and stronger landing gear legs meant a higher maximum take-off weight. The cockpit itself implemented more in the way of digital technology (including a pair of large liquid crystal multi-function displays) - a far cry from the original's analog displays - and sported a more useful HUD (Heads-Up Display). HOTAS (Hands-On Throttle and Stick) was also brought into the fold, keeping more controls at the hands of the pilot. An optional laser designator now allowed the MiG-29M to self-designate its own targets, no longer needing to rely on ground-based forces or other allied aircraft to "laze" a target when using so-called "smart" guided munitions. This served to ease pilot workload and improve mission efficiency. Range was further addressed as was in-the-field ruggedness and general manufacture. Klimov supplied new RD-33K engines which were managed by a digital onboard suite known as FADEC (Full-Authority Digital Engine Control). Overwing air intakes were deleted and replaced by the inclusion of retractable perforated doors while the internal cannon ammunition store was lessened to make more room. The chaff/flare countermeasures dispenser was relocated from the fins to the spine and all major wing surfaces were slightly revised with extensions.

Key to the MiG-29M development was the Phazotron N-010 Zhuk series pulse-Doppler radar capable of tracking up to ten targets at once out to 152 miles away. It prioritized the threat level of each target and, upon launching of the MiG-29s four air-to-air missiles, the radar system could then guide each missile to their respective targets without pilot input - true "fire and forget". Like other Fulcrums before it, the N-010 system was tied into the pilot's helmet-mounted sight which relayed pertinent target information in real-time. Additionally, the system allowed for inherent air-to-ground attack functionality from the get-go.

The initial MiG-29M prototype flew on April 25th, 1986 and resulted in seven total test airframes being built. However, the intended RD-33K engines were not yet ready so RD-33s were utilized instead. Results were encouraging to say the least with Russian authorities claiming capabilities on par with the newer "Fifth Generation" Lockheed F-22 Raptor air superiority fighter. An RD-33K powered form went airborne in 1989. After some delays and lack of funding across the collapsed Soviet Empire (now Russia), the new Fulcrum type was slowly added to existing Fulcrum production facilities, eventually slated to overtake both Fulcrum-A and Fulcrum-C derivatives within time. The MiG-29ME (also known as the "MiG-33") became the export variant of the MiG-29M albeit with less of the top Russian technology as standard. An advanced two-seat trainer of the MiG-29M was to be the MiG-29UBM but this version was never furthered. The MiG-29M and MiG-33 designations are known to NATO as "Fulcrum-E".

MiG-29K was a proposed navalized form of the MiG29M and highly modified for possible use aboard Russian aircraft carriers. This included the requisite installation of a tail arrestor hook, reinforced undercarriage and folding wings. The latter facilitated ship-borne storage. The MiG-29K initiative was initially killed by Russian authorities in 1992 but resurfaced once more in 1999 - this time for purchase by India. India acquired the MiG-29K as well as its two-seat trainer variant, the MiG-29KUB, to which NATO recognized the breed as "Fulcrum-D". For the Russian Navy, a navalized version of the Sukhoi Su-27 was elected instead of the MiG-29K. The basic Indian Air Force MiG-29s will undergo upgrade to the proposed new standard of "MiG-29UPG". The type will include an all-new Phazotron Zhuk-M series radar suite as well as improved avionics. Engines will consist of a newer type of RD-33 series powerplant. First flight of a development model occurred in February of 2011 with future production believed to be forthcoming as of this writing.

The MiG-35 is known today as the latest available Fulcrum incarnation (known to NATO as "Fulcrum-F") and is based on the impressive MiG-29M. The type goes beyond the previous "4.5 Generation" jet fighter assessment of previous marks and represents the pinnacle of the Fulcrum family lineage to date. It achieved first flight in 2007 and at least three examples were known to be built by the end of 2010. The MiG-35 was first shown in public in 2007 during the Aero India exhibition and further demonstrators have since come online - no doubt to showcase the type to potential customers, including India itself. Like other Fulcrum designs, there exists a single-seat and two-seat version of the MiG-35. The MIG-35 is believed to mount a Phazotron Zhuk-AE phased array radar system as well as Klimov RD-33K series afterburning turbofan engines with possible thrust vectoring. More digital components have been added than previous Fulcrum marks including three full-color multi-function displays (MFD) consistent with Western offerings. Avionics have been kept modular meaning that any customer interested in the MiG-35 could address the avionics suite from another global customer. Armament of the MiG-35 remains the 1 x 30mm GSh-30-1 internal cannon and external ordnance can be spread across nine total hardpoints including a fuselage centerline location. The MiG-35 retains support for air-to-air missiles, air-to-surface missiles, guided bombs, conventional drop bombs and unguided rocket pods.

As far-reaching as its sales and history have been, the MiG-29 has never truly seen combat - at least in capable hands. While the Iraqi Air Force maintained a collection of these modern Soviet fighters during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Iraqi pilots were generally poorly trained in comparison to their coalition counterparts and use of these aircraft to stem the coalition invasion was terrible at best. At least eight total MiG-29s that were sent aloft were downed to coalition F-15 Eagles and F/A-18 Hornets in the conflict while a further nine retreated to neighboring Iran. Iran elected to keep these examples as "payment" for the losses it incurred in the bloody Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s at the hands of Saddam Hussein.

Regardless, the MiG-29 remains a favorite export product and staffs many-an-air-force-inventory the world over. Her near future seems in check though the arrival of the F-22 and Lockheed F-35 Lightning II will more than likely signal the end of the long term legacy of the MiG-29. The Sukhoi firm has also debuted their developmental PAK FA aircraft which incorporates more of what is found in the competing American F-22 - beginning to make more "conventional" minded aircraft like the MiG-29 something of an obsolete breed of fighter. Time will only tell.


