Ukrainian MiG-29LBL Light Combat Aircraft
The air industry of Ukraine is able to design and produce modern transport and civilian aircraft, but not combat aircraft. Examples of the MiG-21 and MiG-29 modernization show that theinitial intentions of some nations, even those with modern air industry, to undertake their own modernization finally led to a close cooperation with the original designer. The main reason for the design bureau's leadership is that it possesses full technological and construction documentation. air depots able to provide high quality maintenance and repairs. Depending upon the level of design changes, modernization can be made by a depot (as in the case of the MAPO-DASSO program for MiG-29) or by a main plant (as in the case of the MiG-29SMT modernization).
Of the Ukraine Air Force 161 MiG-29 fighters, 90 of them (two brigades) are aircraft model MiG-29S (design bureau index 9-13) which fit the MiG-29SMT modernization program. All of them have sufficient lifetime and technical conditions tobe modernized. The variable cost of SMT program is $3 million for each aircraft, including the cost of new aircraft equipment, labor and overhead. Lviv's air depot estimated that it would be able to modernize 10 aircraft a year to the SMT level after a six-month preparation period. The variable cost for the MAPO-DASSO modernization is $ 1 million for each aircraft. One air depot after a three-month preparation period can provide modernization of 30 aircraft a year.
Now the "MiGs" are kept in Mykolayiv. The main advantages of the modernized MiG are the increase in the range of capture and detection of the air target. And tuning the radio station to the frequency range of NATO allows Ukraine's pilots to work in cooperation with foreign colleagues on international procedures.
MiG-29MU1 fighter is already in serial modernization for the needs of the Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. This aircraft received a more powerful radar station, as well as an integrated satellite navigation system in the onboard radio navigation system. In the modernized MiG-29MU1 increased the detection range of air targets by 20% (up to 100 km in the front hemisphere and up to 45 km in the rear). The aircraft is equipped with advanced missiles R-27ER1 and R-27ET1, produced by the Ukrainian State Company "Artem" and have a launch range of up to 95 km.
However, military-scientific thought has advanced further and a prototype of the next generation, the MiG-29 MU2, was already in the works. In the MU2 variant, the machine acquires the characteristics of a multi-role fighter with the possibility of combat use on ground targets. Its advantage is the installation of missile and bomb weapons with television guidance heads such as X-29T and KAB-500KR. This aircraft will also be equipped with VOR, ILS, DME systems - on-board equipment, which will allow to automatically control the landing of the aircraft and perform flights on international routes.
Even if funding is sufficient, Ukraine would hardly be able to do without Russian design bureaus and specialists, who designed and manufactured the MiGs and SUs making the carcass of the Ukrainian air force. The other option is to upgrade the aircraft in cooperation with Israel. But that version will be far more expensive. Besides, it will require the transition to NATO weapons, of which the Ukrainian military command was afraid.
Traditionally, since Soviet times Ukraine has a large number of OEM, Design Bureaus, Overhaul & Repair establishments, which are producing wide range of Aircraft spares and aggregates as well as executing overhaul and modernization of wide range of aggregates and systems. A number of aggregates, spare parts which are produced by Ukrainian OEM for Su-30MK type Aircraft are available for the overhaul of systems and aggregates of Su-30MK type Aircraft. Subject goods and services could be exported by the State Company “SpetsTechnoExport” to the customers.
By 2000 the effort to upgrade the existing aircraft had stalled. In 1999, air force generals were planning to upgrade three MiG-29 fighters, but the aircraft got nowhere. The air force command said at least one MiG-29 aircraft regiment should undergo an in-depth modernization. Arithmetic was simple enough: it is better to upgrade 36 aircraft per $4-5 million each, then purchase three new aircraft for an equivalent sum. The remaining aircraft demand at least a "face-lift" upgrade to prolong their service life, which could cost around $1.5 million per plane. At issue is a modernization of MiG-29 avionic equipment, and development of new and modernization of existing weapons, especially air-to-air missiles, both short- and long-range.
