Week of December 28, 1998

Mikoyan (MiG) Unveils MFI

By Vovick Karnozov

The Mikoyan design bureau has released pictures of its most advanced fighter model, the MFI (Russian acronym for Multi-purpose Front-line Fighter), also referred to as the Article 1.42. This was done in anticipation of the first public presentation of the aircraft, planned on 12 January at LII (Gromov's Flight Test and Research Center) in Zhukovsky. Among people invited to inspect the MFI are Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Maslyukov and Defence Minister Igor Sergeyev.

Mikoyan began working on fifth-generation fighters in the middle of the 1980s. Construction of the first flight demonstrator began in 1989, and in winter of 1994 the aircraft called "Article 1.42" made high-speed runs on the runway in Zhukovsky. Despite being 99% ready to perform its maiden flight in 1995, the aircraft was kept hidden in a hangar for four years as a result of financial difficulties.

Due to the limited state funding, the MFI project was halted until the appointment of Mikhail Korzhuev as a general director and general designer at Mikoyan. In an interview with AWN at Farnborough '98, Korzhuyev said that he was keen to de-freeze the project and get permission to make it an international project with financial participation of foreign countries.

Technically, the Article 1.42 is a heavyweight, single-seat air superiority fighter of the fifth generation, to which also belong the F-22 Raptor and Sukhoi S-37 Berkut. The new MiG features large canards with a characteristic aerodynamic tooth. The canards are placed slightly above the level of a bid delta wing. Air intakes, supplying air to the powerplant of two 20-tonne Lulka-Saturn Al-41F engines, are situated below the fuselage, in a similar manner to the F-16. The front part of the intakes strongly resembles that of the MiG-29. Two outward-canted vertical stabilizers are set widely apart on the wing.

Mikoyan claims the MFI has much reduced effective radar cross-section, similar to that of the F-22 Raptor. This was achieved not so much by the aerodynamic layout (like in the F-117), but largely by using special coatings to absorb radio signals. The MFI's intakes feature an S-like geometry, so as to reduce its radar signature. A further reduction in the effective radar cross-section is achieved by a wide usage of composite materials in the airframe. The MFI has an internal weapons bay, another measure to reduce its effective radar cross-section in combat configuration.

The fifth-generation MiG was designed to have a high cruise speed, well above Mach 1, and 3-D thrust-vectoring. It is likely to be fitted with a radar featuring a phased-array antenna with electronic scanning.

Taking account of the heavy economic crisis in Russia, leaders of both Russian fighter design houses, Sukhoi and Mikoyan, say that the S-37 and MFI have a little chance to be ordered by the Russian Air Force. At the same time, they can be used as technical demonstrators in the frame of the program on creation of a light-weight affordable fighter, the LFS (Russian acronym for Light-weight Front-line Airplane), which could enter service in the 2010 timeframe.

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