Russia might put a hypersonic R-37M missile on MiG-35’s pods

MOSCOW ($1=62.65 Russian Rubles) — Russia has one fighter that stands apart from its other “brothers” like an abandoned orphan, although, according to experts, it may turn out to be the most successful Russian fighter. This is the MiG-35, a medium-heavy fighter that has only six units produced, enough to stimulate some interest from a foreign customer.

The Russia's MiG-35 'downed' the French fighter Rafale from Indian market
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Years ago, Moscow’s plans were really different. At least 36 fighters were to be produced, replenishing the Russian Air Force in the country’s five military districts. Alas, Moscow began to gradually abandon any projects related to medium-heavy fighters. The direct successor to Russia’s Cold War flagship, the MiG-29, is not popular, although some Western experts continue to wonder why it is this fighter that Moscow does not want to develop. Very often, mainly Russian sources, publish impressive characteristics of the fighter. This is strange because using laser weapons to work with artificial intelligence means that if true, Russia has an impressive fighter jet. If it’s true, of course!

The biggest paradox, if it can be called a paradox and not incompetence, is that the MiG-35 appeared at a time of fierce competition in international markets. But that is not what is paradoxical. The fact that the successor to the MiG-29 actually competes with the MiG-29M suggests that Moscow does not know what it wants. Will the MiG-29 be retired, will it not be renewed, will it be upgraded, will it be replaced by the MiG-35, will it not be? All the same strange questions, causing more wry smiles based on the frivolous attitude of the Russian government regarding the “wandering future” of its air force inventory.

Here’s a notable feature that the MiG-29 can’t have, but Russian media reports that the MiG-35 has. Under the wing of the MiG-35, not just any missile can be accommodated, but the R-37M hypersonic missile. This missile is also known by its Russian name Vympel or the one given by NATO – Axehead.

Russia uses an airframe from the 80s to build MiG-35 Fulcrum-F
Photo credit: Creative Commons

The R-37M is the fastest [Mach 6] air-to-air missile in the world. Even the US and China do not yet have such an equivalent. This missile was specially designed to be carried and launched by the MiG-31, the flagship of the Russian air force. The R-37M can now be used by other Russian fighters. It recently became clear that the missile is compatible and can be integrated under the wings of the Su-35 and Su-30SM/SM2.

However, the MiG-35 is smaller than the three fighters listed so far, but it can carry two R-37M missiles. Is this effective? Some experts say, and they are probably right, that the R-37M on the MiG-35 will not have the same effect when configured with the MiG-31. Why? Simply because the MiG-31 flies at a high altitude and flies at a much higher speed than any Russian fighter jet. I.e. the range of the missile fired from the MiG-35 pods will be much less.

Russia may put the R-37M on the MiG-35. If it does, it could turn out to be another “stupid” Russian decision. Why? Beyond the weight issue, the ability of the MiG-35’s sensor suite to target a missile at distances of 400 km, the R-37M’s maximum range, remains in serious question, and fighters will likely be forced to rely heavily on network connectivity with other assets that have more powerful sensors.

Russia 'shots' its most advanced fighter - the MiG-35 Fulcrum-F
Photo credit: Pan.bg

Realistically, if Russia integrates the missile into this combat aircraft, it will significantly make it an “excellent missile”, but only on paper. In addition, Russia has six MiG-35 fighters. For this limited and very small quantity, it is not at all financially profitable to integrate the R-37M into an aircraft, which will most likely remain an unrealized project, becoming another memory of Russian aviation. But, if Russia still wants to ever use the MiG-35 in real combat conditions, instead of integrating the R-37M, it would be better to put the much lighter R-77M missile developed for the Su-57 stealth fighter, which would provide a huge range of 200 km.

Some experts say that a MiG-35 armed with the R-77M has a better chance of attracting a foreign customer than an aircraft armed with the R-37M. Is this so? We may never know.

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