Deconstructing Fire Control Radar of MiG-29s/MiG-29M2/MiG-29K/MiG-35

The MiG-29 upgrade in question has brought their avionics to that of the MiG-29SM-like standard (mind: Izdliye 8.19, not the Izdeliye 9.13M, 9.17 or 9.19/9.19R). Means, they have received the N019ME phased array radar and thus became compatible with weapons like R-77 (aka RVV-AE, aka AA-12 Adder), but also with PGMs like Kh-29 (AS-14 Kedge).

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However, and like MiG-29SEs exported to Yemen, they did not get that ‘hump’ with a 950-litre dorsal fuel tank, like Soviet/Russian MiG-29SMTs (or MiG-29SEs exported to Sudan, and MiG-29SMs exported to Peru, for example). Even less so have they got the FGM29 Zhuk-ME radar like MiG-29SMTs (Izdeliye 9.18) made for Yemen.

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Correspondingly, it was already at the same time – back in 2011-2012 – that the Syrians also bought a batch of R-77s for their ‘new’ MiGs. This should have become obvious at least in 2013-2014, when first photos appeared of them carrying the AKU-170 and APU-58 launch rails.

The Zhuk (Beetle) family of Pulse-Doppler radars provide aircraft with two modes of operation, air to air and air to surface. The air to air mode of the Zhuk is capable of detecting targets and measuring their coordinates, range and speed.

The Zhuk-ME radar featuring a 700 mm PESA antenna. The Zhuk-ME offers detection performance up to 110 km vs a 5 m2 RCS target with up to 20 targets tracked and up to 2 attacked at once in air to air mode. In air to surface mode the radar offers the same functionality as the Zhuk-M. The radar has a weight of 285 kg and a scanning area of +/- 70 degrees in azimuth and elevation.

Zhuk-AME model on displayed in 2005 for Indian Air Force, but never produced.

Russian offered an fighter-sized AESA radars for Indian Air Force in 2005, when Russia first showed off Zhuk-ME, and in the following years about Zhuk-AME variants. Russia offered India to upgrade Indian Su-30s to AESA, but it never materialized as Russian financial crisis made it impossible to manufacture any AESA yet. The Zhuk technology has been sold to China to manufacture KLJ-7A radar with identical configuration.

For Russian DRFM EW to work, it has to detect a signal (radar pulse or pulses) to memorize and to generate the false targets. LPI radar on the other hand tries to hide the real radar signal in noise to counter that. The problem for jammer is that it doesn’t know what kind of signal the radar is sending (mismatched filtering), but the radar of course does (matched filtering). This is not a problem with relatively simple radars as the signals they send are also simple and do not change. So once the signal is detected, it can be stored and easily used against the radar.

Zhuk-ME mechanically steered pulse doppler fire control radar supplied to Egyptian Air Force.

However, when an AESA changes its signal frequently and broadcast a new signal or pulse, the DRFM based EW will have to memorize the new signal again before it can send matching signal, the cycle continues and AESA keeps changing its signals and frequency.

MiG-29S has N019M and the MiG-29SE has the N019ME. N019ME is the slightly downgraded export variant of N019M. Do not confuse with misinformation by various media. Here’s why?

