Egypt and Yemen have hired a
Ukrainian firm to upgrade most of their MiG-21 fighters. Egypt has 62 MiG-21s,
while Yemen has 47. Egypt had earlier upgraded some of its MiG-21s with British
electronics. The Ukrainian firm (Odesaremservis), will install a modern,
digital, cockpit (flat panel color displays and far fewer switches and buttons
to deal with). Installed under the aircraft will be a laser designator and camera so that the
aircraft can deliver smart bombs.
The 9.5 ton
MiG-21 is a 1950s design. Poor flight controls and lousy visibility limited
what a good pilot could do with this aircraft. But few good pilots flew the
MiG-21, as it was built for poorly trained pilots who mainly followed instructions
from someone on the ground. It can carry two tons of bombs and missiles.
American experience with smart bombs over the last two years, most air forces
have accepted the fact that the more expensive (starting at $30,000 each) smart
bombs are more effective than the much cheaper ($500 or less) dumb bombs. This
potentially makes the MiG-21 a much more effective aircraft.
Ukrainian firm also offers the Sura targeting helmet, which enables the pilot
to look at the target and fire a Russian R-73 heat seeking missile, that will
then go after the target the pilot is looking at. If the MiG-21 is facing
roughly equivalent aircraft, the Sura helmet makes the aircraft a much more
Ukrainian cockpit and targeting upgrade costs several million dollars per