Why is the MiG-29 still a ‘sky killer’ after more than 4 decades of its birth?

On October 6, 1977, the fourth-generation Soviet fighter MiG-29 Fulcrum successfully made its first flight piloted by test pilot Alexander Fedotov.

The idea of ​​​​creating the MiG-29 appeared in the early 1960s when the notion that close-range air battles were a thing of the past, thanks to the powerful radar and long-range missiles that the fighter could fire. from far away.

However, the Vietnam War and the Arab-Israeli War showed that fighters still had to face off directly in the sky, the victory won depends largely on the skill of the pilot and the maneuverability of the aircraft.

Faced with this fact, in 1971, the Soviet Union embarked on the development of a new generation of light super-maneuverable fighters with a maximum degree of automation in the control and combat systems.

The architects propose a new integrated layout, where the wings and fuselage form a single load-bearing block. To facilitate fabrication, many aluminum alloy parts have been replaced with carbon fiber composite materials.

The MiG-29 fuselage has two main ribs for better control of the aircraft, the number of engines is doubled compared to traditional light fighters, they are spaced apart to avoid damage when damaged. This allows the Fulcrum to continue flying even with only one engine.

MiG-29 was equipped with the most modern aiming complex at that time. The pilot has a helmet-mounted target indicator system, with which he can “death lock” the opponent with a single turn of the head without changing the direction of flight.

The combat payload that the MiG-29 can carry is quite low. In addition to the 30 mm aviation cannon, the aircraft is equipped with guided missiles at various ranges, unguided rockets and free-fall bombs.

The most complicated detail of the MiG-29 was the engine, so many Soviet research institutes and aeronautical complexes were involved in the development and production of the RD-33 engine.

During the initial phase of testing, the engine did not provide the necessary thrust and frequently failed, leading to serious crashes. However, the RD-33 was later accepted, although not everything was perfect.

Even to this day, the image of the MiG-29 with the thick black smoke generated by the RD-33 engine has seriously damaged the fighter’s reputation.

Regardless, thanks to the RD-33 engine, the MiG-29 has excellent maneuverability and won the hearts of the pilots, it offers practically unlimited possibilities in the control of the aircraft.

The MiG-29 development project was kept secret for many years, even some work at the assembly plant had to be done between flights of foreign spy satellites.

When the aircraft exits the hangar, it is covered with a special cover so it looks like some ordinary fighter, making it impossible for the enemy to learn.

The MiG-29 was present in 49 countries and became one of the most seasoned fighters, participating in the Gulf War, conflicts in the Caucasus, fighting in Yugoslavia and South Ossetia. In the fall of 2017, the MiG-29SMT also participated in attacks against terrorists in Syria.

Currently, the MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter with various modifications continues to serve as part of the Russian Air Force and Naval Aviation.

The experience gained during the construction and operation of the MiG-29 has formed the basis for new developments of RSK MiG Corporation, including the MiG-35 generation 4.5 multirole fighter.

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