Nizhny Novgorod: The Russian manufacturer of the MiG-35 advanced air superiority fighter has said that it has begun testing the MiG-35 ahead of field trials that have now commenced in India. It also said that production of the MiG-35 multirole fighters, on offer to India for its multi-role medium range combat aircraft (MMRCA) global tender, can commence only around 2013 or 2014.
The MiG-35 Fulcrum-F, an export version of the MiG-29M OVT (Fulcrum F), is a highly manoeuvrable air superiority fighter, with an even more advanced engine than that available with the Sukhoi-30MKI.
"We have begun testing the MiG-35 fighter for the Indian tender," said Alexander Karezin, director general of the Sokol company based in Nizhny Novgorod. When, and if, the MiG-35 wins a contract for the Indian MMRCA or any other tender, Sokol would be the manufacturing base for the aircraft.
Six global aircraft makers - Lockheed and Boeing from the United States, Russia's MiG, which is part of the UAC, France's Dassault, Sweden's Saab and the EADS consortium of British, German, Spanish and Italian companies - are in contention for the $11 billion MMRCA contract for 126 fighters to be supplied to the Indian Air Force.
Sokol had announced earlier that the first two MiG-35 aircraft would be delivered to India in August for test flights and will conduct a series of flight tests with live firing for an Indian Air Force delegation at one of the testing grounds on the Russian territory sometime in late 2009.
The MiG-35 is powered by RD-33 OVT thrust vectoring engines, which provide unmatched manoeuvrability to the fighter's performance.
Russia has stressed time and again that should the MiG-35 win the MMRCA tender, it would transfer all key technologies to India's Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd and also provide assistance for the production of the aircraft in the country.
The MiG-35, a 4++ generation fighter, represents the final evolution of the family of MiG-29 fighters that includes the MiG-29M/M2 and the MiG-29K/KUB versions. The design bureau claims that the MiG-35 represents so many new features and capabilities over its predecessors that it was ultimately deserving of a new designation of its own.
About the only thing that it shares in a major way with its predecessors is its airframe.
The RD-33OVT power plant with thrust vector control is the standard engine for the MiG-35. Its nozzles can be oriented -+15 degrees in vertical axis and -+8 degrees in the horizontal axis. Thrust vectoring is controlled by a modernized SDU-915-01 fly-by-wire system. The RD-33OVT, developed by St. Petersburg's Klimov plant, has been tested on a MiG-29OVT technology demonstrator since 2003.
The MiG- 29OVT is the first twin-engine aircraft with all-directional vectoring nozzles that can move in all axes. The only restrictions on performance are imposed by the airframe design. Other existing thrust vectoring aircraft - Russia's Su-30MKI and the American F-22 - feature just two-dimensional vectoring nozzles.
The power plant is equipped with a smokeless combustion chamber and new electronic control system (FADEC type). Engines are of the module structure and have increased reliability and service life.
The final configuration of the MiG-35's onboard equipment has deliberately been left open to cater to customer requirements.
Since all new MiG family aircraft have an open architecture configuration for its avionics, future customers of MiG-35 will have an option to choose from components and systems manufactured by Russian, French and Israeli companies. The Ramenskoe Design Company will act as the systems integrator and prime supplier of components and subsystems.
The MiG-35 boasts of following advancements over its predecessors:
- increased weapons load stored with nine external stations;
- increased fuel capacity, in-flight refuelling and possibility of using as a tanker;
- airframe and main systems anti-corrosion protection technology which meets the standards developed for carrier-based aircraft thus simplifying fighters operation in tropical weather conditions;
- significantly reduced radar signature;
- three channel fly-by-wire control system with quadruple redundancy;
- reliability of aircraft, engines and avionics is significantly increased;
- lifetime and service life are extended;
- mean time between overhauls (MTBO) of engines is increased;
- the MiG-35 aircraft flight hour cost is almost 2.5 times lower than those of the MiG-29 fighter.
A number of innovative solutions have been developed for the MiG-35 aircraft which provides for independent operations, such as an airborne oxygen generation plant.
As for the onboard radar, a number of options are available and the customer can decide depending on their requirements.
The Indian Air Force has evaluated both the Zhuk-ME and Bars-29 radars. The former is installed on the carrier-based MiG-29K/KUB naval fighters, which are on order by the Indian Navy as the flying complement for the Adm Gorshkov/INS Vikramaditya aircraft carrier.
Russia's Phazotron Corporation, which has designed the Zhuk-ME has said that its slot array antenna has been changed for the active phased array antenna with the Zhuk-MFE modification.
The Bars-29 with a passive phased array antenna is developed by Russian NIIP as a scaled-down version of the Bars radar installed on Su- 30MKI fighters.
The multi-role radar with active phased array provides for advantage over the competitors due to the following factors:
- extended range of operating frequencies;
- increased quantity of detected, tracked and attacked targets;
- possibility of simultaneous attack of air and ground targets;
- extended detection range;
- enhanced resolution in the surface mapping mode;
- high jamming protection and survivability.
ELTA Systems' EL/M-2052 radar with an active phased array antenna is believed to be the third contender.
The IRST system with infra-red, TV and laser sighting equipment has been developed using space technologies. The system distinctive features are the increased range, detection, tracking, identification and lock-on of air, ground/surface targets in the forward and rear hemispheres, at day and night measuring the distance with laser range-finder as well as the formation of target designation and laser illumination of ground targets.
The IRST system and new helmet-mounted target designation system are integrated into the armament control system. In addition to the built-in IRST system the MiG-35 aircraft is equipped with a podded one.
The MiG-35 aircraft is also equipped with the following:
- radio electronic reconnaissance and electronic counter measures;
- optronic systems for detection of attacking missiles and laser emission;
- decoy dispensers to counteract the enemy in the radar and infrared ranges.
In addition to the "A-A" and "A-S" class weapons applied on the MiG-29K/KUB and MiG-29M/M2 aircraft a number of advanced aircraft armament, which have not been offered earlier for export, is also being included as part of the aircraft's package.
Long range weapons capable of attacking targets without approaching enemy air defence zones are among them.