Saturday, April 30, 2011

Who'll Buy This Fulcrum Now?


They're pronouncing its doom already in the Russian press. Predicting that the official elimination of the MiG-35 from India's M-MRCA fighter competition means curtains for the programme, such as it is. If that's true, the MiG-35 will be the one Fulcrum that nobody ever bought.

The facts are pretty brutal. A victory in the Indian tender was virtually mandatory for MiG to be able to generate the economies of scale that would allow it to sell 72 MiG-35s at an affordable unit price to the Russian Air Force. A Russian government indent for a certain number of MiG-35s was hinged to the platform's selection by the IAF -- not the other way round. With the MiG-35 officially out, the programme could effectively collapse, with structural implications for RAC-MiG Corp too. Chances are that the MiG-35's reported performance in the MMRCA competition (it was rejected with 14 flaws, most notably pertaining to its engines reports suggest) will likely kill its chances, if any, with other potential customers in Asia and Latin America. At the risk of invoking a touch of sentiment, after half a century of doing business with the Indian Air Force (it started in 1963 with the delivery of the first MiG-21-F13s), this may just have been MiG's last chance to sell India aircraft. There's even talk that in the continuing consolidation in the Russian aerospace industry, the Mikoyan-Gurevich identity may be gone forever in a merger. MiG's fortunes have been rough for years. The MiG-35's failure in the M-MRCA (I find it hard to believe the Russians really held on to a hope) may just have been like Kano's fatality in Mortal Kombat.

The ubiquitous No.154 (the visible MiG-35) is more a proof-of-concept platform (previously designated MiG-29M/M2; see photo above-right from Aero India 2005) than a type, and this was raised at various times with the UAC. The company did however field prototypes for the FET phase. There were several things that the MiG-35 had going for it: the IAF already operates MiG-29s (and could therefore appreciate the advancements in the new Fulcrum, not to mention inventory/infrastructure savings), the MiG-35 was competitively priced (~$40-mil a pop) and was closer to the definition of an M-MRCA than at least three of the others. But, as we now know, the aircraft was simply outperformed across the board during field evaluation. The two MiG-35 prototypes (No. 961 and 967) participated in trials in India (Bangalore, Jaisalmer and Leh) in October 2009 and in Akhtubinsk and Zhukovsky in April last year.

Among the many things that weighed against the MiG-35 -- apart from its field performance -- was the fact that India would in the next couple of years have a sizeable and growing fleet of souped up MiG-29s -- 62 old MiG-29s are being upgraded to the UPG standard, which gives the fleet the Zhuk-M2E radar, the Thales Topsight helmet mounted sight, Sagem navigation system, OLS-UEM infrared search and track sensor, an Indian DARE EW suite and a new glass cockpit featuring colour MFDs.

It will be interesting to see what those 14 flaws were that the IAF found in the MiG-35 -- those should be out sooner rather than later.

Photos 1&2 ©Livefist / By Shiv Aroor / 3 from Take-off.ru

28 comments :

Anonymous said...

Russkis should build 15 aircraft and create a 9-MiG display team with the MiG-29OVT or MiG-35. That would be sensational. It would also be a fine tribute to a fine aircraft that sadly did not work commercially. nice piece shiv, and nice to see you are a sentimental chap!

Mihir said...

Technically, the IN is still looking to buy more Fulcrums :)

Shiv Aroor said...

That IS a fact :)

Bhavin said...

Pity fop Mig35 project,

but UNDERCOVER nagotiations running to aquiqre ~100 Mig29SMT s.

Smile RAC Smile.:)

Anonymous said...

Russia would any ways buy 24-26 Mig-35 and similar number of Mig-29K for its airforce and navy.

Ram said...

Only hope that this result is not adversely shown by the Russians in the other pending deals of Vikramaditya and Naval variants of Mig 29.

Prashanth said...

Loved Kano's fatality! :)

Anonymous said...

Time for MIG to open a museum now! The only way it can make money now is by visitors at the museum!

Shiv Aroor said...

@Prashanth: ;) good times.

Anonymous said...

The Chinese will always be there to pick it up for a song especially if that corp has to be merged, they could even get the drawings/designers.

Shubhabrata De said...

it would be interesting to look at the next Chinese J-series aircraft. It would be interesting to compare it with the MiG-35 and look for the differences. Who knows, it might be leaked to the press in the next few months as another achievement of the chinese aerospace engineers. :-)

Mr. Ra said...

Russia and India both can purchase few squadrons each of these cheap but useful a/cs to stop the rapid depleting numbers of their a/c forces.

Anonymous said...

