Paul Allen may have made a name for himself as the co-founder of Microsoft, but within the aviation community, the late entrepreneur was known for something different: owning some of the most incredible aircraft ever to hit the market. When Allen passed last October, he left behind a sizeable collection of vehicles that included two superyachts and a veritable air force worth of jets, helicopters, and specialized planes.
Now, it seems that portions of Allen's estate are being liquidated, placing some of the rarest and most exotic platforms in the world on the market. Among these treasures is perhaps a one of a kind Cold War-era MiG-29 -- a fourth-generation fighter built just before the fall of the Soviet Union that even saw operational use in Ukraine during the Soviet dissolution.
This MiG-29 is up for sale (in case you really want to impress your prom date).
Despite the number of headlines garnered by fifth-generation fighters like America's F-35 and F-22, the vast majority of the combat operational fighters in the world remain squarely within the fourth generation. These jets, like the F-15, F-16, and Russia's Su-35 are considered highly capable despite lacking the stealth and network capabilities that differentiate them from their successors, but in many ways outside of those qualifiers, fourth-generation platforms are more capable than even the high-cost F-35. And the MiG-29 in question is certainly no exception. In fact, it remains in use in the Russian (and a number of other) air forces to this day.
This particular MiG-29 was demilitarized by the Ukraine Air Force and put on the private market in 2005, where it began its long and treacherous journey to Allen's collection here in the United States. By the time it arrived, the aircraft needed to be restored and reassembled, a task left to importer and military aviation aficionado John Sessions. Sessions not only restored this aircraft to its former glory, when he was finished, it was perhaps the single best example of a MiG-29 left in existence, along with a few uniquely American accents like changing the gauging and cockpit indicators to English.
With a top speed of 1,491 mph (around Mach 2.25) this MiG would leave even America's premier F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in the dust. In fact, this MiG would beat just about anything that isn't an F-15 in a drag race, which is impressive for a combat aircraft, but even more so for a civilian jet with functioning ejection seats you could feasibly take to visit your mom in Orlando. In fact, at top speed, you could get there from New York in less than an hour.
The fighter is up for sale through the Mente Group, and according to the listing the entire airframe has only 570 operational hours on it, with only 60 of those hours taking place after the entire aircraft (including the engines) were completely overhauled. In other words, this jet may have been built in the late '80s, but its cockpit still very much possesses that "new fighter" smell. Because its been demilitarized, this MiG-29 lacks the machine gun and seven hardpoints used for mounting missiles or bombs, as well as the infrared search and track (IRST) ball it originally used for targeting, but as Tyler Rogoway at The War Zone points out, IRST systems from the MiG's era never worked all that well anyway.
A fully loaded Bangladesh Air Force MiG-29 with six missiles and an external fuel tank.
(Bangladesh Air Force via WikiMedia Commons)
The MiG-29 likely won't see use as an aggressor aircraft (used by the U.S. Air Force for mock combat training exercises) in large part because the U.S. military has already gotten their hands on a number of MiG-29s and most of its performance capabilities can be mirrored by other available platforms. That means this MiG likely won't see use in military contractor circles, making it that much more promising as dad's new grocery getter.
There's no price on the listing, but seeing as Sessions has stated in the past that it cost him at least million to restore the aircraft to its current white-glove condition and the fact that Allen's purchase price has never been divulged, it's safe to say that this Cold War fighter will probably set you back quite a bit more than most commuters on the market.