Russia’s Mikoyan said its MiG-35 low-cost high-function super-maneuverable multi-role combat aircraft has completed factory trials, paving the way for serial production to begin.
“The factory trials of the MiG-35 multirole fighter jet produced in the interests of the Defense Ministry of the Russian Federation have been completed. The certificate of the trials completion was signed in December 2017,” Mikoyan’s press office told Tass on Friday, February 16.
The trials which began on January 26, 2017 tested all of the aircrafts systems and were carried out with the assistance of defense ministry test pilots.
On Thursday, Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation President Yuri Slyusar said a MiG-35 contract for Russia’s Aerospace Force may be signed this year. According to Tass, Russia’s state armament program through 2020 stipulates delivery of MiG-35 jets.
“We have a contract for delivery starting from 2019,” he said.
Deputy defense minister Yuri Borisov said on February 8 that Russia would order 12 Su-57 aircraft this year to “test combat use.” Borisov said the first two aircraft may enter service in 2019, and that 10 out of the 12 planes built so far are undergoing tests.
MiG-35: a low-cost high-function multi-role jet
The MiG-35 and its double-seat MiG-35D variant is a multi-role combat aircraft developed from the MiG-29K/KUB and MiG-29M/M2. The jet first flew in 2007 and is pitched by Mikoyan as a “4++ generation” fighter that integrates fifth-generation technologies.
“By its combat potential, the scope and the efficiency of its missions and the price/quality ratio, the MiG-35 is today a perfect combat vehicle for operation in high intensity armed conflicts,” MiG CEO Ilya Tarasenko said. “The aircraft makes it possible to use the entire range of existing and up-and-coming Russian and foreign armament, including weapons designed for heavy fighter jets.”
The company says the aircraft includes fifth-generation avionics including a multi-role active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, and has a significantly reduced radar signature. It boasts infra-red, TV and laser targeting equipment including the OLS-35 optical locator system which enables targeting without the use of radar increasing the aircraft’s stealthiness.
The MiG-35 can deploy beyond line of sight weapon systems, can carry both Russian and foreign-origin weapons on nine external hardpoints, boosting its foreign sales potential. It also delivers increased survivability from its integrated defense system.
The aircraft is designed to fulfil a number of roles including all-weather day-and-night ground attack, interception, reconnaissance and air superiority, although Sukhoi’s Su-35 fighter is specifically designed for this role.
Two RD-33MK engines power the aircraft generating 12 percent more power than earlier MiG-29 models, and can be fitted with thrust-vectoring nozzles enabling shorter takeoffs even from unprepared runways. Last June, Mikoyan’s public relations director Anastasia Kravchenko said: “It can take off from a very short lane, take off and land on unprepared airfields, and can be stored without a hangar for a period of a few months.”
Mikoyan says the MiG-35 “meets the standards developed for carrier-based aircraft.”
During development of the MiG-35 aircraft, Mikoyan says most attention was paid to operational improvements, and the aircraft’s reliability and service life are significantly increased from its predecessor. Its cost per flight hour is almost 2.5 times lower than those of the MiG-29, the company says.. The mean time between overhauls (MTBO) of its engines is increased, and Kravchenko said “the engines of the MiG-35 could be swapped in the conditions of active operations within the framework of 58 minutes.”
New Russia/UAE fifth-generation light fighter?
The new MiG-35 could be outshone by another fighter based on the MiG-29.
On February 20, 2017, Sergey Chemezov, CEO of Russia’s Rostec, said the UAE had signed an outline agreement to buy Su-35s and to work with Russia to develop a fifth-generation “brand new fighter” that could enter service by 2025. According to Rostec, the new “light fighter aircraft” is expected to be a variant of the MiG-29.
The same day, Russia’s Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov said that an agreement “on industrial cooperation in the field of military engineering” between Russia and the UAE had been signed. United Aircraft Corporation’s Slyusar said early work had begun on a new light fifth-generation aircraft, and that both Sukhoi and MiG would be involved, but that the concept was undecided, and it was even unknown if the aircraft would have one or two engines.
“We can say that we are working on a prospective project. But we cannot give out technical information or timeframes,” Mikoyan’s public relations director Anastasia Kravchenko said in June 2017. “And we can’t split it into generations as well.”