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The MiG-29 was designed in response to a new generation of American fighters, which included the F-15 and F-16. Designed as an air defense fighter, this dual-purpose aircraft also possessed a ground attack capability. The task of producing a “frontal” or tactical fighter for the Frontal Aviation Regiments of the Soviet Air Force went to the Mikoyan-Gurevich Design Bureau (MiG OKB). Employing all the technical data available about the most advanced Western aircraft, the MiG designers started working on the MiG-29 in the early 1970s, and the first prototype made its first flight on Oct. 6, 1977. U.S. reconnaissance satellites detected the new fighter in November 1977, and NATO gave it the designation “Fulcrum.”
Production started in 1982, and deliveries to Frontal Aviation units started in 1983. By comparison, the USAF’s first operational F-15As arrived seven years earlier in 1976, and its F-16As entered operational service four years earlier in 1979.
Soviet test pilot Anatoliy Kvochur crash
Taken on Jun. 8, 1989 the famous video in this post features MiG-29 ‘303 Blue’ (c/n 2960516767, f/n 3303) belonging to the Mikoyan OKB and flown by test pilot Anatoliy Kvochur crashing while performing a demo flight at 38th Paris Air Show.
As explained by Yefim Gordon and Dmitriy Komissarov in their book Mikoyan MiG-29 & MiG-35, during a high-alpha/low-speed pass at 160 m (525 ft) concluding the Fulcrum-A’s aerobatics display a sheet of flame belched from the starboard engine nozzle as the engine surged. Kvochur immediately selected full afterburner for the good engine, but at only 180 km/h (111 mph) he had insufficient rudder and aileron authority to counter the thrust asymmetry and the result was inevitably an irrecoverable departure.
The engine failed at 13 hrs 44 min 57 sec local time; the stricken fighter immediately yawed and rolled to starboard, the nose ‘falling through ‘ until the aircraft entered a vertical dive at 1345.01 hrs. Two and a half seconds later Kvochur ejected at 92 m (302 ft) making sure the aircraft would not hit the spectators. At 1345.05 the fighter hit the ground beside the runway, erupting in a tremendous fireball. The pilot landed a mere 30 m (98 ft) from the wreckage, the ejection seat impacting right next to him.
To give credit where credit is due, the airport’s rescue and firefighting team was on the scene 55 seconds after the crash. Anatoliy Kvochur was rushed to a hospital but released on the same day with nothing worse than bruises and a cut above his right eyebrow from the oxygen mask. Indeed, he had been extremely lucky, as he had ejected outside the seat’s envelope, not to mention the proximity of the fireball and the falling seat. Yet the incident spoke a lot for the design of the Zvezda K-36DM ejection seat. As observers noted, ‘the MiG-29 demonstrated its structural integrity (as well as the soft nature of the ground at Le Bourget) by burying its entire forward fuselage, including the cockpit, in the ground before blowing up’.
Anatoliy Kvochur crash: speculation
Naturally, there was a good deal of speculation as to the cause of the crash. Video footage showed that the MiG had suffered at least two lightning strikes immediately before the accident. However, examination of the wreckage and FDR analysis revealed that the starboard engine had been critically damaged by multiple bird strike.
Mikoyan MiG-29 & MiG-35 is published by Crecy and is available to order here.
Photo credit: Unknown via Reddit and Vitaly V. Kuzmin, vitalykuzmin.net, via Wikipedia