MiG-35 / MiG-29M OVT / Fulcrum F
The Mikoyan MiG-35 (Fulcrum-F) is a 4++ generation fighter jet and a modification of the MiG-29M. It is equipped with air-to-air and air-to-surface guided missiles, as well as the Zhuk-A radar system. The MiG-29M OVT (Fulcrum F) highly maneuverable air superiority fighter was shown for the first time in August 2005 during the MAKS Air Show outside Moscow. The single-seat fighter, also marketed for export as the MiG-35, is powered by RD-33 OVT thrust vectoring control engines. The RD-33 OVT engines provide superior maneuverability capability to the aircraft enhancing its performance in close air-to-air engagements. The unique performance characteristics of this aircraft are based on RD-33 OVT thrust vectoring control engines.
The MiG-35 enters into the new unified family of warplanes along with the MiG-29K/MiG-29KUB multipurpose front fighters. The elements in common for all fighters of the family are the design of the air frame, the power-plant, avionics and an adjustable vector of draft. Fighters of the family are executed in single and double variants, a degree of unification between which on a design and arms comes nearer to 100%.
Advanced technologies have been used in the manufacture of the airframe, the propulsion unit and airborne equipment. The proportion of composite materials in the frame is now as high as 15%. One of the features of MiG-35 is its convertible two-man cockpit, i.e. the fighter jet can be easily transformed from a twin-seat to a single-seat aircraft with an additional fuel tank. Pilot information is displayed on displays. The aircraft is equipped with an in-flight refueling system. For the first time a lightweight aircraft features active phased array radar that considerably enhances the range of possible combat missions and improves the fighter's operational capabilities.
The aircraft has a built-in state-of-the-art optoelectronic system that provides automatic all-round defense of the fighter. Moreover, the optoelectronic system enables the aircraft to detect ground targets and engage them with high-precision weapons. The fighter is equipped with more powerful RD-33MK engines. Their service life is 40 years with a total flying time of 6000 hours. The parameters of the MiG-35 are claimed to make it a completely new aircraft that "comes very close" to fifth-generation fighter jets. At the customer's request, the MiG-35 can be equipped with thrust vectoring engines which make the fighter extremely maneuverable and, in experts' opinion, give it a two-times advantage over any other aircraft in combat.
The MiG-35, an export version of the MiG-29M OVT (Fulcrum F), is a highly maneuverable single-seat fighter air superiority fighter. Although the MiG-35's design is similar to that of the MiG-29, the new fighter has increased the internal fuel load by 50%, and the ordnance load by over 100%. Unlike the MiG-29, the MiG-35 is now classed as a medium-weight aircraft because its maximum take-off weight has increased by 30%. Drop tanks and a mid-air refuelling system allow it to fly long-range combat missions.
The MiG-29 and MiG-29M warplanes are classed as "fourth-generation" and "generation four-plus" fighters. The MiG-35 is spoken of as a "transitional generation four plus-plus" [ generation 4++ ] warplane. This and other such aircraft in other countries are expected to have a long service life. The fighter's designers believe that it embodies engineering solutions typical of a fifth-generation fighter and is therefore superior to fourth-generation European aircraft.
The MiG-35's specifications and performance match the requirements of the Russian Air Force. Designed to be low-risk and inexpensive, the MiG-35 program is intended to produce more export-oriented versions for foreign customers. The goal of the MiG-35 is to outperform fourth-generation fighters in combat and to be the equal of fifth-generation aircraft [ie, the F-22 and F-35].
MiG-35 designers moved to upgrade the fighter's radio-electronic equipment, while retaining the impressive potential of the MiG-29's aerodynamics. The cooperation between RSK MiG and the Fazotron-NIIR corporation led to the MiG-35 became the first Russian fighter to feature the Zhuk-AE fifth-generation electronic-scan phased-array radar. The Zhuk-AE, which has a longer range than the radars of foreign generation plus-plus fighters, can calculate the exact number and type of enemy targets, and facilitates successful beyond-the-horizon attacks. By increasing the number of its transceiver modules by 50%, the radar's range and target-acquisition parameters can be enhanced considerably.
The Zhuk-AE operates in conjunction with two optronic target acquisition and identification systems featuring infrared and laser channels. They detect, identify and automatically track several targets, calculate their coordinates and provide data to the fire-control system. One optronic system tracks aerial targets, and the other one detects ground and naval targets and also provides navigation data. Optronic devices enable the fighter to escape detection by the enemy, facilitate round-the-clock operations and make it possible to hit visible and beyond-horizon targets. The optronic systems are claimed to have the same potential as those of Western fighters, and can be installed on fifth-generation and generation four plus-plus warplanes.
