The Russian MIGs are called the ‘Flying Coffins’ primarily due to the Indian experience. The Indian experience with MIGs are all the more bitter because MIGs notorious crashes has been overlooked for their ‘so-called’ battlefield prowess. Finally, India learnt its lesson at a huge cost of men and material due to the disastrous decision of employing MIGs in Indian Air Force. A fact that showed when Indian decided to replace 126 of its Multirole fighters with the fourth generation French Dassault Rafale.
MIG crashes are so routine in Indian Air Force, that Indians don’t take the news seriously these days. A sample of MIG disaster is in the following news of the above Video, where a MIG crash is recorded:
A two-seater MIG-27 fighter aircraft of Indian Air Force on a routine training flight crashed in India’s north western state of Rajasthan on Tuesday (February 12).
There were no causalities. The mishap was attributed to a technical fault.
The crash happened in an uninhabited area after the aircraft took off on a test sortie.
The two pilots ejected out of the plane just in time.
“There were two pilots in it and both managed to bail out. Their condition is stable and they have been taken to a hospital,” said Bhanu Prasad, District Magistrate of Barmer, where the crash took place.
The Russian made MIG aircraft, which has long been an integral part of the Indian Air Force, has a history of air crashes attributed to their outdated technology and parts.
Indian study of MIGs that caused huge loss to Indian Airforce
The Comptroller and Auditor General of India published on 31March1993 the results of an in depth study on the operational performance and reliability of the MiG-29 aircraft. This study was first reported in Aviation Week & Space Technology during 25July1994 (pg.49), and has been obtained by author from Mr. Pushpindar Singh, of the Society of Aerospace Studies, New Delhi.
65 x MiG-29 single-seat and 5 x dual-seat trainers with 48 x spare engines (sparing factor of 0.7/aircraft) were delivered between 1986 and 1990 at a total program cost of approximately $600 million that included initial spares and support. These aircraft were the first MiG-29′s to ever leave the Soviet Union and were not up to the weapons system standard of those that went later to the Warsaw Pact allies. The aircraft were sent disassembled by sea, and re-assembled, and test flown in India. By 1990 three squadrons were operational. Two Flight Data Ground Processing Units were included to help pilots debrief their utilization of flight controls and systems. Expectations were that single-seat aircraft would fly 15 hours per month (180 hrs/yr) and dual-seat aircraft 20 hours per month (240 hrs/yr).
There were extensive problems encountered in operational and maintenance due to the large number of pre-mature failures of engines, components, and systems. Of the total of 189 engines in service, 139 engines (74%) failed pre-maturely and had been withdraw from service by July 1992, thus effectively shutting down operations. 62 of these engines had not even accomplished 50% of their 300 hours first overhaul point. Thus the desired serviceability showed a steadily decreasing trend.
Engineering reports mainly attribute RD-33 failures to design/material deficiencies causing discolored engine oil (8), cracks in the nozzle guide vanes (31), and surprisingly, foreign object damage (FOD). The eight material deficient engines (discolored oil) were repaired by the contractor under warrantee provisions, but the engines had to be recycled to the manufacturer. The thirty-one engines with cracks in their nozzle guide vanes were fixed in the field by contractor teams and adjustments were made to the entire engine fleet. But even though the incidents reduced the occurrences of the cracks, they continued. But the FOD situation is the most interesting, especially after the inlet FOD doors received world press coverage, but there were other concerns about production quality control that led to problems.
Since the Indian Air Force received early model Fulcrum A’s, some just after the 200th production article, there were quality control deficiencies that resulted in numerous pieces of FOD (foreign object damage) and tools being left behind after final construction inside of the aircraft. Remember that the Fulcrum skeleton is made first and then the skin is riveted over top, in the way aircraft were made in the fifties and sixties in the West. Nuts, bolts, tools, etc. all made their way to the engine bays and inlet ducts and when they were loosened up after accelerations they damaged engines and equipment.
