The MiG-29 is one of the IAF's premier Air Defense fighters. Whilst always appreciated for its raw performance, the MiG-29 was not acquired in bulk or series produced in India. Among the primary reasons were the inability of MiG-MAPO to properly support the IAF during its initial service and their continued reluctance to share design data later (design data since the IAF intended to use for optimizing its operation in Indian conditions). Plus there were the spares parts issues caused by the fall of the Soviet Union.

The IAF ultimately, both on its own and with HALs help, started making a lot of the spares locally, and also took over a lot of the maintenance actions. IAF BRDs and their MiG capabilities

These helped raise the serviceability of the aircraft, IAF's requirement of the MiG-29 fleet was to have each single seater aircraft fly at least 180 hrs/year, and 220-240 hours/year for the dual seaters. At the end of the day, the MiG-29 numbers remained at three squadrons, while the IAF transitioned en masse to the more capable Flanker series thereafter.

Today, the IAF fleet of MiG-29s is going through a customized upgrade, drawing on both the SMT upgrade package of MiG-MAPO plus unique India specific items such as a special DRDO developed Electronic Warfare suite. These will make the fighter a truly capable multi-role platform, and remove many of the earlier weaknesses of the aircraft - primarily centered around how its avionics/weapons systems were not user friendly.

Lets look at MiG-29 specific information for a holistic view of what the aircraft brings to the table.

1. IAF MiG-29 evaluation, versus the Mirage 2000-H.


Air Marshal rtd, Harish Masand, then Wing Commander and CO of First Supersonics (MiG-29 squadron) versus the No.1 Tigers squadron led by then Wing Commander Ahluwahlia (later Air Marshal).

Evaluation in 1988:

MiG-29 outperformed the Mirage 2000 in "every sphere", parameters mentioned: STR, ITR, climb (climb rate). Range to payload of Mirage 2000 better, but MiG-29 and Mirage consumed almost the same amount of fuel in combat situations as the latter had to use afterburner more often.

Group combat and role specific missions: "Radar, IRST, HMSD, voice information system put to good use".

2. The German experience

Source: quoting " Jane's At the Controls: MiG-29"

The cons: The cons of the MiG-29 mostly relate to its GCI dependent avionics, and short range. Its worth remarking that all these issues have been addressed in the SMT Upgrade.

"The employment of the MiG-29 suffers from severe inherent constraints. The most obvious limitation is the aircraft’s limited internal fuel capacity of 3500-kg (4400 kg with a centreline tank). We have no air-to-air refuelling capability, and our external tank is both speed and manoeuvre limited. We also have only a limited number of tanks.
"But if we start a mission with 4400-kg of fuel, start-up, taxy and take off takes 400-kg, we need to allow 1000-kg for diversion to an alternate airfield 50-nm away, and 500-kg for the engagement, including one minute in afterburner. That leaves 2500-kg. If we need 15 minutes on station at 420 kts that requires another 1000-kg, leaving 1500-kg for transit. At FL200 (20,000 ft) that gives us a radius of 150-nm, and at FL100 (10,000 ft) we have a radius of only 100-nm.
"Our navigation system is unreliable without TACAN updates and is not very accurate (I’d prefer to call it an estimation system). It relies on triangulation from three TACAN stations, and if you lose one, you effectively lose the system. We can only enter three fixed waypoints, which is inadequate. We also can’t display our ‘Bullseye’ (known navigation datum, selected randomly for security). For communications we have only one VHF/UHF radio.
"The radar is at least a generation behind the AN/APG-65, and is not line-repairable. If we have a radar problem, the aircraft goes back into the hangar. The radar has a poor display, giving poor situational awareness, and this is compounded by the cockpit ergonomics. The radar has reliability problems and lookdown/shootdown problems. There is poor discrimination between targets flying in formation, and we can’t lock onto the target in trail, only onto the lead. We have only the most limited autonomous operating capability.
"We don’t have the range to conduct HVAA attack missions - and we’re effectively limited from crossing the FLOT (Front Line of Own Troops). Our limited station time and lack of air-to-air refuelling capability effectively rules us out of meaningful air defence missions. Nor are we suited to the sweep escort role. We have a very limited range, especially at high speed and low altitudes, and are limited to 540-kt with external fuel. We have navigation problems, Bullseye control is very difficult and we have only one radio. So if I talk, I ‘trash’ the package’s radios!
"The only possible missions for NATO’s MiG-29s are as adversary threat aircraft for air combat training, for point defence, and as wing (not lead!) in Mixed Fighter Force Operations. But even then I would still consider the onboard systems too limited, especially the radar, the radar warning receiver, and the navigation system as well as the lack of fuel. These drive the problems we face in tactical scenarios. We suffer from poor presentation of the radar information (which leads to poor situational awareness and identification problems), short BVR weapons range, a bad navigation system and short on- station times."

