The MiG-29 "Fulcrum" ("Tochka Opori" in Russian) was designed and built to be a single-seat supersonic, all-weather, air superiority fighter representing, with the MiG-31 "Foxhound", the latest and perhaps last fighter production items from the Mikoyan Design Bureau.
The primary role of the MiG-29 is to destroy air targets at distances from 60 to 200 kilometers (30 to 110 NM) at all altitudes, on all profiles, in any weather, and under all ECM conditions. In addition, the basic MiG-29 is capable of limited air-to-ground operations and in advanced versions, has been optimized to attack targets with precision guided munitions.
The basic single-seat production MiG-29, designated as "Product" or "Model" "09", with nineteen prototypes, of which the first groups were numbered 9-01 to 9-11 and 9-12 to 9-15, while others were on the drawing boards. The new model quickly became the Fulcrum "A" to NATO analysts.
During the late 1960's, the Russian General Staff launched a requirements study for a "Perspektivnyi Frontovoi Istrebitel" or "PFI" (Advanced Tactical Fighter) which was directed at an advanced tactical fighter paralleling the development in the US for the "FX" that became the F-15. By 1971, the requirement split into a "Heavy" Program ("TPFI" with "T" meaning "tyazholyi" for "heavy") and a "Lightweight" Program ("LPFI" with "L" meaning "Legkiy" for "light"). Development of the MiG-29 began to fulfill the "LPFI" which was described as the "Light Frontline Fighter Project".
The official "uncompromised design technical assignment", which was translated into a new operational requirement, was issued in 1972 to replace MiG-21 and MiG-23 assets in the tactical and air defense air forces. The new lightweight fighter was to undertake autonomous operations from austere sites to achieve air superiority over the tactical theater and provide limited escort and surface attack capabilities. Detail design work began in 1974 which resulted in the first 14 of 19 prototypes. The first example was flown on 06Oct77, by chief test pilot Alexander V. Fedotov, at the Ramenskoye flight test center. It was photographed in November 1977 by US intelligence satellites and given the interim designation of the "RAM-L". The second prototype flew in June 1978. Eventually the 2nd and 4th prototypes, propulsion test beds, would be lost in accidents (15Jun78 & 31Oct80 respectively) due to engine failures. The third prototype (03) was the first dual-seater MiG-29UB trainer and first flew on 28Apr81, again plioted by Alexander V. Fedotov.
Nevertheless, the Fulcrum entered series production in 1982 at Moscow's Znamya Truda plant, which will be discussed in detail later. The first operational unit was designated in August 1983, at Kubinka Air Base, near Moscow, with deliveries to Frontal Aviation units commencing in 1984 when the State Acceptance Trials completed. Initial production, testing, and modifications continued until 1985, and by 1986 the first export deliveries were made. On 13Feb85, the first flight of the model 9-14 variant was flown by test pilot Toktar Aubakirov with an air-to-surface attack avionics suite suspended in a pod. This prototype led the way to further multi-role upgrades which were realized in the MiG-29M prototypes. The first MiG-29M (MiG-33) flew on 25Apr86.
In total, over 800 were delivered to the Soviet / Russian Tactical Air Forces and around 500 airframes prepared for initial export customers. By 1989, it was serving in 12 different air forces around the world. Presently, it is the only Russian aircraft on operational duty in NATO and serves in 21 air forces. Brassey's reports that a total of 1216 MiG-29 single-seaters and 197 MiG-29UB dual-seaters were built by January 1985 (total of 1413). Since 1990, production was exclusively for export.
The MiG-29 design team was headed by Rostislav Belyakov assisted by A. A. Chumachyenko, V. A. Lavrov, and M. R. Waldenberg. Bill Gunston summarized the MiG-29 design characteristics specified by the Russian Air Force in his book, "The Encyclopedia of Russian Aircraft 1875 - 1995", as incorporating an "integral aerodynamics with lifting fuselage disappearing into a large wing, two underslung engines with variable inlets, structure for a sustained 9 G's, multimode Pulse-Doppler radar, comprehensive fire-control and electronic warfare systems, and gun plus not fewer than six air-to-air missiles.
The West was given its first close look at the Fulcrum when the Kubinka Regiment deployed a six aircraft demonstration team to Finland in July 1986 and since then, the Mikoyan-MAPO organization in conjunction with the Russian Government, Export Organizations and Air Force, have made regular appearances at most of the world's air exhibitions and trade shows.
