United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) signed an agreement with Kazakhstan Engineering to jointly market the Mikoyan MiG-35 multi-role fighter to Astana.
The agreement, which was signed on Wednesday, July 19th during the International Aviation and Space Salon (MAKS 2017), outlined offset opportunities for Kazakhstan Engineering through producing parts for the MiG-35 should the fighter make its way to the Kazakh Air and Air Defence Forces.
Touching upon its commitment to acquire the aircraft for the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS), the Russian Ministry of Defence announced plans at MAKS 2017 to begin MiG-35 orders in 2018.
UAC formally launched the MiG-35 in January. From the onset, the company – along with the VKS and the Russian government – positioned the MiG-35 as an affordable and versatile high-technology fighter.
UAC envisions a strong prospective market for the MiG-35 among existing MiG-29 users, with the developing world market of interest to the company. In March, MiG Corporation Director General Ilya Tarasenko claimed that the MiG-35 had a lower life-cycle cost and acquisition price than its competitors.
Kazakhstan was among the countries that Tarasenko had listed as prospective MiG-35 buyers. Astana is in the process of modernizing its armed forces, but a focus of involving the Kazakh industry. Kazakhstan is also engaging multiple suppliers, among them China, Turkey and South Africa.
The MiG-35 Fulcrum- is the latest iteration of the MiG-29 Fulcrum series of medium-weight fighters. One of its marquee features is the Zhuk-AE active electronically-scanned array (AESA) radar, which UAC claims is capable of “detecting and tracking from 10 to 30 targets at a time at a distance of 160 kilometers.”
It is powered by two Klimov RD-33MK turbofan engines, which provide 7-10% improvement in thrust over preceding RD-33 engines. Structurally, composites form a greater proportion of the Fulcrum-F’s airframe (than predecessors). The fighter benefits from a digital fly-by-wire flight control system and full-authority digital engine control (FADEC). Its operating range is 50% more than that of the MiG-29.
Notes & Comments:
UAC’s commitment to extend parts manufacturing to Kazakhstan Engineering could suggest that Astana is being viewed as a potentially major export market. Currently, the VKS is serving as the sole anchor for MiG-35 launch orders. The Kazakh Air and Air Defence Forces’ combat aircraft fleet entirely comprises of Russian platforms, i.e. Sukhoi Su-27UB/M2 and Su-30SM as well as Mikoyan MiG-23, MiG-27 and MiG-29.
UAC can position the MiG-35 as a lesser-cost compliment to the Su-27UB/M2 and Su-30SM, especially as a mainstay multi-role fighter for supplanting the MiG-23/27 and augmenting the MiG-29. Relatively large orders at launch could also provide Astana leverage to link its MiG-35 workshare to the fighter’s overall supply channel – Kazakhstan Engineering could benefit from VKS and third-party MiG-35 sales.
Besides Kazakhstan, UAC is also viewing India as a prospective overseas launch market. India currently has a bid in place for a single-engine fighter to replace its MiG-21 and MiG-27 fighters. Tarasenko claimed that India had expressed interest in the MiG-35 and that the matter is “in the negotiation stage where talks on technical and technological specifications” will be presented to the Indian Air Force (IAF).
Be it with Kazakhstan or India (or both), it will be interesting to see the extent to which UAC will leverage next-generation avenues along with the MiG-35. UAC is to collaborate with the United Arab Emirates on a next-generation fighter which is expected to include Mikoyan (along with Sukhoi). UAC plans to see this platform as a lighter weight compliment to the Sukhoi T-50.