Mikoyan MiG29 Fulcrum

MiG-29 Fulcrum

Name:
MiG-29 Fulcrum

Year of production:
'A' version in 1985, operational in April 1986

Maximum speed:
2440 km/h (Mach 2.3)

Engines:
2*81.4kN Klimov (Isotov) RD-33, later Tumanski RD-33

Wing Span: 11.36 m
Length: 17.32 m
Height: 4.73 m
Empty Weight: 11,000 kg
Maximum Weight: 18,500 kg
Maximum altitude: 18,000 m
Combat ceiling: 11,000 m

Range:
2,100 km (later 2,500 km)

Armament:
1*g30mm, later 2*30

Models known:
MiG-29UA (MiG-29A), MiG-29UB (MiG-29B), nuclear-capable MiG-29UC (MiG-29C) Fulcrum
Version 2002 MiG-29K, Version 2008 MiG-29K, MiG-29SMT, MiG-29UDT, MiG-29UBT, MiG-29M1, MiG-29M2 Fulcrum
MiG-29M, MiG-29M2, MiG-29M3 Superfulcrum
MiG-29A Sniper, MiG-29B Sniper

Countries deployment:
Russian Federation, Bielorussia, Ukraine, Kazahstan, China, India, Romania, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Slovenia, Malaysia, North Korea, Slovakia, Iraq, Vietnam, Syria, Uzbekistan, Bulgaria, Yemen

Price/unit:
25 million $

The MAPO Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG29 Fulcrum was developed in the 1970s by the Soviet Union to counter the american series of F14s and F15s. Later, MiG29 Fulcrum became the soviet answer to american F-15s, F-16s and F-18s series.
A medium-sized air superiority fighter, Fulcrum is an impressive aircraft, with good performance, armament and maneuvrability. Another advantage that the MiG-29 has over its American counterpart, the F-16, is that the MiG-29 can also land on rough airstrips, a thing which would destroy the landing gear and engine of an F-16.
The MiG29 Fulcrum comes from the MAPO Mikoyan Design Bureau, a Bureau with a long tradition of designing and producing fighters throughout the decades, fighters that have been tested in live combat many times, and except for the MiG23 and the MiG27 Flogger series, those fighters were also good.

MiG-29 Fulcrum The Mikoyan Design Bureau
MiG29 Fulcrum first appeard "on stage" in the 2nd of july 1986

Range is weak point, and later versions were modified to carry more fuel. However the Russian Air Force prefers the larger Su-27 and its derivatives due to a higher payload capacity. Over 2000 MiG-29s have been built, and various versions will continue to be built in the future.
But what many people don't know, is that for each MiG fighter that got out, countless more versions were cancelled and their projects papers burnt or thrown to the garbage because they were failures. The MiG and Sukhoi fans don't even know about the hundreds of projects which were complete failures, or above tens of other which never saw the light of dawn.
The first versions of MiG29 Fulcrum were tested by a japanese pilot, named Tahtar Abudakirov. Abudakirov noticed that the airplane was very manoeuvrable, even in the testing period and it passed all the tests. MiG29 was then tested and tested again, and then entered in the TOP SECRET soviet fleets around the world. MiG29 was until 1989 a TOP SECRET fighter, intended to attack in mass formations the western countries in the World War 3. Among the years of the cold war, both western powers and communist blocks had tried to produce the ultimate fighter for a confrontation that, fortunately, never happened...