On top of all this, it was discovered that the unique FOD doors on the MiG-29′s inlets were not stopping material from getting into the engine ducts. Since the doors retracted “up” into the inlet, debris that was kicked up by the nose wheel lodged on or at the bottom of the door seal and then was ingested into the engine when the door opened during the nose gear lifted off the ground during takeoff.
This problem was known from the earliest days. After the first four MiG-29 prototypes were evaluated, the nose gear was moved further back, but nose wheel “mud-flaps” or guards were still required to protect the engine from flying debris. It took until 1988 before all delivered aircraft were so equipped, therefore the initial batch of InAF aircraft had to be locally retro-fitted with mud guards and that activity was not completed until June 1992. All costs were supposed to be re-imbursed by the contractor but Mikoyan reneged and left the InAF with $300,000 in liabilities. In subsequent MiG-29K/M models the FOD doors were replaced by screens that closed “down”, forcing any debris out of the louvers repositioned to the lower side of the inlet duct..
The Indian Air Force procurement contract was concluded in September 1986, and the first engine was expected to go into overhaul in 1989. However, four engines prematurely came up for overhaul and no repair facility had been prepared. As time went on, 115 of the 122 engines (94%) prematurely failed and had to be re-cycled through engine depots in Russia at great cost. Backlogs were created and only 79 (65%) engines returned on schedule. Even when a regional Indian repair facility was completed in August 1994, the high failure rates continued and the majority of broken engines had to be sent back to Russian depots. Self-sufficiency was achieved in 1994, only after the operations tempo was significantly reduced on a permanent basis. In the process of refurbishing failed engines, the total technical life of most of the engine fleet was effectively reduced from 800 hours / 8 years to 400 hours / 4 years, at a minimum.
Non-availability of radar and weapon system components also resulted in the grounding of seven aircraft for a period of six to twenty months. Two may have been damaged for life due to cannibalization. Besides this, a large number of subsystems and computers experienced unpredicted failures in the last four years which adversely effected the operational readiness of the squadrons. Some of the computers were field-repaired by specialists from the manufacturers, others were replaced. These repair costs were all in excess to the initial contract costs. It was noted that the 10 additional computers, which were imported, cost the InAF around $806,000. Two Flight Data Ground Processing Units quickly became unserviceable during their warranty period and have been lying un-utilized and un-repaired for over two years.
The InAF Headquarters also noted in March 1991 report that a severe shortage of product support equipment had resulted in the decline of fleet availability by 15-20%, which in turn, took negative effect on operational readiness and mission requirements.
So in general, lessons learned from this first out-of-country operation of a Russian front line fighter were:
1. The MiG-29 had intensive problems in operation and maintenance since its induction due to premature failure of engines, components, and systems. 74% of the engines failed within five years, were out of supply pipeline for three years, and reduced aircraft availability by 15, to 20%. This led to a decision to restrict flying efforts and therefore compromised operational and training commitments.
2. There were significant shortfalls in the performance of the MiG-29 fleet resulting in operational and training inadequacies. The shortfall ranged from 20 to 65% in respect to combat aircraft availability and 58 to 84% in trainers between 1987 – 1991.
3. There was a mismatch between induction of the aircraft (1987) and the establishment of its repair facilities (end of 1994). Until that time engines had to be continually sent to manufacturers abroad at great monetary cost, reduction of one-half total life, and a significant stretch of schedule.
4. Non-availability of critical radar components and spares resulted in the grounding of significant numbers of aircraft. Five aircraft were out of action for over six months while two were in the hanger for over two years. Unserviceability of computers and the inability to fix them cost excessive amounts of money to rectify.
5. The pilot debrief Ground Data Processing Unit, imported at high cost, was left lying around unserviceable and unused since its reception in August 1990.
6. The lack of nose wheel mud guards had to be solved by importing upgrade kits and expensive local re-design after material deficiencies could not be overcome.
