The Russian air force is to replace all of its current ‘light’ combat aircraft fleets with the newly unveiled MiG-35 ‘Fulcrum-F’, state media quoted a senior service official as saying on 27 January.
Speaking at the public unveiling of the MiG-35 by the United Air Corporation (UAC), Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) commander-in-chief Colonel General Viktor Bondarev said that all of the service’s light fighters will be replaced by the latest-variant Flanker in the coming years, the TASS news agency reported.
While the general did not specify which particular aircraft he was referring to when talking about ‘light fighters’, it was likely a reference to the MiG-29 ‘Fulcrum’ from which the MiG-35 is derived. According to IHS Jane’s World Air Forces, the VKS currently has about 350 MiG-29s (of which about 200 are thought to be in storage). With the MiG-29 making up the light end of Russia’s fighter spectrum, the heavy end comprises the Sukhoi Su-27-series ‘Flanker’ and MiG-31 ‘Foxhound’ fighters.
The general was making his comments on the occasion of the MiG-35’s rollout for president Vladimir Putin, who noted the type’s export potential with those countries that already operate the MiG-29. Russia first revealed its plans to field a new light fighter as a cost effective but capable secondary combat aircraft for the VKS in December 2013.
As noted in IHS Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft, the MiG-35 has been described by the manufacturer as “exhibiting the further development of the MiG-29K/KUB and MiG-29M/M2 fighters in the field of the combat efficiency enhancement, universality, and operational characteristics improvement”. However, additional emphasis has been given in the MiG-35 to reliability of the airframe, engines, and avionics. The CEO of MiG, Sergei Korotkov, has previously stated that the MiG-35 will have a speed of Mach 2.23 and an operational range 1.5 times longer than the MiG-29.