The first major MiG-29 structural improvements came with pre-production prototype Model 9-13 which included a slightly bulged spine and fatter upper fuselage with provisions for a larger No. 1 fuel-tank and additional avionics. This "fat back" version made its first flight on 23Dec80 and was flown by Test Pilot V.M. Gorbunov (Air International, May 1995, pg.272). Western designations for this variant actually vacillated back and forth from a "mod Fulcrum A" (variant 3) to the "Fulcrum C". Since no significantly new avionics suite was included and a rather limited production run was accomplished (under 50), it remains today, at least in the open source world, the "Fulcrum A" even though the Russians credit it as the sub-block "MiG-29S" because an extensive retrofit program was made available for all MiG-29 users. Going further, the first three more advanced MiG-29SD prototypes flew in 1984, and the subsequent production run represented to the Mikoyan designers the maximum possible growth that would fill the basic MiG-29 airframe. After that a significant increase in gross weight would be required as well as internal bulkhead upgrades.
Since the basic "fat back" dorsal growth framework was utilized for the advanced carrier version, called the MiG-29K, there has been a continued debate over just how much additional fuel was included in the MiG-29"S" & "M" designs. Various Mikoyan and Russian publications address supplemental amounts of 75 (16.5), 130 (28.6), 175 (38.5), and 240 (52.8) liters (US Gal.). Since the degree of production article standardization has been poor throughout the entire MiG-29 fleet, there is a good chance that different production lines resulted in slightly different figures as the available volume was filled.
The MiG-29S brief production run was supplemented in the new re-organization of the Mikoyan Experimental Prototype Design and Construction Bureau, abbreviated the "Mikoyan OKB", and its merger with MAPO, the Moscow Aircraft Production Organization, with a product improvement program that was applied in stages and has been available even up until today. Hence the confusion of "how many" advanced models have been produced continues, but it is confirmed that "fat back" and "normal" MiG-29 Fulcrum A's have occupied the same Regiments and are treated by the pilots as basically the same machine in handling qualities. During one of the first Moscow airshow a formation takeoff and flight demonstration was made by an original production Fulcrum A with a "fat back" on its wing and then their positions reversed for the next performance. Therefore the "fat back" feature is seen on both Fulcrum A (retrofit) and Fulcrum C (production) fighters and the main differences fall back to weapon system, internal fuel, and system growth capability.
After the breakup of the Soviet Union (Dec 1991) all of the MiG-29 resources were re-distributed and shared with the separating republics leaving the Russian Air Forces (VVS) with just under 400 operational MiG-29 aircraft. Charles Dick (Director CSRC) noted in his paper "The Russian Army: Present Plight & Future Prospects" (22Nov94) that ColGen. P.S. Deynekin, Russian Air Forces Chief of Staff, summarized that the VVS is now left with only 37% of its original MiG-29 force. Today the actual serving MiG-29's in the VVS is estimated to be greatly under 300.
By the end of 1993 as production orders dramatically dropped, close to 100 x Fulcrum's could be found in storage, undelivered, but a small number (48) of upgraded "fat back" models were transferred into the hands of the Russian Air Force for operational evaluation. Some of the stored excess aircraft were used as attrition replacements due to the rising accident rate in the VVS (reaching 12 per 100,000 hrs) while others became export items. Soon, a small attrition replacement batch of 8 was sought by India, 41 were then ordered by Iran, 48 to Syria, and 18 new aircraft were produced for Malaysia. Despite Mikoyan optimism, only a few new customers appear to be forthcoming, although they are marketing world wide. The former Soviet Union (fSU) Warsaw Pact allies of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and the Slovak Republic have all been offered MiG-29's as payment for debts resultant from the pullout of Russian forces from their territories. Hungary and the Czech Republic took up the deal to carry over their air forces until a proper western re-organization could better prepare them for F-16 class aircraft. Not only did their economies need work, but the support and training infrastructure for aviation needed revamping.
General Designer and recognized academician, Rostislav Apollosovich Belyakov, took over the MiG Bureau in 1970 following the death of its founder, Anushavan "Artyom" Ivanovich Mikoyan (05Aug1905-09Dec1970). This was made possible because of Mikhail Iosifovich Gurevich's (12Jan1893-12Nov1976) retirement in 1964. Belyakov was a graduate of the Moscow Aviation Institute during World War II. He received a State Prize for design excellence in 1951, and was chief designer of the MiG-23 during the 1960's. Belyakov ran the Mikoyan establishment with four Chief Designers, of which Mikhail Romanovich Waldenberg and Anatoly Andreevich Belosvet were the most known in the West, and fourteen deputy Chief Designers. A new Department of Foreign Economic Relations was formed under Leonid Borisovich Leshchiner and his immediate deputy, Yuri Petrovich Golovin, and chartered to work with all of the potential export customers. These names are mentioned because they show up regularly at the major international air shows and exhibitions.