With a regional support capability in place (regardless of how tenuous it was) and having one of the few respectable MiG-29 operating legacies, the Indian aerospace companies, especially Hindistan Aeronautical Ltd. (HAL), and the InAF became natural partners for MAPO in consummating the sale of MiG-29′s to Malaysia. They were offered the opportunity to get involved with providing training and logistics support for the new Malaysian MiG-29 program. India, of course, gives greater credibility to MAPO in convincing customers that the MiG-29 is a viable fighter candidate for Pacific Rim nations. It remains to be seen, however, what solutions the new joint venture brings to the Indian Air Force problems.
The MiG-29 Combat Legacy:
If we examine the actual combat performance of the MiG-29, the data shows a more subdued track record despite zealous reports from MAPO-MiG. During the Gulf War, the only enemy fighter to be shot down by an Iraqi MiG-29 was another Iraqi fighter. A MiG-23 who happened to be the guy’s wingman and unfortunately the MiG-29 pilot hit the ground after killing it. Meanwhile the USAF downed 4 x MiG-29′s during the war (all with AIM-7 Sparrow’s) and a fifth one crashed as a result of a maneuvering suicide during an engagement with an F-15. The F-15′s wingman downed a MiG-29 with an AIM-7. Seven more MiG-29′s were destroyed by air-to-ground munitions or coalition ground forces and four defected to Iran. After the Gulf War, during the Northern Watch patrols over northern Iraq, a USAF F-16 downed a MiG-29 with an AMRAAM (AIM-120) missile.
In other theaters, the new Federal Yugoslav Air Force (Serbia proper), designated the “RViPVO” (Ratno Vazduhoplovstovo i Protivvazdushna Odbrana), on 08 Oct 91, attacked Croatian’s Presidential Palace in Zagreb with 2 x MiG-29′s delivering 57mm air-to-ground rockets. This was the first report of MiG-29′s being used in the air-to-ground role since fighting began against Slovenia in June 1991. Soon after that, one MiG-29 was lost to ground fire. The RViPVO assembled their MiG-29 and MiG-21 bis (Fishbed K) units at Batajnica Air Base and they represent Serbia’s best air defense resources. The MiG-29′s are assigned to one squadron (the 130th LAE) and are locally designated type L-18 and NL-18 aircraft. They are kept in reserve to protect the leadership in Belgrade from NATO PGM equipped aircraft.
Moldova leased 12 of its 30 x MiG-29′s with pilots and maintenance crews, some Iraqi, to help South Yeman fight its civil war. Seven were shot down or destroyed on the ground with the remaining five rendered unserviceable.
Likewise, Cuban MiG-29′s have also become virtually unserviceable due to spares shortages. Recent estimates note that only three Cuban Fulcrums are still operational. They did however, get one airborne in early March to shoot down two Cessna Skymasters off the coast of Cuba.
So at least 22 x MiG-29′s have been downed or destroyed in combat having flown only a couple hundred missions. The only MiG-29 air-to-air victory was a fratricide and at least two pilots killed themselves maneuvering the aircraft at low altitude which could be partially attributed to the way the aircraft ‘s weapon system is mechanized and its “un-friendly” cockpit that features a heads-down gyro reference. Also, over the years three MiG-29′s have been lost in accidents at Air Shows in France and England.
It is most interesting that MIG-MAPO officially denies any combat activity or losses with the MiG-29. In fact they boldly state that the Coalition victory was made possible because the Iraqi MiG-29′s did not have wide-scale participation. The source noted by MAPO was the “Krasnaya Zvezda” newspaper article of 18Aug95. The MAPO-MiG literature states:
“MiG-29′s have not participated in real combat operations. Even the several dozens of MiG-29′s placed in service in the Iraqi Air Force were ferried, during the Desert Storm operation, to Iran in 1991. But the modeling of various outcomes of the Gulf War, developed by experts, allowed them to come to the conclusion that the non-participation of MiG-29′s in wide-scale combat actions on the Iraqi side was one of the main reasons for a quick and comparatively easy victory of the multinational armed forces of the Coalition.”