MiG-29 History

The shock came when the CIA in Langley, USA, looked through data sent by their surveillance satellites from Ramenscoye aircraft test facility in Russia, at this time still the USSR and a potent enemy to NATO. According to rumors the USSR was going to introduce a new aircraft generation (MiG-29) with a performance equal to that of new NATO aircraft such as the F15 and F16. Nobody really believed in them, because the USSR was said to lack the experience and the abilities to develop such a high-tech aircraft. As the intelligence officer went through the data, he could hardly believe his eyes. He found signs of an aircraft at Ramenscoye ramp with a fuselage shape somewhat similar to an F15 but smaller in size. It received “RAM-L” as code-name for being a test aircraft from Ramenscoye and not yet in use with the Soviet Air Force.

On October 6, 1977, renowned test pilot Alexander Fedotov took this new aircraft design for the first time to the air. This maiden flight of “Product 9” – the official Soviet designation for the MiG 29 design ­ was the result of a program initialized in the late 1960s and divided in 1971 into two separate designs: LFPI (ljochki=light) and TFPI (tjasholui= heavy). The outcome of the TFPI was the Sukhoi SU 27, put into service 1987, and that of the LFPI, the MiG 29, taken into service in 1983. After MiG-29 introduction it was given the NATO code name “Fulcrum”, a name that MiG-29 still carries today.

At an early design stage it was planned to skip an interim solution and equip new MiG 29 fighter with a newly developed system, the N-019 radar

Eastern Germany

After the “Fulcrum” was introduced into the Soviet Air Force in 1983, the WP (Warsaw pact) partner countries decided to enhance their fighter fleets and to seek replacements for their aging MiG-21 aircraft. In the mid 1980s the East German Air Force made first steps towards the procurement of the MiG-29 fighter aircraft. After final settlement of the contract worth 1 billion GDR-Marks, the decision was made to acquire this aircraft and to reequip squadrons FW 3 “Vladimir Komarov” at Preschen airbase near the town of Forst close to the Polish Border, as the first wing with the new fighter. The first two aircraft were delivered in May 1988, and the last one 778 in January 1989. They equipped the first and the second squadron of FW 3.

As with every newly introduced aircraft the difficulties began shortly after the last MiG-29s had arrived in Preschen. At this time, FW 3’s Pilots flew the first missions. At one occasion a young pilot took his steed into the air and did some low level aerobatics. While changing from a left hand barrel role into a right hand one the aircraft started to brake out and departed. Being quite close to the surface the pilot did all he could to prevent the aircraft from crashing. He managed a safe lading and returned to his shelter where the MiG-29’s systems were checked and the flight data, recorded by the aircraft’s onboard TESTER-system, printed out immediately. As the MiG-29 could only be rescued by exceeding the published G­ limitations of 9 Gs for the MiG 29, the Mikoyan representative at once decided to cancel the factory guarantee for this new aircraft. The upset German side convinced the Russians to measure the fuselage first, but after the bird was defueled, put on the jacks and levelled, it easily was proven that the MiG-29’s parameter were out of any tolerance.

The suspicious NVA officers then tried something different. As all MiG-29 s were handed over with a total of four flight hours on their backs, the question arose, if not all aircraft were handed over to the NVA out of their tolerances as the soviet representatives deleted all data from the aircraft’s TESTER-system shortly after having touched down on East German soil. Under Soviet protest the last MiG-29, which only recently had landed in Preschen, was also put on the jacks and levelled out. To the surprise of all German technicians the aircraft parameter were also out of tolerance. After a lengthy discussion with the Mikoyan representatives, the Germans were shown a way to drain the remaining aircraft fuel from the fuselage. Subsequently all parameter were brought back to acceptable numbers and the guarantee remained on all MiG 29s.

NVA (East German People’s Army ) and WP (Warsaw Pact) Tactics

The NVA and other WP countries exclusively used their few MiG 29A in defensive counter air role, although aircraft was intended for a secondary air-to-ground role as well. Often the aircraft were scrambled out of their protective shelters or undertook limited CAP missions. During those missions they remained under strict GCI control of ground stations or A-50 “Mainstay” AWACS aircraft. This hardly left any scope for the pilot to make decisions on his own. At first glance this method had the advantage that the controller was able to manage all tactics, while the pilot could concentrate on flying the aircraft and execute the orders coming from the ground station.

However, this very strict reign lead to a kind of remote control of the MiG-29 into firing position by the LASUR system, degrading the pilot to a puppet on strings. This form of “close control” was a further development of the tactics employed during the night fighting above Germany during WW II. The MiG-29 systems were designed out to meet those requirements to the best possible extend however, this particular system of “close control” was the weakest point in NVA tactics. During the first missions of the MiG-29 against NATO’s fighter aircraft, the NATO-wide used “tactical control” – where all information gathered from the pilot’s radar and Gel are used to enhance the situational awareness of the aircrew – proved to be more flexible and left a much wider scope for decisions for the pilot. Strict Soviet bureaucracy and the superior’s mistrust in pilots proved to be fatal for the development of newer, more effective tactics and the creativity of younger pilots. Before the Gulf War Iraqi pilots were sent to France for training on the Mirage F1. Many of them failed the French fighter pilots’ course and were ordered back to the Middle East. Those dismissed and other second line pilots, however, seemed to be good enough for being trained on the MiG-29 in Russia. There everyone passed the exam, which leads to the conclusions that Russia and other WP countries had a very low training standard.

