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Two Mig-29s

Two Mig-29s

Two Mig-29s

Two Mig-29 "Fulcrums" at an air show

Cesar Rodriguez (pilot)

Cesar Antonio Rodriguez is a former United States Air Force officer and pilot who served from 1981 to 2006. With three air-to-air combat victories, he joined Thomas Dietz, Robert Hehemann, and Robert Wright (all USAF officers) as the closest to becoming an air ace than any U.S. pilot since the Vietnam War. [2] Rodriguez scored his first two kills in 1991, during the first Gulf War, against a Mikoyan MiG-29 and a Mikoyan MiG-23 of the Iraqi Air Force. His third kill came against a MiG-29 of the Yugoslav air force during the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. [2]

Secret Is Out: How America Got to Test Russian-Made MiG-29 Fighters

Washington got some good intelligence on the planes and Americans and Poles got to know each other better.

Key point: The fighters were pretty powerful, but not as advanced. Here is how the experiment and later joint training went.

Russia's MiG-29 first flew in 1977. Forty-two years later it's one of the most numerous warplanes in the world. As of 2018, around 820 MiG-29s and variants were in service, accounting for six percent of all the world's military aircraft.

This article first appeared earlier and is being reposted due to reader interest.

But as far back as 2001, one American F-15E pilot found the twin-engine Russian fighter to be lacking in range and situational awareness.

Guy Razer, then a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force, at the time was on the staff of NATO's Tactical Leadership Program, a training organization for alliance fighter pilots. Poland joined NATO in 1999 and brought into the alliance a large force of Soviet-made warplanes.

In mid-2001, Razer deployed to an air base outside of Warsaw where the Polish air force's 1st Wing flew MiG-29s. "We were tasked with introducing Western tactics to them, while we were also responsible for deciding on their ability to operate with us in the near future in a large-force-employment type scenario," recalled Razer, who now is 61 and retired.

“What I remember most was the near-instant comradery that developed in such a short period of time,” Razer said. “They were really great to share time with and they were totally willing and excited to both learn from us and share with us many things from their perspective on employment concepts, lifestyle and commitment to their nation’s defense.”

"Our final two sorties consisted of a graduation-type exercise with a four-ship of MiG-29s escorting a four-ship of [Polish] Su-22s flying at low altitude to a target defended by a four-ship of NATO F-16s."

"I was in the back seat of the lead MiG-29," Razer said. Compared to the Pratt & Whitney-powered F-15E that Razer was accustomed to, the MiG-29 was "highly maneuverable when needed but seemed to use a lot of fuel to make that happen."

During the same training event, Razer had the opportunity briefly to fly the MiG. The experience underscored his impression of the twin-tail fighter. "Again, the jet was highly maneuverable, but lacking in overall 'big-picture' situational awareness and range compared to our NATO jets."

"We were, and are, used to operating in large-force-employment packages and being flexible and innovative in the air," Razer said, as opposed to Soviet-style air forces that heavily relied on ground controllers to guide fighter pilots to their targets.

Compared to how U.S. and NATO pilots operated, for the Poles "it was more of a controlled environment." "Even though we're always monitored, we're not controlled," Razer explained. "It's a different perspective."

"The controllers had almost as much control as the pilots," Razer said. “We wanted to free them up."

During a separate deployment, Razer also flew in the back seat of a Polish Su-22 and described the type as "muscular" but unsophisticated. The Sukhoi pilots like the MiG pilots depended on controllers on the ground to tell them where to go and even when to pickle their weapons.

For the 2001 war game, the Polish MiGs carried GPS pods. "This capability, it seemed, was totally a new concept to them," Razer said. "It was such a great thing to see their eyes light up in real amazement at this ability to debrief and see the big picture!"

Between flights, the NATO crews "barbequed, drank a few beers and maybe a bit of vodka, told stories and just enjoyed the time," Razer recalled. "We were really not that different at all."

The training paid off for the Poles. A few months later in September 2001, Polish MiG-29s participated in a NATO war game in Norway that involved more than 50 fighters flying together.

Eighteen years later, Poland still operates around 30 MiG-29s alongside F-16s and old Su-22s. Polish air force doctrine has become more Western, thanks to the sustained efforts of Razer and many other NATO instructors.

"I hope for the continued success of these programs because it’s a lot more fun partying with these fighter pilots than it is trying our damnedest to kill each other," Razer said.

This article first appeared earlier and is being reposted due to reader interest.

Russia's MiG-29 Fulcrum: A Super Fighter or Super Failure?

The MiG-29 Fulcrum was the first Russian fourth-generation jet fighter, marked by its sleek and deadly appearance in contrast to earlier Soviet fighters. The fast and agile Fulcrum could outturn any NATO fighter, and it was armed with cutting-edge missiles. But, alas, it was held back by its old-fashioned electronics, short service life and limited range.

In a sense, the MiG-29 combined fourth generation engineering with third generation hardware. It’s relatively low price meant it initially attracted extensive sales to developing countries, but it would swiftly become overshadowed by the more modern Su-27. The Fulcrum will remain in service for some time, however, as recent upgraded versions partially redress some of its shortcomings.


The MiG-29 began development in 1974, intended to be an advanced lightweight multirole fighter that would operate from primitive airfields at the frontlines of the Cold War, while smaller numbers of heavier Su-27s (also then in development) would handle longer-range missions. This paralleled the light–heavy force structure of F-16s and F-15s being developed for the U.S. Air Force.

The first MiG-29s became operational in 1982 and were codenamed “Fulcrums” by NATO—a name which caught on with some Russian pilots as well. The Fulcrum had a fearsome reputation in the West, and even got its own computer game. By the 1990s, Western pilots had ample opportunity to fly MiG-29s as the German Air Force incorporated the MiG-29s of East Germany. Later, the United States even bought twenty-one from Moldova.

It was discovered that the Fulcrums were very hot rides—but they also had significant downsides.

The MiG-29’s twin RD-33 turbofan engines gave it excellent acceleration and a top speed of Mach 2.25—faster than the F-16 but a bit behind the larger F-15. The MiG-29’s chief claim to fame is its superb maneuverability—it can even outperform the light-footed F-16 in both instantaneous and sustained turns (twenty-eight degree per second versus twenty-six). NATO pilots that practiced against the German Air Force Fulcrums serving in JG 73 found that in short-range dogfights at low speeds the MiG-29 was more agile than anything they threw at it.

