|The beginning of 1999 marked a portentous event: the
MiG-29SMT was certificated by the Russian Air Force heralding the commencement of
modernization of MiG-29 fighters that are currently in service with the air forces of
Russia and other countries, as well as MiG-29SMT's series production. Delegations from
many countries operating the MiG-29 and potential buyers have already acquainted
themselves with the new aircraft. Several foreign pilots from these delegations made
familiarization flights on the MiG-29SMT and gave it high marks.
The MiG-29 modernization program provided for:
longer range by increasing internal fuel capacity and
incorporating flight refueling system and underwing drop tanks (for early-series aircraft
which did not have these features);
principally new cockpit information and control panel
which includes two large (6nx8n) full-color multifunctional liquid-crystal displays and a
multifunctional control panel with a dedicated display. The introduction of displays
required the re-arrangement of the instrument board and starboard console. In this
configuration, the cockpit fully corresponds to the HOTAS (hands on throttle and stick)
new open architecture of an onboard equipment complex
with multiplex channels (corresponding to the MIL-1553B standard) and a central processor
with PC-compatible software;
longer service life and on-condition maintenance;
multifunctional radar with air-to-surface modes;
enhanced stealth capability in radar frequency band;
new weapon systems;
new IFF, communications and navigation systems which meet
the ICAO and/or NATO standards; more effective ECM systems; new flight data recorders and
inter-aircraft data links.
The aircraft can be equipped with an optronic sight pod,
a jamming station and GPS/GLONASS-based navigation systems. In addition, a ground station
for flight planning and data preparation can be supplied.
Part of the above-mentioned systems are either undergoing
flight tests or have been installed on several MiG-29 fighters, or are organic to the
equipment already certified for other types of aircraft. This provides an opportunity to
offer each customer an affordable version which will meet his specific requirements. A
batch of aircraft equipped to customer request can be produced within a short term.
Other projects under the modification program which
require longer implementation time include:
modified engine with augmented thrust, thrust vector
control and better fuel efficiency (with earlier linear dimensions and attachments
retained to make the modified engine interchangeable with previously produced ones);
new wing consoles with four hardpoints on each, increased
internal fuel capacity and larger area (the console's shape was flight-tested on a MiG-29K
more capable and reliable integrated fly-by-wire flight control
All projects are based on a considerable technical
expertise, while the modified engine and fly-by-wire flight control systems are being
Work is underway on all announced updates, as well as the
development of several MiG-29SMT versions, such as:
the MiG-29UBT: a version of MiG-29UB combat trainer with
increased internal fuel capacity; the flight refueling system; the cockpit and equipment
architecture similar to that of the MiG-29SMT; an optional multifunctional radar able to
control air-to-air medium-range missiles; and an array of air-to-surface guided weapons.
The two-men crew can effectively control group missions and provide target designation for
ground-based weapon systems and naval ships, as well as ensure the efficient employment of
Ovod-type TV-guided missiles;
the MiG-29SMT can also be used as a reconnaissance
platform carrying a variety of special-purpose reconnaissance pods;
large internal fuel capacity, two drop tanks and the UPAZ
unified refueling pod are good prerequisites for a MiG-29 tanker version;
technology used on the MiG-29K fighter will help develop
a MiG-29SMT deck version. These variants were displayed at major air shows: MAKS '97, ILA
'98, and Farnborough '98. The MiG-29UBT made its debut at Farnborough last year.
In terms of combat capability, the modernized MiG-29
(MiG-29SMT) does not yield to the European fourth+ generation fighters (Eurofighter,
Rafale, Gripen) and even outclasses them by some parameters. It should be noted that the
modernized aircraft will use the existing technical maintenance infrastructure, flight and
ground crews. Furthermore, MiG-29's modernization costs will not exceed 10 percent of the
price tag of foreign analogs. Modernizing the existing MiG-29s and building new updated
versions in compliance with a country's infrastructure are economically feasible and
advantageous. This facilitates the coordination of offset programs and allows a customer
to choose a requisite MiG-29's technical configuration via an integration of unified
equipment standard for this type of aircraft.
