Tuesday, June 30, 2009

MMRCA Part 3 - The Future Fulcrum

The way the Russians have been behaving over a multiplicity of ongoing defence contracts, it would seem as though they had no real interest in the MMRCA deal. The complexion in ties has changed so deeply since the 1980s, that there is a very palpable degree of acrimony in pretty much every dealing with the Russians these days. They'll release photos of smiling Indian MoD bureaucrafts with their bureau officials, but behind the scenes, things are almost always ugly. Yet, Russia has gargantuan leverage with India, based entirely of course on the huge number of deals yet to be completed. The MiG-35 comes across as not convincing enough, and Russia has still to prove that it is a reliable after-sales supplier. The one thing that the Russians have managed to pull off, is to convince the IAF that the MiG-35 isn't just any old Fulcrum. It's the Fulcrum.


One of the principal draws of the MiG-35 is commonality of inventory type. Alongside the Indian Navy's MiG-29Ks and the IAF's upgraded MiG-29s, a lot of senior MoD officials believe the MiG-35 would be a sensible choice that would translate into real savings in infrastructure and trainign costs. The IAF holds its MiG-29s in high esteem. In fact, the MiG-29M/M2 and subsequently the MiG-35, were developed based in part on informal but organised feedback from IAF pilots on what was required to make the MiG-29 a truly multipurpose airplane. The IAF says it is eagerly awaiting more information and a demonstration of the FGA-35 variant of the Phazotron Zhuk-AE AESA radar, yet untested. In demonstration flights, IAF pilots have also been given an expansive look at the MiG-35's highly unique optronic locator system (OLS), which one IAF pilot (who flew the MiG-35 at Aero India 2007) said surpassed similar gear on some of the other aircraft. The OLS consists of an infrared search and track sensor in on the nose of the aircraft, and a ground attack sensor fitted next to one of the intakes. The IAF has been given demonstrations of the RD-33MK turbofan, and is very pleased with what Klimov has managed to achieve with it, against some fairly difficult deadline and legacy odds, though the IAF and MoD were terribly irked and continue to be so with Russia's decision to sell jet engines to Pakistan for the JF programme -- something that could spell real trouble in the final decision (Remember, other countries sell to Pakistan as well, but India reserves great expectations from Russia, especially since Moscow has articulated these loyalties more than once). Rosoboronexport has managed to convince the IAF quite effectively that the MiG-35 is indeed a quantum technological leap from the legacy Fulcrum. Politically, India continues to have enormous strategic ties with Russia, notwithstanding a certain fraying in recent times. Russia has always supported India politically during operations, and has never dared to question India's use of its equipment. Finally, the Russians have the most well-entrenched and experienced lobby within the IAF and government. And extravagant acts of politico-strategic altruism are not unprecedented when it comes to Indo-Russian defence ties.


The MiG-35 programme has a single prototype (the ubiquitous No. 154 -- I flew in this at MAKS 07) and that too one without a full complement of the avionics/sensor package listed in the offered configuration. As a result, the IAF is of the view that a lot of the MiG-35's capabilities, as articulated by its engineers and pilots, are still theoretical, even though they may be perfectly real once the full package is integrated and available. With field evaluations to begin anytime now, there's a sense of apprehension about just how MiG will demonstrate the aircraft without testbed platforms -- which obviously throws up the question, will the IAF consider technological parameters on testbeds rather than on a fully integrated fighter plane? The MiG-35 is rigged with the MIL-STD-1553 electrical data bus, which could prove a serious downer, considering that some rival contenders come with the MIL-STD-1773 optical fibre based data bus, which the IAF is seriously interested in. A factor that almost needs no mentioning is that Russia has carelessly squandered any time it was given to prove its reliability, but persisting with its putrid reputation for being fickle, even heartlessly apathetic, when it came to after-sales support. Even the IAF's existing MiG-29s suffer from serviceability issues as a result of Russia's refusal to cooperate quickly on spares and aggregates support. Something that could go majorly against the MiG-35 is also the fact that the Russian Air Force has no immediate plans to place orders for the aircraft, and is instead going the Super Flanker way with greater gusto. Politically, the government feels there is little that can be politically gained from Russia, considering that strategic ties are already mature, even at a saturation level. Secondly, Russia's position in international politics has plummetted relentlessly since the 1990s, and the country offers no strategic advantages anymore. Third, buying from Russia would be a full-frontal on the US, which -- like it or not -- is India's principal foreign policy holy grail.

