Tag Archives: Mikoyan MiG-29

Stunning Photographs of the Polish Mig-29s and Italian Typhoons of NATO’s Baltic Air Policing

Amazing shots of the NATO interceptors over Lithuania

The photos in this post were taken over Lithuania, at the beginning of February, thanks to a cooperation between the Lithuanian Air Force, Polish Air Force and the Italian Aeronautica Militare.

Typhoon front view

Taken by photographers gathered around the Foto Poork portal, the images are really unique as they show the jets carrying live missiles (including the Italian Typhoons at their first NATO Baltic Air Policing rotation) right before the sunset, a mixture which has yielded spectacular results. Notably, one of the shots features the Polish Fulcrum flown by a very well-known Polish MiG-29 pilot Grzegorz “Iceman” Czubski, with the afterburners lit, which is simply stunning.

Mig-29 afterburners

In a conversation with The Aviationist, Filip Modrzejewski who is the editor-in-chief of the foto.poork website, said that the organization of an air-to-air photo-shoot is quite challenging. First of all, the track needs to be placed at a proper altitude, and it needs to be planned in detail, which would make it possible to achieve high level of safety. Second, the weather conditions need also to be taken into account – since photography is very much weather-dependent.

Typhoon formation

Pre-flight briefing is equally important – during such shoots there is no place for spontaneous maneuvers – both the photoship (Lithuanian C-27J Spartan in this case) and the fighters need to know exactly what flight-path will be used. Formation flying skills are equally important.

AP8R1094

Safety of the pilots is one thing – safety of the photographers should also be taken into equation. Each of the photographers uses a special safety harness, in order not to fall out of the photoship during the shoot. When it comes to the photo-taking process itself – it may be challenging due to the fact that people on board may be subjected to g-forces.

Mig-29 sunset turn

Camera batteries are also an issue here, due to the low temperatures. It is not recommended for the photographers to switch the lenses or memory cards during the flight, for safety reasons.

Mig-29 sunset

Here’s a backstage photo, depicting the tough work conditions on board of the Spartan.

Backstage

Fortunately, the mission was flawless and the results, amazing!

Image credit: Foto Poork

 

Are the Polish F-16s combat-worthy?

So far, the Polish Air Force has not sent its F-16 on a single combat deployment beyond the Polish borders. Some of the journalists have asked the question – why?

Back in September 2013, as rumors that the backbone of the Polish fighter force was to be deployed to Syria, we explained that one of the main flaws of the “Jastrząb” (Polish name for the F-16) was that the aircraft lacked AIDEWS (Advanced Integrated Defensive Electronic Warfare Suite ) capabilities.

On Sep. 1. 2014, in an interview to madmagazine.pl defense outlet, General Gocul, the chief of the Polish Armed Forces General Staff, claimed that keeping the Vipers at home is justified both technically, as well as economically.

First of his arguments referred to the known FOD (Foreign Object Damage) sensitivity of the F-16. Gocuł claimed that the fighter’s engine is particularly prone to damage, and that Poles would be forced to expand the BAP (Baltic Air Policing) operation with runway cleaning equipment which may be expensive should the Polish Air Force deploy the F-16s to Lithuania to provide air policing of the Baltic States. In case of the MiG-29 Fulcrums (regularly taking part to BAP rotations), the air intakes are designed so as to prevent the threat of FOD – this is a fact, as the intakes feature a special flap system, which is closed when the aircraft is taxiing. However, it has been shown that this obstacle can be easily removed as Siauliai airbase has been a home for NATO F-16 jets before (for example the Portuguese F-16s).

Polish F-16 NTM 2011

The second argument provided by General Gocuł dealt with the operative costs associated with the F-16:  the MiG-29 is cheaper to operate than the Fighting Falcons hence, deploying the Fulcrums is a way for not burdening the taxpayers. Apparently, cost of one flight hour of the MiG-29, according to various sources (exact data is unknown), is shaped at around 5,500 USD. In case of the F-16 the amount is as much as 7,700 USD.

