In the mid-1980s, a development of the original MiG-29 was proposed to meet the Soviet western front line requirement. It was required to be a multi-role fighter for the front line defensive air force to gain offensive strike ability. This development resulted in a single seat and a double seat variant. The proposal was then grounded as a result of shift in military strategy. The model was named "MiG-33" and later received the MiG-29ME designation for export market in the mid-1990s. A twin seat model of the standard, commonly known as the MiG-29MRCA, was the MAPO-MiG's primary contender for many international fighter aircraft bids, later evolved into the Mikoyan MiG-35. Six of these models were built before 1990. They were constantly upgraded with various components and one received experimental vector thrust engines which eventually became the MiG-29OVT. The model was again renamed as MiG-29M. The MiG-29M/M2 now belongs to the "new unified family" instead of the "MiG-29 fighters family" which comprise the older variants.
The MiG-29M/M2 aircraft is a revision of the basic MiG-29. It achieved a more robust multi-role capability with enhanced use of air-to-air and air-to-ground high-precision weapons. It also featured considerably increased combat range owing to an increase in its internal fuel capacity. Along with a better pilot-to-aircraft interface in the cockpit, a digital three-channel fourfold redundant fly-by-wire system, improved navigation, radio communications, electronic countermeasures, monitoring and recording systems, and optronic and reconnaissance pods, have improved overall aircraft performance considerably.
- Airframe evolutions
A few changes took place during the aircraft's development. The redesigned airframe was constructed from a lightweight aluminum-lithium alloy to increase thrust-to-weight ratio. Air intakes' geometry was revised, the upper intake louvers removed to make way for more fuel in the LERXs, mesh screens introduced to prevent foreign object damage (FOD) and enlarged inlet dimensions for higher airflow. The back of the aircraft featured an enlarged spine for more fuel capacity and a dorsal air brake. Radome and canopy were redesigned to give space for avionic upgrades. Aerodynamics were also revised. The wings increased span and aileron, while the tail fins revised trailing edges.
The RD-33MK, the latest revision of the RD-33, has 7% more power in comparison to the baseline model due to the usage of modern materials on the cooled blades, it provide a thrust of 9,000 kgf. In response to long time criticism, the new engines are smokeless and contain improvements that reduce its infrared visibility. Thrust vectoring nozzles are now offered upon customer’s request.
- Range and fuel system
The aircraft is built with an in-flight-refueling (IFR) probe and is able to carry three fuel drop tanks. The redesigned airframe also significantly increased internal fuel capacity in the dorsal spine and LERXs fuel tanks. These give the aircraft of single seat an operation range of 2,000 km with internal fuel, 3,200 km with three fuel drop tanks, and 6,000 km with three drop tanks and in-flight-refueling.
The cockpit has been redesigned to incorporate contemporary features. While some analogue instruments have been retained, two monochrome liquid crystal (LCD) multi-function displays (MFD) have been introduced and new weapon controls have been incorporated in a HOTAS concept. Other new features include the Zhuk-ME radar, an infra-red search and track (IRST) system and a helmet-mounted target designation system (early HMD).
Main upgrades consists the Zhuk-ME pulse-Doppler airbone radar, along with revised IRST systems, helmet-mounted target designation system and electronic countermeasures. New radar capable of detecting air targets at ranges up to 120 km, track-while-scan of ten targets and attack of four targets at a time. In scanning surface targets, the radar detection range of destroyer-type targets is 250 km and that of missile launcher-type targets is 150 km. Hence beyond visual range (BVR) engage is greatly enhanced.
The aircraft can carry the RVV-AE (R-77), R-27ER1, R-27ET1, R-27R1, R-27T1, R-73E air-to-air missiles, the Kh-29T, Kh-29L, Kh-31A, Kh-31P, Kh-35E air-to-surface missiles, the KAB-500KR (OD), KAB-500L guided bombs, as well as rockets and free-fall bombs. The aircraft retains the GSh-301 built-in gun.
- Crew: 1 or 2
- Length: 17.37 m (57 ft)
- Wingspan: 11.4 m (37 ft 3 in)
- Height: 4.73 m (15 ft 6 in)
- Wing area: 38 m² (409 ft²)
- Empty weight: 13,380 kg (29,498 lb)
- Loaded weight: 17,500 kg (38,581 lb)
- Max takeoff weight: 22,400 kg (49,383.54 lb)
- Powerplant: 2 × Klimov RD-33MK afterburning turbofans, 9,000 kgf (88.26 kN, 19,840 lbf) each
- Maximum speed:
- High altitude: Mach 2.25 (2,400 km/h, 1,491 mph)
- Low altitude: Mach 1.4 (1,500 km/h, 932 mph)
- Ferry range: 2,000 km (1,240 mi) / 3,000 km (1,860 mi) (twin seat)
- Service ceiling: 17,500 m (57,500 ft)
- Rate of climb: 330 m/s (65,000 ft/min)
- Wing loading: 442 kg/m² (90.5 lb/ft²)
- Thrust/weight: 1.02
- 1 × 30 mm GSh-30-1 cannon with 150 rounds
- 8 under wing, weapons hardpoints plus a centerline hardpoint for up to 5,500 kg (12,125 lb) of external fuel and ordnance
- Air-air missiles: 8 × R-73E, 8 × R-77 (RVV-AE), 4 × R-27
- Air-surface missiles: 4 × Kh-29T(TE), 4 × Kh-31A, 4 × Kh-31P, Kh-35E
- Guided bombs: 4 × KAB-500Kr
- Unguided bombs: 4 × FAB-500
- Cluster bombs: 4 × RBK-250, 4 × RBK-500, 4 × RBK-750
- Unguided rocket pods: 4 × S-8 rocket pod, 6 × S-25 rockets
- Phazotron Zhuk-ME radar