MiG-29 Mission Sampler:
During the Cold War the following “fighter escort mission” scenario was common. The MiG-29 would start from an airbase considerably closer to the FEBA (forward-edge-of-the-battle-area) than its Su-27 partner, around 100 NM. It would carry the standard six missiles and a centerline tank. Total takeoff fuel would be around 11,000 lbs. Consider a 500 kts., 5,000 ft., escort profile, with an air-combat package of 2000 lbs., held in reserve. The Fulcrum could manage a 125 NM. escort run. The combat reserve would translate to an additional 30 to 50 NM., if unused. If the escort condition slowed the MiG-29 to 300 to 350 kts. cruise, then the range would increase to almost 200 NM. Additional MiG-29′s on a “Fighter Sweep” from the same base would be used to support the route of the escorting fighters. They could go out 50 NM., loiter for 30 minutes, and then vector at 1.2 Mach from 90 to 100 NM., with enough fuel to still engage with one missile attack. In general terms, F-16C’s with the same six missile configuration (using AIM-120′s and AIM-9′s) and centerline fuel tank could do the same profiles and missions as the MiG-29′s, but they could also do them having departed from bases twice as far from the FEBA, i.e., around 200 NM. This scenario describes closely the situation that air forces from NATO and the Warsaw Pact would have faced across the inner German frontier.
The MiG-29 Thumansky RD-33 Engine:
The MiG-29 utilizes the RD-33 family of aircraft two-spool bypass turbojet engines that feature air flows mixed in a common afterburner, variable area nozzles, and a modular design which facilitates maintenance. RD-33 engines now serve in 22 nations: Belarus, Bulgaria, Cuba, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, India, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Korea DRP, Malaysia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovak Republic, South Africa, Syria, Ukraine, Yeman, and Yugoslavia. Only South Africa does not use the MiG-29, but has reconfigured the RD-33 in their F-1 Mirages. V. Chernyshev Machine-Building Enterprise literature, builder of the RD-33 engine, discuss engine replacements for the Cheetah and early model Mirage III/V’s.
Historically Russian fighter engines have been designed for high performance and short life spans. Since they were designed for real war conditions and not the convenience of peacetime, they had relatively short Mean Time Between Overhauls (MTBO) of a few hundred hours and/or short total life spans. Since aircraft were rotated out of rough forward areas as their limited operating time expired, maintenance was rarely done in these areas and engines were produced in larger quantities thus lowering unit costs. It also kept the engine manufactures closer to war rate production levels as opposed to the slowly responsive, market oriented, peacetime rates. Hence their design quality, manufacturing quality, technology and performance levels, all steadily improved. Characteristics of the RD-33 engine are listed below.