But again, Gen Gocuł stated in an interview for the January issue of the Polish “Lotnictwo” magazine, that the Polish MiG-29s clocked 300 flying hours during May-August 2014, which is approximately 75 hours per aircraft. This provides a rough estimate of how much the Poles spent on its MiG-29s operational activities. This figure stands at around 1.7 million USD per fleet compared to 2.3 million USD it would cost to utilize the F-16s.

These arguments seem to be vague, as the nature of the Polish AF resistance towards sending the Block 52+ F-16 fighters abroad may stem from different reasons. Another point that has been made by Mad Magazine was that the Polish AF is not willing to expose the combat capabilities possessed by the Vipers to the Russians, by operating the F-16 in close vicinity of the forces of the potential adversary.

However, in the opinion of Konrad Muzyka, working for IHS Jane’s, there may be a third reason. When asked about the Final Operational Capability (FOC) of the F-16, Muzyka provided us with the following statement:

The issue pertaining to the operational capabilities of the Polish F-16s is a curious one. The Ministry of National Defence has never officially confirmed whether the aircraft possess AIDEWS thus raising questions if the F-16s are at FOC. This comes despite the fact that the contract was concluded as far back as in 2008. Naturally, it is in the Warsaw’s interest not to shed any light on the capability of the Polish Vipers, but the fact that they have never been operationally deployed abroad is concerning.

Officially, the Polish Vipers do maintain the combat ready status. They are regularly involved in exercises such as Red Flag or NATO Tiger Meet. Nonetheless, there are some questions to be asked: is it really the cost of operation that stops Poland from deploying the F-16s abroad?

Is Warsaw really concerned that Russian intelligence aircraft, often flying near the Lithuanian airspace, may collect sensitive data about the Polish Vipers?

And final question is – did the Polish F-16 really achieve FOC status, even though they have never been deployed abroad?

Polish AF F-16 taxi

 

Ukrainian Mig-29 Fulcrum jets getting new digital color scheme

Ukrainian Air Force Mig-29s are being painted with a trendy digital camouflage

In the last few months, aircraft enthusiasts spotting military jets operating at the Lviv State Aircraft Repair Plant have taken photographs of at least three Mig-29 Fulcrum fighters (two single seaters and a two seater Mig-29UB) sporting a trendy “pixelated” camouflage.

The three aircraft are among the airframes that were dismantled at Belbek airbase, near Savastopol, and relocated to the mainland Ukraine, when Russian forces invaded Crimea.

The Mig-29s were reassembled and put back to flight status to replace the Fulcrums downed during the clashes with pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine. But, before they the rest of front line fleet of the Ukrainian Air Force, the jets are getting a brand new, more modern, “digital” color scheme.

Such digital camouflage vaguely reminds the paint job on the U.S. Navy’s 100 years of Naval Aviation special colored F/A-18F Super Hornet.

Mig-29UB d

Image credit: Oleg Volkov/spotters.net.ua

 

Analysis of Ukrainian Air Force Losses in eastern Ukraine clashes

It’s hard to say how many aircraft the Ukrainian Air Force has lost.

Some reports, especially those on the pro-separatists side seem to be a bit exaggerated but, as Ainonline website reported, on the basis of Ukrainian and British sources, the Ukrainian Air Force has lost 22 aircraft throughout the crisis.

Ukrainian military aviation had not been in a very good shape before the hybrid-conflict with the separatists started, and any losses may be considered to be severe.

The total loss count includes 9 combat planes, 3 cargo planes and 10 helicopters, most of which have been shot down with MANPADS (Man Portable Air Defense Systems) and, in case of some of the lost helicopters, with rocket propelled grenades.

In total, the UAF conducted 740 sorties during the operation, which is dubbed by the Kiev government to have an “anti-terrorist” character.

Starting from losses within the group of combat planes, one Su-24 Fencer, six Su-25 Frogfoots and two MiG-29 Fulcrums have been lost, where one of the Fulcrums was reportedly shot down by a Russian MiG-29.

