Russia flight tests MiG-35 fighter: All about the jet NATO calls Fulcrum-F

MiG-35 has nine hardpoints, four on each wing and one under the fuselage, for carrying weapons apart from a cannon for close range combat.

Russia flight tests MiG-35 fighter: All about the jet NATO calls Fulcrum-F
Photo Credit: Russian Aircraft Corporation Website

Russia is flight testing its latest 4++ generation supersonic multirole fighter of the MiG series - MiG-35. The multipurpose fighter, which is being built in both single-seater and double-seater (trainer) versions, is an advanced form of the legendary MiG-29М/М2 jet with improved and state-of-the-art avionics, radar and combat capabilities. The MiG-35 (NATO code: Fulcrum-F) can hunt targets in the air, on the ground, and in the sea.

"This is a plane that can operate on its own. It relies much less on ground services and is capable of effective networking. The MiG-35 meets 21st century standards based on its reliability, repair and upgrades," says Ilya Tarasenko, CEO of MiG Aircraft Corporation. Russian Air Force plans to equip its entire Aerospace Force division with MiG-35 planes in a few years with the first plane entering active service in 2020.

With a length of 17.3 metres, wingspan of 12m and 4.73m high, the MiG-35 is capable of flying at over Mach 2 (2,560 kilometres per hour). Its service ceiling is 17.5 km. The maximum takeoff weight is 24,500 kilogrammes and the fighter has a weapons payload capacity of 6,500 kg. There are nine hardpoints, four on each wing and one under the fuselage, for carrying weapons apart from a cannon for close range combat.

All MiG-35s will have the Zhuk-ME or Zhuk-AE active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar which is capable of operating even amidst enemy jamming. The radar can detect and track 30 targets simultaneously. Its air target detection radius is 160 km while the radar can see surface ships at a distance of 300 km. The fighter can destroy six aerial targets or four on the ground at one go.

The plane also has an advanced helmet-mounted target acquisition, glass cockpit as part of the flight deck comprising liquid-crystal displays and display system along with optoelectronic complex which ensures the fighter can operate at full capacity day or night beyond visual range. The system also helps detect aircraft with low radar signature and gives the MiG-35 the capabilities to match fifth-generation fighters.

The unified front part of the fuselage of a single-seat or two-seat plane allows the second pilot's cockpit to be converted into a fuel tank. The aircraft's service life is 6,000 flight hours and s capable of operating in a wide variety of climatic conditions with temperature ranging from −45 degrees Celcius to 50 degrees Celcius. Made with almost 20 percent composite material and coated with anti-radar material, the MiG-35 has a reduced radar signature.

Claiming that the MiG-35 is super-manoeuvrable the Russian test pilots have demonstrated that the fighter is capable of performing several gravity-defying acrobatic loops which test not only the machine but also the pilot inside the jet.

Cobra's aerobatic feat

The plane sharply raises its nose while retaining the preceding flight path so that the fighter jet reaches angles of attack of over 90 degrees. After that, the plane returns to its normal flight mode without losing the altitude. This famous Cobra manoeuvre was first performed by test pilot, Hero of the Soviet Union, Igor Volk aboard a Sukhoi Su-27 fighter aircraft in 1989 in the town of Zhukovsky outside Moscow. Later, pilot Viktor Pugachev publicly demonstrated the aerobatic maneuver at the Le Bourget airshow outside Paris and that is why it was dubbed Pugachev's Cobra. 

Bell figure feat

This is the most complex aerobatic manoeuvre to perform. The aircraft enters the position of its “nose to the zenith” and its speed drops to zero, after which it starts falling tail first and then makes a vertical U-turn through the horizon followed by a nosedive, imitating the swaying of a bell's tongues. Russian test pilot Anatoly Kvochur first performed this feat aboard a MiG-29 fighter in 1988 at the Farnborough airshow. 

Frolov's Chakra 

The aircraft turns around its tail, forming a tight loop (or otherwise known as Nesterov's Loop with a closed curve in the vertical plane). The manoeuvre can be carried out only aboard aircraft with thrust vectoring nozzles. This feat was performed for the first time by test pilot, Hero of Russia Yevgeny Frolov aboard an experimental Su-37 fighter jet in 1995 at the Le Bourget airshow outside Paris.

The plane is powered by two RD-33MK engines which have been designed to reduce the fighter's thermal and optical signature to make it less visible to radars and heat-seeking missiles. The two RD-33MK can produce a full Afterburner thrust of 2×9,000 kilogram-force while the maximum mode thrust is 2×5300 kgf. The engine's service life is 4,000 hours and it can be rigged with a thrust vectoring nozzle, which helps enhance the aircraft's flight performance. The vectored thrust angle can be 15 percent in any direction.

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