Here’s why Russia’s MiG-35 is absent from Ukraine War

A MiG-35 panel blows out from its wing during a airshow in Moscow, Russia. Photo by Popular Mechanics.

Almost seven months into the Ukraine war, Russia’s MiG-35 has been no show in combat. Russia used its Soviet-era Su-25, Su-24, Su-27, Su-30SM and Su-35S, but not the over-hyped MiG-35.

The MiG-35 “Fulcrum-F” is a medium-weight, fourth-generation multirole fighter aircraft produced as a highly upgraded version of the MiG-29K/KUB and MiG-29M/M2.

First announced publicly in 2007 at the Aero India air show in Bengaluru, development of the craft has been notably slow, with the earliest production beginning in 2013 or 2014 and the first successful flight not occurring until 2017. Before it took off from the ground, the Indian Air Force, the primary sponsor of the development of Su-30MKI and Su-57, kicked MiG-35 out of the Indian Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) competition, citing a lack of modern avionics and an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar.

The fighter comes in two variations, one single seat and the other double. Otherwise, both are nearly identical.

MiG-29’s hot engine fume is an invitation to shot it with IR-guided missiles.

The MiG-35 features neither thrust vectoring nor an AESA radar because the MiG-35 project would only be intended to maintain the RSK-MiG production line and export. The RD-33 engines have been riddled with problems, and Indian Air Force reported 17 design flaws with RD-33 engines, not to mention smoke gushing through RD-33 engines.

MiG-29K crashed in Goa, India. Photo by Indian Navy.

This includes the guided Kh-31A anti-ship missile, Kh-29TE missiles, the KAB-500Kr TV-guided bomb, KAB-500L laser-guided bomb and Kh-29L air-to-surface missile. Nine hardpoints allow for carrying such a wide range of ordnance. A 30-millimeter Gsh-30-1 cannon round out the MiG-35’s armament.

An Ukrainian engineer is walking over a mothballed MiG-29 jet.

But the Fulcrum lacks modern avionics and AESA radar, including the Societ-era Phazotron Zhuk active phased radar system, which can detect four targets within 90 km.

Mechanically steered Zhuk-ME pulse doppler radar exported to Egyptian Air Force for MiG-29M2 aircraft.

Russia’s air force announced in 2013 that it would order 37 MiG-35s, then-expected to be in service by the middle of 2020. However, only six prototypes and eight serially produced Fulcrum F’s have been completed today.

On top of this, there is reporting that some squadrons in the Russian Air Force have opted for “heavyweight” Su-30SM Flankers rather than replacing their old MiG-29s with the MiG-35.

With apparent delays in the program, it seems increasingly likely that any MiG35s produced in the future will compete primarily for export sales. However, Bangladesh, Myanmar, India, Vietnam, UAE and Algeria rejected the MiG-35 because it’s an old MiG-29 fighter jet with a new name.

Most likely, Moscow will not receive the soon-ordered 37 units of this aircraft. Pity. The lack of foreign customers led the MiG-35 down the abyss of the developed but not successfully implemented projects of Russian military engineering. The main problems are Russia lacks the technology and money to develop any fighter jet.

Noteworthy, MiG-35 would not be the first project issued by Russia to keep a company in business; in fact, the Sukhoi Su-30M2 project existed only to keep KnAAPO production lines open. For these reasons, Russia has merged Mikoyan and Sukhoi design bureau to keep Mikoyan afloat.

Russia has embarrassed itself enough in the Ukraine war losing two squadrons of Su-35 and Su-25 fighter jets. Russia cannot afford to send six MiG-35 into combat and lose all six of them, –it could be a catastrophic decision for Russia as Mikoyan does not have any funds or technology to rebuild any of these fighter jets.

There is, of course, one significant variable: the war in Ukraine. How many nations wanted to sign up for new Russian fighter jets when the Russian air force failed miserably in the Ukraine war? Your guess is as good as mine.

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