Adding to this, more disadvantages could be found in the airframe itself. Although the NVA’s (Nationale Volksarmee = East German People’s Army) MiG 29 A­ variant was to be an export version, only some minor equipment changes were incorporated mainly to the radar, its designation changed to N-019E or A “Rubin”. Even the latest version of the IFFI SIF equipment the SRZO (NATO-code “Odd Rods”) could be found in the East German aircraft. The N-019E radar has a detection capability of 120° i. e. 60° to either side. However, only 50° of these 120° can be used for detecting and tracking an airborne target. This 50° tracking cone must be set manually to the anticipated target’s direction to receive a firing solution. It seems that the radar was designed to concentrate on the weapons employment, rather giving the pilot an overview on the tactical situation. The HUD symbology is very sparse. Even when the target is locked it does not give any data such as altitude or ranges out. The radar does not feature a track-while-scan mode and after having a lock on the target, other contacts will disappear. As the AA 10 “Alamo” missile is working on a semi-active guidance mode, the pilot has to continue illuminating his target until missile impact. The NVA MiG-29s received the early centerline tanks without a specially constructed aperture to allow the ejection of spent ammunition cases, thus this tank has to be dropped before firing the gun. Even a warning burst during air policing would not be possible. With the tank attached the speed brakes cannot be operated and the maximum speed is limited to Mach 1.5.

In the final months of the GOR’s existence, pilots of FW 3 could accomplish some flight hours in the new bird, however, hardly reaching a combat readiness state of “limited combat ready”. As the German reunification drew closer, the Soviet government forbade further sales of MiG 29s to the GDR forces, although it was intended to reequip FW 1 at Holzdorf airbase with the same type of aircraft. Under the cover of the night Soviet technicians coming from a nearby Soviet air base were sent to Preschen and exchanged the IFF/SIF PAROL of all 24 MiG 29 with an older version of the “Odd T Rods” system. The Soviets did not allow this state-of-the-art equipment to fall into the hands of the West German Air Force, the new owner to come. On October 3, 1990, the NVA seized to exist. All military units and their equipment became part of the Federal Republic of Germany. Some years ago the USA and all other NATO countries would have paid millions to be owner of such a precious gem of Eastern technology, now it simply was taken over into NATO-inventory.


Eurofighter Typhoon (EF2000) vs Mikoyan MiG-29 (Fulcrum)

STANDARD:
1 x 27mm Mauser BK-27 internal automatic cannon.

OPTIONAL:
Mission specific armament across thirteen external hardpoints includes (up to 16,500 lb):

AIM-9 Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missiles.
ASRAAM short-range air-to-air missiles.
BAe/Saab S225X missiles.
IRIS-T short-range air-to-air missiles.
AIM-120 AMRAAM medium-range air-to-air missiles.
MDBA "Meteor" Beyond Visual Range (BVR) medium-range air-to-air missiles.
"Storm Shadow" stand-off missiles.
Taurus KEPD350 Stand-off missiles.
GBU-10 laser-guided bombs.
GBU-12 laser-guided bombs.
BAe/MATRA "Brimstone" anti-armor weapon.
AGM-88 HARM anti-radiation missiles.
AGM "Armiger" anto-radiation missiles.
ALARM anti-radiation missiles.
AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles.
Pengiun anti-ship missiles.
Paveway II laser-guided bombs.
Paveway III laser-guided bombs.
Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM).
Conventional Drop Ordnance / Drop Bombs.
Jettisonable External Fuel Tanks.

STANDARD:
1 x 30mm GSh-30-1 internal automatic cannon.

OPTIONAL:
Standard air-to-air Armament:
2 x AA-10 "Alamo" air-to-air missiles.
4 x AA-11 OR 4 x AA-8 OR 4 x AA-12 "Adder" air-to-air missiles.

6 x Underwing hardpoints can carry max load of 8,818lb (4,000kg) of stores. Munitions may include the following:

R-27 AAMs, R-73 AAMs, R-77 AAMs, Rocket Pods and
various laser-guided / conventional drop bomb loadouts. External fuel tanks at three hardpoints can replace munitions.


Mikoyan MiG-29K (Fulcrum-D)

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 06/21/2018 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.

The Mikoyan MiG-29K (NATO = "Fulcrum-D") is a navalized variant of the successful Mikoyan MiG-29 Fulcrum family of fighters. The navalized form was originally developed to a 1980s Soviet Navy carrier-based fighter requirement. While the Soviet Navy eventually settled on the larger Sukhoi Su-27 "Flanker" series (as the "Su-33"), the MiG-29K design has recently seen growing interest by both the Russian and Indian navies thanks largely to the acquisition by the Indian Navy of the ex-Kiev class Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier (to become the INS Vikramaditya in December of 2012). A dozen MiG-29K aircraft were included as part of the deal due to their more compact size, lower procurement cost and advanced capabilities. In turn, the Russian Navy has decided to replace its aged and exceedingly expensive fleet of Su-33 carrier-based fighters with the newer budget-friendly MiG-29K models by 2015.

Both Sukhoi and Mikoyan, longtime aircraft suppliers to the Soviet/Russian Air Force (and notable rivals to one another), submitted their proposed designs to the Soviet Navy for a standard carrier-based fighter platform. The original land-based Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker was developed to counter the American McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle while the Mikoyan MiG-29 Fulcrum was developed to counter the American General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon. As such, the Su-27 was a much larger aircraft with broadened inherent capabilities while the MiG-29 was noticeably more compact and cheaper to produce and maintain. Both Soviet-era designs proved successful (and highly capable) and went on to see considerable sales to Soviet-allied states and nations. Within time, the Soviet Navy required a similarly capable carrier-based fighter and the two Soviet concerns took to modifying their land-based designs as the MiG-29M and Su-27K respectively. The Soviet Navy eventually settled on the larger Su-27-based design though no more than 25 of the Su-33 were ever procured for the Soviet Navy's four Kiev-class aircraft carriers.

