Russian fighter-builder RSK MiG is concentrating its sales efforts at Farnborough on a range of MiG-29 Fulcrum variants derived from a programme which most observers believed had died in 1993.


Before the MiG-29M programme stalled, work had begun on a combat-capable two-seat version. This had radar (the standard MiG-29UB twin-sticker does not) and a different fore-and-aft cockpit.

This aircraft re-emerged last year as the MiG-29M-2, wearing the English MRCA (Multi-Role Combat Aircraft) acronym on its tail. It is understood to be the variant offered to Brazil to meet its F-X requirement, competing with the Mirage 2000, the Su-35 and the Saab Gripen.

RSK MiG had been left with a stockpile of about 80 basic Fulcrum A and C variants at its Lukhovitskii airfield following the end of the Cold War and cancelled orders from Russian air forces. A variety of configurations were marketed then, using designations including MiG-29S, MiG-29SD, MiG-29SE and MiG-29SM. All of these incorporated minimum changes to the basic Fulcrum, with minor avionics upgrades and expanded capabilities.

Work on the advanced, multi-role second-generation MiG-29M designed for the Russian air forces – and the export MiG-29ME or MiG-33 – ground to a halt after the MAPO factory gained a controlling interest in the MiG concern.

Six prototypes – or possibly 6-10 prototypes, according to some Russians at Farnborough this year – were built before the programme collapsed in 1993, along with two similar prototypes of the related MiG-29K, designed for use aboard Russia's new carriers.

Instead of replacing the first generation MiG-29s with second-generation MiG-29Ms, the Russian air forces launched the MiG-29SMT upgrade, fitting new multi-role avionics, a massive dorsal spine housing extra fuel, and provision for new engines. This configuration attracted little interest from export customers, because of the misconception that its increased weight affected performance.

With the stockpile of MiG-29s now depleted by exports to Algeria, Bangladesh, Eritrea, Malaysia, Peru, and Slovakia, it appears that RSK MiG has returned to the MiG-29M to form the basis of new export versions.

The MiG-29M had introduced a new lightweight airframe making extensive use of aluminium lithium alloys. This increased internal volume and reduced parts count. The normal overwing auxiliary intakes were replaced with extra fuel tanks.

It also had a fly-by-wire flight control system, a new Zhuk radar, and some small but significant airframe improvements, including sharp-edged LERXes, extended chord tailplanes, and a new dorsal airbrake. The extent of the changes made it impossible to upgrade existing MiG-29s to the MiG-29M standard, and production of the new version would require the factory to retool.

When India turned to MiG for a new carrierborne MiG-29K version, it became clear that the new variant would have to use the lightweight airframe, which has thus become the new standard for future MiG-29 versions.

Source: Flight Daily News