Mikoyan MiG 1.42 / 1.44 / MFI Technology Demonstrator
The MiG 1.42 MFI has served as an important developmental platform for the Russians.
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Mikoyan designed the MiG 1.42 in response to a Soviet requirement for a multi-role frontline fighter through the "Multifunctional Frontline Fighter" program begun sometime in the 1980s. The fighter was to directly compete against the end-product of the "Advanced Tactical Fighter" program being conducted in the United States (this end-product eventually becoming the production Lockheed F-22 "Raptor" air superiority fighter). The 1.42 was selected as the eventually replacement to the successful Sukhoi Su-27 "Flanker" series in 1986. While the designation of "1.42" was used to signify the project itself as well as the main prototype(s), the designation of "1.44" was used for to signify the program's aerodynamic test airframe of (which two are thought to have been produced). The two airframe types are differentiated by the 1.42's noted improved functions and represents the version most closely associated with a production-standard airframe. The 1.44 is essentially an aerodynamic demonstrator. In all, the 1.42 program appears as nothing more than a technology demonstrator for both the Mikoyan bureau and the Russian Air Force.
NATO MiG 1.42/1.44 Nomenclature
Despite the non-production status of the aircraft, NATO has assigned the two airframes respective codenames in its inventory nomenclature - these being "Foxglove" (for the 1.42) and "Flatpack" (for the 1.44). To further confuse things, the project aircraft are also known under the collective designation of "MiG-MFI". MFI stands for "Mnogo-Funktsionalniy Istrebitel" or "Multi-Role Fighter".
MiG 1.42/1.44 Walk-Around
The MiG 1.42/1.44 was powered by a pair of thrust-vectoring Lyulka-Saturn AL-41F series afterburning turbofan engines delivering 39,680lbs of thrust each. Thrust-vectoring allows aircraft unprecedented agility in the skies, particularly in lateral movements. The twin powerplants were aspirated by a pair of under-fuselage intake openings similar in placement to that as found on the Eurofighter Typhoon. The fuselage maintained a generally pleasing, well-rounded appearance - a far cry from the boxy airframes consistent with the Soviet Cold War-era. The cockpit was held forward in the design, aft of a nose cone assembly to someday house an active phased radar array. The cockpit featured seating for one pilot under a two-piece canopy with relatively good views out of the seat. The pilot sat behind an "all-glass" instrument panel and the installed weapons system was said to be capable of targeting some twenty aerial targets at once. Of note is that the technology powering the 1.42/1.44 was essentially equivalent to that of 4.5-Generation fighter designs and this included its fly-by-wire configuration and general construction and layout. All-moving canard wings were affixed to the forward portion of the fuselage to aid in low-level/low-speed flight. The main wing assemblies were themselves large-area delta systems with noticeable sweep along the trailing edge. The delta design meant that there were no "true" horizontal tail planes found on conventional aircraft. Vertical fins were mounted outboard of each engine compartment at the rear, notable in that they were well-spaced apart. The engines themselves were tightly set in a side-by-side arrangement and exhausted through their respective vectoring nozzle rings. The undercarriage was of a conventional tricycle type featuring two main landing gear legs (single-wheeled) and a nose landing gear leg (double-tired). Stealth was said to feature prominently in the exterior design of the 1.42 but has been dismissed as an optimistic claim by Western observers.
Estimated performance specifications have placed the 1.42's top speed in the range of Mach 2.6, or 1,716 miles per hour, with use of afterburn (a "supercruise" function is thought to be part of the engines power - supercruise allows supersonic flight without use of the fuel-thirsty afterburner). Range is reportedly out to 2,500 miles with an impressive service ceiling equivalent to 70,720 feet. The Lyulka-Saturn engines were known to have powered a modified Tupolev Tu-16 "Badger" and Mikoyan MiG-25 "Foxbat" during evaluation and were found to provide for better range when compared to the Sukhoi Flanker series the MiG 1.42 was meant to replace.
Despite reports that the MiG 1.42 made use of internal weapons bays, the demonstrator was showcased with external weapons pylons. The standard internal weapon fitting was a single 30mm Izhmash GSh-301 series cannon for close-in self-defense. It is suspected that the MiG-1.42, had it entered production, would have made use of the standard array of air-to-air/air-to-ground missiles (radar- and IR-guided) as well as conventional drop ordnance found throughout the Russian Air Force inventory.
Already some four years behind schedule, taxi trials were completed with the 1.44 airframe sometime in 1994 at Zhukosky. However, the general overall cost of the program versus dwindling Russian defense funds following the collapse of the Soviet Union endangered the MiG 1.42 project in whole. A reportedly high-per-unit cost eventually did the aircraft in with the Russian government pulling the plug on the MiG 1.42 during 1997. Development continued along limited fronts for a time and the follow-up 1.44 aerodynamic airframe was officially unveiled in January of 1999 with a first flight expected in February of that year. However, more delays in the program pushed this monumental event further with first flight not achieved until February 29th, 2000. This was followed up by at least two further reported test flights occurring in 2001.
The MiG 1.42 and the PAK FA
Of course Russian officials were quick to note the type's excellence over that of the American F-22. However, while the 1.42 has been languishing sorely for the last decade, the F-22 has already entered production service with the United States Air Force as its first Fifth Generation mount with the F-35 soon to follow. The Russians continue to play catch up in a Fifth Generation fighter development with their upcoming Sukhoi PAK FA (Prospective Air Complex - Frontal Aviation), a development more in line with perhaps the multirole-minded Lockheed F-35 Lightning II. The PAK FA (now expected to replace both the MiG-29 and the Su-27 series) has now evolved to become a joint development effort between Russian and India. The initial PAK FA prototype first flew in early 2010. The joint development effort (essentially spawning a derivative of the PAK FA for Indian service) is known under the designation of FGFA (Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft) and involves both Sukhoi of Russia and HAL of India. An agreement between the two parties was signed in 2001. It is believed that the MiG 1.42/1.44 has been used as a data collection platform for the PAK FA program and similar powerplants found on the former are said to power the latter.
The MiG-35 Designation
The MiG 1.42/1.44/MFI was once designated as the "MiG-35". This designation has since been removed from the project and assigned to a newer (and wholly unrelated) version of the Mikoyan MiG-29 "Fulcrum".