For the MiG-29 design, a reinforced undercarriage was devised for the rigors of deck operation and folding wings of greater area were introduced for improved storage aboard the space-strapped Soviet carriers. Anti-corrosion coatings were used where possible to help counter the effects of the salty sea. Additionally, recovery was made possible by the installation of an arrestor hook under the tail unit.

At this time in Soviet Naval history, the Kiev-class of aircraft carriers were a mix of "fighting cruiser" and dedicated aircraft carrier. As such, the bow of the Kiev-class family was reserved for offensive armament in the form of cannon, missiles and torpedo launchers to help contend with enemy air, surface and submarine threats while the port side of the design held the angled stern-to-port flight deck. These carriers were principally designed to operate the Yakovlev Yak-38 Forger VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing) jump jets and navy helicopters which required little-to-no runway for their take-off and recovery. With the advent of more dedicated navalized aircraft, a ski jump ramp would have to be utilized to facilitate take-off (a feature common to many European aircraft carrier designs). The initial navalized MiG-29 prototype became the "MiG-29KVP" and first flight was recorded on August 21st, 1982.

A more modified form - the "MiG-29M" - soon followed this design and, for the Soviet Navy requirement, the system was redesignated as the MiG-29K ("K" indicating its "ship-based" usage in Russian). The new MiG design incorporated HOTAS (Hands On Throttle and Stick) functionality, an advanced multi-function active homing radar in the nose, revised air intakes, increased wing area and a retained capability to deliver precision-guided air-to-ground weaponry. Three color multi-function displays were utilized in the cockpit for a truly modernized, all-glass approach. The MiG-29K would, therefore, be more than a fleet defense fighter and could undertake ground strike sorties as needed - similar in scope to the American McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet. A two-seat derivative was also developed to facilitate training of new MiG-29K pilots. The second cockpit reduced internal fuel volume and thusly limited operational ranges while some of the combat qualities of the MiG-29K design were lessened to a degree.

The modified MiG-29K recorded its first flight on July 23rd, 1988 and completed its first carrier landing in November of the following year along the deck of the Admiral Kuznetsov. More testing followed to work out the expected project kinks and the program received a major setback with the fall of the Soviet Union as a world communist power by 1991. While delayed, the MiG-29K was never abandoned in full and by the time Russian military financing was in check, the MiG-29K would still have a role to play for Mikoyan continued its development as a private venture in the interim years.

The Kiev-class of aircraft carriers in service to the Soviet-now-Russian Navy had lived their usefulness and were becoming exceedingly expensive to operate and maintain. The Russians clearly had no short-term need with these aging systems and the military budget forced their sale. China purchased the Kiev and Minsk while, after a prolonged negotiation period, the Indian government purchased the Admiral Gorshkov to become their INS Vikramaditya. The vessel saw her bow-mounted armament removed and a ski jump ramp installed for the more conventional aircraft carrier role (though not truly a "flat top" design by Western standards). Currently undergoing trials as of this writing (2012), the INS Vikramaditya is set to be handed over to Indian authorities in December of 2012. Along with the purchase of the Admiral Gorshkov, the Indian Navy also elected to purchase an initial dozen MiG-29K carrier-based fighters in a package deal as the larger Sukhoi Su-33 limited how many fighters could be stocked on the Kiev carrier deck. Additionally, several two-seat MiG-29KUB aircraft were also procured for pilot training. In all, the Indian Navy expects to procure some 45 MiG-29K and MiG-29KUB fighters. 15 have already been produced and these include the required engines, fly-by-wire controls and advanced radar sought by the Indian Navy.

Comparatively, the Indian Navy's decision to procure the MiG-29K over the Su-33 in number went on to have an influence on Russian Navy plans in replacing its existing Su-33 fleet with the MiG-29K in turn. As such, the Su-33 fleet will be retired in 2015 pending the arrival of additional MiG-29K fighters. The Russian Navy is intending to procure some 20 MiG-29K fighters as well as 4 MiG-29KUB two-seat fighters. These will primarily stock the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier, flag ship to the Russian Navy. It is noteworthy that the Kuznetsov itself proved so critical during testing and evaluation of the navalized MiG-29 in years prior.

Basic capabilities of the MiG-29K include Mach 2+ speeds at altitude with a ferry range out to 2,200 miles and service ceiling of 57,000 feet. Rate-of-climb is listed at 65,000 feet per minute which is a strong quality of ship-based fighters needed for interception of incoming threats. The aircraft is powered by a pair of Klimov RD-33MK turbofans with afterburning, outputting at 19,800lbs thrust each. Primary armament is a 30mm GSh-30-1 internal cannon while five of the nine possible hardpoints can be outfitted with jettisonable external fuel tanks for extended operational ranges. Beyond that, the MiG-29K will be cleared to fire air-to-air missiles (infrared, semi-active homing and active homing types), air-to-surface missiles, anti-radiation missiles, anti-ship missiles and rocket pods. Additionally, the type will retain the capability to drop conventional bombs as well as laser-guided munitions, further broadening the tactical reach of the machine. All told, the MiG-29K will be able to undertake a variety of missions including fleet defense, interception, reconnaissance, tracking, ground attack and anti-ship sorties. For the Indian Navy, this is a much broader weapons platform than the existing family of aging BAe Sea Harriers.

The avionics suite includes the SPO-15 Beryoza Radar Warning Receiver (RWR) to identify incoming threats to the aircraft. An infrared search-and-track system is standard while the radar housed in the nose cone is the advanced Zhuk-ME series radar system. The pilot will have access to basic countermeasures through the included Electronic Countermeasures (ECM) pod as well as the requisite chaff and flare dispensing units. A laser targeting pod can also be affixed to the design.

Production of MiG-29K and MiG-29KUB fighters and trainers is ongoing as of this writing (2012). Some 15 have been produced to date with manufacture having began in 2005. The Indian Navy received their first MiG-29K mounts in 2009.