Will the Mirage 2000s be upgraded as the Mig-29s or the IAF will buy additional Rafales ?

Anonymous said...

shiv why cant india buy mig35 instead of mig29k?

Anonymous said...

The MiG-35 was a fighter too far for the Russian defence industry in India. Hopefully the faliure here will encourage Moscow to take a little more interest in MiG rather than the current focus on Sukhoi.

Tejaswy said...

It made the trip from Moscow to Bangalore in under 3 hours..

I really wanted it to win..but as you pointed out it was nothing more than a mig 29 with a new engine

RAT said...

BETTER OPTION WILL BE TO HAVE THE AIRCRAFT SERVE AS PLATFORMS FOR TESTING OR BETTER YET THE THENICAL EXPERTIES CAN BE UTLISED IN MIG-29K & KUB NXT SO IT WILL CONTINUE TO BE ARROUND FOR SOME MORE TIME

Anonymous said...

shiv, can you do a write up on how the incoming MMRCA will empower the IAF against its adversaries PAF or PLAAF. it would be great to know, from hardcore indian perspective, the potential of eurofighter and rafale giving that needed punch to IAF apart from just squadron numbers growing. although the SU30 is looked upon as prime fighter of IAF, yet can either rafale or EF overshadow that considering thayre both amazing machines...jus how will that impact.

if you do that, do a vis-a-vis FC-20 MRCA induction by PAF.

thanks.

sakshi said...

do not forget what MIGs have done for us ...they have helped us to win 3 wars .you dont forget your parents when they get old ...do you ???
LONG LIVE THE MIKOYAN BUEREAU.

Anonymous said...

Sakshi @ 9:36 pm has the wrong emotional adjustment.

Comparing parents to machines is emotional immaturity.

Machines can be bought. Can a person buy parents?

Zeero concept! Missing fundamentals!

Anonymous said...

They can sell that junk to Pakistan as all the Russian stuff now either goes to china or to Pakistan.Pakistan can name it langur and can jump around with false pride

Anonymous said...

The questions on MiG's future...how could a giant have been affected so badly by just one program going bad (and that too a program which was to upgrade(or whatever you may wanna call it) an existing successful platform).....Shiv...give us the bigger story :D...<i know i can wiki it..:D)

KVR said...

The Giant has been affected because of one simple fact - The Soviet Union is Dead. Russia is alive. Russia aerospace industry simply cant stay alive in the current econo-political scenario. Worldwide wherever state protection is there the industries may thrive but are inherently inefficient - eg - HAL. Also all the big British names are now part of British Aerospace for the last 30 odd years.

So sakshi - grow up. Much as your love of Mig bureau is admirable, they are not your parents. And the Migs didn't participate in 3 wars - only in 1971 Indo-Pak war.

You and me , the INdian tax payer, cant and shouldn't fund the Russian Aerospace industry , as we are already doing with the PAK-FA. Enough is enough.

KVR said...

I was more or less sure that the choice would be the F18 Super Hornet because of the serious US tilt of the last few years. So this is a bit of a surprise. Given that both short listed models are used only in their country of origin - Austria and Saudia for TYphoon being political than practical decisions - I am not very sure this is the right way to go. Typhoon still has serious issues in the air to ground role though all available reports indicate that its outstanding in the air to air role

However I suppose the IAF honchos know what they are doing. In the case of the Rafale there is one added advantage in that their is a naval version which can be pushed for the Navy.

KVR said...

Its actually a no brainer. Primarily the MIg 29 was a great air to air aircraft. The Mig 35 is just a souped up MIg 29. What was required was a MRCA not an Air Defence aircraft.

I was also hoping - against all reasons - that the Gripen would also make the list but then it has that GE engine which would make the whole thing vulnerable to American arm twisting. AS has happened with the Last Combat Aircraft.

MUKESHINSAS said...

MIG CORPORATION'S MIG-35 IS UPGRADE ON MIG-29 PLATFORM LIKE AS F-16IN AND F-18 SUPER HORNET. NOW MIG CORPORATION SHOULD BE FOCUS ON STEALTH UCAV AND F-35 STOVL LIKE AIRCRAFT.

Anonymous said...

I think few people are really surprised that the Mig-35 did not make it to the short list.

Some of us are however interested in learning more about why the Gripen did not make it -- according to Saab the Gripen Demo did very well at Leh. Some sources have said it was dropped because the AESA and the airframe itself is not fully developed yet. However the Typhoon AESA is also not fully developed.
So why was Gripen NG dropped? Was it too small? Or too many US components? Please make a story on that, that seems the biggest mystery of the MMRCA today.

Anonymous said...

pakistan?