Like the Su-27, the MiG-29 is supermaneuverable—it can execute maneuvers impossible with regular aerodynamic controls because of its excellent handling characteristics following a stall. It can also attain very high angles of attack.

One other advantage of the MiG-29 was the short-range R-73 (NATO codename AA-11 Arrow) infrared-guided missile that could be aimed and fired through a helmet-mounted sight. Normally, a plane has to be pointed at an enemy fighter to target it—with the R-73, the pilot need only look at a target within sixty degrees of the frontal arc to shoot a missile at it! The U.S. Air Force did not acquire a similar capability until the AIM-9X entered service in 2003.

In addition to the R-73, the Fulcrum’s seven hardpoints can equip R-27 medium-range missiles, and older R-60 missiles. Some have also been upgraded to fire R-77 long-range air-to-air missiles. Up to eight thousand pounds of air-to-ground munitions can be carried—a significantly lighter load than peer fighter aircraft.

Finally, the MiG-29 is designed to function while operating from unprepared airstrips (presumably captured by advancing Russian tank divisions!)—its air intakes are specially protected against debris.

However, intrinsic design limitations of the MiG-29 have prevented it from aging well.

While aerodynamically outstanding, the MiG-29 did not feature modern pilot displays, controls and fly-by-wire avionics. Fulcrum pilots were required to stare down at their cockpit instruments far more than those of Western fighters with modern Head’s Up Displays, and the throttle was not integrated into the stick.

The MiG-29’s sensors were mediocre—its N019 Phazotron pulse-doppler radar had a shorter accurate range (thirty-eight miles) than the missiles the MiG-29 carried. Though equipped with an infrared sensor (IRST), pilots reported it to be of limited effectiveness.

These limitations in part reflected Soviet doctrine in which pilots were intended to be closely directed by ground controllers, so their situation awareness was less of a priority. The lack of modern electronics was what ultimately led the German Air Force to retire its Fulcrums, despite being more agile than their F-4s and Tornados.

Another major limitation is the MiG-29’s limited range of less than nine hundred miles on internal fuel and lack of inflight refueling ability—making it primarily useful as a defensive fighter, or one operating above frontline forces. While the Fulcrum may be a bargain for a less wealthy country worried about conflict on its borders, it has less appeal to air forces looking to project power over distance.

Finally, like most Soviet-era fighters, while the MiG was designed to withstand rugged handling, it wasn’t intended to have a long service life—just two thousand five hundred hours compared to the six thousand that is typical of U.S. fighters. MiG-29 airframes deteriorated rapidly later in life, and have required extensive and expensive maintenance to keep flying. Malaysia once reported it spent $5 million per year per MiG-29 to keep them flyable.

1,600 MiG-29s have been produced in all. Originally, the Fulcrum came in just a few variants: the standard single seat model and a two-seat trainer variant (MiG-29UB) without the radar. A downgraded version, the MiG-29B was exported abroad.

In the 1980s the upgraded MiG-29S appeared, featuring an active jamming system behind the cockpit (giving it a hunched back appearance), improved computers and software and modestly increased fuel and weapons load. Support for new R-27E and R-77 missiles was added.

In 1990, the next-generation MiG-29M (once known as the MiG-33) debuted, bringing the Fulcrum up to modern standards with fly-by-wire avionics. With a lighter airframe and more powerful smokeless engines (for lower visibility), the MiG-29M nonetheless appears to be slower (Mach 2 at high altitude) and has a lower service ceiling of fifty thousand feet, perhaps because its weighs an extra 1.25 tons. Internal fuel has been expanded for an improved range of over one thousand two hundred miles, a third drop tank can be carried, an inflight refueling probe is included. Two hardpoints are added, and the maximum payload is increased over 50 percent to twelve thousand pounds. Rounding out the package is an improved IRST system and an N010 Zhuk-ME pulse-doppler radar with a range of seventy-five miles against targets with a radar cross-section of five meters.

The MiG-29M was not accepted into Russian service, but it is believed Egypt will receive fifty later this year in a $2 billion contract ($40 million each). Sales to Syria and Serbia are also possible.

The Russian and Indian air forces have instead opted to use older Fulcrum airframes refitted to the MiG-29M’s standards, called the MiG-29SMT or the MiG-29UPG in Indian service. The SMT and UPG Fulcrums have their service life extended to four thousand hours, but weapons loads are not quite equal to the MiG-29M’s specifications. India’s upgrades cost roughly $13 million per airframe, and include foreign avionics.

In 2008, Algeria rejected a batch of thirty-four SMTs as they used old airframes in poor condition rather than newly produced ones stipulated in the contract. The rejected airframes were then put into Russian service and sixteen new ones were ordered. Russia intends to maintain a fleet of sixty MiG-29SMTs.

There are numerous Fulcrum variants tailored to the requirements of various air forces. The most notable is the MiG-29K, a navalized derivative of the MiG-29M operated both by the Russian Navy onboard the carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, and the Indian Naval Air Arm. The MiG-29K has folding wings, reinforced landing gear and an arrestor hook for carrier operations. The K also has upgraded pilot displays and radar-absorbent coatings to reduce its radar signature.

The (Painful) Track Record

Few fighter planes have managed to be so beloved and yet boast such an unfavorable combat record as the MiG-29. Of course, this is in large part because the Fulcrum was usually fielded by less developed countries against Western opponents that were more numerous, better trained, and better organized.

Setting the tune of things to come, in the Fulcrum’s first confirmed aerial combat, two Syrian MiG-29 were shot down by Israeli F-15s in 1989. There are reports Israeli fighters shot down another two Syrian MiG-29s in 2001.

During the Gulf War, five Iraqi MiG-29s were shot down by American F-15s. However, a Fulcrum did successfully hit an F-111 and a B-52 bomber with missiles, though both aircraft managed to return to base.

Fulcrums also took a beating in the Ethiopian–Eritrean border conflict of the late 1990s, which featured more evenly matched opponents. Russian mercenaries flew alongside Ethiopian pilots, while Ukrainians supported the Eritrean Air Force. In all, four Eritrean MiG-29s were shot down by Ethiopian Su-27s. In exchange, the Eritrean Fulcrums shot down a Su-25, a MiG-21 and an unidentified fighter (possibly a MiG-23). Over multiple engagements, Flankers and Fulcrums exchanged over two-dozen R-27 missiles at long range for only a single hit. Instead, most of the victories were scored in short-range dogfights using AA-11 missiles.


