Mikoyan MiG-29 (Fulcrum) Lightweight Multi-Role Fighter
The Soviet-era Mikoyan MiG-29 Fulcrum has seen excellent sales figures at home and abroad.
Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com
The Mikoyan MiG-29 "Fulcrum" did much to further Soviet/Russian aviation technology and, along with the Sukhoi Su-27 "Flanker", formed a powerful and highly-capable one-two punch for the Soviet Air Force and its allies through the 1990s and the new millennium. The potency of the MiG-29 has since grown over the decades thanks to programs that have evolved the system from a deadly lightweight fighter to a potent, multi-faceted tool of warfare. The MiG-29 has proven a success worldwide with operators beyond the Soviet Union/Russia being Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bulgaria, Cuba, Czech Republic, Eritrea, Hungary, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Myanmar, Peru, North Korea, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia, Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Yemen. East German/German MiG-29s were eventually sold to Poland. Iraq no longer fields the Fulcrum while Romania has since retired her small fleet. Israel procured at least one example for aggressor training considering its most potent ally in the region would have been Russian-made MiG-29s. Yugoslavia is a former operator and these later fell into Serbian use during the Serb-Croat War.
Today, Russia maintains some 445 MiG-29s in inventory as of early 2011. India also currently manages several dozen MiG-29s for its air force and navy air arms making it one of the primary export operators of the aircraft. North Korea operates at least 40 Fulcrums which were purchased from both Russia and Belarus. In 1997, even the United States purchased 21 Fulcrums from Moldova in an attempt to keep these Russian fighters from falling into rogue hands - giving American engineers unprecedented access to this fine fighter. Several of these MiG-29s went on to become museum displays across America. While an excellent proven fighter platform over the years, the MiG-29 has had her share of notable and much-publicized crashes, some resulting in fatalities. Nevertheless, her potency today is a far cry from what she was at inception and programs have brought about the best in her base design.
By the end of the 1960s, both the East and West were well on their way towards development of Fourth Generation jet-powered fighters. Fourth Generation jet fighters originated in the 1970s and introduced a myriad of new features to make for more capable, ever more lethal fighter mounts. The United States went on to introduce the venerable McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle
in 1976 and the fleet was further strengthened by the arrival of the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon
in 1978. The long-standing McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II
was still a fixture worldwide and since 1974 the Grumman F-14 Tomcat
interceptor would patrol the skies wherever American carriers were. On the other side of the world, the Soviet Union was holding ground with their fabled MiG-21 "Fishbed" fighter
of 1959 and the Sukhoi Su-15 "Flagon"
of 1967. However, the Mikoyan concern also unveil their MiG-23 "Flogger"
in 1970 which was then evolved into a capable ground-attack platform in the MiG-27
. To counter new American and NATO developments, Mikoyan OKB was one of three Soviet firms tabbed with beginning work on a new Fourth Generation mount in 1970 - the other two being stalwart competitors Sukhoi and Yakovlev. Mikoyan-Gurevich became a household name in the dark days of World War 2, responding with the excellent single-seat, piston-powered MiG-1 fighter
aircraft to match wits with German Messerschmitt Bf 109s and Focke-Wulf Fw 190s.
In 1974, Soviet authorities detailed a requirement for a new lightweight fighter with excellent agility to replace the MiG-21, MiG-23 and Su-15 series along the Cold War frontlines. By this time, technology made it such that the new fighter aircraft could be fitted with increased digital processing and utilize the latest in missile weaponry as well as radar systems. The new development would be powered by equally-new engines and field an array of short- and medium-range air-to-air missiles as well as an internal cannon for close-in work. The fighter would be charged with direct competition against the best that West had to offer.
Mikoyan engineers set to work on the new requirement and, based on past operational experience of previous jet aircraft to their name, settled on a two-engine design layout from the standpoint that it offered up inherent benefits - not the least of these being better performance and basic crew survivability. The new fighter was christened the "MiG-29" and its early design forms presented an aircraft design not unlike the boxy Mikoyan MiG-25 "Foxbat" - a large, flat-bodied interceptor built primarily for speed and utilized to intercept aerial threats with missiles and radar. The new design featured a forward-set cockpit with a raise fuselage spine, twin engines buried in the fuselage side-by-side and high-mounted wing assemblies with an elegantly contoured wing leading edge. Engine exhaust rings were straddled by rearward-extending booms mounting the twin vertical tail fin assembly. The engines were aspirated by a large pair of rectangular intakes fitted to either side of the forward fuselage. In all respect, the design was nothing more than a glorified MiG-25 in its current form. Other designs then emerged, one even appearing to resemble the upcoming McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet and still another seemingly mimicking the design style of the F-15 itself.
In 1971, it was resolved that the program should revolve around two distinct aircraft types based on the same overall airframe, only each were to be modified to suit different mission roles. This produced a dedicated interceptor form fitted with radar and increased fuel and a dedicated multi-faceted tactical fighter to work within shorter ranges and be faster to produce in number. In effect, each design was meant to counter the F-15 and F-16 in their respective primary roles. This approach also ensured commonality of parts across both mounts and improved logistics to an extent while also retaining inherent performance qualities regardless of mission role.