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MIG1.42/39 Stealth Fighter

MIG 1.42/39
MIG 1.42/39
Dimesions (mm): -
-wingspan: >15
-lenght overall: >20
-heigth overall: "
Maximum speed (km/h): -
-at height: M=2,6
Max Weight (kg): 30000- 35000
Engine: 2 x TRDDF AL41F
Thrust: 2 x 20000 kgs
Number of hardpoints: 12-14: some conformal
Air-to-air missiles: R-77; R-73; K-74; K-37

    Mikoyan article 1.42 also known as MFI (Mnogofunktsionalny Frontovoi Istrebitel - Multifunctional Frontline Fighter), and sometimes referred to in the West as "ATFski" is a low-observable (LO) multirole fighter. The primary mission of the 1.42 is air-superiority as the primary mission, which makes 1.42 a direct Russian equivalent of the USAF F-22. The chief designer of MiG MAPO Mr. Belosvet stated that 1.42 would have a greater range than the F-22 and would be more versatile. While F-22 primary task is achievement of the air superiority, the 1.42 will be as capable in strike mission as in air combat. The 1.42, like the F-22, can carry weapons both internally and externally, will be capable of supercruise and powered by trust-vectored control (TVC) engines.

The Roots

In early 1980s the Soviet Design bureaus were to start development of replacements for the forth-generation MiG-29 Fulcrum and Su-27 Flanker, capable of challenging the future Advanced Tactical Fighter (AFT) planned as a successor of F-15 Eagle. Analysis of the scarce ATF data provided a set of requirements for the Soviet fifth-generation air-superiority fighter, materializing in MFI. The Mikoyan's entry, designated Istrebitel'90 (Fighter 90), was built around the Soviet projections of ATF advances. After selection of the Mikoyan project over competing Sukhoi (very little known about Sukhoi's MFI), the MFI was reshaped and assigned new index -- 1.42. The first blow came with a cancellation of the related Project 7.01 (Project 701) in mid 1980s, a heavier and stealthier interceptor designed along similar lines and intended as a replacement of MiG-31 and MiG-31M. The 7.01 was to become vPVO (Soviet air defence forces) new interceptor, taking vPVO to new qualitative level the very same way as 1.42 was to change VVS (Soviet Air Force) potential. It is speculated that both 1.42 and 7.01 had similar origins, owning much to a MiG-31 Foxhound based canard-delta platform. Due to the lack of the performance required by VVS for its fourth-generation fighter, this heavy twin-engined MiG-31 based project lost to Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker.

On again, Off again...

Although its schedule has apparently been slowed by shortage of funds as well as technical problems, the first airframe is reported to be already complete, but problems with the engines have delayed the first flight. The 1.42 is one of the few Mikoyan projects which survived the multiple waves of defence budget cuts from the Kremlin, up until late spring of 1997 when it was announced that the funding for the unspecified fighter program is officially terminated. Many analysts suggested that this unspecified fighter program is Mikoyan's Project 1.42. However, at Le Bourge 97 MAPO MIG officials made it clear that the project is far from being dead and it proceeds at affordable pace funded by MAPO. In a separate event another MAPO official announced that the 1.42 (the fligh-test airframe(s) is often referred to as the 1.44) made its maiden flight at Zhukovsky and the aircraft might be revealed to public at upcoming Moscow Aerospace in two month (MAKS 97) pending on the decision of the Genshtab. This news was quickly picked by western aviation magazines and by the late summer 1997 it was believed that 1.42 (1.44) logged about 100 flight hours. However, several alternative sources suggested that 1.44 never left its hanger at Zhukovsky where two prototypes are stored other than for the high speed taxi tests. Its appearence at MAKS 97 as well as two years earlier at MAKS 95 failed to materialize, although it is known that the aircraft was shown to the government officials on both occasions. According to some sources MAPO MIG printed a brochure about new fighter, to be distributed at MAKS 97, but last moment changes kept both fighter and fliers from daylight. It is anticipated that first flight of the rival Sukhoi S-37 will accelerate "declassification" of the 1.42.

The 1.42 remains under the veil of secrecy but expected to made its first flight by the end of the 1997 piloted by Roman Taskayev. MAPO stated that the project will became advanced technology demonstrator and testbed for further MAPO MIG project such as LFI (Legkii Frontovoij Istrebitel').
The T-203 low-speed wind tunnel located at Siberian Research Institute of Aviation (SibNIA). All-black scale model mounted in the working section of the tunnel is a twin fin, delta winged aircraft. Note that fins are positioned atop of the twin booms. Aviastroenie Rossii, p. 236.

The Canard Delta

The origins of the 1.42 aerodynamic configuration can be traced back to November 1945, when Mikoyan test pilot Grinchik took in the air ungainly looking MiG-8 Utka (Duck, Canard). First flown just half year after the end of the war, MiG-8 was build to tests the canard-swept wing combination as a potential future fighter configuration. Although build by a team of students with little or no interference from OKB MiG, Utka provided Mikoyan with low-speed data of unusual layout.

