The Mikoyan MiG-29 (NATO reporting name: Fulcrum) is a twin-engine jet fighter aircraft designed in the Soviet Union. Developed by the Mikoyan design bureau as an air superiority fighter during the 1970s, the MiG-29, along with the larger Sukhoi Su-27, was developed to counter new U.S. fighters such as the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle and the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon. The MiG-29 entered service with the Soviet Air Forces in 1982.
While originally oriented towards combat against any enemy aircraft, many MiG-29s have been furnished as multirole fighters capable of performing a number of different operations, and are commonly outfitted to use a range of air-to-surface armaments and precision munitions. The MiG-29 has been manufactured in several major variants, including the multirole Mikoyan MiG-29M and the navalised Mikoyan MiG-29K; the most advanced member of the family to date is the Mikoyan MiG-35. Later models frequently feature improved engines, glass cockpits with HOTAS-compatible flight controls, modern radar and IRST sensors, and considerably increased fuel capacity; some aircraft have also been equipped for aerial refuelling.
Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the militaries of a number of former Soviet republics have continued to operate the MiG-29, the largest of which is the Russian Air Force. The Russian Air Force wanted to upgrade its existing fleet to the modernised MiG-29SMT configuration, but financial difficulties have limited deliveries. The MiG-29 has also been a popular export aircraft; more than 30 nations either operate or have operated the aircraft to date, India being one of the largest export operators of the type. In 2013 the MiG-29 was still in production by Mikoyan, a subsidiary of United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) since 2006.
In the mid–1960s, the United States Air Force (USAF) encountered difficulties over the skies of Vietnam when supersonic fighter bombers like the F-105 Thunderchief which had been optimized for low altitude bombing were found to be vulnerable to older MiG-17s and more advanced MiGs which were much more maneuverable. In order to regain the sort of air superiority enjoyed over Korea, the US refocused on air combat using the F-4 Phantom multi-role fighter, while the Soviet Union developed the MiG-23 in response. Towards the end of the 1960s, the USAF started the “F-X” program to produce a fighter dedicated to air superiority, which led to the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle being ordered for production in late 1969.
At the height of the Cold War, a Soviet response was necessary to avoid the possibility of a new American fighter gaining a serious technological advantage over existing Soviet fighters. Thus the development of a new air superiority fighter became a priority. In 1969, the Soviet General Staff issued a requirement for a Perspektivnyy Frontovoy Istrebitel (PFI, roughly “Advanced Frontline Fighter”).Specifications were 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 Russian aerodynamics institute TsAGI worked in collaboration with the Sukhoi design bureau on the aircraft’s aerodynamics.
By 1971, however, Soviet studies determined the need for different types of fighters. The PFI program was supplemented with the Perspektivnyy Lyogkiy Frontovoy Istrebitel (LPFI, or “Advanced Lightweight Tactical Fighter”) program; the Soviet fighter force was planned to be approximately 33% PFI and 67% LPFI. PFI and LPFI paralleled the USAF’s decision that created the “Lightweight Fighter” program and the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon and Northrop YF-17. The PFI fighter was assigned to Sukhoi, resulting in the Sukhoi Su-27, while the lightweight fighter went to Mikoyan. Detailed design work on the resultant Mikoyan Product 9, designated MiG-29A, began in 1974, with the first flight taking place on 6th October 1977. The pre-production aircraft was first spotted by United States reconnaissance satellites in November of that year; it was dubbed Ram-L because it was observed at the Zhukovsky flight test center near the town of Ramenskoye.
The workload split between TPFI and LPFI became more apparent as the MiG-29 filtered into front line service with the Soviet Air Forces (Russian: Voenno-Vozdushnye Sily [VVS]) in the mid-1980s. While the heavy, long range Su-27 was tasked with the more exotic and dangerous role of deep air-to-air sweeps of NATO high-value assets, the smaller MiG-29 directly replaced the MiG-23 in the frontal aviation role.
In the West, the new fighter was given the NATO reporting name “Fulcrum-A” because the pre-production MiG-29A, which should have logically received this designation, remained unknown in the West at that time. The Soviet Union did not assign official names to most of its aircraft, although nicknames were common. Unusually, some 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 sometimes unofficially used in Russian service.
The MiG-29B was widely exported in downgraded versions, known as MiG-29B 9-12A and MiG-29B 9-12B for Warsaw Pact and non-Warsaw Pact nations respectively, with less capable avionics and no capability for delivering nuclear weapons.
