Tuesday, August 18, 2009

MiG-35, brief review

Looking on the long discussions on Bharat-Rakshak Indian military forum I felt the need to make some short review about MiG-35. As usually I use only open source information in my post. It is from different on-line or off-line sources, Russian and foreign.

Sometimes the contradicting sentences are seen about this plane:

1) The aircraft has an old-fashion plane, way older, than any other MMRCA tender contenders except F-16. So it's at the end of its life, cannot be kept modernized in next 20-30 years.

2) The aircraft is a 'paper plane'. So, its capability is totally uncertain and a purchasing would be accompanied with high risk.

- Obvious, the first rules out the second and vice versa. However, both conclusions are wrong. I hardly can say the true lies between them too. In fact, MiG-29/MiG-35 family airframe design was started after first serial F-16 and F-18 prototypes look light and then their capabilities were well known to Russian engineers. So, MiG-29 is designed with these rivals in mind. F-18 and F-15 have had airframe evolving too, became F/A-18F/E and F-16 blocks 52/60 variants with different airframe and better overall capabilities. MiG-35 - is a next Russian step and in certain degree an answer to the last American variants of 4th generation tactical attack aircrafts. Indeed, MiG-35 is very mature 4th gen. fighter (MiG-29) with a big improvement.

- Historically MiGs – are the greatest enemy of the American fighters. Absolutely ALL American planes, lost to East Block in conflict over Korea, Vietnam and China in air fighting were hit by MiGs. It's thousands of planes… Therefore, the hate to MiGs is very explicable in Anglo-Saxon states. It would be just naturally if the Americans see MiG as the most probably air rival, and any step in their fighting aircraft development is made with MiGs in mind.

Now MiG-29 family includes the number of serial and prospective jets. MiG-29SMT – is the most simple and chip variant, made with soviet-time spare up-worked airframes with slightly modernized RD-33 ser.3 engine and slotted array Zhuk-ME radar. The other sensors and avionics are up to consumer choice. A number of countries (Yemen, Algeria) have already purchased this model, but the existence of soviet-made parts on the planes was inevitable, - something that leaves client unsatisfied (Algeria).

Although currently produced for Indian Navy MiG-29K ('9-41') and two-sitter MiG-29KUB ('9-47') fighters – have the same name and same aerodynamics as those MiG-29Ks ('9-31') initially offered for Russian fleet, their airframe technology is totally different. There is no (as many mistakably thought) light beryllium-aluminum alloys. Instead, there is use of composites (15% of aircraft surface area).

The reworked MiG-29M ('9-61') MiG-29M2 ('9-67') line has airframe on MiG-29K/KUB ('9-41' – '9-47') basis and almost the same weapon and avionics. It could be worth to define briefly the main differences between classic line of MiG-29 on one hand and both MiG-29K/KUB & MiG-29M/M2 on the other:

- The latest has 15-20% composite airframe,
- Slightly bigger wings and ailerons, new wingspan is 11,99 m against 11,36 m.
- Bigger horizontal stabilizers and rudders,
- Wider spine with bigger internal fuel tanks, 1.5 time more fuel.
- Bigger additional fuel tank is allowed (grow from 1520 l to 2150 l)
- Higher load, (4500 --> 5500 kg )
- Antiradar coating,
- Higher trust engines RD-33MK (2x8300 --> 2x9000 kg on afterburner), with longer MTBO/MTBF (2000 --> 4000 hours)
-Reduced infrared emission of the engines,
- Smokeless burner
- FADEC full control system for engines
- Longer life of airframe. Growing up from 2500 fly hours or 20 years rised to 5000 f/h or 30 years.
- Higher number of loading points (9 instead of 6) and heavier weight is allowed for new more heavy missiles.
- Dorsal air intake inlets are removed, fuel tank is installed instead.
- Inlet defense system is installed (grids).
- Totally redesigned canopy
- Service improvement , on-condition maintenance, fuel economy with 2.5 times reducing of flight-hour cost.
- Fly-by-wire
- Refueling capacity
- Open architecture of avionics
- Anti-corrosive defense of a naval aircraft level.

For MiG-35 however further improvements are made.

