A Winged Frontiersman: MiG-35 to Cover Russian Forces from Air

© REUTERS / Maxim ShemetovA new multi-role Russian MiG-35 fighter lands during its international presentation at the MiG plant in Lukhovitsy outside Moscow, Russia, January 27, 2017
A new multi-role Russian MiG-35 fighter lands during its international presentation at the MiG plant in Lukhovitsy outside Moscow, Russia, January 27, 2017 - Sputnik International
All updated information about Russia’s new aviation fighter jet, currently in its testing stages.

"It's lightweight, modern, deadly and darn maneuverable," Russian media wrote about the new MiG-35 jet. If tests go smoothly, the first machines will enter service in 2019. While the plane is a deep modernization of the MiG-29 which first took flight some 35 years ago, it is an entirely different machine when graded on battle capabilities.

The main purpose of the new fighter is local air superiority on a relatively small part of a frontline, as remote raids are for Su-27 and Su-35s. The MiG-35 acts closely to ground actions, protecting infantry and armor against enemy aircraft, covering rear objects and disrupting enemy's air reconnaissance. These fighters are intended to be based close to the frontlines, where air bases are typically prepared with only the basest of necessities. With this in mind, the MiG-35 has inherited the MiG-29's qualities of reliability and ease of maintenance.

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While the new plane resembles its predecessor on the outside, it's very different inside the airframe. Its Zhuk-A active electronically scanned array (AESA) can track up to 30 targets at distances of up to 200 km. It features an electronic control system (the MiG-29s were controlled mechanically). New advanced engines include thrust vectoring nozzles. The MiG-35 features both a built-in and a container optical locator system (OLS) which allow aiming weapons, like radar, but without any emissions, and are therefore undetectable. Targeting is projected on the pilot's helmet.

The aircraft has an increased payload, fuel capacity, engine resources, all while reducing the cost of flying per hour some 2.5 times from its predecessor.

In flight capability, the MiG-35 surpasses it's main competition, the US F-16C Block 50/52. The MiG-35, which NATO has dubbed Fulcrum-F, can travel up to 2560 km/h (well over the F-16 2120 km/h limit) and can achieve altitudes up to 17,5 km (over 15,2 km of F-16).

The MiG-35 maximum takeoff mass is 29,7 tons (over 21,7 of F-16). Both planes have an auto cannon and 9 so-called hardpoints.

​The engine, however, is the plane's greatest advantage. Vectoring thrust nozzles allow the plane to perform complex maneuvers which only the super-maneuverable Su-35 could accomplish. The ability to achieve swift, unexpected maneuvers allows the MiG-35 to get behind an enemy position, useful in tactical maneuvering.

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The Strizhi (Swifts) performance flight group will be the first to test the new plane, as the group is tasked with developing tactics for the new machine. The MiG-35s will then be dispatched to the Russian Air Force. According to some media reports, the cutting edge aircraft will be based in the Moscow and Kursk oblasts. This means that the MiG-35 will be able to support Russian ground forces in the unlikely event of a military conflict on Russia's western borders. The Russian Air Force — a branch of the Russian Aerospace Forces — is expected to receive some 30 of the new MiG-35 aircraft before 2020.

A primary build for the new airframe is the MiG-35S, a one-seat fighter. A two-seat version will be called the MiG-35D, and will be used as training planes."This light fighter is very economical," stated Viktor Bondarev, commander of Russia's Aerospace Forces. "It is fit for training pilots both in the academia and the military itself, and for familiarizing with all kinds of piloting techniques, maneuvers, all armaments."

​The makers of the MiG-35 are also researching the viability of developing a ship-based version of the plane. It has been reported that the KRET concern has adapted the new BINS-SP-2 deck landing system for the new aircraft. This system would allow navigation even though satellite or ground services are unavailable, and would suggest to pilots certain maneuvers.

Out of 56 nations that currently run MiG-29s, about half have expressed interest in procuring the MiG-35. India would potentially be the largest potential importer. Countries that fly MiG-29s have the required infrastructure to maintain MiG-35s, according to Russian media.

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