DN - Defence Notes

LIMA 2017: Could Malaysian MiG-29s be resurrected?

23rd March 2017 - 07:03 GMT | by Wendell Minnick in Langkawi

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A Russian-Malaysian joint business effort is offering the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) a life extension option for its decrepit MiG-29N fighter fleet, which now numbers six operational aircraft from a total of 16 originally procured.

Details of upgrade options were revealed at the LIMA 2017 exhibition in Langkawi, Malaysia.

The effort is between Malaysian-based Aerospace Technology Systems Corporation (ATSC) and Russian-based RAC MiG, and it aims to rescue the fighter fleet before being retired by the air force's recapitalisation via the Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MRCA) programme.

According to an ATSC source, two options are being offered. The first, based on India's MiG-29UPG programme, is the MiG-29NM, and the second is the less muscular MiG-29SM programme.

The MiG-29NM would include a high-resolution FGM-229 fire control radar featuring longer operating ranges, multi-channel firing and advanced air-to-surface modes. Cockpit and ergonomic enhancements include a new, but unidentified, avionics system, two coloured multifunction displays and night vision goggles compatible for night operations.

Other improvements include a data link, electronic countermeasures, conformal fuel tanks and a new ventral fuel tank. These tanks would increase operational range by 30%. Weapon and combat commonality with the Su-30MKM would allow the NM to carry a full range of air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions, including the R-27ER, R-73E and R-77AE.

The NM airframe life would be extended by a claimed 6,000 flight hours.

The MiG-29SM programme was less transparent, but the ATSC source said it is based on an upgrade option offered to Myanmar. Details are wanting, but the SM variant would achieve weapons and combat commonality with the RMAF's Su-30MKM.

The MRCA programme has been delayed since 2011 because of budgetary restrictions, but sources at LIMA expect a budget allocation for new fighters in 2020.

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