As startling as the absence of current airliners from the Boeing stable was the gaping void created by the lack of any of Russia’s fearsome fighters in the flying display. Many observers felt that the show was the poorer for the lack of the thrust-vectoring wonders of Mikoyan and Sukhoi.
The ninth Langkawi International Maritime & Aerospace (LIMA) show, held in December, gave the Malaysian air force the opportunity to showcase its newly received Sukhoi Su-30MKM fighters. Three of the six Su-30s delivered to date were on display at the show and one, flown by a Malaysian crew, participated in the daily flying routine.
Russia’s defense industry seems determined to make up for ground it has lost to Western rivals in the market for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The most tangible evidence to date came in August at the MAKS airshow in Moscow where RSK-MiG launched its stealth Skat unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV).
The order book of Russian Aircraft Corp. (RSK) MiG will exceed $4 billion by year-end, according to Sergey Tsivilev, the company’s acting director general and designer general. Tsivilev was appointed acting head of RSK-MiG at the end of September after Aleksey Fedorov stepped down from the position to focus on his larger role as president of the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC).
The MiG-29M flying here with its Klimov RD-33 OVT thrust vectoring engines is a testbed for the technology, which is available as an option on the company’s flagship MiG-35 fighter.
During a press conference here at the Paris Air show on Tuesday, MiG announced it has been selected by the Slovak Air Force to upgrade its MiG-29s. The Russian-made fighters will be upgraded to NATO standards and ICAO requirements.
Two months from now on August 16 to 21, Russia will stage its seventh Moscow Aviation and Space Exposition (MAKS, to use its Russian acronym). Held on the grounds of the historic (and once top-secret) Gromov Flight Research Institute (LII) in the suburb of Zhukovsky, the exposition has become the showcase event for aerospace enterprises in Russia and other countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States.
“Stealth does not make you invisible,” said the Russian designer sitting across the table at an out-of-the way institute in Moscow. “It makes an aircraft more survivable–but the concept that it is the only path to increasing the survivability of a military aircraft is wrong. We have taken a different approach from the U.S.”
One set of options for MiG-29 operators involves the cockpit modernization packages offered by Israel’s Elbit Systems. The modular approach allows for the integration of new sensors, systems and weapons, along with an improved man-machine interface.
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.