Top Photo Copyright Stefan Gawlista
Photo of Shiv Aroor with MiG-35 test pilot Stanislav Gorbunov
Photo of MiG-35 cockpit by Shiv Aroor
Radar and in-flight photo Copyright RAC-MiG

Tomorrow: Part 4 - A Squall from France

See Also:
Part I - The Super Viper
Part II - The Swedish Underdog


Anonymous said...

there is trouble with all foreign companies let alone russians like french asking 40 million dollars per m2000 upgrade their nuke deal with france,americans selling to pakis and their end user agreement not been resolved

how much rafale going to cost,and scorpene got delayed after paying 583 million for each sub??

and don't know what kind of political influence india will get from any country or for that matter from US in international arena

Anonymous said...

what else is remaining to be proven in mig35 except aesa radar and no other country except US has aesa tech fully operational

mig35 is closer to mig29k except mig29k has no aesa radar but mig29k has all qualities of mig35 so if there is only one mig35 prototype then there is mig29k which can be tested

and IAF not going to induct any MRCA in next 4-5 years for sure so this enough time to prove their aesa

but zhuk ae matches apg80 radar and indian navy going for 30 more 29k with aesa radars

mig35 can carry all those PGM/STANDOFF weapons which su30mki can carry

su30mki carry

el/m 2060p SAR pod
Condor-2 LOROP electro optical pod
el/m 8222 jammer
litening 2 pod

all these options mentioned are already installed on mki so it would not be hard to install these on mig29s as well which are being upgraded and on mig35 as well.

and these options make upgraded mig29 excellent in all aspects and makes mig35 none the less capable to any other contender for MRCA

Anonymous said...

what kind of support india got from US??

did US bombed pakistani occupied kashmir for the sake of indian interests??

did india get daud from pakis and other terrorists??

Anonymous said...

Great work shiv. Keep it up.
- jitin

Tejaswy said...

I want the MiG 35 to win.
the mig 35 deal can be done as the Su 30 MKI deal.We are not having any issues of spare parts with sukhoi are we.?

The MiG comes with a full TOT, So servicing and maintenance should not be a problem

It can be heavily modded like the Sukhoi 30 MKI.

The RD 33 engine can be used to power the LCA ...Can't it?

Lets face it... Russia will never interfere with India's foreign policy and neither will it give any sanctions to India.
The reason Russia is so cool about the MCRA deal is that it knows that it will win it.

Plus it is pretty impressive that it flew from Moscow to Banglore in under 3 hours

I hope they win
:finggy crossed:

Tejaswy said...

Tejas update shiv???

Where is it ?

Anonymous said...

Even the IAF's existing MiG-29s suffer from serviceability issues as a result of Russia's refusal to cooperate quickly on spares and aggregates support
ok what it has to do with mig35 and if there are no spares available then how IAF flies two sorties of mig29 in a day and how IAF will keep then in serivce till 2030

and if there are no spares then how IAF can fly mig21bison till 2020

only 18 MRCA will be produced in foreign country and rest in india

so if india produces mig35 with tot then india can make spares as well for IAF mig29s and navy's mig29k as well

Anonymous said...

Are we so fixated on Pakistan, that we forget Russia sells to China? They are our real enemies, much more than Pakistani;s!! If America sells to Pakistan, Russia sells to China! France , Sweden, germany also sells to Pakistan!!!!

Anonymous said...

MIG-35 shown to India is actually a MIG-29M aircraft with more upgradation on the airframe. MIG -35 actual capabilities (including ground strike) shown to IAF are still in the paper only. Problem of after sales support will always be there. Russian Air force presently has no intention to purchase any MIG-35 aircraft.

