Friday, January 13, 2012

Photos of North Korea's rarely-seen MiG-29s

There are some things in life that are just plain rare. Hens' teeth, blue moons, and there are photos like these gems off the internet. Stumbled across these 3 screen grabs off a video showing the Korean People's Air Force (KPAF) rarely seen MiG-29s. These appear to be the original 9.12 (NATO: MiG-29B Fulcrum-A) variant, most likely the downgraded 9.12B export variant North Korea was reported to have bought from Belarus in 1995. The KPAF is also known to operate the later 9.13 (MiG-29SE Fulcrum-C) with the enlarged dorsal spine.

This is only the 2nd time I've seen KPAF MiG-29 photos, the other occasion being the 2003 incident over the waters off North Korea when a USAF RC-135 was intercepted by KPAF MiGs. Then the aircraft involved were the 9.13s, and that time the MiGs were armed with a 3 drop tanks and 4 R-60 (NATO: Aa-8 Aphid) short-range air-to-air missiles.

According to Aviation Week and Space Technology's 2011 World Military Aircraft Inventory, the KPAF operates 40 MiG-29s with the KPAF's 55th Regiment at Sunchon. Note that in the photo above, it is possible to make out at least 2 Sukhoi Su-25s in the background, serialled White 41 and 45, with the giveaways being the Su-25's distinctive tail, wing pylons and nosewheel mudguard visible. Given that the KPAF's MiG-29s and Su-25s are known to be based at Sunchon, it is almost certain that these screengrabs were taken there.

Re: the large red boxes with Korean lettering seen on at least one the MiG-29s (Bort No. 553?) in the photos; I believe these may be political inscriptions related to the recent leadership succession in North Korea. I have seen inscription in similar style on a KPAF MiG-21PFM dedicated to Kim Il-Sung.

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