The Buzz

Russia's Lethal New MiG-35 to Start Flight Testing This Summer

Russia’s RSK-MiG has completed an initial batch of pre-production versions of the Mikoyan MiG-35 Fulcrum-F multirole fighter. The company is set to deliver the jets to the Russian defense ministry for flight-testing this summer.

“We have completed the first phase of this work—the Ministry of Defense has examined and approved the design,” said RSK-MiG general director Sergei Korotkov in a March 17 statement. “We are following the schedule specified in the contract that we signed with the Defense Ministry. Today the plane, at this location, is undergoing all stages of assembly. It will be completed later this year and delivered to the customer for trials in the summer.”

Korotkov did not say how many jets are being built in the pre-production batch. Nor is it clear when the aircraft will enter serial production. RSK-MiG is expecting a production contract for at least thirty-seven Fulcrum-F aircraft this year, but a contract has not yet been signed. Nonetheless, RSK-MiG expects the first two production aircraft to be delivered before the end of 2017.

The MiG-35 is an advanced derivative of the original MiG-29. While the airframe is similar, the aircraft is practically a new design under the hood. Compared the to original Fulcrum, the MiG-35 adds a completely new fly-by-wire control system, a lighter airframe, more fuel capacity, more efficient engines and thrust-vectoring nozzles. Moreover, the Russians are developing single and two-seater versions of the jet based on the same outer mold line to maximize commonality.

More importantly, the MiG-35 will add a completely new avionics suite. The new jet will incorporate Russia’s first operational fighter-mounted active electronically scanned array radar—called the Zhuk-MA. The radar is able to track fighter-sized targets at ranges greater than 85 nautical miles.

The MiG-35 will also be equipped with a unique optical locator system (OLS)—which is a passive air-to-air electro-optical sensor that operates in both visual and infrared wavelengths.  The Russians believe that the OLS sensor will be useful in countering stealthy aircraft like the F-22 and F-35. The MiG-35 will also incorporate a powerful electronic warfare suite—an area where the Russians excel.

RSK-MiG—which falls under the aegis of the United Aircraft Corporation alongside arch-rival Sukhoi—hopes to recapture some the Mikoyan design bureau’s old glory with the new advanced MiG-29 derivative. RSK-MiG’s Fulcrum product line has been overshadowed by Sukhoi’s larger and more capable Flanker series in the years since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The MiG-35 might be the RSK-MiG’s last hope of regaining some of its lost market share on the international fighter market.

Dave Majumdar is the defense editor for the National Interest. You can follow him on Twitter: @davemajumdar.

Image: United Aircraft Corporation.