Why The Russian MiG-29 Still Has A Place In Military Air Arms

The Cold War produced a plethora of incredible military aircraft. The West and the Soviet Union were fully locked in an almost permanent arms race to determine who had the best equipment, and who could outdo the other. And this led to some amazing machines, such as the British Avro Vulcan, the American F-104 and the Russian MiG-25. What is perhaps even more remarkable right now is that some of these aircraft are still in use today, particularly when it comes to former Soviet aircraft.

Russian aircraft have been through various upgrades over the years, and one of those is the Mikoyan MiG-29. The MiG-29 made its first flight in October 1977 and entered service with the Soviet Union in July 1982. It is still very much flying today, with Russia and a few other air arms, and is also in use in the current war between Russian and Ukraine. It has spawned new variants within its family such as the MiG-35 and is still a highly capable aircraft that has a place in the air arms of several countries. And it doesn’t look like it’ll retire anytime soon.

Background And Development Of The MiG-29

The MiG-29 has pretty clear origins. During the 1960s, the United States Air Force needed a new fighter dedicated purely to air superiority. This was to counter the threat of more advanced MiG aircraft such as the MiG-17, which had exposed the vulnerability of the America’s F-105 Thunderchief fighter bomber in Vietnam. Plus, during the war, the F-4 Phantom had doubled up as a multirole fighter, but the Air Force needed something dedicated purely to the fighter role to back up the Phantom. This led to the creation of the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle.

Russia now had to respond in kind. The F-15 was far superior to the likes of the MiG-17 and MiG-21, plus the newer MiG-23. Due to this, the Mikoyan company was then tasked with creating a lightweight fighter to take over from the MiG-23, while Sukhoi would create the Su-27 which would be responsible for dangerous air-to-air sweeps of NATO assets, and was in response to another American fighter, the F-16 Fighting Falcon. The MiG-29 meanwhile earned the name “Fulcrum-A” by NATO, and it would take to the skies for the first time on October 6th 1977.

The MiG-29 In Active Service

The MiG-29 would officially enter service in July 1982 after an extensive test and development program. It was similar aerodynamically to the Su-27 but with a few differences, such as its 40-degree mid-mounted swept wing and the blended leading-edge root extensions. The MiG-29 has no fly-by-wire system, unlike the Su-27, but one thing it does share with the Sukhoi fighter is it is incredibly agile. The turn performance of the MiG-29 is hugely impressive and is officially stress tested for maneuvers of up to 9 g. And later variants of the aircraft could pull off the incredible Cobra maneuver.

Powered by two Klimov RD-33 afterburning turbofan jets, the MiG-29 has served various countries with distinction over the years. East Germany bought 24 MiG-29s in the late 1980s, and in 2003 with 23 left, 22 of them were then sold to the Polish Air Force at one euro each. Poland still flies the MiG-29 to this day, as is the Russian Air Force. A later version of the MiG-29, the MiG-29SMT multirole variant, was also used by Russia in Syria during September 2017 and the aircraft is currently in action in the conflict between Ukraine, ironically by both sides.

Newer Developments Of The MiG-29

The MiG-29 has spawned a variety of variants of itself over the years, each one getting more and more sophisticated. A second generation of the aircraft took flight in 2005, the Mikoyan MiG-29M. This version is also still in service, as is the MiG-29OVT variant, predominately used as a display aircraft. The MiG-29 also gave way to the MiG-35, an aircraft developed from the MiG-29M/M2 and the MiG-29K/KUB. This variant first entered service in June 2019, and is likely to serve with the Russian Air Force for many years to come, although its development and introduction has thus far been a troubled affair.

Proving Its Worth Over And Over Again

It might not have engaged in a global conflict thus far, but the MiG-29 has shown how capable of an aircraft it is. Its speed and agility are some of its biggest traits, and it’s successfully spawned more up-to-date versions of the family that will keep it flying for some years to come. It’s remarkable to think that while it is still flying, it is still a relic of the Cold War, with plenty of examples of the MiG-29 still in museums. But the fact it can still fly and prove itself capable on the battlefield is a testament to its original design