The most brilliant transaction was the finalization of the contract to supply 14 modernized MiG-29 planes, along with spare parts for them, to Azerbaijan. Within the framework of this contract, Ukrainian parties aspired to resolve the tasks of importance within the framework of the future large-scale programme of modernizing the MiG-29 fleet, but this time for the Ukrainian Air Force, without involving the Russian party.
According to plan in 2012 the reconstruction at the Lviv aviation plant performed a full disassembly of 2 MiG-29 aircraft, with repair of units, blocks and units fighting machines. After test flights and the conclusion of the Commission's inspection the aircraft were transferred to military aviators. The 114th Ivano-Frankivsk Tactical Aviation Brigade received two MiG-29 jet fighter aircraft after renovation by the Lviv State Aircraft Repair Plant. In the near future, 5 more renovated MiG-29s would be delivered to the brigade. The cost of renovating each aircraft is approximately 6 mln UAH ($750 thousand).
In 2012, there was discussion about the development in Ukraine of an aircraft based on the Chinese supersonic training aircraft L-15 with a Ukrainian engine and weapons. But this work has also died down, and China independently implements such a project.
In April 2016 at the state enterprise "Ivchenko-Progress" President Petro Poroshenko was shown the project of a Ukrainian multipurpose fighter with two engines. The LBL (Light Boyoviy Litak - Light Combat Aircraft) outwardly resembled the Soviet MiG-29 fighter and combined the Ukrainian power plant in the form of two engines developed on the basis of AI-322F and avionics of Western and Ukrainian production.
At the same time, it was noted that the development of a new fighter is at the stage of a draft design, and by the characteristics and purpose the aircraft will be close to the Russian MiG-35 fighter, the Chinese FC-1 Xiaolong and the Swedish JAS 39 Gripen. But this project was not even the beginning of the road, but a pre-project.
At the end of May 2016, the deputy head of the Armed Forces of the Armed Forces, Vladislav Shostak, announced the existence of an order for the production of a combat aircraft. The contractor of this project should be Antonov ANTK, and the engines will be produced by the Zaporozhye company Motor Sich.
Despite all sorts of projects, there was no evidence that Ukraine was engaged in the creation of its own fighter. There is no formulated technical specification and understanding of what kind of aircraft we should build. But there was talk about modernization of available planes that they could effectively defeat ground targets.
Following the earlier plan to reduce the dependence of the Ukrainian Air Force from the fighter aircraft inherited from Russia, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in February 2017 announced plans to develop a new light multipurpose fighter [LBS - Legkiy Boevoy Samolet] based on two AI-322F turbofan engines from Ivchenko-Progress and Motor Sich. It will be powered by the AI-322F turbo-fans. The afterburning power of each turbofan is 41.19 kN, and together they will give the LBS an axial thrust of 82.2 kN. The dry weight of the AI-322 F is 560 kg and it is equipped with a digital automatic engine management system (FADEC).
The characteristics of these engines, according to Jane's, will make the Ukrainian aircraft approximately comparable to the Taiwan fighter AIDC F-CK-1, which has a range of up to 1,1 thousand km and is capable of developing a maximum speed of 2,2 thousand km / h . If this is the case, then LBS will be inferior to the MiG-29.
The "Light combat aircraft" would need to find its place in a niche occupied by other light fighters. The main incentives for Ukraine to develop this project are fueled by a desire to gain independence from Russian supplies, modernize their air forces and offer a valuable product for export. In fact, LBS "ennobles" the Ukrainian line of aircraft, which includes an AN-132 special-purpose aircraft and an AN-178 tactical transport aircraft.
The LBS should reduce the critical dependence of the Ukrainian Air Force on the Russian aviation industry. After the collapse of the USSR, 1100 combat aircraft of all kinds were delivered to Ukraine. And as of the end of 2015, the Air Force of Ukraine had only 207 combat and combat training and 45 transport and special aircraft. All manufacturers of the main combat aircraft remained on the territory of the Russian Federation.