In the 1980s, Mikoyan developed the improved MiG-29S to use longer range R-27E and R-77 air-to-air missiles. It added a dorsal ‘hump’ to the upper fuselage to house a jamming system and some additional fuel capacity. The weapons load was increased to 4,000 kg (8,800 lb) with airframe strengthening. These features were included in new-built fighters and upgrades to older MiG-29s.
Refined versions of the MiG-29 with improved avionics were fielded by the Soviet Union, but Mikoyan’s multirole variants, including a carrier-based version designated MiG-29K, were never produced in large numbers. Development of the MiG-29K carrier version was suspended for over a decade before being resumed; the type went into service with the Indian Navy’s INS Vikramaditya, and Russian Navy’s Admiral Kuznetsov class aircraft carrier.
Mikoyan had developed improved versions of the MiG-29, called MiG-29M/M2 and MiG-29SMT. On 15th April 2014, the Russian Air Force placed an order for a batch of 16 MiG-29SMT fighters.
There have been several upgrade programmes conducted for the MiG-29. Common upgrades include the adoption of standard-compatible avionics, service life extensions to 4,000 flight hours, safety enhancements, greater combat capabilities and reliability. In 2005, the Russian Aircraft Corporation “MiG” established a unified family of 4++ generation multirole fighters: the aircraft carrier–based MiG-29K, front-line MiG-29M and MiG-35 fighters.
On 11th December 2013, Russian deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin revealed that Russia was planning to build a new fighter to replace the MiG-29. The Sukhoi Su-27 and its derivatives were to be replaced by the Sukhoi Su-57, but a different design was needed to replace the lighter MiGs. A previous attempt to develop a MiG-29 replacement, the MiG 1.44 demonstrator, failed in the 1990s. The concept came up again in 2001 with interest from India, but they later opted for a variant of the Su-57. Air Force commanders have hinted at the possibility of a single-engine airframe that uses the Su-57’s engine, radar, and weapons primarily for Russian service.
Sharing its origins in the original PFI requirements issued by TsAGI, the MiG-29 has broad aerodynamic similarities to the Sukhoi Su-27, however, there are some notable differences. The MiG-29 has a mid-mounted swept wing with blended leading-edge root extensions (LERXs) swept at around 40°; there are swept tailplanes and two vertical fins, mounted on booms outboard of the engines. Automatic slats are mounted on the leading edges of the wings; they are four-segment on early models and five-segment on some later variants. On the trailing edge, there are maneuvering flaps and wingtip ailerons.
The MiG-29 has hydraulic controls and a SAU-451 three-axis autopilot but, unlike the Su-27, no fly-by-wire control system. Nonetheless, it is very agile, with excellent instantaneous and sustained turn performance, high-alpha capability, and a general resistance to spins. The airframe consists primarily of aluminum with some composite materials, and is stressed for up to 9 g (88 m/s²) maneuvers. The controls have “soft” limiters to prevent the pilot from exceeding g and alpha limits, but the limiters can be disabled manually.
The MiG-29 has two widely spaced Klimov RD-33 turbofan engines, each rated at 50.0 kN (11,240 lbf) dry and 81.3 kN (18,277 lbf) in afterburner. The space between the engines generates lift, thereby reducing effective wing loading, hence improving maneuverability. The engines are fed through intake ramps fitted under the leading-edge extensions (LERXs), which have variable ramps to allow high-Mach speeds. As an adaptation to rough-field operations, the main air inlet can be closed completely and the auxiliary air inlet on the upper fuselage can be used for takeoff, landing and low-altitude flying, preventing ingestion of ground debris. Thereby the engines receive air through louvers on the LERXs which open automatically when intakes are closed. However the latest variant of the family, the MiG-35, eliminated these dorsal louvers, and adopted the mesh screens design in the main intakes, similar to those fitted to the Su-27.
The MiG-29 has a ferry range of 1,500 km without external fuel tanks, and 2,100 km with external tanks. The internal fuel capacity of the original MiG-29B is 4,365 litres distributed between six internal fuel tanks, four in the fuselage and one in each wing. For longer flights, this can be supplemented by a 1,500-litre (330 Imp gal, 395 US gal) centreline drop tank and, on later production batches, two 1,150-litre (253 Imp gal, 300 US gal) underwing drop tanks. In addition, a newer models have been fitted with port-side inflight refuelling probes, allowing much longer flight times by using a probe-and-drogue system.
The cockpit features a conventional centre stick and left hand throttle controls. The pilot sits in a Zvezda K-36DM ejection seat which has had impressive performance in emergency escapes.
