The order book of Russian Aircraft Corp. (RSK) MiG will exceed $4 billion by year-end, according to Sergey Tsivilev, the company’s acting director general and designer general. Tsivilev was appointed acting head of RSK-MiG at the end of September after Aleksey Fedorov stepped down from the position to focus on his larger role as president of the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC).
This is a remarkable growth, considering that just 12 months ago the MiG orders backlog amounted to a little over $2.6 billion, representing a sales increase of more than 50 percent. In an interview with AIN prior to this week’s Dubai Air Show, Tsivilev predicted further increases in new business in both domestic and export markets.
According to RSK-MiG’s estimates, through the year 2020, the company will deliver 250 to 350 new MiG-29K/KUB, MiG-29M/M2 and MiG-35 combat aircraft with a total value of $10 billion to $12 billion. Recipients will be the Russian air force and those of several other countries.
The MiG-29 fighter modernization market during this period is estimated at $7 billion to $8 billion, according to Tsivilev. More than 1,600 fighters from this family are serving in the air forces of 29 countries.
MiG still sees its hottest prospects in export markets as the MiG-29M/M2 and MiG-35, as well as its ongoing cooperation with India in the MiG-29K/KUB program. At the same time, the Russian manufacturer is competing for India’s medium multi-role combat aircraft requirement, which could run to as many as 126 units. MiG is bidding the MiG-35 multifunctional fighter in this highly significant and politically charged contest and plans to offer India a license for in-country serial production of fighters and onboard equipment.
“Compared with our competitors, the Russian [production] license will be the most comprehensive,” said Tsivilev. “This stems from, among other things, our huge experience of cooperation with India under license contracts. For example, we have completed the transfer of licenses for production of the MiG-21, MiG-27 and Su-30MKI.”
According to Tsivilev, after India receives its first MiG-29K/KUB ship-based fighters this year, it will decide whether to purchase additional copies. The existing contract for the supply of 16 MiG-29K/KUBs to the Indian navy provides an option for an additional 30 of the type. Under the terms of the agreement, India may decide whether to convert the option into a firm contract before the end of next year. MiG said this has already been agreed to in principle so, since the first 16 aircraft are already built, production for the new batch could start immediately.
According to Tsivilev, the MiG-35 employs fifth-generation technologies, which are manifesting themselves in new systems. For instance, the company has developed and integrated into the MiG-35 an active phased array radar (APAR) along with some optronic devices. In addition, the warplane’s airframe has undergone a thorough upgrade, its engine thrust has been increased and its radar signature has been reduced. The aircraft is fitted with wide-ranging optical and radar defense systems.
“We plan to organize international cooperation for work on the MiG-35 contract,” Tsivilev said. “Indian and West European companies are going to be involved in the project. For example, we are already cooperating on the radar defense system with Italy’s Elettronica, one of the world’s leaders in the field.”
As an option under the MiG-35 program, the aircraft can be equipped with a vectored-thrust engine. MiG claims that this can improve the combat effectiveness of the aircraft in a dogfight by a factor of 1.5 to 3.
MiG Upgrades for Middle East
At the same time, MiG is busily promoting various MiG-29 upgrade packages to India and countries in the Middle East, eastern and central Europe and North Africa. “We also are conducting talks about modernization of the MiG-29 with countries in Latin America, Southeast Asia and the Commonwealth of Independent States,” Tsivilev explained.
The manufacturer is proposing three MiG-29 upgrade configurations geared to the requirements and budgets of its various customers. In ascending order of cost, the modified aircraft are:
- MiG-29SD–a minimal-expense refit that gives the aircraft compatibility with NATO and ICAO standards;
- MiG-29SM–a low-budget modernization that provides the MiG-29 with a multi-role capability; and
- •MiG-29SMT–a full-scale retrofit that includes replacement of almost all the avionics and other onboard systems.
So far, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia have signed up for low-budget retrofits, and Poland is discussing a higher-end upgrade for its MiG-29 fleet. According to MiG, these upgrades are not just superficial reworkings of the aircraft. “They can reduce the operational costs of the MiG-29 by up to 40 percent,” Tsivilev claimed.
Tsivilev insisted that MiG is not holding any talks with Iran over possible exports to that country. “We are not negotiating any deals and are not doing any work with Iran related to the supply of aviation products or training of the Iranian air force’s flight personnel,” he said.
Generally speaking, the acting MiG boss believes diversification of the company’s programs is the key to its future. One such opportunity is a prospective joint venture with Europe’s EADS group to convert A320 and A321 passenger airliners into freighters. “This is a serious task which will resolve such problems as certification of production and technologies in compliance with modern international standards,” Tsivilev explained. “Also, this will fully load the existing [MiG] manufacturing facilities and integrate them into Europe’s aviation industry.”