Indian Air Force

In Depth Analysis- Mig-29 AKA ‘BAAZ’

The Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29, also called the “Fulcrum” is a fourth-generation jet fighter aircraft developed by the Soviet Union for air supremacy operations. It was developed by the MiG design league during the 1970s, to counter new U.S. fighters such as the Douglas F15 and the General Dynamics F16 Fighting Falcon. The MiG-29 entered service with the Soviets in 1983.

Development Of Fighter

The Vietnam War highlighted the importance of having superior air fighters and providing fighter pilots with better air-to-air training. In response, the US Light Weight Fighter program in the early 1970s developed a new generation of lightweight, high-performance fighter aircraft. Colonel John Boyd of the US Air Force recognized the need for smaller, lightweight aircraft with superior maneuverability and a high thrust-to-weight ratio. He collaborated with a group of innovators known as the Fighter Mafia to secure funding for General Dynamics and Northrop to explore design concepts based on this theory.

General Dynamics came up with its YF16 and Northrop with its YF17. In the end, General Dynamics’ proposal for the YF-16 was selected as the winner, and the aircraft went on to become one of the most successful and widely-used fighters in the world. The YF-16 was later developed into the F-16, which has been used by the US Air Force and numerous other countries for air-to-air combat, ground attack, and other missions. Northrop YF17 was later developed into F18 Hornet(Later super Hornet) and is still operational with the US Navy and many other countries Air forces.

Picture Credit to the respective Owners

With this development happening in the US, the Soviet Union faced an urgent need to build a superior jet fighter to match the new American F-16 Fighting Falcon. The MiG29 was created as a response to the newly developed American F16 fighter in the 1970s. As the F16 showcased superior performance over other contemporary aircraft, the Soviets set their site on creating a fighter plane that would, undoubtedly, outperform the F16. The MiG-29 was also designed to replace the older MiG-23 and Su-15 fighters in the Soviet Air Force.


The whole aircraft was designed around the central fuel tank and did not have a traditional fuselage. The central section of the aircraft generated around 40% of lift and leading edge extensions were added for efficiency at a high angle of attack. At first, the project was known as object nine-dash Twelve. MiG is designed to handle up to 12G’s. Mikhail Vandenberg who was one of the chief designers of the aircraft said “There is no way for the pilot to break the airframe of the aircraft, instead, the pilot will break first.” Unlike its rival F16, MiG 29 has two engines as the Soviets always emphasized on safety.

MiG29 boasted several advantageous features in terms of design. Most notable on the MiG-29 are the swept wing design and its unique air intake, which allowed for near-instantaneous acceleration and maneuverability. This, coupled with its advanced skin technology, ensures the aircraft can move at higher speeds without compromising its overall stability and structure.

Credit –Indian Air Force (Twitter)

One of the key features of the MiG-29 was its use of a fly-by-wire control system, which allowed the aircraft to be flown with much greater precision and accuracy than older aircraft. This system also allowed the pilot to make rapid adjustments to the aircraft’s flight path, which was particularly useful in air combat situations.

Another important feature of the MiG-29 was its powerful radar system. The aircraft was equipped with a Phazotron N019 radar, which was capable of detecting and tracking multiple targets at once. This radar system could also track ground targets, which gave the MiG-29 a secondary ground-attack capability.

These included a helmet-mounted sight, which allowed the pilot to track targets simply by looking at them

The first MiG-29 prototypes were extensively tested, and it was discovered that the MiG-29 had superior maneuverability to the F-16. This was a major factor in the USSR’s decision to continue the development of the fighter, as the Soviets had already realized the F-16’s superior acceleration and climb rates, and this maneuverability edge would potentially make up for it. The MiG-29 also featured a Vulcan cannon, which no other aircraft during that era possessed.

Intended Role

The aircraft was designed to be a highly maneuverable air superiority fighter, capable of engaging multiple targets at once.  The MiG-29 was designed for two primary tasks: air superiority and ground attack. To that end, it was designed to be a lightweight yet agile aircraft, allowing it greater maneuverability over longer-distance aircraft.

Its lightweight construction also allowed its pilots to fly farther and faster than other fighters of its time.

The intangible value of its exceptional maneuverability and superior thrust-to-weight ratio made it ideal for air-to-air combat, whilst its state-of-the-art avionics, weapons, and electronic warfare systems gave it a doctrinal advantage over other systems. Its weapons included the formidable R-27R and R-27T, and the Soviet R-77 active radar-guided missile, capable of ‘locking on and launching’ at opponents without the intervention of ground support, including a NATO fighter. The MiG-29 also featured what was termed a ‘look-down beater’ system, allowing weapons to be launched in a lower, steeper trajectory and achieve greater speed. The present MiG29s are multi-role aircraft with significant avionics and weapon upgrades.