The cargo planes which have been lost include single examples of An-26 Curl, An-30 Clank and Il-76 Candid. The Curl was reportedly hit by a Buk missile system; the same type of anti-aircraft system behind the downing of MH17 flight (according to most analysts). The Il-76 mentioned above was shot down in Luhansk, and it was a Candid in a flight of three such planes landing at Luhansk at the time. The first Candid made a safe landing, while the crew of the last one aborted landing.

The British sources state that lack of proper flight experience and intelligence data was the main reason for the incurred losses. The ECM systems on the Ukrainian jets have been made in Russia, which means that they were easy to overcome. According to the Polish outlet altair.com.pl, the Western countries were asked to supply new electronic countermeasures, however in fear of these being intercepted by the Russians, they were never delivered.

In the light of the analysis of the potential of the Ukrainian Air Force conducted by Dr Sean Wilson, which has been published in the Polish “Lotnictwo” magazine last year, the above losses may be considered to be significant.

According to Wilson, Ukraine, back in 1992, inherited 3,600 aircraft, including 850 helicopters, out of which 285 assault choppers and 2,750 aircraft, out of which 1,650 were combat planes. Back in 2013 the estimated data suggested that out of these numbers only 200 combat aircraft were in active service and about 70 were combat capable.

At that time, the fleet consisted of 15-20 MiG-29 Fulcrums, 10-12 Su-24M/MR Fencers, 14-18 Su-25 Frogfoots and 16 Su-27 Flankers. 16 MiG-29’s, 4 Su-24’s and 15 Su-25 were to be withdrawn by 2015.

Reports claim that 80 Frogfoots remain in active service and at least 14 are combat-capable. Which may be a significant notion, as the number is almost as high as the number of Frogfoots which were to be withdrawn.

Ukraine also had 66 examples of Su-27 Flankers, respectively 40 Su-27S Flanker-B’s (which are capable of conducting air-to-ground sorties), and 26 Su-27P Flanker-B’s (interceptor variant) and Su-27UB Flanker-C’s (two-seater). 36 of these were to remain in active service, while 16 were to be fully operational.

All of the Flankers are being currently used as interceptors. Modernization of these has been planned, and some examples have been updated before the conflict started.

When it comes to cargo planes, Ukrainians inherited 180 Candid-B transport aircraft, however, not many of these remained active. Two examples of An-30 Clanks were said to be still flying within the Open Skies program. About 20 Il-78 air tankers have been also a part of the post-Soviet inheritance; nonetheless the refueling equipment on these has been removed and maximally 8 of them remained active back in 2013 in a cargo role.

When it comes to the qualitative side of the analysis, the Ukrainian AF undertook several modernization programs for both fighters and attack aircraft. The modernizations included new avionics and navigational systems based on both GPS, as well as on its Russian counterpart – GLONASS.

Still, the Ukrainian Air Force suffered considerable losses during such a limited conflict a sign that the weapons in the hands of the separatists have been extremely effective against Kiev’s combat planes and helicopters so far.

Image credit: Wiki

North Korea’s Mig-29 Fulcrum jets getting new paint scheme

Photos of a North Korean Mig-29 operating from a highway shows the Fulcrum with a brand new color scheme.

A series of images released by North Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) show Pyongyang’s leader Kim Jong Un attending Korean People’s Army Air Force’s latest highway drills.

Among the aircraft involved in the drills there is also a Mig-29.

Interestingly, the Fulcrum sports a new color scheme: whereas the bottom of the fuselage has kept the light blue color, the top has been painted with a two-tone gray color scheme.

North Korea Mig-29 KJU

Here below you can see the “old” livery of North Korea’s Mig-29s.

Mig-29 old livery

It’s not clear whether the new livery is temporary, or it is going to become a standard within North Korea’s fleet; in 2013, KPAF changed the camouflage of some Il-76s belonging to the state-owned national flag carrier airline of North Korea Air Koryo to reinforce the flying parade over Pyongyang.

Image credit: KCNA

H/T to @CombatAir for the heads-up