An initial batch of Advanced Fulcrum lightweight multirole fighters for Egypt is in production at the Russian Aircraft Corporation “MiG” (RAC MiG), according to industry sources. The number on order and the exact type of aircraft is not yet known. A couple of aircraft are to be ready for flight tests by the year-end. Russian media reports have given a contract value of $2 billion.
Neither Moscow nor Cairo have revealed the status of the deal. This is mainly due to its complex nature, arranged by Egypt and Saudi Arabia with the latter granting funds under government-to-government agreements of a secret nature. Some details may emerge during the long expected—and repeatedly delayed—official visit of the Saudi monarch to Moscow. The kingdom is looking to improve its relations with Russia, using big arms purchases in political tradeoffs.
The aircraft could be MiG-29M/M2s or MiG-35s. Basically, these represent the same aircraft with minor technical differences. The designation “MiG-35” has been introduced largely for marketing reasons. RAC MiG is desperate to secure the Egyptian order; without it, production of the Advanced Fulcrum series may close down soon.
In 2011-2013, RAC MiG produced three prototypes of land-based Advanced Fulcrums. These are being employed on flight tests and as demonstrator aircraft. The Russian air force says it has an interest in the MiG-35, but this interest is yet to materialize as a firm order. The service made it clear that it will not place a contract earlier than in 2017, and only on the condition that the manufacturer meets its requirements for a future lightweight multirole fighter.
This year RAC MiG is supposed to deliver the last six MiG-29K/KUB carrier-capable Advanced Fulcrum fighters to India, from the 2010 order for 29 such aircraft. This will bring the Indian Navy fleet to 45. The manufacturer has already fulfilled the Russian MoD order for 20 MiG-29K and four MiG-29KUB deck fighters awarded in 2012. These aircraft are operated by the newly established independent fighter regiment of the Russian navy naval aviation headquartered at Yeisk airbase on the Russian Black Sea coast. This airbase is a large center for the combat training of naval pilots in operations from aircraft carriers using shore-based facilities equipped with arrestor wires and sky-jumps.
RAC MiG is still fulfilling a Russian air force order for for 16 MiG-29SMT/UBT classic Fulcrum aircraft. It came in 2014 and followed the 2009 contract for 34 such machines that are now in service. RAC MiG delivered four MiG-29SMT and two MiG-29UBT aircraft in 2015, and two more in early 2016. It has to deliver the remaining eight later this year. These are believed to be the very last classic Fulcrums to be built.