The Pros: Lethal at WVR, even in the early versions.

"But when all that is said and done, the MiG-29 is a superb fighter for close-in combat, even compared with aircraft like the F-15, F-16 and F/A-18. This is due to the aircraft’s superb aerodynamics and helmet mounted sight. Inside ten nautical miles I’m hard to defeat, and with the IRST, helmet sight and ‘Archer’ I can’t be beaten. Period. Even against the latest Block 50 F-16s the MiG-29 is virtually invulnerable in the close-in scenario. On one occasion I remember the F-16s did score some kills eventually, but only after taking 18 ‘Archers’. We didn’t operate kill removal (forcing ‘killed’ aircraft to leave the fight) since they’d have got no training value, we killed them too quickly. (Just as we might seldom have got close-in if they used their AMRAAMs BVR!) They couldn’t believe it at the debrief, they got up and left the room!
"They might not like it, but with a 28deg/sec instantaneous turn rate (compared to the Block 50 F-16's 26deg) we can out-turn them. Our stable, manually controlled airplane can out-turn their FBW aircraft. But the real edge we have is the ‘Archer’ which can reliably lock on to targets 45deg off-boresight."

Regarding the German aircraft and upgrades: "

"I should stress that I’m talking about our Luftwaffe MiG-29s, which are early aircraft. They also removed the Laszlo data link and the SRO IFF before the aircraft were handed over to us, so in some respects we’re less capable than other contemporary MiG-29s. From what we hear the latest variants are almost a different aircraft. I’d like to see our aircraft get some of the updates being offered by MiG-MAPO. The more powerful engines, better radar, a new navigation system, a data link and an inflight refuelling probe. If we got the new ‘Alamo-C’ that would also be an improvement - even a two nautical mile boost in range is still ten more seconds to shoot someone else! We won’t get many of those improvements, though we are getting a new IFF manually selectable radio channels, and improvements to the navigation system, including the integration of GPS. Most of our aircraft will be able to carry two underwing fuel tanks, which will also help."

The IAF MiG-29 Upgrade in contrast will be far more powerful.

3. Bulgarian MiG-29s (without HMCS, R73E) with only AA-8 training rounds versus F-16 Block 50's with AIM-9X and JHMCS. As a point of interest, PAF has F-16 Block 50s with older generation Aim-9M and JHMCS.


Bulgarian AF's Captain Lubomir Slavov on exercises versus the 480th FS (USAF)

Tactics: "Trying to survive the first exchange of missiles and then engage in a high G turning dogfight. After completing 1-2 circles the F-16 loses too much energy and becomes an easy target because the MiG-29 generally retains a far higher energy state". For the non HMCS/R73E equipped MiG-29s, the Bulgarian pilot notes that the JHMCS combined with the AIM-9X stood out as the only weighty F-16 advantage. "You have to stay outside the F-16s kill zone, but when it comes to manoueverability, the MiG-29 is no match amongst fighters of its generation. I have some pretty good dogfighting experience against both experienced and non experienced Viper pilots and believe that the only difference between them is how quickly they allow my MiG-29 into a firing position".

4. IAF MiG-29s versus PAF F-16s in 1999

The MiG-29s retained the edge throughout and are credited with chasing away PAF F-16s several times. The MiG-29s had a capability the PAF F-16s did not - BVR weapons with the AA-10 Alamo. And in WVR, they had Helmet Mounted Sights to cue their AA-8 missiles.

"Chased away PAF MiG-29s". Quoted by Wing Commander PK Singh, Sq Ldr John, see:Youtube Link to IAF operations in Kargil

Another famous incident during Kargil was when an IAF MiG-27 strike mission reportedly strayed across the Line of Control or was within range of a patrolling pair of F-16s. The PAF F-16s quickly sought to take advantage and target the MiG-27s but fled when the escorting MiG-29s moved in. A single MiG-29 locked onto both F-16s with its radar, causing the F-16s to break off the intercept. The formation included young Flt Lt Gaurav Chibberwho was lost in a weather related, spatial disorientation caused crash in August 1999. He was decorated posthumously for his actions during the Kargil conflict. Gaurav Chibber decorated

5. In IAF exercises versus other Air Forces

The MiG-29s were able to hold their own in exercises, against both USAF F-16CJs and RSAF (Singaporean) F-16 Block 50's at KKD Air Force Base near Calcutta. The Su-30 MKIs, however, clearly outperforming the Block 50 F-16s.

