Russia's MiG to Offer New 4th Gen-Plus Fighter to African Nations

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Russian Air Force, Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-35 (Anna Zvereva/Wikimedia Commons)
Russian Air Force, Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-35 (Anna Zvereva/Wikimedia Commons)

Russian Aircraft Corporation MiG intends to make its MiG-35 fourth-plus generation fighter jet available to African nations for purchase.

The company on Tuesday announced it will reveal an exportable version of the MiG-35 -- which it previously said straddles fourth- and fifth-generation capability -- during the first-ever Russia-Africa summit this week in Sochi, according to a news release.

"The history of military technical cooperation of MiG Corporation with countries of Africa has been going on for about 50 years," Ilya Tarasenko, director general of MiG, said in the announcement.

"During these years, more than 2,000 MiG aircraft of second, third and fourth generation [have] been supplied to the national air forces of countries of this region. All of the aircraft [have had] the experience of combat employment during local military conflicts in" African regions, Tarasenko said.

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For example, countries such as Algeria operate the newer MiG-29 twin-engine, multi-role fighter, while more than a dozen countries including Angola and Libya operate the aging MiG-21 supersonic fighter-interceptor aircraft.

The MiG-35 has been in development for well over a decade, with the first reported demonstration flight at the Aero India Air Show in Bangalore in 2007. Its public debut was held in January 2017 at MiG's production plant in Lukhovitsy.

The MiG-35 was designed to replace the MiG-29s -- which entered service in the 1980s -- with additional engine and thrust power, company officials told Military.com during the Paris Air Show in June.

Russia took delivery of the first two aircraft earlier this year.

"We have a lot of design experience," spokeswoman Anastasia Kravchenko said of the company, which celebrates its 80th anniversary this year.

"And that's why we're completely sure that our new product, MiG-35, will use technologies of fifth-generation," she said during an interview at the Paris Air Show in Salon Du Bourget.

"We are looking for network cooperation of both manned and unmanned aircraft, because you know, this is the future," she said through a translator. "We have already started to use these technologies, even on MiG-35 aircraft."

She continued, "MiG-35 can be like a command post and control other aircraft; it's one of the key elements of how the aircraft is going to be used in the future."

MiG has proposed incorporating the active electronically scanned phased-array, known as AESA, for all the MiG-35s it produces. The radar, which has extended range, can simultaneously track multiple targets in the air and on the ground.

MiG on Tuesday said the exportable MiG-35 version will differ slightly by a "changed airframe shape" and include the updated radar system.

The "new MiG-35 version [will be equipped] with active phased array radar, which is capable of locking and tracking up to 30 air targets simultaneously," the release states.

The twin-engine aircraft has also been designed with an open architecture in mind, or ways to plug more equipment into the common, networked system for battle management and command-and-control.

A modular radar system and open architecture software will enable the customers "to use all existing weapons" as well as integrate "future air weapons" onto the aircraft, MiG said.

MiG, which is part of the United Aircraft Corporation that includes companies like Sukhoi, among other aerospace defense firms, is separately developing its own fifth-generation fighter.

The news comes as Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this week said his nation intends to expand its bilateral partnerships with African countries during the summit, taking place Oct. 23-24.

Putin told Russian media Monday that Western countries like the U.S. have taken advantage of Africa for its resources without fair recompense.

"We see how an array of Western countries are resorting to pressure, intimidation and blackmail of sovereign African governments," he told Russia's TASS state news agency, without naming specific countries.

Putin said that it's now time for Russia to offer the countries economic solutions that are not "contingent upon ... preconditions."

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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