The Ukrainian weekly "Business Capital" reported in February 2018 on the modernization of Soviet MiG-29 fighters, which would soon begin at the Lviv Aviation Repair Plant. The purpose of this risky exercise is to re-arrange the front-line fighter in the attack aircraft. At the same time, the problem of extending the service life of aircraft to 35-40 years is being solved. "Business Capital" claimed that from 2014 in Lviv, from 10 to 15 MiG-29s were repaired. But Russian sources claim that in reality, only 6 were repaired.
Under Yanukovych the plant worked more intensively, when in a three-year period 14 MIG-29 was repaired. True, these were not Ukrainian, but from the Air Force of Kazakhstan. Under Yanukovych, the same aircraft was upgraded from 1985 to MiG-29MU1. This modernization was quite reasonable and quite effective. The characteristics of the radar with a parabolic antenna "Sapphire" H019, developed in the Soviet Union at the Research Institute "Fazotron", were improved. And the modernization was carried out not by "volunteers", as it is now accepted in the self-reliant, but by specialists from the Ukrainian branch of "Fazotron-Ukraine". A new navigation complex SN-3307-01 was also installed, using data received from GPS and GLANASS systems. At the same time, naturally, the engine and other major aircraft units were repaired in order to extend the life of the aircraft.
Under the "old" authorities, the Ukrainian Air Force received four MiG-29MU1, after the coup - two. And now the next modernization is ripe, which is carried out on the basis of the Lviv plant with the involvement of the enterprises of the Ukrainian defense industry. It is good that this event did not start immediately after the Maidan in Kiev, when specialists were pushed aside by people in embroidered shirts. It was at this time that it was announced that Ukraine was starting to create its own multipurpose fighter, which would not yield to the latest Russian fighters in terms of combat capabilities. As the executor of this project, the Zaporizhzhya engineering machine-building design bureau "Progress" imeni Academician AG Ivchenko was was chosen.
At the same time, nobody particularly worried that Progress is an enterprise that develops and produces gas turbine engines. Including reactive ones. But not for fighter aircraft, but for civil and transport aircraft. Moreover, the engines are very solid in size, though they are not suitablefor light vehicles. The products of the Cossacks at one time were installed on the heaviest transporters of the world - the Ruslan and Mriya planes of the Antonov OKB.
Warplanes - fighters, bombers, etc. - were not developed or producedr in Ukraine. Only the Antonov design bureau created excellent military transport planes under Soviet rule. However, Poroshenko came to the "Progress" plant, thoughtfully studied the sketch drawings, listened attentively to the explanations of the engineers and nodded his head in agreement. And the wheels seemed to be set in motion.
Nevertheless, in Lviv are optimistic. A whole number of Ukrainian enterprises were involved in the MiG-29MU1 fighter conversion into the MiG-29MU2 attack aircraft. Among them are OOO Radonix and KB Luch. A variety of aircraft systems will be subject to change. Will replace the navigation system. The radio station R-862 will be updated. The system of on-board integrated navigation and landing equipment "Kurs-93M" will allow landing in automatic mode.
The firm "Radonics" must finish by the time of assembly of all systems the defense complex of the aircraft "Omut", which solves two problems. First, it carries out radio electronic reconnaissance. Secondly, it provides radio electronic countermeasures to both air defense radars and radar homing missiles (GOS). True, it is not entirely clear how well Radonix will cope with the hardware implementation of these tasks. Because the firm does not have the right profile. She positions herself as a developer of radar systems. For intelligence, this is perfectly appropriate. However, the electronic warfare is a somewhat different kind of activity. Moreover, only microwave generators and receivers are among the company's products.
It is also planned to upgrade the weapons management complex. And this already refers to the conversion of a fighter into an attack aircraft, which must have an air-to-surface weapon. An attack aircraft would not need "air-to-air" missiles. There are not so many means for air strikes on land targets in Ukraine. And they all belong to the Soviet period. True, they are being conjured up by KB "Luch", the same, anti-tank missiles which "evaporate" on the way to the "front line". Luch has less experience of creating air-based weapons than ground-based weapons. KB "Luch" hs been engaged in this subject only 7 years. And in this direction production, unlike quite decent ATGM, is not impressive. All the works are reduced basically to some alteration of the Soviet unguided C-8 aviation missiles, which were renamed to the AP-8.
