Alexander Velovich/MOSCOW

The Russian air force plans to upgrade 300 of its MIGMAPOMiG-29 Fulcrum A fighter aircraft to the multi-role MiG-29SMT configuration, with the first aircraft scheduled to be delivered this year.

Col Gen Anatoly Sitnov, the defence ministry's head of acquisition, said during a presentation of the aircraft at the Zhukovsky flight test centre on 22 April that the air force would receive 10-15 aircraft upgraded to the SMT standard during the course of this year.

The SMT provides a substantially increased maximum fuel load in comparison to the basic Fulcrum. The limited combat radius of the basic Fulcrum has long been considered to be a significant restriction.

Alongside the increased fuel capacity, the aircraft will also be capable of carrying a range of air-to-surface missiles. With the withdrawal from service of the Sukhoi Su-17M4 Fitter K and MiG-27 Flogger, the air force's Frontal Aviation units have lost primary ground attack types.

The air force is now looking to adapt the Fulcrum to fill this gap in its inventory. Sitnov says the modernisation will significantly increase the air force's tactical ground attack capability.

Sitnov says flight tests of the upgraded MiG-29SMT are planned to be completed in August. The first MiG-29SMT prototype flew at Zhukovsky on 20 April, piloted by the new MiG chief test pilot Vladimir Gorbunov.

The prototype aircraft, number 405, is a modified Object 9-13 (Fulcrum C) with an enlarged dorsal fairing housing two fuel tanks with an additional 1,800 litres capacity. The aircraft is also fitted with a multifunction liquid crystal display.

The MiG-29SMT will have a modified N-019 radar providing a ground-mapping mode. The aircraft will be able to carry the television-guided Vympel Kh-29T (AS-14 Kedge) air-to-surface missile and NIIPGM KAB-500KR glide bomb.

Source: Flight International