The Mikoyan MiG-35 is one of Russia’s newest multirole fighters. Known to NATO as “Fulcrum,” the MiG-35 is considered a fourth-generation ++ fighter – meaning more advanced than a fourth-generation fighter, but not quite a fifth-generation fighter. The jet was introduced in 2019 and to date, only 30 are in service with the Russian Air Force.
The Plus-Plus Generation
The MiG-35 is an advanced version of the preceding MiG-29 K and M variants. Designed with the export market in mind, the MiG-35 features various updates. Perhaps the most significant update is the new information-sighting system – a fifth-generation-like feature that gives the MiG-35 increased brainpower and increased connectivity with other Russian weapons platforms.
Using updated avionics, the MiG-35 is configured to perform a wide variety of missions – everything from air superiority to precision ground strikes to reconnaissance. New to the MiG-35 is the PESA radar (passive electronically scanned array), an advanced radar system. The MiG-35 also has an OLS-UEM, which aids in the detection of targets in the infrared spectrum. The OLS-UEM can detect land, air, or sea targets and can even detect airborne targets from 55 kilometers away.
Included with the new MiG is the OLS-K/OLS-KE podded electro-optical targeting system. The OLS-K can be used to find and track ground or sea-based targets. Using an infrared sensor and a TV camera, the OLS-K can detect ground targets at a range of 20 kilometers, and sea targets at a range of 40 kilometers. And topping things off, when needed, an MSP-418KE active jammer pod, which helps deceive enemy SAMs, can be attached to any of the MiGs hardpoints.
For power, the MiG-35 relies on two FADEC RD-33MK turbofan engines. The new RD-33MK is an upgraded version of the original RD-33 engine. The upgraded model offers 7 percent more power, with a higher thrust (9,000 kgf). Adapted to the modern battlespace, the RD-33MK was designed to reduce infrared and optical visibility. Initially, the engine was to feature a thrust vectoring nozzle. However, the idea was scrapped for cost concerns. With the new engines, the MiG-35 has a max speed of Mach 2.25, a 52,000-foot service ceiling, and a 65,000 feet per minute rate of climb. The airframe can handle 9 positive Gs, or negative 3 Gs.
Russia Hopes Export to Foreign Allies
Russia designed the MiG-35, in part, for the export market. Already, potential suitors have entered discussions to purchase the updated MiG. Egypt, for example, was expected to place a large order for 24 MiG-35s. Instead, Egypt opted into a $2 billion contract for 46 MiG-29M fighters. India was considering the MiG-35, too. The jet lost an Indian procurement bid in 2011 when the MiG-35 had problems with its avionics (plus insufficient thrust). Now, however, the Indian Air Force is reconsidering the MiG-35, in the MMRCA 2.0 procurement contest for 114 multi-role fighters. Argentina, Bangladesh, and Malaysia have all been linked to the MiG-35, as well.
Updates to the MiG-35 are already being developed and tested. Apparently, a naval version of the MiG-35 is under development – although, Russia’s lone aircraft carrier may never sail again. And Yuri Slyusar, President of Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation, said in a conference call with Russian President Vladimir Putin that the MiG-35 could be outfitted with a laser weapon in the future.
Harrison Kass is the Senior Defense Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison has degrees from Lake Forest College, the University of Oregon, and New York University. He lives in Oregon and listens to Dokken.