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IAF pilots fly Mikoyan MiG-35 fighter at Russia's MAKS 2019, check out Sukhoi Su-57E

Russia unveiled an entirely new MiG-35 fighter along with the Su-57E at MAKS 2019 in a bid to attract new customers and also retain its hold on countries already flying Russian fighters including India. Russia claims the upgraded and improved MiG-35 on display at MAKS 2019 is the export version of the jet and very close to 5th Generation fighters.

IAF pilots fly Mikoyan MiG-35 fighter at Russia's MAKS 2019, check out Sukhoi Su-57E

Indian Air Force (IAF) pilots on Thursday got a chance to fly the Russian 4++ Generation Mikoyan MiG-35D fighter at the International Aviation & Space Salon MAKS 2019. IAF test pilots Group Captain BS Reddy and Wing Commander FL Roy flew two sorties on MiG-35D, the twin-seat version of the combat aircraft at the airshow being held at Zhukovskiy International Airport outside Moscow, Russia.

Led by Director General Air Operations Air Marshal Amit Dev, the Indian delegation was also shown Sukhoi Su-57E, the export version of the Russian 5th Generation supersonic stealth fighter. The IAF personnel were at the airshow from August 27 to 29 to take a look at the latest Russian and foreign aerial combat platforms.

Russia unveiled an entirely new MiG-35 fighter along with the Su-57E at MAKS 2019 in a bid to attract new customers and also retain its hold on countries already flying Russian fighters including India. Russia claims the upgraded and improved MiG-35 on display at MAKS 2019 is the export version of the jet and very close to 5th Generation fighters.

Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa, too, had a close look at the MiG-35 in July 2019 during his visit to Russia. The Air Chief Marshal had called the fighter "a completely new aircraft" but also clarified that the IAF would select a new jet only after following the due process of tender, evaluation and test flights.

The upgraded MiG-35 comes in single-seat and twin-seat variants, has a sturdier airframe and is fitted with an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar. The latest Russian air-to-air and air-to-ground high-precision weapons have been integrated with the plane and it has an increased range with more internal fuel capacity, according to MiG General Director Ilya Tarasenko. MiG-35's AESA radar called Phazotron Zhuk-A/AE  can reportedly detect targets beyond the visual range up to 260 kilometres and track up to 30 of them while operating simultaneously in air-to-air and air-to-ground modes. The radar can simultaneously direct missiles at six aerial targets and four on the ground.

The fighter can carry missiles and bombs up to 6,500 kg on its nine hardpoints, and is also armed with the 30 mm Gryazev-Shipunov GSh-30-1 autocannon with 150 rounds. Capable of a maximum speed of 2,400 km (over Mach 2), the MiG-35's range is 2,400 km which can go up to 6,000 km with aerial refuelling. The plane's combat range is 1,000 km and its service ceiling is 19 km.

Two MiG-35 jets have already been delivered to the Russian Aerospace Force and the domestic variant of the fighter is under serial production. Russia had offered the MiG-35 to India during the now-scrapped Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MRCA) competition for 126 aircraft. However, the MiG-35 failed to make it to the top two jets of the competition which saw France's Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon making the cut. But India scrapped the competition and instead signed a deal with France in 2016 to buy 36 Rafale fighters in flyaway condition.

Russia is also keen on exporting the Su-57E to the IAF and has already offered India to rejoin the 5th Generation fighter development programme, which the latter had opted out of in 2018 following differences over the capabilities and technologies of the combat aircraft.