The Mikoyan Gurevich MIG-35 is Russia's latest fighter jet, and going by reports, it is also their most advanced 4++ generation fighter jet yet. The aircraft, on which development has almost been completed, demonstrated its capabilities at the recently concluded Mezhdunarodnyj aviatsionno-kosmicheskij salon (MAKS) 2017 air show in Russia.
At MAKS 2017, The MiG-35 grabbed the attention of onlookers as well as competitors as it took to the skies and enthralled the audience with breathtaking manoeuvres like the tail slide, barrel roll and the nesterov loop.
At the sidelines of the aerospace exhibition came some important information about this aircraft, which would immensely increase the capabilities of the Indian Air Force, and possibly strike fear into the hearts of India's adversaries, if put into action.
After showcasing the MIG-35 in January this year, it seems like the marketing department at Mikoyan Gurevich has been busy, actively promoting the aircraft in various countries, which of course are trusted by Russia. It only seems fit that India should be on that list, as India and Russia have been allies for decades now. MIG now seems keen on selling the MIG-35 to India too.
Ilya Tarasenko, the Chief Executive Officer of the Russian Aircraft Corporation was quoted as saying, "We are proposing supply of the aircraft for tenders in India and we actively work with its Air Force in order to win the tender."
He further went on to say that India had indeed expressed interest in the purchase of the MIG-35, and that the company was in talks with the Indian government regarding the technical specifications of the jet with relation to specific requirements of the Indian Air Force.
The MIG-35 is Russia's most advanced 4++ generation multipurpose fighter, which has been developed based on the serial-produced MiG-29K/KUB and MiG-29M/M2 combat aircraft. MIG aircraft have had a special place in India for a long time now, with the Indian forces using them for nearly 50 years and also in most of their wars.
Ilya Tarasenko acknowledged the fact, and said, "MIG aircraft have been used by India for almost 50 years and MiG corporation proposes its new products to India among the first countries and intends to continue supplying India with its most modern aircraft."
MIG is not just offering the aircraft, but is also offering training for pilots and engineers other than the taking up of responsibility of servicing it for 40 years. Indian forces have used Russian technology, and Russian aircraft for a long time now, and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited also assembles the Sukhoi-30 MKI in India under license. But Indian aircraft being serviced by Russia has never been done before.
The flight capabilities, new weapon range and new defence systems, including stealth on the MIG-35 are close to that of a fifth generation aircraft. It was lesser than a month ago that news came out, of Russian Aerospace Forces upgrading from their MIG-29s to the MIG-35, and now this news comes out.
The Indian Air Force as well as the Indian Navy have been using different versions of the MIG-29 for a while now. With Russia promoting their MIG-35, would India feel the need to upgrade?
Belyaev Mikhail, the Lead Test Pilot of the MiG-35, was quoted as saying, "Compared with the basic version of the MiG-29, it is a new aircraft, new airframe, fly-by-wire, glass cockpit, adapted for night vision goggles with new engines, more power, more fuel, new on board equipment and new weapons systems."
He also said, "On the basic level it is not that difficult to switch from MIG 29 to 35 as the plane remains the same. It is still a light simple plane, but the combat tasks that can be achieved from this plane are more serious and more complex."
The MIG-35 is powered by twin RD-33MK turbofan jet engines with 7% more power than the baseline RD-33 used in the MIG-29. The new engine negates the smoke-billowing characteristics of the RD-33 and now produces 9,000kgf thrust. The aircraft has a climb rate of 330m/s, maximum speed of 2,400 km/h and service ceiling of 17,500m.
With the capability of being configured with thrust-vectoring nozzles, it makes the MIG-35 Unique Indeed, as it will be the first light fighter jet to have the supermaneuverability feature. The aircraft is also touted to be superior to the Lockheed Martin F-35 used by the United States Air Force (USAF).
Back in 2007, The Indian Air Force had put out a request for information for its requirement of 120 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft. The process was put on hold with India signing a deal with French aviation giant Dassault for 36 Rafale fighter jets. So there is still the large number of aircraft left to be ordered.
The Russian Aerospace Forces are set to take delivery of their first batch of MIG-35s next year. But will the 30 other countries using the MIG-29 too replace them with MIG-35s? And more importantly, would India buy the new aircraft from Russia?
The purchase of this aircraft would definitely help the Indian Air Force, especially considering the hostile neighbourhood. But we also have to consider the fact that the Defence forces could consider the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft(FGFA) jointly developed by India's HAL and Russia's Sukhoi, known in Russia as the PAK FA.
No matter what aircraft they choose, the future definitely looks good for the Indian forces. As they just might order small numbers of aircraft from different manufacturers, to take up different roles in the defence of the country.