The MiG-35's defensive systems warn the pilot in case of danger and automatically activate ECM (Electronic Counter-Measures) systems and also launch heat and radar decoys. Moreover, the pilot is notified if the plane is being tracked by enemy radar or targeted by a laser range finder. Another system detects approaching enemy missiles and shows their direction.
The MiG-35 features the RD-33OVT thrust-vector engine that was previously tested on the MiG-29. The Russians rarely fail to advertise the MiG-35's thrust vector control that allows the aircraft to undertake the breathtaking "cobra" manoeuvre. The aircraft stalls in mid-flight, nose at 90 degrees like a cobra ready to strike, and slides backwards. In a real dogfight, such a move can turn the hunted into the hunter. It has intersecting nozzles that can point in any direction, enabling the plane to perform breath-taking stunts. The engine ensures 100% controllability at maximum and zero speeds.
The thrust can be controlled in every direction and, most importantly of all, at every speed between the maximum and very low - up to 200 kilometers per hour and practically zero. The plane can fly with its tail forward and do things conventional aircraft cannot do, i.e. evade a missile attack in a dogfight and at the same time move in for the kill itself. This almost unique characteristic (only some Sukhoi fighters can also do this) is said to allows the MiG-35 to "defeat any enemy in close combat" [though American skeptics would note that American combat aircraft are not in the habit of allowing their adversaries to engage in close combat].
The RD-33 turbojet twin-shaft engine with afterburner was developed in 1985 to power the MiG-29 front-line light fighter. Klimov is the only company in the world that has succeeded in developing a universal omnidirectional jet nozzle. The relevant technology that appeared in the late 90s materialized in the thrust vectoring nozzle for the RD-33 and AL-31F jet engine families.
TVN is still the only mass-produced omnidirectional nozzle in the world. The axisymmetric exhaust unit system with a turning supersonic part of the jet nozzle provides for omnidirectional (360 degrees) deflection of the thrust vector. A TVN-equipped engine of a combat aircraft notably improves its maneuverability at subsonic speeds and supercritical angles of attack. While improving the performance of aircraft, TVN nozzles also enhance safety during takeoff and landing as well as under challenging conditions.
R&D, production, operating and recycling expenses have been reduced considerably. Using computer systems to identify faults and target maintenance and repairs where and when it is needed allows engineers to save time. The plane's airframe, engines and equipment also have a longer service life. The cost of one flying hour has been reduced by more than 50%, and its flying life increased by over 100%.
Under the state arms procurement program through 2020, the Russian Air Force was to buy an estimated 50 MiG-35 fighter planes. However, the specifications and performance of the domestic fighter, due to be adopted by the country’s air force, had not been clarified to date. The previous high command of the Russian Air Force was leery of the very idea of buying these warplanes and the possible modernization of operational MiG-29s. So far there is no reason to believe that the new Air Force commanders will drastically change their approach.
The Russian Defense Ministry postponed the purchase of 37 MiG-35 fighter jets until 2016, Kommersant daily reported 17 August 2013. The ministry was originally due to sign the purchase agreement with MiG in June, but last month the aircraft corporation's general director Sergei Korotkov told RIA Novosti that the contract had still not been signed. The ministry will now sign the contract in 2016, thereby putting off spending about 37 billion rubles ($1.1 billion) from the state armament program budget to a later payment period, as requested by the Finance Ministry, Kommersant said.
The newspaper cited a Defense Ministry source as saying that the ministry had not been able to issue the order over delays in drawing up the design. “At the same time as that was going on, we received a proposal from the Finance Ministry to delay spending until 2016 part of the funds allocated within the state arms program for 2014-2016,” the newspaper quoted the source as saying. “After analyzing [the situation] we made the decision to put back the purchase of the MiG-35s,” the source said, adding that the number of jets the ministry plans to buy – 37 – remains unchanged.
By mid-2014 the Russian aircraft-manufacturing corporation MiG was considering the possibility of building a fifth-generation fighter. The new aircraft may be based on the MiG-35, and will be further enhanced by advanced avionics and weapons. According to MiG managing director Sergei Korotkov, the corporation's experts are already working on a concept for the new fighter. "I know that this is one of the ideas, one of the directions that the design bureau is working on. I very much hope that soon we shall develop this area of work more seriously," he said.
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