The "Mikoyan OKB", was founded in 1939 on Leningradskiy Shassi (highway) with a series of buildings and a small factory for use in building prototypes. The OKB was at first, as the title implies, strictly an R&D facility that built prototypes. The Mikoyan flight test center is located at Zhukovskiy (called Ramenskoye, or abbreviated "RAM" by western intelligence and used in the intelligence designation of new aircraft such as "RAM-K", "RAM-J", etc.) and at Volga, on the Crimean peninsula, and other facilities on a temporary basis. There has always been the question of why did the US intell organizations recognize Ramenskoye as the name of the test facility when the Russians have always addressed it as Zhukovskiy. When the facility first opened the town of Ramenskoye was the nearest population center. There was a worker's construction camp, named Zhukovskiy, that eventually grew into a larger town and became the nearest population center and official Russian name for the facility.
The Mikoyan OKB could hand tool up no more than two prototypes at one time and usually there were strict security precautions in place. Aircraft manufacturing for flight test articles would move to two production facilities, the closest of which was the Moscow Aircraft Production Organization No. 30 (MAPO), known also as the GAZ-30 plant. The second was the Nizhny Novgorod State Aircraft Plant or the "Znamya Truda" (Banner of Labor) factory which eventually re-organized under the corporate name of Sokol.
The MAPO facility is located in Moscow proper, on Botkinski Street, at the Khodinka bus stop. It is the oldest aircraft production facility in Russia, first utilized in 1909. During 1939, it was redesigned the State Aircraft Works No. 1. Today the factory is still run under Plant Director General Anatoly Sergyevich Manuyev who reports to Mikoyan's Chief Designer Waldenberg and Russian Air Force Plant Representative Colonel Viktor Isayenko (like a DPRO in the US). Note that Lenin's glass covered and pressurized casket was built here after his death in 1924.
MAPO employed at its peak up to 30,000 people with an additional 3,000 for non-aviation related production items. It covers over 618 acres of land and has 26,909,675 square feet of usable floor space (for more see Jay Miller's book, The MiG OKB: A History of the Design Bureau and Its Aircraft, Aerofax, 1991). Production of the MiG-21, MiG-23, MiG-27, and MiG-29 aircraft were all centered at this facility. Flight certification and delivery flights are conducted from Lukhovitsy airfield, which is close by and today occasionally hosts an international air display.
Once the aircraft are in production, the OKB is responsible for designing improvements based on requests and reports from the operational units designated by the air force. The overall design process is done in close collaboration with the Ministry of Aviation Industry (MAP), its Research Institutes (such as TsAGI the aero center), and the military customer.
Flight Testing is done in three stages, "plant testing" (no military) at Zhukovskiy, "design testing" (with a mix of military pilots) at environmental facilities all over the country, and "state testing" (extensive military participation) at designated military installations where the aircraft become certified for use by the Air Forces.
During a visit to colleges and defense plants in the United States, Rostislav A. Belyakov candidly voiced his opinions on the objectives and lessons learned from the MiG-29 development program and they were published in "Some Aspects of the MiG Aircraft Development", Mikoyan Design Bureau, 1989.
Analysis of the local war combat experience and the military aircraft combat progress trends revealed the need for the development of a new tactical fighter capable of both maneuvering dogfight and beyond visual range air combat.
Conceptual studies of the MiG-29 were performed in joint efforts with the Air Force, TsAGI, and other institutes. For the first time in Soviet aviation an aircraft's general layout was based on a so called integral configuration with all of the aero-elements creating lift.
The aircraft was designed with slight positive longitudinal stability, rather low wing loading, and high thrust-to-weight ratio. The aircraft wing had 3-D deformation and high-lift devices in the form of programmable leading and trailing edge flaps.
Austere airfield operations on natural ground was included along with the traditional airfield methods by means of main intakes closing during taxi, takeoff, and landing roll. Engine air in these operational modes is supplied through the upper part of the inlets.
Engine designers developed for the aircraft the RD-33 high performance turbofan with maximum thrust at 8300 kg (18,300 lbs). Composite materials were utilized to some extent in the airframe structure. The airframe manufacturing breakdown was oriented to the needs of mass-production manufacturing. It is constructed with a wide use of parts produced by numerically-controlled machines, structural modularization, and intensive use of automatic beam welding.
The aircraft is equipped with an integrated fire-control system comprising of three mutually supported subsystems namely radar, electro-optical, and optical sets. As a result, the aircraft is capable of launching air-to-air missiles with homing heads of different types. Special attention has been given to the reliability and maintainability of the aircraft, equipment, and weapons.
The MiG-29 represents a major new step in fighter aviation achieved through the proper layout of power plant and equipment, considerable expanding of the built-in-test, and in the future, the total elimination of any ground-test equipment during the quick turn around of the aircraft.