Table 4: RD-33 Engine Characteristics
Inlet Diameter 730 mm
Length 4250 mm
Fan Stages 4
Compressor Stages 9
High / Low Pressure Turbines 1 / 1
Max Sea Level A/B (wet) Thrust: 18,300 lbs (8,300 kg / 81.4 kN)
Specific Fuel Consumption @ Max Thrust 2.05 kg/kg-hr
Max Sea Level Mil-Pwr (Dry) Thrust: 11,240 lbs (5,098 kg / 49.9 kN)
Specific Fuel Consumption @ Mil Thrust 0.77 kg/kg-hr
Inlet airflow at max thrust 168 lbs/sec (76 kg/sec)
Max Turb Inlet Tempt (°K) Takeoff 1530
Max Turb Inlet Tempt (°K) in Flight 1680
Bypass ratio & pressure ratio 0.49 & 20:1
Specific Weight 0.127
Weight of 2 x RD-33′s 6613 lbs. (3000 kg)
Engine + Accessory Package 3305 lbs. (1500 kg)
Engine Thrust / Weight Region 7.4 to 8.0
Response Time, idle to full A/B 4 sec
Total Air Compression Ratio (fan & comp) 21
Maximum Flight Mach number 2.35 Mach
Maximum Indicated Airspeed 800+ knots (1500 kph)
Max Service Ceiling 56,000 ft (17,069 m)
Max Velocity Suction Head 11,000 kg/m
Ground Idle Fuel Flow 26 lbs / minute
Max afterburner at Sea Level (0.9 M) 2500 lbs / minute
Max afterburner at 30,000 ft (0.9 M) 700 lbs / minute
Engine Change (claim) 2.0 hours
The FOD protection doors are controlled automatically from engine start. As soon as hydraulics come on line, from a given engine, the door closes. During start, taxi, and takeoff the door is kept closed by hydraulic pressure and is controlled by a compressed nose gear strut switch. After nosegear unstick during takeoff (around 200 kph), the inlet doors open and are then controlled by airspeed & engine demand for air. The lourves function by gravity and required air being sucked into the inlet. They are made of composite materials, have 887 perforations, and respond to the slightest change of air flow demand. If the engine inlet doors fail closed the aircraft can continue flight but is limited to 0.8 Mach or 800 kph in speed. Once open, the doors become part of the three-ramp variable inlet geometry scheme. Downstream from airflow there are three exits for air from the ramp perforations. The inlet doors, once adapted with nosegear mud-flaps, have actually eliminated the problem of external FOD on Russian airfields. Likewise, they cannot be manually deployed by the pilot. Advanced models use screens as mentioned. The new Sarkisev engines (RD-33K) are equipped with full authority digital electronic engine controls (DEEC). Engine power input has been increased but overall fuel specifics have not been improved.
The two fundamentally different approaches have come together in Malaysia where the Russians are expected to deliver RD-33 engines featuring a considerable longer life span, and much extended MTBO’s. MAPO is also offering to provide a test program to assess at what point this western mimic logistics and support approach will not work any more, thus forcing them to reverse course, on behalf of customer, and recover the program in a more traditional Russian style. Malaysia has received two MiG-29′s in 1992, for just such testing program as well as maintenance training duties. Malaysia has asked to start with an MTBO of 750 hours. They would be assisted by the Indian Air Force who to date have only been able to maintain their engines at a 200 hour MTBO rate.
RD-33 design history dates back to the early 1970′s when Pratt & Whitney and General Electric were working towards the F-15, F-16 and F-18. The Russians selected, what they say, was a similar configuration approach for the RD-33; a two shaft low bypass ratio turbofan (0.4 : 1), with a four stage fan without inlet guide vanes, but with an inlet cruciform supporting structure for the front fan bearing. The high pressure compressor features nine stages, of which the first three have variable geometry stator vanes giving a pressure ratio of 20:1. There is also the annular combustion chamber, two single staged turbines , and an afterburner that burns both fuel and core flow with by-pass air in a mixture. Hydromechanical controls on the engine have built in diagnostics for ease of maintenance. The RD-33 has eleven modules with all HP and LP blades capable of being replaced.
Russian efforts at attaining improved maintainability and reliability were reviewed in a MilTech article (Aug93, pg. 63), produced on the MiG-29 that said the mean time between maintenance operation (MTBO) for the MiG-29 in 1989 was 7.8 hours, by 1990 it rose to 9.4 hours, and at present is tabulated at 18.6 hours. Combat readiness of Russian units was said to be now over 90%. The article goes on to say that because of the militarized economy of that time, the amounts and frequency of inspections as specified in the aircraft manuals were well beyond that required to maintain high readiness and efficiency due to the availability of spares, test equipment, and consumables. This is hard to believe, but with the limited amount of flying there might have been a way to keep ready aircraft on the ground and in a “up” status for long periods of time.
