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Old 9th August 2015, 01:30   #1
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Default MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us

Imagine/remember your childhood days, what did you want to be when you grew? Adults would often ask this question, and your answer would vary on a whim , every few weeks.

Age 6 , I wanted to be truck driver.
Age 7 , I wanted to be a train/engine driver.
Age 8 , things changed again, but for the last time.

Imagine if one fine day, your father says, come on, we're going to see to a jet fighter. Of course, it's exciting, since you'll have seen them flying noisily about, heard from people how fast it goes. But nothing, utterly nothing, prepares you for the personal encounter like this one.

So off we went on the luna, a short journey which probably took what seems like ages today due to the fast machinery I have today - but let's not digress, to the not-so-friendly neighbourhood air force base. Security formalities done, we're led by our host - an IAF officer and friend of my father, to the flight line. Cluster of trees, shrubs and low 2-3 storied buildings block the sight of the runway and hangars, from the entrance.

Then moving along, you see a sight you can never, never forget. If I was Clint Eastwood smoking a cigar, this would be the proverbial "jaw hanging open, cigar dropping" moment, when you see this.

MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-1first_view1.jpg

It's unexpected. When you see the MiG-29 for the first time ever - not having seen even a photo or diagram of the jet. I defies convention, it defies what you think a fighter should look like. Think fighter jet, and you think of a pointy nose, fuselage behind it, with rectangular intakes at the side - like an F-15. There's a nose and the intakes are at the side of the nose , at the side of the fuselage.

When you see the MiG-29, you try to make sense of what you're seeing. You see two intakes alright, but there's no nose or fuselage between them. It's ABOVE them. Who would even think of doing this, and why?

And yet, it looks smashing.
MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-9_front.jpg

You think, why's the pilot sitting high up. How did he even get there ? Why have they left a gap between the intakes ? That thing looks big. More than big, it looks strange. You have pre-conceived notions of where the fuselage and intakes are : either at the sides of the fuselage or up front in the nose, and this defies the convention. This is what convention looks like (F-15 Eagle).

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MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-1first_view.jpg
Yet, it's not all that big. Not anymore, at least. But it is a thing of beauty.
Timeless beauty.


Age 8 - I wanted to be fighter pilot.
I wanted to be the guy in there.

MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-5mig29a_inlet_door.jpg

As I walked around the MiG, it was growing on me. Those huge gaping intakes, that massive exhaust nozzle. I could crawl inside one!
MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-8_exhaust.jpg

One hot sultry day in May 1989 changed everything for me.
Meet the Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-29. NATO christened it the "Fulcrum".


Taking to the air for the first time ever, on 6 October 1977, the MiG-29 was the smaller of the TsAGI twins. TsAGI is the Russian aero and hydrodynamics research institute, somewhat of a smaller NASA you might say. The Soviets had already for the news of the new American teen series , how powerful and agile they were, and they had to do something that could match the new threats. TsAGI studies on aerodynamics in the late 1960s and early 1970s suggested designs incorporate wing-body blending to smoothen flows. The previous generation of fighters have very distinct wings and fuselage - the junction where they met was abrupt. Thin wings - thick fuselage.

As basic design progressed, the wings got thicker and longer as they approached the fuselage, becoming LERX - leading edge root extensions. This increased the effective wing area, since much of the fuselage was also effectively the wing.

The Americans were keeping tabs too. Grainy satellite images were meticulously viewed, discovering what appeared to be a new fighter, or two. They were quickly called Ram-K and Ram-L , the Ram denoting the airbase they were spotted at - Ramenskoye airfield, where much of new prototypes are tested.

Two designs were cleared - one larger interceptor that became the Su-27, and one smaller fighter - the Ram-L , that became the MiG-29. From the onset, it was clear that the new jets would have to master both long range and short range air combat - powerful engines and 1:1 thrust to weight ratios were the order of the day, along with loads of electronics.

Around 1984-1985, the first of the MiG-29s entered service with the Russian air force. NATO, long used to encounters with Soviet jets over the Artic or North Sea, or the Baltic , were always ready with their cameras. Predictably, they got their first up close glimpses soon after.

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NATO intelligence community went into a frenzy. New Soviet fighter, with new missiles! More, more ! We need more information.

Then in July 1986, Rissala air field in Finland received 6 new, unexpected visitors. Finland has been somewhat neutral in the Cold War, and have operated both western and Russian aircraft in the past. So this group of 6 Fulcrums appearing in Finland, was aimed at getting export orders. The western world got a very close look at the new Russian fighter.

And back home, the IAF too got interested, and not long after, got the first batch of MiG-29s in 1987. The 1980s were an interesting time. The IAF has just received the Mirage 2000s in 1986, and now there was this new jet right after.

The IAF named the MiG-29 the "Baaz", as in hawk. IAF pilots were quick to pit the French Mirage vs the latest Russian fighter. As luck would have it, Lohegaon AFS near Pune was selected to host the new Russian jet.

MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-iafmig29.jpg

MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-mig29_sqn28_kb730_002.jpg

IAF went on to order 70 of these twin engined fighters. Pune became the first home for these , with 2 squadrons - no. 28, "The First Supersonics" , and no. 47, "The Black Archers". A third squadron formed, in Adampur , no. 223.