- MiG-35 has no dorsal air brake (rudders are used instead),
- 11 points of load instead of 9
- 6500 kg max load instead of 5500
- Difference in chassis
- Airframe life 5000 -->6000 hours or 40 years
- AESA radar
- Missiles warning system
- Broader weapon spectrum (+3M-14, 3M-54, KAB-1500)
- Advanced IRST
- Trust vectoring engine
- Better avionics

The most important specs of MiG-35 (two-sitter MiG-35D) are as follow:

Normal take-off mass --- 17,500 (17,800) kg
Maximal --- 23,500 kg
Max. landing mass ---16,800 kg
Internal fuel --- 4,800 kg
Max. load --- 6,500 kg
Max. speed
- low 1,400 km/h
- high 2,100
Mach 2.0
Gmax --- 9.0
Ferry distance
- internal fuel ---2,000 (1,700) km
- 3 external tanks ---3,000 (2,700) km
- 3 e.t. + 1 refueling ---6,000 (5,700) km
Take-off strip --- 550 m
Landing strip --- 600 m
Engines --- 2x RD-33MK
Power 2x 9,000 kg on afterburner


MiG-35 has improved aerodynamic with sharp LERX, wider nose con for more powerful radar option, bigger cage with better ergonomics, absence of upper air-intakes for garbage defense on taking-of, with special unclose grids instead.

New 3-chennal fly-by-wire KSU-961 system with 4-time signal doubling. It's made on the basis of MiG-29K/KUB's FBW KSU-941 system and provides controllability of flying in all modes including super- maneuvering on over-critical AoA too. It provides automatic refueling in the fly as well.

The new big-blocks technology of welding is using on MiG-35. The use of composites is higher than with MiG-29K/KUB.The airframe life resource is 6,000 h or 40 years comparing to 2,500 h or 20 years on serial soviet MiG-29 and MiG-29SMT.

Improved aerodynamic and mechanization of the wings, higher wing area. Generally it's similar to MiG-29K wing but without folding. 11 load points allow 6,500 kg of load. No dorsal air-brake (as a variant).

The chassis is longer, and then the plane is sitting in more straight position than classic MiG-29.

The internal fuel capacity is raised as 1.5 times on MiG-35 and achieves 4,800 kg. New load points allow up to 5 external fuel tanks. The capacity of the central one was raised from 1520 to 2150 liters. However, the two-sitting MiG-35D variant lacks one internal fuel tank with 630 liter of capacity.

Under-pylon refueling PAZ-MK kit turns the plane into reciprocal refueler.


MiG-35/35D has two RD-33MK Klimov's engines with maximal thrust on afterburner 9,000 kgf, on maximal dry – 5,400 kgf. The life resource of this engine (4,000 h) was raised significantly comparing to standard RD-33 ser. 3 (2,500 h) which is used on Russian and Indian MiG-29's and which technology is already transferring to India. The time before overall is 1000 h. If a customer wants, MiG-35 may be equipped with Klimov's RD-33MKV engine with all-aspect thrust vectoring nozzles. It was over all testing on the board of MiG-29M-OVT №156.

RD-33MK has FADEC 'BARK-42' and both are produced in serial for MiG-29K/KUB Indian Navy fighters. Modifications with higher thrust and resource are under development in 'Klimov Gas-Turbine Design' house.

The new gear system KSA-33M and turbo-starter VK-100 are developed for this plane by 'Klimov'.

Radar and avionics
Open architecture MiL-STD-1553B bus is used. HOTAS control. Zhuk-AE AESA radar (was described before  ).

MiG-35 has 5th generation OLS-UEM FLIR – for frontal hemisphere searching and OLS-K (in conformal container under the right inlet) – for searching in bottom hemisphere. The manufacturer: NIIPP (Moscow).

OLS-UEM specs:

IR, TV and laser range finder
Angle of searching
Horizontal -- +-90 grad
Vertical -- +60 - -15 grad.
Head-on target detection – 15 km
Detection on chase - 45 km
Laser range finder - 15 km

OLS-K specs:

IR, TV, laser range-finder and laser spot finder.
Max. range of detection
Tank - 20 km
Fast boat - 40 km
Laser range finder, max distance - 20 km
Spotting targets - yes
Mass 110 kg

As a more cheap option, the 4th generation UOMZ's KOLS-13SM FLIR together with Sapsan-E laser pod are offered.

Missile Aproach Warning (MAW) system includes two modules for bottom and upper hemispheres. Developer: NIIPP.
Mass - 9.5 kg
Range of detection, max :
 air-to-air missiles - 30 km
 ground based AAMs --50 km
shoulder AAMs -10 km

Radar warning system L-150 (TsKB 'Avtomatika', Omsk) has 4 stations on the wing flaps and vertical fins margins.

