It was on this day in 1977 the impressive Mikoyan MiG-29 made its first flight.
The MiG-29 prototype on display at the Central Air Force Museum Already in 1969 Soviets General Staff stipulated the requirement for an advanced frontline fighter, Perspektivnyy Frontovoy Istrebitel (PFI, roughly "Advanced Frontline Fighter"). In 1971 studies showed the Soviet authorities they needed an upgrade in their freighter fleet and the Advanced Lightweight Tactical Fighter (Perspektivnyy Lyogkiy Frontovoy Istrebitel (LPFI) program was initiated.
The Frontline Fighter program was assigned to Sukhoi with their Su-27. The Lightweight Fighter program was awarded to the Mikoyan design bureau with their 'Product 9', with the designation MiG-29A. Work started in 1974 which led to the first flight on this day in aviation history in 1977. US spy satellites spotted the MiG-29A and the US military became aware of the program late in 1977. During the test phase of the program, several improvements were made to the design. The most obvious being the location of the nose landing gear, On the prototype, it was much more forward than on the production aircraft. It was moved backwards to stop water/mud/FOD from being thrown in the engine inlet. The MiG-29 features a mid-mounted wing with a 40-degree sweep, fitted with automatic slats (in four segments on earlier models and 5 segments on later variants). All the flight controls are hydraulically operated and controlled by cables (while the Su-27 uses a fly bu wire system). The autopilot is a three-axis SAU-451 autopilot. The although not a fly by wire aircraft the MiG-29 has excellent handling qualities, and it performs the aerodynamic braking manoeuvre, the Pugachev's Cobra (or the Cobra) with ease. Click here for a video of this manoeuvre.
The Pugachev's Cobra in a diagram
As for powerplants, two Klimov RD-33 turbofan engines are installed. They are not installed side by side but with fuselage space between them. This area actually provides lift, resulting in a lower wing loading. To regulate the airflow into the engines the intakes have adjustable ramps to allow high Mach speeds. Protection against FOD is provided by secondary intakes on top of the wing to body fairing that open when the inlet ramp is closed on the ground.
A German Air Force MiG-29GT, (note the primary engine air inlet closed and the secondary engine air inlet opened)
The Klimov RD-33 turbofan engines provide a dry thrust of 11.200 lbs and 18.300 lbs in full afterburner. The fuel capacity varies with the (external) fuel tank configuration. The internal capacity is 1153 US gal (4365 litres), A centerline drop tank with a 400 US gal (1500 litres) and underwing drop tanks of 300 US gal (1150 litres). Later models of the MiG-29 are fitted with a refuelling probe on the port side of the fuselage for in-flight refuelling, allowing for extended flights.
Over the years 22 variants have been developed they can be categorised into three basic groups;
The original Soviet variants MiG-29A & MiG-29B
Upgraded variants based on the original airframe MiG-29S (and its sub-variants), MiG-29G to name two
Second-generation with a modified airframe MiG29M, MiG-29M2, MiG-29K and the MiG-35
Some specifications for the MiG-29:
Length: 17.32 m (56 ft 10 in)
Wingspan: 11.36 m (37 ft 3 in)
Height: 4.73 m (15 ft 6 in)
Wing area: 38 m2 (410 sq ft)
Empty weight: 11,000 kg (24,251 lb)
Gross weight: 14,900 kg (32,849 lb)
Max takeoff weight: 18,000 kg (39,683 lb)
Fuel capacity: 3,500 kg (7,716 lb) internal
Powerplant: 2 × Klimov RD-33 afterburning turbofan engines, 49.42 kN (11,110 lbf) thrust each dry, 81.58 kN (18,340 lbf) with afterburner
Maximum speed: 2,400 km/h (1,500 mph, 1,300 kn) at high altitude
Maximum speed: Mach 2.25
Range: 1,430 km (890 mi, 770 nmi) with maximum internal fuel
Ferry range: 2,100 km (1,300 mi, 1,100 nmi) with 1x drop tank
Service ceiling: 18,000 m (59,000 ft)
g limits: +9
Rate of climb: 330 m/s (65,000 ft/min)
Wing loading: 403 kg/m2 (83 lb/sq ft)