Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Book Review: Famous Russian Aircraft: Mikoyan MiG-29

Yefim Gordon
Famous Russian Aircraft: Mikoyan MiG-29
Hinckley, UK: Midland Publishing, 2006
Category: Aviation History

Rating: 5-Stars

There was a time when obtaining details regarding Soviet fighter programs bordered on the impossible.  Grainy images smuggled out of Eastern Europe often gave the only hint as to what was brewing behind the Iron Curtain.  In the case of the MiG-29, rumors were leaking into the Western press by the mid-1980s, fueled by clumsy artist's impressions released by the Pentagon - drawn from satellite photos.  When the MiG-29 first flew into public view during a Soviet exchange flight to Finland in July 1986, the reality of this airplane came jarringly into view.  In terms of hard technical details, however, very little was known.

In sharp contrast, with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the amount of detail publicly available on this and other Soviet era programs has multiplied many times over.  Russian manufacturers who were once gagged by the tight grip of the Soviet censor have been aggressively marketing their products on the export market, releasing details that were once closely held.  Yefim Gordon's excellent books on this and other Soviet-era fighters are a product of this new age of openness.

Gordon has assembled a detailed history, tapping into official records and personal interviews to reconstruct the development, flight test and operational history of the MiG-29.  The MiG-29 was first introduced into Soviet service in 1983, with the express aim of surpassing the U.S.-built F-16 in a close-quarters engagement.  Intended as the successor to the MiG-21 and MiG-23, the "Fulcrum" (as it was code-named by NATO) was a short range air-to-air fighter developed as a single-mission aircraft.  Later versions would add weight and fuel capacity to the aircraft, in an attempt to make it more multirole in function - but the original lines of the design are there for all to see.

In addition to a text rich in historical and technical detail, Gordon has assembled a collection of photographs dating back to the early, pre-flight development program, documenting the airplane's evolution from concept to flight test.  Although the book is a little pricey, at 512 pages Gordon's book stands out as a truly remarkable assemblage that will undoubtedly be looked back upon as the benchmark history of this fighter program for decades to come.

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