The cockpit has conventional dials, with a head-up display (HUD) and a Shchel-3UM helmet mounted display, but no HOTAS (“hands-on-throttle-and-stick”) capability. 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, thanks to a high-mounted bubble canopy. Upgraded models introduce “glass cockpits” with modern liquid-crystal (LCD) multi-function displays (MFDs) and true HOTAS.
The baseline MiG-29B has a Phazotron RLPK-29 radar fire control system which includes the N019 Sapfir 29 look-down/shoot-down coherent pulse-Doppler radar and the Ts100.02-02 digital computer.
The N019 radar was not a new design, but rather a development of the Sapfir-23ML architecture used on the MiG-23ML. During the initial design specification period in the mid-1970s, Phazotron NIIR was tasked with producing a modern radar for the MiG-29. To speed development, Phazotron based its new design on work undertaken by NPO Istok on the experimental “Soyuz” radar program. Accordingly, the N019 was originally intended to have a flat planar array antenna and full digital signal processing, for a detection and tracking range of at least 100 km against a fighter-sized target. Prototype testing revealed this could not be attained in the required timeframe and still fit within the MiG-29’s nose. Rather than design a new radar, Phazotron reverted to a version of the Sapfir-23ML’s twisted-polarization cassegrain antenna and traditional analogue signal processors, coupled with a new NII Argon-designed Ts100 digital computer to save time and cost. This produced a working radar system, but inherited the weak points of the earlier design, plaguing the MiG-29’s ability to detect and track airborne targets at ranges available with the R-27 and R-77 missiles.
The N019 was further compromised by Phazotron designer Adolf Tolkachev’s betrayal of the radar to the CIA, for which he was executed in 1986. In response to all of these problems, the Soviets hastily developed a modified N019M Topaz radar for the upgraded MiG-29S aircraft. However, VVS was reportedly still not satisfied with the performance of the system and demanded another upgrade. The latest upgraded aircraft offered the N010 Zhuk-M, which has a planar array antenna rather than a dish, improving range, and a much superior processing ability, with multiple-target engagement capability and compatibility with the Vympel R-77 (or RVV-AE).
Armament for the MiG-29 includes a single GSh-30-1 30 mm cannon in the port wing root. This originally had a 150-round magazine, which was reduced to 100 rounds in later variants. Original production MiG-29B aircraft cannot fire the cannon when carrying a centerline fuel tank as it blocks the shell ejection port. This was corrected in the MiG-29S and later versions. Three pylons are provided under each wing (four in some variants), for a total of six (or eight). The inboard pylons can carry either a 1,150 liter (300 US gal) fuel tank, one Vympel 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 air to air missiles, although some users still retain the older R-60 (AA-8 “Aphid”). A single 1,500-litre (400 US gal) tank can be fitted to the centerline, between the engines.
While the MiG-29’s true capabilities could only be estimated from the time it first appeared In 1977 until the mid-1980s, a combination of persistent intelligence and increasing access afforded by the Soviet foreign sales effort allowed a true appreciation of its capabilities. Early MiG-29s were very agile aircraft, capable of rivalling the performance of contemporary F-18 and F-16 aircraft. However, their relatively low fuel capacity relegated them to short-range air defence missions. Lacking HOTAS and an inter-aircraft data link, and requiring a very intensive “heads-down” approach to operating cockpit controls, the early MiG-29 denied pilots the kind of situational awareness routinely enjoyed by pilots operating comparable US aircraft. Analysts and Western pilots who flew examples of the MiG-29 thought this likely prevented even very good pilots from harnessing the plane’s full combat capability. Later MiG-29s were upgraded to improve their capabilities. The Soviet Union exported MiG-29s to several countries. Because 4th-generation fighter jets require the pilots to have extensive training, air-defence infrastructure, and constant maintenance and upgrades, MiG-29s have had mixed operational history with different air forces.
The MiG-29 was first publicly seen in the West when the Soviet Union displayed the aircraft in Finland on 2nd July 1986. Two MiG-29s were also displayed at the Farnborough Airshow in Britain in September 1988. The following year, the aircraft conducted flying displays at the 1989 Paris Air Show where it was involved in a non-fatal crash during the first weekend of the show. The Paris Air Show display was only the second display of Soviet fighters at an international air show since the 1930s. Western observers were impressed by its apparent capability and exceptional agility. Following the disintegration of the Soviet Union, most of the MiG-29s entered service with the newly formed Russian Air Force.
In July 1993, two MiG-29s of the Russian Air Force collided in mid-air and crashed away from the public at the Royal International Air Tattoo. No one on the ground sustained any serious injuries, and the two pilots ejected and landed safely.