December 2013 - It was announced that MiG Corporation has begun delivery of MiG-29K fighters to the Russian Navy which is expected to receive as many as 24 of the type stemming from a February 2012 contract. Along with the base twin-seat fighter variant is the twin-seat KUB trainer derivatives. These will be stationed aboard the Admiral Kuznetsov - Russia's only active carrier vessel.


IPMS/USA Reviews

In response to the USAF's 1970's initiatives to launch new fighters, the F-15 and F-16, the Soviet Union fielded their own modern equivalents, the Su-27 Flanker and Mig-29 Fulcrum. All these aircraft are still in service with their respective, and other, countries. During the last twenty years, the Mig-29 has even seen service in several nations that are now part of NATO. They mostly operate as interceptors. In the plastic modeling world, the F-15, F-16, and Su-27 have been well represented in kits, but the Mig-29, not so much. Trumpeter has filled the void with a quality model of an early production version, Product 9-12, of the Fulcrum.

In the Box

Typical of recent Trumpeter releases, you'll find 179 pieces molded in light gray plastic packaged in 11 plastic bags. One bag contains a clear sprue with six parts. No flash is evident on any of pieces and the surface detail is exquisite. Trumpeter provides three external fuel tanks, a full missile load, and decals for two options: one for the Russian Air Force and the other for the Hungarian Air Force. The instructions are in an eight-page booklet which provides a parts map, exploded view assembly diagrams with 11 steps, separate decal and painting guides for the aircraft and another for the missiles. The back of the missile paint guide is a full color poster of the box art. A nice surprise is an eight-piece tow bar. If you've built a Trumpeter aircraft model lately, all this will be familiar.

The Build

Step 1 of the instructions has you assemble the cockpit tub and ejection seat. Detail here, in the form of decals, is adequate for 1/72 scale but would benefit with some added "fiddly bits" to enhance the 3D effect. I cut the instrument panel decal into three sections for ease of fit. The K-36 seat lacks lap belts and its prominent firing-handle in the front of the seat pan. After drilling holes in the wings for the pylons, you can close up the top and bottom fuselage halves. Fit is excellent as it is with most of the kit. I added ballast to the nose cone rather than to the fuselage as suggested in the instructions. In Step 4, make sure you glue in parts D3 and D6, landing gear bases, before adding the inner wall of the wheel wells and the intake trunks. I found out they will not fit otherwise and had to do some surgery to get them in position. All wheel wells have nice detail which benefits from a dark wash and dry-brushing. As is their want, Trumpeter has you add the landing gear and gear doors early in the construction stages. I knew I would break them off if I did, so I waited until later. Same goes for the pitot tube in the nose. The only difficulty I had with the entire kit was with the vertical (actually, they cant outward) stabilizers and their extensions which house the flare/chaff cartridges. Sanding is required to get H1 and H2 to match the contour of the aft fuselage. Also, I removed the tabs from the bottom of F2 and F5 to facilitate getting them to fit - they actually "toe-in" slightly when viewed from the front. Filler was used to blend them into the fin. The joint between the vertical stabilizers and the fuselage also needed a touch of filler.

I assembled the air-to-air missiles at different points in the build. Only the small R-73E's need some filler and sanding to fit properly. For the final presentation, I selected a full missile load and the large center line fuel tank. I did not use the external wing tanks nor the missile "training rounds." Pay attention to the diagrams in Step 10 because this is the only place showing which pylons match the different missiles and fuel tanks.

One thing you will notice on the wings is the position of the ailerons. Both sides are raised slightly above the plane of the wings, which is unusual. I searched the internet to confirm this configuration and did find a couple of pictures where both ailerons appeared to be above the wings. I couldn't find a conclusive photo showing both wings clearly, so I will give Trumpeter the benefit of the doubt.

Painting and Decaling

I chose to model the Hungarian version as depicted on the box cover. The guide for this step is a two-sided color sheet with the paints listed in several manufacturers' product lines. I personally appreciate this listing as I generally use paints from several sources. The color equivalents for Mr. Hobby's H308, the lighter gray, are way off - green rather than gray. For example, the Vallejo equivalent color is 71.050 or 990 and not the 893 called for. After priming with Alclad Grey Primer, I pre-shaded panel lines with a dark gray. For the upper and lower camouflage colors, I spayed different shades of Mr.Hobby, Vallejo, and Tamiya grays. No colors are recommended for the gear bays and the gear struts. For the former, I spayed Tamiya XF-22 RLM Grey lightened with white, while I used their XF-19 Sky Grey, also lightened with white, for the later. I missed the false cockpit on the lower fuselage and had to paint it on after the nose gear was installed. This presented some masking challenges. Later, I did some post-shading with a mix of light gray and white, to simulate the worn appearance on some areas of the machine. Photos from the internet were a great help here. One final note, I painted the cockpit with the Soviet era turquoise color, but later internet photos indicate it should be more of a light blue/gray.

For decal prep, I sprayed the model with Johnson Pledge with Future.

The decals are excellent. They are opaque and settled into panel lines nicely with Micro-Set and Sol. There are numerous stencil markings for the aircraft which took quite a while to complete. The missiles have their own decal sheet and guide with lots of stenciling here, too.

Finally, I painted the tow bar orange rather than gray. I found a few photos of Russian tow bars for various aircraft and they were all orange.

Conclusion

I would highly recommend the Trumpeter kit to most modelers. It's not, however, a model for the complete novice due to the high part count with many of them tiny and delicate. Is this Fulcrum kit perfect - almost. Several aerials and probes are missing as well as the faded orange/red seal around the canopy - I added my own with decals. That said, I think it's the best 1/72 Mig-29A on the market. I'm eagerly looking forward to Trumpeter's release of the SMT, late model version, as well as the two-seater. Thanks go the Stevens International for providing the kit and to IPMS for letting me do the review.


