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MiG-29 - Combat History

The MiG-29 was not created for close air combat, and was used by Soviet bloc Air Forces as an interceptor. The plane was designed to reach the required altitude, develop supersonic speed, shoot missiles and return home,” he stressed. And he noted that the suspension of additional tanks limited the capabilities of the aircraft - with them it could not develop supersonic speed. Despite these shortcomings, the MiG-29 was a formidable foe.

The first Western fighters to encounter Soviet aircraft in training were the F-16s of the 510th Fighter Squadron of the US Air Force. According to Captain Mike McCoy, one of the squadron's pilots, the main features of the MiG-29 were high maneuverability at low speeds and a helmet-mounted target designation system. The American pilot noted that the fight with the MiG-29 was similar to the fight with the F-18 Hornet, but the Soviet aircraft had an important advantage - it was faster and more powerful than the F-18. Both aircraft could maneuver at low speed, but the F-18 needed to descend to gain speed again, at which point the enemy had a chance to be in a better position. In addition, the MiG pilot could launch an R-73 missile at a target located at an angle of up to 45 degrees to the longitudinal axis of the aircraft.

The helmet-mounted target designation system also created problems for the Americans. McCoy recalls that this system turned out to be more dangerous than expected. “Every time I approached the MiG-29, I had to release traps to dodge the R-73,” the pilot said. Another F-16 pilot, Lt. Col. Gary West, who commanded the 510th Squadron, agrees with him. "Some of our pilots thought that the sight mounted on the MiG-29 pilots' helmet would put an end to close maneuvering aerial combat." However, later it turned out that at high speed, the F-16 pilots had more chances in combat with the MiG than at low speed.

McCoy and other Americans were given the opportunity to take off in the MiG-29, during the flight they noted some of the aircraft's shortcomings. “The visibility from the cockpit left a lot to be desired, and this shortcoming gave us a real advantage,” he said. When Western pilots first encounter a MiG, they tend to look at it in awe instead of fighting it. They admire this Soviet-built aircraft they've spent so much time studying. They will learn how to deal with it and in what situation they can get into trouble.

The Cold War was primarily a war of intelligences and spheres of influence. The parties tried to come up with the most advanced weapons and provide them with their closest allies. Almost never came to open clashes between the USSR and the USA. However, the technology of the two superpowers fought in different conflicts - Vietnam, Afghanistan, Cambodia and many others.

Even after the collapse of the USSR, Soviet tanks, aircraft and machine guns continued to be used by many armies and partisans who came into confrontation with the United States. So it happened in the sky. American F-15 and F-16 fighters collided with Soviet MiG-21s, MiG-25s, and finally MiG-29s.

On January 17, according to private researchers citing Iraqi data, the MiGs attacked the B-52G (with the R-27R missile), the F-111F and the Italian Tornado IDS (with the R-60MK missiles), but they were unsuccessful. According to the Iraqi Air Force, the MiG-29 pilots scored one aerial victory, shooting down the British Tornado of the 29th squadron on January 18 with an R-60MK missile. On the first night of the war, Iraqi fighters intercepted a group of American F-15Es. According to the testimony of American pilots, during this interception, one of the MiG-29s accidentally shot down his comrade (according to various sources, the victim was a MiG-23 or another MiG-29).

One of the most successful American pilots, Caesar Rodriguez flew the F-15 in the military campaigns in Iraq (1991) and Yugoslavia (1999). He personally shot down MiG-29 and MiG-23 in Iraq, and then another MiG-29 in Yugoslavia.

In 1991, in the Gulf on January 17, three F-15 aircraft from the 33rd Fighter Wing of the US Air Force shot down 3 MiG-29 aircraft. The next day, January 18, the same US Air Force unit shot down two more Iraqi MiG-29s. Iraqi pilot Jamil Sayhud single-handedly attacked a group of Tornado aircraft on a MiG-29. He shot down one, but he himself was intercepted and attacked by F-15 aircraft. The MiG was shot down, the pilot ejected.

In the Balkans in 1999, the Yugoslav Air Force lost two MiG-29 aircraft. One of them shot down the pilot of the Netherlands P. Tankink on 24 March. Another was shot down by American Michael Hecky on 4 May. Both MiGs were hit by AIM-120 missiles. According to official figures, the US Air Force did not lose a single F-16 or F-15 during this period.

