MIG 29 Fulcrum (Photo: fas.org)
February 6, 2009, Moscow -- At least 200 MiG-29 Fulcrum fighters, or 70% of the total in service with the Russian Air Force, are too old to take to the skies, a Russian business daily said on Friday citing military experts.
Following a MiG-29 crash in East Siberia last December, the Defense Ministry admitted for the first time that Russia's MiG-29 fleet was mostly outdated and not capable of performing combat duties.
The crash was the second in East Siberia involving a MiG-29 fighter in less than two months. In mid-October, a MiG-29 fighter crashed 60 kilometers (37 miles) from the Domna airfield during a regular training flight. The pilot ejected safely.
Lt. Gen. Sergei Bainetov said on Wednesday that all aircraft of this type were thoroughly inspected after the crash and the probe revealed "traces of corrosion on the tail unit of some of the planes."
Only 30% of the MiG-29s were allowed to resume flights after a month-long suspension.
The Kommersant daily said in an article on Friday that experts believe the aircraft, which was developed in the 1970s and supplied to the Air Force between 1983 and 1993, has become obsolete and needs to be removed from active service.
In the past, the Russian Air Force rejected radical modernization of MiG-29s, choosing the upgrade of Su-27 Flanker and MiG-31 Foxhound interceptors.
The production of new MiG-29s at an assembly plant near Moscow was stopped a long time ago, and in the 1990s Russia built the aircraft mainly for exports from assembly kits inherited from the Soviet Union, Kommersant said.
Even though Russia's state arms exporter Rosoboronexport has promised the Defense Ministry that it will deliver in the near future 34 MiG-29SMTs, rejected by Algeria, to the Russian Air Force, these aircraft will not be able to replace 281 MiG-29 fighters currently in service.
Russia's first fifth-generation fighter will make its maiden flight by the end of this year, but it will take at least five years to finally put it in service with the Air Force. Meanwhile, Russia may not be able to operate about a third of its fighter fleet, the paper said.
Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, who is in charge of arms procurement, said on January 20 that Russia's fifth-generation fighter must be commissioned with the Air Force by 2015. (RIA Novosti)
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