Russia has approached India again with an offer for MiG-35 fighters. The move comes as negotiations drag on to finalize a contract for the Dassault Rafale, which was declared the winner of the medium multirole combat aircraft (MMRCA) competition in January last year. Explaining the move, Sergei Korotkov, general director at Russian Aircraft Corporation MiG (RAC MiG), told Russian media, “Although we lost the [MMRCA] tender, we nonetheless met all the requirements set by the tender committee.” He noted that MiG has been a partner with the Indian aerospace industry and air force for 50 years; India signed for its first MiG-21 fighters in 1962.
Although RAC MiG has failed so far to clinch a firm domestic order for the MiG-35, Korotkov said that negotiations with the Russian MoD continue, with an award expected in this year’s second half. Korotkov said that deliveries of the 24 MiG-29K/KUB carrier-capable fighters for the Russian navy will start later this year. For the first time in recent Russian procurement history, they will come equipped with foreign avionics, including Sagem navigation systems and Thales helmet-mounted sights. The Russian navy is the second customer for the ship-borne MiGs after India, which has already received 20 such aircraft out of 45 on order (worth nearly $2 billion), and expects four more later this year.
On April 20 the Indian defense ministry awarded RAC MiG a contract for training the Indian Navy Air Arm pilots in the MiG-29K/KUB. The 10-week syllabus will start shortly after the INS Vikramaditya resumes sea trials in the Arctic waters before delivery to India as planned later this year. RAC MiG specialists will also help to complete the special training facility for carrier fighter pilots being built in India.
The modernization of the Indian air force MiG-29 fleet is proceeding well. While Korotkov declined to reveal the costs, he commented, “What I can say is that it is much less expensive than the upgrade effort on the Mirage 2000Hs.”
Three reworked aircraft were shipped last year and three more MiG-29UPGs are due this year. The maker has also begun delivering upgrade kits for performing the work at Indian bases. “We have not been simply selling our aircraft to India, but also transferring technologies, and these facilitate development of the respective industry in India, especially large industrial centers and maintenance enterprises. Our cooperation with India has been a success story and we expect this story to be continued with the MiG-35,” the RAC MiG chief concluded.