On October 6, 1977, the first prototype of the Mikoyan MiG-29 multirole frontline fighter jet took to the skies.
The first prototype of the Mikoyan MiG-29 multirole frontline fighter jet took to the skies forty years ago, on October 6, 1977.
The development of fourth-generation fighter jets started in the Soviet Union and in the United States in the late 1960s. As compared to their predecessors, the Soviet MiG-23, the US F-5 Tiger and the French Mirage F.1, the new-generation planes were intended to become multifunctional (i.e. to be able to destroy targets both in the air and on the ground), show increased maneuverability and spend less fuel, feature electric flying controls, new avionics and highly efficient weapons.
In the 1970s, three types of fourth-generation fighters went into service in the United States at once: the light F-16, the heavy F-15 and the deck-based F-14. These planes excelled by a whole number of parameters the second-and third-generation MiG-21, MiG-23 and MiG-25 aircraft operational in the Soviet Air and Air Defense Forces.
Soviet defense specialists and scientists also launched work on developing several classes of fighter jets for accomplishing specific missions. Under this concept, the light fighter was designed for operations over its territory and in the enemy’s immediate rear (up to 150 km). This plane was required to be easy in its piloting control, production and operation. The designers were set the task of furnishing the plane with the most advanced electronic equipment and armament at that time, provide for its high maneuverability and thrust-to-weight ratio.
The design of this fighter, which received its designation, was assigned to the Separate Design Bureau of Moscow’s Zenit Machine-Building Factory (currently, the Mikoyan Design Bureau Engineering Center of the MiG Aircraft Corporation).
In 1976, the concept design was completed and the fighter’s mockup was made. They were approved by the customer (Air Force specialists) in 1977.
The MiG-29 prototype (board No. 901) was made by August 1977. On October 6, 1977, Chief Pilot of the Design Bureau Alexander Fedotov performed the first flight aboard the plane.
Overall, 16 planes were built for trials. Two of them were lost due to problems with engines: one was lost in June 1978 and the other in October 1980. In both cases, the pilots ejected to safety.
The state trials of the MiG-29 fighter were completed on October 27, 1983.
Serial production and combat service
From 1982, the fighter’s serial production was organized at the Moscow Znamya Truda Machine-Building Enterprise while the trials were not yet completed.
In July 1983, the first MiG-29 planes started arriving for the 234th Guards fighter air regiment (Kubinka, Moscow Region).
Overall, more than 1,600 MiG-29 planes have been produced and the production of their improved modifications continues today.
The fighter jet was used during combat operations in Afghanistan, in various armed conflicts in the post-Soviet space, in Persian Gulf countries, Ethiopia, Eritrea, the former Yugoslavia, India, Yemen, Sudan and Syria.
According to public information, the Russian Air Force currently operates up to 270 MiG-29 fighters of various modifications. Up to 40 such fighters are operational with the Russian Navy. Specifically, the 100th shipborne fighter air regiment was formed in 2016. It is armed with MiG-29K aircraft, which are intended to be operational on the Russian Navy’s sole aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov.
During the Soviet period, MiG-29 planes were exported to several Warsaw Treaty member countries (East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Romania), and also to the former Yugoslavia and Iraq. After 1991, MiG-29 fighters were sold not only by Russia but also by former Soviet republics (Ukraine and Moldova). Today, MiG-29 fighters are operational in the Air Force of 25 countries.
The MiG-29 is a fourth-generation multirole frontline supersonic fighter. It is designed under the normal aerodynamic scheme and is a mid-wing aircraft with a trapezoidal mechanized wing. It has a two-keel vertical tail with all-movable stabilizers.
The plane has the so-called “integral arrangement:” the fuselage and the wing form a single bearing body, which provides less drag and greater lift at large angles of attack.
Two RD-33 engines are placed in the nacelles in the fuselage’s tail section. The RD-33 gas turbine engine is a two-shaft, double-circuit motor with an annular combustion chamber, a variable nozzle and a hydraulic electronic control system. The air intakes under the fuselage are closed by special curtains during steering on the ground to prevent debris from getting into the engines.
- Crew – 1 person (2 pilots in the combat trainer modification)’
- Length – 17.32 m;
- Height – 4.73 m;
- Wing span – 11.36 m;
- Maximum speed – 2,450 km/h (2.3 Mach);
- Engine’s “full afterburner” thrust – 8,300 kgf;
- Service ceiling – 18,000 m;
- Practical range at high altitude – 1,430 km (2,100 km with suspended fuel tanks);
- Maximum takeoff weight – 18.1 t;
- Maximum combat load weight – 2.18 t.
The aircraft is furnished with a GSh-301 30mm gun (an ammunition load of 150 rounds) and can carry various types of air-to-air missiles (R-27R, R-73 and R-60M), rockets and air bombs at six underwing nodes.
Modified MiG-29 fighters are also capable of using Kh-29, Kh-31 and other air-to-surface missiles.
Over twenty modifications of the MiG-29 fighter have been developed, including the following:
- MiG-29UB two-seat combat trainer (Item 9-51);
- Item 9-13 with the increased fuel supply, a new electronic warfare complex and an active jamming system;
- MiG-29S (9-13S) with an upgraded armament control system and the capability of using R-77 missiles;
- Deck-based MiG-29K (9-41) and MiG-29 KUB (9-47) fighters;
- MiG-29M (9-15) – a heavily upgraded version with the flight range increased to 3,200 km;
- MiG-29SM/SMT (9-14/9-15) with the capability of using air-to-surface precision weapons;
- MiG-35 – the generation 4++ multifunctional fighter with a new phased antenna array radar, a new engine control system and the reduced cost of its operation.