Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Russia Officially Pitches Its MiG-35 Fighter Jets To The Indian Air Force Under MMRCA 2.0 Tender

The Russian MiG-35 fighter jet has been submitted to the Indian Defense Ministry’s tender for the supply of 110 combat aircraft, Dmitry Shugaev, the Russian Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation said.

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“The Russian side placed this jet [MiG-35] in the tender for the delivery of 110 medium fighter jets for the Indian Air Force,” Shugaev told Russian news agency – Sputnik.

MiG-35
MiG-35. (via Twitter)

A demonstration flight of the fighter is planned for the MAKS-2021 international aerospace show which is taking place near Moscow from July 20-25.

After the acquisition of 36 Rafale jets under the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) contract, the Indian Air Force has proposed the new MMRCA 2.0 for the procurement of 114 additional fighter jets in a bid to boost its air fleet.

Indian MiG Fighters

The Indian Air Force (IAF) has been operating MiG fighter jets since the Soviet era. One of them is MiG-29, a twin-engine, single-seater air superiority fighter aircraft capable of attaining a maximum speed of 2,445 km per hour (Mach-2.3) with a combat ceiling of 17 km.

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India’s immediate neighbors Bangladesh and Myanmar are among the more than 30 countries which use this fighter jet.

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MiG-35

It carries a 30 mm cannon, along with four R-60 close combat and two R-27 R medium-range radar-guided missiles, according to the Indian Air Force website. The IAF operates three squadrons of MiG-29, the first delivery of which was received in 2012.

Last year, India’s council for defense purchases approved the acquisition of 21 Russia’s MiG-29 fighters, which also include an upgrade of about 60 MiG-29 in service.

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An upgraded MiG-29 of the Indian Air Force. (via Twitter)

During the MAKS 21 expo, Russia has reportedly handed over to India a commercial offer to deliver 21 MiG-29 fighters, a spokesperson for Russia’s Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation Dmitry Shugayev told reporters.

“The modernization of all the Indian MiG-29 fighters to the MiG-29UPG level is due to be completed in 2022 under the existing contract,” he added.

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The MiG-21 ‘Flying Coffins’

The other MiG fighter operated by India is the MiG-21, a single-engine, single-seater multirole fighter/ground attack jet. It has a max speed of 2230 km/hr (Mach 2.1) and carries one 23mm twin-barrel cannon with four R-60 close combat missiles.

The IAF got its first delivery of MiG-21 in 1963. India has since then operated more than 800 jets, forming the backbone of the IAF. Almost 100 fighters still remain in service.

Among the different variants of MiG-21 operated by India, the Bison is the most advanced version, first flown in 2000. The IAF operates four squadrons of MiG-21 Bison aircraft, each squadron having 16 to 18 fighter jets.

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An IAF MiG-21 Bison. (via Twitter)

However, the entire fleet of India’s MiG-21s is slated to be retired by 2025, given the number of accidents they have been involved in, earning the dubious epithet, “Flying Coffins”.

In 2012, then-Defense Minister AK Antony told Parliament that more than half of the 872 MiG aircraft purchased from Russia had crashed, killing more than 200 persons, including 171 pilots, 39 civilians, and eight other defense personnel.

This year has already seen three crashes involving MiG-21, in which two IAF’s fighter pilots died. This has once again turned the spotlight on India’s longest-serving fighter plane and its safety record.

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The remains of an IAF MiG-21 that crashed in Punjab’s Moga in May this year. Its pilot, Squadron Leader Abhinav Choudhary, was killed in the accident. (via Twitter)

For IAF to replace the aging jets with newer ones such as with Dassault Rafales and LCA Tejas, a larger number would have to be procured or produced than the present status. India is due to receive all 36 French Rafale jets it purchased from France by next year.

Earlier this year, India placed an order for 83 Tejas jets with the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

In addition to MiG-21 and MiG-29, IAF also operates another Russian multi-role aircraft, the Sukhoi-Su 30.

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The MiG-35

Russia first unveiled the 4++ generation multi-role fighter MiG-35 at the 2007 Aero India air show in Bangaluru.

Flight tests of the MiG-35 began in January 2017 and the first batch of six jets was ordered in August 2018. The first two serial aircraft were delivered to the Russian Aerospace Forces in June 2019.

In the 2019 edition of MAKS, IAF pilots conducted test flights of the MiG-35 when it debuted at an airshow. According to Russian officials, Moscow had then offered to manufacture MiG-35s jointly with India besides Transfer of Technology (ToT) if New Delhi opted to buy them.

Experts view the MiG-35 as an advanced version of the series-built MiG-29K/KUB and MiG-29M/M2 combat aircraft for export purposes.

Ilya Tarasenko, the CEO of MiG Aircraft Corporation, lauded MiG-35 for meeting “21st century standards based on its reliability, repair and upgrades”.

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The MiG-35. (via Twitter)

The MiG-35 is the newest aviation complex developed with the use of technologies of fifth-generation fighters and designed for eliminating air targets at any time of day and any weather conditions as well as attacking mobile and stationary land and water targets, Sputnik reported.

The fighter has improved flight performance, a state-of-the-art avionics system, and carries a wide range of air-to-air and air-to-surface guided weapons. Developers also cite decreased visibility for enemy’s radar systems and a new engine with increased thrust among the plane’s advantages.

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The latest fighter jet can employ all types of aircraft weaponry available today, including laser weapons, TASS reported.

“This is an aviation combat complex capable of successfully accomplishing missions aimed at destroying air, ground, and naval targets under current conditions,” said Mikhail Belyayev, Senior Test Pilot for the MiG Aircraft Corporation.

Among 200 military exhibits, the MiG-35 fighter jet was also a part of the Russian pavilion in the Aero India 2021, held in Bangaluru. 

The ball is now in India’s court to decide which fighter jet should replace the aging MiG-21s as MiG-35 competes against Rafales, F-18 Super Hornets, Eurofighter Typhoons, Su-35, SAAB Gripen jets and other warplanes.

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