The Mikoyan MiG-35, one of Russia’s latest additions to its fleet of military aircraft, represents a substantial evolution of the famous Mikoyan legacy.
Building upon a rich lineage of formidable fighter aircraft, the MiG-35 serves as a testament to Russia’s commitment to maintaining a leading position in aerial warfare capabilities.
In Russia’s airforce, the MiG-35 is the lighter, less expensive counterpart to the highly advanced Su-35 Super Flanker.
And although the newest member of the Fulcrum family is fully capable of air-to-air combat, its smaller size and multi-role capabilities make it suitable for a range of different missions including air-to-ground and anti-ship roles.
It’s agility and shorter take-off and landing performance make it well-suited for operations from more austere fields or smaller carriers.
When operating together, these two aircraft can bring their respective strengths to bear in a combined force package that is very similar to the roles of the F-15 and F-16.
Let us take a look at Russia’s newest ‘low-cost’ fighter.
The MiG-35, officially designated as the Mikoyan MiG-35 (NATO reporting name: Fulcrum-F), was conceived as an advanced variant of the MiG-29 (NATO reporting name: Fulcrum), an aircraft that has seen extensive service since the 1980s.
The MiG-29 was developed during the Cold War as a high-performance air superiority fighter to counter Western aircraft, notably the American F-15 and F-16.
Entering service with the Soviet Air Force in 1982, the MiG-29 boasts superior manoeuvrability and high-speed performance.
It is equipped with a pair of RD-33 turbofan engines, which provide the thrust required for its impressive flight capabilities.
Although designed for short-range engagements it can also perform ground-attack duties, demonstrating its versatility as a multirole fighter as well as being surprisingly agile.
A combination of the engines and airframe design contributes to its ability to dance in the sky.
The Fulcrum features a leading-edge root extension, and a small, fixed-wing extension that starts at the leading edge of the wing root and extends forward towards the cockpit.
These extensions generate powerful vortices over the wing at high angles of attack, significantly improving lift and therefore enabling superior manoeuvrability.
Also incorporated is a fly-by-wire control system that enhances its stability and manoeuvring capabilities.
It is often shown off performing advanced manoeuvres like Pugachev’s Cobra, in which the aircraft raises its nose to the vertical position (or beyond) while maintaining virtually the same altitude, which is a testament to the superior agility and manoeuvrability of the MiG-29.
Throughout its operational life, the MiG-29 has seen numerous upgrades, including improvements to its radar systems, engines, airframe, and weapon systems.
Variants such as the MiG-29M and MiG-29SMT have introduced multirole capabilities, improved range, and updated avionics, leading to the development of the significantly upgraded MiG-35.
Development and Upgrades
The development of the MiG-35 was a long and incremental process, with many enhancements over its predecessor, the MiG-29.
Among the most significant improvements was the integration of advanced avionics, including a new radar system with active electronically scanned array (AESA) technology. This dramatically increased the aircraft’s detection and tracking capabilities.
An AESA radar is a type of phased array radar that utilizes numerous small transmit/receive (T/R) modules, each acting like a separate radar.
This design allows the radar to scan the sky electronically in milliseconds, as opposed to mechanically rotating an antenna.
The result is faster target acquisition, increased tracking capabilities, and improved reliability and performance over traditional radar systems.
The MiG-35 is equipped with the Zhuk-A AESA radar system, developed by Phazotron NIIR Corporation.
This advanced radar can track multiple targets simultaneously, engage a number of them at the same time, and perform high-resolution mapping.
The system can detect airborne targets up to 160 km away and surface targets up to 300 km away, providing pilots with excellent situational awareness.
Moreover, the Zhuk-A system can function in air-to-air and air-to-ground modes simultaneously while being highly resistant to electronic countermeasures.
Its ability to detect and track small and low-observable targets, as well as perform high-resolution ground mapping, makes it particularly useful for a variety of mission profiles.
In addition, because AESA radar systems use solid-state technology, they are more reliable and easier to maintain than older radar types. They also generate less heat, reducing the need for cooling systems and further improving their durability.
Additionally, the MiG-35 saw a substantial enhancement in its airframe and engine. The airframe was upgraded to increase the aircraft’s service life and reduce maintenance requirements.
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The new RD-33MK “Morskaya Osa” used in the MiG-35 is a high-performance turbofan engine designed and produced by Klimov. This engine is an advanced variant of the RD-33, which was originally developed for the MiG-29.
The MK variant has been designed with a focus on improving the performance and operational characteristics of the base RD-33 engine. The modifications include an increased thrust rating, improved fuel efficiency, and a reduction in the engine’s infrared signature.