In spite of the success of the winged delta MiG-21 Fishbed, which proved to be an exceptional platform for the second-generation Mach 2.0+ fighter, Mikoyan continued tests of destabilizing canard (Ye-6T/3, Ye-8, Ye-152M) and pure delta (MiG-21I Analog) configurations.

By the start of the MFI project in 1983, Belyakov had sufficient data on canard-delta aerodynamics. The intelligence sources suggesting that European new-generation fighters had a close coupled canard-delta layout, triggered intense studies of the layout in wind tunnels of Central Aero- Hydrodynamics Institute (TsAGI). The aerodynamic benefits of unstable canard-delta, its shear volume available for fuel and internal weapon storage, proved to be decisive in the choice of the 1.42 configuration. The 1.42's twin fins positioned at delta's trailing edge added to battle damage resistance and control of the aircraft at high angles of attack (AOA).

How Well Can you Draw?

Western sources published number of ever evolving artists' impressions of the 1.42 which can be sorted in two groups. The first shows an aircraft with two engines with vectored-thrust nozzles, inward-canted twin tails, slightly downturned wingtips, Rafale-like rounded intakes, and possibly foreplanes. The second group describes a more conventionally looking delta-winged twin-engined aircraft with outward-canted twin tails and MiG-29 style intakes. Some of the impressions show the elements of the low observable technology - flattened front fuselage and nozzle shape.

Another clue to a possible appearence of the 1.42 was published in the Flight International and Air Fleet Herald. The photograph taken at Fulkovo test range shows the mockup of the front end of the fighter aircraft mounted on the high speed cart used in the ejection seat tests. From the picture it is clear that the fighter's forward fuselage is a triangular in crossection with large sets of the canards behind the cockpit line. No indication of the developed leading edge extension similar in appearence to that of the MiG-29 or Su-27 can be found. While it is tempting to link this mockup to 1.42, Moscow sources indicate that it has little or no relevance at all. The forward section may also be one of the evolutionary steps with eventually led to the 1.42. Nevertheless, all post-Fulkovo artist impressions of 1.42 show an aircraft with triangular cross section of the forward fuselage.

The Powerplant

Saturn-Lyulka was to develop an engine for the new fighter. This task turned out to be very demanding and Al-41F development experienced number of the setback stalling the whole 1.42 program. The new engine had a higher combustion chamber temperature -- 250 degrees than that of Su-27 Flanker's Al-31F -- which provided an outstanding performance. Although the original plans called for a 2D F-22 style trust-vectoring nozzles, the recent reports suggested that Al-41F TVC was similar to Al-37FU powering the superagile Su-37. The secrecy and controversy surrounded 1.42 and its engines produced many speculations about 1.42 TVC. The fuzziest comment was given in 1995 by RIA: "specially arranged nozzles to enable it [1.42] to hover over a target for pinpoint strike accuracy."

A Word from Inside

In the 1995, Alexander Velovich whose former position at Mikoyan OKB was "avionics engineer" (Ben Lambeth words) posted the message quoted below to one of the military aviation newsgroups. After leaving MiG, Alexander used his English skills and industry connections and became a well known for his articles in western and russian periodicals.

From: Alexander Velovich

Dr. Silicon wondered:
>Any news on whether the MiG 1-42 was unveiled to the public?

No, it has not been unveiled and it has not flown. And most probably, it never will. I believe I have the right for such statement with my 13 years working experience in Mikoyan design bureau (1978-1991) at relatively high position.

In March this year I talked with MAPO MIG general director Vladimir Kuzmin, asking him about the reasons of delays of the programme. He said: "Not everything depends on us, much depends on Russia's ministry of defence. If all problems with the ministry of defence would have been solved, I believe everything depends on us, much depends on Russia's ministry of defence. If all problems with the ministry of defence would have been solved, I believe we could take the MFI into the air in about six months". The MFI (object 1.42) stands in Russian for Mnogofunktsionalny Frontovoi Istrebitel (Multifunctional Frontline Fighter).

One of the generals of the RusAF headquarters confirmed that there is no money to continue the programme. For me it is absolutely obvious that even if the technology demonstrator called 1-44 and sitting in a hangar at Zhukovsky would fly some day, and I have strong doubts even about that, Russia cannot afford a 30+ ton new generation combat jet with its current defence budget, it is extremely unlikely that the situation would change in the coming 10-15 years regardless of any possible changes in political leadership, and there is no hope that this programme would ever reach squadron service.

The best the RusAF could get in the foreseeable future are modifications of the current Sukhoi Su-25s and Su-27s, i.e. Su-39, Su-34 and Su-35, and MAPO MiG-29M. And even these modernization programmes have BIG question marks on them.