Origins Edit

The MiG-29K project was initiated in the late 1970s when the Soviet Navy developed a requirement for a supersonic carrier-based fighter. As a first step to meet this requirement, the Mikoyan design bureau designed a "proof of concept" version of the MiG-29 fitted with a stronger undercarriage and a reinforced tail section with an arrestor hook, the MiG-29KVP (Korotkii Vzlet i Posadka, or "short take off and landing"). [10] The KVP first flew on 21 August 1982, and was subject to extensive trials which demonstrated it could safely operate from a ski-jump, but ideally a production aircraft needed more power and greater wing area. [11] [12] It was decided to base the definitive naval version on the advanced MiG-29M (izdeliye "Product" 9.15) that was already under development, further modified with new undercarriage and folding wings of greater area, with the new model designated the MiG-29K (Korabelniy – "ship based") or Project 9–31. [4] [13] The MiG-29K differed considerably from the MiG-29 production model, featuring a new multi-function radar, dubbed Zhuk a cockpit with monochrome display and use of the HOTAS (hands-on-throttle-and-stick) principle the RVV-AE air-to-air active homing missiles antiship and antiradar missiles as well as air-to-ground precision-guided weapons. To protect the engine from foreign object damage (FOD), the engine inlets were fitted with retractable grills for air flow, rather than metal doors and leading-edge extension auxiliary intake louvres used by land-based MiG-29s. [14] [15]

The MiG-29Ks first flight was performed on 23 July 1988 at Saky by test pilot Toktar Aubakirov. [16] On 1 November 1989, on the same day as the Sukhoi Su-27K, [N 2] Aubakirov executed the first carrier landing of MiG-29K on the aircraft-carrying cruiser Tbilisi (now known as Admiral Kuznetsov), the first take-off from the carrier's deck was successfully performed the same day. [18] During 1989–1991, the MiG-29K underwent further tests aboard Admiral Kuznetsov. The project was put on hold with the collapse of the Soviet Union, while the Russian Navy only pursued the rival Su-33. [19] [N 3] Mikoyan continued work on the MiG-29K despite the lack of funding. [23] [ verification needed ] [24]

During its tests aboard Admiral Kuznetsov, the aircraft had a springboard-assisted takeoff from strips 195 metres (640 ft) and 95 m (312 ft) long. According to the results of the tests, the landing accuracy proved to be very high, which made it possible at a later stage to switch over to a three-cable arrester system on Admiral Gorshkov. The landing accuracy is additionally enhanced through the employment of an autothrottle system. The takeoff characteristics allow for most flights to be possible under tropical conditions at a ship speed of 10 knots (19 km/h 12 mph). [23] [24]

Revival Edit

The MiG-29K programme was revived in response to the decision of the Indian Navy to acquire the former Soviet Navy aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov in 2004. [25] When Admiral Gorshkov was part of the Soviet fleet, it was a hybrid aircraft carrier/cruiser using vertical take-off (V/STOL) aircraft thus the deck was refurbished with a take-off ramp and arrestor wires for operating MiG-29Ks. [14] The aircraft has an enlarged and folding wing, an arrestor hook and a corrosion-protected reinforced fuselage. [26]

One factor favouring the MiG-29K over the Su-33 in the Indian decision was the larger size of the Su-33, which further limited the number of aircraft on deck. [27] [28] Modifications were made to the MiG-29K for Indian requirements, including the Zhuk-ME radar, RD-33MK engine, a combat payload up to 5,500 kilograms (12,100 lb), 13 weapon stations, and updated 4-channel digital fly-by-wire flight control system. It is compatible with the full range of weapons carried by the MiG-29M and MiG-29SMT. [29]

The problem of lack of aircraft-carrier based AWACS platform may be tackled by further development of dual-seat MiG-29KUB. It is theoretically possible to outfit the MiG-29KUB with powerful radar, and encrypted data links, to permit networking of multiple MiG-29KUB aircraft for AEW coverage. The MiG-29KUB may also be enhanced in areas such as electronic warfare and long-range interdiction. [23] [24]

The MiG-29KUB two-seat variant took its first flight on 20 January 2007, followed by the MiG-29K on 25 June 2007. [30]

Overview Edit

The MiG-29K is drastically modified from the Mikoyan MiG-29M for naval operations. The airframe and undercarriage are reinforced to withstand the stress experienced upon landing. Folding wings, an arrestor hook, and catapult attachments were added for carrier operations the aircraft's undercarriage track was also widened. The MiG-29K, unlike the early MiG-29, can both conduct aerial refueling and "buddy" refuel other aircraft. [14]

The MiG-29K has two widely spaced RD-33MKs. The early prototypes were fitted with two RD-33K turbofan engines, each with afterburner thrust of 86.3 kN (19,800 lb) and a possible take-off thrust of 92.2 kN (20,723 lbf) for shipborne operations. [31] [32] The RD-33MK engine features 7% higher power over the base RD-33, enabled by the usage of improved materials for the turbine blades. [33] [34]

Internal fuel was increased from 3,340 to 4,560 kg (7,360 to 10,100 lb), to give a combat radius of 850 km (531 mi). The combat radius can be increased to 1,300 km (810 mi) with three underwing fuel drop tanks. The maximum weight of the aircraft grew from 19.5 to 22.4 t (43,000 to 49,400 lb), to allow for increased payloads. [35] The MiG-29KUB two-seat fighter, intended for pilot training, can also conduct combat missions identical to the single-seat fighter. [2] [ verification needed ]

Cockpit and avionics Edit

The aircraft is equipped with three multifunctional color liquid-crystal displays (seven LCDs on the MiG-29KUB), a four-channel digital fly-by-wire flight control system, passive homing system for anti-radar missiles, Sigma-95 GPS receiver, TopGun helmet-mounted targeting system and electronic countermeasures (ECM). Additionally, an onboard oxygen generating system eliminates the need for heavy oxygen canisters. [2] [ verification needed ] The types of combat missions undertaken by the MiG-29K can be increased by adding optronic/infrared imaging reconnaissance pods. [23] [24]

