Piotr Butowski covers the MiG-35 fighter, its weapons and its first official presentation
Russia’s new MiG-35 Fulcrum F fighter made its first official flight at Lukhovitsy on January 26. Piloted by Mikhail Belyaev and Stanislav Gorbunov, the flight was watched by the President of Russia Vladimir Putin on a big screen in the Kremlin.
Note the January 26 event was dubbed the ‘official’ first flight. In fact, the singleseat aircraft, side number 702, made its first flight configured as a MiG-35S on November 24, 2016, followed one week later by two-seat aircraft, side number 712 configured as a MiG-35UB.
On January 27, the MiG-35 was presented at Lukhovitsy to a wider audience that included foreign military attachés and media representatives, which involved the single-seat MiG- 35S 702 being placed on display inside one of the larger hangars, followed by a flight of the two-seat MiG-35UB 712 at the facility’s airfield.
Three other MiG-35 airframes in various stages of production were displayed in another hall. Service plates on the three aircraft confirmed the aircraft to be MiG-29M fighters for Egypt; officers of the Egyptian Air Force attended the presentation.
Interestingly, the designations MiG- 29M and MiG-35 amount to the same type of Fulcrum, dependent entirely on the customer. The variant ordered by Syria and Egypt is the MiG-29M or MiG-29M2 two-seat version, while the Russian Air Force variant is designated the MiG-35S or MiG-35ST or UB two-seat version. Russia first used the MiG-35 designation in 2007 for the versions offered to India to meet the needs of the Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft, a programme that remains unselected.
Aircraft 702 and 712 are both preproduction examples of the MiG-35 configured for the Russian Air Force.
Two other examples, single-seat 741 and two-seat 747, were built in 2011-2012 against an order from Syria. Externally, aircraft 702 and 712 have an air refuelling probe fitted and therefore differ from 741 and 742. Undoubtedly, the new aircraft have different equipment installed to comply with the Russian Air Force specification.
Speaking at Lukhovitsky, Russian Air Force Commander in Chief Viktor Bondarev said his service will buy 30 fighters once the MiG-35 completes its flight-testing, and in years to come the total order could reach 170. Purchase of MiG-35 fighters by the Russian Ministry of Defence is included in the National Armament Programme which will start in 2019.
Bondarev claimed the entire Russian light fighter fleet would be equipped with MiG-35, though this is actually not very optimistic, because the Russian Air Force currently has just one operational unit equipped with MiG-29SMT fighters, the 14th Fighter Regiment at Kursk.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Rogozin who supervises the defence industry thinks there is extensive export potential for light fighters, but said the MiG- 35 will struggle with its competitors in this market sector.
Russian Aircraft Corporation (RSK) MiG currently has one contract in its portfolio, an order for 46 MiG-29M and MiG-29M2 fighters reportedly placed by Egypt in April 2015. The contract with Egypt has not been officially confirmed, but details of some follow-on subcontracts are known.
The NPK SPP company is producing 46 electro-optical systems by 2018 and the Chernyshev engine production facility in Moscow has received an order from RSK MiG for 92 (i.e. 46 x 2) RD-33MK engines for delivery between 2016 and 2018.
A contract signed with Syria as early as November 2006 for a batch of 12 MiG- 29M/M2 fighters, due to be delivered between 2010 and 2012, is, in fact, frozen.
Wingspan: 11.99m (39ft 4in)
Length: 17.32m (56ft 10in)
Height: 4.4m (14ft 5in)
Wing area: 38m2 (409ft2)
Empty weight: 11,000kg (24,250lb)
Nominal take-off weight: 18,900kg (41,667lb)
Max take-off weight: 24,500kg (54,013lb)
Max speed: Mach 1.71 (1,134kts/2,100km/h)
Max speed at sea level: Mach 0.61 (756kts/1,400km/h)
Service ceiling: 52,500ft (16,000m) Max range internal fuel: 2,000km (1,080 nautical miles)
Ferry range with three external tanks: 3,000km (1,620 nautical miles)
Combat radius: 1,000km (540 nautical miles) G limit: 9g
Powerplant: Two Klimov RD-33MK turbofans each rated at 53kN (11,900lb) dry and 88.3kN (19,840lb) with afterburner
UAC Designer General Sergey Korotkov (previously the Designer General of MiG) gave a technical presentation of the MiG-35 saying it is a lightweight multifunction fighter “designed for high-intensity armed conflicts, in conditions of dense air defence”.
