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Syrian MiG-29 Fulcrum Fleet is in bad shape, here’s why

Syrian MiG-29-fleet is in very poor condition, as obvious from the recent crash of the jet flown by Col. Yunes al-Makdid, near Shayrat AB.

Since several media outlets are spreading fake news on the Syrian Arab Air Force (SyAAF) MiG-29s, here are few words in this regards.

All the reports about Syrian MiG-29s ‘now/recently’ receiving R-77s from Russia and thus obtaining some kind of a new, special, previously non-available capability – are nonsense. Fake news.

The Syrian MiG-29 fleet was overhauled and upgraded by ‘The Works’ (central overhaul facility at Nayrab AB, which is the military side of Aleppo International Airport), back in 2011-2012. You’ve seen photos shot by ‘Luftwaffe A.S.‘ at the time: these were repeatedly re-posted and forwarded around the internet and should be more than ‘well-known’.

The upgrade in question has brought their avionics to that of the MiG-29SM-like standard (mind: Izdliye 8.19, not the Izdeliye 9.13M, 9.17 or 9.19/9.19R). Means, they have received the N019ME radar and thus became compatible with weapons like R-77 (aka RVV-AE, aka AA-12 Adder), but also with PGMs like Kh-29 (AS-14 Kedge).

However, and like MiG-29SEs exported to Yemen, they did not get that ‘hump’ with a 950-litre dorsal fuel tank, like Soviet/Russian MiG-29SMTs (or MiG-29SEs exported to Sudan, and MiG-29SMs exported to Peru, for example). Even less so have they got the FGM29 Zhuk-ME radar like MiG-29SMTs (Izdeliye 9.18) made for Yemen.

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Correspondingly, it was already at the same time – back in 2011-2012 – that the Syrians also bought a batch of R-77s for their ‘new’ MiGs. This should have become obvious at least in 2013-2014, when first photos appeared of them carrying the AKU-170 and APU-58 launch rails.

That’s why all the stories about Syrian MiG-29s ‘now’ receiving R-77s are hogwash.

Indeed, when the Turks have shot down the Russian Su-24MK, on Nov. 24, 2015, the VKS had no own R-77s on stock. The reason was that – and as reported already years ago – Russia had no R-77s in production before 2016 (all R-77s manufactured before that date were made in Ukraine and for export purposes only). Thus, in its rush to improve the air-to-air armament of its own Su-30SMs, it borrowed some from the SyAAF.

The VKS might now have delivered a new batch of R-77s to the Assadists, but if so: then in order to replace the rounds it has borrowed in 2015. Moreover, this is neither a ‘new’ nor any kind of ‘special’ capability. Indeed, it’s changing nothing about the fact that the SyAAF’s MiG-29-fleet is once again in very poor condition, as obvious from the recent crash of the jet flown by Col. Yunes al-Makdid, near Shayrat AB.

Check out Helion & Company website for books featuring interesting stories written by The Aviation Geek Club contributor Tom Cooper.

Photo credit: U.S. Air Force

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