IAF will have to use the MRCA till 2040.

MIG-35 entire life cycle, from initial implementation through operations and continuous improvement till 2040 is doubtful.

Anonymous said...

shiv, may i please just inform you of what an excellent job you are doing with this series and this blog as a whole. true professionalism. this could be your full-time job sometime soon if you continue this way!!! kudos and all the best.

Anonymous said...

The unfortunate truth is that the Mig-35 is the weakest out of all the MRCA contestants. The Eurofighter is a better A2A fighter. The Super Hornet is a better A2G fighter and the best multi-role fighter capabilities wise is the Rafale. The worst part is that Russia isn't even going to induct the Mig-35, then why should India induct an Orphan fighter. Choosing the Fulcrum would put a majority of Inida's eggs in one basket (Russia). What happens when Russia's horrible after-sales support comes into play, India might ground a number of the Mig-35 which is unacceptable. If India wants air dominance choose the eurofighter if they want a bomb truck choose the Super Hornet, or if India want's a true multi-role aircraft choose the Rafale.

Anonymous said...

MIG-35 shown to India is actually a MIG-29M aircraft with more upgradation on the airframe. MIG -35 actual capabilities (including ground strike) shown to IAF are still in the paper only
no this is new airframe

to know this check out some pictures online and check the wings of mig29m and mig35 you will come to know

mig35 wings are larger than mig29m wings and so is nose diameter

and one doesn't need to fire costly PGMs to show what each fighter can do

mig35 carry all those PGM which mki carry and about this IAF already knows

and y we need russian help in future when all fighters will be build in india just like we don't require spares from abroad and all the spares will be produced in india for mig35

Anonymous said...

to shiv

can you please post more cockpit pictures of mig35 like working MFDs


Anonymous said...

to shiv

also post video your sortie on mig35 ,if u have

Anonymous said...

MiG is a dead organization! It hasn't had an innovative idea since MFI 1.44... Almost two decades have passed.

If the IAF buys from MiG, it will only be delaying the innevitable and worse, linking IAF's fate to that of a dead desicating corpse of a company.

the terminator said...

Even the Russians know that their MIG is dying not because of mainly fiscal problems but of being in a rut too long and not being innovative and competitive with their own competitor such as Sukhoi.

When the Russians are not inducting the Mig 35, why should India even think of this renovated and rebranded aircraft for its MMRCA role?

Another thing, it is not prudent to put all our eggs in the same Russian basket. Russians of late have become too greedy and do not practise good business acumen. They are demanding more for less, be it after-sale service, spare parts or even keeping to an agreed delivery schedule.

It is time for India to move on.

Anonymous said...

The problem with Russia not anything else but the delays and cost increases. So Mig-35 will lose until and unless Russia changes their attitude towards India and considers it as a priority with trustworthy, straight forward relationship.

NJS said...

Every country have their own problems in policy / supporting, but most of the indians support russian products , may be they have some weakness in supporting for spares & delivering products . i don't thing their will be problems in transfer of tech in core products .
apart from that we have IAF base in Tajikistan ,so russian support is needed for it . so we need to consider all things before taking decision in it .
Our wish is india need to go for 126 nos for mig35 with tot & 80 nos of F-16 (or) f-18 without tot . If this combination works , indian IAF will be most powerfully in asia . we need to speed up this order or need to buy 12 nos Mirage 2000-9( 2nd's) which Qatar has offered us , to stop high depletion in fighter sqd's level .

Anonymous said...

To Anon@3:12

There is a difference between License production (Assembly production) and Technology Transfer. Transferring the full technology for only 126 aircraft will be very costly for India. Entire Engineering tools, data software’s need to be transfer and will manufacture in India.

Just see what happened with the Sukhoi-30 MKI Technology transfer to India. HAL will produce 140 SU-30 MKI in India. Till date all the technology yet not been transferred to India and producing the jets are almost twice costly than bringing the same jets directly from Russia. This is why HAL now importing many SU-30 techs directly from Russia and assembly in India.