The MiG-29 was the first Soviet fighter to participate in international air shows and exhibitions since 1988 (England, France, Canada, etc.). The MiG-29 has substantial growth potential and we are naturally working on this.
Mikoyan's Move into the Future:
The Mikoyan Bureau was slowly "downsizing" into dormancy (not death) since the fall of Communism, but spurts of business, small national R&D stipends and the merging with MAPO, its key production facility, and the KAMOV helicopter design bureau, have assured its survival into the 21st century. The proper term for this association of a new Military Industrial Group (MIG) was MIG-MAPO, using the capital "I" in MIG. As you can see this immediately conflicted with the time-honored "MiG" designation for the original Mikoyan-Guryevich name. Hence the proper new term for this "joint stock" corporate structure is MIG-MAPO, but with respect to tradition the MAPO-MiG designation is used. The main output of the MIG-MAPO organization will be the family of MiG-29 Fighters and Kamov Helicopters, but small aircraft projects are also under work as well as upgrade programs.
This new strategy of "joint venture" in the Russian aerospace industry was explained in the Oct 95 Interavia Magazine as an attempt to reorganize around holding companies consisting of financial institutions, industrial firms, and commercial aviation entities. It would focus attention on capitalizing international markets, securing government financial guarantees and fiscal incentives, revamping export legal regulations, and creating a flexible sales organization capable of competing with the West. These joint-stock holding companies were expected to eventually evolve into multinational corporations.
The Mikoyan solution focused on Aircraft Production Plant 30. The main production building is huge, well lighted assembly facility where aircraft are built-up on separate moveable cradle-stands (JDW, 15Apr89, pg.655). The sequence of MiG-29 production/assembly is fuselage skeleton, wings & tail sections, internal electronic systems, and then skin & panels. There is no evidence of automated production technologies, even after the restart effort was initiated for Malaysia.
In all, the new MAPO-MiG organization undertook urgent measures to cut down unprofitable subdivisions, ceased marketing activities in areas where there was a limited possibility for sales, removed duplication in the design and production facilities, reviewed the attitude towards cooperation and communication between venders and enterprises, and brought together financial resources to work with potential customers. The present goal of MIG-MAPO corporation is to create an optimal "closed production cycle" that will produce all of the necessary components involved with over 300 enterprises that are involved in the production of all their air vehicles.
To survive in the future, MIG-MAPO must continue to support the further development of advanced fighters. Recently, when Sukhoi overturned a Mikoyan victory in Indonesia with the more capable Su-30 over the MiG-29SE, it became clear that competition would not just be external to Russia, but also from within. So in effect, the stops are off and the race is on because survival dictates it. The entire "conversion" effort of the Russian defense industry has failed, and the one thing that has been learned is that the only thing they are good at is the production of weaponry. The formula for survival that started with "privatization" and then downsizing (rationalization) with "merger" was only partly right. The point missed was that it was directed at re-newed military production.
MAPO has also made several attempts at foreign joint ventures focused on the support of export aircraft while utilizing investments to stockpile aviation parts and spares at the idle Mikoyan warehouses for world wide shipment, repair, and sale. Rostislav Belyakov mentioned in 1992, that the building surplus of airframes and engines stored in and around the GAZ-30 factory (over $2 billion in resources at $20 million each) could begin this inventory. But in 1995 the plant itself was virtually idle except for the one, hand-worked production line for Malaysia. Despite all of this, the MAPO strategy is to continue Russian military production. They will attempt to continue the MiG-31 product improvement line, market the MiG-29 in any of many possible configurations, generate sales of the MiG-21-93 upgrade kit, win the Russian Air Force jet trainer competition with their MiG-AT candidate, develop a light commercial transport, and secure development money for advanced prototypes.
Mikoyan's First Deputy General Designer, Anatoly Belosvet, carries the lead on what is said to be Russia's "first stealthy combat aircraft", the Model 1.42 "ATF'ski", which is characterized as a "multi-functional front-line fighter" (mnogufunktsionalnny fronlovoi istrebitel ). Belosvet has been assuring the western press that it would make its first flight "very soon" for the past three years. The 1.42 prototype is being made of radar absorbent materials (RAM) and serves, according to Belosvet, "as the golden compromise between aerodynamics and stealth". The 1.42 is considered to be the ultimate replacement for both the MiG-29 and Su-27's in the VVS. Many problems have been encountered, the least of which was continual funding cuts. The Model 1.42 is the high speed taxi prototype and the 1.44 is considered to be the first flying example. Both were to be presented to the public by President Yeltsin at the Moscow MAKS Air Show in 1995. Yeltsin's failure to arrive at the ceremony has kept it under wraps.