Who’s Flying Those MiG-29s In Libya And Why Does It Matter?

Even though the 14 MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter jets and Sukhoi Su-24 Fencer bombers delivered by Russia to Libya in May have not yet been used in combat in Libya’s civil war, the question of who exactly is piloting these warplanes has already come up. A definitive answer could well shed a lot of light on the nature and purpose of this deployment.

In May, these warplanes flew from Russia and made a stopover in Iran’s eastern Hamedan airbase. They then flew on to Russia’s Khmeimim airbase in western Syria, where social media photographs clearly showed that they were unmarked. Russian Air Force jets then escorted them to Al-Jufra airbase in Libya, which is controlled by the Libyan National Army (LNA) group led by General Khalifa Haftar.

Photo of MiG-29 en route to Libya taken by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) on 05.26.2020.

US Africa Command (AFRICOM)

The deployment of these aircraft seemed reminiscent of Russia’s secret military deployment in Syria before Moscow began overtly participating in that country’s civil war on the side of President Bashar al-Assad in late September 2015.

However, in that case, Russia quickly made clear it was directly and officially intervening and participating in the conflict. At present, the Libya case seems quite different.

In Libya, Russia backs Haftar’s LNA, which controls the country’s east. The group has recently suffered significant setbacks at the hands of its adversary, the U.N.-recognized and Turkish-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in the nation’s capital Tripoli.

The LNA’s bid to capture Tripoli, after subjecting it to a ferocious siege beginning in April 2019, from the GNA has completely failed and now the group finds itself increasingly on the defensive.

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In recent weeks, after suffering a succession of battlefield setbacks afflicted by an emboldened GNA backed by Turkish drone strikes, the LNA called for a ceasefire. The GNA refused, repeatedly insisting that it will push ahead and capture the strategically-important city of Sirte as well as Al-Jufra.

Had Russia wanted to deter the GNA from making any more advances at the expense of its LNA adversary its deployment of fighter jets might well have been much more overt, as was the case in Syria. MiG-29s and Su-24s still bearing their distinct Russian Air Force insignia would send a clear and unambiguous message that any attack on them could incur Russia’s wrath and retaliation.

Russian Air Force Su-34 based in Syria. Unlike aircraft recently sent to Libya this aircraft clearly . [+] bears the Russian Air Force markings and insignia. (Photo by Valery SharifulinTASS via Getty Images)

Moscow officially denies transferring these warplanes to Libya, unconvincingly claiming at one stage that the warplanes that showed up in Al-Jufra in May were restored aircraft from the old Libyan Air Force.

Col. Chris Karns, U.S. Africa Command’s (AFRICOM) Director of Public Affairs, said that “Libyans never had MiG-29s or Su-24s in their inventory, so anyone who says they ‘fixed their old planes’ is not representing the facts.” (While Libya did possess Soviet-built Su-24s in the past it never possessed MiG-29s).

It remains unclear who exactly is flying these planes. It’s unlikely that the pilots are members of the LNA, especially given how long it would take to fully train them. If they are Russian pilots, they are unlikely flying in an official capacity, especially if these jets remain unmarked.

Some speculate that the aircraft’s pilots may belong to the ostensibly non-state Russian Private Military Contractors (PMCs), possibly ex-Russian Air Force pilots hired by that group.

“There is concern these Russian aircraft are being flown by inexperienced, non-state PMC mercenaries who will not adhere to international law namely, they are not bound by the traditional laws of armed conflict,” said Bradford Gering, AFRICOM’s director of operations.

That could also mean if any of these warplanes are shot down, or destroyed by a GNA offensive on Al-Jufra, Russia may not retaliate directly, but rather maintain its official line that it’s not involved. That would also be in line with how its Wagner Group PMCs have operated in the past in places like Syria and Ukraine, as well as Libya itself.

In February 2018, Russian PMCs, most likely Wagner Group paramilitaries, participated in an attack by pro-Assad Syrian militiamen on U.S. troops and allied Syrian Democratic Forces fighters in eastern Syria’s Deir ez-Zor province. U.S. airstrikes promptly repelled that attack, killing scores of the attacking Syrians and an unclear number of the accompanying Russians in the process.

Russia remained quiet about the whole incident. As The New York Times NYT noted, Wagner is “often used by the Kremlin to carry out objectives that officials do not want connected to the Russian government.”

Contrast that incident to the time Turkey shot down a Russian Air Force Su-24 bomber that briefly strayed over its border with Syria back in November 2015. Moscow responded by bitterly condemning Ankara and slapping sanctions on it until Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed his regret over the incident and sought to repair ties the following summer.

During Egypt’s War of Attrition (1967-70) against Israel, Soviet pilots covertly assisted the Egyptians with Soviet MiG-21MFs bearing Egyptian insignia.

An Egyptian MiG-21. Soviet MiG-21s flew with Egyptian markings against Israel during the War of . [+] Attrition (1967-70).

In Operation Rimon 20 on July 30, 1970, Israeli jet fighters set an elaborate ambush in which they promptly shot down four Soviet MiG-21s, killing all four pilots, without suffering any losses of their own. Moscow, likely out of embarrassment and given the covert nature of its participation in that conflict, sought to keep the incident under wraps.

Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, on the other hand, publicly mentioned it a few months later when talking about the Soviet military presence in Egypt. “How do I know there are Russian pilots in Egypt?” she said. “Very simply because we had shot down four Soviet planes that were flown by Soviet pilots.”

