F-18 lacks the thrust and recovery speed of MiG-29 – an F-16 pilot

WASHINGTON, US — The US F-18 Hornet fighter does not have the thrust and recovery speed of the Soviet MiG-29 Fulcrum. Both jets have almost identical nose authority at low speeds, but the MiG-29 recovers its position faster. Unlike the MiG-29, the F-18 Hornet can turn its nose if it accepts a dogfight at a lower speed, but it will lose altitude.

Some Finnish F-18 Hornets are starting to become museum pieces
Photo credit: Defense News

These are the words of the American pilot Capt. Mike McCoy, one of the 510th FS F-16 pilots. He expresses his impressions of the Soviet MiG-29 because he had the honor of facing it in combat, even during training. This happened in 1995 in Germany. The captain says that in the USA he fought dogfights [during exercises] against the F-18 Hornet and thus makes the comparison in terms of the capabilities of the MiG-29 and the F-18 when having to face the F-16 against one from them.

The MiG-29 is highly maneuverable – this is the other impression of capt. McCoy. Another thing that made a strong impression on him during his battle against the MiG-29 was the weapon sighting system mounted on the helmets of the MiG-29 pilots.

Dogfight: F-18 vs MiG-29

The difference between F-18 and MiG-29 in technical indicators is small, but some details give an advantage in air combat to MiG-29. For example, the two Soviet engines provide them with 18,300 lbs each. The F-18’s two F404-GE-402 engines provide up to 18,000 pounds of thrust each.

Poland has delivered MiG-29 fighters to Ukraine but in parts
Polish Air Force MiG-29 © Sunburn1979 on Wikimedia

Also capt. McCoy says that “the MiG pilots have that forty-five-degree cone in front of them into which they can fire an Archer and eat you up.” That is, when it comes to low-speed dogfights, the nose of the MiG-29 does not need to be pointed at the target, this is achieved precisely thanks to the sight mounted in the pilot’s helmet, which can look up under the mentioned 45 degrees angle and launch the R-73 air-to-air missile This missile has infrared guidance.

Aiming the nose is key in air combat. The two fighters must circle to point their noses at each other. McCoy says the MiG-29 “below 200 knots, the MiG-29 has an outstanding nose-up capability down to under 100 knots.”

Dogfight: F-16 vs MiG-29

However, the F-16 has advantages over the MiG-29, according to the American pilot. For example, if we return to the “circular movements” at a speed of 200 knots, the F-16 accelerates faster than the MiG-29. This gives the F-16 an advantage to quickly take a “nose position” against the Russian MiG-29. But McCoy cautions that care must be taken at all times that the MiG-29 does not perform its “45-degree fire.”

US F-16 pilot: Su-35 looks good at air shows, but it's junk
Photo credit: Wikipedia

However, the F-16 pilot has better visibility in the cockpit. This is because, unlike MiG-29 pilots, F-16 pilots sit higher. McCoy remembers how impressed the MiG-29 pilots were when they sat in the cockpit of the F-16.

I.e. MiG-29 pilots cannot see directly behind them, unlike F-16 pilots. In this way, MiG-29 pilots are disadvantaged because they do not receive continuous visual contact and an optimal thrust vector at the same time. MiG-29 pilots say that this is more than a serious disadvantage since the F-16 is smaller than the MiG-29, which gives it in this case a greater advantage.

MiG-29 and F-16 in Ukraine

The reason that information from real training flights or simulated air-to-air combat operations is increasingly being sought is the receipt of the first four MiG-29 fighters from Ukraine, donated by Slovakia. Poland is the other country that will supply its MiG-29s to Ukraine. Capt. McCoy says that years ago the MiG-29 posed a fierce threat to F-16 Viper pilots, as well as to all other pilots of other Western fighter jets.

Much depends on what the MiG-29 will be used for. For example, in East Germany years ago, pilots used MiG-29s mainly for interception. Ukrainian pilots are used to flying the MiG-29 and are expected to perform much better with the MiG-29 in head-to-head combat than if they were flying the F-16. Why?

Slovakia says goodbye to MiG-29s, and Ukraine hopes to get them
Photo credit: Global Look Press

F-16 and Su-30/Su-35 have very similar characteristics. Both fighters feature modern pilot helmets with integrated sights for weapon systems or interface with the Samoyed avionics. Both fighters have missile attack warning systems. Both fighters have a variety of weapons, including infrared-guided weapons.

The battle between F-16 and MiG-29 will most likely be fought beyond visual range. Russian fighters have an advantage due to the greater range of their air-to-air missiles. However, Ukraine wants the F-16 because of Link 16. In this way, it will receive intelligence information from NATO teams, mainly from the airborne AWACS radars.

But, won’t AWACS supporting the Ukrainian F-16 make NATO an active participant in the war?


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