Russia's fighter aircraft exports are beginning to knock the Chinese out of the arms market, with the best value being the MiG-29 Fulcrum. The Russian firm MiG signed an agreement with Poland on the 11th for upgrading MiG-29 fighters, although no details were revealed. A week prior, MiG announced a delivery deal for six MiG-29s (worth of approximately $50 million) to Tanzania, which has been using about 20 Chinese-made clones of ancient MiG-17, MiG-19 and MiG-21 fighters. China has long been selling these aircraft to nations that had to buy cheap. But now Russian manufacturers are offering much better value for a very reasonable price. MiG-29s are roughly equal to the U.S. F-16, which costs about four times what the Russian aircraft are selling for.
Other African countries are already flying the Fulcrum, often with Russian, or East European pilots. In 2002-2003, MiG supplied 12 MiG-29s to Sudan ($120 million) and six to Eritrea in 2001-2002 (about $60 million). A Moscow-based think tank thinks that up to 100 MIG-29s (and 90 SU-30 Flanker derivatives) may be exported before 2010. The MIGs would go to India (30), Africa (30), Latin America (20), and the Middle East (20), since the Southeastern Asia market is mainly controlled by Sukhoi. Upgraded MIG-29SMT (and MIG-31 Foxhound) fighters will be also be procured by the Russian Air Force in 2004.
Properly maintained and flown by competent pilots, the Fulcrums can present a serious threat to many western fighters. The United Nations' Security Council might do well to remember this, when they're coming up with the next great social rescue mission. - Adam Geibel
MiG-29 Specifications, online at