Belyakov however, appears to have brought much of the bad luck upon Mikoyan. First he backed the coup against Yeltsin, and then, he simply became too depended upon his friends in Moscow's local political circles and in the Russian Air Force (VVS) to secure military contracts for continued work at his bureau, even though the VVS was not looking for more frontal aviation fighters. In 1988, all design bureaus changed over to State controlled budgeting and lost their "unlimited funding" status. Belyakov retired in bad health during 1995 and was replaced by the new General Director Vladimir Kuzmin, who was the General Manager of the MAPO production facility. Anatoly Belosvet, who is also getting on in years and requires constant care, still maintains a considerable amount of influence on what goes on.
Kuzmin was born in October 1937, and as a young adult graduated the Tomsk Military AA Artillery School and the Moscow Aviation Institute. In 1959, he began working at MAPO as an Assistant Foreman. In 1987, he was appointed Deputy Director for Production, and became the General Director of MAPO in 1991. Vladimir has been the driving force behind the MAPO-MiG merger and transformation. Under him, the MAPO-MiG line-up goes: The Deputy General Director / Commercial Director is Aleksandr Nikiforovich Bezrukov, subsidiary head (Director of Likhovitsky Machine Building Plant) is Vladimir Ivanovich Nungezer, First Deputy General Director / Chief Engineer is Victor Mikhailovich Puzanov, Advisor to the General Director on International Marketing & General Representative in Germany is Valeri Vasiljovich Lioultchev, the Advisor to the General Director and Director of Strategic Analysis Services is Aleksandr Ivanovich Ageev, Deputy General Director for Production is Grigory Mikhalovich Nemov, the Technical Director is Ivan Ivanovich Butjko, and the Deputy General Director for Human Resources & Staff is Vjacheslav Michalovich Vinogradov.
As a comparison, Sukhoi's chairman Simonov, developed a style of first helping the generals find major funding pots in the State budget at the highest levels of Yeltsin's government, then in return, they would offer the R&D/production contracts to his corporation. Knowing that high inflation eats away at the ruble faster than people or industry can adjust, Simonov traded sport aircraft for used Toyotas. Then he used the appreciating Toyotas to trade for goods and services while continuing the work force salaries on the weakening rubles. This eliminated any new-product tax losses. Any dollars that were received were carefully banked in the West and the interest used. Therefore, Sukhoi has been "adapting" to the new world faster than Mikoyan.
There is another advanced design project at Mikoyan that is called Type 701, that was earmarked to be a replacement for the MiG-31 family of strategic interceptors and "mother-ships". Characterized as a "long-rangemulti-role interceptor" (mnogofunkstsionalniy dalniy perevkhvatchik), it was to be a dual-seat, big and fast tail-less delta-wing aircraft reaching into possible Supersonic Transport (SST) technology with commercial spin offs. But like everything else, it could never obtain the funding to get off the ground (beat inflation). Belyakov's political clout kept it from going completely "dead", although it will stay "very dormant" until adequate funding shows up.
At the Nizhny Novgorod facility, the Mikoyan Design Bureau celebrated its 60th birthday in 1992, as a center of aircraft production. But remember, this facility is still its own company, not associated with the MAPO-MiG merger. The plant is still producing, under contract, one MiG-31 "Foxhound" per month. The "Foxhound" is a long range interceptor/mother-ship. The plant has also been tooling up, at their won expense, for a couple of new MiG-31 variants that will service specific Air Defense Command requirements and the manned anti-satellite mission. Seven prototypes of the advanced MiG-31M have already been produced which offer an improved weapon system and integrated countermeasures system. Production of the MiG-29 has been suspended here, but refurbishment's and kit modifications are done continuously in small quantities. Nizhny Novgorod also is the production-modification facility for the MiG-21-93 upgrade program. Plant managers say they could pick up additional MiG-29 export orders if needed, since the assembly line still stands. The plant's commercial conversion efforts focus on building gliders and motorboats as well as furniture, ski poles, pots and pans.
In 1995, Klimov developed two advanced thrust-vector-control (TVC) engine designs for use with the MiG-29M, the RD-133 and the RD-333. This became very important after the Su-27 evolved to the Su-35 and then on to the vectored-thrust Su-37 and was successfully displayed in Moscow and at Farnborough. The RD-133 is based on the RD-33 fitted with axis symmetric nozzles while the RD-333 is a new fifth-generation engine. Flight testing with the MiG-29"M" (MiG-33) was to begin in late 1997 with the RD-133 as a flight demonstration program. The RD-333 would require R&D money which has yet to be forthcoming. The Sukhoi TVC program was in part funded by the additional purchase of Su-27's by the PRC. The new MiG-29"M" derivative will be called the MiG-35. Rumors are that this aircraft will be previewed at the Moscow Air Show (MAKS-97).
