Here’s why IAF is unlikely to go for the MiG-35 fighter jet

MiG-35 is Russia’s most advanced 4++ generation fighter jet – and it wants to sell it to India! Not only that, Russia has even claimed that India has expressed interest in the MiG-35. MiG Aircraft Corporation’s chief executive Ilya Tarasenko has said that the company is “actively promoting” the new aircraft in India. When asked if India has shown any interest in the new fighter jet, PTI quoted Tarasenko as saying, “Of course they have.”

But, will the Indian Air Force (IAF) go for it? And, more importantly, would it make sense for the IAF to acquire the MiG-35? But, first things first – let’s highlight a few facts about the MiG-35. The MiG-35 is said to be Russia’s most advanced 4++ generation multi purpose fighter jet. It has been developed on the basis of the serial-produced MiG-29K/KUB and MiG-29M/M2 combat aircraft, say reports.

Russia has said that the features in the new MiG-35 are close to fifth generation warplanes and Tarasenko has even said that the plane can beat America’s lethal F-35! MiG (the manufacturer) says the new advanced fighter jet is multi-functional, light and enjoys the advantage of high manoeuvrability. The 17.32 m MiG-35 has a wing span of 12 m and can reportedly carry up to 7000 kg of payload. It is also reported to have an advanced radar system that allows it to detect 30 targets and engage 6 of them simultaneously.

Interestingly, in an earlier iteration, MiG-35 had been offered to the Indian Air Force under the MMRCA deal. However, France’s Rafale had emerged the winner. In fact, MiG-35 had not even made the final cut, with the competition ultimately coming down to a choice between the Rafale and the Eurofighter for the IAF. Rafale had emerged the winner, but the MMRCA deal did not see the light of the day. Instead, during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to France, it was announced that India will buy 36 Rafale jets off-the-shelf.

IAF currently flies the Sukhoi 30 MKIs, Mirage 2000s, MiG-29s, MiG-27s, MiG-21 BISON and Jaguar fighter aircraft. Homegrown Tejas – India’s first indigenous Light Combat Aircraft – has also been inducted and within a few years, the IAF will start getting the Rafales too.

MiG-35 for IAF – does it make sense?

No, feel defence and aviation experts. Air Vice Marshal (Retd) Manmohan Bahadur and a Distinguished Fellow, CAPS is of the view that India has already made its choice clear by deciding on the Rafale. “The Indian Air Force has made its choice of a twin engine fighter aircraft – the Rafale. Whenever we add more fighter jets, they should be Rafales, not the MiG-35s,” Manmohan Bahadur tells FE Online. “When the MMRCA deal for IAF was in process, the MiG-35 did not make the final cut,” he says. “Also, getting a completely new aircraft would involve an entirely new set of maintenance and logistics support. There is no point investing in that,” he adds.

Agrees Colonel (Retd) KV Kuber, Independent Consultant Defence and Aerospace, who believes that as far as fighter jets are concerned, India should look at the upgrade package for the Sukhoi-30 MKI fleet rather than go for a new warplane altogether. “There is no point introducing a new platform for the IAF. For twin-engine fighter aircraft, we are already getting the Rafales. We already have the bouquet of fighter aircraft, we have the Jaguars, Mirage 2000s, Sukhoi 30 MKIs. MiG-35 had been part of the MMRCA bid, but did not qualify. Russia may indeed have improved upon it, but the fact is that India doesn’t need a new type of aircraft to understand and absorb into its defence ecosystem,” Kuber tells FE Online. “Going ahead we should either acquire more Rafales or definitely go in for the upgrade package of Sukhoi 30-MKIs,” he says. Kuber is also of the view that MiG-35 is still an evolving platform and the Russian Air Force is also yet to get it.

Kuber also pushes for the Make in India plan for fighter jets. “Our focus should be on Make in India. The strategic partnership model for the single engine fighter aircraft is being finalised. Ten years from now, our own private defence industry would have enough knowledge to look at partnering firms for twin-engine fighter jets. We should focus on that, rather than acquire a new platform which would take many years to come,” he concludes.

By: Financial Express

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