Dimensions and weights:
Length: 17.32 m (56 ft , 10 in)
Wingspan: 11.4 m (37 ft 3 in)
Height: 4.73 m (15 ft 6 in)
Wing area: 38 m² (409 ft²)
Empty weight: 10,900 kg
Loaded weight: 15,240 kg (33,730 lb)
Max. takeoff weight: 18,000 kg (44,100 lb)

Powerplant: 2 × Klimov RD-33 afterburning turbofans, bypass ratio 0.3 , convergent-divergent nozzles
5,100 kgf (50.9kN , 11,110 lbf) each
8,300 kgf (81.4 kN, 18,300 lbf) each

Fuel capacity: 4365 litres internal
1500 litres centre-line drop tank
1100 litres x 2 wing drop tanks


Performance
Maximum speed: Mach 2.35 (2,480 km/h, 1,520 mph)
At low altitude: Mach 1.25 (1,500 km/h, 930 mph)

Range:
1,500 km (790 nmi, 930 mi) with maximum internal fuel
2,100 km (1300 mi) with external drop tanks

Service ceiling: 18,000 m (59,100 ft)
Rate of climb: initial 330 m/s average 109 m/s 0–6000 m[188] (65,000ft/min)

Minimum take off run : 240 metres
Minimum landing run : 600 metres

Sustained turn rate : 22º/sec
Instantaneous turn rate : 28º/sec
Shortest turn radius : 300m at ~450km/h


Maximum G-load:
+9G/-3.5G subsonic (upto ~ Mach 0.85)
+7G supersonic

Design points :
The MiG-29 is primarily a single seat fighter, designed to operate from forward areas , scramble and attack incoming aircraft, or provide air cover for CAS (Close Air Support) aircraft in the vicinity.

The wedge type intake ducts are canted outward approx 8º. They feature ramps to contain the shockwave at supersonic speed. Intakes have hydraulic door that shuts close for ground operation ; the engine breathes through spring-loaded intake grilles on the upper LERX surface, that open when the main inlet door shuts. Door open/shut operation is automatic, triggered by engine start-up and weight on wheels sensors. When the sensors detect weight on wheels with engine running, the doors shut close by hydraulic action. Opening starts when at rotation, weight is "off" the wheels. When landing, the door shuts again when main wheels touch down.

Although this restricts air flow, the MiG-29 can run at upto 800 km/h with the upper louvres alone (with main intake door closed), allowing for emergency operation in case of failure.


The twin large tail fins are placed on LERX booms, and canted outward approx 4º. Upper lip of tail fins is clipped in common Soviet fashion. Tail fins feature RWR (radar warning receiver) and IFF equipment.
Tail fins feature leading edge extension fences containing infra-red (IR) (flares) and radar countermeasures (chaff) cartridges. Each fence holds up to 30 cartridges. In MiG-29M/K and MiG-35, fences deleted and countermeasures moved to spine ahead of the air-brake.

Wings are fixed with 40º leading edge, feature leading edge slats that deploy automatically. Trailing edge has inboard flaps for landing/take off, with ailerons outboard. MiG-29M, K and MiG-35 feature larger wing area, with larger flaps and rounded wing-tip containing ECM equipment.

All moving tail planes (stabilators) perform roll control at high speeds, have 60º leading edge. MiG-29M features larger stabilator, with dog-tooth and extended area.


MiG-29 employs a braking parachute for landing, housed in a dome between engines at the rear fuselage. Air brakes are split with dorsal and ventral surfaced. MiG-29M/K and MiG-35 delete split air brake in favour of single dorsal airbrake and twin parachutes in tail fairing.

Nose gear has 2 wheels with mudguard , retracting backward between engines. Main gear has single wheel, rotating flat and nested in LERX and engine duct. Each gear has a single landing/taxi light.

Pilot sits under one piece bubble canopy, hinged to the rear. Windscreen is also one piece, with no reinforcing metal frame, allowing for unprecedented visibility for Russian fighters. Ejection seat is Zvezda K-36D, regarded by many as the best ejection seat in the world, capable of 0/0 ( zero speed, zero altitude ejection). Rear view facilitated by 3 mirrors in cockpit, attached to windscreen bow. Rear crew/instructor in the two seat MiG-29UB gets a periscope to get a view of forward hemisphere.

The MiG-29 has a very short take off roll due to high lift and high thrust. All controls are hydraulic, with no fly by wire. Handling is benign - resistance to enter normal spins, very resistance to flat spins, recovers to stable flight on releasing controls. Airframe displays exceptional agility despite being a static stable design with no fly-by-wire controls. The MiG-29 can maintain controlled flight up to some 30-35º alpha (AoA) but is restricted to 26º AoA (angle of attack) under regular flight, to prevent stalling and departure from controlled flight. For aerobatic displays or combat manoeuvres, the AoA limitation can be overridden by a switch on the joystick, removing the AoA limitation, which allows the pilot to do this :

MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-fulcrum_high_alpha.jpg
MiG-29 pulling a high alpha manoevre - AoA looks like ~120º !

The RD-33 engines can go from idle to full afterburner in 4 seconds, among the best in the world. Engine is very resistance to airflow disturbances, can operate even in zero airspeed as witnessed by the Pugachev's Cobra or the tail slide maneouvres, that demonstrate engine robustness to disturbed airflow conditions. Major issues with engines are short life and short time between overhauls ( 350 hours ), smoky exhaust and high fuel consumption.


While the radar range was nominally held as 100-110km search, the big news was the IRST - Infra-red search and track system. With the radar off or on standby, the IRST could be used to search and track targets as far as 50km in good weather conditions, to launch missiles at a target without emitting any signal - that could warn the target it's under attack. In practice due to AWACS, sneaking up to western aircraft is hard to do, but in absence of AWACS, a MiG-29 could sneak up to and shoot down other aircraft in sort of silent mode.

Later upgrades to the radar achieve better range and resolution, multiple target tracking capability and thus can use BVR/medium range missiles to greater effect.