In his 2009 memoir, the Soviet diplomat Yevgeny Primakov recounted meeting Meir a year after Rimon 20, but didn’t mention that particular incident even though decades had passed at that stage. “If there’s a war, we’ll fight that war,” Primakov recalled Meir telling him before going on to warn, in a clear reference to Rimon 20, “If any aircraft get in our way, we’ll shoot them down.”

Primakov recalled asking Meir to specify who’s aircraft she meant by that, to which she responded by referencing a completely separate past incident. “In 1948 [during the first Arab-Israeli War] we shot down five British planes,” she said.

The deployment of Russian aircraft in Libya today could well prove to be something resembling that covert Soviet operation in Egypt and the much more recent shadowy activities of the Wagner Group. Consequently, don’t expect Moscow to either take credit or responsibility for whatever its warplanes stationed in Libya do in the near future.


Mikoyan MiG-29 ‘Fulcrum’ (1977)

A MiG-29 (9.12) ‘Fulcrum-A’ of the 237th Composite Aviation Regiment, stationed at Kubinka in the Moscow Military District in the early 1990s. This historic unit still serves as the Air Force’s Aviation Equipment Demonstration Centre.

Three views of the prototype of the original, abortive MiG-29M armed with advanced weapons including Kh-31 (AS-17 ‘Krypton’) anti-radar missiles and R-77 (AA-12 ‘Adder’) air-to-air missiles.

The original MiG-29M launched efforts to create a genuine second-generation ‘Fulcrum’, including flyby-wire flight controls, advanced structure, improved powerplant, avionics and weapons systems. The 9.15 yielded five prototypes.

Developed by the USSR in response to increasingly sophisticated Western warplanes, the MiG-29 soon established a formidable reputation as an agile dogfighter. Despite its shortcomings, it has continued to undergo development with efforts to extend its range and the addition of a multi-role capability.

Although it entered Soviet Air Force service as a lightweight counterpart to the heavyweight Su-27 fighter, the MiG-29 traces its roots back to a design for a heavy fighter. This was later scaled down to meet a requirement for a ‘frontal’ fighter that would primarily serve in a short-range air defence role, but would also offer a secondary ground-attack capability. Detailed design work began in 1974. In order to keep pace with Western fighter development, the MiG-29 was to make use of a look-down/shoot-down capability and be able to operate in an electronic countermeasures environment. Other important elements of the design were undercarriage and engine intakes optimized for operations on rough and semi-prepared forward airstrips.

Employing a blended high-lift, low-drag wing and forward fuselage, the MiG-29 was tailored for high angle-of-attack performance, providing superb low-speed and high-Alpha agility. The first of 11 prototypes completed a maiden flight in October 1977. After eight pre-production machines, the initial production version began to be delivered to the Soviet Air Force’s Frontal Aviation elements in 1983, and was known to Mikoyan as the 9.12 and to NATO as the ‘Fulcrum-A’. In this original form, the primary mission sensors comprised an N019 pulse-Doppler radar and an infra-red search and track system. The pilot was provided with a helmet-mounted cueing system. The similar 9.12A version was delivered to Warsaw Pact countries and other close allies, while the further downgraded 9.12B was produced for export to non-Warsaw Pact operators.

A two-seat combat trainer was developed and fielded as the 9.51 MiG-29UB ‘Fulcrum-B’, with radar deleted and a second seat under an elongated canopy. In 1984 Mikoyan flew a first example of the improved 9.13 ‘Fulcrum-C’ that retained the basic MiG-29 nomenclature, but which carried additional fuel and avionics in an enlarged spine. A further improved ‘Fulcrum-C’ was the 9.13S model, the key features of which were a more advanced flight-control system and an improved N019M radar with multi-target tracking/two-target engagement capability and compatibility with advanced R-77 (AA-12 ‘Adder’) air-to-air missiles. Underwing fuel tanks were also now offered as standard.

After the Cold War, the 9.13 formed the basis of a family of increasingly advanced MiG-29s aimed at the export market, and with enhanced capabilities that included expanded multi-role flexibility and Western communications systems. The first of these upgrade configurations was the baseline MiG-29SE, with the improvements developed for the Soviet MiG-29S, together with the option of Western-style displays and instruments and Western navigation, identification friend or foe (IFF) and radio equipment. The MiG-29SD includes NATO-compatible IFF and navigation/communications equipment, improved radar, R-77 compatibility and provision for a bolt-on retractable in-flight refuelling probe. The MiG-29SM focuses on enhanced air-to-ground capabilities, and includes a new cockpit display, radar modifications and weapons system improvements allowing the use of TV- and radar-guided bombs and missiles. Most advanced of these upgrades is the MiG-29SMT featuring a ‘glass’ cockpit, enhanced air-to-ground capabilities and a new, even larger dorsal spine to accommodate extra fuel.

During the 1980s Mikoyan had ambitious plans for a second-generation MiG-29 that would employ an all-new airframe design. This took the form of the land-based 9.15 MiG-29M and the carrier-based 9.31 MiG-29K. However, post-Cold War funding cuts saw these programmes abandoned in the early 1990s.

As the manufacturer’s fortunes improved in the twenty-first century, MiG returned to advanced MiG-29 variants, and brought to market a new, unified family of MiG-29 multi-role fighters derived from the 9.15 and 9.31.

The latest variants are based on the navalized MiG-29K and MiG-29KUB (9.41 and 9.47) developed for the Indian Navy. The land-based equivalents are the MiG-29M/M2 variants, and all feature open architecture avionics, Zhuk-ME radar with a slotted planar array, and new RD-33MK engines with full-authority digital engine control (FADEC).

Further enhancements are incorporated in the MiG-35 and two-seat MiG-35D, which boast a multi-mode phased-array radar, a new electro-optical targeting and reconnaissance system, an improved IRST sensor and a new defensive aids system. All of the new versions are also offered with thrust-vectoring engines.