MiG-29 Fulcrum

MiG29 had exactly that purpose, it had an excellent aerodynamic fuselage, but it had a very big problem with the flight control systems.
MiG29 Fulcrum was presented to soviet president Brejniev in october 1977, and the president loved it.
MiG29 has a wing surface of 35.2 sq. meters (m2) and a range of 2100 km. Its maximum speed is 2440 km/h representing Mach 2.0.
The MiG29's engines are the Tumansky R-33D twin engines, each developing 8 300 kg of thrust, and the MiG29 Fulcrum has the highest climbing rate in the world, an astonishing 19800 m/min.
Its weapons are 2 medium range air-air missiles and 4 short range air-air missiles, which can be heat seeking missiles or radar-guided missiles.
MiG29 and Su27 are famous for their optical lock-on systems, with who's help their pilots can lock on targets that are virtually everywhere around the aircraft, even in its back. The russians had made a special air-air missile for this lock on system, the AA-11 missile. The AA-11 can be locked and fired at targets that are 180° on both sides in the front and 20° in its back. However, the Russian engineers claim that the MiG29 Fulcrum's equipment can lock-on at 120° both ways in front and 20° in the back. But testings with MiG29A Fulcrum fighters from the former East Germany and later with nuclear-capable MiG29C Fulcrums bought in larger numbers from the Republic of Moldova showed that the MiG29's lock-on system fails almoust everytime even at only 90° frontal, and that at less than 70° frontal, the AA11 missile has a 70% chance of missing the target.
The Sukhoi Su27 Flanker and Su30K Flanker fighters are fitted with the same missiles and lock on systems, while the new Su30MK Flanker, Su37 SuperFlanker and S-37 Berkut have developed new upgraded versions and also new missiles, among which I can name the AA12 missile.
The MiG29 Fulcrum also has two 30mm cannons, and can transport other weapons, like air-ground missiles or laser-guided bombs.
The MiG29 Fulcrum has a roughly limited maximum range, of only 2,100 km, and its cargo of external attachable fuel tanks is not particularly impressive, carrying a maximum of 1,200 l single fuel tank between the engines and two 600 l fuel tanks on the first two lateral wing pylons.
The MiG29 Fulcrum was made especially for that big communist attack on the West, the IIIrd World War, a conflict that fortunately, never happend.
In 1990, after the union between the East Germany and the West Germany, Eastern MiG29A Fulcrum were abbandoned by the Soviet Union in the chaos, which then colapsed the Soviet Union itself. Letting go of the Soviets' most modern fighter in the hands of the westerners sais all about the situation that the Soviet Union was in at the moment.
American F-16 aircraft and pilots were quickley departured in Germany, because the westerners knew nothing about the MiG29, because the MiG29 Fulcrum has been until then a TOP SECRET program, just like the Su26 or the Mil Mi26 Halo.
But no matter how great they are, an estimated of 50 MiG29 Fulcrums have crashed between 1988 and 2001 all over the world, 2 of them crashing in Romania in 1992 and 1994, both incidents resulting in the death of the pilots and the total loss of the fighter. That is why the Romanian Air Force has now only 18 of the 20 original MiG29s.

This one crashed in Paris in a famous live television show at Le Bourget Air Show '98

MiG-29 Fulcrum crash Le Bourget

You can still see the pilot's parachutte as it bearly opened at an extremly low altitude just after he ejected. I've always been impressed by this pic for many reasons: one of them is the nose. Just pay attention to the nose, and you see that instead of being something like a "classic crash" where the nose is crashing to the earth, in here, you can see the land is still completly flat all around the nose, and also, another reason, where's the nose ? The nose should be at least scattered around, but as you see, it's not belted, scattered nor it is anywhere visible ! That's because it simply... sticked in the earth !
Since the beginning, western engineers were astonished by the aircraft's airodynamic and mechanical parts. It is clear that at the time, East and West had diffrent approaches to the same thing. If the East puts accent on the mechanical part (which has reached its limits in the MiG29), the West put accent on the digital and electronics parts.
Nowadays, ex-Soviet and western engineers agree that without digital fly-by-wire and modern digital electronics, a fighter is as good as dead, and that's why the russians launched a competition between its most modern currently used fighetrs: the MiG29 Fulcrum and the Su27 Flanker.
The MAPO Mikoyan-Grevich engineers, with the help and support of western engeneers deployed at the russian aircraft factories modified the MiG29C, adding a primitive digital fly-by-wire systems and electronics, emerging the MiG29M Superfulcrum. On the other side, the Sukhoi Design Bureau and other few western engeneers updated the Su27, emerging the Su30K or Su30D, but to the competition was presented the Su33K Flanker, with modern and advanced digital fly-by-wire systems, modern and powerfull flight controls and updated electronics and navigation systems.
However, the MiG29M Superfulcrum lost the competition against the Su33K Flanker, and the MIG29M project was abandoned, so the Su33K and Su30MK Flanker (with thrust vectoring nossels) will be the russian fighters of the 1990s and early 2000s, until the emerging of the Su35 SuperFlanker and Su37 SuperFlanker. Also, the most big export market of Russian armament, India, has also chosed the Su30K instead of any MiG29 version for the Air Force, so this was a heavy lost for the MAPO Mikoyan engineers and the western personnel that helped them.
Another one came when American inverstors decided to buy 100% of the Sukhoi Design Bureau and all of their factories, bringing to Russia the most advanced and modern construction equipment and computers, so now the Sukhoi employees are using the top of the line american technlology.
However, the Amercian investors decided to buy only 20% of MAPO Mikoyan, which was the most seveer hit for them. MAPO Mikoyan now doesn't have the fonding necesarry to continue their work, and projects like the MiG29M, MiG33, MiG35, MiG MFI and MiG I-2000 were abandoned or stopped because the lack of funding.
Sukhoi, however, is the only aircraft manufacturer in Russia that successfully continues to produce fighters at full capacities, as well as develop export contracts and spends billions of dollars on research, and its projects, with american funding, are now the most modern in the entire Russia, so projects like the Su35, Su37, S37, Su54 or Su55 have absolutely no reason to fear of internal competition, and they are virtualy already accepted by the Russian Air Force Commanders.
For MAPO Mikoyan, hard times are ahed, but I am sure that the Mikoyan engineers will find a way out of this mess, and if they don't, other russian, american and european consortiums are ready to buy a small part of them for working at their projects. For the rest of them, capitalism has brought only bankroft, friendly competition and unemployment...
But this is necesary for the best to win, and so far, Sukhoi rules the airworld in Russia, and it will continue to do so until companies like Illiushin, Tupolev or Saratov will get any funding.