MiG-29 variants :
Prototypes and early production units:

MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-prototype_mig29_01.jpg

Some of the early production units had ventral fins, similar to the Su-27. Subsequent production deleted these. The nose gear was moved further back to reduce chance of FOD - Foreign Object Damage, and the strut retracts backward between the intake ducts.

MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-prototype_mig29_02.jpg


Production jets:
The early MiG-29 was designated MiG-29B, Fulcrum A, with the 2 seat trainer MiG-29UB, as Fulcrum B.

MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-mig29a_iaf_28squadron.jpg

MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-mig29a_b_bulgarianaf.jpg

The MiG-29UB sacrifices full combat capability to seat the 2nd crew. The cockpit is moved forward, leaving the nose volume reduced, so the radar is deleted and the 2 seater carries only a passive radar receiver, no transmitter.


The first enhancements came with an eye on increasing fuel capacity, with a raised spine/dorsal fairing, which was designated MiG-29S ( Fulcrum C ).

MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-mig29a_c_ukranianaf.jpg
Here you can tell the difference, the Fulcrum A has a slimmer, single-slope/straight sloped spine, while the Fulcrum C has a fatter, curved spine.

A much revised upgrade was the MiG-29M, which added analog fly-by-wire, more powerful and fuel efficient engines, larger wings and stabilators, better radar, 2 additional wing pylons , more fuel after deleting the intake louvres. Unfortunately, the collapse of the USSR ended this upgrade path.

The navalized MiG-29 , the K model , inherited the new wing and control surfaces from the MiG-29M, along with stronger undercarriage, arrester hook and folding wings. Engines were uprated too, with 8800kgf thrust in afterburner.
MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-mig29k.jpg

The MiG-29K , designated Fulcrum D, also was victim of the collapse, Russia choosing to develop only the Su-33 with its limited cash, and was held in storage until the cash from India's order of the MiG-29K with the aircraft carrier Gorshkov.


The Russians went with smaller upgrades, which spawned the MiG-29SMT, with an even larger, fatter spine for more avionics equipment and more fuel.

MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-mig29smt_1_main.jpg
Can you see the fat, ugly raised spine? Such a departure from the sleek MiG-29 Fulcrum A.

MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-hunchback_mig29smt.jpg
Another view of the ugly looking but useful hunchback spine of the MiG-29SMT. Fuel capacity went from 4365 to ~5100 litres in the SMT.


The next major upgrade was the revised MiG-29M - now designated MiG-29M1 for single seat and MiG-29M2 for two seat variants. Based on the MiG-29M, the upgrade has new radar with multiple target tracking, increased range and reliability, more ECM jammers, digital fly by wire, smart weapons for ground attack. Eventually, this was marketed at the MiG-35 , without any orders so far.
MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-mig29_m2_fulcrum.jpg

MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-mig35_8pack2.jpg
MiG-35 is simply the MiG-29M2 , following Sukhoi's lead in redesignating models for major upgrades.


Last but not least, RSK MiG built and displayed at several airshows, a MiG-29 with thrust vectoring nozzles, call the OVT. Unlike the Su-30MKI, which has 2D ( pitch control) only thrust vectoring, the MiG-29 OVT has 3D vectoring, it can vector the nozzles at any angle in the X-Z plane, by up to 15º off the axis. This variant has not yet reached production.

Summarizing :

MiG-29 Fulcrum A : first series production , sleek slimline dorsal spine, mainly fighter/interceptor role, ground attack capability limited to unguided rockets and bombs. Max 3000kg ordnance load. Radar search range ~100km.

MiG-29UB Fulcum B : two seat trainer variant of the Fulcrum A. Lacks radar transmitter.

MiG-29S Fulcrum C : raised dorsal spine, gets better radar and ECM, marginally more fuel, 4500kg ordnance load

MiG-29SMT : upgraded MiG-29S , larger/fatter dorsal spine , ~5100 litre fuel capacity, improved N01M radar, full ground attack capability with guided missiles and bombs.

MiG-29M : prototype only

MiG-29K Fulcrum D : developed from the MiG-29M , gets larger wing and flaps, larger stabilator, upper louvre intakes discard, more fuel, approx 5100 litres, gets 2 extra wing pylons with max ordnance load 5500kg, navalization changes being arresting hook, folding wings and stronger undercarriage. Upgraded engine with higher life and more thrust , 8800-9000kg in reheat. Reduced ammunition from 150 to 100 rounds. Radar search range ~130km. Range 2000km on internal fuel , ~3300km with 3 drop tanks

MiG-29KUB : 2 seat variant of the MiG-29K

MiG-29M1 : single seat variant based on MiG-29K production changes, 5500kg ordnance, range 2000km on internal fuel , ~3300km with 3 drop tanks
MiG-29M2 : two seat variant based on MiG-29KUB

MiG-29OVT : prototype with 3D thrust vectoring nozzles. Nozzles can move at 30º/sec, upto 15º off engine shaft axis.

MiG-35 : MiG-29M2 with more uprated avionics, now with phased array Zhuk radar, ECM. Ordnance load ~7000kg. Radar range ~160km for air targets

Last edited by Ricci : 13th August 2015 at 23:20.
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Old 9th August 2015, 02:30   #2
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Default MiG-29 Fulcrum : details/minutae

By Russian standards, the MiG-29 canopy has a superb view outside. Earlier aircraft were designed with minimal glass area, with no rear view and restricted side view. The doctrine was that pilots would be guided by GCI - Ground Controlled Intercepts, so they won't need to rely on visual flying.