January 12, 1999 marked an important event for the MIG Aircraft Research and Production Complex and its partners: a roll-out ceremony of a new aircraft, a prototype of the fifth-generation fighter. This date also marked an intermediate result in efforts started over 15 years ago. The MiG-29 and MiG-31 fighters were still under testing when the Design Bureau formulated a concept and proposed a strategy to develop this new machine. In 1983, with the Air Force research institutes, and the institutes of aviation and electronic industries (TsAGI, GosNIIAS, TsIAM, etc.) actively involved, "The Complex Purpose-Oriented Program" and the Air Force and Air Defense tactical and technical assignments were approved to initiate the development of design proposals.

The MFI fighter was to meet the following requirements:

- supermaneuverability (a capability to fly at supercritical angles of attack, at increased level of sustained and available g-loads and high turn-angle rate, which require a greater thrust-to-weight ratio and improved wing aerodynamic efficiency);

- supersonic flight with afterburner disabled;

- low detectability in radar and IR wave bands;

- short takeoff and landing runs;

- a significant reduction in flight hour cost, ground crew, size and weight of non-standard ground support equipment;

- a new layout of onboard equipment and a new arrangement of cockpit information and control instruments; a high level of integration.

With these requirements satisfied and a new generation of weapon systems, engines and avionics developed, the new aircraft would not only surpass all fighters of previous generations, but also outperform those developed under the ATF program launched by the United States approximately at the same time.

The MFI program also called for a "locomotive" approach for the designs and technologies to be applicable to other aircraft types.

Other MFI versions were also envisaged, such as a reconnaissance aircraft, a deck fighter, as well as a cheaper and less sophisticated "light" version. It was proved that, in terms of cost efficiency, a combined force of "heavy" and "light" fighters in a 1:2 ratio is optimal for our Air Force.

At the conceptual and preliminary design phases (the conceptual and preliminary designs were accepted in 1987 and 1991, respectively), following extensive aerodynamic tube tests, computations, and analysis of various aerodynamic configurations, including a forward-swept wing, a canard configuration was chosen and an adaptive wing equipped with a multitude of deflecting surfaces to ensure high aerodynamic efficiency at both subsonic and supersonic speeds and at supercritical angles of attack. It was obvious that the implementation of these concepts would only be possible if a sophisticated fly-by-wire control system, including thrust vector control, were developed.

Several dozen engines were tested on ground stands and a subsonic flying laboratory. A dedicated MiG-25-based flying laboratory was used to test the Al-41F engine at about Mach 2 speeds.

Much effort was made to develop new types of equipment and armament, as well as produce technologies and materials for airframe and aircraft systems.

Measures were taken to reduce airframe's specific weight, including the employment of large-size structures made from composite materials.

In the early 1990s, design documentation was issued and construction of the fighter prototype commenced. The first prototype (Article 1.44) was designed for testing the aerodynamic configuration, fly-by-wire control system, general-purpose aircraft systems, engines and airframe units vital for structural strength tests. It was also planned to build flying laboratories to test equipment and armament systems, prototypes for the final phases of flight tests, and standard production models. Until 1997 the design work was supervised by R. Belyakov, General Designer, and G. Sedov, Chief Designer. In 1997 they retired and became advisors.

To proceed further, two more aspects had to be dealt with.

1. Beginning from the E-150, MiG-23 and MiG-25 aircraft, to test a new aerodynamic configuration and power plant, the MiG Design Bureau had never equipped the first prototype aircraft with avionics and armament suites, since tests on the assessment of the aircraft flight and engine performance require a generous amount of tests and time. Besides, one should take into account possible breaks in tests due to the introduction of modifications into airframe and engines. To test the aircraft equipment and armament, it is more desirable to use dedicated flying laboratories, for example, those built on the basis of the MiG-31 aircraft. This is not only the MiG's unique experience. This policy is pursued by all major aircraft developers. For example, nobody in the world regards the first three EFA prototypes as aircraft which do not correspond to the basic conceptual design and they are not treated as mock-ups. Mock-up models do exist and have been displayed at aerospace exhibitions, but they are mock-ups only. Such a model of the MFI fighter was also made.

2. Special techniques have been developed to gradually increase the aircraft stealthiness. Today, Western companies invest heavily in the development of fifth and fourth+ generation fighter aircraft. For example, the French Air force expects to receive the new Rafale fighters for its operational units as early as 1999. Several prototypes of each type are being tested by the USA (F-22), Britain and Germany (EFA), and Sweden (Gripen).

Unfortunately, the funding of such projects by Russia's Ministry of Defense is not sufficient, while the financial potentials of Russian MAPO MIG, and the Sukhoi Aviation Military Production Complex are very limited.

The first MFI prototype has long been kept at the MiG's flight test station, where its systems and engines underwent a series of tests and adjustments and where high-speed taxi runs were made. Concurrently, ground stand tests were run at the MiG complex and by its partners. Specifically, the development and adjustment of integrated control system took much time and effort. However, much work has been done to accelerate preparation of the vehicle for the first flight, which, according to the MIG new management headed by N. Nikitin, is considered a priority task. Preparations for MFI's first flight will be completed in the near future and we hope that when our readers receive this issue, the aircraft will have already made its maiden flight.

According to experts, the MFI can serve as a basic design for the joint development of fifth-generation fighters.

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