  1. Radar: The MiG-29’s radar is the N019 Topaz, a pulse-Doppler radar with a range of up to 150 km. It operates in X-band and has a look-down/shoot-down capability, meaning it can detect and track targets flying low to the ground. The radar can also track multiple targets simultaneously and has a high resistance to jamming.
  2. Weapons control system: The MiG-29’s weapons control system includes a helmet-mounted sight (HMS) that allows the pilot to aim and fire missiles simply by looking at the target. The aircraft is also equipped with an infrared search and track (IRST) system that can detect and track targets based on their heat signature.
  3. Cockpit displays and controls: The MiG-29’s cockpit features a head-up display (HUD), multi-function displays (MFDs), and a HOTAS (hands-on throttle and stick) system that allows the pilot to control the aircraft and weapons without taking their hands off the controls. The aircraft also has a digital fly-by-wire system that enhances maneuverability and reduces pilot workload.
  4. Electronic warfare suite: The electronic warfare suite of the MiG-29 is called the SAP-518 (also known as L-203BE). It includes a radar warning receiver (RWR) system, an electronic countermeasures (ECM) system, a chaff and flare dispenser, and an active jammer. The RWR can detect and identify enemy radar signals, while the ECM can jam or deceive enemy radar and communication systems. The chaff and flare dispenser is used to distract enemy radar and IR-guided missiles, while the active jammer is used to jam enemy radar and communication systems.


The MiG-29 is powered by two Klimov RD-33 after-burning turbofan engines. Each producing Dry thrust of approximately 50 kilonewtons (kN) and a Wet thrust (with afterburner) of approximately 84 kilonewtons (kN) and have a service life of approximately 4,000 hours. The engine has a thrust-to-weight ratio of about 0.98:1, which provides the aircraft with an excellent acceleration and climb rate.

Weapons Carried By The Aircraft

  1. Air-to-air missiles:
  • R-73 (AA-11 Archer) is a short-range infrared homing missile that can engage targets at ranges up to 30 km.
  • R-27 (AA-10 Alamo) is a medium-range semi-active radar-homing missile that can engage targets at ranges up to 80 km.
  • R-77 (AA-12 Adder) is a beyond-visual-range active radar-homing missile that can engage targets at ranges up to 100 km.
  1. Air-to-ground missiles:
  • Kh-29 (AS-14 Kedge) is an air-to-surface missile with a range of up to 30 km. It can be guided by laser, or infrared homing and is capable of penetrating up to 1.5 m of reinforced concrete.
  • Kh-25 (AS-10 Karen) is an air-to-surface missile with a range of up to 10 km. It can be guided by a laser and is used for precision strikes against small and stationary targets.
  • Kh-31 (AS-17 Krypton) is an anti-ship missile with a range of up to 110 km. It has a high speed and low altitude flight profile to evade enemy defenses and can carry a 110 kg high-explosive warhead.
  • Kh-59 (AS-18 Kazoo) is a guided air-to-surface missile with a range of up to 115 km. It can be used against various types of ground targets, including hardened and heavily defended ones.
Credit -Indian Air Force (Twitter)
  1. Unguided bombs:
  • FAB-250 is a high-explosive bomb with a weight of 250 kg. It can be used against a wide range of ground targets and has a blast radius of up to 100 m.
  • RBK-250 is a cluster bomb that dispenses bomblets over a large area. It can be used to attack enemy armor, personnel, and other soft targets.
  • OFAB-250 is a fragmentation bomb that releases metal fragments upon explosion. It can be used against personnel, light vehicles, and other soft targets.
  1. Gun:
  • GSh-30-1 is a 30mm cannon with a rate of fire of 1,500 rounds per minute. It can be used for air-to-air and air-to-ground attacks and is effective against both soft and hard targets.

Operational History

With its induction in 1983 into Soviet Airforce, it saw little or less action in Afghanistan. The major conflict in which MiG29 was in action was the gulf war in 1991 when the US-led allied forces declared war against Iraq. On January 17th, during the Gulf War, three F-15 jets belonging to the 33rd Fighter Wing of the US Air Force successfully engaged and destroyed three Iraqi MiG-29 aircraft. The following day, on January 18th, the same unit of the US Air Force shot down two more Iraqi MiG-29s. Additionally, during the war, an Iraqi pilot named Jamil Sayhud carried out a solo attack on a group of Tornado aircraft while flying a MiG-29.