But the need for dog fighting meant better situational awareness, that meant better view of the surroundings. So like western designs of the time, the MiG-29 (and Su-27) was/were designed with a bubble canopy with a good view.

MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-mig29a_canopy.jpg



Is that a sensor, or a work of art in metal sculpture?
MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-tail_detail.jpg


The MiG-29UB's smaller nose betrays absence of radar.
MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-mig29ub.jpg

The UB trainer variant has a periscope for the instructor, who sits in the rear seat, to get a view of what's in front.
MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-mig29ub_periscope_down.jpg

MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-mig29ub_periscope_up.jpg


Here's a view of the intake grille/louvres on the upper LERX surface, that the engines breathe through when main intake doors are closed.

MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-mig29a_louvres.jpg


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The airbrake on the older variants, in extended position.


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Wheels retract and rotate to lie flat, parallel to ground, within the wing root.

Tail cone of the MiG-29KUB/M2 is different, so is the nose cone! The MiG-29M2/KUB/35 utilizes the same front section as the single seater , instead raising the section behind the cockpit and elongating it to fit the second crew. It does cause more drag, but loses relativeless less volume for fuel/equipment.

MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-mig29m_tailcone.jpg




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The heart of the jet - the Klimov RD33 turbofan.

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Engines are started one at a time.

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Typically the left, and in emergencies, the aircraft can taxi out on one engine alone.


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One of the characteristics of the RD-33, is the copious amount of smoke it emits on throttle transition.



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The exhaust nozzle in detail. The individual petals are informally called turkey feathers, because of their resemblance to overlapping bird feathers.

Here, you can see the differences in the wing design between the older A/B/C Fulcrum models, and the modernized K/M1/M2/MiG-35 models.

The legacy Fulcrums (A/B/C).
MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-planview_mig29a.jpg

And the modern Fulcrums.
MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-planview_mig29m.jpg

The legacy Fulcrums (A/B/C).
MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-rounded_wing_root.jpg

And the modern Fulcrums.
MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-sharp_wing_root.jpg


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The larger flaps on the MiG-29K/M/35 are very prominent, as can be seen above.


MiG-29K with buddy refuelling pack.
MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-mig29k_buddy_pack_tanks.jpg


See those vortices forming at the LERX ?
MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-mig29_aerobatic.jpg

The MiG-29 releases a parachute after touching down, to decelerate. It not only reduces brake wear, it also reduces risk of slipping on icy runways.
The newer MiG-29M1/M2 and MiG-35 have 2 parachutes instead of a single large one, ostensibly because a larger diameter chute would simply drag on the runway.
MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-mig29_landing_chute.jpg

Last edited by Ricci : 15th August 2015 at 00:49.
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Old 9th August 2015, 02:55   #3
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Default MiG-29 Fulcrum : Weapons and combat

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The wide array of weapons the MiG-29 can be armed with.

Closest row - white missiles -Kh29L laser guides air to ground missiles
Inner left - laser guided 500kg bomb
Inner right - dumb (unguided) 500kh KAB500 bomb

2nd row outside are drop (fuel) tanks
white - Kh-31 anti ship/anti-radar missile
red - Kh-29T infra red guided air-to-ground missile
middle - drop tank

back row :
outer 2 pairs - R73 Archer
second 2 pairs - R77 Adder
inner pair : R27 Alamo


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The typical load - 2 R-27s, 4 R-73s.
The R-73 ( NATO designation AA-11 Archer ) can be slaved to helmet mounted sight - so it looks where the pilot looks, allowing targets 45º off boresight to be attacked. Later variants of the R-73 missile increased that to 60º. The R-73 missile is also very agile, with thrust vector nozzle. For a long time, it had no match. The R-73 uses both fin and thrust vector for manoevering, and it's reportedly very agile. Nominal range is upto 30km, though missile effective range can be much lower depending on the firing plane's speed and altitude, and that of the target. Suffice to say, with a design limit of over +20G, an R-73 can engage agile targets capable of 12G themselves.

Russians had this in service in the 1980s - it tool the Americans till 2004 to get their own helmet mounted targeting system , the JHMCS with the AIM-9X Sidewinder. The Israeli Python 4/5 are considered equal or better than the R-73, but for a while the Russians were unmatched. In the meantime, the Russians developed the R-73M, an updated R-73 with even wider off-boresight capability, up from 45º to 60º ; and there's news that a much revised version named R-74 will be entering service in 2-3 years time.


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Luftwaffe MiG-29 firing an R-27 (NATO designation AA-10 Alamo) missile. The missile among several variants, weighs from 250-350kg, range varies from 45-110km depending on variant. This missile has been rated poor by the west, which is a surprise to me. The AIM-54 Phoenix itself weighs 440kg and claimed range varies from 90km to 200km, while the 175kg Sparrow nominally up to 45km. So one does expect the regular R-27R (semi-active radar guided) and R-27T (infra-red guided) missiles to go much farther than a Sparrow - the range estimates vary from 45km to 80km. There are long-burn variants, the R-27ER and R-27ET , which weigh closer to 350kg and estimated range varies from 90km to 130km.


The newest missile is the R-77 ( NATO designation AA-12 Adder ), which is active radar homing (has its own radar for terminal phase of flight) allowing greater degree of freedom to the launching aircraft to fire and move away, with little or no further signals sent to the missile to guide it to the target, unlike the semi-active radar guided R-27R or the AIM-7 Sparrow, which require the launching aircraft to illuminate or "paint" the target continually , which required the radar mode to be in Continuous Wave mode. Think of it as a torch which normally emits short pulses like a bat's ultrasound echo, going into continually lit mode like a flashlight.


