The future of the MiG-35 in the RuAF

Phazatron-NIIR delays in the development of the final version of Zhuk-AE AESA radar have led to the postponement of finalization of a contract with Russian Ministry of Defense for supplying RuAF with MiG-35. Despite the unavailability of even MiG-29SMT in RuAF frontline units and bases inside Russia in near future, the RuAF has preferred to rely on its fleet of Su-30SM and Su-35S heavy MMRCAs until completion of the MiG-35 radar development in 2018 or more.

The first MiG-35UB prototype with 712 BLUE was unveiled to defence attaches of 30 foreign countries
during its official unveiling ceremony at Lukhovitsy on 27
th January 2017.

Without any replacement, Russian Air Force will retire at-least sixteen MiG-29 product 9-12, 9-13 and 9-51 in 2018, and 20 more in 2019 which will reduce number of airworthy MiG-29s to 83 comprising 39 MiG-29SMTs and 8 modernized MiG-29UBs (product 9-53) in 2020 from which 16 MiG-29SMT/UBs will be based in Erebuni AB as the sole RuAF unit operating MiG-29s for combat after retirement of the MiG-29 from TsPAT service.

In a strategy of three light (MiG-35) to one heavy (Su-30/35), Russian Air Force will use the MiG-35s for complementary air superiority roles in 2020’s. Several disbanded units of Russian Air Force which were previously operating MiG-29 for air defence and ground attack missions will be reformed and equipped with MiG-35. MiG-35UBs also will be used for advanced weapon and flight training purposes and will completely take place of MiG-29SMTs in this role by 2030.

Swifts (Strizhi) has been playing important role in marketing of the Russian made MiG-29 during International air shows and exhibitions, which make it necessary to allocate six out of first 24 MiG-35s of RuAF to the team. From the other 18, four will enter 929th GLITs service, while 14 will enter into service of the 116th UTsBP in Astrakhan. They will train future MiG-35 pilots of RuAF from 2020.

The last manufactured MiG-35s will reach the end of their service life in 2078! When they will be replaced by a 5+ Generation manned stealth MMRCA or 6th Generation unmanned MMRCA. Also, the last MiG-29SMTs are predicted to be withdrawn from service before 2060.

The author would like to express his appreciations to Mr Ilya Tarasenko, General Manager of RAC MiG, and other RAC MiG officials as well as Rosoboronexport and Egyptian Ministry of Defense authorities and Anton Pavlov, the Russian Air Force historian who provided assistance for the preparation of this article.