Eighteen of the medium multi-role combat aircraft (MRCA) will be purchased in flyaway condition and the remaining 108 manufactured in the country under a transfer of technology (TOT) agreement with the chosen supplier. The aircraft are envisaged to have a lifecycle of 40 years from the date of delivery.
A 211-page request for proposal (RFP) has been sent to the manufacturers of six aircraft: the US F-16 Fighting Falcon and F-18 Super Hornet, the Swedish Gripen, the French Rafale, the Russian Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-35 Fulcrum and the EADS (European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company) Eurofighter.
Yelena Fyodorova, a spokesperson for the Russian Aircraft Corporation (RSK) MiG, said its representative in New Delhi had received the relevant documents.
Two years ago, the MiG-35's prototype, the MiG-29-M/OVT, was displayed at the MAKS-2005 aerospace show in the town of Zhukovsky near Moscow. In January 2007, the MiG-35 was rolled out for the first time ever; and it stole the limelight during the MAKS-2007 show this August.
The MiG-29 and MiG-29M warplanes are, in fact, fourth-generation and generation four-plus fighters. Although production of fifth-generation fighters was to have commenced in 2012, the program is proceeding more slowly than planned.
The first fifth-generation fighters, due to roll off the assembly line by 2020, will be preceded by the MiG-35, a transitional generation four plus-plus warplane. This and other similar aircraft are expected to have a long service life.
The MiG-35's specifications and performance match the requirements of the Russian Air Force and most foreign customers. The low-risk and inexpensive MiG-35 program will help produce more export-oriented versions.
Top RSK MiG managers said the MiG-35 must outperform fourth-generation fighters and equal fifth-generation aircraft in combat.
MiG-35 designers moved to upgrade the fighter's radio-electronic equipment, while heeding the impressive potential of the MiG-29's aerodynamic concept.
Due to cooperation between RSK MiG and the Fazotron-NIIR corporation, the MiG-35 became the first Russian fighter to feature the Zhuk-AE fifth-generation electronic-scan phased-array radar.
The Zhuk-AE, which has a longer range than the radars of foreign generation plus-plus fighters, can calculate the exact number and type of enemy targets, and facilitates successful beyond-the-horizon attacks.
By increasing the number of its transceiver modules by 50%, the radar's range and target-acquisition parameters can be enhanced considerably.
The Zhuk-AE operates in conjunction with two optronic target acquisition and identification systems featuring infrared and laser channels. They detect, identify and automatically track several targets, calculate their coordinates and provide data to the fire-control system.
One optronic system tracks aerial targets, and the other one detects ground and naval targets and also provides navigation data. Optronic devices enable the fighter to escape detection by the enemy, facilitate round-the-clock operations and make it possible to hit visible and beyond-horizon targets.
The MiG-35's defensive systems warn the pilot in case of danger and automatically activate ECM (Electronic Counter-Measures) systems and also launch heat and radar decoys. Moreover, the pilot is notified if the plane is being tracked by enemy radar or targeted by a laser range finder. Another system detects approaching enemy missiles and shows their direction.
The optronic systems have the same potential as those of Western fighters and can be installed on fifth-generation and generation four plus-plus warplanes.
The MiG-35 also features an RD-33OVT thrust-vector engine that was previously tested on the MiG-29. Its intersecting nozzles can point in any direction, enabling the plane to perform breath-taking stunts. The engine ensures 100% controllability at maximum and zero speeds and even allows the MiG-35 to fly backwards.
The fighter's designers believe that it embodies engineering solutions typical of a fifth-generation fighter and is therefore better than any European aircraft. The MiG-35's design is similar to that of the MiG-29 and makes it possible to increase the internal fuel load by 50% and the ordnance load by over 100%.
Unlike the MiG-29, the MiG-35 is now classed as a medium-weight aircraft because its maximum take-off weight has increased by 30%. Drop tanks and a mid-air refuelling system allow it to fly long-range combat missions.
R&D, production, operating and recycling expenses have been reduced considerably. Using computer systems to identify faults and target maintenance and repairs where and when it is needed allows engineers to save time. The plane's airframe, engines and equipment also have a longer service life.
Yury Zaitsev is an academic adviser with the Russian Academy of Engineering Sciences.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.