The Russian Defense Ministry confirmed on September 13 that the Russian Aerospace Forces have deployed some MiG-29SMT Fulcrum multirole combat aircraft to Hmeymim airbase near Latakia in western Syria. The air base also operates the powerful Su-30 and Su-35 jets. This is the first combat test for the SMT version of the iconic MiG-29 fighters. In May, Russian Defense Minister said 86% of Aerospace Forces crews had seen combat in Syria. There will be more with the Mig-29SMT’s arrival to take part in Operation Retribution.
The first MiG-29SMT fighter was delivered in January 2016. This is a fundamental upgrading of the original MiG-29 aircraft which is the multi-role fighter of "4+" generation with avionics open architecture and continuously enhanced nomenclature of high precision weapons. The plane features a big 950-litre spine CFT (Conformal Fuel Tank) and an in-flight refueling system on the left hand side of the cockpit: it is equipped with a “glass cockpit” with two MFI-10-6M displays and IKSh-1M HUD (Head-Up Display). With a maximum range of 1,800 km (3,000 with three drop tanks), the plane can carry guided air-to-surface weapons. It incorporates enhanced cockpit and avionics, additional fuel tanks, upgraded engine, and increased payload.
The jet boasts the following specifications: crew: 1, length: 17.32m, wing span: 11.36mm, height: 4.73m. Normal takeoff weight: 17,000kg, maximum takeoff weight: 22,000kg respectively. Ferry range: 1,800km without any external tanks, the range with one drop tank: up to 2,400km, with three drop tanks: up to 3,000km. A maximum range with three drop tanks and one single in-flight refuelling: 5,000km. Service ceiling: 17,500m, maximum speed: Mach 2.25. Payload: 4,500 kg on six underwing and one ventral hardpoints.
The airborne avionics of the MiG-29SMT aircraft is designed following the principle of open architecture on the basis of a mission computer with the data exchange multiplex channel (bus of MIL STD 1553B standard). It allows to install aboard the aircraft the new systems of Russian or foreign origin at the customer’s request.
The fighter features an integrated fire control system comprising the aircraft radar, an Infrared Search and Track (IRST) device, and a helmet-mounted sight. The plane is able to outperform any other aircraft in a dogfight, employing the combination of R-73 missile, helmet-mounted sight and IRST. The cockpit has an enhanced HOTAS design, two 152 × 203 mm (6 × 8-inch) color liquid crystal MFDs and two smaller monochrome LCDs. The MiG-29A was not designed for an advanced air-to-ground capability substantially improved by the SMT upgrade. INS-GPS navigation system is included into the navigation equipment.
The MiG-29SMT is equipped with high-precision air-to-air and air-to-surface weapons to deliver high combat efficiency against aerial, ground, and sea-based targets. It can carry two R-27T medium-range IR-guided air-to-air missiles or two extended-range R-27ER/ET AAMs, or up to six RVV-AE AAMs. Air-to-ground weapons include two Kh-29T/E, and four Kh-25ML air-to-surface missiles, or two Kh-31A anti-ship missiles, and two Kh-31P anti-radar missiles or up to four KAB-500 guided bombs. The armament suite includes a 30mm Gsh-301 built-in air gun.
The aircraft has two fixed, rearward-swept wings with square-cut wing tips. Two vertical stabilizers are fitted at the rear. A retractable landing gear allows the aircraft to perform safe takeoff and landing. The nose landing gear consists of a single two-wheel bogie, and the two main landing gears featuring a single wheel each.
The Mig-29SMT is installed with a multifunctional, multi-mode, lightweight pulse Doppler airborne radar Zhuk-ME – an advanced variant of the original N010 Zhuk radar introducing advanced air-to-surface functions like mapping and terrain following. The radar forms part of the MiG-29SMT upgrade. It features improved signal processing and has a detection range of up to 120 km vs a 5 m2 RCS target for the export variant, and up to 10 targets tracked and up to 4 attacked at once in air-to-air mode. The tracking range is 0.83 – 0.85 of the detection range.
In air-to-surface mode the radar can detect a tank from up to 25 km away and a bridge from 120 km away, a naval destroyer could be detected up to 300 km away and up to two surface targets can be tracked at once. The radar has a weight of 220 kg and a scanning area of +/- 85 degrees in azimuth and +56/-40 degrees in elevation. The antenna is an electronically scanned slotted planar array and has a diameter of 624 mm. It is capable of tracking up to ten air targets, while engaging four targets simultaneously in air-to-air mode.
The MiG-29SMT is powered by two RD-33 series-3 engines, which generate a take-off thrust of 8,300kgf each. The power plant ensures a maximum air speed of 1,500km/h near the ground and 2,400km/h at high altitudes.
The optional equipment includes an electronic countermeasures pod, radio stations, upgraded infrared search and track system as well as a variety of identification, friend or foe transponders.
The Aerospace Forces plan to upgrade 150 MiG-29 fighters to SMT standards, making them the best-in-class jet fighters of the 4+ generation. With peace to be restored soon, the Syrian Air Force will be supplied with a batch of MIG-29SMTs. The upgraded aircraft will be in service well into the 21st century till the Su-57 (PAK FA) complex tactical combat aircraft replaces it in due time.