In the mid-1990s the MiG-33 was the original designation for the MiG-29M. In 1996 it was reported that MAPO-MiG planned to redesignate newer versions of the MiG-29M as the MiG-33, although there will be no differences in flight hardware between the two designations.
The MiG-33 is a modernisation of the MiG-29, with upgrades in several areas. One goals of the modernisation was adding multifunctionality with further growth of air-to-air and air-to-ground capabilities with high-precision weapons. It featured considerable growth of combat range owing to an increase in the internal fuel capacity, along with better pilot-to-aircraft interface in the cockpit and introduction of other new-generation equipment.
The external changes between the MiG-33 and the MiG-29 are negligable. The MiG-33 features changes in the intakes' geometry including the removal of the upper intake louvres, enlarging inlet dimensions for higher airflow, installation of movable nets protecting the engines from the ingestion of foreign objects during take-off and landing. The number of hard points was increased up to nine and this enables either suspension of a 4.5 ton bomb load or eight [Vympel] RVV-AE air-to-air missiles, the Russian counterpart to the AMRAAM. The MiG-33 can carry same types of missiles as the MiG-29 does, and many more. For instance, four air-to-surface missiles such as laser-guided Kh-25ML and Kh-29L, or TV-guided Kh-29T missiles or four KAB-500KR guided bombs can be carried.
The MiG-33 features more powerful, upgraded engines and the quadraple-redundant fly-by-wire flight control system. A new onboard radar with a reprogrammable signal processor provides not only a greater aerial target detection range, but is also capable of detection of sea and small-sized ground targets, ground mapping, terrain following and alerting to avoid ground obstacles.
The flight performance and the handling qualities either remain the same as those of the MiG-29 or represent an improvement, this is due to the new engine and the fly-by-wire system. The combat range saw a considerable increase owing to the enlarged fuel capacity. For an aerial close-in engagement (five 360-degree turns, load of two medium, two short range missiles, three drop fuel tanks) the combat radius is 1,250 km. The subsonic interception mission range (M=0.85, armament of four medium range missiles, three drop fuel tanks) is 1,440 km, and for a ground target attack mission with air-to-surface missiles (load of two air-to-surface, two short range air-to-air missiles, three drop fuel tanks) the comabt radius is 1,190 km.
The name MiG-33 was used twice. The first use was for a single engined light strike fighter intended to be a direct competitor of the F-16, and the second use for the heaily upgraded version of the MiG-29.
The first design of a very light new-generation "strike fighter" was prepared by Mikoyan around 1980, when design work also began on the heavy fighter, the MFI (sometimes known as the 1-42). The result was 'Product 33' powered by a single RD-33 engine from the MiG-29. It was of conventional design, appearing similar to the US Lockheed Martin F-16. This new Mikoyan design, designated Izdeliye 33 (Izd 33) (and variously translated as "Article 33", "Project 33", "Product 33", or "Project R-33"), was of conventional layout and vaguely similar in appearance to the F-16. It was to be powered by a single Klimov RD-33 afterburning turbofan engine - the same engine used by the twin-engined MiG-29.
Although work on Product 33 became well advanced, with extensive wind-tunnel testing was conducted on the design, it was not ordered due to the the Soviet Air Force (VVS) dropped its support for concept about 1986 after a reorientation towards multi-role aircraft - the lightweight Product 33 could be used for close air combat only. The basic Product 33 design was offered by Mikoyan to China as the FC-1 fighter. However, the FC-1 is not a direct derivative of the Product 33 design, and while the wings may reflect Soviet aerodynamic data, the fuselage and air inlets reprsent an entirely rather different configuration.
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