The serious losses suffered by the Russians in their invasion of Ukraine are forcing them to remove old and disused military equipment from their warehouses.
In recent months, old T-62 tanks taken out of storage to make up for the heavy losses of T-72, T-80 and T-90 in Ukraine. Images of old rusty AKM assault rifles being handed out to recruits in the "partial mobilization" decreed by Putin in September. Now it is the turn of the Russian Air Force.
The Ukrainian Military Website Mil.in.ua announced today that Russia is withdrawing MiG-29 fighter jets from its storage bases in Millerovo and Kursk, in order to repair them and return them to active service. In its Military Balance of last year, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) indicated that Russia in 2021 had 87 active MiG-29s, divided between the Air Force and the Naval Aviation. These veteran fighters are being replaced by the more modern Sukhoi Su-27 and Su-35.
MiG-29: a fighter with corrosion problems due to poor maintenance
The MiG-29 made its first flight in 1977. It was a very modern aircraft for its time, but most Russian MiG-29s have been rendered inoperative due to poor maintenance. On February 6, 2009, the official Russian outlet Sputnik News acknowledged that 70% of the Russian Air Force MiG-29s (at least 200 aircraft) were not airworthy, especially due to corrosion problems that possibly caused several serious accidents. In March 2009, the Russian Ministry of Defense reported that 190 of its 291 MiG-29s had corrosion problems, and 91 of them needed to be repaired. Because of these problems, Russia began modernizing part of its MiG-29 fleet to the MiG-29SMT version, but budget problems made deliveries difficult and the Russian Air Force had to take advantage of 35 MiG-29s rejected by Algeria.
Stored MiG-29s have disappeared from Millevoro and Kursk
According to Mil.in.ua, a part of the stored Russian MiG-29 fighters were parked at the Millerovo airfield in the Rostov region for a long time. From 2009 to 2014 that airfield was inactive, but on January 1, 2014, the 31st Fighter Aviation Regiment was re-established there. On February 25, 2022, the day after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Ukrainian Air Force attacked that base with a Tochka-U ballistic missile, managing to destroy two Russian Su-30SM fighters.
As for the Kursk Air Base, the aforementioned Ukrainian source indicates that the MiG-29SMT fighters, which have not been used in recent years, were removed from storage at that airfield. Sentinel-2 satellite images released by Mil.in.ua show that the planes that were in Kursk and Millevoro no longer appear at those bases in the photos taken this weekend. It is likely that the planes have been recovered, but after the corrosion problems that the MiG-29s experienced when they were in service, it is worth wondering if the fighters in storage will be airworthy or will need repairs.
Russia has already lost 61 combat aircrafts in this invasion
According to Oryxspioenkop.com , to date Russia has already lost 62 aircrafts in Ukraine. These losses do not include any MiG-29, which indicates that this model was probably either not used by the Russians in the invasion or was used on a small scale. Ukraine does maintain some MiG-29s in service. Russian losses include fighters such as the Su-30SM (11 lost in total), the Su-35S (1), the MiG-31BM (1) and the Su-25 (23), Su-24 (8) and Su-34 (16) attack aircraft. In total, Russia has already lost 61 combat aircrafts in this invasion.
Main photo: Alan Wilson. A Russian Air Force MiG-29 fighter at Chkalovsky Air Base in August 2012.
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