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Article posted to this site 5 January 2000
MAPS corners MiG-29 market
German-Russian joint venture company MiG Aircraft Product Support (MAPS) has concluded agreements with both Bulgaria and Romania to service and partly upgrade their MiG-29 fighter aircraft fleets, providing the company with a regional dominance in the market.
The joint venture is 50% held by Germany's DaimlerChrysler Aerospace (Dasa) with the remainder held by Russia's MIG-MAPO and arms export agency Rosvoorouzhenie. The work excludes modifications to the MiG-29's RD-33 engines.
The involvement of Dasa in the maintenance and eventual upgrade of MiG-29 aircraft came as a result of German unification when the Luftwaffe inherited 24 MiG-29s.
The need to "westernise" these aircraft to NATO standard provided the impetus to consider the market potential in Central and Eastern Europe.
"In a sense, we turned a necessity into a virtue," said Dr Thomas Enders, Dasa's Vice President for Strategy and Planning. "We see a potential for future markets in this region."
It seems that the original reluctance by many MiG-user countries, after the fall of the Berlin Wall a decade ago, to continue operating Soviet-era equipment and purchase Western equipment instead has been replaced by a more realistic assessment that existing equipment will have to be used for some time to come and that the introduction of Western equipment will be gradual.
About two years ago Dasa, in co-operation with the German Ministry of Defence, suggested co-operation with all the Central and East European states who use the MiG-29 and the establishment of a MiG User Group but this idea was scuttled by Russian industry.
Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) were concluded with Bulgaria last October and with Romania the following month, with MAPS also seeing potential for further agreements with Hungary and Slovakia, which operate around 50 MiG-29s. The organisation has already entered into partnership with Hungary's Danubius Aircraft company.
Initial modifications for Romania and Bulgaria will focus on bringing the aircraft up to minimal NATO standards, including an identification friend or foe transponder; VHF/UHF and emergency communications equipment; the introduction of English language equipment; and collision- warning lights. A further three levels of upgrade can be carried out including new central data processing unit, radar, weapon systems and electronic countermeasures.
MAPS's Bulgarian agreement, which includes involvement from local partners, covers a level-two fleet maintenance programme to extend by 1,100h or nine years the air force's 21-strong MiG-29 fleet.
The Romanian MoU covers two projects. MAPS will carry out a life-extension programme on an initial two MiG-29A fighters and two MiG-29UB trainers, bringing the aircraft to level-two standard. The modifications could also be extended to cover Romania's remaining fleet of around 14 aircraft.
A further upgrade project will be conducted by Dasa with Romania's Aerostar and Elbit of Israel. One MiG-29A will be converted into a post level-three demonstrator, with work to be completed before year-end. The aircraft will then be displayed to other European MiG-29 operators.
The 'Sniper' project will employ avionics from Romania's modified MiG-21 Lancer and new systems including a modular multirole computer linked to a 1553B databus. The aircraft will also feature hands-on throttle and stick controls, a wide-angle head-up display and two digital displays.
Dasa officials have also confirmed that the company is holding talks with two European air forces regarding a possible upgrade and life-extension programme for their Sukhoi Su-22M4 'Fitter-K' attack and Su-22UM3 'Fitter-G' trainer aircraft. Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia currently have around 194 Su-22s in their inventories.
Additional reporting by JDW Correspondent Heinz Sch