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MiG-35: Fighting with F-21 for supremacy in the sky of India

The marshal of our partners liked the Russian fighter, but it still means nothing

The long-running Indian tender MMRCA (Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft) for the purchase of 114 medium fighters for their own air force is moving at a ragged pace. Now there is a revival, which is characterized by high lability. Applicants for the right to receive $ 20 billion, as estimated by the amount of the contract, constantly changing. Last week, the favorite was the F-21, a F-16 veteran fighter specially for India, reworked by Lockheed Martin.


And suddenly last Friday the Russian MiG-35 took the lead.


However, this rating is just a ripple on the surface of the water, because it is based on statements in the media by various stakeholders. Let sometimes there are very large figures among the speakers.


Winning the F-21 read the popular business newspaper The Economic Times. At the same time, it puts the Russian aircraft not immediately after the American, but at the tail of the queue – after another American fighter, French, European and Swedish.

But the fact that the victory will be counted is the MiG-35, almost sure the main air marshal of India, Birender Dhanoa. The Indian commander recently visited Russia and, as they say, touched the fighter with his own hands. Unless did not fly on it, as the car single.

Marshal said that he had no doubts that the MiG-35 belongs to the generation 4 ++. And this means that all speculations that “Russians cannot make modern avionics” are absolutely groundless. One of the main requirements for aircraft of this generation is modern and efficient avionics. It would seem that the marshal’s arguments would be more important than the opinion of the newspaper, which is based on a “sofa analyst”.


But not everything is so simple. In the economy, and the tender is largely an economic event, the size of the shoulder straps and the number of stars on them plays not the most important role. Well, such a grand tender is also a political event. And the newspaper The Economic Times is, boldly, the mouthpiece of the Indian government. Although officially it does not position itself. But he always knows where the wind is coming from.


So this is not a good sign for the Russian MiG Aircraft Building Corporation. It is the Indian government that recently has been putting sticks in the wheel of transactions with Russia in the aviation segment. That it canceled participation in a joint project to develop the Indian modification of the fifth-generation fighter Su-57 and the deployment of its production in their factories. Although this project was interested and the Ministry of Defense of India, and the country’s aircraft industry.


However, no one has canceled and objective criteria, which are expressed in specific numerical values. Therefore, not all is solved in offices in closed meetings.


It should be recalled that the fighter RAC “MiG” has already been an attempt to win the still ongoing tender. In its early stage. And then the political situation was such that the Indian government would not obstruct the Russian plane. MiG-35 then “honestly” lost.


It happened in 2011, 4 years after the start of a grand lists. To the plane there were made two main complaints. First, its engine did not meet the declared technical specifications. Secondly, the radar station during test flights with the participation of all the tenderers did not perform well. The detection range of the “enemy” aircraft was low. In addition, there was a small number of accompanied and fired targets.


And it was quite natural, since Mig company submitted to the tender, in fact, a semi-finished product – a MiG-29 fighter with “some improvements.” However, improvements did not go to the benefit of a good and mass-produced car. By the way, the car, readily purchased by India for arming its aircraft carriers. In the period of preparation for the tender, the MiG corporation was going through far from the best of times. And it affected the quality of the fighter (prototype), which turned out “raw.”


This plane could not win the tender also because it was not only not in service with the Russian Air Force, but was not even produced in the pilot series.

That is, it was an absolutely “dark horse”, stuffed with “childhood diseases”, which inevitably would have to be fought at the expense of design improvements from the very beginning of operation.


But last year, the MiG-35 was presented as a completely new fighter, in which the excellent flight data of the MiG-29 glider was complemented by modern radio-electronic equipment.