A recent V. Chernyshev (RD-33 manufacturer) add says that the German Air Force has found that the RD-33 MTBO can be held at 700 hours if the engines are properly maintained (MilTech 12/94, pg. 18). With this experience or hype, Mikoyan is confident that they can quickly bring the service life of the MiG-29 up to 4000 hours with mod provisions taking this to 6000 hours. Likewise the overhaul cycle of the RD-33 engine for all customers could be quickly lifted from its original 350 hours to 700 hours to first overhaul and life out to 1400 hours. The new German Air Force has been working together with DASA and V. Chernyshev to set-up modern computer-based MiG-29 supply system that would further increase their engine MTBO to 1200 hours.
In practice however, because of the relatively low total flight hours, under a million hours for all MiG-29′s, the RD-33 failed far more often then advertised and the Russian supply system could not keep up to the customer demand and turn around time required, as experienced by the Indian Air Force. Every overhaul began to cost the InAF Force over $480,000 dollars.
Simply put, the original war-based Soviet logistics system pumped completed engines and new aircraft into the forward area at rates consistent with projected utilization that always kept in reserve the hours necessary to fight the NATO war. It was a system of long trains and thousands of aircraft crates and engine coffins, but very few isolated parts and even fewer trained technicians. As you can see this entire system is now transitioning towards a western based concept with very little regard for an exact audit or tracking of component production, refurbishment, inventory, storage, retrieval, and transportation.
When we first learned at Farnborough 1988, that the RD-33 engine weighed 3305 lbs., it bothered many engineers. It was said to be too heavy for a single-engine fighter and too light for a twin. The un-installed thrust-to-weight was 7.47:1 and the installed around 5.53:1, more like a GE J-79 than a F-100. Modern engines were supposed to have eight or nine to one uninstalled thrust-to-weight ratios. But the Russians, while working with older engine technology and manufacturing techniques, were ready to pay a weight penalty because they knew they could use other available high technology in composite manufacturing to make up for it. They were also being hard pressed to get into production a higher performing fighter to counter the F-15 and F-16. Correspondingly that penalty re-directed the weight saving efforts by the design team. The MiG-29, therefore, obtained a high percentage of composite structure because of weight savings needed to offset heavier engines that were uncharacteristically heavy by western standards. The RD-33 then, may have more in common with the J-79 level of technology than the F-100.
Engine Oil Sampling was directed at 100/150 hour level maintenance inspections with an average consumption rate listed at 1.76 lbs/hr (0.8 kg/hr). Oil Level check gauges are located in the left wheel well. There is a high pressure quick dis-connect refueling point located just inside of the left landing gear well. The quick disconnect attachment point immediately splits into two fuel lines, one to the wings and the other to the fuselage tanks. However, all advanced and naval variants of the MiG-29 have been fitted with retractable fuel problems. Just forward of the high pressure refueling point in the landing gear door (remember left side of the aircraft looking forward), is a drop down fastener door that is located just under the strake near the gear well that exposes the computer access panel for the INS Loading and additional maintenance test switches. There is a white matrix of 3 x 3 white keys, and adjacent to the right is another 4 x 4 matrix of black keys. There are other switches there also.
Spool-up from idle to full afterburner takes a flat four seconds, even though the pilot’s check list on takeoff requires a mandatory 10 seconds to wait and watch indicators. The “linear” type of throttles, that are power boosted, moved very easily when the boost system is on, but is very hard when off. The transition from MIL to A/B zones is almost un-noticeable, except for a quick knuckle grab “up” to clear the detent stops on the forward side of the throttle grip, which is effortless and smooth.