The Zhuk-ME is a development of the N010 Zhuk radar, introducing functions such as terrain mapping and following. The radar, weighing 220 kilograms (490 lb), features improved signal processing and a detection range of up to 120 km (75 mi) vs a 5 m 2 RCS target for the export variant. [36] In the air targeting mode, up to ten targets can be tracked and four targets engaged simultaneously. [37] In air to surface mode the radar can detect a tank from up to 25 kilometres (16 mi) away and a bridge from 120 kilometres (75 mi) away, a naval destroyer could be detected up to 300 kilometres (190 mi) away, while up to two surface targets can be tracked at once. The radar has a scanning area of ±85 degrees in azimuth and +56/-40 in elevation. [37]

The Zhuk-AE radar was developed with modular approach, enabling upgrade of existing Zhuk ME radars deployed in MiG-29 platforms into the active electronically scanned array (AESA) Zhuk-AE standard. India is already operating the Bars phased array radar on its Su-30MKI and has specified AESA as a critical element of the MRCA platform. [38] The MiG-29K can be outfitted with an IRST system integrated with both optical and laser systems. [2] [ verification needed ] It can provide targeting solutions for ground and air targets at up to 15 km (9.3 mi), with all-round 360-degree coverage. The IRST can also provide detailed trajectories of missiles at closer ranges.

Weapons and defensive capabilities Edit

MiG-29K has a GSh-30-1 30 mm cannon in the port wing root. It has provisions for laser-guided and electro-optical bombs, as well as air-to-surface missiles like Kh-25ML/25MP, Kh-29T, Kh-31G/31A, Kh-35U, and rockets. Kh-31P passive radar seeker missiles are used as anti-radiation missiles. Kh-35, Kh-31A antiship missiles are for anti-ship roles for aerial combat air-to-air missile like RVV-AE, R-27ER/ET and R-73E are fitted. The aircraft is also adaptable to various foreign weapons. [35]

The MiG-29K has a combination of low-observable technology, advanced electronic-warfare capabilities, reduced ballistic vulnerability, and standoff weapons to enhance the fighter's survivability. [29] According to Mikoyan, extensive use of radar-absorbent materials reduce the MiG-29K's radar signature 4–5 times over the basic MiG-29. [29] The RD-33MK turbofan engine was also engineered to reduce infrared signature and improve aircraft camouflage. [33] [34]

India Edit

In 2004 India ordered 12 MiG-29K single-seat and 4 MiG-29KUB two-seat fighters. [14] The MiG-29K is to provide both airborne fleet air defence and surface attack capabilities. Deliveries began in December 2009. [39] [40] Prior to their delivery to India, the MiG-29Ks underwent testing on board Admiral Kuznetsov. [41] [42] In January 2010, India and Russia signed a deal worth US$1.2 billion for the Indian Navy to receive an additional 29 MiG-29Ks. [43] The MiG-29K entered operational service with India in February 2010. [39] Further deliveries of five MiG-29Ks and a flight simulator took place in May 2011. Further deliveries are to continue through 2012. [44] The fighters were based at INS Hansa in Goa on India's west coast until Admiral Gorshkov joined the navy under the name of INS Vikramaditya in last quarter of 2013. Vikramaditya was expected to carry up to 24 MiG-29K/KUB fighters. The future indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant, being built by India, is also likely to carry these aircraft. [44]

Further MiG-29K orders by India were frozen after a MiG-29KUB crashed during testing in Russia prior to delivery to India the Indian Defence Ministry commented that the crash cast a shadow on the credibility of the aircraft. [45] Russia later announced that pilot error had caused the crash, and there was no need to ground the aircraft. [46] In August 2011, MiG's General Director Sergei Korotkov announced that the final five out of the 16 aircraft contracted in 2004 would be delivered by the end of the year and that deliveries of a second batch of 29 MiG-29Ks would begin in 2012. [47] In November 2012, the MiG-29K/KUB completed sea trials for the Indian Navy. [48] One problem is that Western and Ukrainian sanctions on Russia have prevented Mikoyan importing components for assembly at the factory, instead they have had to be installed "on the flightline" in India. [49]

In a 2016 report, India's national auditor CAG criticized the aircraft due to defects in engines, airframes and fly-by-wire systems. The serviceability of MiG-29K was reported ranging from 15.93% to 37.63% and that of MiG-29KUB ranging from 21.30% to 47.14% with 40 engines (62%) being rejected/withdrawn from service due to design defects. These defects are likely to reduce the service life of the aircraft from the stated 6000 hours. [50] [51] [52] In 2017, the Indian government announced the planned replacement of the MiG-29 with 57 new aircraft, with a competition primarily between the French Dassault Rafale and the American Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. [53] [54]

In December 2018 when addressing the press on the eve of Navy Day CNS Admiral Lanba noted regarding the MiG-29K, "there is no issue on supplies of spare parts from Russia at the moment. The MiG-29K fleet has been performing well now." The Indian Navy plans to deploy the MiG-29K onboard its first domestically built carrier, the INS Vikrant, and will acquire further combat jets with updated capabilities for this purpose. Indian Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba announced that issues related to maintenance and availability of spare parts for the MiG-29K fleet, which had previously undermined their readiness, had been resolved. [55]

Russia Edit

The 279th Shipborne Fighter Aviation Regiment of the Russian Navy has a fleet of 21 Su-33 fighters [56] whose service lives were expected to be reached by 2015. Around 10 to 12 will receive an upgrade including the Gefest SVP-24 bombsight for free-fall bombs, giving them a limited ground attack capability, [56] but more aircraft were needed. It was less cost-effective to open the Su-33 production line for a small run than to piggy-back on the Indian Navy's order of MiG-29K's. India paid $730 million for the development and delivery of 16 units, while 24 for the Russian Navy would cost approximately $1 billion. [57]