"Russian-origin Sukhoi-30MKI jets are apparently outgunning American F-16s on "several aspects" at the ongoing Indo-Singapore air combat exercise in Gwalior.
This is the first-ever face-off between these two sophisticated war machines originating from the two former Cold War adversaries.
"Our Sukhois are doing very well against the F-16Cs (of Singapore Air Force) in terms of manoeuvrability, sophistication of avionics and weapon systems. Similarly, our MiG-29s and Mirage-2000s are also matching up to the F-16s," say IAF sources."
Source: Don't fret if Pak gets F-16s, October 22, 2004

The RSAF downplayed these "leaks" and denied them. However, the acquisition of AESA equipped latest generation F-15s by the RSAF (as versus more F-16s) speaks for itself in terms of the RSAF acquiring a "heavy-medium" mix as versus relying on F-16s alone. The RMAF (Malaysian AF) fields Su-30MKMs, which are derivatives of the IAF Su-30MKIs.

Net, that the MiG-29 and Mirage 2000s were able to face off against more modern variants of the F-16 is also quite creditable for both of these platforms and supports the IAF decision to keep both platforms around and upgrade them to latest available standards.

However, while the upgraded MiG-21 Bisons were able to perform well against the USAF during both Cope India exercises (against F-15Cs at Gwalior AFB, and against F-16Cs in KKD AFB), they were not as successful during the KKD exercises against the RSAF.

6. IAF MiG-29 Upgrade.

Its quite evident that the MiG-29 as such is a very lethal platform. With modern avionics, it can take on & defeat current generation aircraft, including the Block 50 F-16, when properly flown.

Its primary "deficits" were in terms of its older avionics and limited fuel capacity.

The IAF upgrade, which is to SMT level and beyond, addresses these issues.

Original IAF MiG-29s are believed to have received limited upgrades already, including local Tarang RWRs plus improvements to the radar to the N019ME standard.


- New databus 1553B standard to incorporate newer avionics

- New mission computers, navigation system (RLG-INS w/GPS + possible Glonass module - Sagem's Sigma95N), Stores Management System, new VRS (Video Recording System) plus DMG (Display Map Generator). VRS and DMG likely to be sourced from Israel or locally.

-Glass cockpit with new HUD, two MFDs, HOTAS

-Zhuk ME MultiFunction radar with A2A/A2G modes; new IFF; Zhuk variant for IAF is Zhuk M2E, with an improved signal processor over Indian Navy MiG-29Ks which received the Zhuk M1E (source:AWST Sharper Eyes for India's MiGs) The improved processor would allow for improved raid assessment, and NCTR (non cooperative target recognition).

Deputy Director (Phazatron) Yuri Goskov quoted:

Guskov said that Phazotron is already working on the next modification of its slot array radars, the Zhuk M2E. This version will have a faster processor, allowing it to classify targets by type (for instance, fighters, bombers and helicopters) and to break-out formation targets flying at 20-30 meters apart. The radar can also be programmed to identify aircraft by type – in the case of a new type, it can record its reflected signal and later use it for identification.
The Zhuk M2E should start flight testing this year. The modernized radar will equip 62 Indian Air Force MiG-29s that MiG is modifying to the MiG-29UPG configuration under contract to the IAF.

Zhuk ME specifications

Brochure - note these are "public details" for advertising purposes. Actual specifications may exceed some of the specifications shown.

-NIPP OLS-UE (as on latest MiG-35 and MiG-29K). Has a TV channel. Also has an advanced IR matrix for increased range. For the MiG-35, MiG notes "The IRST system with infra-red, TV and laser sighting equipment has been developed using the space technologies which were not applied previously in aviation. The system distinctive features are the increased range, detection, tracking, identification and lock-on of air, ground/surface targets in the forward and rear hemispheres, at day and night measuring the distance with laser range-finder as well as the formation of target designation and laser illumination of ground targets. The IRST system and new helmet-mounted target designation system are integrated into the armament control system." The IAF SMT upgrade does not have the fuselage mounted pod, so it cannot track ground targets (IAF will use the Litening instead) but rest applies, for the forward facing IRST.

-D-29 EW suite: Developed by DRDO with inhouse high accuracy DF RWR fit which cues AESA jammers. Latter codeveloped with Elettronica. DARE developed a high performance EW system with a scalable, modular architecture. The system can receive signals from multiple channels, process them in an Indian developed signal processing suite, and then devise appropriate jamming countermeasures to be initiated by jammers linked to the output channels. The LCA & MiG-27 Upgrade, both feature conventional Transmitter based jammers but the MiG-29 has an AESA fit developed with Elettronica. This system combines high grade coverage with high ERP (Emitted Radiated Power) for effective countermeasures.

-Improved chaff & flares system: Likely to be the locally developed system by Bharat Dynamics Ltd.

