The Mikoyan MiG-29 carries a reputation as one of the most capable fighter aircraft ever designed, but to keep the revered Russian warplane on the cutting edge, new technology needs to be applied to the marque. Russian and foreign firms have made numerous proposals over the past 12 years, but none of them have ever reached a stage that even approaches Lockheed-Martin F-16’s midlife upgrade program.
There are those in Russia who ask if the state’s plan to create a Unified Aircraft Corporation is a 21st century repeat of Stalin’s failed collectivization experiment of the late 1920s.
As competition to meet demands for advanced jet trainers in the region intensifies, Irkut is promoting the Yak-130 now entering production to meet a Russian Air Force requirement. Selected in 2002 as the principal aircraft for basic and advanced training, the Yak-130 has only recently begun rolling off the Irkut production line against an initial order for 12.
The next generation of the Russian MiG-29 fighter will now be marketed and sold under the new designator of MiG-35, as it is a distinctly new-technology, four-plus generation aircraft. This version of the multi-role fighter is a modern-day evolution of the MiG-29M-9.15 design concept aircraft that was first introduced in the early 1990s.
Both China’s J-10 fighter and the Indian air force Bakhadur MiG-27ML fighter bomber are set to be re-engined with two new variations of the Russian Salyut AL-31FN engines–the AL-31FN M1 and the 99-3, respectively.
“Russians play chess and Americans play poker,” was the oft-repeated phrase used during the Cold War to describe how the two sides approached the development of their military establishments. Russian designers tended to look very long-term, building significant growth capacity into their platforms and anticipating that requirements would alter significantly over the 40 years that has become the average life span for a modern jet fighter.
EADS has teamed with Russia’s NPK Irkut and RSK MiG in a joint venture to convert Airbus A320 airliners into freighters. The new business–owned 50/50 between the European group and the Russian firms– is expected to generate $200 million in sales annually, based on around 20 A320F conversions. If successful, the partners will later undertake conversions of the larger A330 family.
Five months ago, on February 20, the long-awaited creation of Russia’s new Unified Aircraft Co. (OAK, in its Russian acronym) became official when President Vladimir Putin signed a decree ordering the immediate amalgamation of all Russian aircraft building enterprises into one large group.
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