Russia still hopes to win an Indian order for the MiG-35 multirole fighter, RAC MiG general director Ilya Tarasenko told journalists at MAKS 2019. The airshow that closed on September 1 saw Indian test pilots Group Captain BS Reddy and Wing Commander FL Roy taking seats in a MiG-35D two-seater for type familiarization flights.
India’s national delegation was led by Director General of Air Operations Air Marshal Amit Dev, who visited Russia to learn more about yet another export version of the MiG-35 that was unveiled at the show. Russia is expected to offer it in the ongoing competition for 110 medium fighters for the Indian air force.
According to Tarasenko, the new version features further-refined geometry of the airframe, uprated Klimov RD-33MK engines with thrust at full afterburner of nine tonnes, an advanced electro-optical reconnaissance system, and an active-array (AESA) radar capable of tracking up to 30 targets simultaneously. Additionally, RAC MiG’s press release also mentions “renewed mission equipment” and “other improvements made to meet the requirements of potential foreign customers."
It is also worth mentioning that a flyable example of the aircraft that was demonstrated to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey on the show’s opening day had new air-launched munitions on its weapons stations, including the Grom-E2 glide bomb and the 600-kg (1,232-pound) Vympel R-37, also known as RVV-BD, the Russian acronym for “air-to-air missile, long-range.” Although the possibility of the MiG-35 being outfitted with the 300-km (162-nm) R-37 was first mentioned a couple of years ago, MAKS 2019 was the first time that the aircraft had been displayed with this weapon.
The MiG-35 full-scale mockup at MAKS 2019 featured a new head-up display with extra-wide field of view, part of a new mission equipment suite from Ramenskoye PKB. The latter is described as “a generation ahead” of that in use on the MiG-29K/KUB deck fighter and its land-based MiG-29M/M2 derivative in service with the Indian Navy and Egyptian air force, respectively. The mockup also exhibited taller, more upright vertical tails that had hitherto only been seen on a small model.
Speaking to journalists on the eve of the show, Tarasenko acknowledged “issues” with the low operational availability of the Indian Navy’s MiGs, but insisted that the aircraft “fully meets the original specification” demanded by the customer at the program launch 15 years ago. The aforementioned issues arose during operational service after the guaranteed lifetime had expired, he noted.
Tarasenko further said that Russian industry has been working closely with India to resolve the issues and introduce changes to the MiG-29K/KUB fleet, amounting to 45 units, so it meets “a recent version of the customer requirements for deck aircraft intended for operation from the Indian navy carriers." RAC MiG hopes to win a new Indian Navy order if the earlier announced tender for 57 deck fighters proceeds. They would equip the navy’s new carrier, Vishal, construction of which is yet to start.