The Russian Air Force grounded all its MiG-29s following a crash in Siberia on 17th October 2008. Following a second crash with a MiG-29 in east Siberia in December 2008, Russian officials admitted that most MiG-29 fighters in the Russian Air Force were incapable of performing combat duties due to poor maintenance. The age of the aircraft was also an important factor as about 70% of the MiGs were considered to be too old to take to the skies. The Russian MiG-29s have not received updates since the collapse of the Soviet Union. This is because the Russian Air Force chose to upgrade the Su-27 and MiG-31 instead. On 4th February 2009, the Russian Air Force resumed flights with the MiG-29. However, in March 2009, 91 MiG-29s of the Russian Air Force required repair after inspections due to corrosion; approximately 100 MiGs were cleared to continue flying at the time. The Russian Air Force started an update of its early MiG-29s to the more current MiG-29SMT standard, but financial difficulties prevented delivery of more than three MiG-29 SMT upgrade to the Russian Air Force. Instead, the 35 MiG-29SMT/UBTs rejected by Algeria were bought by the Russian Air Force. Russia placed an order for 16 new-build MiG-29SMTs on 15th April 2014, with delivery expected by 2017.
On 4th June 2015 a MiG-29 crashed during training in Astrakhan. A month later, another MiG-29 crashed near the village of Kushchevskaya in the Krasnodar region with the pilot safely ejecting. A series of accidents in Russian Air Forces happened in 2015 were caused mostly by overall increase of flights and trainings.
On 20th April 2008, Georgian officials claimed a Russian MiG-29 shot down a Georgian Hermes 450 unmanned aerial vehicle and provided video footage from the ill-fated drone showing an apparent MiG-29 launching an air-to-air missile at it. Russia denies that the aircraft was theirs and says they did not have any pilots in the air that day. Abkhazia’s administration claimed its own forces shot down the drone with an L-39 aircraft “because it was violating Abkhaz airspace and breaching ceasefire agreements.” UN investigation concluded that the video was authentic and that the drone was shot down by a Russian MiG-29 or Su-27 using a R-73 heat seeking missile.
On 16th July 2014, a Ukrainian Su-25 was shot down, with Ukrainian officials stating that a Russian MiG-29 shot it down using a R-27T missile. Russia denied these allegations.
During the first half of September 2017, the Russian Air Force deployed some MiG-29SMT multirole combat aircraft to Hmeymim airbase, near Latakia, in western Syria, becoming the first time the modernized version of the baseline Fulcrum jet was deployed to take part in the Syrian Air War. The MiG-29SMT were involved in bombing missions and secondary strategic bombers escort duties.
In April 2014, during the military intervention in Crimea, 45 Ukrainian Air Force MiG-29s and 4 L-39 combat trainers were reportedly captured by Russian forces at Belbek air base. Most of the planes appeared to be in inoperable condition. In May, Russian troops dismantled them and shipped them back to Ukraine. On 4th August 2014, the Ukrainian government stated that a number of them had been put back into service to fight in the war in the east of the country.
During the initial days of the War in Donbass in April 2014, the Ukrainian Air Force deployed some jet fighters over the Donetsk region to perform combat air patrols and show of force flights. Probably due to the limited number of jet fighters available, a MiG-29 belonging to the Ukrainian Falcons display team was spotted armed with a full air-to-air load and performing a low altitude fly by.
In the evening of 7th August 2014, a Ukrainian Air Force MiG-29MU1, bort number 02 Blue, was shot down by an antiaircraft missile fired by pro-Russian rebels near the town of Yenakievo, and exploded in midair. The pilot ejected safely.
On 17th August 2014, another Ukrainian Air Force MiG-29, bort number 53 White, tasked with air to ground duties against rebel positions was shot down by pro-Russian rebels in the Luhansk region. The Ukrainian government confirmed the downing. The pilot ejected safely and was recovered by friendly forces.
India was the first international customer of the MiG-29. The Indian Air Force (IAF) placed an order for more than 50 MiG-29s in 1980 while the aircraft was still in its initial development phase. Since its induction into the IAF in 1985, the aircraft has undergone a series of modifications with the addition of new avionics, sub-systems, turbofan engines and radars.
