Russia To Deploy MiG-35 Jets in Syria; Keen To Woo Potential Customers Including India & Malaysia

Russia is planning to deploy its MiG-35, a 4++ generation fighter jet, at its Syrian military base at Khmeimim. According to media reports, the delivery is part of a marketing campaign to sell the aircraft to foreign states, such as Peru, Malaysia, Syria and even India which have expressed interest in procuring the new fighter jets.

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Unlike other Russian fighter jets, MiG-35 hasn’t seen a lot of buyers. Even the Russian Air Force has been hesitant to add the MiG-35 jet to its fleet. According to experts, the export of MiG-35 has been hampered by the delay in testing, high costs, and poor performance in comparison to Su-27, Su-30 and MiG-29.

Western experts have labelled the Russian MiG-35 fighter jet a ‘dead duck’. In doing so, they have also sent an indirect signal to foreign countries against the purchase of Russian MiG-35s.

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One of the primary reasons why the MiG-35 has rarely been ordered by foreign countries is due to the delays in testing. While the MiG-35 enterer development in 2014, thanks to defence ministry funding, the fighter is still undergoing its mandated state flight-test campaign. It had been hoped that trials would be completed by late 2018 or early 2019 but the date has not been pushed to 2021.

The MiG-35 features a modern self-protection suite in which a radar warning receiver is combined with a missile approach warning system (six ultraviolet sensors to ensure 360-degree coverage) and two wingtip laser warners.

The suite can be complemented by an external radar jamming pod. The latest-generation armament also includes both air-to-air and air-to-ground stores, among them the RVV-SD air-to-air missile, an improved version of the R-77, with active radar seeker for engagements at beyond visual range.

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Russia has two military bases in Syria and a sizable military presence where it often conducts experiments. In addition, foreign reconnaissance and fighter aircraft commonly fly in or near Syrian airspace giving ‘target aircraft’ for a swarm experiment.

As reported earlier by EurAsian Times, last year, Russia deployed pairs of Su-57s to Syria for what it claimed were combat trials. However, there’s no evidence to prove that the fighters actually flew front-line missions. 

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According to a recent report, Syrian has permitted Russia to further expand its military airbase at Hmeimim by allotting additional land and coastal waters. According to the agreement signed by the two countries, it will be used for “medical treatment and rehabilitation centre” for the Russian air force staff.

The territory, comprising eight hectares of land and a further eight hectares of coastal waters, will be granted to Russia on a temporary basis and at no cost, the document said.

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Analysts believe that the deployment of MiG-35 can have its benefits. It provides the opportunity for combat testing which can further help refine the design as was done with the Su-35 after it was deployed. It will further provide a platform to demonstrate the world its capabilities in an inactive warzone. This could help give a boost to its sales to foreign nations.

Previously, Russia has supplied Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime several munitions including unmanned armoured fighting vehicles, MI-28 combat helicopters, and KH-29L surface-to-air missiles. Deploying it in Syria could accelerate the Syrian interest in the combat aircraft. 

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Without a doubt, the MiG-35 is a capable fighter, but prospects for the new-generation Fulcrum with the Russian Aerospace Forces appear slim. Combined with the continued ascendancy of the Flanker, and with the all-new Su-57 waiting in the wings, it’s becoming increasingly hard to make the case for a large-scale MiG-35 order.