The Mikoyan MiG-29 (Russian: Микоян МиГ-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 infrared search and track (IRST) sensors, and considerably increased fuel capacity; some aircraft have also been equipped for aerial refueling.
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. As of 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. Supersonic fighter bombers that had been optimized for low altitude bombing, like the F-105 Thunderchief, were found to be vulnerable to older MiG-17s and more advanced MiGs which were much more maneuverable. In order to regain the limited 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 6 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.
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.
Powerplant and range
The MiG-29 has two widely spaced Klimov RD-33 turbofan engines, each rated at 50.0 kilonewtons (11,200 lbf) dry and 81.3 kilonewtons (18,300 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 (930 mi) without external fuel tanks, and 2,100 km (1,300 mi) with external tanks. The internal fuel capacity of the original MiG-29B is 4,365 l (960 imp gal; 1,153 US gal) 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 l (330 imp gal; 400 US gal) centreline drop tank and, on later production batches, two 1,150 l (250 imp gal; 300 US gal) underwing drop tanks. In addition, a newer models have been fitted with port-side inflight refueling 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 (62 mi) 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 analog 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 (1.18 in) 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 l (250 imp gal; 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 l (330 imp gal; 400 US gal) tank can be fitted to the centerline, between the engines.
Original Soviet variants
Upgraded variants based on original airframe
- MiG-29S (Product 9.13): The MiG-29S, given the NATO reporting code “Fulcrum-C”, features flight control system improvements; a total of four new computers provide better stability augmentation and controllability with an increase of 2° in angle of attack (AoA). An improved mechanical-hydraulic flight control system allows for greater control surface deflections. The MiG-29S has a dorsal hump, which led to its nickname “Fatback”, houses the L-203BE Gardenyia-1 ECM system. The MiG-29S can carry 1,150 l (250 imp gal; 300 US gal) under wing drop tanks and a centerline tank. The inboard underwing hardpoints allow a tandem pylon arrangement for carrying a larger payload of 4,000 kg (8,800 lb). Overall maximum gross weight has been raised to 20,000 kg (44,000 lb). Built only for domestic use. Early MiG-29S featured an IRST sighting system; the MiG-29S improvement kit includes the Phazotron N019M radar and Built-In Test Equipment (BITE) to reduce dependence on ground support equipment; MiG MAPO designates this as MiG-29SD. Improvements to software and processing capabilities enables the tracking of up to 10 targets and the simultaneous engagement of two with the R-77 missile. The MiG-29S also has a limited ground-attack capability.
- MiG-29SE: Export model of MiG-29S with slightly downgraded N-019ME radar with multiple target tracking ability and RVV-AE (R-77 missile) compatibility. The first export model MiG-29 with underwing drop tanks; the inner underwing pylons can carry over 500 kg (1,100 lb) bombs in side by side tandem pairs. Its weapons mix includes R-27T1, R-27ER1 and R-27ET1 medium-range missiles. The aircraft can be fitted with active ECM systems, weapons guidance aids, improved built-in check and training systems. The MiG-29SE can simultaneously engage two air targets.
- MiG-29SM (Product 9.13M): Similar to the 9.13, but with the ability to carry guided air-to-surface missiles and TV- and laser-guided bombs. NATO reporting code is “Fulcrum-C”.
- MiG-29SM (SyAF): For the Syrian Air Force, and based on the MiG-29SM, except the Syrian MiG-29SM uses the 9.12 airframe. RAC MiG developed a special variant for Syria.
- MiG-29G/MiG-29GT: East German MiG-29 / 29UB upgraded to NATO standards, with work done by MiG Aircraft Product Support GmbH (MAPS), a joint venture company form between MiG Moscow Aviation Production Association and DaimlerChrysler Aerospace in 1993.
- MiG-29AS/MiG-29UBS (MiG-29SD): Slovak Air Force performed an upgrade on their MiG-29/-29UB for NATO compatibility. Work is done by RAC MiG and Western firms, starting from 2005. The aircraft now has navigation and communications systems from Rockwell Collins, an IFF system from BAE Systems, new glass cockpit features multi-function LC displays and digital processors and also fitted to be integrate with Western equipment in the future. However, the armaments of the aircraft remain unchanged. 12 out of 21 of the entire MiG-29 fleet were upgraded and had been delivered as of late February 2008.
- MiG-29 Sniper: Upgrade planned for Romanian Air Force, by Israeli firms. First flight occurred on 5 May 2000. The program was halted along with the retiring of Romanian MiG-29s in 2003. The latter occurred because of high maintenance costs, which led to the Romanian Government’s decision to halt the MiG-29 program and further invest in the MiG-21 LanceR program.
