Even a small Russian buy of MiG fighters is significant news these days. At one time, if Russian fighters were being sold around the world, the default assumption was that they were Mikoyan Gurevich machines. Now, RAC MiG’s flagship product seems to be withering on the vine, and the firm has lost key competitions to produce Russia’s next-generation fighter and next-generation trainer. India has become MiG’s most important customer, and intends to operate their MiG-29 fleet until 2025 at least. The long term danger is that India may become the MiG-29 family’s sole significant user. Which would make them the maintenance base’s key support source, and the sole source for upgrade investments.
Fortunately for India, Russia is throwing its partner a lifeline of sorts. India had been the only buyer of the carrier-capable MiG-29K STOBAR (Short Take-Off, But Assisted Recovery), but Russia has reviewed its own needs. They decided that the MiG-29K had a long-term role in Russian naval aviation as well…
In mid-January 2009, “MiG to Fold into UAC With Sukhoi?” discussed the merger forced by RAC MiG’s perilous financial situation. Orders for its capable multi-role MiG-29SM and MiG-29M/M2 fighters have been very slow and Algeria’s order cancellation came as a hard blow. RAC MiG reportedly lost RUB 11 billion rubles in 2008, and the firm faced a RUB 44.8 billion ($1.25 billion) debt.
As European MiG-29 operators retire their aircraft, and Russia’s air force and global exports both tilt toward the SU-30 family, India’s importance to RAC MiG has grown. Algeria placed a MiG-29 order in 2006, but its cancellation in 2008 came as a hard blow.
The Russian Air Force’s own lack of interest to date in the thrust-vectoring MiG-35, and the MiG-35’s loss in India’s M-MRCA competition, leave the firm with a dangerously choked order pipeline.
Upgrades and maintenance work can carry some of MiG’s overhead, and small sales to countries like Yemen and Myanmar help a bit. What RAC MiG really needed, however, was some level of long-term endorsement by its home market.
Deputy Prime Minister Ivanov’s announcement that Russia might join India in operating the MiG-29K meant a lot to the firm, and now that pledge has become a contract.
Contracts & Key Events
Nov 25/13: Delivery. The Russian Defense Ministry says that they’ve taken delivery of 4 series-produced MiG-29s for the Navy: 2 MiG-29Ks and 2 twin-seat MiG-29KUBs. The aircraft will be deployed on Russia’s sole serving carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, based in Murmansk with the Northern Fleet.
It’s to be hoped that the Kuznetsov won’t sink. And that restoring the Murmansk fuel installation that was sold on the black market will be of service to the carrier and its group. Sources: RIA Novosti, “Russian Navy Gets New Carrier-Based Fighters”.
Feb 29/12: A 2-4 for Russia. RAC MiG issues a statement that:
“Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov and MiG aircraft building corporation General Director Sergei Korotkov have signed a contract on the delivery of a shipment of MiG-29K and MiG-29KUB carrier-based fighters. Under the contract, the MiG corporation will deliver 20 MiG-29K and four MiG-29KUB planes to the Russian Navy from 2012 to 2015…”
Russia’s long-term plans include more aircraft carriers, so there is room for longer term growth. Krotkov underlines the buy’s significance to MiG, saying that:
“The MiG-29K and planes based on it will ensure stable engagement of the corporation’s production facilities in the midterm…”
Over the longer term, if MiG-29Ks have a pivotal role in Russian naval aviation, Russia will also invest in future upgrades for the MiG-29 family. Interfax | RIA Novosti, incl. MiG-29K infographic || Flight International | UPI.
Feb 11/09: Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov takes steps to restore confidence in RAC MiG. in 2009, he was quoted by RIA Novosti as saying that:
“The state will support in every possible way, including financially, this one of Russia’s largest companies. A draft weapons procurement program envisions the purchase of MiG-29 KUB naval fighters for deployment on future aircraft carriers.”
Note that this does not constitute an order. The MiG-29KUB is the aircraft’s 2-seat version, which could also be used in a trainer role for carrier pilots, or deployed in land-based role.