Table 5: MiG-29 Fuel System Summary: (@ 6.5 lbs/US gal)
Model Var. Lbs. Kg. US Gal. liters
Fulcrum A (1) 07384 3200 1136 4300
Fulcrum B (2) 07384 3200 1136 4300
Fulcrum A (3) 07384 3200 1136 4300
Fulcrum C (4) 07514 3408 1156 4376
Fulcrum C (5/6) 07384 3200 1136 4300
Fulcrum C (7/8) 07926 3595 1219 4616
Fulcrum A (9) 07384 3200 1136 4300
Fulcrum D (10) 11023 5000 1696 6419
Fulcrum E (11/12) 10979 4980 1689 6394
1 x Centerline 02610 1184 0402 1520
1 x Wing Tank 01975 0896 0304 1150
2 x Wing Tanks 03949 1792 0608 2300
3 x Ext Tanks 06559 2976 1010 3820
RD-33 Engine Start:
For normal day-to-day operations from a flight line, RD-33 Engine start is accomplished primarily from stored air/nitrogen with battery ignition. There is however, an onboard 98 hp GTDE-117 APU (rarely used) and a battery electronic-spool capability. The APU is fed air via an inlet projecting above the rear fuselage with its ventral exhaust air is vented through the centerline tank if fitted. Engines can be started with bleed air from an external impingement air-start cart or from an operating engine bleed air crossover-valve switch. There are 3 x four-liter bottles of pure oxygen at 150 atmospheres pressure for the pilot’s life support system that can be used for emergency engine starts at altitude.
The MiG-29 regenerates its bottled pneumatic replacement air from engine bleed. These pneumatics run canopies, engine starts, emergency braking, and emergency landing gear/flap extension. Nitrogen air is serviced before each flight by a standard nitrogen cart. The pilot would go through a brief cockpit check-out, then work on the start switches on the right side console bulkhead. An air/nitrogen crank would commence with the battery automatically engaged for ignition. Idle is reached 12 to 13 seconds after the throttles are cracked, idle fuel flow is 772 lbs/hour (350 kg/hr). In scramble situations the number two engine could be started while taxing. The inlet doors rapidly close as engines come on line and the auxiliary over-inlet louvers sucked open.
All external connections are done with NATO standard interfaces to the aircraft. The APU appears to be the weak-link in the engine start arena. Ground crews complain about it during air shows and it has an exhaust vent that is routed through the rear portion of the centerline tank.
MiG-29 Maintenance Servicing:
The MiG-29 has two 3000 psi hydraulic systems that back each other up as in the MiG-23, but no third system as in Western aircraft. There seems to be a real sacrifice in survivability doing things this way, but it is consistent with the Russian mentality towards aircraft life during war.
Aircraft and Engine “CHECK CYCLES” are categorized by “HOUR-LEVEL” Checks, however the engines get scheduled monthly calendar checks and inspections regardless. Remember, in the Indian Air Force, 74% (139) of the 188 failed prematurely before the 300 hour cycle level. Of those that failed, 40% (56) did not achieve half the predicted 300 hour cycle life. Hence the Indian maintenance cycle was dropped to 50 hours.
Operational maintenance is categorized according to:
1. pre flight checks
2. through flight checks
3. post flight checks
Aircraft and Engine “Checks” are organized according to “Hour-Level” Inspections and Actions. Engines however, get monthly calendar inspections, whether they need them or not.
1. Every 60 days there is an inspection cycle that is done on the aircraft without test equipment but utilizing the on-board built in test (BIT) system and a visual inspection of all systems. The BIT check takes 1/2 a man day, or four man hours.