- MiG-29SMT (Product 9.17): The MiG-29SMT is an upgrade package for first-generation MiG-29s (9.12 to 9.13) containing enhancements intended for the MiG-29M variant. Additional fuel tanks in a further enlarged spine provide a maximum flight range of 2,100 km (1,300 mi) on internal fuel. The cockpit has an enhanced HOTAS design, two 152 mm × 203 mm (6.0 in × 8.0 in) colour liquid crystal MFDs and two smaller monochrome LCDs. The MiG-29A was not designed for an advanced air-to-ground capability, this is substantially improved by the SMT upgrade; features include air-to-ground radar detection and integrated air-to-ground guided weapons. The upgraded Zhuk-ME radar provides similar features to the MiG-29M. The power plant are upgraded RD-33 ser.3 engines with afterburning thrust rated at 81 kN (18,000 lbf) each. The weapons load was increased to 4,500 kg (9,900 lb) on six underwing and one ventral hardpoints, with similar weapon choices as for the MiG-29M. The upgraded aircraft can also accommodate non-Russian origin avionics and weapons.
- MiG-29BM: The MiG-29BM (probably Belarusian Modernised, possibly Bolyshaya Modernizaciya – large modernization) is an upgrade to the MiG-29 conducted by the ARZ-558 aircraft repair plant in Baranovichi, Belarus. The MiG-29BM is a strike variant of the MiG-29 pure fighter, the Belarusian counterpart to the Russian MiG-29SMT. It includes improvements to weapons, radar, as well as adding non-retractable air-air refueling ability. They entered service in 2003 and it is estimated, that ten or so were modernized to BM standard.
- MiG-29UBT (Product 9.51T): SMT standard upgrade for the MiG-29UB. Namely users, Algeria and Yemen.
- MiG-29UPG: The Indian UPG version is similar to the SMT variant but differs by having a foreign-made avionics suite integrated within it, in the “international avionics suite”. The weapons suite is the same as the SMT and K/KUB versions. The design is a new modification intended for the MiG-29s used by Indian Air Force. It made its maiden flight on 4 February 2011. The standard includes the new Zhuk-M radar, new avionics, a IFR probe as well as new enhanced RD-33 series 3 turbofan engines. The modernization is part of a $900 million contract to upgrade the 69 fighters fleet. In 2012, RAC MiG general director’s stated the UPG version was the “most advanced” MiG-29 variant.
- MiG-29SMP / MiG-29UBP: Upgrade for the Peruvian Air Force MiG-29 fleet. In August 2008 a contract of US$106 million was signed with RAC MiG for this custom SM upgrade of an initial batch of eight MiG-29, with a provision for upgrade of the remainder of the Peruvian MiG-29 fleet. The single-seat version is designated SMP, whereas the twin-seat version is designated UBP. The SMP standard features an improved ECM suite, avionics, sensors, pilot interface, and a MIL-STD-1553 databus. The interfaces include improved IRST capabilities for enhanced passive detection and tracking as well as better off-boresight launch capabilities, one MFCD and HOTAS. The N019M1 radar, a heavily modified and upgraded digital version of the N019 radar, is used instead of the standard N010 Zhuk-M used on the MiG-29SMT. The upgrade also includes a structural life-extension program (SLEP), the overhaul, upgrade of the original engines and the installation of an in-flight refuelling probe.
- MiG-29MU1: Ukrainian modernization of MiG-29. Range of detection of air targets increased up to 29% (up to 100 km (62 mi) in the forward hemisphere and up to 45 km (28 mi) at the rear).
Second-generation variants with modified airframe
- MiG-29M / MiG-33 (Product 9.15): Advanced multirole variant, with a redesigned airframe, mechanical flight controls replaced by a fly-by-wire system and powered by enhanced RD-33 ser.3M engines. NATO reporting code is “Fulcrum-E”.
- MiG-29UBM (Product 9.61): Two-seat training variant of the MiG-29M. Never built. Effectively continued under the designation ‘MiG-29M2’.
- MiG-29M2 / MiG-29MRCA: Two-seat version of MiG-29M. Identical characteristics to MiG-29M, with a slightly reduced ferry range of 1,800 km (1,100 mi). RAC MiG presented in various air shows, including Fifth China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition (CIAAE 2004), Aero India 2005, MAKS 2005. It was once given designation MiG-29MRCA for marketing purpose and now evolved into the current MiG-35.
- MiG-29OVT: The aircraft is one of the six pre-built MiG-29Ms before 1991, later received thrust vectoring engine and fly-by-wire technology. It served as a thrust-vectoring engine testbed and technology demonstrator in various air shows to show future improvement in the MiG-29M. It has identical avionics to the MiG-29M. The only difference in the cockpit layout is an additional switch to turn on vector thrust function. The two RD-133 thrust-vectoring engines, each features unique 3D rotating nozzles which can provide thrust vector deflection in all directions. However, despite its thrust-vectoring, other specifications were not officially emphasized. The aircraft is being demonstrated along with the MiG-29M2 in various air shows around the world for potential export. The aircraft is usually used as an aerobatic demonstrator.
- MiG-29K (Product 9.31): Naval variant based on MiG-29M, the letter “K” stands for “Korabelnogo bazirovaniya” (deck-based). It features folding wings, arrestor gear, and reinforced landing gear. Originally intended for the Admiral Kuznetsov class aircraft carriers, it had received series production approval from the Russian Ministry of Defence but was grounded in 1992 due to shift in military doctrine and financial difficulties. The MiG Corporation restarted the program in 1999. On 20 January 2004, the Indian Navy signed a contract of 12 single-seat MiG-29K and four two-seat MiG-29KUB. Modifications were made for the Indian Navy requirement. Production MiG-29K and MiG-29KUB share a two-seater size canopy. The MiG-29K has radar absorbing coatings to reduce radar signature. Cockpit displays consist of wide HUD and three (seven on MiG-29KUB) colour LCD MFDs with a Topsight E helmet-mounted targeting system. It has a full range of weapons compatible with the MiG-29M and MiG-29SMT. NATO reporting code is “Fulcrum-D”.