The enemy laser detection kit can detect an enemy laser on up to 30 km distance. The laser wave is - 1.06 – 1.57 micrometers. Developer: NIIPP. Its mass is 800 g, including two sensors on wing flaps.

Active EW kit: SAP-518 or KS-418. Developer: KNIRTI (Kaluga). It has high frequency emitters inside the wings and tail and medium frequency emitter under the left wing. As an option, the Italian 'Elettronnica S.p.A ELT/568(V)2 EW system is offered for Indian MMRCA tender. Other foreign or Indian EW systems could be adopted on MiG-35 too.

Passive decoys system.

'Black box' registration system 'Karat-B-35' is offered for foreign customers of MiG-35.

SVR-23M1K video registration system is installed.

The weapon outcome control system 'Trenage-29' is offered with MiG-35 too.

Thales' 'Topsight' HMDS is offered in a first line. It's similar to that on serial Indian MiG-29K's. The Russian 5th generation HMDS is under development by NPO 'Geofizika'.

The display configuration does repeat MiG-29K/KUB. MiG-29K cage has 3 6x8 inches displays, wide angle on glass indication panel. The second pilot cage on MiG-35D has 4 displays. The resolution and display refresh rate are higher than MFI-10-7 1024x768 pixels displays on MiG-29K/KUB board.

The navigation system is PrNK-35 of RPKB with inertial and satellite GPS-GLONASS navigation subsystems.

A number of Indian systems could be installed as well, according to what Indian customer wishes (if yes).


- RVVE-AE medial range active homing AAMs.
- R-73E close combat AAMs
- 80mm and 122 mm unguided rockets kits
- Kh-29TE and other types of Kh-29 AGMs family
- KAB-500 and KAB-1500 family guided bombs.
- other 100 – 500 kg bombs of different types
- long range air-to-surface missiles of 'Club' family (3M-14AE, 3M-54AE1, 3M-54AE)
- Supersonic anti-ship and anti-radiation missiles of Kh-31 family.
- Subsonic net-centric anti-ship Kh-31 'Uran' missiles.
- 30 mm GSh-301 auto cannon.

Life cycle cost

The service of MiG-35 is executed by condition, with condition assessment each 1000 flight hours up to max. 6000 hours of life (or 40 years of service).

For comparison classic MiG-29 has only 2500 hours of life resource (or 20 years). Periodic routine service each 100 fly hours (1 year) is needed. Order works are each 200 f.h. (24 months). Plant MLU is needed on 800 and 1500 f.h. (9 and 17 years of service).
With all the amortization in consideration the flight hour cost of MiG-35 is as 2.5 times cheaper than for classic MiG-29!

There is an old calculation  from the middle of 90th, for classic MiG-29's in Eastern Europe. Then the flight hour cost was $3000 for MiG-29 and $2000 for F-16 - it's without amortization cost.

In 1994 – 1996 a new MiG-29's price was as $25 000 000. F-16's price was $18 600 000. MiG-29's airframe life was – 2,500 hours, or $10 000 for 1 hour. F-16's airframe life was – 8,000 hours, or $2,325 for hour. Mig-29's RD-33 engine of old serials has life of 800 hours, wile F-16's engine of that time has 2000 hours life. So, with all the life cycle expenditure the difference in flight hour cost between two planes was much higher: $15 500 for MiG-29 and about $5 900 for F-16! Even after the dollar/ruble parity has changed the prices very significant, single-engine F-16 remain to be more attractive in terms of lifecycle cost against classic MiG-29. With new MiG-35 coming, this advantage is going to totally diminish.


  1. Hi Igor,

    This is Avarachan from B-R. You have a great blog! Could you add something to this post about the upgrade possibilities of the Mig-35?

  2. to Avarachan:
    It's possible, but I think need a separate post due to complication and speculative character of this issue. Dont want do a sub-work. More realistically I can do it after clearing some questions with MiG's guys and coming back from MAKS-2009 i.e. next week only.


    GOOD POST IGORR,but i think the mig29 in indian service has flown 2500 hours

    after upgrading with new rd33-3 engines and new avionics its going to last another 2500 hours or next 20 years

    and since the induction of mig29 no new engines were installed only till now these smoky engines going to be replaced

    so the calculation per hour flying cost of 15500 dollars for 2500 hours of life of mig29 is wrong

    we should calculate the per hour flying cost of legacy mig29 with total life of 5000 hours instead total life of 2500,because indian mig29 going to last another 2500 hours and already flown 2500 hours

    some people will say indian mig29 going to last only 1000 hours more which is wrong,if the old rd33 engine and old avionics can last for 2500 hours so the new smokeless engine and new avionics definitely last another 2500 hours with strengthening

    so this $15500 flying cost come down to below $10000 mark

    but also its better to compare the flying cost of mig29 with f18 because both of these aircrafts have 2 engines of same power and f16 has only one

    i have heard tomorrow new mig35 going to be rolled out and 2 teams from india and rest of the world have been invited at sokol plant

    are you going there?