The RD-133 is a 18,600 lbs (8440 kg / 81.8 kN) thrust class engine in afterburner (wet/reheat). The present uprated MiG-29M RD-33 engine gives 19,392 lbs (8800 kg / 86.3 kN) of thrust. The RD-333 is intended to be of the 22,000 lbs (10,000 kg / 98 kN) thrust class and could be ready for ground tests in three years. Both engines are expected to have design lives of 2,000 hours (Flight International, 10-16Jul96, pg 16). Unlike the Su-35's AL-37FU engines, the RD-133 operates in both horizontal and vertical planes.
The thrust-vectored engine program for the MiG-35 is being financed in part by the VPK-MAPO joint stock defense industrial consortium that Klimov is a member of. It now has priority over the basic MiG-29"M" program and will seek export customers. The MiG-35 is also expected to be heavier than the MiG-33 but will have performance similar to the Su-37. It is slated to be configured with the Zhuk-PH electronically scanned radar that can detect up to 24 targets and engage eight simultaneously matching the eight stations that can carry AA-12 (R-77 "Adder") missiles. The RD-133's will be shifted 920 mm to the rear of the aircraft (Jane's 05Jun96, pg 3), which will allow for 1500 kg (3300 lbs) of additional fuel. This is expected to double the 1430 km range attributed to the Malaysian MiG-29S.
The MiG-35 is also expected to have a longer wing, derived from the Naval MiG-29"K" (MiG-33) variant and has design options centered around canards and/or a refurbished leading edge wing extension. The MiG-35 could help Mikoyan get back on track if export customers are available and Iran can be expected to be one of the most sought after.
Mikoyan engineers estimated that by the end of 1992, the aerospace potential in Russia was only utilized to 60% of its capacity, in 1993 it is less than 15%, today less than 5%. But despite this, there are still over 100 prototypes of fighters, fighter-bombers, transports, helicopters, etc., all scrounging for precious development dollars from the State or any interested country. In this environment, MAPO's fate is far less certain than that of the more productive Sukhoi.
There were many Mikoyan commercial spin-off attempts. During the 1994 Farnborough Air Show, Mikoyan announced the formation of a joint company with the Singapore based Agio Countertrade Company that resulted in the MiG-Agio Ltd. which will be registered in Singapore. Company objectives surround research and development, aircraft upgrade kits, and product support activities. One of its first projects appears to be the field upgrade of basic MiG-29's delivered to customers. Kits would include a new export version of the Zhuk radar for the MiG-29, an advanced IRST, Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) capability, satellite navigation, and western style instrumentation (Armada Magazine, Jun94, pg. 24).
In its marketing brochures, MIG-MAPO is characterized as a highly experienced and qualified aircraft manufacturing center that has produced over 40 types of high performance combat and civilian aircraft for over 70 years. Facilities include several aircraft production plants that are united under the Mikoyan name. MAPO has extensive laboratories and research support organizations to introduced the very latest in new materials and high tech processes with close links to the state research institutes and experimental centers. MAPO's export history, as Mikoyan, started in 1950, and is supported by continued demands from foreign customers for spares, retrofits, and new aircraft.
The basic MiG-29A has no air-to-ground capability beyond unguided rockets and free-fall iron bombs. The SMT upgrade provides a Zhuk radar with air-to-ground modes and the ability to deliver guided munitions. Range was initially a weak point with the MiG-29, and while later versions were modified to carry more fuel, the Russian air force prefered the larger Su-27 and its derivatives. The MiG-29SMT fighter displays a number of essentially new capabilities to effectively destroy both air and ground (sea surface) targets with the use of high-precision "air-to-air" and "air-to-surface" missiles, thus combining the roles of air superiority fighter and strike fighter.
The MiG-29SMT is the up-to-date modification of MiG-29 multirole frontline fighter. The aircraft exhibits a long flight range due to extra capacity of integral fuel tanks and installation of in-flight refueling system (similar to that of the MiG-29SD). The aircraft and engine service life and time limits and design service life have been feasibly increased; the labor requirements and maintenance costs have been reduced.
The MiG-29 evolution program initiated in the late 80-s led to the creation of the aircraft distinguished from the basic version not only by noticeable improvement of the fighter main parameters as a weapons platform-carrier (longer operational range), but also by principally new features.
The most vital feature of this fighter is the capability to effectively operate against air and ground or sea surface targets with the use of high-precision air-to-surface missiles, thus making it a multirole combat aircraft incorporating in one air vehicle the qualities of air superiority fighter and tactical strike aircraft.