- MiG-29KUB (Product 9.47): Identical characteristic to the MiG-29K but with tandem twin seat configuration. The design is to serve as trainer for MiG-29K pilot and is full combat capable. The first MiG-29KUB developed for the Indian Navy made its maiden flight at the Russian Zhukovsky aircraft test centre on 22 January 2007. NATO reporting code is “Fulcrum-D”.
- MiG-35: A recently unveiled mature development of the MiG-29M/M2 and MiG-29K/KUB. NATO reporting code is “Fulcrum-F”.
|Length||17.32 m (56 ft 10 in)|
|Wingspan||11.36 m (37 ft 3 in)|
|Height||4.73 m (15 ft 6 in)|
|Wing area||38 m2 (410 sq ft)|
|Empty weight||11,000 kg (24,251 lb)|
||14,900 kg (32,849 lb)|
|Max take off weight||18,000 kg (39,683 lb)|
|Power plant (Dry thrust)
|Power plant (Thrust with afterburner)
||2 × Klimov RD-33 engines, 81.59 kN (18,340 lbf)|
|Maximum speed (Sea level)
|Maximum speed (High altitude)||Mach 2.25 (1,500 mph, 2,400 km/h)|
||2,100 km (1,300 mi, 1,100 nmi)|
||18,000 m (59,000 ft)|
|Rate of climb||330 m/s (65,000 ft/min)|
|Wing loading||403 kg/m2 (83 lb/sq ft)|
|Design load factor||+9g|
- Russian Air Force – 249.
- Russian Navy – 24 MiG-29K.
- Algerian Air Force – 26 MiG-29s in service in January 2014. 14 MiG-29M/M2s on order.
- Azerbaijani Air Forces – 13 MiG-29s in operational use in January 2014.
- Bangladeshi Air Force – 8 MiG-29Bs in service as of 2017.
- Belarusian Air Force – 41 MiG-29s in inventory as of January 2014.
- Bulgarian Air Force – 16 MiG-29 and 3 MiG-29UB fighters in service, to be replaced by 2024.
- Chadian Air Force – 3 MiG-29s from Ukraine.
- Cuban Revolutionary Air and Air Defense Force – 4 MiG-29s in inventory as of January 2014.
- Eritrean Air Force – 4 MiG-29s in service as of January 2014.
- Indian Air Force – 67 MiG-29s in service as of January 2014 with 21 more on order in 2020.
- Indian Navy– 45 MiG-29Ks in service as of February 2017.
- Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force – 44 MiG-29s in inventory as of 2012.
- Kazakh Air Force – 12 MiG-29 and 2 MiG-29UB as of 2016.
- Royal Malaysian Air Force – 16 MiG-29s in inventory with 15 in active reserve as 2019.
- Mongolian Air Force – 2 MiG-29UBs in active service as of November 2019.
- Myanmar Air Force – 31 MiG-29s(10 B, 6 SE, 10 SM(mod) and 5 UB) in January 2015 10 are upgraded to MiG-29SM(mod) standard.
- Korean People’s Air Force – 35 MiG-29s as of January 2015.
- Peruvian Air Force – 19 MiG-29s in service as of January 2014 with 8 upgraded and 11 to be upgraded.
- Polish Air Force – 30 MiG-29s in service as of December 2017.
- Serbian Air Force and Air Defence – 14 MiG-29s in inventory as of 2019 (5 MiG-29Аs, 3 MIG-29Bs, 3 MiG-29Ss, 3 MiG-29UBs). In November 2017, Serbia received 6 MiG-29s (3 MiG-29Ss, 3 MiG-29UBs) that were donated free of charge from Russia. These aircraft were built between 1989–1991. On 25 February 2019, Serbia received 4 single-seat MiG-29As, donated from Belarus. All the Serbian Air Force MiG-29s are planned to be modernized to the advanced MiG-29SMT/UBT standards.
- Slovak Air Force – 10 MiG-29ASs and 2 MiG-29UBSs in service since 2008. These aircraft were upgraded by the Russian Aircraft Corporation MiG and Western companies in 2007 and 2008 to fulfill the NATO requirements. They are maintained by Russian military technicians at Sliač Air Base.
- Sudanese Air Force – 11 in service as of January 2017.
- Syrian Arab Air Force – 20 in service with 12 more on order as of January 2017. A new delivery in May 2020.
- Turkmen Air Force – 24 MiG-29s in use as of January 2014.
- Ukrainian Air Force – 37 MiG-29s in use as of March 2019.
- United States – Used by private defense contractor Air USA for adversary training services.
- Uzbekistan Air Force – 60 MiG-29s in operation as of January 2014.