The Russian Navy ordered 24 MiG-29Ks in late 2009 for Admiral Kuznetsov. [58] Deliveries of the MiG-29K for the Russian Navy started in 2010. [59] [60] MiG and Russia were in final negotiations for an order for more MiG-29K/KUB aircraft in August 2011. [61] An order for 20 MiG-29KR fighter-bombers and four MiG-29KUBR operational trainers for operation from Admiral Kuznetsov, replacing the Sukhoi Su-33, was officially announced in February 2012. [62] However, in 2015, Major-General Igor Kozhin, the Commander of the Navy's Air and Air Defence Forces, announced that a second fighter regiment would be formed to augment the current force, with the intention that the MiG-29s be used by this new unit, with some existing Su-33s refurbished for further use. [63] [64]

In October 2016, four MiG-29KR/KUBR from the 100th Independent Shipborne Fighter Aviation Regiment formed part of the air group aboard Admiral Kuznetsov as the ship deployed with its battle group to the Mediterranean Sea as part of the Russian campaign in Syria. [65] On 13 November 2016, a MiG-29KUBR on operations in the Mediterranean crashed en route back to Admiral Kuznetsov. [65] [66]


Mikoyan-I-Gurevich design bureau is a Russian military aircraft design bureau primarily for fighter aircraft. It was formerly a Soviet design bureau founded by Artem Mikoyan and Mikhail Gurevich, known as &ldquoMIG.&rdquo The Russian government is planning to merge Mikoyan and Gurevich with Ilyushin, Irkut, Sukhoi, Tupolev, and Yakovlev as a new company named &ldquoUnited Aircraft Corporation.&rdquo The MIG has been used by the Chinese, North Korea, and North Vietnam in aerial confrontation with American and Allied forces.

The first 100 aircraft produced in 1940 were designated starting with MIG-1. Improved aircraft were designated MIG-3, and so on. The MIG-3 is a variant of the MIG-1. The service designation MIG-5 was only represented by a few experimental aircraft and was cancelled in 1942.

From the technical description of the MIG starting with the MIG-1 it is evident the MIG was continually upgraded and modified in an effort to produce a better aircraft. Most of the first MIGs had major problems but by producing many variants they were overcome. They finally succeeded with the MIG-15 which was considered their first aircraft having great performance.

It cannot be disputed that the MIG-15 changed the Korean war abruptly. First of all the thousands of Chinese troops that stormed across the Yalu pushed our forces back, and just about wiped out our Marines at the Chosin Reservoir. With the ground war going badly the swarms of MIG-15s crossed the border by the hundreds, changing the final picture. The MIG-15 with its three cannons, 670mph speed, exceptional altitude capability, plus being flown by Russia&rsquos finest delivered the final blow to our aging B-29 fleet. The MIG-15 with their cannons became the B-29s worst nightmare.

This report was gathered in part from Russian sources and publications. It proved to show many confusing designations, and descriptions as names were added or dropped on numerous models. One example is the many designations of the Mig-29 and the Mig-33. This report has undoubtedly many discrepancies however much effort was made to try to identify these aircraft.

This website covers the complete MIG production from MIG-1 THROUGH MIG-35

Why corporal is ‘the worst rank in the Army’

Posted On May 15, 2020 20:08:44

“All of the work, none of the pay.”

For those who aren’t familiar with the Army rank structure, there are three directions an Army specialist can go in terms of rank change. They can be demoted to private first class, losing responsibilities and pay. They can be promoted to sergeant, gaining responsibilities and pay.

Or, a third direction, they can be “laterally promoted” to corporal, where they gain lots of responsibilities but no pay.

This is why corporal is the worst rank in the Army.

An Army corporal is sent to roll up ratchet straps near trees while an Army specialist is paid the same to take a photo of them doing it.

(U.S. Army Spc. Andrew J. Washington)

See, corporal is an enlisted level-4 rank, equal in pay to a specialist. This is a holdover from back in the day when the Army had two enlisted rank structures that ran side-by-side. There were specialists-4, specialists-5, 6, 7, 8, and 9. Specialists got the same pay as their noncommissioned officer equivalents. So, a specialist-9 got paid the same as a sergeant major.

Specialists were expected to be experts in a specific job, but weren’t expected to necessarily lead other soldiers. So, it was unlikely that they would pull duties like sergeant of the guard, and they were only rarely appointed to real leadership positions. The rest of the time, they just did their jobs well and got left alone.

But specialists were slowly whittled down in the 1960s-80s. After 1985, only one specialist rank remained. It was paid at the E-4 level, same as a corporal.

Today, specialist is the most common rank in the Army.

But some specialists are so high-speed, so good at their jobs, so inspiring to their fellow troops, that the Army decides it must have them as leaders now. And, if they aren’t eligible for promotion to E-5 just yet, then we’ll just laterally promote them to corporal and get them into the rotation anyway.

So, the soldier gets added to the NCO duty rosters, gets tapped for all sorts of work details that pop up, and gets held to a higher standard than their peers, even though they’re drawing the same paycheck every month.

They can even be assigned to positions which would normally go to a sergeant, like senior team leader.

“All of the work, none of the pay.”

Meanwhile, their specialist peers are so well known for cutting up that the symbol of their rank is known as the “sham shield,” a play on the Army slang of “shamming” (skipping work, known as skating in the Navy).

The Army needed someone to go out and take photos of a bunch of guys getting hit with CS gas in the middle of the desert. They, of course, turned to a corporal.

But, hey, how bad can life actually be?

Well, first, Army enlisted soldier is already one of the most stressful jobs in the nation according to yearly surveys. One widely reported every year comes from CareerCast which ranked enlisted military as the single most stressful position in the country in 2018.

(Side note: the rest of the occupations in the top 5 most stressful jobs have an average salary of ,562. E-4s pull in about ,000 depending on their time in service.)

A U.S. Army specialist is “promoted” to corporal, a promotion that he will never regret.

(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Christina Turnipseed)

Next, when corporals are laterally promoted, they only move up the feeding chain a tiny amount, moving from specialists to guys who are ostensibly in charge of specialist, but still below all other NCO, officers, and warrant officers.

And we said ostensibly for a reason. Specialists aren’t known for always caring what a corporal says. Or what anyone else says, but corporals get particularly short shrift. And this is especially bad for corporals who are appointed to that rank in the same unit they were specialists in. After all, that means they have to now direct the guys they were hanging out with just a few days or weeks before, all without the benefit of a more concrete promotion.

Army Cpl. Quantavius Carter works as a movement noncommissioned officer, logging all the measurements necessary for the paperwork to ship the vehicle.