The MAPO MIG and Nizhni Novgorod-based Sokol Aircraft
Plant (MiG-29 manufacturers) and the MiG Aircraft Research and Production Complex (MiG-29
developer) guarantee operational service support for the aircraft and further enhancement
of its combat capabilities during its full life cycle.
MiG-29K TO OPERATE FROM NEW AIRCRAFT
The MiG-29K program has been revived due to several
The first one is the desire of the Indian Navy to acquire
the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier as a totally effective naval system. This called for
the provision of the ship with a multi-role ship-based arrested- landing fighter of the
Both the versatility and small size of these fighters are
their indispensable qualities. The aircraft engages both air targets (including those
flying at an altitude of 20 to 60 m) and surface targets. The experience gained in various
operations has demonstrated that shipborne aviation can effectively used against ground
targets. The small size of the aircraft is essential for the Admiral Gorshkov, as it
ensures their safe operation from the carrier's narrow deck, while fitting the dimensions
of the hatches, hangar height and strength of the hangar deck.
The equipping of this naval ship with the MiG-29K
aircraft makes it a very effective unit, capable of carrying a total of 30 MiG-29K planes
and six helicopters. The ship's combat group will include 12 MiG-29K planes, i.e. its
flying deck area can permit takeoff and landing of a combat group of this size. This
characteristic is of extreme importance, because a further reduction of the combat group
to a number below eight machines dramatically downgrades the potential of the aircraft
carrier as an overall combat system. Another reason for using the MiG-29K planes is the
consistent desire of the Indian Navy to build a light aircraft carrier having a
displacement of some 24,000 t, and to have a unified aircraft for both this carrier and
the Admiral Gorshkov (the latter has a full displacement of 45,200 t).
Finally, there is a general tendency in the world (except
the USA) towards building, at the turn of the century, comparatively small aircraft
carriers which have a relatively low construction and maintenance cost; these carriers
will be the base for aircraft the size of the MiG-29K, Rafale-M, F/A-18. Currently, this
idea is gradually gaining support in Russia. Such a design concept is being studied with a
view towards the present economic realities, as well as the future tasks facing the Armed
Forces. The Mikoyan Design Bureau has not stopped its work on the MiG-29K aircraft despite
the lack of financing since 1992.
In 1984, under the Russian Air Force development program,
the MiG-29K was conceived as a multi-role fighter and was supposed to be developed almost
simultaneously with the Su-27K (Su-33). In 1989 - 1991 the MiG-29K underwent tests aboard
the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft-carrying cruiser simultaneously with the MiG-29M (a
ground-based EtwinC of the MiG-29K). In December 1991, following these successful tests,
Russia's Defense Ministry authorized the commencement of its series production and service
with Russia's naval aviation, including its operation on board the Admiral Kuznetsov
The MiG-29M and MiG-29K planes trebled the number of
combat employment regimes in comparison with the fighters designed for engagement of air
targets only. The number of guided weapon types carried by the aircraft was doubled, with
air-to-ship, air-to-ground and air-to-radar heavy guided missiles added to their arsenal.
However, the aircraft was not launched into series
production. December 1991 was the last month when Russia's Defense Ministry could purchase
new types of aircraft, battle tanks or missiles. Since January 1992 to date, the situation
has aggravated still more.
We know that the MiG-29 is precisely the kind of a
multi-role aircraft needed today. Considering the fact that all the characteristics
essential for a multirole fighter were incorporated into the MiG-29K at the design stage,
and the aircraft has successfully passed all tests aboard the Admiral Kuznetsov
aircraft-carrying cruiser, it can now be easily employed for operation from aircraft
Now, let us consider what the MiG-29K looked like in
1991, what it will look like in 2002 on board the Admiral Gorshkov, and what shape it will
take in 2008 on board a light aircraft carrier?
The 1991-built MiG-29K differs from the MiG-29 production
model by featuring a new multi-function radar, dubbed Zhuk; a cabin with monochrome
display and use of the HOTAS (hands-on-throttle-and-stick) principle; the RVV-AE
air-to-air active homing missiles; antiship and antiradar missiles; as well as
air-to-ground precision-guided weapons.