During the Gulf War in January 1991, private researchers citing Iraqi data reported that three MiG-29 aircraft attacked a B-52G, an F-111F, and an Italian Tornado IDS with R-27R and R-60MK missiles, but were unsuccessful. On the other hand, according to the Iraqi Air Force, the MiG-29 pilots claimed to have scored one aerial victory on January 18, shooting down a British Tornado from the 29th squadron with an R-60MK missile.

After Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, a Ukrainian Air Force MiG-29MU1, bort number 02 Blue, was shot down by an antiaircraft missile fired by pro-Russian rebels near the town of Yenakiieve, and in another incident, another Ukrainian Air Force MiG-29, bort number 53 White, tasked with air to ground duties against separatists’ positions was shot down by pro-Russian rebels in the Luhansk region. In the recent war between Russia and Ukraine MiG29s both seen action in war but the exact number of aircraft lost is not clear, since there are claims and counterclaims by both sides. There have been many videos were circulating online where Ukrainian MiG29s have seen firing American AGM 88 HARM Missile(Anti Radiation Missile).

MiG 29’s In IAF

The Indian Air Force (IAF) acquired the MiG-29 aircraft in the 1980s. The decision to purchase the MiG-29 was primarily driven by the need to counter the capabilities of Pakistan’s Air Force and to enhance the IAF’s air defense capabilities. During this time US sold its F16 aircraft to Pakistan for aid to America in the war in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union. The conflict in Afghanistan was considered a proxy war between the United States and the Soviet Union. The US viewed Pakistan as a key ally in supporting the Afghan mujahideen fighters, who were resisting the Soviet occupation. Supplying F-16s to Pakistan was part of the US strategy to assist the mujahideen in their fight against the Soviets jets which were bombing the mujahideen training camps located in Pakistan.

In response to these acquisitions by Pakistan, IAF went on to purchase Mirage 2000 and MiG29 to balance out the capability difference between PAF and IAF.

Also Read, Does IAF Really Need A Bomber? Pros & Cons

Operational History In IAF

The MiG-29 has had a significant operational history in the Indian Air Force (IAF)

  • Kargil Conflict (1999): During the Kargil conflict between India and Pakistan, the MiG-29 played a crucial role in air superiority operations. MiG29s escorted the Mirages carrying laser-guided bombs and MiG25 which were carrying out the reconnaissance missions.
  • Various Bilateral exercises: The IAF’s MiG-29s participated in many bilateral exercises like Cope India with the United States Air Force and exercise Garuda, a joint exercise conducted between the IAF and the French Air Force.
  • Well, there will be many occasions where aircraft will be used and of course, those things will be confidential and will not be disclosed for obvious reasons.

MiG29 UPG upgrade by IAF: The program was initiated by Indian Air Force to upgrade its MiG29s, the program cost was about 900 Million dollars, and the upgrade included

  • Radar: A new radar Zhuk-ME, a pulse Doppler multi-mode radar that has a maximum tracking range of 120km for a 5m2 RCS target was installed, by replacing the old N-019E”Rubin” Radar which had a maximum tracking range of 60-80 for 5m2 RCS target.
  • A new DASH helmet with a helmet-mounted sight.
  • Engine: A new Engine was added, Klimov RD-33(series3) which can produce 84KN of wet thrust.
  • An ELT-568 self-protection jammer was added to improve its defense against jamming attacks and D29 electronic warfare suite for better electronic warfare capability.
  • A humped Spine was added to enhance its range, with the addition of this hump the internal fuel storage of aircraft has been increased by 1 ton increasing its range from 1500 km to 2100km.
Credit -Redstar

With delays in the Tejas MK2 program the service life of these MiG29 might be increased to another 10 years that is MiG29 will be in service with IAF till 2035, if that’s the case then it might see another upgrade. So the possible upgrade might be done in India itself with a new Indian mission computer which paves for the addition of indigenous weapons to the aircraft. The new upgrade might have

Weapons: With Indian mission computer aircraft can be equipped with Astra Series missiles and Rudram anti-radiation missiles.
Radar: Uttam AESA radar can be added that is being developed for Tejas Mk2.
• Various other upgrades like software-defined radios, missile approach warning receivers, laser warning receivers, etc.

The MiG29 is a very potent fighter that can take on its rivals and can dominate the fight if it is upgraded with modern avionics and weapons. IAF has plans to operate its Mig29s till 2035s, which eventually will be replaced the Tejas MK2, but till then it must be upgraded with indigenous avionics and weapons to keep it relevant in modern combat scenarios.

Also Read, In Depth Analysis: Tejas MK2 or MWF (Part-2/2)


Bheemanagouda M Patil

Hi, I'm Bheemanagouda Patil, currently I'm pursuing Mechanical Engineering (3rd year) from Dayanand Sagar College Of Engineering. I write on topics related defence and geopolitics.

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