  4. with strenghtening of airframe

  5. Great blog Igorr. I have been reading your useful contributions BR forums for three years now and I appreciate your efforts. This piece is very informative and should be read by some of the MiG baiters on BR forums, which have recently seen an overload of yankee lovers.

    Vsego dobrogo!!

  6. to anon August 18, 2009 1:44 PM:
    About life resource. Yes, of course, these middle 90th calculations must be very inaccurate now, but still can lead to more mature conclusions if new information is taken into consideration.

    And very sorry, I cannot be there in N-Novgorod "Sokol" plant coz live another city far from that. Also will travel to Moscow on MAKS-2009.

  7. Hi Igorr,
    1)can you confirm whether the Zhuk-AE for Mig-35 is a first gen. AESA?
    2)In your previous posts you said that India may get Zhuk(slotted Array) for Mig-35. 2013-2014 is still far way. You mean Phazotron cannot refine Zhuk-AE by that time?
    3)How many RD-33 engines are Russians exporting to Pakistan?

  8. Hi Igorr
    1)for the Mig-29 Upgrade are we getting the
    Zhuk-ME or Zhuk-M

    2) Is Zhuk-ME an PESA?

  9. To mukunda:
    Hi! No, Zhuk-ME - is a slotted array radar. It's installed on MiG-29K/KUB's for Indian Navy too.

  10. to igorr

    how does the FLIR on mig35 compares to OSF on rafale and PIRATE on typhoon

  11. to anon August 19, 2009 4:37 AM

    Donno if they fixed Rafale's OSF problems, since it was described as 'obsolete' in France itself:

    "The DGA also described Rafale's OSF ("Optronique Secteur Frontal") as "obsolescent" and production has been cut back to just 48 units, rather than the planned number, which was to have been sufficient to equip all F1 and F2 versions." http://www.electronicaviation.com/aircraft/Dassault_Rafale/819

    About PIRATE there are too many estimations. If it's really 80 nm of detection range as sometimes is hinted, it significantly over-performs MiG-35 FLIR. But if it's still 30-50 nm, as most reliable sources said, there would not be a differance in practice due to better OLS-UEM capability in optic and near IR diapazon. Russia is still ahead of Europeans in optic enhancing but something lags in 3-12 nm IR sensors, especially cooled ones. Also if you see some IR spot on 80 nm it doesnt say you can recognise it. You still need sofisticated software for sensor fusing.

  12. zdravstvuyte igorr,
    i am saptarishi from bharat rakshak,,very nice piece of review from your side,,,as an indian i thank you russians for the true friendship we have shared ,let it be even stronger in years to come,,,mig-35 is a beautiful machine,,better anyday in agility to the american f-16in and f/a-18e/f,,,in terms of optronics also russians are ahead ,with new missiles like rvv-sd and rvv-md,KH-38ME,KH-59MK2,KH-35UE,KH-31AD AND KH-31PD PLUS PGMs like KAB-500SE and KAB-1500LG-SE,,mig packs a strong punch,,well to be frank i see certain shortcomings,,in MIG-35:
    1.200KM range zhuk-ae/fga-35/stage 2 radar IS NOT READY,,so i don't think this will make its way in flight trials giving apg-79 and apg-80 an edge
    2.lack of fibre optic MIL-STD-1762 databus in mig-35 ,,f-16in has it,,IAF is interested in the new databus as much as the AESA
    3.SOKOL'S PREDICTION THAT THE PRODUCTION will not start before 2013-14 at the earliest raising questions regarding delivery timeline,,slated in 2013...WIL WE SEE ANOTHER GORSHKOV? WILL OUR 'FRIENDS' DEMAND MORE MONEY LIKE SU-30MKI AND GORSHKOV?..
    PERSONALLY I WILL BE THE HAPPIEST TO SEE MIG-35 WINNING BUT IF THE ABOVE THREE ISUES ARE NOT RESOLVED THE AMERICANS WILL WIN,,and this will be a setback to our good relations,,,i hope UAC-MIG corrects the three above problems,,russians are as good as americans and in many cases ARE MUCH BETTER BUT THE AMERICANS ARE CLEVER,SHREWD AND CUNNING,,after the trials are over the americans may put extreme pressure on us to go for f-18 or f-16..this is the test of our friendship...i hope,,we stay friends forever