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The R-77 too is regarded as very agile, capable of hitting 12G maneuvering targets itself, with a range of 50-75km. Updated versions with a ramjet are underway, with estimated ranges closer to 150km. The R-77 looks distinctive with its lattice rear fins.

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The MiG-29 has a Gsh-301 single barrel cannon. It's aimed using laser sight, so it is regarded as very accurate. Muzzle velocity is ~860m/s and the 30mm shells are said to be effective, with just 4-5 shells being sufficient to shoot down a figher-sized aircraft.

The MiG-29 has a 150 round capacity. For a firing rate of ~25/sec, that gives 6 bursts of 1 second each. It might seem low, but remember that the MiG-29 is already considered to have too little fuel, so by the time the MiG-29 exhausts its missiles, it's also likely low on fuel so not much fuel to spare for turn-and-burn dogfighting.
The later MiG-29M/M2 get even less - 100 rounds.



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The folding wings of the MiG-29K.


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Serbs smartly laid many decoys MiG-29s , which were bombed by the American/Allied forces in 1999 conflict over Bosnia.


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The MiG-35 (below) and MiG-29K/M1/M2 have 8 hardpoints , 4 under each wing, compared the 3 under each wing on the older Fulcrum variants(above).

MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-735560_4293583465948_1532412940_o.jpg



Comparisons to contemporary fighters
The basic MiG-29 is an aerodynamically stable design, with no fly-by-wire. It's maneuverability comes from high lifting area and high thrust.
Beyond that, it's hard work for the pilot to fly and fight. Unlike western aircraft, pilot workload is not minimal.

Western jets have the HOTAS principle - Hands On Throttle And Stick. It means, in a combat situation, the pilot need not move his hands away from throttle and joystick. All relevant controls - for weapon selection, radar mode selection/cycling, targeting, countermeasures, firing weapons are available on the throttle or joystick itself. The MiG-29 pilot does not have all the switches/controls in HOTAS form. Western doctrine also allows the pilot more independent operation and flexibility, hence the pilot is kept up to date with more information from other sources, and has more situational awareness due to inputs from AWACS, JSTARS etc. Russian doctrine is slowly changing to similar to that of the west, with more pilot indepedence and information sharing. The later model MiG-29s have CRT displays and fly by wire, and adopting a more western style integration.

F-16 Fighting Falcon
Compared the F-16, the MiG-29 is bigger, heavier, and most notably, thirstier. An F-16 has 3500 liters of fuel internally, but just one engine gulping it. The Fulcrum has two.
The MiG-29 can out accelerate the F-16 in almost any regime, though some pilot training material suggest the F-16 is superior over 500 knots, losing less speed at high alpha.
The MiG-29 can defeat an F-16 in dogfights by keeping the fight vertical, using its thrust advantage. The F-16 is considered the most agile western fighter, it featurs the wing-blody blending and LERX like the MiG-29 but in reduced degree as befitting a small single engine jet. The F-16A/B never has BVR ( beyond visual range ) capability , so the MiG-29 had the advantage in both BVR and WVR ((within visual range, typical close combat or dogfighting). The European NATO forces did upgrade their F-16A/B fleet in the mid-late 1980s to get better radar and AIM-7 capability , closing the MiG's BVR advantage. The F-16C/D always had BVR capability, and is better strike aircraft.

The F-16 was designed on a static unstable paradigm, which afforded is high agility but needed fly-by-wire to make it flyable , else the pilot would be overwhelmed simply trying to keep the aircraft steady. The MiG-29 is a traditional stable aerodynamic design, using LERX and vortices to gain agility. In terms of turn rate and turn radius, the F-16 is closest to the MiG-29, and can do a respectable 25º AoA, although the pilot cannot override that limit as in the MiG-29 and Su-27. To an F-16 pilot, a MiG-29 is like an F/A-18 with its low speed nose pointing ability combined with high thrust/acceleration of the F-16.

F/A-18 Hornet
The most comparable in terms of size and format, the Hornet is most like the MiG-29 in flying ability too. The Hornet also gets long, albeit narrow LERX. Like the MiG-29, the Hornet's weakness is range, but even so it carries much more fuel - about 6300 litres. The F-404 engines too are most comparable to the RD-33 - low bypass ratio of 0.3-0.4 , thirstier for the thrust , and notably, able to go from idle to full afterburner in ~3-4 seconds, like the RD-33. A significant advantage the F-18 has is low speed , high AoA controllability , though such low energy state is ill-advised, it means the Hornet can point its nose in a different direction very quickly, at the expense of rapidly losing speed. The MiG-29 too can do this, but can accelerate a lot faster.
With its rapid nose-pointing ability and use of AIM-9X/JHCMS ( the helmet mounted targeting system), the Hornet can gain a tactical advantage in 1 vs 1 , but at low energy states in a many vs many , could make it easy to shoot down by another bandit. Notably, the F/A-18 is regarded as having the highest nose-pointing ability , thus highest G-loading onset and can hit 45º AoA, often seen at airshow performances.

F-15 Eagle
The Eagle was always meant to be a BVR fighter, but with good WVR/dogfighting ability. It's the least agile of the teen series aerodynamically (debatable - many consider the F-14 as least agile), but its high thrust recovers it good deal. An F-15 is at its best in high speed , BVR encounters. In dogfights, it's not particularly great , with ~18º turn rate. Against most fighters, the F-15 enjoys a thrust to weight ratio advantage, but against the Su-27 and MiG-29 in particular, that is not so.