Indian MiG-29s were used extensively during the 1999 Kargil War in Kashmir by the Indian Air Force to provide fighter escort for Mirage 2000s attacking targets with laser-guided bombs. According to Indian sources, two MiG-29s from the IAF’s No. 47 squadron (Black Archers) gained missile lock on two F-16s of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) which were patrolling close to the border to prevent any incursions by Indian aircraft, but did not engage them because no official declaration of war had been issued. The Indian MiG-29s were armed with beyond-visual-range air-to-air missiles whereas the Pakistani F-16s were not.
The MiG-29’s good operational record prompted India to sign a deal with Russia in 2005–2006 to upgrade all of its MiG-29s for US$888 million. Under the deal, the Indian MiGs were modified to be capable of deploying the R-77RVV-AE (AA-12 ‘Adder’) air-to-air missile. The missiles had been successfully tested in October 1998 and were integrated into IAF’s MiG-29s. IAF has also awarded the MiG Corporation another US$900 million contract to upgrade all of its 69 operational MiG-29s. These upgrades will include a new avionics kit, with the N-109 radar being replaced by a Phazotron Zhuk-M radar. The aircraft is also being equipped to enhance beyond-visual-range combat ability and for air-to-air refuelling to increase endurance. In 2007, Russia also gave India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) a licence to manufacture 120 RD-33 series 3 turbofan engines for the upgrade. The upgrade will also include a new weapon control system, cockpit ergonomics, air-to-air missiles, high-accuracy air-to-ground missiles and “smart” aerial bombs. The first six MiG-29s will be upgraded in Russia while the remaining 63 MiGs will be upgraded at the HAL facility in India. India also awarded a multimillion-dollar contract to Israel Aircraft Industries to provide avionics and subsystems for the upgrade.
In March 2009, the Indian Air Force expressed concern after 90 MiG-29s were grounded in Russia. After carrying out an extensive inspection, the IAF cleared all MiG-29s in its fleet in March 2009. In a disclosure in Parliament, Defence Minister A. K. Antony said the MiG-29 is structurally flawed in that it has a tendency to develop cracks due to corrosion in the tail fin. Russia has shared this finding with India, which emerged after the crash of a Russian Air Force MiG-29 in December 2008. “A repair scheme and preventive measures are in place and IAF has not encountered major problems concerning the issue,” Antony said. Despite concerns of Russia’s grounding, India sent the first six of its 78 MiG-29s to Russia for upgrades in 2008. The upgrade program will fit the MiGs with a phased array radar (PESA) and in-flight re-fuelling capability.
In January 2010, India and Russia signed a US$1.2 billion deal under which the Indian Navy would acquire 29 additional MiG-29Ks, bringing the total number of MiG-29Ks on order to 45. The MiG-29K entered service with the Indian Navy on 19 February 2010.
The upgrades to Indian MiG-29s will be to the MiG-29UPG standard. This version is similar to the SMT variant but differs by having a foreign-made avionics suite. The upgrade to latest MiG-29UPG standard is in process, which will include latest avionics, Zhuk-ME Radar, engine, weapon control systems, enhancing multirole capabilities by many-fold. As of 2012, Indian UPG version is the most advanced MiG-29 variant. The Director-General of MiG, Sergei Korotkov said, “The most advanced is the MiG-29UPG, implemented in India in collaboration with local industry”. The first three aircraft were delivered in December 2012, over two years behind schedule. The IAF is in advanced stages of talks to buy a new squadron of upgraded multi-role MiG-29s from Russia using three-decade old MiG-29s.
Yugoslavia was the first European country outside the Soviet Union to operate the MiG-29. The country received 14 MiG-29Bs and two MiG-29UBs from the USSR in 1987 and 1988. The MiG-29s were put into service with the 127th Fighter Aviation Squadron, based at Batajnica Air Base, north of Belgrade, Serbia.
Yugoslav MiG-29s saw little combat during the breakup of Yugoslavia, and were used primarily for ground attacks. Several Antonov An-2 aircraft used by Croatia were destroyed on the ground at Čepin airfield near Osijek, Croatia in 1991 by a Yugoslav MiG-29, with no MiG-29 losses. At least two MiG-29 carried out an air strike on Banski dvori, the official residence of the Croatian Government, on 7th October 1991.
The MiG-29s continued their service in the subsequent Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Because of the United Nations arms embargo against the country, the condition of the MiG-29s worsened.
A total of six MiG-29s were shot down during the NATO intervention in the Kosovo War, of which three were shot down by USAF F-15s, one by a USAF F-16, and one by a RNLAF F-16. One aircraft, according to pilot, was hit by friendly fire from the ground. Another four were destroyed on the ground. One Argentine source claims that a MiG-29 shot down an F-16 on 26th March 1999, but this kill is disputed, as the F-16C in question was said to have crashed in the US that same day.
