At the very beginning the Luftwaffe hardly welcomed the weapons system. German officials were very suspicious about an Eastern type of aircraft in use with a standard NATO wing. In 1990 the decision was made to keep the MiG 29 in airworthy condition and to conduct a minimum flying service at a rate of two or three flight hours per week and per aircraft from January 1991 onwards. Four MiG 29s, two A and two UB models were handed over to the Test and Evaluation Center 61 (WTD 61) in Manching near Ingolstadt, Bavaria. Another MiG 29s went overseas to the US Air Force for evaluation and remained there for over one and a half years. With the “Gulf War” becoming more and more inevitable, sorties and missions of aircraft from the “allied” nations were conducted against the MiG, as MiG-29 was also one of the spearheads in Saddam Hussein’s air force.
In Manching the tests continued as well. The German Department of Defense planned on keeping the MiG-29 in service until the evaluation results stated specific numbers about the aircraft’s performance, its reliability and its running costs. Additionally, four Luftwaffe MiG 29s were sent to fighter wing 71 “Richthofen” at Wittmundhafen, Northern Germany, from March 4 to 27, 1991. The aim was to conduct a first series of flights against the Luftwaffe frontline fighter, the F4 F. The outcome was given much importance as the first ICE Phantoms (ICE – improved combat efficiency) came back to Wittmund and were to be used against the MiG 29s. In April 1991, test flights of four MiG 29s, which had been deployed to Decimommanu, Sardinia, were conducted. There, in a realistic air combat environment inside the ACMI (Air Combat Maneuvering Installation) above the Mediterranean Sea, the Fulcrums were flown to their structural and tactical limits. Meanwhile FW 3 at Preschen, Brandenburg, was renamed TEW (Test and Evaluation Wing) MiG 29. It should remain in that location, until finally being relocated to Laage, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, in October 1994, but before the move, on 1 June, 1993, it was re-designated Fighter Wing 73.
The outcome of all tests was summarized in hundreds of reports. According to some insiders the pile of paper work on the desk of the Defense Minister in Bonn reached a height of 25 inches. It led to the conclusion that the MiG 29 should remain in service for another 12 years, if the maintainability and the support with spare parts from Russia could be assured. Tactically, being under German command, the wing was to conduct national air policing only, with its pilots flying 120 hours a year until the last Soviet soldier would have left the former GDR territory. In 1995 after nearly two and a half years the wing became part of the NATO-Command Forces. It deploys annually to Sardinia to conduct air combat training with other German wings or invited foreign guests. The MiG 29 was the only former Soviet aircraft that remained in service with the German Air Force on a regular basis. Aircraft types such as the MiG 21, 23 and SU 22 were test flown for a certain period and then phased out of service.
Luftwaffe Jagdgeschwader 73 – MiG-29 squadron
After Erprobungsgeschwader MiG 29 became FW 73 in 1993, new tactics were developed to increase the “Fulcrums” capabilities. One way to the success of the MiG 29 in Luftwaffe service was to send experienced F4 F drivers, with a high level of proficiency in AIM 120″AMAAAM” employment, to the FW 73′s 1st Squadron. Decoy and deception tactics were introduced to overcome the MiG 29′s disadvantages and to give even the superior F15 C “Eagle” and its experienced drivers a hard time by defeating their BVA-missile shots and then maneuvering into a good firing position for the MiG’s missiles. Today it can be said that the MiG-29 pilots of FW 73 are the best MiG pilots in the world, as the agility of the aircraft, Westem training standards and the knowledge of “AMRAAM” tactics add up to make them a formidable opponent.
During the air attacks on former Yugoslavia five enemy MiG 29 were destroyed in air combat, 4 by F15 Cs and one by a Dutch F16. Many allied aircrews e.g. the F16 from Aviano, Dutch “Vipers”, American F14 and F15 pilots and even French and Italian aircrews had the opportunity to prove their skills against the MiG-29s in the skies above Laage or in Decimommanu, Sardinia. Although NATO’s superior BVA missiles were credited for the destruction of Serb aircraft in the Kosovo campaign, their preparation with MiG-29 of FW 73 played a vital role in the success against the threat above Serbia.
Luftwaffe Fulcrums in Canada
Since 1980 the German Air Force has annually deployed to Goose Bay/Canada for low-flying training. A German Canadian agreement allows Luftwaffe pilots to fly at tree top level above the Canadian wilderness. In Germany this is not possible due to strict safety regulations, densely populated areas and the resulting noise abatement procedures limiting all missions to fly above 1000ft ground level. Six MiG 29s departed Laage October 1, 1999. In RAF Lossiemouth the first stop over was carried out. There the first technical problems occurred and the follow on schedule had to be postponed by three hours. Via Keflavik, Iceland and Sonderstrom, Greenland the destination Goose Bay, Newfoundland, was reached on October 5, 1999. The training started the nex1 days with a step-down training familiarising the pilots to the new altitudes and airspeeds. About five missions had to be conducted, starting with the first ones at altitudes of 500ft down to 250ft. The airspeed should not exceed 380 to 600 kts. The last two missions were flown at and below 100ft. After being accustomed to the new environment, intercept and combat missions under real war conditions were conducted by the German pilots, providing threat for e.g. Dutch, Belgian or Canadian air assets.
The successor of MiG-29 in Luftwaffe is the Eurofighter Typhoon, which was enter its service in 2003.
Luftwaffe MiG-29 General Specification:
- Length – 57 ft (17.37 meters)
- Wingspan – 37.2 ft (11.4 meters)
- Height – 15.5 ft (4.73 meters)
- Powerplant – two Klimov RD-33 with power of 18,300 lbf (81.4 KN) each
- Speed – 2.25 Mach
source: Luftwaffe Fulcrums, ISBN 3-935687-01-X