The MiG-35 is powered by two RD-33MK turbofans each rated at 88.2kN (19,800lb) of thrust with 45% more internal fuel carried than a standard MiG-29.
Sensors include a Zhuk-M family slottedarray radar, an OLS-UEM infrared searchand- track sight and an I-220/KE air-toground targeting pod.
A self-protection suite comprises an I-222 missile launch and approach warning system with six infrared sensors covering the entire 360 degree sphere around the aircraft, two laser warning sensors mounted at the wingtips; an L150 Pastel radar warning receiver; SAP-518 or KS-418 jammers and decoy launchers.
Weapon and stores payload is rated at 6,500kg (14,330lb) carried on eight (a standard MiG-29 has six) underwing and one ventral pylon, and is able to carry all types of tactical air weapons currently in the Russian Air Force inventory.
President of UAC Yuri Slyusar stressed that all the MiG-35’s systems are designed and produced in Russia, including the inertial navigation and helmet-mounted target-indication systems. Latest versions of the MiG-29 have some foreign equipment. For example, MiG-29K shipborne fighters, including those operated by Russian Naval Aviation, are fitted with the French-made Sagem Sigma 95 inertial navigation system and Thales TopSight-E helmet-mounted displays and sights. MiG-29SMT fighters are also fitted with the Sigma 95 navigation system, while their Shchel-3UM1 helmetmounted cueing system is produced in Ukraine.
MIG’S MAIN PRODUCTION FACILITY
RSK MiG comprises: the Mikoyan Design Bureau Engineering Centre in Moscow; the Voronin Production Centre with two facilities, one each in Moscow and Lukhovitsy; the Fedotov Flight Test Centre in Zhukovsky; and smaller enterprises. On April 29, 2016, the Sokol production plant at Nizhny Novgorod, a facility that specialises in upgrading MiG-31BM and MiG-29UB fighters became part of the MiG corporation. The Sokol plant produces parts of the forward fuselage, centre-section and integral wing fuel tanks, air intakes, and pylons for MiG-29K, MiG-29M and MiG-35 fighters.
History of the Lukhovitsy production plant dates back to the 1950s, when the present MiG production plant in Moscow (then Plant No.30 and later Znamya Truda) launched production of Il-28 jet bombers. Aircraft taking offfrom the factory airfield at Khodynka, almost in downtown Moscow, were becoming increasingly bothersome and dangerous. Hence the plant was given the Tretyakovo military airfield near Lukhovitsy as its subsidiary. Workshops for final adjustment and tests of aircraft were built there, and then also production halls. Before the workshops at Lukhovitsy were ready, the Moscow plant had already changed production, and the first aircraft flown at Lukhovitsy was the MiG-21, produced from 1962, then the MiG-23 from 1969 and the MiG-29 from 1982.
Initially, aircraft were entirely built in the Moscow parent factory, then dismantled and transported to Lukhovitsy by rail, reassembled and flown. Production moved to Lukhovitsy, which became the main production facility of RSK MiG. In December 2016, production of standard versions of the MiG-29 was ended and the Moscow production facility will be closed.
A large final assembly hall was built at Lukhovitsy in 2005, followed in recent years by construction of further assembly halls and the purchase of new tooling. In 2014, equipment for producing composite elements sized up to 12 x 3m (39 x 9ft) was installed. Since February 2016, the MiG corporation has conducted repair and modernisation of the factory airfield, including construction of a new control tower and installation of new radar equipment. The work is to be completed by 2018.