An digital representation of a MiG-29B in service with the Air Force of Serbia and Montenegro during Operation Allied Force in 1999.
The Air Force of Serbia and Montenegro continued flying its remaining five MiG-29s at a very low rate after the war with one of them crashing on 7th July 2009. In spring 2004, news appeared that MiG-29 operations had ceased, because the aircraft could not be maintained, but later the five remaining airframes were sent to Russia for overhauling. The small Serbian MiG-29 fleet along with other jets were grounded for four months during Summer 2014 due to a battery procurement issue. The Serbian Air Force operates three MiG-29s as of late 2014, with one airframe grounded due to structural issues.
In November 2016, Russia had agreed to donate six of its MiG-29s free of charge, if Serbia would pay the aircraft repair costs ($50 million). At the end of January 2017, Serbian defence minister Zoran Đorđević said that Belarus also agreed to donate eight of its MiG-29s to Serbia on a no-pay basis. In early October 2017, Russia completed the delivery of all the six MiG-29s. The aircraft were transferred to Serbia on board the Antonov An-124 transport aircraft. On 25th February 2019, Belarus formally handed four MiG-29s to the Serbian military during a ceremony held at the 558th Aircraft Repair Plant in Baranavichy. This increased the total number of MiG-29s in the Serbian Air Force to 14. Serbia plans to spend about €180–230 million on modernization of its entire MiG-29 fleet.
East Germany bought 24 MiG-29s (20 MiG-29As, four MiG-29UBs), which entered service in 1988–1989 in 1./JG3 “Wladimir Komarow” in Preschen in Brandenburg. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 and reunification of Germany in October 1990, the MiG-29s and other aircraft of the East German Air Forces of the National People’s Army were integrated into the West German Luftwaffe. Initially the 1./JG3 kept its designation. In April 1991 both 1./JG3’s MIG-29 squadrons were reorganised into the MIG-29 test wing (“Erprobungsgeschwader MIG-29”), which became JG73 “Steinhoff” and was transferred to Laage near Rostock in June 1993.
The Federation of American Scientists claims the MiG-29 is equal to, or better than the F-15C in some areas such as short aerial engagements because of the Helmet Mounted Weapons Sight (HMS) and better maneuverability at slow speeds. This was demonstrated when MiG-29s of the German Air Force participated in joint DACT exercises with US fighters. The HMS was a great help, allowing the Germans to achieve a lock on any target the pilot could see within the missile field of view, including those almost 45 degrees off boresight. However the German pilots who flew the MiG-29 admitted that while the Fulcrum was more maneuverable at slow speeds than the F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-14 Tomcat, and F/A-18 Hornet and its Vympel R-73 dogfight missile system was superior to the AIM-9 Sidewinder of the time, all of the American-made fighters had superior avionics, radar, and beyond visual range missiles. In engagements that went into the beyond visual range arena the German pilots found it difficult to multi-task locking and firing the MiG-29s Vympel R-27 missile (German MiG-29s did not have access to the more advanced Vympel R-77 that equips other nations’ MiG-29s) while trying to avoid the longer range and advanced search and track capabilities of the American fighters’ radars and AIM-120 AMRAAM. The Germans also stated that the American fighters had the advantage in both night and bad weather combat conditions. The Luftwaffe’s assessment of the MiG-29 was that the Fulcrum was best used as a point defence interceptor over cities and military installations; not for fighter sweeps over enemy airspace. This assessment ultimately led Germany to not deploy its MiG-29s in the Kosovo War during Operation Allied Force, though Luftwaffe pilots who flew the MiG-29 admitted that even if they were permitted to fly combat missions over the former Yugoslavia they would have been hampered by the lack of NATO specific communication tools and Identification friend or foe systems.
Beginning in 1993, the German MiGs were stationed with JG73 “Steinhoff” in Laage near Rostock. During the service in the German Air Force, one MiG-29 (“29+09”) was destroyed during an accident on 25th June 1996 due to pilot error. By 2003, German Air Force pilots had flown over 30,000 hours in the MiG-29. In September 2003, 22 of the 23 remaining machines were sold to the Polish Air Force for the symbolic price of €1 per item. The last aircraft were transferred in August 2004. The 23rd MiG-29 (“29+03”) was put on display at Laage.
