It’s hard to win a game whose rules are constantly changing. It is this situation that has long been observed, almost a decade and a half, in the “multi-series” Indian tender MMRCA (Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft) for the purchase of fighters for its own Air Force. The other day, participants in this protracted contest were amazed to learn that the rules had been changed again.
Here are the dotted key events of this venue, in which the American F-16 and F / A-18E / F Super Hornet, the French Rafale, the Typhoon Euro fighter, the Swedish Gripen and the Russian MiG-35 competed at first. The Indians planned to buy 126 fighters in the amount of $ 8 billion. At the same time, manufacturers of military vehicles were obliged to transfer their production technologies to India.
In 2012, the French Rafale won it. But at the same time, manufacturers significantly increased the amount of the transaction and refused to transfer technology, saying that the Indian industry is in a deplorable state and will not be able to master the production of a complex machine.
In 2015, the Indians changed the rules. In this connection, it was decided to purchase 36 Rafale for $ 7.2 billion. That is, the French tore almost the entire bank into 126 aircraft. Nor did they transfer technology.
Then came the new rules of the game. India announced the purchase of 114 light fighter aircraft worth $ 12 billion. Two mid-weight aircraft flew out of the list of applicants – the American Super Hornet and our MiG-35. However, it soon became clear that the respected Boeing company cannot be run around. And both fighters were allowed to participate in the competition. It is curious that the French Rafale was again on the list of candidates for victory.
After such a correction of the rules of the game, the MiG-35 has a good chance of winning. He has three significant advantages. Firstly, it is the newest of the aircraft presented at the tender, in which all the latest technological methods are used to create effective avionics. The plane, which lost the tender in 2012, was, in fact, a semi-finished product. He, as they say, was sewn onto a living thread. Now, MIG has presented a wonderful machine, which has a number of advantages. It is no coincidence that articles appearing in American specialized publications periodically predict the results of the air battles of the MiG-35 with the F-22 and F-35.
Secondly, Russia always shares technological secrets of its military equipment with customers. And RSK MiG adheres to these rules.
Thirdly, the MiG-29 fighters of both ground and deck modifications have long been operated in the Indian Air Force. This will greatly facilitate the process of mastering a new machine. Do not have to create from scratch and the infrastructure for its maintenance.
And suddenly, just the other day, sensational news came – heavy fighters were allowed to participate in the competition. These include the Russian Su-35. If so, then the chances of success with the MiG-35 become illusive. However, like all other fighters, the manufacturers of which intend to introduce them into the Indian Air Force.
However, this tricky move by Indian buyers has another reason for attracting the Su-35 to the competition. Having received the technologies of this simultaneously new, and already fledged and even fired in Syria fighter, it will be possible to transfer some of them to the Su-30MKI Air Force in service.
This is a very important point. The Indian Air Force operates 270 heavy Su-30MKI fighters. Their deliveries began in 2002. India received 40 aircraft ready. 230 kits were handed over for assembly of fighters at the factories of the state defense company Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). This fighter fully proved its worth during training battles with both the American F-15 and F-16 fighters and the European “Typhoons”, leaving the winner from most of the air fights.
However, 22 years have passed since the first flight of this multirole fighter. And it needs modernization. Indian Defense News reports that the Air Force command proposes, having received the Su-35, to use the engines of this aircraft for the Su-30MKI. Of course, not rearranging them from new machines to old ones, but producing them at HAL. And this will lead to a significant improvement in flight performance.
Existing engines have a thrust of 7,700 kgf, and afterburner – 12,500 kgf. The engine for the Su-35 is 8800 kgf and 14500 kgf, respectively. In addition, the new engine has a plasma ignition system. But his control system is electronically-mechanical, and therefore he does not reach the engine for fifth-generation aircraft by requirements.
Indian Defense News, referring to its sources in the Ministry of Defense of India, claims that the integration of a number of other Su-35 systems into the Su-30MKI will make the aircraft largely compatible. And this will reduce operating costs for the maintenance and use of the “old” and “new” fighters. This is a fairly substantial bonus, which is provided to the Russian fighter connected to the tender.
However, it is itself a wonderful aircraft belonging to the 4 ++ generation. Among the bidders, only the MiG-35 belongs to the same generation.
The Su-35 has a record over-maneuverability due to the high aerodynamic qualities of the airframe, the efficiency of flight controls based on a computer system and the engine with a deflected thrust vector. There are no critical angles of attack for him. Su-35, the only one in the world, can perform a “pancake” figure – a 360-degree turn without slowing down.
The engine allows you to develop 2.4 M speed on the afterburner, all other bidders are not up to it. In the afterburner mode, it can fly at a speed of 1.1 M, like fifth-generation aircraft.
The combat radius of the S-35 is 1900 km, which is predetermined not only by the fact that it is a heavy fighter, but also by economical fuel consumption.
A big step forward was made by the developers of the Irbis airborne radar with a phased antenna array. Fifth generation aircraft, in which stealth technologies were used to the maximum, Irbis discovers at a distance of 90-100 km. Fourth generation fighters with reduced visibility – at a distance of 200-250 km, bombers – up to 400 km. The radar allows you to simultaneously track 30 and fire 8 targets, both air and ground.
There is one more “organ of vision” – the optical-location system OLS-35, which has television and thermal imaging channels. In the back sphere, it detects airplanes (any, EPR does not matter) at a distance of 80 km, in the front – 40 km.
With the Su-35, no fighter can be compared either in combat load or in the variety of missile and bomb weapons. At the same time, a number of missiles have record-breaking characteristics. So, the R-37 air-to-air missile has a range of 300 km. The nearest similar missile in NATO countries – AIM-120D, capable of flying only 180 km. The short-range air-to-air missile R-73 has excellent dynamics – at a speed of 3 M it maneuvers, approaching a target with an overload of 40 g. Escaping it through maneuvering is extremely problematic.
There is also a wide range of ammunition designed to strike at ground and surface targets.
So, the Su-35 does not have competitors in terms of combat qualities among bidders. However, as mentioned above, Indians easily change the rules of the game depending on a number of factors – political, economic, technical. Anything can happen. Especially when you consider that the Americans, who submitted two fighters to the competition, always have in stock one very effective technique – as soviet singer Valdimir Vysotsky sang, a knight goes over the head and crushes it. That is, a threat to impose sanctions for military-technical cooperation with the “world aggressor”, with Russia. However, as Turkey has demonstrated, this does not always work.