The weapon control system of the MiG-29SMT aircraft is built around the ZHUK-ME advanced multimode radar developed by the PHASOTRON-NIIR Moscow-based company. The integrated system incorporates a digital top-level computer system based on the principles of open architecture with use of multiplex data buses, meeting the MIL-STD-1553B requirements, and new information-control system employing full-color large-format liquid-crystal displays, measuring 152 x 203 mm (6 x 8 inch). The displays are developed by the Ramenskoye instruments design bureau (city of Ramenskoye, Moscow region).
The HOTAS concept is fully realized in the MiG-29SMT cockpit; the pilot controls the aircraft, performs targeting and launches weapons without removal of hands from the control stick and throttle control lever.
The MiG-29SMT aircraft six underwing and one ventral store stations can carry up to 5000 kg of external load, including the R-73E agile air-to-air missiles with a combined gas-aerodynamic control system and IR seeker with a wide off-boresight angles range, the RVV-AE medium-range air-to-air missiles with an active radar seeker and the R-27R1/ER1 medium-range air-to-air missiles with a semi-active radar seeker.
In operation against ground and sea surface targets, the MiG-29SMT is able to effectively use contemporary high-precision weapons: the Kh-29T(TE) air-to-surface missiles with a TV seeker, the Kh-31A antiship missiles, the Kh-31P antiradar missiles, the KAB-500KR guided bombs with a TV seeker and powerful warhead.
The upgraded model of batch production MIG-29SMT fighter has an additional two tanks of propellant can cover, without refueling, up to 3,500 kilometers and carry up to 5 tonnes of combat payload. The hatch design compares favorably with that of the predecessor models. The upgraded MIG can be committed to action as a fighter, interceptor, attack, reconnaissance or command post plane. It can, as a command post plane, be acting in contact with A-50 long-range radio detection and control jets. Any kind of Russian- or foreign-made air-to-air and air-to-surface launchers may be mounted aboard this plane.
A new up-to-date cockpit data display and control field, open-architecture airborne equipment complex based on highly effective computing facilities and multiplex communication channels (new navigation, ECM, communication, guidance and data recording systems) can be integrated. The aircraft can be provided with the "Zhuk-M" multimode radar boosting a longer range of air target detection and +/-90° viewing angle in azimuth. The radar is able to track a greater number of targets and engage them simultaneously; scanning in the air-to-surface modes (including those of high resolution) based on indication of moving and sea-surface targets have been incorporated. The weapons mix is widened.
At the buyer's request, radar-absorbent coatings can be applied, Western and national equipment can be installed and number of store stations can be increased. The process of in-service aircraft upgrading up to the MiG-29SMT level has been developed. Works on the aircraft further upgrading are under way.
MiG Corp. has also developed a modular system of MiG-29 upgrading to the MiG 29SMT level. This system is flexible, allowing potential clients to chose the set of aircraft upgrades what they really need. Set of upgrades includes three modules. First module is upgrading the aircraft weapons control system transforming MiG-29 into multirole fighter. A new "Zhuk-ME" radar with a terrain mapping mode is installed. Upgrade of the weapons control system allow to increase considerably the range of "air-to-air" and "air-to-ground" guided and unguided weapons.
While keeping unbeatable air combat characteristics, MiG-29 obtains strike functions, comparable with modern foreign competitors. Second module is increasing internal and drop fuel tanks capacity, upgrading fuel system and installing in-flight refueling equipment, adopted, according to customer's demand, for usage with Russian or foreign tanker aircraft. Third module is upgrading of on-board equipment and installation digital fly-by-wire control system. Pilot's cockpit is equipped with color LCD MFDs, modern flight navigation and communication equipment including satellite navigation of Russian or foreign origin, fully compliant with NATO and ICAO standards.
In case of MiG-29 complete upgrading to MiG-29SMT level the customer receives a generation "4+" level aircraft, close in characteristics and by set of equipment to the newest MiG-29M. It is equal, even superior in some positions, to foreign competitors, able to keep, prior to proper exploitation and maintenance, its combat effectiveness for the next 20 years. And MiG Corp. can make all upgrades on the territory of customer and on its manufacturing facilities.
The MiG-29SMT aircraft features:
· Longer range and flight endurance;
- the MiG-29 aircraft basic version can be upgraded to the MiG-29SMT level;
As of February 2005, upgraded MiG-29SMT fighters were manufactured for export to Yemen and Eritrea, but had yet to be ordered by Russia. In 1995, 'MAPO' MIG began flight testing an upgraded MiG-29SM prototype, precursor to the SMT now being offered to all MiG-29 operators. In 1998 a decision was made by the Defense Ministry to launch a quantity-modernization program of the MiG-29 fighters. The SMT upgrade (Product 9-17) program was officially sanctioned in September 1998 with authorisation for modernisation of up to 180 in-service MiG-29s of the Russian Air Force. These aircraft were to receive upper fuselage conformal fuel tanks and comprehensive avionics upgrade, with options for increased thrust engine, new wing, EW system, electro-optic pods and new weapons capability.