Thus, the Zhuk-A radar has an active phased antenna array and fully complies with the requirements for fifth-generation fighter jets. It allows you to detect a fighter at a distance of 200 km. The number of accompanied targets – 30, shelled – 10. Resolution when mapping an area – 1 mx 1 m. Radiotechnical characteristics of the radar were not disclosed. But it can be assumed that it used the method of working at different frequencies with reduced energy release in order to disguise the aircraft. By the way, in the MiG-35 partially, to the EPR of about 1 square meter, the radar visibility is reduced. Also reduced thermal visibility.


The RD-33MK engine, which now meets most of the requirements for engines for fifth-generation aircraft, has been brought to mind. It uses plasma ignition, as well as a fully digital control system that optimizes all modes of operation and transitions between them. As a result, the thrust (up to 9400 kgf at the afterburner) and the resource were increased, and the fuel consumption was also reduced. In addition, there is a modification of the engine with a thrust vector deflected in two planes; it can be installed at the request of the customer.


The United States decided to regain the anti-tank missile systems donated to Kiev.

The conquests of Mig’s designers in the field of avionics should include the use of not one, but two optical-location stations with television and thermal imaging channels. With one carried out a review in the front hemisphere. The second is designed for lower vision, which increases the effectiveness of the combat fighter against ground targets.


The fighter is equipped with a powerful defense system, which includes irradiation sensors, electronic warfare complex, means of suppressing enemy thermal missiles. The communications equipment allows the MiG-35 to be used as a command plane, targeting the group’s aircraft and otherwise helping the group to carry out the combat mission. The avionics has an open architecture, which maximally simplifies the connection of new equipment, without resorting to installation and debugging in the factory.


And finally, the dignity that the prototype was deprived of, the loser of the tender in 2011. The MiG-35 successfully passed the state tests and was adopted by the Russian Air Force. A contract was signed for the construction of 6 aircraft. It was also announced that 24 more cars will be ordered soon.


Such a plane is now competing in India with the American F-16 (named for the F-21 tender) and the F / A-18 Super Hornet, the French Rafale, the European fighter Typhoon and the Swedish JAS 39 Gripen.


The list is very strange. Since the conditions of the tender suggest that the winner will sell India 15 aircraft, and the remaining 99 will be produced in India according to the technology provided by the company. This principle is consistent with the “Made in India” strategy adopted by New Delhi. But with this approach, Rafale should not be admitted to the tender at all. Because last year, when the company Dassult won the interim stage of the tender, signing a contract for the supply of 36 fighters, the firms refused to provide the technology. They said that the current low technological level in the aircraft industry in India does not allow building high-quality Rafali.


Equally strange look in the list of applicants and two “American” – F-16 (Lockheed-Martin) and F / A-18 Super Hornet (Boeing). Americans never share their technology with anyone. And although they now declare their readiness to do it, they can easily take their words back because of the “priority of national interests”.


Thus, if the tender was carried out with strict observance of all the conditions laid down in it, the MiG-35 would have to compete with only two aircraft – the Typhoon and JAS 39 Gripen. “Gripen”, of course, has a number of advantages in terms of electronic equipment. But its energy data is rather weak. It is able to take on board the rocket-bomb load, the weight of which does not exceed 5 tons. That is, there is no need to speak about special multifunctionality – this is not enough for striking the ground. Small and combat radius – 800 km.


As for “Typhoon”, produced by Euroconcern Eurofighter, then with the undoubted merits of the “power” part, it is still not that young. Operated since 2001. But at the same time it did not undergo serious upgrades in the field of avionics equipment. Therefore, refers to the fourth generation without a plus sign. The MiG-35 is in a better position in this respect.


And one more advantage of the Russian fighter is the low cost. If the Typhoon is worth $ 120 million, the MiG-35 is less than 50 million.


Are there any chances of victory for the Russian fighter? Of course, there is. However, as mentioned above, the winner in this competition will be named not only on the basis of the quality of the rival aircraft.


So, there is no doubt that when there is not much time left before the finals, materials will appear in the world media that “expose” the weakness of the MiG-35 in almost all of its characteristics. Americans are aces in this.

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