2. The 100 HOUR LEVEL CHECK
- at 45 min per sortie, i.e., after 133 flights or every two months
- takes 5-6 days
- BIT check plus everything short of component removal
- Engine uses tester unit run against special chart
3. The 200 HOUR LEVEL CHECK
- Equipment removal and failure replacements
- same volume of items on 100 Hr Check for engine
- “other” maintenance not explained
- engine oil samples are taken every 100 & 150 hours
4. The 300 HOUR LEVEL CHECK
- engine-only checks
- Intermediate level (JEIM) inspection
- TBO not yet determined
5. The 400 HOUR LEVEL CHECK
- Includes all systems
Ground Test Equipment: Squadron Breakout for 20 Aircraft
(6) Mk-912 Tester Units for onboard equipment checks at the 100 Hour Level
(1) Engine Tester Unit
(1) INS Tester Unit
(2) Sighting Systems Tester Units
(1) Armaments Systems Tester Unit
(1) Manual Tester unit for miscellaneous equipment
(1 ) BIT check adapters
Ground Support Equipment
(1) Power supply
(1) Hydraulic stand
(1) Vehicle with oxygen bottles
(1) Vehicles with air bottles
(1) Pressurization/air conditioning unit
(1) R27 missile Tester unit
(1) R60 missile Tester unit
(1) R73 missile Testerunit
(1) Rockets and Bomb Tester Unit
(1) Gun system Tester
No support requirements or maintenance tasks were mentioned for the Chaff and Flare dispensers that are located on the above wing structure extending forward from the vertical tails. There are weather guards that crew on to the dispensers and must be removed before flight.
MiG-29 Communication / Inertial Navigation System:
Normal VHF voice and data communications on the MiG-29 are done through pre-set radio receivers that have limited channel selections put in by the ground maintenance crew. Over the years, several western comm-nav units have been installed into MiG-29 aircraft for use with Western air forces and in Western air traffic environments. German MiG-29′s were updated with these systems and MAPO-MiG offers them to any customer requiring them. The full extent of these Western equipment mods will not be discussed here. A Western GPS receiver has even been installed on the canopy bow above the radar scope on some MiG-29′s attending overseas air shows.
There is an inertial navigation system that is loaded from a bay door below the aircraft by a maintenance officer, not from the cockpit. The “pop-open” panel, is located just under the left strake, forward of the main landing gear well. It has two key-boards under this cover, a 3 x 3 and a 4 x 4, which allow coordinate entries by a ground crewman.
The INS is aligned automatically after engine start with generator power on. It requires 12-13 minutes for systems check out. There is a three minute rapid alignment which sounds like a stored alignment. Accuracy drift is listed as 4 km/hr. There are three airfield (home, destination, & alternate), three navigation waypoints, and three points of interest that can be stored in the system. There is no airborne update capability until the MiG-29M advanced cockpit.
The INS system is programmed to read from a 36° x 36° grid sector and data is accessible to the cockpit only via inputs to the primary gauges and displays. There is a constant read-out of range to waypoints/airfield and in the “LANDING” mode, the aircraft autopilot will accomplish a self-contained approach and let-down to final approach on the coordinates of the selected recovery base. The pilot tunes the MiG-29 to an assigned data-link frequency for his navigation, mission, or landing needs, but the aircraft is not coupled via the datalink to its autopilot as in the MiG-23. An autopilot mode will fly the aircraft on a pre-planned nav-route with data-link back-up steering, but there is no pilot “hands-off” flying by the ground controller. The autopilot will fly the pilot to a point on the final approach to a selected recovery base. Given that everything works perfectly, the pilot still must drop the landing gear, flaps, and then land the aircraft. It even programs in the expected holding patterns.
There are no Western style mission planning systems associated with the MiG-29. No data cartridge loader or integrated map display is utilized. MiG-31 strategic interceptors and Su-30 strike-fighters have electronically installed map systems, but nothing yet has been seen in the MiG-29. The MiG-29 requires its maintenance department to manually install flight data from the operations department into the aircraft. Another reason why there is a planning and maintenance day before each flying day.
On the planning day on a Russian base, MiG-29 pilots normally write out each navigation leg and the associated navigation switch-actions, if any, required during their entire flight to be reviewed by their superiors. As you can guess, the factor of “variability” is seriously decreased by the amount of work necessary to script and store a mission, therefore, most training missions are “canned” and used over and over.