These enhancements were achieved through several major changes.
For instance, a new high-pressure turbine and a new low-pressure turbine, both of which contribute to the engine’s improved thrust and efficiency.
Moreover, changes were made to the afterburner and nozzle design to reduce the infrared signature.
One of the notable improvements of the MK over its predecessor is the increased thrust. It can generate a maximum thrust of 9,000 kgf with afterburner, which is a considerable increase from the original maximum thrust of 8,300 kgf (81.4 kN; 18,300 lbf).
This makes the RD-33MK one of the most powerful engines in its class.
This new engine also offers a longer life cycle and better reliability than its predecessor, making it a more cost-effective solution for operators.
These features make it particularly suitable for modern fighter jets that require high performance and reliability, such as the MiG-35.
Testing & Service
The new aircraft underwent a rigorous and extensive testing program to validate its design and performance characteristics.
These tests were critical in evaluating the aircraft’s advanced avionics systems, weapons capabilities, and overall performance under various conditions.
The MiG-35’s flight testing program began in 2007 when the aircraft made its maiden flight.
Since then, it has undergone numerous test flights to assess its aerodynamics, speed, manoeuvrability, stability, and control characteristics.
A key focus of the testing was the aircraft’s (AESA) radar system to try and gain the advantage over Western aircraft such as the prolific F-16.
Additionally, the test program scrutinized the aircraft’s new engines, to ensure they would live up to the performance promised by Klimov.
The new weapon systems also underwent comprehensive trials. This included firing trials with various types of air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions to ensure the aircraft could effectively engage targets in a variety of mission profiles.
The program for the MiG-35 was not just about performance characteristics, however.
It also sought to confirm the aircraft’s reliability, durability, and maintainability – critical factors for any modern fighter aircraft.
In summary, the testing program of the MiG-35 was an exhaustive process that aimed to verify the aircraft’s advanced systems and capabilities and showed that the MiG-35 would be a formidable adversary much like its predecessor.
12 years after its first flight, it officially entered service with the Russian Air Force in June 2019.
An important goal of the MiG-29 was to be an export powerhouse, bought by many countries across the globe, which it achieved with great success.
This too was the aim for the MiG-35, which has also attracted interest from other nations seeking to bolster their aerial capabilities, with Egypt becoming the first international customer.
The aircraft’s advanced avionics, superior performance characteristics, and multirole capabilities make it a valuable asset in any modern air force.
Furthermore, the MiG-35 is compatible with a broad range of weapons systems, further enhancing its versatility and effectiveness in various mission profiles.
The Mikoyan MiG-35 is more than just a new aircraft; it represents the latest step in Russia’s rich aviation history.
As a state-of-the-art, multirole fighter, the MiG-35 offers a combination of advanced technology, versatility, and raw performance that positions it among the world’s leading combat aircraft.
The development and success of the MiG-35 reflects not just the evolution of aircraft design, but also the changing nature of aerial warfare, with an increasing emphasis on flexibility, survivability, and the integration of advanced technologies.
As the MiG-35 continues to serve and evolve, it will undoubtedly contribute to shaping the future of military aviation.
However, so far we have only seen 6 aircraft enter service with the Russian Air Force and no reports of them being used in any ongoing conflicts either. Time will tell whether this new Fulcrum will go down in history as being as great as the previous model.
- Crew: 1 or 2
- Length: 17.3 m (56 ft 9 in)
- Wingspan: 12 m (39 ft 4 in)
- Height: 4.7 m (15 ft 5 in)
- Wing area: 41 m2 (440 sq ft)
- Empty weight: 11,000 kg (24,251 lb)
- Gross weight: 17,500 kg (38,581 lb)
- Max takeoff weight: 24,500 kg (54,013 lb)
- Max landing weight:16,800 kg (37,000 lb)
- Powerplant: 2 × Klimov RD-33MK afterburning turbofan engines, 52 kN (12,000 lbf) thrust each dry, 88.2 kN (19,800 lbf) with afterburner
- Maximum speed: 2,100 km/h (1,300 mph, 1,100 kn) at altitude and 1,400 km/h (870 mph; 756 kn; Mach 1.14) at sea level
- Range: 2,100 km (1,300 mi, 1,100 nmi)
- Combat range: 1,000 km (620 mi, 540 nmi)
- Service ceiling: 16,000 m (52,000 ft)
- g limits: +9/-3
- Rate of climb: 330 m/s (65,000 ft/min)