The Peruvian Air Force acquired 21 MiG-29S fighters from Belarus in 1997, as part of a package that also included 18 Su-25 attack aircraft. The following year an additional 3 MiG-29 aircraft were acquired from Russia. At the same time, Peru contracted with Mikoyan to upgrade 8 aircraft to the MiG-29SMP standard, with an option to upgrade the remainder of the Peruvian inventory. The Peruvian MiG-29s are based at Chiclayo Airport in northern Peru, equipping Escuadrón Aéreo 612 (Fighter Squadron 612 “Fighting Roosters”).
The first 12 MiG-29 (nine MiG-29As, three MiG-29UB) were delivered to Poland in 1989–1990. The aircraft were based at Mińsk Mazowiecki and used by the 1st Fighter Aviation Regiment, which was reorganized in 2001 as 1 Eskadra Lotnictwa Taktycznego (1. elt), or 1st Tactical Squadron (TS). In 1995–1996, 10 used examples were acquired from the Czech Republic (nine MiG-29As, one MiG-29UB). After the retirement of its MiG-23s in 1999, and MiG-21s in 2004, Poland was left for a time with only these 22 MiG-29s in the interceptor role.
Of the 22 MiG-29s Poland received from the German Air Force in 2004, a total of 14 of these were overhauled and taken into service. They were used to equip the 41st Tactical Squadron (41. elt), replacing its MiG-21s. As of 2008, Poland was the biggest NATO MiG-29 user. The possibility of modernizing the fighters to enable them to serve until 2020–2025 is being contemplated, depending on whether cooperation with Mikoyan can be established. Poland has 31 active MiG-29s (25 MiG-29As, six MiG-29UB) as of 2017. They are stationed with the 1st Tactical Squadron at the 23rd Air Base near Mińsk Mazowiecki and the 41st TS at the 22nd Air Base near Malbork.
There have been unconfirmed reports that Poland had at one point leased a MiG-29 from their own inventory to Israel for evaluation and the aircraft has since been returned to Poland, as suggested by photographs of a MiG-29 in Israeli use. Three Polish MiG-29A were reported in Israel for evaluation between April and May 1997 at Negev desert. On 7th September 2011 the Polish Air Force awarded a contract to the WZL 2 company to modernise its MiG-29 fleet to be compatible with Polish F-16s.
Four MiG-29s from 1. elt performed Baltic Air Policing Quick Reaction Alert mission in 2006, while 41. elt aircraft in 2008, 2010 and 2012. Polish MiG-29s played the aggressor role in NATO Tactical Leadership Programme (TLP) joint training program in Albacete, Spain in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
On 18th December 2017, a MiG-29 crash landed in a forest near 23rd Air Base while performing a landing approach. The pilot survived. Reports afterward were contradictory whether he ejected or not. On 21st December 2017, the MoD confirmed that the pilot did not eject. This was the first crash of a MiG-29 during its nearly 3 decades long operational history in the Polish Air Force. On 6th July 2018, another MiG-29 crashed near Pasłęk, with its pilot dying in an ejection attempt. Technical issues are suspected to have played a role in the crash. Another crash followed on 4th March 2019. This time the pilot ejected and survived.
Iraq received a number of MiG-29 fighters, and used MiG-29s to engage Iranian equivalent opponents during the later stages of the Iran–Iraq War.
MiG-29s also saw combat in the 1991 Persian Gulf War with the Iraqi Air Force. Five MiG-29s were shot down by USAF F-15s. Some Russian sources reported that one British Panavia Tornado, ZA467, was shot down in northwestern Iraq by a MiG-29 piloted by Jameel Sayhood. UK sources claim this Tornado to have crashed on 22nd January on a mission to Ar Rutbah. Other Iraqi air-to-air kills are reported in Russian sources, where the US claims other cases of combat damage, such as a B-52 which the US claims was hit by friendly fire, when an AGM-88 High-speed, Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM) homed on the fire-control radar of the B-52’s tail gun; bomber was subsequently renamed “In HARM’s Way”.
Iraq’s original fleet of 37 MiG-29s was reduced to 12 after the Gulf War. One MiG-29 was damaged, and four were evacuated to Iran. The remaining 12 aircraft were withdrawn from use in 1995 because the engines needed to be overhauled but Iraq could not send them off for that work.
After the American-led 2003 invasion of Iraq and disbandment of the Ba’athist Iraqi Army in May of the same year, the remaining Russian-made and Chinese-made fighters of Iraqi forces had been decommissioned.
Syrian Arab Air Force MiG-29s have sometimes encountered Israeli fighter and reconnaissance aircraft. Two Israeli F-15Cs reportedly shot down two MiG-29As on 2nd June 1989 under unclear circumstances.
