|Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29 |
A Luftwaffe Mikoyan MiG-29A
|Role ||multi-role fighter |
|Crew ||1 |
|First Flight ||6 October 1977 |
|Entered Service ||1983 |
|Manufacturer ||MiG MAPO, Russia |
|Length ||17.37 m ||57 ft |
|Wingspan ||11.4 m ||37 ft 3 in |
|Height ||4.73 m ||15 ft 6 in |
|Wing area ||38 m² ||409 ft² |
|Empty ||11,000 kg ||24,250 lb |
|Loaded ||16,800 kg ||37,038 lb |
|Maximum takeoff ||21,000 kg ||46,300 lb |
|Engines ||2x Klimov RD-33K turbofans |
|Thrust ||86.4 kN ||19,400 lbf |
|Maximum speed ||2,430 km/h ||1,518 mph |
|Combat radius ||700 km ||438 mi |
|Ferry range ||2,900 km ||1,812 mi |
|Service ceiling ||17,000 m ||55,800 ft |
|Rate of climb ||330 m/s ||65,000 ft/min |
|Wing loading ||442 kg/m² ||90.5 lb/ft² |
|Thrust/Weight ||1.05 |
|Avionics ||Phazotron N-109 radar |
|Guns ||30 mm GSh-30-1 cannon with 150 rounds |
|Bombs ||3,500 kg (7,700 lb) |
|Missiles ||Six AAMs including |
a mix of SARH
FAB 500-M62, FAB-1000,
TN-100, ECM Pods,
S-24 AS-12, AS-14
The Mikoyan MiG-29 (NATO reporting name 'Fulcrum') is a Russian fighter aircraft used in the air superiority role. Developed in the early 1970s, it entered Soviet service in 1983 and remains in use by the Russian Air Force as well as many export nations.
The MiG-29, like the larger Sukhoi Su-27 'Flanker', began in 1969, when the Soviet learned of the U.S. Air Force 'FX' program which would eventually produce the F-15 Eagle. Even before the aircraft was developed, Soviet leadership realized that the new fighter would represent a serious technological advance over all existing Soviet fighters. The MiG-21 'Fishbed' had been agile by the standards of its day, but its size left it deficient in range, armament, and growth potential. The MiG-23 'Flogger', developed to match the F-4 Phantom II, was fast and had more space for fuel and equipment, but its maneuverability and dogfighting ability was deficient. The Soviets clearly needed a better-balanced fighter with both agility and sophisticated systems.
In response, the Soviet General Staff issued a requirement for a Perspektivnyi Frontovoi Istrebitel (PFI, roughly 'advanced tactical fighter'). It was extremely ambitious, calling for long range, good short-field performance (including the ability to use austere runways), excellent agility, Mach 2+ speed, and heavy armament. The aerodynamic design for the new aircraft was largely carried out by TsAGI, the Russian aerodynamics institute, in collaboration with Sukhoi.
In 1971 the Soviets determined that the PFI aircraft would be too expensive to procure in the quantities needed (directly paralleling the contemporary USAF experience that led to the Lightweight Fighter program and the F-16 Fighting Falcon and YF-17 Cobra), and divided it into TPFI (Tyazholyi Perspektivnyi Frontovoi Istrebitel, heavy advanced tactical fighter) and LPFI (Legkiy Perspektivnyi Frontovoi Istrebitel, lightweight advanced tactical fighter). The heavy fighter remained with Sukhoi (resulting in the Su-27 'Flanker'), while the lightweight went to Mikoyan.
The resultant Product 9, designated MiG-29A, began detail designwork in 1974. The first flight took place 6 October 1977. The preproduction aircraft was first spotted by United States reconnaissance satellites in November of that year; it was dubbed Ram-L because the U.S. knew only that it was being built at the Zhukovsky flight test centre near the town of Ramenskoye.
