A Russian MiG-29 fighter crashed
in eastern Russia on the 17th, and the next day, all Russian MiG-29s were
grounded until it could be determined if the crash was the result of some
fundamental design flaw. There have been several problems with MiG-29s lately.
entered Russian service in 1983, as the answer to the American F-16. Some 1,600
MiG-29s have been produced so far, with most (about 900) exported. The biggest customer, India,
received its first MiG-29s in 1986, with deliveries continuing into the 1990s.
The 22 ton
aircraft is roughly comparable to the F-16, but it depends a lot on which
version of either aircraft you are talking about. Russia is making a lot of
money upgrading MiG-29s. Not just adding new electronics, but also making the
airframe more robust. The MiG-29 was originally rated at 2,500 total flight
hours. At that time (early 80s), Russia expected MiG-29s to fly about a hundred
or so hours a year. India flew them at nearly twice that rate, and now Russia
is offering to spiff up the airframe so that the aircraft can fly up to 4,000
hours, with more life extensions upgrades promised. This won't be easy, as the
MiG-29 has a history of unreliability and premature breakdowns (both mechanical
and electronic). This is the main reason for grounding all of them after the
Western aircraft, like the F-16, the MiG-29 is available for action about two
thirds as often. While extending the life of the MiG-29 into the 2030s is theoretically
possible, actually doing so will be real breakthrough in Russian aircraft
capabilities. Thus the anxiety over the recent crash.