(U.S. Army Sgt. Elizabeth White)

But their job is important, and most corporals are appointed to that rank because higher leadership knows that they’ll take it seriously. Like we mentioned, corporals can be assigned to jobs that would normally require a sergeant. They sent to supervise everything from crap details to automatic weapons teams.

They are, truthfully, part of the backbone of the Army, but they still often have to share barracks rooms with drunk specialists.

So, yeah, buy your local corporal a drink when you get a chance, because they’re stuck in a tough job with no extra pay and little extra respect. Worst rank in the Army.

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Showdowns in MiG Alley

Flying a North American F-86A Sabre, Major George Davis shoots a MiG-15 off the tail of 1st Lt. Raymond Barton on November 30, 1951.

Illustration by Adam Tooby

Two wild aerial battles in the fall of 1951 demonstrated that the days of propeller-driven bombers were numbered.

After the briefing for the 307th Bombardment Group’s October 23, 1951, mission, B-29 navigator 1st Lieutenant Fred Meier jotted in his diary:

“Briefed for MiG Alley mission. Namsi Airfield.” An ominous target, Namsi lay scarcely 30 miles from Antung, where 100 Communist MiG-15 fighters were based.

Less than a year earlier, another B-29 crew attacking a different North Korean air base registered one of the first encounters with the sweptwing jet. The MiG-15 bounced the lone Superfortress, pummeled it, then disappeared. The MiGs outflew American aircraft in Korea until the U.S. Air Force deployed a potent antidote: North American’s sweptwing F-86 Sabre. Still, F-86 squadrons from the 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing faced stubborn, skilled resistance. The MiG pilots, many of them Russians, were as good as their aircraft.

By April 1951, with the ground war stalemated, Sabre-versus-MiG aerial combat centered in MiG Alley, a narrow North Korean air corridor bounded on the north by the Yalu River. Both sides claimed MiG Alley dominance, but the contest was more evenly matched than either admitted. The MiG-15 outclimbed the early-model F-86 and reached higher altitudes. Moreover, Soviet dictator Josef Stalin stocked MiG Alley with two crack fighter divisions, the 303rd and 324th.

But MiG Alley air battles also impacted wider war strategy. Both the F-86 and MiG-15 were point-defense interceptors designed to confront incoming multiengine bombers. Because U.N. forces couldn’t hope to outmatch Chi­nese manpower, they needed to counter it by bombing supply lines running from China through North Korea. Acclaim showered on America’s first jet aces obscured the fact that F-86 pilots struggled to protect the lumbering B-29s from MiG predators. “They were attacking in groups of four to six aircraft,” recalled 335th Fighter Interceptor Squadron (FIS) leader Major Winton “Bones” Marshall, “which was more than the two-ship [F-86] element could cope with.” In April, when dozens of B-29s shielded by F-86s attacked a Yalu River bridge, three Superforts were shot down and seven more damaged without making a dent in the bridge.

Two B-29s come under attack by Soviet-flown MiG-15s in April 1951. (U.S. Air Force)

Over the ensuing months, as Korean truce talks commenced, Air Force planners struggled to devise new tactics to overcome the problem. One option was to take out new North Korean airfields. By October 1951, with truce negotiations adjourned, the stage was set for two bomber-fighter MiG Alley showdowns.

Wakeup came at 1 a.m. for the nine B-29 crews of the 307th Bomb Group assigned to the October 23 raid. Takeoffs from Okinawa’s Kadena airfield involved agonizingly slow acceleration that seemed to gobble up the entire runway. After leveling off at 5,000 feet, the airmen settled in to transit the East China Sea.

Crews were a blend of rookies and World War II veteran reservists. Though most of the “retreads” didn’t want to be there, they were mature and experienced, qualities the younger crewmen valued. Captain Clarence “Fog” Fogler, for example, the lead aircraft commander, had survived some of the worst WWII B-24 Liberator missions. On April 12, when Fogler participated in the Yalu bridge fiasco, he somehow got his B-29 Sit ’n Git back unscathed.

Flying at 20,000 feet and aligned in wedge-shaped flights of three aircraft each—Able, Baker and Charlie—the B-29s crossed Korea’s south coast near Kwanju at 7:45 a.m. Danger was still two hours away—the time it took to reach MiG Alley. Expecting low clouds, the crews planned to use SHORAN (short range navigation), an electronic system that enabled bombing without actually seeing the target. SHORAN required flying an electronically prescribed arc all through the bomb run, precluding evasive maneuvers. Because continuous banking risked midair collision, the ships spread out. Without fighter escort, they were sitting ducks.

At 9:35, 55 close-cover Republic F-84 Thunderjets joined up with the B-29s. The F-84s, though welcome, were no match for MiG-15s. Sturdier protection lay with the high cover: two 16-ship Sabre formations taking off a little after 9. The enemy was already intercepting heavy radio traffic and sensed a major air attack—perhaps even against Manchuria. The 303rd Division’s Soviet ground commander scrambled three regiments of 20 MiGs each: one regiment to guard Antung, two to cross the Yalu to confront the B-29s.

The Superforts banked left into the SHORAN path 45 miles east of Namsi. Each pilot had only to keep a needle centered on a calibrated instrument display to stay on course. To guard the slower B-29s, the F-84s flew lazy-eight patterns. Meanwhile, the Sabre formations set up a racetrack pattern above and behind.

SHORAN routed all nine B-29s over radar-controlled anti-aircraft cannons at Taechon. Two ships—Police Action (Baker Lead) and Charlie Lead—were jolted by direct hits. No longer able to follow the SHORAN track, Police Action’s pilot, 1st Lt. Bill Reeter, relinquished the lead. Beyond Taechon, an uneasy calm set in. The B-29s were now four minutes from Namsi—and more flak. MiGs stayed clear of the flak fields, so now was the time to expect them.

The B-29 Command Decision came back from a October 27, 1951, raid with a MiG cannon shell hole in its flaps. (U.S. Air Force)

At 9:40 the 18th Guards Fighter Regiment approached the Sabre escorts. When its leader, Lt. Col. Aleksandr P. Smorchkov, detected the bombers, he ordered 14 MiGs to tackle the Sabres while he led the remaining six against “the big ones.” Splitting into pairs, Smorchkov’s contingent slashed through the slower, less-nimble F-84s, zoomed to within cannon range of the B-29s, then slammed on speed brakes and opened fire.

