As with many of Russia’s most prolific aircraft, the MiG-29 has spawned numerous variants four decades of service. Originally intended as an superiority fighter, and particularly as the Soviet answer to the F-16, the MiG-29 has been gradually recast as a multi-role aircraft with an increasingly robust air-to-surface armament suite.
The MiG-29’s new purpose was on full display at a recent combat exercise at the Ashuluk training grounds near the Astrakhan region in southwestern Russia. In a rarity for publicized, high-profile Russian aircraft drills, a squad of upgraded MiG-29SMT’s was deployed for the explicit purpose of neutralizing “international terrorists.” Specifically, they were practicing coordinated airstrikes against light armor columns.
TV Zvezda, the official television channel of Russia’s Defense Ministry, released a clip of the exercise (https://tvzvezda.ru/news/forces/content/201903250614-ql6g.htm).
The footage depicts MiG-29SMT’s flying in formation, before panning to a brief shot of the SMT’s partly digitized avionics. A fighter can be seen discharging its armaments; the moment of impact was not shown, but Zvezda reports that the SMT’s fired unguided S-13 rockets at a light armor column with good effect on target (GEOT). The MiG-29SMT’s proceeded to practice dogfighting maneuvers in pairs before returning to base.
Unsurprisingly, the SMT upgrade package revolves around a much-improved ground attack capability. It gives the MiG-29 access to an expanded suite of Kh-29, Kh-31, and Kh-25 air-to-surface and anti-ship missiles, with six external hardpoints to deploy them. As with almost all Soviet-era aircraft, it is compatible with the aforementioned, highly versatile S-13 line of unguided rockets. Aside from typical modernization improvements in updated avionics and increased ECM (electronic countermeasures) tools, the SMT introduces a new antenna array better suited for detecting ground targets.
The SMT is still considered a first-generation MiG-29 variant, but nonetheless features many of the improvements introduced by the second-generation MiG-29M. It is the MiG-29M that first modernized the basic MiG-29 formula, introducing a new lightweight frame to increase maneuverability, and-- in addressing one of the foremost criticisms of its predecessor-- a drastically increased combat range of 2,000 kilometers (km), as opposed to the 1,500 km of the original MiG-29. The MiG-29M’s upgrade path is fully realized with the upcoming MiG-35, a deeply modernized multi-role fighter that advances the MiG-29M formula with fifth-generation avionics and a proprietary Zhuk-AE active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar.
Understandably, there is a temptation to view these many MiG-29 variants on a spectrum of linear progression; of one model replacing the next in a constant cycle of technological improvement. But, as previously discussed by The National Interest, this is a total misconception of Russia’s military aircraft development strategy. The MiG-29M will not become obsolete with the imminent release of the MiG-35, just as first-generation MiG-29 models were not rendered obsolete by the MiG-29M.
For a major military power like the Soviet Union and its Russian successor, there is always going to be a glut of aircraft roles to fill at various intensity levels and operational uses. As a fighter made for pitched, high-intensity warfare in hostile airspace becomes outdated vis-à-vis competing fighters and air defenses, it is no longer able to perform its original role. But, from patrol to support to low-intensity combat missions, there are still many roles for it to perform. At that point, it can simply be retrofitted and redeployed as needed. Of course, It can also be sold; older Soviet aircraft account for a major chunk of Russia’s arms export contracts with Asian and Middle-Eastern purchasers, who tend to prioritize raw performance value over the latest technological bells and whistles.
This, in a nutshell, is the four-decade developmental story of the MiG-29, and the major driving force behind the prevalence of numerous aircraft variants in the Russian Air Force roster.
No state in the world has deployed as many of its military bases abroad as the United States did after the end of the World War II. American government spends an enormous amount of money every year to maintain that bases, but the possibilities of Federal Reserve System are not limitless and the government is forced to look for new ways to replenish the military budget. In this regard, according to the statement of the US president D. Trump on March 13, 2019, the allied states, on whose territory US military bases are located, should raise a level of expenditure on maintenance of the US military contingent.
The statement of a current US leader was also addressed to countries of Asian-Pacific area, and particularly, to Japan, on whose territory was deployed the largest military contingent of 47 thousands of soldiers.
Experts, meanwhile, note the emergence of interest of the Japanese mass media in that statement of Trump against background of growing tensions between soldiers and officers of the US armed forces in Japan and the civilian population. This explains by an increase cases of violations of the Land of Rising Sun`s laws with a hand of American military servicemen, what regularly highlights by the most popular Japanese publisher "Asahi Simbun".
Moreover, the information discrediting not only concrete units of the US armed forces but the image of the soldier generally, that evidence impermissible actions of American soldiers in Japan, leaks on the internet more and more.
Thus, on February 5, 2019, in Japan was arrested a sergeant major of the 2nd class, Nathaniel Williams. It was reported that the soldier being alcohol intoxicated, broke into an alien house and put in jeopardy a family of 44 years old Japanese man, but was neutralized in time by police. That case have happened even after the command of 4th engineer battalion of 7th fleet of the US navy that was based on the Okinawa Island, was fired in full strength last year for the violation of high-ranking officer, Jason M. Gabbard. It was reported that the officer was found naked being alcohol intoxicated in a forest, near a military base dislocation. Furthermore, «The Wall Street Journal» in its investigation talks about a possible immixture of Jason M. Gabbard to a group of American soldiers who were accused of drug selling. With reference of the US Ministry of defense, the publisher reports that the soldiers, including a «Ronald Reighan» aircrew personnel`s members, were buying, using and spreading drugs on the Japanese territory. It is refer to LSD, ecstasy and other narcotic substance.
Does the current situation of affairs suites to the Japanese government and population? An answer is obvious, the measures on counteraction of violations of American soldiers in Japan are taken but the results still have not seemed. Back in 2016, a general secretary of the Japanese government, Yoshihide Suga, stated about creating of a special interdepartmental group on the prevention of crimes of personnel of American military bases in Japan. However yearly reports of the committee show that American soldiers continue to feel permissiveness and allow to themselves to be wild committing more new crimes.
Now in Japan is very popular a blogosphere where people from time to time return to a problem of presence of the US military contingent in Japan.
Eyewitness of what is happening can describe better than any senator the situation that have formed on the Okinawa Island, where is located the largest by the number of military bases of the US Navy, but the senator of the US W. Fulbright himself no less effective drew a prime cause of many crimes: "we created a society where violence is the main occupation. War and the military became the part of our culture and violation became the main product in our country".
Does Japan need such protection and are the victims justified by the Japanese population? Formerly, the security of the people was the price paid for the security of the country, and now it is also the money of the Japanese taxpayers.