Russia Rolls Out First
Updated MiG-29 Fighter

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Russia on Tuesday rolled out the first of its upgraded MiG-29 fighter jets, the MiG-29 SMT, Russian media said.
"This will allow us to sharply increase the military capacity of the Russian Air Force up to 2020, after which a new generation fighter will come into service," chief designer Valery Novikov was quoted as saying by Itar-Tass news agency.
"This plane is ready to take on the best American planes," a correspondent for NTV television said as engineers worked on a MiG-29 behind him.
"The avionics ... will give the pilot new possibilities," senior air force officer Andrei Tolmachev told the channel.
Two extra fuel tanks increase the fighter's range to 2,200 kilometers from 1,850 kilometers without losing maneuverability while further tanks can take the range to 3,500 kilometers, media reports said. The cockpit, electronics and weapons systems have also been upgraded with the weapons payload rising to five tonnes from three.
Tass said the Defense Ministry was updating 150 to 180 of the planes.
Novikov told Tass the plane's combat efficiency had been improved "eightfold" and that it could now operate not just as a fighter but as an interceptor, ground attack or reconnaissance aircraft and an aerial command post.
In a sign of Russia's determination to continue aggressively marketing its armaments abroad, the MiG-29 SMT will be able to carry not just Russian but all NATO air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles and other weaponry.
Several east European air forces, which will soon be joining the Western defense alliance, are equipped with MiG-29s and Russia aims to bid for contracts to upgrade those, NTV said.