Heading to India: Russia's New (Well, Not Really) MiG-35 Fighter Jet?
Russia intends to bid the new Mikoyan MiG-35 Fulcrum-F and potentially another version of the Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker family for an Indian tender for as many as 200 aircraft. However, the Russian focus seems to be on selling India the MiG-35, which is RSK-MiG’s last real hope for sustaining the Fulcrum series production line.
“We will certainly participate in a tender with MiG and Su,” Vladimir Drozhzhov, deputy director of Russia’s Federal Service for Military and Technical Cooperation told the Moscow-based TASS News agency at the Aero India 2017 exhibition in Bangalore on Wednesday.
While Drozhzhov mentioned the Flanker, he put much more emphasis on the Fulcrum. “If the Indian side shows an interest, Russia is ready to supply MiG-35 to India,” Drozhzhov said in a Russian language article from TASS. “Especially since the aircraft of the MiG type are well known to the Indian pilots compared to the French Rafale fighter.”
RSK-MiG chief Ilya Tarasenko told the TASS New Agency that the company is eager to pitch the MiG-35 for the Indian Air Force’s requirements. As part of any prospective deal, the Russians are willing to upgrade existing Indian MiG-29s in country and seemed to indicate that it could assemble the MiG-35 in India—should New Delhi choose to purchase the aircraft.
There has been some confusion about the current version of the MiG-35, which despite sharing the same designation as an earlier prototype, is not the same aircraft.
The current version of the MiG-35 is designed to be a low-cost, lightweight fighter primarily aimed at replacing remaining original model MiG-29 fleet and the export market.
While the original MiG-35 prototype was equipped with a Zhuk-MA active electronically scanned array radar and thrust-vectoring controls. However, the new simplified MiG-35 is a simply a slightly upgraded land-based version of the naval MiG-29KR. As such, while the new MiG-35 will be considerably more capable than the original MiG-29, the new jet is a far cry from the advanced derivative that was proposed for export to India in 2011. Indeed, the current jet does not even have a phased-array radar, relying instead on the Zhuk-M mechanically scanned set.
As with the 2011 tender, the MiG-35 will face tough competition from Western types—particularly the Lockheed Martin F-16 and Saab Gripen—assuming it is even allowed to compete. Indeed, the Indian tender—which is for 200 aircraft rather than the 400 jets as the Russians reported—specifically asks for the supply of a single-engine aircraft, as such, Moscow may be out of luck.
Lockheed Martin and Saab are seen as the leading contenders to build the new Indian fighter—which New Delhi is mandating will be built in India.
Dave Majumdar is the defense editor for the National Interest. You can follow him on Twitter: @davemajumdar.
Image Credit: Creative Commons.