According to some reports, during the war, the MiG-29 pilots won 6 air victories. A number of sources (including the Russian author Vladimir Ilyin and the Argentine Diego Zampini) claim that one of them was the destruction of the F-117 stealth aircraft on March 27, and that this victory was recorded by Lieutenant Colonel Gvozden Dyukich. According to the official website of the Ministry of Defense of Serbia, the F-117 was shot down by an anti-aircraft missile battery under the command of Zoltan Dani. During the entire period of the conflict in Yugoslavia, the Serbian Air Force lost 11 aircraft, 6 of which were in air battles. Serbian pilots have never been able to use the weapons of MiG-29 aircraft against the enemy. Two Yemeni MiG-29s flew several combat missions during the brief civil war in Yemen in 1994. During the First Chechen War, Russian MiG-29s patrolled the airspace of Chechnya. They were not directly involved in hostilities and had no losses. One MiG-29UB of the Cuban Air Force participated in the incident on February 24, 1996, when two Cessna 337 light aircraft were shot down by a private organization "Rescue Brothers" based in the United States. These aircraft searched for watercraft with Cuban emigrants in the Florida Strait. There is conflicting evidence as to whether the Cessna invaded Cuban airspace or not, but they were intercepted by MiG-23 and MiG-29 fighters. After a series of signals, the MiG-29 shot down the planes with R-73 missiles. MiGs nevertheless won victories in the sky. The truth is not about American pilots. In 1999, Pakistani F-16s were intercepted by a pair of Indian MiG-29s. MiGs even aimed missiles at enemy fighters, but they did not receive permission to open fire.

Despite disappointing statistics, in 1998, Flieger Revue magazine (Germany) announced the superiority of MiG-29 aircraft over American F-16s. The reason is in the helmet with the scope. Even NATO pilots at the Desimomannu training center in Sardinia admitted that the MiG-29, complete with this helmet and R-73E packages, outperforms all NATO fighter aircraft.

After the end of the first phase of the armed conflict in 1998, Eritrea urgently began re-equipping its air force, which at that time consisted mainly of light combat training aircraft. In Belarus, several MiG-29S produced in the 80s were purchased, among other things. However, the MiGs met a worthy enemy over the Horn of Africa: practically at the same time, the Ethiopian Air Force purchased from Russia a batch of more modern Su-27SK equipped with more advanced weapons. During the two rounds of battles that followed in 1999 and 2000, Russian fourth-generation fighters met each other several times in the air. The advantage remained on the side of the more modern Su-27SK: they shot down one enemy aircraft each on February 25 and 26, 1999, as well as on May 16, 2000. In addition, in the battle on May 16, one MiG was seriously damaged and, may not have been repairable. Thus, during the conflict, 3 or 4 MiG-29s were lost. According to the Austrian researcher Tom Cooper, during the fighting, the MiG-29 fighters managed to shoot down three Ethiopian MiG-21s.

During operations against Kashmiri militants and Pakistani army units during the Kargil War in May-July 1999, Indian MiG-29s escorted Mirage 2000 fighter-bombers, from which laser-guided bombs were used. The Sudanese Air Force received several MiG-29s in 2003-2004, while pledging not to use them in hostilities in Darfur, where interethnic conflict continued. However, this commitment was not fulfilled, and in May 2008 (presumably during the fighting on May 10), Darfur rebels managed to shoot down one MiG-29 in the Omdurman area. According to some sources, the plane was piloted by a former pilot of the Russian Air Force, who died during the ejection; The Russian Defense Ministry denied this information. On April 20, 2008, a Georgian unmanned reconnaissance aircraft Hermes 450 was shot down over Abkhazia. The Georgian side said that the UAV was destroyed by a Russian MiG-29 that took off from the Gudauta airfield. Russian officials rejected such a possibility, and Abkhazia said the victory was won by an L-39 aircraft of the national air force. On May 26, the UN Observer Mission in Georgia published a report based on Georgian data, in which it suggested the possible reliability of the Georgian version of events. The Syrian Air Force found a way to effectively deal with Turkish F-16 fighters, when the latter violate the country's airspace. The MiG-29SM aircraft upgraded to receive a set of BKO "Talisman", issued by the Belarusian company "Defense Initiatives". It provides effective protection against various means of destruction: air-to-air missiles, surface-to-air missiles launched by air defense systems, including the portable FIM-92 Stinger type and others. This development, when performing a combat mission, provides protection for neighboring aircraft, which are not equipped with such electronic warfare systems.

Taking into account the fact that the Syrian fighters are armed with missiles with a range of up to 70 kilometers, and the Turkish F-16s have this figure limited to 50 kilometers, experts believe that the upgraded to "stealth" MiG-29SM fighter of the Syrian Air Force will demonstrate much better results.

On 21 May 2020 the head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the UN-recognized government of national accord (PNS) of Libya, Fathi Bashagha, told Bloomberg that at least six MiG-29 and Su-24 fighters flew from the Russian Khmeimim airbase in Syria to the location of the forces of the Libyan National Army (LNA) of the rebellious Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar ... Immediately after receiving eight combat aircraft, the LNA announced the imminent start of the largest air operation in Libya, as reported on Thursday by the Turkish newspaper Sabah.

"In the next few hours you will see the largest air campaign in the history of Libya," - quotes the publication of the words of the LNA Air Force Commander Saker al-Jorushi. He added that Turkey-related facilities are "legitimate targets" for aircraft crews. These planes may also be Syrian, since Russia does not have MIG-29 planes in that region.

In July, it was reported that Russian-made MiG-29 fighters were again spotted in Libya. The footage captures the passage of two fighters. The video was filmed in the area of ??the Libyan city of Sirte, which is currently held by the LNA under the leadership of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.

On 08 September 2020 Government air defense forces in Libya shot down a MiG-29 fighter of the Libyan National Army under the control of a Russian-speaking pilot.