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Russia's Once-Mighty Fighter Jet Firm MiG Struggling as Rivals Make Gains

07/02/2015

Once one of the world's most famous aircraft designers, Russia's MiG aircraft company has fallen on hard times. Though MiG aircraft continue to populate almost 30 world air forces, the firm has not won a major design competition or aircraft tender in its post-Soviet history. 

Russia is the world's second-largest arms exporter after the United States, and its aircraft companies made up a substantial $4.4 billion of the country's overall $13 billion in arms exports in 2014, according to data collected by defense industry consultancy IHS. 

Although MiG has been able to secure a chunk of these exports, its market performance since the fall of the Soviet Union has been outpaced by Russia's other fighter aircraft producer, Sukhoi. In terms of foreign sales alone — a key lifeline for Russia's defense industry — Sukhoi has dominated, exporting 67 more aircraft and raking in almost $7 billion more than MiG since 1991. 

In the dogfight for market share with Sukhoi, MiG has been outfoxed — plagued by a failure to win the big contracts it needed, hemmed in by the limited scope of its main offerings, and hit by a number of reputational setbacks. 

"There's not much hope for MiG," said Mark Bobbi, a fighter jet expert at IHS. "MiG does have lots of maintenance and upgrade business, but even the latter will disappear as export customers retire, store, scrap and replace their MiG-29s," he said.

Cold War Icon 

MiG aircraft were Cold War icons, becoming almost synonymous with the Russian air force in the West. Their reputation was rivaled only by that of Kalashnikov rifles, according to Ruslan Pukhov, director of the Moscow-based Center for the Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST). 

"It is absolutely true that during the Soviet era, the main fighter aircraft were MiGs," said Pukhov, pointing to the Hollywood film "Top Gun" as evidence of the hold MiGs had over the imagination of the Western aviation community. 

The company is named after Soviet airplane designers Artyom Mikoyan and Mikhail Gurevich, who designed their first airplane, the MiG-1, in 1939. Today, its most popular aircraft is the MiG-29, which resembles a U.S. F-15. The MiG-29 is in service with almost 30 air forces, with a reported unit cost of some $30 million per plane. 

Big Contracts 

But the design bureau's fortunes changed for the worse with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

 

 

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(Source: The Moscow Times; published 02.07.2015)
Date: 
07/02/2015
Companies & Organizations: Russian Aircraft Corporation MIG
Defense Products & Services Sectors: 
Countries: 

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