  13. to mr saptarishi

    your comment is well informed and shows the area where mig is lacking

    but i still think that if zhuk ae radar has tracking range of 148km so the detection range must be 170km

    but if you see the apg68v9 detection range similar to or less than the detection range of zhuk me which has 100-120km range against 5^square and apg80 being AESA radar has 50% increase in range which comes out to be 150-180km against 5^ square so this is well matched by zhuk ae radar and apg79 being bigger than apg80 so its detection range should be 200km against 5^square

    navy going for 30 more 29k which will come with aesa radar

    and even after trials are over there is still 4 years of time in which zhuk ae can be further developed

    appreciate your answer

  14. to saptarshi dasgupta :
    Will try to answer to your doubts in my next post in this blog. Today have come back from Moscow, after two days on MAKS-2009. So it will take some time for presentation all of my experience there.

    Briefly I could say Zhuk-AE FGA-35 (with 680 emitting elements) expected detection range is much more than initial 120 km. It's 250 km for air targets. This information is from Fazotron's chief, who has spoken with me personally. He also explained me why. I'll write his explanation in my next review, also will demonstrate his pic there.

  15. Those two sentences are not contradicting at all. In fact, they well supplement each other. Their point is Mig-35 is an upgrade from a not-so-good Mig-29, so its a high chance that it would be not-so-good too. And the fact that the plane does not even 'exist' yet adds more uncertainty, which is not good too.

    And as far as i'm concerned, the Mig's era is well over. Its time of Sukhoi. And regarding that Mig is essentially taken over by Sukhoi, i dont think it will ever find their glory back.

  16. what a wonderful blog...

  17. Pl confirm whether the MIG 35s coming to India for exhaustive testing in MRCA will have the AESA radar. Your precious comments regarding MIG 35s versus F 16s & F 18s.

  18. to anon September 21, 2009 7:07 AM:

    Yes, it's confirmed by Phasotron's chief recently: the radar is already installed and will be on the board of MiG-35 coming to India for tests.

  19. Thanks, but what about Mig 35 vs F 16 & 18. Do you feel that the capabilities of both the US Jets are over publicised by the western media than what they are actually?

  20. to anon September 21, 2009 4:58 PM:

    Of course, there is a massive propagandistic campaign in the western media and even in the so called 'specialized journals' while wrap of silence is predominating about MiG-35. Only very gullible people cannot see here a bias towards the western stuff.

    As about a capability - it's very hard to determine what an 'overall capability' is. I guess, MiG-35 is more capable in some aspects while SH is in others. In avarage both are 4+ generation fighters. The question what the potential customer wants in first place.

  21. Ifor the Indian elite is so corrpt and decadent that strating with the imposed prime minsiter-who never won any free elecltion-the whole enlgish media and business class is simply pimping for american business so that their sons and daughters get some coolie job in uk nad usa and a few crumbs thrown their way by the anglosaxons.
    itis disgusting to see how Indians have no sense of honour and ware willing to sell their motherland for a few bobs.
    Russia has been true friend to India but India doe snot desrev Russian freindship.
    the only way indians respect opthers is when others kick them.

  22. Thanks very much. When are the Mig 35's arriving in India for testing? Very well said about Indian elite. Pl visit http://indiandefencealert.blogspot.com to post comments about the current happenings involving India & China and post your valuable comments. regards

  23. to Manish Kumar:

    Oct-Nov, just after F-16 if believe to the news. However, the early news have said about next spring. Will know soon :)

  24. Great Blog!
    I am an Indian and so I am naturally interested in Mig-35. I have a question for you.
    Mig-29 airframe is aerodynamically stable. It does not have fly by wire. So why did the Russians feel the need to add fbw to aerodynamically stable Mig-35? Does fbw has any advantage on an already stable airframe.
    Also, does Mig-29k has fly by wire?

  25. The MiG-29K and MiG-35 has unstable airframe, so FBW is obligated. MiG-29K has KSU-941 FBW system http://www.airshow.ru/expo/22/prod_4918_r.htm

  26. I've heard that a mig 35 can stop in flight like a helicoptor and rotate 360 degrees
    is it true

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