Variants

  • MiG-29A (Soviet Union/Russia) – N019 Sapfir. N-019 is the USSR standard model.
  • MiG-29B (Poland etc..) – N019EA Sapfir. N-019EA is the version supplied to Warsaw Pact countries. Lacks “SP” mode.
  • MiG-29B (India etc..) – N019EB Sapfir. N019EB is an export variant for general export. More downgraded. Less capable TS100.02.06 digital processor. Lacks “SP” mode.
  • MiG-29B (India, Bangladesh, Myanmar) – N019ME Topaz. More downgraded. Less capable TS100.02.06 digital processor.
  • MiG-29SE (Peru) – N019ME Topaz
  • MiG-29S (Russia) – N019M Topaz. N019M Topaz is an updated version, developed as a response to the compromise of the N-019 radar by a US spy. Tested from 1986, it entered limited production in 1991. Slightly lighter than the N-019 at 350kg. Topaz has increased ECM resistance, new software, and a more advanced built-in monitoring system. A new Ts101M computer eliminates the processor overload problems of the N019, more than doubling capacity to 400,000 operations per second whilst weighing less, just 19kg, and with doubled MTBF of 1000h compared to the 500h of the Ts100. N019M allows two targets to be engaged by active radar homing missiles simultaneously. Range increased slightly to 80km. Originally intended to be fitted to the existing MiG-29 fleet as an upgrade, about 22 aircraft with N019M are thought to have entered service with the RuAF.
  • MiG-29Gs (East Germany) – – N019EA Sapfir
  • MiG-29K (India) – Zhuk ME. N019ME Topaz Export version of Topaz, slightly downgraded. All Indian MiG-29s have been upgraded to this standard. Radar upgraded to N019ME, providing an ability to track 10 targets and engage 2 simultaneously. Compatible with AA-12 ‘Adder’ (R-77).
  • MiG-29M/M2 (Syria) – Zhuk ME.
  • MiG-29SMT/UPG (India) – Zhuk ME. N019MP is a further modified radar proposed by Phazotron for the MiG-29SMT program. It used a Baguet series processor. The maximum range remained the about the same, but the radar could detect 20 targets simultaneously, track four, and engage two. The radar had also basic air-to-ground functions, like ground mapping mode, acquisition and engagement of sea targets with radar homing missiles, and ground targets with unguided weaponry with some environment specific restriction such as weather conditions, day and night. The NO19MP could generate maps of 15×15, 24×24, 50×50 or 77x77km with a resolution of 15m. Radar imagery could be transmitted via datalink to GCI centres or A-50 AWACS aircraft. Targets visible on the radar map could be designated by the pilot(using a joystick) or ground controller, and used to cue TV-guided missile seekers, whose higher resolution imagery can then be displayed or transmitted to the GCI or A-50 controller as well. Performance against slow flying helicopters was improved as well as resistance to jamming were never fully tested before entering into production. Uses Doppler beam sharpening techniques. Now superceded by N019M1.
  • MiG-29K (Russia) – Zhuk M
  • MiG-29K (India) – Zhuk ME. More downgraded. Less capable TS100.02.06 digital processor.
  • MiG-29s (Russia) – N019M1 Radar Upgrade Package. N019M1 is an upgrade to N019MP. This latest radar upgrade proposal from Phazotron retains the antenna and transmitter block assemblies but replaces pretty much all the rest of the radar. It introduces new fully programmable digital processing, giving 30-50% greater range in air-to-air search and track. Greatly improved true Track-while-scan mode, with the ability to continue volume search for new targets while tracking 10. 4 targets can engaged at once with R-77 missiles. 4 different close combat modes are available. Has raid assessment mode, and target class recognition. Air to surface modes include Real beam, DBS, SAR (5x5m), and moving target detection. Can handoff target data to the Kh-31A/Kh-35A anti-shipping missiles. Allows target handoff to TV guided weapons. Collision alarm system. It is being touted as a low cost upgrade for existing MiG-29 operators.
  • MiG-35 – Zhuk-AME proposed and under development. Zhuk-AME had a bench test, but never went to serial production.
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R-77 Air-to-air Missile Engagement Error

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  • Maximum error in measurement of range with tracking in DRB mode ≤0.2 km
  • Maximum error in measurement of range in BMB (close combat mode) ≤0.05 km.
  • Maximum error in measurement of speed when tracked in DRB and BMB modes ≤ 10 m/s.
  • Maximum error in determination of direction when tracked in DRB and BMB modes ≤0.25°

Detection Range

5sq M (fighter size) is ~90km max detection range

Tracking Capability

20 targets and engage 2 simultaneously. Compatible with AA-12 ‘Adder’ (R-77).

Munitions Capability

Compatibility with 70km range R-77 AAMs, Kh-31A/Kh-35A anti-shipping missiles and a wide range of guided air-to-ground munitions added.

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