Moments later, eight F-86s confronted a second, fast-approaching MiG regiment, the 523rd. As the MiGs broke right to evade, one of the Soviet pilots sighted the Superforts’ silvery wings and fu­-
selages standing out against the clouds. “We have big ones below,” he radioed his regiment leader, Major Dmitry P. Oskin, who immediately snapped his MiG into a half roll, diving for the B-29s. “Every­one attack the big ones!” Oskin ordered.

Meanwhile, Smorch­kov got 1st Lt. Tom Shields’ B-29 (Charlie Lead) in his sights. Shields tried to maneuver as cannon rounds struck the wings, but his ship failed to respond. “Salvo the bombs!” Shields ordered. “Lower the nose wheel! Get ready for bailout!” But when control momentarily returned, he canceled the bailout. Then came a warning from a gunner: “Right wing and number three engine on fire!” Charlie Lead lurched into a spiraling dive. At 18,000 feet, Shields ordered his crew out.

Aboard Sit ’n Git (Able Lead), navigator Fred Meier sat behind the bombardier on the glassed-in flight deck. At “bombs away,” radio operator Bernie Blumenthal alerted the crew by interphone, “MiGs in the vicinity!” To Meier, the MiGs (most likely piloted by Oskin and his five wingmen) seemed to flash by from everywhere. Left blister gunner Rolland Miller fired at an incoming MiG even as flames erupted from the adjacent B-29 (Able Three), which vanished into the clouds, with two parachute canopies drifting behind.

Radio circuits buzzed against a background of hammering guns, muffled explosions and incoherent shouts.

“Catch that flight of MiGs coming off the bombers!” urged one F-84 pilot.

“Catch them before they get to the bombers!” pleaded another.

“Sorry guys,” an F-86 pilot reportedly replied, “we can’t do it.”

In less than 15 minutes over Namsi, with the additional loss of Baker Two, three B-29s were shot down and three more severely damaged. (The Soviets claimed 10 B-29s downed, one more than actually flew the mission.) Only one Superfort returned directly to Okinawa. Fogler’s Sit ’n Git was one of three making emergency landings at Kimpo. Half the B-29 crewmen were killed or wounded, the highest single air mission casualty tally of the war. The heavy bombers were soon withdrawn from daylight operations. Combined October losses to MiGs rose to 14 aircraft, the highest one-month total of the war.

Exaggerated claims aside, the Communists could be well satisfied. Yet, according to historian Xiaoming Zhang, Chinese leaders were determined to flex their own bomber muscle. A likely target was the island of Taehwa-do (Cho-do to the Koreans), near the mouth of the Yalu River, where the South Koreans had stationed 1,200 troops along with radar and radio monitoring equipment.

On November 6, nine World War II–vintage Tupolev Tu-2 twin-engine light bombers of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) 8th Division took off from Shenyang to strike Taehwa-do. Sixteen Lavochkin La-11 prop fighters and two-dozen MiG-15s from the PLAAF 3rd Division served as escorts. Despite heavy flak, the bombers destroyed island command posts and storage facilities. No American fighters challenged them, and all aircraft returned safely. Flushed with this new success, Chinese planners decided to duplicate the tactic on a follow-up raid.

For its part, the USAF looked to avenge Namsi. So, on the morn­ing of November 30, when U.S. Army intelligence anticipated an imminent assault on Taehwa-do, every 4th Wing F-86 pilot was either airborne or on standby.

Gao Yueming, a five-year flying veteran, led the mission’s nine Tu-2s. Owing to inflight scheduling errors, Gao’s bombers reached their scheduled midafternoon rendezvous fully five minutes ahead of schedule—a fatal mistake. They managed to link up with their 16 Lavochkin escorts, but the 12 3rd Division MiG-15s were only just then leaving Antung.

Gao and his crews then made another blunder: Spotting a distant jet formation, they blithely assumed it was a homeward-bound MiG patrol. Instead, it was 31 F-86s from the 334th, 335th and 336th Fighter Interceptor squadrons, all led by 4th Wing commander Colonel Ben Preston. Leading the 335th FIS contingent was 32-year-old Bones Marshall, by then a six-month MiG Alley veteran credited with four kills. The 334th FIS flight leader was George Davis, also 32 and a Pacific War P-47 Thunderbolt ace. Davis had reached Korea right after the Namsi disaster, but just three days earlier had claimed a double: two MiG kills on the same mission.

Three of the victors on November 30, 1951, pose for the camera. From left: Major George A. Davis, Colonel Benjamin S. Preston and Major Winton "Bones" Marshall. (U.S. Air Force)

Though surprised by the Sabre onslaught, Gao ordered his Tu-2s to press on toward Taehwa-do, two minutes away. In quick succession, however, Gao lost two bombers and two escorts. First Lieutenant Douglas K. Evans of the 336th scored first, sending a Tu-2 trailing fire into the sea. An La-11 escort fell next, blasted by Preston. Almost simultaneously, Marshall swooped in, setting fire to both a Tupolev and a Lavochkin.

Davis and wingman 2nd Lt. Merlyn Hroch entered the fray from well above the Chinese formation. Reversing course and diving from 10,000 feet with Hroch tight on his wing, Davis raked one Tupolev, forcing it to break formation. Davis then turned to jump another, exploding that bomber with fuel tank hits. Breaking again—and this time losing Hroch—he got behind a third Tu-2. Squeezing the trigger, he watched the Tupolev erupt in flames and its crew jump.

Though the Chinese La-11s couldn’t match the F-86s’ speed and climbing ability, they were agile. When Bones Marshall jumped a Lavochkin flown by veteran Wang Tianbao, the Chinese pilot broke hard, forcing him to overshoot. Wang then got in a long deflection shot. One 23mm shell hit the F-86’s left wing, just missing a fuel cell. A second exploded against the cockpit headrest, completely destroying the canopy, lacerating Marshall and briefly knocking him unconscious. Bones came to just in time to recover from a near-fatal spin into the Yellow Sea. He limped his crippled fighter back to Suwon.

