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Middle East , Aircraft and Anti-Aircraft

New MiG-29SMT Fighters Sent to Test Capabilities in Syria Prove Successful

December 09th - 2017

The head of Russia's United Aircraft Corporation Sergei Korotkov has conducted an analysis of the performances of various Russian platforms in combat based on their performance during deployment in Syria. In September 2017 Russia's new MiG-29SMT was sent to Russia's Hmeymim Airbase in Syria to allow it to demonstrate its capabilities and determine its viability as a future light platform for the Russian Air Force. The MiG-29 and MiG-35 platforms were designed as complements to Russia's its heavier Sukhoi platforms, which carried out the vast majority of Russian airstrikes during the Syrian conflict. Regarding the combat testing of the MiG-29SMT Sergei Korotkov stated: "The participation of new aircraft in sorties allows us to confirm their reliability and efficiency, as well as to assess the operation of the on-board radio electronics and weapons systems." He stated that over a period of two and a half months the new fighters had carried out over 140 sorties, targeting infrastructure used by insurgent groups such as the Al Nusra Front and Islamic State. The MiG was able to act independently as well as complementarily alongside the larger Su-35 and Su-34 high performance fighters. Korotkov particularly emphasized: "The experience gained in Syria will be taken into account in the operation of these aircraft, as well as introduced in the development of new MiG aircraft, including the MiG-35."

The primary shortcomings of the MiG-29 have long been it's lacking long range combat capabilities and it's small combat radius. The SMT variant seeks to amend both of these shortcomings. It incorporates far larger fuel tanks on its back, substantially increasing its range, while also being fitted with aerial refueling capabilities which the original MiG-29 lacked. While the MiG-29's range confined it to a defensive role, making it largely unsuitable for operations across Syria's vast deserts against terror groups, the SMT has largely overcome this constraint. Improved radar capabilities also make it a far more capable combat platform for beyond visual range engagements. The SMT also builds on the original strengths of the MiG-29, namely it's extremely high maneuverability and short range combat capabilities which, according to German MiG-29 operators which also operated Western fighters, surpass even advanced platforms such as the F-15 at short range.

Syria's Air Force capabilities have been devastated by seven years of war, and nevertheless rely mostly on dated but upgraded second and third generation platforms. The MiG-21, a platform dating back to the 1950s but since heavily enhanced, has been the workhorse of the Syrian Air Force during the war due to its low maintenance requirements and reliability. The relatively low cost MiG-29SMT could be a suitable replacement to begin rebuilding the Syrian Air Force after the war, though weather Syria will induct more expensive high performance platforms such as the Su-27 in future or weather it will continue to rely heavily on air defense platforms to protect its airspace remains to be seen. Based on it's performance in Syria however, the MiG-29 SMT is likely to be inducted in greater numbers in the Russian Air Force and is likely to be delivered to the Syrian Air Force as well.


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