-V/UHF radio fit + IAF datalink. Radios likely to be Software Defined Radios developed by HAL



-R73E,R77, KH-35UE, KAB-500/1500, Kh-31 A/P family missiles, Kh-29 L/T (see table below for complete list from Russian side)

Other systems to be added will be the local Astra BVR AAM (Mk1 and Mk2), and the Sudarshan family LGBs


The IAF upgrade carries the typical SMT class humpback. Range is now increased by around 50% over original MiG-29, increasing endurance at typical operating radius. IAF MiG-29s can also carry both wing plus fuselage fuel tanks, 1500 L each. The new fit also includes IFR.

New Engines

Under a separate deal, HAL will supply new RD-33s manufactured under license from Klimov. These are RD33 Series 3 engines.

"Russia will deliver 26 engines for upgrading the MiG-29 combat jets of the Indian Air Force (IAF), with another 120 to be assembled in India, following an agreement with the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) at the ongoing MAKS 2009 air show near Moscow, officials said Friday."

Russia to deliver MiG-29 engines to India

Stealth Enhancements

RAM for both external and internal systems (e.g. likely RAM for radar backend behind antenna array), and cockpit glass improvements (radar reflective coating) likely

  • Indian Navy MiG-29K's feature both cockpit glass improvements, shaping improvements (serrated edges near radome), and internal RAM (see Russian Stealth you can touch

Summary of Features (OEM)

MiG notes:

The MiG-29SMT main features:
– Modern high precision weapons of "A-S" class are included into the weapons nomenclature. It is provided for the weapons nomenclature enhancement during aircraft life cycle.
– The aircraft is equipped with multifunctional multi-mode pulse-Doppler airborne "Zhuk-ME" radar manufactured by "Fazotron-NIIP" Corporation. The radar is provided with a slot antenna array. As compared with the airborne radar of the previous generation the "Zhuk-ME" has enhanced scanning angles in azimuth, twice increased detection range, less weight and higher reliability. The "Zhuk-ME" radar provides for tracking up to 10 air targets with capability of simultaneous firing of 4 targets with missiles.
– 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 cockpit data display system includes two new wide-screen MFD-10-6 multifunction color displays and realizes the HOTAS conception.
– INS-GPS navigation system is included into the navigation equipment.
– The aircraft is equipped with in-flight refuelling system.

Aircraft can be equipped with ECM system installed in pod. At the customer’s request the MiG-29SMT aircraft can be equipped with the upgraded IRSTS system as well as with radio-stations, navigation equipment and IFF transponders of different types.

According to avionics architecture and weapons nomenclature the MiG-29SMT aircraft is unified with a new generation of the RAC "MiG" fighters family.

The double-seat version of the MiG-29SMT aircraft is called the upgraded MiG-29UB. It has the same avionics structure and identical cockpit data display system composition but it has no radar. The upgraded MiG-29UB aircraft has the same weapons as the MiG-20SMT except for weapons with radar homing heads (for training purposes the simulation mode is provided).

For both the MiG-29SMT and upgraded MiG-29UB aircraft the complete set of training means has been developed.

While upgrading the previously supplied aircraft to the MiG-29SMT version the following optional works can be fulfilled:
– aircraft structure reinforcement for the extension of flight hours and service life (depending on the aircraft technical condition);
– increase of internal fuel tanks capacity;
– installation of in-flight refueling systems of different types;
– improvement and/or replacement of some airborne systems;
– repair and transfer to on-condition maintenance


MiG-29SMT MiG-29UB upgraded
Length, m 17,32 17,42
Wing span, m 11,36 11,36
Height, m 4,73 4,73
Take-off weight, kg:
- normal 17 000 16 000
- maximum 22 000 21 000
Maximum airspeed, km/h:
- near ground 1500 1500
- at high altitude 2400 2230
Maximum M-number 2,25 2,1
Service ceiling, m 17 500 17 500
Maximum G-load 9 9
Ferry range, km:
- without drop tanks 1800 1400
- with 1 drop tank 2400 2000
- with 3 drop tanks 3000 2600
- with 3 drop tanks and one in-flight refueling more than 5000 -
Engines RD-33 ser.3 RD-33 ser.2 (3)
Take-off thrust, kgf 2х8300 2х8300
Number of external stations 6 6
"A-A" missiles:
- middle range 2хR-27ER1(R1)
- short range 6хR-73E 6хR-73E
"A-S" missiles:
- general 2хKh-29TE
- anti-ship 2хKh-31A -
- anti-radar 2хKh-31P 2хKh-31P
Guided bombs 4хKAB-500Kr (OD)
4хKAB-500Kr (OD)
Built-in air gun, 30 mm GSh-301 GSh-301

* at application of target designation pod or target external illumination


Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.