During the 1980s Mikoyan had ambitious plans for a second-generation MiG-29 that would employ an all-new airframe design. This took the form of the land-based 9.15 MiG-29M and the carrier-based 9.31 MiG-29K. However, post-Cold War funding cuts saw these programmes abandoned in the early 1990s.

As the manufacturer’s fortunes improved in the twenty-first century, MiG returned to advanced MiG-29 variants, and brought to market a new, unified family of MiG-29 multi-role fighters derived from the 9.15 and 9.31.

The latest variants are based on the navalized MiG-29K and MiG-29KUB (9.41 and 9.47) developed for the Indian Navy. The land-based equivalents are the MiG-29M/M2 variants, and all feature open architecture avionics, Zhuk-ME radar with a slotted planar array, and new RD-33MK engines with full-authority digital engine control (FADEC).

Side number 712 is the Product 9-67 MiG-35D/UB two-seater prototype/demonstrator.

Further enhancements are incorporated in the MiG-35 and two-seat MiG-35D,

which would have boasted a multi-mode phased-array radar, a new electro-optical targeting and reconnaissance system, an improved IRST sensor and a new defensive aids system, plus thrust-vectoring engines. [see below]

The first batch of six RAC (Russian Aircraft Corporation) “MiG” MiG-35 multi-role combat aircraft will soon be delivered to the VKS (Russian aerospace forces), according to Ilya Tarasenko, director general of RAC MiG, in an announcement made at the production plant at Lukhovitsky on November 28. He also said that an active phased-array radar would be offered as an option and stated that a prototype equipped with such a radar had already been completed.

The contract for the production of this initial batch of six MiG-35s was signed during the 2018 Army Forum on August 22. Delivery of these aircraft will allow completion of all planned tests in early 2019, after which serial production will begin at the Sokol Nizhnii Novgorod Aircraft Plant. In 2013, Novosti reported that 37 MiG-35s would be purchased, but 170 aircraft are now planned for the Russian air forces.

The MiG-35 is part of what RAC MiG calls a unified family of multi-role fighters, consisting of the carrier-borne MiG-29K/KUB for India and MiG-29KR/KUBR for the Russian Navy, the MiG-29M/M2 for Egypt, and the MiG-35 for the Russian air forces. All use the same basic airframe, with tandem cockpits (the single-seaters have extra fuel in place of the rear cockpit but still employ a two-seat canopy) and a bigger wing compared to the MiG-29, with bigger flaps and horizontal tails. Carrier versions have an arrester hook and folding wingtips, while land-based variants have a braking parachute and no wing-fold.

The MiG-35 designation was originally applied to an earlier attempt to produce an advanced version of the MiG-29. Six MiG-29M prototypes were produced between 1986 and 1991, and the MiG-29M was briefly re-branded as the MiG-35 before being abandoned.

Some years later the fourth MiG-29M prototype (Side number 154) was converted to two-seat configuration, becoming the MiG-29MRCA in 2005/06 for the Indian Multi-Role Combat Aircraft competition, and was subsequently re-designated the MiG-29M2. In January 2007 it became the MiG-35 demonstrator. Soon afterwards, the fifth MiG-29M prototype was rebuilt to become the MiG-29KUB (Product 9-47) prototype, while the sixth MiG-29M was modified as the thrust-vectoring MiG-29OVT testbed.

The MiG-35 was originally conceived as having a range of advanced systems and capabilities, and the MiG-35 demonstrator was fitted with an NIIR Zhuk-AE AESA radar in December 2008. Two further MiG-35 demonstrators flew in the autumn of 2009, converted from MiG-29K/KUB airframes originally intended for India. The single-seater was known as the Product 9-61 (MiG-35) and the two-seater as the Product 9-67 (MiG-35D). They were delivered to the VKS for flight testing in November 2016.

In 2011/2012 two further aircraft were built to meet a Syrian order, which was subsequently canceled. The Syrian version featured a basic Zhuk-ME radar (as used by the MiG-29K/KUB) and was designated the MiG-29M in single-seat form and as the MiG-29M2 in two-seat form. In March 2014 Egypt decided to buy 24 MiG-35s, but changed its order to the “Syrian” MiG-29M/M2 variant before signing a contract for 46 aircraft in April 2015. They were delivered from September 2017.

Russia also quietly “dumbed down” the specification of its planned MiG-35, and when the first MiG-35S and MiG-35SD series production prototypes were unveiled by RSK MiG at Lukhovitsky on January 27, 2017, they lacked the once-planned thrust-vectoring and AESA radar. The MiG-35S/SD is now closely comparable to the export MiG-29M/M2 with the exception of a few additional advanced weapon integrations. State trials began in January 2018.

The single-seat MiG-35S prototype was rolled out in January 2017.

Polish ‘Fulcrums’

A NATO member, the Polish Air Force remains an enthusiastic MiG-29 operator. Poland first ordered nine MiG-29As and three MiG-29UBs, the first of which were delivered in 1989. In 1995 Poland decided to purchase 10 surplus MiG-29s (nine MiG-29As and one MiG-29UB) from the Czech Republic. With the withdrawal from service of Luftwaffe MiG-29s, 22 former East German aircraft (18 MiG-29Gs and four MiG-29GTs) were offered to Poland for a symbolic Euro. The offer was accepted and in September 2003 the first aircraft arrived in Poland. In order to operate within NATO, and to extend their service lives, Polish MiGs are being upgraded with a new digital databus with open architecture, a cockpit using imperial units of measurement, a laser inertial platform with embedded GPS and INS, digital video recorder and data transfer system, an up-front control panel, a new UHF/VHF radio, an upgraded IRST sensor and modernized NO19 radar with increased target detection and tracking range.


Watch the video: Inside The Cockpit - MiG-29 Fulcrum