Mirage 2000
The Mirage 2000 too, like the F-16, is designed as static unstable. Allowing greater agility, the Mirage does lose speed rapidly though, due to the large delta wings. The Mirage 2000 would do well to stay at higher altitude where its delta wings won't bleed too much energy in the thinner air. The Mirage has high instantaneous turn rates , but loses on sustained turn rates from the draggier delta wing.

Here's a good IAF account of the Mirage 2000 vs MiG-29 trials :
http://www.scribd.com/doc/21520658/M...-the-same-team


The MiG-29s strengths are high agility and high thrust, according the MiG-29 the best climb rates (65000ft/min), turn rates (22º/sec sustained, 28º instantaneous). It suited the short range, point defence fighter role very well. Its weaknesses though, are poor quality of avionics, especially the capability and reliability of the radar, ECM and it's low fuel fraction, that combined with thirsty engines, reduce the MiG-29s range. As such, the MiG-29's combat record is nothing to boast of, although the US forces never have fought on equal terms , and the MiG-29s shot down were early model downgraded export builds, flown by poorly trained and poorly equipped air forces with little or no infrastructural support like GCI and AWACs, which the Americans always have.

Inboard wing stations can fit drop tanks but that would lose the R-27 BVR missile , the only 2 BVR missiles early MiG-29 variants could carry. Engine life is low ( 1500-2000 hours) as is the airframe life ( 4000 hours ), but like with the avionics and engine, that too has improved in later variants like the MiG-29SMT, MiG-29K.

Another thing was the smoky engines, which were a visual give-away of the MiG-29. Later variants have improved combustion chambers that have reduced the smoky nature of the RD-33 engine. Nevertheless, the Su-27/30 offers a more convincing solution for air forces. It is (almost) equally agile, has much better fuel quantity and range, more number of missiles/payload and better, bigger radar and avionics suite. It's the MiG-29 on steroids - after all, they were born of the same initial study.

An account (of questionable reliability) of the Eritrea-Ethiopia war where the MiG-29 (Eritrea) fought the Su-27 (Ethiopia):
6 MiG-29s faced off against 6 Ethiopian Su-27s during the Eritrea-Ethiopia war. Some of the pilots on both sides were reportedly mercenary pilots from Ukraine/Moldova. The encounter started BVR with R-27s launched by both sides, all having missed. Total kill count is unproven, some report 3 MiG-29s lost to Su-27s with R-73 kills , some say 4.

One particular fight within this episode is that after exhausting the R-27s, one of the Su-27s fired up R-73s in quick succession at a MiG-29. Even those were evaded, and the Su-27 only had its cannon left. By this time, the MiG-29 having evaded possibly multiple R-27s and R-73s, was low on fuel and trying to bug out, when the Su-27 chased it down and shot it down with the 30mm cannon.


This episode may or may not be factual, but it does portray the Su-27's advantage of high fuel capacity and load of missiles, can put the adversary on the defensive, evading missiles using afterburner for extended duration, depleting his fuel while the Su-27 with its 13000 litre fuel capacity has more room to play with.

Last edited by Ricci : 14th August 2015 at 02:06.
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Old 14th August 2015, 00:33   #4
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Default MiG-29 Fulcrum : some notable images

Want to race ?
MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-fulcrum_vs_ferrari1.jpg

Bad idea. The MiG-29 can take off in under 250 meters. That's 150 meters short of the quarter mile, at which point it's doing ~240kmh+ and climbing.
MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-fulcrum_vs_ferrari2.jpg


MiG-29 with the usual centre-line 1500 litre drop tank
MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-mig29_1_tank.jpg

MiG-29 with less common 3 drop tanks
MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-mig29_3_tanks.jpg


MiG-29 just breaking sound barrier
MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-fulcrum_shockwave.jpg


Dark knight ?
MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-night_fulcrum.jpg

MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-night_fulcrum2.jpg


Local cloud generator
MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-fulcrum_cloud_generator.jpg


Yup, there's a MiG-29 hiding in there, somewhere
MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-fulcrum_cloud_generator3.jpg


Rainbow cloud
MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-fulcrum_cloud_generator2.jpg


Carrying 6 R-60 ( AA-8 Aphid ) lightweight , short range ( 8-10km) infra red guided air-to-air missiles. Since superseded by the R-73.
MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-mig29ub_lights.jpg


Golden Fulcrum. I'm told most take offs are done without afterburner.
MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-1607576.jpg

Oh deer ! Even Bambi wants to fly the Fulcrum !
MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-bambi.jpg


Sequence of 2 MiG-29s collision at 1993 Fairford air show. The pair were performing aerobatics when one of the pilots misjudged the distance and collided with the other.
The wing clipped the other MiG-29 fuselage just behind the cockpit ! Lucky pilot ! All this happened at very low altitude - perhaps 1000 feet over ground.
MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-fairford_1993_1.jpg

One engine surges, you see flame spouting from left engine.
MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-fairford_1993_2.jpg

See the pilot ejecting, rocket motor of the K-36D ejection fired. Many hold the Zvezda K-36D (also on the Su-27/30/35) as the best ejection seat in the world.
MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-fairford_1993_3.jpg

See the pilot ejecting
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Same jet from another angle
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Both pilots ejected and landed safely on the ground, one of them immediately shaking off his parachute harness and lit a cigarette - as if nothing newsworthy had happened ! Or maybe it was his "what do I tell my boss now?" reaction. I saw this on BBC back in 1993.


MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-mig29_pair_large.jpg



MiG-29 operators :

MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-mikoyan_mig_29_operators_by_darthpandanld6twwgt.png

Last edited by Ricci : 14th August 2015 at 01:35.
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Old 14th August 2015, 00:50   #5
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Default MiG-29 Fulcrum : afterburners

What's a fighter thread without a few glorious afterburner shots ?