Yes MIG-35 can carry all the missiles and guided bombs which Su-30 MKI carry but all these are in the paper only. Did you see the weapon firing demonstration of MIG-35?

Now tell me which MIG-35 they are sending for the user trial to the IAF this July? Aircraft having 8 underwing pylons shown in the Paris air-show 2009 or 10 underwing pylons aircraft shown in Aero 2009 in India.

Anonymous said...

Mig 35 does not make sense. Might as well buy 126 more Su-30 MKI-NG.

Anonymous said...

F-16IN is the only choice,if US gives all avionics!

NJS said...

India requested only for 100 % tot in rfp ,but USA will not offer 100 % tot to any country . that's what france offered 100% tot including source code for its software , so india can modify it according to our needs .

Naturally US fighter jets( export version) will not work against USA & its defense machines , every export version is modified according to its favour .

Aravindh said...

Do u peoples forget about thrust-vectoring capabilities of mig-35?

And v all know mig-35 is a upgraded of mig-29k,which IAF already operats

And also has the choice of having all weapon system that mki has

v also hav RD33 manufacturing facility and licence for mig 29 upgrads and also some avionics

so it is wice to hav mig-35's on our part...........

Aravindh said...

Do u peopls forgot abt mig-35's thrust-vectoring capabilities...?

Anonymous said...

To Anon@7:08 PM:

F-16IN is the only choice,if US gives all avionics!

why and how F-16 is the only choice?

There are many problems assoiciated with the US aircraft.
Some of them are:

1.USA will never Transfer the sophisticated AESA technology of (APG-80) F-16 and (APG-79) F-18. US congress approval will be needed and there is no hint from US govt.

2.USA is reluctant of integrating
3rd party sensors/ tech in their aircrafts. There will be problem with the integration of some sophisticated Indian / Israeli/ foreign sensors in F-16 and F-18; again US congress approval will be needed.

3.India till date not signed the end-user agreement with the USA. If signed, there will be physical verification of the aircraft time –to-time by the US authorities.

4.Fighter aircrafts are the backbone of any airforce. Any future Problems with the spare parts / weapons/ integration will have major impact on the operational preparedness of the IAF.

5. F-16 IN shown to us is actually UAE F-16 Block 60 aircraft. There is no indication for future improvement/ modification of F-16 as F-35 JSF will replace all the US F-16 and F-18 fighters in the near future.

Shaurya said...

Why are we forgetting that Mig had given a lot of head ache to US in cold war ages.US were coming with one fighter after another just to defeat mig-21. Even f-16 was designed with mig-21 as measuring stick. When f-16 arrived USSR had mig-29. Their fear was visible when they came up with a movie with mig-28(conceptual).
Why mig failed - due to collapse of USSR and the new government had an affinity with sukhoi corporation(yes corruption). Still f-16 and f-18 were never put to test with skilled pilots of Russia.US wars with Iraq & Israeli wars with middle east(where f-16s were used) is like a war of India vs maldives(sorry for that !!).

Anonymous said...

To Aravindh@7:50 PM

IAF are operating MIG-29B-12s not the MIG-29K. MIG-29K is acquired recently by the Indian Navy.

We will have the License production for the RD-33 Engine and the same Engine is also in the PAF JF-17 thunder aircraft. China can also procure more advance RD-33 MK engines from the Russia any time and the same engine can also be in JF-17 aircraft in the future.

Thrust-vectoring capabilities are important in the close combat battle but this technology is not necessary (must) clause for the MMRCA project.

Anonymous said...

Yes MIG-35 can carry all the missiles and guided bombs which Su-30 MKI carry but all these are in the paper only
this is what u think not mig

mig29k is fully certified/capable of carrying all munitions which su30mki carry and so does mig35

and if you never saw mig35 carrying then its your problem not with mig

Anonymous said...