MiG-29M Superfulcrum

MiG-29 Fulcrum

The Mikhoyan MiG29M Superfulcrum is actually the MiG29 Fulcrum, but fitted with digital fly-by-wire flight systems, to improve its performances and use a higher percent of its huge airodynamic potential.
However, the project was abandoned after loosing against the Su33K Flanker, in a competition launched separatley by the Russian Air Force and the Indian Army.


MiG29_1.JPG  564x764x24b,  56.3 kb
click the picture for the real size version

MiG-29 in Romania

Romanian MiG-29 Fulcrum Romanian unupdated MiG29 Fulcrum flying at an airshow in Constanta in the mid 1990s

MiG29 Fulcrum from TOP GUN special Romania

How else could they be considered, when aware of the changes in the military and in the society and confrontated with all the misses that we all feel, they succeed, due to the professional training and their love for the job that they have chosed, to assure, in a complete quantity and quality, the maintainence and repairs of all the equipment on the airfield.
In the few hrs spent as an "observer" in this place, i had the opportunity of seeing a normal flight day and of talking with some of the men involved. The first place where i've stopped was the Maintainence and Repairs Services Unit, where, talking with these people, i realized again that, beyond order and mission accomplishment, there must also be dedication and passion. I found out this way, that the MiG29s which were brought to our country in 1989 and entered service at Mihail Kogalniceanu came with one set of spare parts which were, and still are, the only source of reserve materials used today, after 10 years of exploitage.

The specialists here, officers and military masters as well, managed through their work to maintain, to repair and to extend the resources of the engines and of the spare parts boxes, saving with this hundreds of thoundsands of dollars from the State budget. All these come to back-up the fact that Mihail Kogalniceanu AFB remains an elite unit of the Romanian Air Force. A good proof of that is that the base participated at all the aviation meetings, expos and applications in the country related to aviation. The Honor Guestbook in the unit's museum is a living statement of all the military and civilian personalities that ever passed through there, both from Romania and from other countries.
And, because i had the luck to participate, with the personnel, at the flight activity, curios, as any aviation freak, i asked more info about this type of fighter, considered to be the proud of the modern Romanian Air Force. From the discussions that i had, i can tell you, that both the maintainence and the navigant personnel all agreed that it's a special aircraft, giving me the arguments the following performances: it is easy to exploit, it is very robust, it doesn't need fancy runways and it doesn't need certain fuel or lubrifiants, it is also easy to maneouvre and very powerful.
I've been explained that those performances are because of the thrust/weight ratio, which in this aircraft is over 1:1, which also allows it a short take -off. The airodynamic configuration, the "flying wing" concept, allows it both a low-landing speed and a short-taxi distance. It is recognized internationally as a powerful adversary. It is known that aerial meetings between the MiG29 and other foreign adversaries of the same class have proved (during applications) that there isn't a specific winner, because the element that brings vitory to one side or another is only the pilot's training and talent. All the people that ever flew this aircraft were thrilled of its capabilities.
I mean that you can't be on an airfield, so close of fighters as i've been, and not to try to find out some of the thoughts of the people who fly them and who make them shine in the twilight.
The pilots find it difficult to make us understand what they are doing, and this, not because it is difficult for them to express themselves, but because the vocabulary is simply much too poor in expressions to be able to make us feel the love and the passion for flight. I've learned here that you must never ask a pilot what he felt after a flight, because the link there is between him and the aircraft is uniqe, so uniqe that at one moment it becomes sacre.