The Fulcrum's bad habits - drinking and smoking !
MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-holy_smoke.jpg


Top Gun? Not quite.
MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-topgun_not_quite.jpg

Brilliant !
MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-mig29_aero_violet_hues.jpg



MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-mig29_afterburners_01.jpg

MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-mig29_afterburners_03.jpg

MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-mig29_afterburners_07.jpg

MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-mig29_afterburners_09.jpg

MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-mig29_afterburners_12.jpg

MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-mig29_afterburners_13.jpg

MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-mig29_afterburners_14.jpg

MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-mig29_afterburners_15.jpg

MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-mig29_afterburners_16.jpg

MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us-mig29_afterburners_19.jpg



Strizhi (Swifts) aerobatic team - for MiG-29 fans and Joe Satriani fans !




MiG-29 OVT demo : note how the exhaust nozzles move !


Sources:

Content/specifications/:
1. Jane's All The World's Aircraft - various annual editions from 1980-2000
2. German MiG-29 experience - http://www.16va.be/mig-29_experience.htm
3. General specifications - http://www.airvectors.net/avmig29.html
4. https://www.bharat-rakshak.com/ -- IAF experiences with the MiG-29
5. www.milavia.net
6. www.f-16.net
7. http://www.airspacemag.com/military-...952403/?no-ist
8. http://fas.org/nuke/guide/russia/airdef/mig-29.htm
9. https://www.defencetalk.com/forums/air-force-aviation/
10. http://vnfawing.com/F-16-vs-MiG-29.htm
11. http://foxtrotalpha.jalopnik.com/how...lew-1682723379 --- USAF F-15 and F-16 pilot on the MiG-29


Image sources:
1. www.airliners.net
2. www.russianplanes.net
3. wikikpedia.org
4. bharat-rakshak.com
5. www.acig.info
6. http://fas.org/nuke/guide/russia/airdef/mig-29.htm

Last edited by GTO : 18th August 2015 at 17:56. Reason: As per PM
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Old 15th August 2015, 08:53   #6
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Default Re: MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us

Thread moved out from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section). Thanks for sharing!
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Old 15th August 2015, 10:37   #7
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Default Re: MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us

Ricci, Thank you for this excellent photo essay. Beautiful photos. In my humble opinion the Mig-29 had greater potential for development than the Sukhoi Su-27. But as the Russians were going for the Su-27 as their future platform it made sense for us to hitch out wagon to theirs and work with them to develop the Su-30MKI. I wonder how the Mig-29K compares with the Su-30MKI. Both outstanding aircraft which give a run for the money to almost all Western machines. - Narayan
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Old 15th August 2015, 11:29   #8
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Default Re: MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us

Lovely write-up and photos. IMO, the Russian beauties are like the German cars. Extremely capable. But reliability (uptime) and opex?

Re Mig 29 vs Su 27 families: the longer range, payload capacity and more powerful radar/ecm etc. make the Su 27 more capable imo. Not everything is about wvr.

Disclaimer: huge Su-30 MKI fan.
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Old 15th August 2015, 11:45   #9
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Default Re: MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us

Ricci, thank you for a beautiful essay and those incredible up close shots of the fulcrum. The Fulcrum is one of the best 4th gen fighters the Soviet responded to its American counterpart lightweight fighters F-16 Falcon and F-18 Hornet. The MiG-29's lack of long range limited it to be placed only as an Air Defence fighter in nearby Soviet Forward Air Bases facing NATO and it continues to be so even today. The Su-27 "Flanker"and its other variants 30,33,34,35 got higher takers,thanks to it being developed as a heavy class- long range weapons platform. And correct me if i'm wrong, wasn't this the first fighter to be mated with the Helmet mounted tracking system in 1985? I believe this was done for integrating with the incredible AA-11 Archer which the Soviets developed. Some claim the AA-11 "Archer" to be the best dogfight missile in the world when it comes to WVR combat!
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Old 15th August 2015, 13:08   #10
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Default Re: MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us

Quote:
Originally Posted by nilanjanray View Post
IMO, the Russian beauties are like the German cars. Extremely capable. But reliability (uptime) and opex?
My two paisa -

First paisa - Russian fighters are built to a different maintenance philosophy than Western ones. Western aircraft have long MTBO (Meantime Between Overhaul) and require significant care and maintenance in between two MTBO points. Russian aircraft are designed for shorter MTBO's with close to zero maintenance required in between. Western writers on the internet overlook this point. Not saying one is better just pointing the difference in approach. Some Western aircraft like the Mirage 2000 or F-15 Eagle top the charts on reliability and uptime. Russian aircraft such as the Mi-17 helicopter would give any other a run for their money of reliability. Where the Russkies are failing us and other customers is in spares support and technology transfer.

