Luftwaffe MiG-29 Upgrade
After the decision was made to keep MiG-29 Fulcrum in Luftwaffe service, the German MoD began to think about a possible combat efficiency upgrade for its MiG-29s to overcome most of these technical problems such as the cockpit placards being written in Cyrillic, making it difficult for a Western pilot to operate the aircraft properly. Another problem can be found in the avionics, which are set to the metrical system. The altimeter read outs are in meters, ranges on the radar are in kilometers and the speed is given in kilometers per hour. The most important problem of the MiG 29, however, is limited fuel capacity. As MiG-29 lacks an air to-air refueling capability, CAP (combat air patrol) operations inside an FAOR for more than 35 minutes are impossible without continual replacement of the participating aircraft. DASA (now EADS) at Manching was chosen, together with MiG MAPO at Russia forming MAPS, a German-Russian joint venture, which should conduct the upgrade for all MiG-29s to Western ICAO standards.
This MiG-29 upgrade included:
- Integration of a new IFF/SIF transponder;
- Replacing the old UHF-radio with fixed frequencies with a new VHFI UHF-radio with frequencies manually selectable;
- Integration of an XT-2000 emergency radio;
- Installation of a TACAN navigational equipment;
- Addition of a mach mode indicator;
- Anti-collision lights;
- Switching the indication of all instruments to feet (altimeter), miles (radar) and knots (speed indicator);
- Exchange of all Cyrillic lettering for English placards;
- Re-coloring of all aircraft in air superiority gray;
- Installation of a GPS, but not yet connected to the aircraft’s INS.
Those changes were incorporated from 1992 onwards and ended in early 1995 with the handover of the last aircraft in Preschen. At the same time the designation of the MiGs changed from MiG-29 A to G (for German version) and MiG-29 US to GT (German Trainer version). This first update program, called ICAO 1, did not include further upgrades to the radar as these were expected to be too costly for the overall benefit gained. Even today the MiG-29s use their old N-019E fire control equipment. After the termination of ICAO 1 it soon became obvious, that deficiencies with the integration of Westem systems into an Eastern airframe still existed, especially in the field of the very unreliable Russian navigation system.
To make the GAF MiG-29s available for major exercises such as RED FLAG in Nellis AFS, USA, or MAPLE FLAG in Cold Lake, Canada, a new program, ICAO II, was initiated. The technical conversion unit in Cottbus, East Germany, and ANPK-MiG from Moscow, Russia, started a co-operation by late 1995 to find a solution to counter the range limitations of the GAF MiG-29s. This ought to be accomplished by modifying the fuel lines and refitting of two under-wing pylons with two 1150 I wing tanks, limited to 4 Gs while maneuvering. Additionally the unreliable Russian navigation system was connected to the already installed GPS, which transmits position corrections directly to the aircraft’s INS.
The integration of all items was conducted until June 1999 mainly at the Manching facilities. The aircraft to be used was MiG-29-mark-08. On June 6, 1999, aircraft was transferred to WTD 61 for trails and thorough testing. After the tests proved to be very promising, six more aircraft were selected, to be upgraded this way. Because of funding problems in the years 1997 and 1998 the German MoD decided to upgrade only seven MiG-29s. By late September 1999 all aircraft had completed their upgrade program and were finally returned to FW 73 “Steinhoff” at Laage.
MiG-29 of Jagdgeschwader 73
When FW 3 started operations with the ordered minimum flying in 1991, the core of the MiG-29 aircrews was formed out of the men who already have served with the NVA. Unfortunately, nobody was accustomed to Western training standards such as ACM (air combat maneuvers), ACT (air combat tactics) or even multi aircraft scenarios. A handful of very experienced pilots and IPs, coming exclusively from West German fighter wings, supplemented the personnel at Holzdorf. Their job was to train the remaining pilots in NATO tactics and, at the same level, in ICAO procedures. It soon became obvious to Col. Ruppert, FW 3’s first Luftwaffe commander and at same time still CO of FW 74 “Molders” at Neuburg, that most of the former GDR “MiG drivers” lacked the mental and flying abilities for modern air combat. Thus until 1992 the best and most promising ex NVA pilots were allowed to temporarily stay with the GAF for a two years period and to commence again basic fighter pilot training, this time not in Russia but at Sheppard AFB, Texas. Depending on their training results they afterwards would have had the chance to become a full member of the German Air Force pilots cadre. As Luftwaffes’ demands towards their pilots’ abilities is very high only two dozens of former NVA pilots passed through the onthe-job training.