Romanian MiG-29UB Fulcrum Outstanding image of a romanian MiG-29UB Fulcrum unupdated two-seater trainer ending its taxi before take-off at Mihail Kogalniceanu AFB, near Constanta in 1998.
You can observe two of the four C-130 Hercules in the back

I remained very impressed to find out that these people, which are really special, are in fact so modest and normal, that if they wouldn't be dressed in their specific clothing, they wouldn't get out of the profile at all. Just like us all, they have their joys and pains. I couldn't resist the temptation tough of asking them what they think about this aircraft. They smiled to me in a strange way and only after they told me all their thoughts about the airplane with which they fly, i understood the sense of their smile. Actually, it was a bitter smile, because after their description at the superlative of this aircraft, i got the conclusion that they didn't told me, but which i've read in their eyes, and which is that from reasons only by some known, the MiG29, the most modern fighter jet in the Romanian Air Force has, doesn't gets the official attention that would fit to such a machine.
Leaving from the middle of the pilots, i've changed my attention towards those who make possible the flight of those "angels with steel wings". I've realized that actually, the personnel of the Maintainence and Repairs Services unit are the ones that makes sure that all the flights happen in ideal conditions. A very good-trained personnel, made of officers and military masters, maked possible the fulfilling of that day's missions, even if, from objective reasons, the flights have begun one hr later that they were schedduled.
But, the efficiency of their work doesn't only shows during working days, but aslo with the various deployments. A special actity, both in its complexty and original way, was the preparing of the fighter which was suposed to film the year's most mediated event, the total solar eclipse. It was a huge work for preparing the aircraft for that mission, especially that this particular type of fighter was not made for purposes like that. The efforts of both the personnel and the astronomical specialists, which camed here with the necessary equipment, maked possible the successful accomplishing of this complex mission. Unfortunately, due to bad weather conditions, only the trainings could be carried out. We can say, that if science today knows more about the Sun and about the phenomenon of total solar eclipse, a part of that knowledge camed with the help of the whole personnel from Mihail Kogalniceanu AFB. There would be a lot more to be said, but it's very hard to describe these people at their real value. I left the Mihail Kogalniceanu airfield regreting that i can't describe in words the feelings that made me happy that i could spend a day together with the ones who lift themselves closer to the gods and the ones who help them make their wings

Csaba Pakai, Top Gun special Romania, No. 5, october 1999

Romanian MiG-29 Fulcrum

Romanian Air Force MiG29 Fulcrum during an Air Show
Romanian MiG29 pilots were trained in the Soviet Union, fired their weapons live and their elite unit, Mihail Kogalniceanu AFB, 20km NE of Constanta, holds a classified nomber of MiG29s

MiG-29K Fulcrum

MiG-29K Fulcrum Future Indian MiG29K Fulcrum 2002 version during testings on the aircraft carrier

MiG29K Fulcrum are made for export. The main versions will be shipped especially to India, country which ordered at least 30 of them. The 2002 MiG29K Fulcrum version will have a fuel capacity increased with over 1,000 l compared to the MiG29C Fulcrum, mainly by transforming the air intakes from above the fwd wings, on both sides of the cockpit into fuel tanks. Also, carbon fibre will have an increased percentage in its composition. Other exotic materials as ceramics and various plastics will be used in very small quantities, only on the rear of the engine jetblasts, on the main fuselage structure and on the airodynamic flight controls surfaces. Already, due to the usage of such materials even tough in such small quantities, the price of the MiG29K hangs around 25 million dollars.
The MiG29K is said to have "improved cockpit visibility", but just by looking carefully to the picture above, you will notice that no such thing has been done, or if it has, it's not enough to be visible and therefore useful in combat.
The 2008 MiG29K Fulcrum will feature even more changes, many of them more radical than the 2002 version's, but in my opinion at that time, competing with fighters like F-22 Raptor, Joint Strike Fighter, F/A 18 E/F SuperHornet, Rafale M, Eurofighter2000 Typhoon, Su30MK Flanker, S-37 Berkut, Su37 SuperFlanker and others like them, the MiG29K will long be outdated.