Ukrainian industry has never before created such complex ammunition. The bomb must be equipped with a television camera, which plays the role of a homing head, a memory card in the map and flight controls. It is also planned to use an air-to-surface cruise missile X-29 of the 1980 model with a laser homing head and a range of 10 km. The rocket is quite powerful, the weight of its combat unit exceeds 300 kg. However, the drawback when using it on the MiG-29 is that the aircraft at the limit is able to lift only three missiles. Because the payload of this fighter is 2200 kg. For a fighter this is not so scary, for a stormtrooper too little.
Even if the Ukrainian designers implement the MiG-29MU2 as conceived, it is unlikely that it will become a full-fledged "stormtrooper". The "Storm Trooper" is ordered to support the ground operations of his troops, hitting the enemy's armored vehicles, live force and engineering facilities. To do this, it has to work at low altitudes, where it can be countered not only by missiles of MANPADS, but also by the fire of artillery pieces and automatic small arms. Therefore, it must be protected as much as possible. It is no accident that the most effective attack aircraft are called "flying tanks".
Also attack aircraft must have increased survivability in case of defeat by rocket or artillery fire. That is, the most important units must be duplicated, parallel pipelines and electric lines laid. An effective fire-extinguishing system must be installed, the probability of explosion minimized. The self-defense complex which is intended to be used is more suitable for a fighter. The stormtrooper, to a great extent, has to defend itself against ground-based MANPADS with infrared guidance.
The Soviet-Russian attack aircraft Su-25 missile-bomb load is equal to 4400 kg. The American aircraft are higher - at the end of the last century the A-6 carried 7800 kg, and the A-10 - 7200 kg. The F/A-18 Hornet and F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter-attack fighters have 7000 kg and 8000 kg respectively. At the plane conceived by Ukrainians is only 2200 kg - too little to clean up the battlefield.
JSC Russian Aircraft Corporation MiG (part of UAC) is a full-cycle enterprise that develops, manufactures, maintains, repairs and modernizes modern aviation equipment, as well as training flight and engineering personnel. their comment was that "While the world's leading aircraft manufacturers are working to maximize multifunctionality, the Ukrainian defense industry has chosen an alternative development path - to make a mediocre ground-attack aircraft out of a good fighter. The prolongation of the life of MiG-29 aircraft by 20-40 years at the facilities of existing repair plants is unsafe for further use of these aircraft, since outdated engineering documentation, possibly obtained illegally, does not take into account several decades of operation of these machines. As practice shows, countries that survived the modernization of AT in Ukrainian enterprises, subsequently turn to the company-developer for help and the official extension of the resource."
In Decmber 2017 the Ministry of Defense of Bulgaria was forced to freeze a four-year contract with Russia to repair 15 MiG-29 aircraft in connection with the complaint of the concern "Ukroboronprom." The Bulgarian agency concluded a direct contract worth $ 50 million with the Russian corporation MiG as the manufacturer of these fighters. "To ensure the maintenance of 15 MiG-29 fighters for 4 years for a total of 82 million leva, the Bulgarian Ministry of Defense chose the procedure for direct negotiations with RAC MiG, since the Russian company is the only one that has the appropriate license, produces original spare parts and has the opportunity to carry out repairs and prolongation of the service life of MiG-29 fighters, "the Ministry of Defense of Bulgaria said in a statement.
However, the Ukrainian company considered this a violation and filed a complaint with the Bulgarian Commission for the Protection of Competition. Now the deal will be postponed for 3-4 months, and the money will be returned to the Bulgarian budget. The Ministry of Defense of Bulgaria believes that Ukroboronprom filed a complaint with the sole purpose of blocking the deal.
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