SOURCE: ARUSH SINGH / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
Dassault RAFALE is an omni role fighter and is best suited for India after the non-recurring €1.3 billion paid on design and development of India Specific Enhancements. France is pitching this fighter in the upcoming MMRCA 2.0 tender for 114 fighter jets. But, if the cost per plane of the latest F4 version when it is manufactured in India exceeds beyond the budget limit set for the tender, the IAF will be forced to look at other options. And, the most suitable contender after RAFALE is the MIG 35 with India specific enhancements aka MIG 35 MKI.
MIG 35 is a Russian 4++ generation fighter which incorporates a new PHAZOTRON ZHUK AE AESA Radar, Newly designed Optical locator system, Fifth generation information sighting system and stealth coating. Also, post MMRCA, MIG 35 is incorporated with a modified state of the art onboard defence complex and opto-electronic reconnaissance stations, used only in top notch fourth generation and fifth generation fighters.
Compared to its predecessor, the MIG 29, the MIG 35 is not only30% bigger with almost double the weapon carrying capacity but also, it’s average cost per flight hour is 2.5 times lesser.
It is the cheapest fighter on offer in MMRCA 2.0. The money saved in the procurement can be used for India specific enhancements of the MIG 35. Also, due to mutual trust between India and Russsia, additional funds can be provided to the joint development of new sub-systems forthe MIG 35 and for Super-Sukhoi upgrade of SU 30 MKI.In my opinion, if the following modifications are made in the MIG 35, it will be the second-best option for IAF:
1. POWER PLANT MODIFICATIONS
Currently, MIG 35 incorporates RD 33MK engines which are smokeless and have integrated sub-systems for reduction of infrared and optical visibility. This engine has excellent characteristics but, if a further modification of this engine, the RD 33OVT is used, it will further enhance the capability of this fighter. RD 33OVT has vectored nozzles which can increase combat efficiency by 12-15% and provide excellent manoeuvrability to the fighter with a unique 3D thrust vectoring capability in which the fighter can direct thrust in two planes simultaneously. This capability is absent even in the fighters like F-22 or SU 35 or SU 30 MKI which are considered as thrust vectoring beasts.
2. RCS REDUCTION
Mig 35 have airframe modifications along with application of a Radar absorbent material (RAM) to specific areas in order to minimize its RCS. Apart from that, measures like incorporation of radar blockers (developed for SU 57 by Russia), if employed, can further reduce its RCS. India, owing to its experience from the Tejas program can work on increasing the use of advanced composites in the airframe to further reduce the RCS of MIG 35.
3. INCORPORATION OF ISRAELI/WESTERN AVIONICS AND WEAPONS
Mirroring the SU 30 MKI program, if India finds certain avionics which will be better suited for them, it can be incorporated in the MIG 35. Also, weapons like ASRAAM, Python 5, I-DERBY-ER can be easily integrated.
4. EW SUITE MODIFICATIONS
Russian EW capabilities have proved their mettle in the recent Post-Balakot Aerial Battle in which SU 30 MKI was able to jam/dodge 4-5 AIM 120 C5 missiles fired at it by Pakistani F-16s. EW components under development for Tejas Mk2 or SU 57 programs can be further added to enhance its survivability.
5. AIR LAUNCHED BRAHMOS INTEGRATION
Air-launched variant of Brahmos, which is a supersonic cruise missile which can be easily integrated, by HAL, on the centreline pylon of the Russian MIG 35. Also, integration of weapons/sub-systems on which work is under progress for TEJAS or SU 30 MKI fighter programs can be easily integrated into the MIG 35. Some of these sub-systems are:
a. Dual rack pylons for air-air missiles (Derived from TEJAS Program).
b. Subsonic cruise missiles like Air-launched NIRBHAY missile (To be integrated on SU 30 MKI)
c. Indian Missiles like ASTRA, NGARM,etc.
Russia has been a trustworthy partner of India and is willing to share much more technology than other competitors. If Russia provides India with ToT on most of the components of the MIG 35 and gives India the authority to upgrade/modify the fighter as needed then it is the best decision for the dwindling fleet of IAF.
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