Nicholas de Larrinaga, London - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly
16 April 2014
Russia has ordered 16 more MiG-29SMT 'Fulcrum' fighter aircraft. Source: RAC MiG
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Russia has signed a contract with the Russian Aircraft Corporation MiG (RAC MiG) for 16 more MiG-29SMT 'Fulcrum' multirole fighter aircraft, RAC MiG announced on 15 April.
Valued at RUB17 billion (USD473 million), including ground support and test equipment, the order will see the RAC MiG deliver the aircraft to the Russian Air Force by 2016.
An order of 16 MiG-29SMT fighters was first suggested by Russian Deputy Defence Minister Yuri Borisov in August 2013 to make up for the lack of an immediate order of RAC MiG's newer MiG-35S 'Fulcrum-F' fighter aircraft. The new MiG-29SMTs will allow the Russian Air Force to maintain its operational inventory of light fighter aircraft, according to a statement from the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), RAC MiG's parent company.
In a statement, Borisov said: "This order will allow the company to look to the future and will be a good starting point for the production of new aircraft, such as the MiG-35S."
According to the UAC, an order for the MiG-35S from the Russian Air Force is now scheduled to occur in 2016. The company expects that around 100 MiG-35S fighters will be procured "just in the short term".
Although the MiG-29SMT is already in service with the Russian Air Force, this is Russia's first order for the aircraft. The Russian Air Force received 28 MiG-29SMTs between 2009 and 2010, although these were aircraft originally ordered for Algeria - which subsequently rejected the aircraft.
According to Sergei Korotkov, general director of RAC MiG, the MiG-29SMT is "well proven in operations and has a significantly expanded range of weapons to attack both air and ground targets", compared with early 'Fulcrum' variants.
The most visible external difference between the MiG-29SMT and other 'Fulcrum' aircraft is the extended fuel-tank in the spine of the aircraft, which doubles the mission radius of the MiG-29SMT variant when operating in an air superiority role to 836 n miles (1,550 km; 963 miles). Internally the MiG-29SMT features a significantly improved systems fit, including an upgraded radar, uprated engines, new avionics, a digital cockpit, improved navigation system, and an expanded weapons fit. The airframe of the MiG-29SMT is, however, the original 9.12/9.13 'Flanker' airframe, rather than the newer, lighter, 9.15 aluminium-lithium alloy airframe of the MiG-29M. As such, the MiG-29SMT has been offered as an upgrade package for old airframe MiG-29 aircraft; although the 16 aircraft ordered on 15 April are understood by IHS Jane's to be new build.