By Anjali Ojha
As the new generation Mig-35 fighter, touted as being superior to the US F-35, made its public debut at the MAKS Aerospace Exhibition, its Russian makers say talks are on with India for buying the jet.
In the partially cloudy sky at the Zhukovsky airport, the 4++ generation jet roared through its routine, keenly wathched for the first time by hundreds of spectators. Flying in the public gaze for the first time, the Mig-35, a 4++ jet, performed complex manoeuvers, including loops and vertical climb, with seemingly consummate ease.
Towards this were some of the manoeuvres performed: A vertical climb soon after takeoff to demonstrate engine strength and a Nesterov loop, a barrel roll and a complex tail slide to demonstrate engine capability and high angle of attack, among the other strengths of the aircraft.
The aircraft is also equipped with a version of the Phazotron Zhuk AESA radar that is capable of simultaneously detecting and tracking up to 30 aerial targets at up to 160 km away. It is also capable to simultaneously engaging up to six aerial and four surface targets.
The MiG-35 also carries a forward-looking opto-electronic system. Equivalent in its performance to the systems installed on Western fifth-generation fighters, it supports operations during both day and night, including in beyond-visual-range scerios.
Asked about the aircraft, Lead Test Pilot Mikhail Belyaev, who has been awarded the Star of the Hero of Russia, the highest honorary title of the Russian Federation, said it’s similar to the MiG-29 that the Indian Air Force and Indian vy operate, but much more advanced.
“There is new electronic equipment and new weapon systems. It is equipped with a range of air-to-air, air-to-land and air-to-sea missiles,” Mikhail told IANS on the sidelines of the air show.
Comparing it to the MiG-29, he said: “It has a new airframe, fly-by-wire controls, a glass cockpit and night vision goggles. It is also capable of air-to-air refuelling.”
Asked if it was easier to fly the MiG-35 compared to the MiG-29, he said: “For a MiG 29 pilot, the basics are same, but it would take some time to adapt. Modern warfare is more complicated. As the fighter jets become more advanced, so do the tasks assigned.”
Ilya S. Tarasenko, Director General of JSC Russian Aircraft Corporation “MiG” (JSC RAC “MiG”) said on the sidelines of the airshow that the new jet is “better” than the 5th generation Lockheed-Martin F-35 which made its public debut at the recent Paris Airshow, adding it could easily take on its rival in a dogfight.
To a question on whether India has expressed interest in the jet, he said: “Of course they have.”
“After having presented the MiG-35 in January we began to actively promote it in India and in the world. We are proposing supply of the aircraft for tenders in India and we will actively work with the air force in order to win the tender,” Tarasenko said.
“We are in the negotiation stage on technical and technological specifications that MiG can present to India and the requirements that India has for this aircraft. Since this is a very new plane, it will still take some time to negotiate on exactly what India needs and adjust the product to it,” he added.
That, however, would be easier said than done, given the torturous manner in which the Indian Air Force (IAF) has been searching for a medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) to replace its ageing fleet of Soviet-era MiG-21 jets that were first inducted in the 1960s. After floating a tender for 120 planes in 2007, evaluating six different aircraft and short-listing two, the process was abruptly cancelled and India ordered 36 Rafale jets in 2015, with the fil document only recently being inked.
According to Tarasenko, the MiG-35 is 20 to 25 per cent cheaper than its competitors, and for India, which already has experience of flying various various variants of MiG fighters and with its support and maintence facilities, it would be easy to adapt to the new plane.
“MiG aircraft have been used by India for almost 50 years. We propose our new products to India among the first and intend to continue supplying India with our most modern aircraft,” he said.
“I would like to note that we propose not just the aircraft, but also training as well as after-sales service for 40 years. I can say that in comparison to our competitors, we are 20-25 per cent cheaper,” he said.
Tarasenko said the technical specifications of the aircraft are “close” to that of a fifth generation jet.
“Its flight capabilities, its new weapon range and defence systems, including stealth features, are close to a fifth generation aircraft. The plane is light and multi-functiol and has high maneuverability.”
He also noted that all components of the aircraft, which has been developed by Russia amid sanctions, are Russian.
The IAF’s fleet of Sukhoi Su-30MKIs and other Russian platforms have faced difficulties in the past in procuring spare parts with Russia having problems in sourcing them from countries like Belarus and the Ukraine. (IANS)
(Anjali Ojha is in Russia at the invitation of the MAKS Aerospace Exhibition organisers. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)