Despite program delays caused by the loss of two prototypes in engine-related accidents, the production MiG-29B began to enter Frontal Aviation squadron service in June 1983. It was given the NATO reporting name 'Fulcrum-A'. (The preproduction MiG-29A was seen later.) The MiG-29B, in a downgraded versions known as MiG-29B 9-12A and MiG-29B 9-12B (for Warsaw Pact and non-WP nations, respectively), with less capable avionics and no capacity for nuclear weapons, was widely exported. Total production was about 840 aircraft.
The MiG-29 was first publicly seen in the West during a visit to Finland in July 1986. Two were displayed at the Farnborough Air Show in Britain in September 1988. Western observers were impressed by its apparent capability and its exceptional agility, although some criticized it as a copy of the F-16 and F/A-18A Hornet.
Refined versions of the MiG-29 with improved avionics were fielded by the Soviet Union, but Mikoyan plans for more advanced, multi-role variants, including a carrier-based version, were interrupted by the fall of the Soviet Union. In the post-Soviet era, MiG-29 development was stymied by the Mikoyan bureau's apparent lack of political clout compared to rival Sukhoi. Some more advanced versions are still being pursued for export, and updates of existing Russian aircraft are likely.
MiG-29 export buyers (either from the USSR/Russia or from their former satellites) have included Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Eritrea, Germany, Hungary, India, Iran, Iraq, Malaysia, North Korea, Peru Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Syria, and Yemen. The ex-Soviet republics of Belarus, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan were left with large numbers of aircraft after the disintegration; some remain in service, others are mothballed or (like all of the 34 aircraft originally in Moldova) been sold abroad.
The United States obtained 21 ex-Moldovan aircraft, originally intending to use them for air combat training and research, but they have since been scrapped.
The Soviet Union did not assign official "popular names" to its aircraft, although unofficial nicknames were common. Unusually, Soviet pilots found the MiG-29's NATO reporting name, 'Fulcrum,' to be a flattering description of the aircraft's intended purpose, and it is often called Fulcrum in Russian service. This was a contrast to previous names such as 'Backfire' and 'Careless.'
Despite its apparent virtues, the MiG-29 has not fared well in actual combat use. It has flown in combat in the 1991 Gulf War, over Serbia, and in the Eritrea-Ethiopia conflict in 1999. At least a dozen have been shot down, with no victories. Some have seen this as a sign of the MiG-29's deficiencies, but it would perhaps be more accurate to say that its failure reveals that in modern aerial warfare, tactics, pilot training, and a complete air group (with electronic warfare, tactical recce, AWACS, and tanker support) are more significant than individual aircraft qualities.
Because it was developed from the same basic parameters laid out by TsAGI for the original PFI, the MiG-29 is broadly aerodynamically similar to the Sukhoi Su-27, although it is notable smaller.
The MiG-29 is built largely out of aluminum; unlike the Su-27, some composite material is used. It has a high-mounted swept wing with blended leading-edge root extensions (LERXs). Leading-edge sweep is 40°. There are swept tailplanes and two vertical fins, mounted outboard of the engines. Automatic slats are mounted on the leading edges of the wings (four-segment on early models, five-segment slats on some later variants), with trailing-edge flaps.
There are two Klimov RD-33 afterburning turbofan engines, widely spaced. The space between the engines generates lift, reducing effective wing loading to improve maneuverability (as with the contemporary F-14 Tomcat). The intakes have variable ramps to allow high-Mach speeds, with an additional feature allowing them to be closed almost completely at low speeds to prevent ingestion of snow or ground debris on a rough field take-off, the engines taking their air through louvers on the LERXs. This unusual feature was probably developed because the widely spaced landing gear provide limited ground clearance. Later variants delete these dorsal louvers and this feature, substituting mesh screens similar to those of the Su-27 to prevent debris ingestion.
