Russia uses an airframe from the 80s to build MiG-35 Fulcrum-F
WASHINGTON — So the widely advertised Russian MiG-35 fighter is not exactly generation 4++. The Michigan-based writer Mr. Peter Suciu explains why the MiG-35 is primarily a 4th generation fighter and a Kremlin publicity stunt.
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The MiG-35 Fulcrum-F is a project of the Mikoyan Design Bureau, a subsidiary of the state-owned United Aircraft Corporation [UAC]. The Russians tout it as a capable light highly maneuverable fighter capable of engaging moving and stationary targets, day and night, in all weather conditions.
According to publications in the Russian media, citing statements by KAC officials, the MiG-35 can simultaneously track slightly more than 30 targets. The MiG-35 can engage six targets simultaneously, Russian comments also say. Russia is proud of its radar integrated into the MiG-35, claiming that it detects targets at long range and is highly resistant to radio jamming, i.e. electronic countermeasures.
Generation 4++ is a Kremlin marketing ploy, sort of the equivalent of the American 5th-generation marketing ploy. Russia is trying to convince the world, and perhaps itself, that the MiG-35 is the equivalent of the US Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter.
There are also more details shared about the combat capabilities of the MiG-35. Russian experts say the fighter reaches a maximum flight speed of Mach 2.25. This was achieved, according to the Russians, by two Klimov RD-33MK afterburner turbofan engines. The MiG-35 can be very well-armed. It can carry a suite of missiles, rockets, and bombs, including the Kh-31A, Kh-31P precision missiles, Kh-29TE missiles, and KAB-500Kr TV-guided bombs.
However, the above-mentioned characteristics, so loudly advertised by Moscow, are unlikely to be a fact. It is a known fact that the MiG-35 is not a new fighter, but an upgraded version. The predecessor of the MiG-35 is the well-known MiG-29K/MiG-29M/M2. Even more striking is the fact that the MiG-35 is built around a fourth-generation airframe developed in the late 1980s. With such good capabilities, this fighter should be at the forefront of the Russian Air and Space Forces [VKS], and today, even before the war with Ukraine, Moscow cannot put it into serial production.
Sometime two or three years ago, Russia announced that it would purchase 37 MiG-35 fighters. At the time, this sounded like the bare minimum to attract the attention of foreign clients to finance the project in one way or another. However, this plan also failed. Today, the Russian Air Force has only six fighters operationally capable and two prototype combat aircraft.
Gradually, however, the interest from other countries dropped to the level of “no interest”. Otherwise, Russia claimed that India, Argentina, Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Egypt were showing interest. To some extent, the US has a hand in failed negotiations and eventual deals between Russia and foreign clients. Washington is actively attacking overseas with CAATSA, threatening smaller economies with economic sanctions if they even think about a Russian fighter jet, no matter which one.
The MiG-35 is a waste of money, as Suciu writes. There are no indications that this fighter would enter serial production, even if the war in Ukraine had not started at all.
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