Moscow: Alexei Fyodorov, chief of Russia's United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) is optimistic about the chances of the MiG-35 winning the Indian Air Force's tender for the supply of 126 multi-role medium range combat aircraft (MMRCA). The MiG-35, a re-designated MiG-29, is in the running for the contract alongside contenders from six other companies - Lockheed and Boeing from the US, France's Dassault, Sweden's SAAB and EADS, a consortium of British, German, Spanish and Italian companies.
The size of the deal apart, close to $12 billion in value by now, what is important for all contending countries is enhancing strategic relationships with India, which such a deal will allow. Under terms of contract eighteen aircraft will be delivered in ready-to-fly condition, while 108 will be locally manufactured under license.
"The competition is very tough, but we have several trump cards - the MiG-35's superb performance characteristics and the fact that Russia and India share a long-standing partnership in strategic and political cooperation," Alexey Fyodorov said.
The MiG-35 is a highly maneuverable air superiority fighter, powered by RD-33 OVT thrust vectoring engines. The RD-33 OVT engines provide superior maneuverability and enhance the fighter's performance in close-air engagements.
"So far, none of the participants has met the demands of the tender put forward by the Indian air force," Fyodorov also said.
According to Fyodorov, if the MiG-35 wins the MMRCA tender, Russia would be willing to transfer all key technologies to the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. and also provide assistance for the serial production of the aircraft in the country.
Russia signed a contract in March this year with the Indian ministry of defence to upgrade around 70 MiG-29 fighters, which are in service with the IAF since the 1980s, and has also agreed to develop a fifth-generation fighter aircraft jointly with India.
India desperately needs to upgrade its fighter fleet, which mainly consists of obsolete Russian models, including the MiG-21 Fishbed and MiG-23 Flogger designs.