Further reports claim that on 14th September 2001 two Syrian Air Force MiG-29s were shot down by two Israeli F-15Cs while the MiGs were intercepting an Israeli reconnaissance aircraft off the coast of Lebanon. However, both Syria and Israel deny that this occurred.
Syrian MiG-29s entered the Syrian Civil War in late October 2013, attacking Free Syrian Army insurgents with unguided rockets and bombs in Damascus.
There have been occasional claims regarding the use of Sudanese Air Force MiG-29s against insurgent forces in Darfur. However, whereas Mi-24 combat helicopters as well as A-5 or, more recently, Su-25 ground-attack aircraft have been spotted and photographed on Darfurian air fields, no MiG-29s have been observed. On 10th May 2008, a Darfur rebel group, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) mounted an assault on the Sudanese capital. During this action, the JEM shot down a Sudanese Air Force MiG-29 with 12.7 mm and 14.5 mm heavy machine gun fire while it was attacking a convoy of vehicles in the Khartoum suburb of Omdurman. The aircraft was piloted by a Russian mercenary. He was killed in action as his parachute did not open after ejecting. On 14th November 2008 Sudanese Ministry of Defence admitted, that Sudan had received 12 MiG-29 from Russia. An anonymous Russian source claimed, that the aircraft had been delivered before 2004.
During the brief 2012 South Sudan–Sudan border conflict, on 4th April 2012, Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) claimed the downing of a Sudanese MiG-29 using antiaircraft guns. The Sudan government denied the claim. On 16th April 2012, the SPLA issued a second claim about the downing of a Sudanese MiG-29. It was not clear if this second claim referred to the previous one.
In 1997, the United States purchased 21 Moldovan MiG-29 aircraft under the Nunn–Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program. Fourteen were MiG-29S models, which are equipped with an active radar jammer in its spine and are capable of being armed with nuclear weapons. Part of the United States’ motive to purchase these aircraft was to prevent them from being sold to Iran. This purchase could also provide the tactical jet fighter communities of the USAF, the USN and the USMC with a working evaluation and data for the MiG-29, and possibly for use in dissimilar air combat training. Such information may prove valuable in any future conflicts and can aid in the design and testing of current and future weapons platforms. In late 1997, the MiGs were delivered to the National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, though many of the former Moldovan MiG-29s are believed to have been scrapped. Some of these MiG-29s are currently on open display at Nellis AFB, Nevada; NAS Fallon, Nevada; Goodfellow AFB, Texas; and Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.
The Korean People’s Air Force is believed to operate about 40 MiG-29Bs and MiG-29SEs divided into the 55th and 57th fighter regiments based at Sunchon and Onchon, respectively. These were first encountered and photographed by the USAF in March 2003 when a pair of KPAF MiG-29s intercepted an USAF RC-135S reconnaissance aircraft.
A Cuban MiG-29UB shot down two Cessna 337s belonging to the organisation Brothers to the Rescue in 1996, after the aircraft approached Cuban airspace.
According to some reports, in the 1999 Eritrean-Ethiopian War, a number of Eritrean MiG-29s were shot down by Ethiopian Su-27s piloted by Russian mercenaries. (It is true that local pilots were trained by instructors from those nations.]) There are also some other reports of Eritrean MiG-29s shooting down two Ethiopian MiG-21s, three MiG-23s, and an Su-25.
The Bangladesh Air Force (BAF) currently operates 8 MiG-29s (6SE & 2UB).
Hobbymaster 1/72nd scale MiG-29 Fulcrum
Hobbymaster 1/72nd scale MiG-29 Fulcrum is now available to pre-order from Flying Tigers. Please click on the image below to go straight to the model page to order.
Hobbymaster Latest Model Announcements
Hobbymaster have just announced their latest models and they are now available to pre-order at Flying Tigers today.
Many of these models have extremely low worldwide production quantities, so please order early to avoid disappointment.
Don’t forget NO DEPOSIT necessary with Flying Tigers and if you order with your debit or credit card your payment is not taken until your model is available to dispatch.
Flying Tigers will also consolidate your orders to save on postage costs across all brands !
Please click on the image of your choice to go straight to the model page or CLICK HERE to see them all.
Hobbymaster Updated Photo Gallery
Check out the latest photos from Hobbymaster that have now been added to the Flying Tigers website. Please click on the image of your choice to go straight to the model page.
New Corgi Aviation Archive model arrivals
The following models have recently arrived and are now available to order from stock. Some of these are in very limited supply and some are also SOLD OUT at Corgi so be quick if you want any of these.
That is all for this week.
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