Despite the widespread deployment of Sukhoi aircraft to Syria, it’s important to remember that Russian MiGs were once the backbone of the Soviet air force – and will be for Russia again.
From the Russian for the firm who created the airframes, Mikoyan and Gurevich, MiG fighters began their real operational history with the MiG-15 during the Korean War. The Russian MiGs proved to be so capable that the they became wildly popular in air forces from Vietnam to the Indian Subcontinent to the Middle East.
The MiG proved so popular and able from generation to generation, it maintained its supremacy in the Soviet Air Forces through much of the 1980s – until the introduction of the Sukhoi-27 ousted the MiG from its top spot.
As time went on, MiGs in the Russian service were sidelined in favor of the increased range and larger payload of the Sukhoi family’s 4th-generation fighters.
The MiG is back – in a big way. The MiG-29 SMT Generation-4+ fighters have improved technology, weapons payload, and fuel space. Russia ordered four SMTs from Mikoyan to deploy them in Armenia and ordered a number of MiG-29Ks sufficient to launch from an aircraft carrier.
The MiG-35 will enter service in Russia’s air force in 2017. Though not a 5th Generation airframe, the Russians will use the MiG-35 to counter the F-16 used by most NATO countries.