Russia launches production of new MiG-29M/M2 fighter

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Moscow, May 31 (UNI) Buoyed by robust oil and gas sales Russia is refurbishing its ageing air infrastructure and is all set to launch the production of Mig-29M/M2 Fulcrum Fighter plane.

The Sokol aircraft plant, based in Nizhny Novgorod, Central Russia, is to launch production of the Fulcrum fighter planes, the company's general director Mikhail Shibayev said yesterday.

''The first aircraft to be produced is planned to be completed in the second quarter of 2010,'' he was quoted as saying by Ria Novosti.

''The new aircraft will use the most advanced technology, specifically the Zhuk-M onboard radar and cutting-edge avionics,'' MiG's General Director Anatoly Belov said.

He said the fighter will be sold both at home and abroad, adding that the company had already received an order for the aircraft from an undisclosed foreign customer.

The plane's integrated weapon control system is built around the Zhuk-M airborne radar, an IR search and track system and a helmet-mounted target designation system.

The fighter has the capability to detect air targets at ranges of up to 120 km and has the potential to attack four targets simultaneously.

Russia's Defense Ministry had planned to spend around 40 billion dollar of federal budget funds in 2008, 20 per cent more than in 2007, certainly a steep hike to boost its defence infrastructure.

The MiG-29M is a 4th generation jet fighter aircraft designed for the air superiority role in the Soviet era.

Developed in the 1970s by the Mikoyan design bureau, it entered service with the Soviet Air Force in 1983, and remains in use by the Russian Air Force as well as in many other nations.

NATO's reporting name for the MiG-29 is ''Fulcrum,'', which was unofficially used by Soviet pilots in service.

It was developed to counter American fighters such as the F-16 Fighting Falcon, and the F/A-18 Hornet.

MiG-29's good operational record had prompted India to sign a deal with Russia in 2005-06 to upgrade its 67 MiG-29s for 888 million dollar. Under the deal, Russia replaced the old N-019 radar with the Phazatron Zhuk-M radar.

Russia also gave India's Hindustan Aeronautics Limited the license to manufacture 120 RD-33MK turbojet engines for the upgrade.

The MiG-29s were also upgraded for mid-air refueling to increase their endurance.

UNI XC SZ RN1200

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