On Mar. 15 the first Polish MiG-29 to have undergone avionics upgrade in the Military Aviation Service Facility no. 2 (Wojskowe Zakłady Lotnicze nr 2) in Bydgoszcz took-off on its maiden flight. The upgrade plan aims at prolonging the combat potential of ex-Soviet made aircraft still being in service within the Polish Air Force.
Image Credit: Jacek Borzyszkowski
The planes being upgraded are from the 23rd Tactical Air Force Base in Minsk Mazowiecki.
The test flying programme is carried out by three pilots from Minsk and Malbork bases. The programme schedule includes using live armament (mainly gun) on the 21st Central Aviation Range (21. Centralny Poligon Lotniczy) in Nadarzyce.
All of the MiGs undergoing modernization are said to receive the new avionics by the end of next year.
The scope of modernization includes changing the analog avionics to digital ones, including new mission planning computer and data bus, to which additional devices may be connected.
Furthermore, the mechanical gyro is replaced with a laser system. Digital map and MFD (Multi-Function Display) are features of the programme.
MiGs are said to remain in service till 2028-2030. The data bus will allow for further changes in the avionics if needed.
MiG bureau also took part in the programme extending the service life for another 20 years (the MiGs in Polish Air Force are already 20 years old).
The exploitation programme has been changed – the MiGs do not have to undergo general repairs each 800 hours they spend in the air, but they will be used according to their technical status.
The Polish MiGs have already undergone modernization couple of years earlier, aim of which was to adapt the cockpit to NATO standards (English language indicators and gauges).
Worth noting: the Polish MiGs recently received new paint-job with portraits of the aviators that took part in Battle of Britain. The portraits are located on the vertical stabilizers.
Jacek Siminski for TheAviationist.com
“The scope of modernization includes changing the analog avionics to digital ones, including new mission planning computer and data bus, to which additional devices may be connected.”
Upgrading analog to digital??? I’ve heard for awhile that a lot of the soviet and current Russian equipment isn’t built with chips unlike other countries have been getting into for awhile. Was Russia behind in digitalizing their avionics, the difference between analog and digital is pretty stark. Even if so, are they digitalizing now?
It is not Russian equipment. Just saying. They are Polish MiGs. And they get digital avionics now instead of analog ones.
Correction: I *assumed* they were left overs from the Cold War so I’m not sure when exactly they got the migs. Prior to Pols adding digital, why did it take so long to incorporate digital, analog on jets is pretty old right? 60’s, 70’s, I’m a little behind on the comparisons between so called western and East-bloc/China aviation.
They got MiGs in the late 80s. The 29s are the last generation of the Soviet made fighters. Not that old. 60s would refer to MiG-25s and MiG-21s – the third generation jets. The 29s together with Su-27s are 4th generation design.
When it comes to your question – the Soviet bloc aircraft were analog for a long time. The first fly-by-wire design was Sukhoi Su-27, which was designed right after MiG-29. I suppose it stemmed from the fact that the Russians did not really trust the digitalized technology, as they believed it limited the pilot in decision making.
As long as they fail to fix the jet engine design, the MiG-29 remains vulnerable. They make so much dark grey smoke one can spot them BVR without radar.
Further problem is the lack of gill elimination. There is no sense in digitizing a plane which has such a short useful range. The only way to add extra fuel efficiently is internally: to eliminate the grilles and put plating over the place, with extra fuel tanks hidden inside (aka MiG-29M) or add an ugly hump at the fuselage top (aka MiG-29SMT).
Another problem is the unreliability of the AA-10 (R-27) missiles. It takes a whole day to equip an entire squadron with 2 x R-27 per plane, because they always fail the test and the russian test computer uses punch-card output for error localization, no kidding! Don’t think AMRAAM or Meteor can be fitted to a digitized MiG-29?
On the other hand, I would not believe these polish planes can fly until 2028-30. The design of the MiG-29’s twin vertical stabilizer is faulty and even with reinforcements, there is a risk of them separating at the root in-flight.
It would make more sense for Poland to buy a batch of second hand Gripen-C/D or EBS level rebuilt Gripen-A/B from swedish surplus, that fly on a single 80kN engine instead of two. They have less then half the running cost and are smokeless. (Russian jets are thirsty!) Furthermore, the MiG-29 digitized cockpit can never reach the level of ergonomics found in the Gripen, which is a multi-role plane.
But of course, Poland decided to go the US/IL path, so they cannot buy Gripen.
I think there was an idea to integrate AIM-9Xs with the MiGs in Poland, but I don’t know how far the idea got pursued.
You must remember though, that Poland is strategically not a country which will be an agressor in a potential conflict. All of the mods are aimed rather at improving defensive potential. Range is not such a big concern, if you take into account the size of Poland. 312 000 square kilometers is not that big an area not to be covered and defended by planes we have – MiGs and F-16s Block 52+.
What is more, I cannot relate being multirole with ergonomics. Gripen being a 4,5 generation jet has more to do with that. When it comes to smoke and engines – the Soviet pilots did not care ;)