A total of 150 to 180 modernized MiG-29SMTs were to be introduced in service with the Russian Air Force. Extensive modernization is planned only of the aircraft produced through the previous decade. This would provide a dramatic increase in combat capabilities of the Russian Air Force. The modernization program started in September 1998 by the Kubinka military aircraft-repair plant and the MAPO MIG. The first batch of 10 to 15 MiG-29SMTs was to be delivered before the end of the year. In 1999, a total of 20 to 30 MiG-29 fighters were modernized into the MiG-29SMT version, claimed to be approaching fifth-generation fighters in terms of characteristics. Starting from the year 2000, the program's annual modernization rate was planned to reach 40 MiG-29SMTs. The overall plan provided for modernization of 150 recently manufactured MiG-29s, with the remainder of the older aircraft being withdrawn from service (presently there are 330 MiG-29 aircraft in Russian combat units and 130 in training units).
An avionics/cockpit mock-up that was a rebuilt Fulcrum A (925) displayed in August 1997 at Moscow Air Show. The first flight of the MiG-29 SMT took place on 22 April 1998 from the Zhukovski military airfield. It was the first of three or four trials aircraft preceded by the first flight of the SMT prototype on 29 November 1997.
The first series production MiG-29SMT upgrade, 01 Blue (also marked '172' in small white numerals on the fin tip), was rolled out by the manufacturer on 29 December 1998. The aircraft was due to be moved by road the following day to Zhukovsky for its first flight, prior to being flown to Lipetsk early in the new year to begin service testing with the Russian Air Force. In original plan MIG 'MAPO' would have delivered 10 to 15 upgraded aircraft in 1998, 30 in 1999 and 40 per year from 2000 until all 180 had been redelivered. The Russian Air Force also planned to upgrade 124 MiG-29UB trainers to MiG-29UBT, equivalent to SMT configuration. Financial difficulties prevented delivery of more than three MiG-29 SMT aircraft to the Russian Air Force.
The MiG-29SMT aircraft was in serial production since 2004 and was supplied to customers. The RAC "MiG" upgraded the aircraft previously supplied to a number of Customers into the MiG-29SMT type. By late 2003 the company had booked 20 firm orders for MiG-29SMT. This aircraft is already known in the Arab world, since Yemen became its launch customer. In addition, MiG-29SMTs have been ordered by Eritrea.
Yemen's government ordered six new MiG-29SMT fighters, two training-and-combat MiG-29Ubs and the modernization of another 12 aircraft up to the level of MiG-29SMT. A new radar "Zhuk-ME" mounted on these machines makes them different from a regular model. The parties came to an agreement that Yemen was supposed to receive first aircraft back in late 2003 and it was stipulated that the contract would be fully completed this year. However, MiG was able to supply a mere two training-and-combat MiG-29UB and only mid-year.
According to the Brazilian newspaper O Estado de Sao Paulo, by early 2004 Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez was ready to buy up to 50 new Russian MIG-29SMT Fulcrum combat aircrafts, 40 Mi-35 helicopters and 100,000 AK-47 assault rifles in an operation estimated in $8 billion.
On December 23, 2004 MiG Russian Aircraft Corporation gained the 'Golden idea' national award, established by Russian Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, in nomination "For development of defence products for exports" on the results of 2003 for development of MiG-29SMT fighter aircraft. Awards were handed to MiG Corp. (Mikoyan design bureau, Fedotov Flight-Testing Center) representatives, as well as to its main partners in this project – FSPC Ramenskoye Instrument Design Bureau, "Fazotron-NIIR" JSC and Russian Air Force State Flight-testing Center representatives.
The contract for the delivery of 28 MiG-29SMT fighters and six MiG-29UBT trainers worth 1.27 billion USD to Algeria was signed in late January 2006 and entered into force in March of 2006, during the visit of President Putin. Algeria received between two to four MiG-29UBT in December 2006, and by April 2007 MiG Corporation had transferred 15 MiG-29SMT/UBT. However, in April 2007 the Algerian military stopped making payments on the contract and made several claims regarding the quality of the transferred aircraft. By the end of 2007, the Federal Agency for Military-Technical Cooperation, Rosoboroneksport and MiG Corporation came to the conclusion that the best solution to the crisis was to agree to take back the fighters and attempt to replace the MiG-29SMT contract with other agreements.
In early 2008 it was reported that the Russian Air Force was commissioning the 15 fighters Mig-29SMT Algeria had refused.