Despite Wang’s display of skill, the props proved no match for the jets. Though still bound doggedly for Taehwa-do, all but one Tupolev took hits. Gao watched flames pour from both engines of a Tu-2 as it staggered along for a few minutes before finally exploding. Then four Sabres concentrated on Gao’s wingman, finally detonating his fuel tanks. Fire engulfed the bomber, and no parachutes appeared as it fell.

Finally reaching the target, Gao salvoed his bombs and fled east. The other survivors dropped their bombs seconds later. Most landed on the beach, kicking up sand.

The MiG-15s, meanwhile, arrived too late to help. One MiG punched a big hole in the wing of 1st Lt. Raymond Barton’s F-86. George Davis, then homebound and low on fuel, picked up Barton’s call for help. Turning north, Davis soon spotted two aircraft. Unable to distinguish Sabre from MiG, he instructed Barton to turn first left then right. When the Chinese MiG did neither, Davis pulled in behind it and opened fire. Hits to fuselage, wings and cockpit sent the MiG crashing into the sea.

For the PLAAF, the November 30 Taehwa-do mission was a disaster comparable to that suffered by the Americans at Namsi. Although Sabre pilots claimed eight Tupolevs destroyed, the actual count was four Tu-2s, three La-11s and a MiG-15. Fifteen Chinese bomber crewmen and four escort pilots died. Realizing the perils of inexperience, the PLAAF curtailed offensive bombing operations to concentrate on MiG-15 training.

Two months later, this new thrust would again pit Chinese MiG pilots against George Davis. By then, with 12 confirmed aerial kills (including his Taehwa-do tally), Davis was the highest-scoring American jet fighter ace.

New Jersey–based writer and historian David Sears is the author of Such Men as These: The Story of the Navy Pilots Who Flew the Deadly Skies Over Korea. Further reading: Black Tuesday Over Namsi: B-29s vs. MiGs—The Forgotten Air Battle of the Korean War, 23 October 1951, by Earl J. McGill Sabres Over MiG Alley: The F-86 and the Battle for Air Superiority in Korea, by Kenneth P. Werrell and Red Devils Over the Yalu: A Chronicle of Soviet Aerial Operations in the Korean War 1950-53, by Igor Seidov and Stuart Britton.

Ready to build your own F-86 Sabre? Click here!

Showdowns in MiG Alley appeared in the March 2017 issue of Aviation History Magazine. Subscribe today!

The Indian Navy’s Carrier MiG-29s Keep Crashing. Will New Delhi Seek A Replacement Fighter?

Between November 2019 and November 2020, the Indian Navy lost three of its MiG-29K fighter jets to accidents. Could it compel New Delhi to seek a new fighter for its aircraft carriers in the foreseeable future?

On Nov. 26, an Indian MiG-29K crashed in the Arabian Sea after taking off from the country’s flagship, the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya. While the co-pilot managed to eject and survive the crash, the pilot was killed and his body wasn’t found until over a week later.

Indian MiG-29K performing touch and go landing on the INS Vikramaditya in 2014. Official Indian Navy . [+] photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Indian Navy via Wikimedia Commons

Previous crashes occurred on Feb. 23, 2020, and Nov. 16, 2019. The first loss of an Indian MiG-29K occurred in Jan. 3, 2018, when one of those jets veered off a runway and caught fire. In all these accidents all the pilots managed to eject on time and survived.

India bought a total of 45 MiG-29Ks from Russia in two orders made in 2004 and 2010. Long before any of these crashes, there were reservations about this choice. For example, when a Russian MiG-29K trainer crashed killing both pilots in June 23, 2011, it “cast a shadow on the credibility of the aircraft itself” in India, reported Defense News at the time, citing Indian Defense Ministry officials.

Then, in July 2016, the Controller and Auditor General of India charged that India’s MiG-29K fleet “is riddled with problems relating to [its] airframe, RD MK-33 engine and fly-by-wire system.”

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Russian carrier aircraft are, in general, prone to accidents. When Russia deployed its sole aircraft carrier, the troubled Admiral Kuznetsov, to Syria’s coast in late 2016 it lost a MiG-29K and a Su-33 in separate accidents within mere weeks of each other.

Consequently, India may well decide to procure a different jet for its growing fleet of aircraft carriers going forward.

India’s air force recently acquired 4.5-generation Dassault Rafale multirole fighter jets from France. There is a single-seat version of the Rafale with a stronger airframe built for the French Navy. India might also seek U.S. Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet navy fighter jets.

It’s unlikely New Delhi would consider requesting more sophisticated stealthy fifth-generation Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II jets from the United States. There is a carrier version of the F-35, the F-35C, as well as a short take-off vertical landing (STOVL) version, the F-35B. No versions of the F-35 has yet been cleared for export to India by the United States. Also, Washington may very well forbid any sale of that aircraft to India once New Delhi takes delivery of the advanced S-400 air defense missile systems it ordered from Russia.

At this early stage, it’s difficult to predict what India will ultimately decide to do.

“To start, there is a bit of confusion about the Navy’s fighter plans,” said Angad Singh, Project Coordinator with the Observer Research Foundation’s (ORF) Strategic Studies Program, where his research focuses on on air power and defense.

“I don’t think any acquisition program is driven by the recent crashes, but the Navy certainly is not happy with the reliability of the MiG-29K in service.”

In December 2016, India announced a program to acquire imported fighters and released a request for information (RFI) shortly afterward.

“This was explained as a replacement for the domestic LCA [Light Combat Aircraft]-Navy, which was under development at the time, and was not measuring up to the service’s expectations,” he said. “However, the RFI mentioned 57 aircraft as the likely quantity to be procured, and that suggested a wholesale replacement of even the existing carrier fighters, the MiG-29Ks.”

Since then there has been little movement from the Indian side, with a crucial step in the procurement process, the ‘Acceptance of Necessity,’ not been granted by the Ministry of Defense’s Defense Acquisition Council as of writing. Approval of the Acceptance of Necessity “essentially confirms that a procurement step is justified, and lays out what the Ministry expects to spend on it.”

Boeing BA has pitched its F/A-18 as an option for India and recently showcased that jet’s capability to launch from a land-based ski-jump. However, Singh points out that that particular ski-jump was “not representative of Indian carrier decks.” The Indian Navy’s two operational carriers today, the Vikramaditya and the Vikrant, both have ski-jumps, which lessen the types of navy fighters that can operate from them.

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