Internal fuel capacity of the original MiG-29B is only 3,200 kg (7,380 lb), giving a very limited fuel fraction of about 0.21 (the optimum for fighters is usually considered 0.30). This greatly limited its range. The MiG-29S ('Fulcrum-C') added a dorsal 'hump' to the upper fuselage (earning it the nickname 'Hunchback' in service) that was originally believed to be for additional fuel. In fact, most of its volume is used for a new ECM system, and the MiG-29S's internal fuel is 3,408 kg (7,513 lb), only a slight increase. Some later variants have increased wing and fuselage tankage, improving fuel fraction to about 0.27 (comparable to the F-16).
The MiG-29 has hydraulic controls, but, unlike the Su-27, does not have a fly-by-wire control system. Nonetheless, its agility is excellent, with good instantaneous and sustained turn performance, high alpha capability, and a general resistance to spins. The airframe is stressed for 9g (88 m/s²) maneuvers. The controls have "soft" limiters to prevent the pilot from exceeding the g and alpha limits, but these can be disabled manually.
The cockpit has conventional dials, with HUD but no HOTAS. Emphasis seems to have been placed on making the cockpit similar to the earlier MiG-23 and other Soviet aircraft for ease of conversion, rather than on ergonomics. Nonetheless, the MiG-29 does have substantially better visibility than most previous Russian jet fighters. Upgrade models introduce 'glass' cockpits with modern CRT multi-function displays and true HOTAS. One worthy feature is the excellent Zvezda K-36D ejection seat, which has impressive performance in emergency escapes.
The original MiG-29B had Phazotron N-019/RP-29 Saphir (Sapphire; NATO reporting name 'Slot Back') multi-mode Doppler radar. This had reasonable range, about 100 km (60 statute miles) against fighter-sized targets, and a 10-target tracking ability, but its processing capability was limited, and it was not easy to use. It was further compromised by Phazotron designer Alexander Tolkachev's betrayal of the radar to the CIA, for which he was executed in 1985. In response the Soviets hastily developed a modified N-019M Topaz radar for the upgraded MiG-29S aircraft. The latest upgrade aircraft offer the N-010 Zhuk-M, which has a flat planar antenna rather than a dish, improving range, and much superior processing ability, with multiple target engagement capability and compatibility with the RVV-AE (NATO AA-12 'Adder') air-to-air missile.
A useful feature of the MiG-29, shared with the Su-27, is the S-31E2 KOLS, a combined laser rangefinder and infrared search and track (IRST) in an 'eyeball' mount foreward of the cockpit canopy. This can be slaved to the radar or used independently, and provides exceptional gun-laying accuracy.
Armament of the MiG-29 includes a single GSh-30-1 30mm cannon in the port wing root. This originally had a 149-round magazine, reduced to 100 rounds in later variants. Three pylons are provided under each wing (four in some variant models), for a total of six (or eight). The inboards can carry either a 1,150 liter (300 US gallon) fuel tank, one R-27 (AA-10 'Alamo') medium-range air-to-air missile, or unguided bombs or rockets. Some Soviet aircraft could carry a single nuclear bomb on the port inboard station. The outer pylons usually carry R-73 (AA-11 'Archer') dogfight missiles, although some users still retain the older R-60 (AA-8 'Aphid'). A single 1,500 liter (400 US gallon) tank can be fitted to the centreline, between the engines, for fery flights, but the MiG-29 apparently does not use this position for combat stores.
The original MiG-29B had little provision for ground attack, being intended primarily for battlefield air superiority and short-range interception. It could carry general-purpose bombs and unguided rocket pods, but was not compatible with precision-guided munitions. Upgrade models have provision for laser-guided and electrooptical bombs and guided air-to-surface missiles.
A two-seat trainer version of the MiG-29 was developed, designated MiG-29UB ('Fulcrum-B'). This has no radar, substituting a module allowing the instructor to simulate various combat situations emergencies, and reduced fuel capacity. Although the -UB designation (for Uchebno-Boevoi, trainer-combat) suggests that the MiG-29UB is combat-capable, its limited range and lack of radar makes that unlikely.