By Rohit Srivastava
In February, Russian Aircraft Corporation announced the development of two systems that are going to make its aircraft family of MiG-29 and MiG-35 more capable. In a press statement, on February 21, RAC (Earlier MiG) said that it has received “the patent for the landing approach aircraft automatic control system” and again on March 4, it announced receiving “patent for an intelligent system for highly manoeuvrable combat aircraft protection against going beyond critical g-loads.”
These systems is being developed for MiG-29M/M2 and MiG-35 aircraft.
The MiG-35 is based on the MiG-29K, the naval version of the MiG-29M/M2. The MiG-35 is now a truly 4++ generation multi-role fighter aircraft. The MiG-29, designed and developed in the 1970s, became operational in the early part of next decade. Back then it was one of the world’s most advanced third-generation fighter aircraft.
Faster and heavier than its rival F-16, the MiG-29, NATO “Fulcrum”, was an air superiority aircraft with over 1000 km range and seven hardpoints to carry short to long-range air-to-air missiles.
Considered as a serious threat to American fighters including their heavy air dominance fighter F-15, the MiG-29 was the aircraft of choice for military across the globe against American and European fighters.
United States sold F-16 to Pakistan giving it's Air Force a decisive edge against India. To blunt the edge India purchased three squadrons of these aircraft.
But the rise of Su-27/30 as a potent all-weather, multi-role fighter with much higher payload capacity and air endurance shifted the focus of Russian customers who now wanted to buy Su-30 over MiG-29.
Now, MiG-35 can become a game-changer. One big programme where MiG-35 was pitched by Russia was India’s tender for 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA). The French Rafael won the tender. The Russian offer did not cut much ice with India.
But India still supported a mid-life upgrade programme for its over 60 MiG-29s. A contract for upgrade programme was signed in 2008. The upgraded version, MiG-29UPG is operational with IAF.
The MiG-35, since its MMRCA unsuccessful appearance in the Indian market, has come a long way. The current aircraft is truly the best aircraft that has ever come from the MiG stable.
With ten hardpoints to carry all kinds of weapons, the MiG-35, with help of its Zhuk-A active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, it can detect around 60 aerial targets within 200 km and track over 30 of them. It can engage up to eight of these targets.
The total payload capacity is around 7000 tons. The powered by the latest version of the RD-33 engine, the aircraft, with the top speed of around 2,500 km per hour, has a range of 1000 km. It also allows MiG-35 capable of thrust vectoring, one of the key features of fifth-generation fighters.
The aircraft can be refuelled in air and can also act as a tanker for another aircraft, similar to the F/A-18 aircraft. The engine, reportedly, can be changed in less than an hour and allows aircraft to operate from not so clean airstrips.
The MiG-35 has squeezed in many of the fifth-generation technologies like radar-absorbent surface, electronic warfare and advanced avionics, etc.
The automatic landing system will “enhances the safety of flying in adverse weather conditions, enables the pilot to hold the glide path in an automatic mode and in a shorter time and to continue descent till visibility appears.”
Similarly, the g-load system will “enhance flight safety and allow the pilot to conduct intensive air combat, without paying attention to the instrument panel.”
The new automated system, combined with “MiG” helmet-mounted target designation system allows the pilot to concentrate on combat mission and maintain high manoeuvrability without rechecking of the flight data.
The new system also allows options of critical g-load increase at the range of 1-2G by applying additional force on the aircraft control stick as well as the system temporary or complete switch-off.
In addition, the aircraft has quadruple redundancy.
This is certainly going to enhance the lethality of the aircraft by a couple of notches.
The MiG-35 can be considered as one generation ahead of MiG-29 which had some limitations like lesser payload, the radius of operation, less capable radars and electronic warfare capabilities. The aircraft designers have overcome these limitations and have come up with MiG-35, a top-of-the-line fourth-generation ++ fighter. (for details see below)
The Russian MiG-35 plant has an annual capacity of 35 aircraft per year.
Going by the life of MiG-29UPG one can expect MiG-35 to have airframe life of four decades.
Capability (Source- manufacturer)
The MiG-35/MiG-35D fighters structure is based upon the following achievements obtained on the MiG-29K/KUB, MiG-29M/M2 aircraft:
– increased weapons load stored at nine external stations;
– increased fuel capacity, in-flight refuelling and the possibility of using as a tanker;
– airframe & main systems anti-corrosion protection technology which meets the standards developed for carrier-based aircraft thus simplifying fighters operation in tropical weather conditions;
– significantly reduced radar signature;
– three-channel fly-by-wire control system with quadruple redundancy.
In the course of the MiG-35 aircraft development the most attention was paid to operational characteristics improvement:
– reliability of aircraft, engines and avionics is significantly increased;
– lifetime and service life are extended;
– meantime between overhauls (MTBO) of engines is increased;
– the MiG-35 aircraft flight hour cost is almost 2.5 times lower than those of the MiG-29 fighter;
– the MiG-35 aircraft is intended for the on-condition maintenance.
The complex of technical and technological solutions has been developed for the MiG-35/MiG-35D aircraft which provides for independent operation, like airborne oxygen generation plant.
The power plant includes two engines RD-33MK with increased thrust power, equipped with the smokeless combustion chamber and new electronic control system (of FADEC type). Engines are of the module structure and have increased reliability and service life.
Upon customer request, the fighters can be equipped with "all aspect" thrust vectored RD-33MK engines ensuring the aircraft superiority in the manoeuvring dogfight. The power plant of two thrust vectored engines were tested on the super-manoeuvrable prototype-aircraft MiG-29M OVT.
The airborne avionics of the MiG-35/MiG-35D aircraft is developed on the basis of the new generation technologies.
The multi-role radar with active phased array provides for an advantage over the competitors due to the following factors:
– extended range of operating frequencies;
– increased quantity of detected, tracked and attacked targets;
– possibility of simultaneous attacks on air and ground targets;
– extended detection range;
– enhanced resolution in the surface mapping mode;
– high jamming protection and survivability.
The IRST system with infra-red, TV and laser sighting equipment has been developed using the space technologies which were not applied previously in aviation. The system distinctive features are the increased range, detection, tracking, identification and lock-on of air, ground/surface targets in the forward and rear hemispheres, at day and night measuring the distance with laser range-finder as well as the formation of target designation and laser illumination of ground targets. The IRST system and new helmet-mounted target designation system are integrated into the armament control system. In addition to the built-in IRST system, the MiG-35 aircraft is equipped with a podded one.
– radio-electronic reconnaissance and electronic countermeasures;
– optronic systems for detection of attacking missiles and laser emission;
– decoy dispensers to counteract the enemy in the radar and infrared ranges.
In addition to the "A-A" and "A-S" class weapons applied on the MiG-29K/KUB and MiG-29M/M2 aircraft the advanced aircraft armament, which have not been offered earlier for export, is being included into the MiG-35/MiG-35D aircraft weapons. The long-range weapons capable to attack targets without approaching the air defence zone are among them.