At the end of the day the Mig-35 is the weakest of all the competitors. In an A2A battle it would definetly loose to the three front runners Rafale, SH, and EF. Its an average A2G platform. Why should India settle for average when it can buy something so much better like the Rafale. Yeah it costs a lot but they will transfer the tech and source codes. In the long run its worth it, plus it would be the most advanced plane in the region and would have a huge advantage for india in air supremacy if they fought with Pakistan or China

anthony said...


Now if the MiG-35 Fulcrum-F is selected by the Indian Air Force, its expansive MiG fleet would be fattened.

NJS said...

US will not fully support india , as like russia / france supports india .
Even russia didn't offer core tech to china like su30 mki , it offered su30 mk2 which slightly inferior to mki .So we can trust russia or france . modified Su30 mki is the only aircraft can carry Brahmas .

Anonymous said...

To Anon@5:45

mig29k is fully certified/capable of carrying all munitions which su30mki carry and so does mig35


Yes MIG-29K is fuly certified by the MIG of carrying many munitions.MIG-29K is purchased by the Indian Navy for its Maritime missions (operating from the Gorshkov aircraft carrier).

And, there is the differnce between MIG-29K(using by the Indian Navy and MIG-35(for IAF MMRCA)

Show me any weapon firing demonstration of the MIG-35 to the Indian Airforce.

By the way which MIG-35 you are talking about.Aircraft having 8 underwing pylons shown in the Paris air-show 2009 or 10 underwing pylons aircraft shown in Aero 2009 in India!

Anonymous said...

And, there is the differnce between MIG-29K(using by the Indian Navy and MIG-35(for IAF MMRCA)
there is not much difference between mi29kub and mig35 except aesa radar and 500 kg more paylaod capability for mig35

and if those PGMs for mki are certified for 29k or for that matter IAF mig29 being upgaded then its definitely sure that those are certified mig35

one can hang even 3 PGM or 2 missiles on a single hardpoint

and it doesn't matter how many hardpoints an aircraft has,for this you can see gripen NG,rafale pics

rafale has been shown carrying 3 230kg LGB on single hardpoint

gripen NG has been shown carrying 2 meteor on single hardpoint or \
2 LGB on single hardpoint

same can be done in all other aircrafts and let alone gripen or rafale

Bobs said...

shiv, you look smart in that pic. where was it taken and when ? did you go for a test ride?

Anonymous said...

To Anon@6:24 pm

It’s not just the hard-point and the weapon payload capacity but actual capability of the aircraft.

1.IAF will use the MRCA till 2040. MIG-35 do not have 5th generation avionics design, entire life cycle, from initial implementation through operations and continuous improvement till 2040 is doubtful. Russian Air force presently does not have any intention to purchase any MIG-35 aircraft rather concentrating on fifth generation/next generation Sukhoi fighter. India is only the single customer for the Russian MIG 29K / MIG-35.

2.MIG-29K fighter is acquired by the Indian Navy as we do not have any other STOL aircraft for the Gorshkov aircraft carrier. Our LCA Tejas is not yet ready for the carrier operation. MIG-29K actual multi-role capability is not yet proven.

3.After sales support is always an issue with the MIG.

4.We will have the License production for the RD-33 Engine and the same Engine is also in the PAF JF-17 thunder aircraft. China may procure more advance RD-33 MK engines from the Russia any time and the same engine can be integrated in JF-17 aircraft in the near future.

Shiv Aroor said...

Bob: I took a flight in the MiG-35 at Zhukovsky air base near Moscow in August 2007.

Anonymous said...


This whole MMRCA is pure and simple eyewash and time pass . The country has already invested in SU 30 MKwhatever and it is a genuine multi role job. What we are looking at is a Mig 21 replacement and in sufficent numbers to provide depth and point air defense . Unfortunately Tejas is a big fraud like our defense establishment and is no where in sight .

So until there is a find , we should simply enhance with 3 squaderns of the latest Mig 29's and an quivalant number of Mirage 2000 either through second hand purchases and ungradation or by falling at the feet of france and paying through the nose for reopening the line. The Mirages are worth it even now.These should replace the older versions of Mig 21's which cannot be upgraded and fill the gaps left by Mig 23 M's .