United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) is aiming to produce MiG-35 Fulcrum-F multi-role fighters for export by 2020.
Speaking to media (via Russian News Agency TASS) at the 2017 Paris Air Show, which concluded on Sunday June 25, Rosoboronexport CEO Alexander Mikheyev said that he expects UAC to complete the MiG-35’s qualification tests in 2018 or 2019, from which it will be “accepted as a product for exports.”
As per TASS, the Russian Air Force (VKS) will procure an initial batch of 30 MiG-35. The VKS aims to have the Fulcrum-F gradually replace its existing MiG-29 fleet.
MiG Aircraft Company’s Deputy CEO, Viktor Chernov, was confident of the MiG-35’s export potential, citing “South and Southeast Asia, Latin America and African countries” as prospective markets.
The MiG-35 is the latest variant of the venerable MiG-29 Fulcrum platform, which is both the mainstay of the VKS as well as a popular Russian export since the 1980s, especially in the developing world.
Besides incorporating key improvements in electronics, most notably the inclusion of the Zhuk-AE active electronically-scanned array (AESA) radar, the Fulcrum-F also benefits from greater composite usage. This provides the MiG-35 with a substantially lighter empty weight than the legacy Fulcrum, resulting a longer operational radius (50% as per TASS) and payload (6,000 kg as per IHS Jane’s).
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UAC has angled its MiG-35 pitch for the developing world market, which is flush with both legacy MiG-29s as well as even older fighter models from Russia, China, Europe and the U.S.
When it formally launched the MiG-35, the MiG Aircraft Company’s Director General, Ilya Tarasenko, touted the MiG-35’s lower life-cycle (30-40%) and acquisition (20%) costs over its competition as key draws for the fighter, positioning it for traction in the market.
The MiG-35’s principal advantages will rest in competitive cost and flexibility in terms of subsystem and weapons integration options. The VKS fulfilling its commitment to supplant its legacy MiG-29s with the Fulcrum-F will be critical in that it would generate outside confidence in the platform and greatly help scale the MiG-35’s development overhead.
Currently, UAC is fulfilling a 50 MiG-29M/M2 order for Egypt, which ordered the fighters in a reported $2 billion agreement in 2016. The first Egyptian Air Force fighter was spotted flying in April 2017.