The aircraft has a remote control system, large-area (42
m2 vs 38 m2) folding wing, adjustable center-line air intakes with retractable screens
protecting the engines during operation from ground airfields, reinforced landing gear,
hook, corrosion- protected reinforced fuselage made specifically for deck-based aircraft,
better view from the cockpit, more effective high-lift devices for landing and takeoff
modes, and new air-brake flaps. The enhanced thrust engine has an emergency rating for
takeoff from the deck. The internal fuel load was increased to 4,560 kg vs 3,340 kg of the
series-produced MiG-29 largely due to the removal of the upper air intake inlets. The
payload was also increased. The maximum weight of the aircraft grew from 19.5 to 22.4 t.
Composite materials were widely used to manufacture its structural elements. Advanced
alloys were also used, but to a lesser extent.
The aircraft can engage air targets, including low-flying
ones, as well as destroy ships and ground targets with precision-guided weapons.
During its tests aboard the Admiral Kuznetsov
aircraft-carrying cruiser, the aircraft had a springboard-assisted takeoff from strips 195
m and 95 m long. According to the results of the tests, the landing accuracy proved to be
very high, which made it possible at a later stage to switch over to a three-cable
arrester system on the Admiral Gorshkov.
The 2002-built MiG-29K will feature better cockpit
avionics with versatile liquid-crystal color displays. The cockpit was tested by Russian
Air Force pilots on the MiG-29SMT fighters and was approved by them. The Indian Air Force
pilots also flew the MiG-29SMTs and they also greatly appreciated the information-control
field facilities of the cockpit.
The potential of the aircraft's navigational systems will
be markedly increased through the installation of a satellite navigation system which has
also successfully passed tests aboard the MiG-29SMT aircraft. The capabilities of airborne
computers and weapons control systems will be enhanced as well.
The reduced weight and space required of the onboard
equipment will help increase the internal fuel load, as compared to the 1991-built
MiG-29K. The aircraft operated from an aircraft carrier will have an effective radius of
850 km for air combat and 1,150 km for antiship and strike operations (without refueling).
The aircraft has retained the in-flight refueling system.
An aerial tanker version of the MiG-29K has also been developed.
The aircraft armament comprises the RVV-AE air-to-air
active homing missiles; the R-27R1 semi-active homing missiles; the R-27ER1
increased-range missiles; the R-73, R-27E1, R-27TE1 heat-seeking missiles; the Kh-31A and
Kh-35 antiship missiles; the TV-guided weapons; and, with an optional sight pod installed,
laser weapons. An open-type architecture of the aircraft enables it to carry foreign-made
weapons as well.
The landing accuracy is additionally enhanced through the
employment of an autothrottle system. The takeoff characteristics make it possible to
perform 90 percent of flights under tropical conditions when the carrier ship speed is 10
The assortment of the onboard equipment has been thought
over with due consideration for the possible use by India of existing repair and
maintenance facilities supplied at different times to it to service 70 MiG-29Bs. Engines
can be overhauled in India.
The RD-33 series-III engine, a record holder in terms of
total service life and reliability among the Russian-made fighter engines, will have an
increased takeoff thrust, as well as extra corrosion protection.
Aluminum-lithium alloys used in some structural members
have been excluded because of their high cost.
A 2008-built MiG-29K model will be a further development
of the 2002-built version. However, all the novelties will be incorporated in a manner
allowing their use on the aircraft supplied previously.
The intelligence of the airborne radar digital computer
will be dramatically increased without changing the hardware.
The range of combat missions can be increased by adding
optronic sight pods as well as radar, infrared imaging and reconnaissance equipment. The
takeoff characteristics will be improved to increase the combat load of the aircraft
operated from a light aircraft carrier using a smaller-size springboard.
The time is not ripe yet to disclose all the details of
these projects, but we can say now that the MiG-29K, according to the Mikoyan Design
Bureau estimates, has a significant potential due to its excellent aerodynamics and