Second paisa - The plethora of articles on the web are often written by western authors with a western point of view {as Foxbat has said in the F-14 thread} and far too many of them simply repeat the same views or facts in different words. For real data one still has to turn to journals. Western military aircraft have had their fair share of maintenance troubles, interface failures, high accident rates, troublesome engines etc. One usually does not find any mention on the web of these. Two examples - The English Electric Lightning was UK's first Mach 2 fighter which entered service in the late 1959. It had very good acceleration & climb, poor maneuverability, almost no range and very very poor reliability. Of the 339 manufactured 109 were lost in accidents ie a third in just 18 years of service. Few web sites will tell us about the immense reliability problems of this aircraft which was one of NATO's frontline through the 1960s and 1970s. The F-14 Tomcat which is the subject of Ricci's other thread was bedeviled by engine reliability problems for the first roughly 10 to 12 years of its life and even after all the fixes the engines were certified with performance spectrum restrictions which the Tomcat lived with till the end of its service 34 years later. What we never get to read is that the Phoenix, the 100 kms range air to air missile repeatedly failed to deliver results when tested by American allies in real conditions. That was one reason why even the Israelis never went for the Tomcat -Phoenix combination and preferred instead the F-15 Eagle. Not trying to be critical just sharing what little I have read over the years.
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Old 15th August 2015, 13:17   #11
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Default Re: MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us

Quote:
Originally Posted by V.Narayan View Post
My two paisa -

First paisa - Russian fighters are built to a different maintenance philosophy than Western ones. Western aircraft have long MTBO (Meantime Between Overhaul) and require significant care and maintenance in between two MTBO points.

Where the Russkies are failing us and other customers is in spares support and technology transfer.
I get it. But your two points I have quoted above - I was linking to IAF needs and current reality. Where is the IAF Toyota?
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Old 15th August 2015, 14:07   #12
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Default Re: MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us

If you want a Toyota in planes buy a cessna 152. In simple terms airplanes are complex machines with several complicated parts and subsystems, each of which has to be perfect all the time. Forget fighter jets, even airliners like the airbus 320 need daily, weekly, monthly, quaterly and annual mantainance/inspections.

Of you want to compare planes to cars, try thinking of formula1 cars or high performance dragsters.
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Old 15th August 2015, 14:09   #13
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Default Re: MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us

Excellent article! Thanks for putting it together.
IMHO, the MIG 29 Fulcrum is one of the best looking military aircrafts out there.
I had spotted a lot of Indian Navy's MIG 29Ks last year in Goa both at the airport and flying above our resort in south Goa as well!

I had also read somewhere earlier that the NATO reporting name fulcrum was because it was considered to be the fulcrum of the Russian air force!
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Old 15th August 2015, 14:44   #14
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Default Re: MiG-29 Fulcrum : The balance rests on us

Quote:
Originally Posted by V.Narayan View Post
My two paisa -

First paisa - Russian fighters are built to a different maintenance philosophy than Western ones. Western aircraft have long MTBO (Meantime Between Overhaul) and require significant care and maintenance in between two MTBO points. Russian aircraft are designed for shorter MTBO's with close to zero maintenance required in between. Western writers on the internet overlook this point. Not saying one is better just pointing the difference in approach. Where the Russkies are failing us and other customers is in spares support and technology transfer.

For real data one still has to turn to journals.
Agree with you. The reason Russian's are failing us in spares dept. is because we originally failed them by opting for extremely low quality spares for mig 21 from ex soviet bloc nations (a black market of sort )
for a quarter of the price . Russian business model is that the original airplane is sold for very affordable rates but they make the real profit from spares . We decided to go for the cheap airplane and then cheaper spares . Thing is it doesn't work that way . American planes on the other hand are obnoxiously priced .

They have also delayed setting up the necessary equipment to service and maintain the Saturn AL-31 engine which powers the flanker , being a twin engine aircraft , they don't crash when a single engine fails but the 55% fleet availability (as compared to roughly 75% for mig 29 , mig 29 engines can be rebuilt and refurbished within India ) is extremely poor and it is solely down to engine issues . One of the prime cause for engine issue is poor ball bearing which disintegrates and pollutes engine oil , roughly 50% engines issues were traced to this single cause . This was leaked when mails between HAL and Sukhoi were hacked and released online late 2013 , other issue with the airplane are software related affecting mission computers . Mind you , cursory reports indicate fleet availability of flankers serving at other nations is significantly higher , one perhaps needs to look at HAL here .

Also agree western aircraft , especially american are hyped to high heavens . It was no different during WW 2 either , many in west will say the mustang was the supreme fighter of the war . And today you get that absolute whale of an airplane , the F-35 that is massacred in all simulated aerial engagements . But they will tell you it has got stealth . Gotta admire how they have managed to convince dozen+ allied nations to purchase the whale as well including Israel .


On mig 29 , this article claims ex east german mig 29s , very basic version of the fulcrum walloped the f-16 , widely considered the 2nd most agile US fighter (only to the f-22 raptor ) within visual range combat - http://www.16va.be/mig-29_experience.htm

Last edited by basuroy : 15th August 2015 at 15:07.
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Old 15th August 2015, 15:50   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by apachelongbow View Post
If you want a Toyota in planes buy a cessna 152. In simple terms airplanes are complex machines with several complicated parts and subsystems, each of which has to be perfect all the time. Forget fighter jets, even airliners like the airbus 320 need daily, weekly, monthly, quaterly and annual mantainance/inspections.

Of you want to compare planes to cars, try thinking of formula1 cars or high performance dragsters.
I am aware of the complexity but thanks for the education. You are taking things literally. This is an automotive forum, not BR, so one is permitted to use automobile analogies right?

When I say Toyota, I am talking about relatively high capex but lower opex, and overall lower total cost (money, maintenance effort) over lifetime for a given capability. And also good local maintenance infra - that is not sending engines or any critical part abroad everytime something goes wrong.

Buying more Russian planes and scrapping the mmrca project - does that take care of the original concerns? Getting exploited regarding maintenance, lower opex (say compared to a Su 30 MKI) and hedging risks?

Who wouldn't milk a customer given a chance? Whether re fighters or cars?

Ok enough of digression. Some of the photos are mind blowing. The Mig 29 and Su 30 are some of the sexiest planes in the world. As so wonderfully narrated by the OP.
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