Russia’s MiG-35 fighter to win billion-dollar contract and leave US rivals behind

Russia is prepared to fight for the highly lucrative arms market of India. Delhi will assign $35 billion for the five-year program to completely rearm the national armed forces. A third of this amount falls for aviation. About $10.4 billion is to be spent on purchasing 126 up-to-date fighter jets. Several other billion dollars will be used to acquire 197 light helicopters.

India has become one of the largest arms importers during the recent years due to the nation’s complicated relations with Pakistan. A third Indo-Pakistan war may break out at any moment. Foreign companies get ready to fight for the Indian billions. France’s Rafale, Europe’s Eurofighter, Sweden’s Gripen and USA’s F-16 and F-18 will be a serious competition for Russia.

Russia’s Sukhoi already conducts cooperation with India : the nation launched the licensed production of Su-30MKI fighters in 2004. However, Russia has another trump card to win a possible contract – the MiG-35 fighter, which will be unveiled at Aero India 2009 air show.

MiG-35 is outfitted with aviation electronics of new generation, including a powerful radar. The aircraft also has optoelectronic systems to fight air and ground targets, a powerful defense complex and latest airborne weapons.

“MiG-35 is virtually a new modification of the old fighter, but it is quite competitive. Its low price and technical advantages leave Western rivals behind,” Konstantin Sivkov of the Academy for Geopolitical Problems told “It would also be better for India to buy this fighter for compatibility reasons. The political aspect and the foreign orientation of the political leadership play the most important role on the market of arms. The future tender will test the political orientation of India ,” the expert said.

Russia has all chances to sign the contract with India at this point. The two countries have been maintaining friendly relations with each other for many years. One should not forget the ties between Russia’s MiG Corporation and its Indian partners either. MiG fighters originally appeared in India in 1963, whereas MiG-21 used to be the basic aircraft of the Indian Air Force for years.

The cooperation continues today as well. India’s navy receives the MiG-29K/KUB carrier fighter on a regular basis. The personnel of the Indian Air Force undergoes the technical training in Russia . To crown it all, MiG modernizes India’s MiG fighters and supplies them with necessary spare parts.

However, it does not guarantee Russia’s success at the air show. Anatoly Tsyganok of the Institute for Military and Political Analysis told that Russia would have to work hard to win the tender. “The USA and France will be Russia ’s major competitors at this point – Delhi has arms contracts with them too. I would also like to say that Barack Obama views India as one of the top priorities of the US foreign politics,” the expert added.

Russia has had troubles with the execution of its arms contracts with India. The recent scandal with the delivery of MiG-29 fighters to Algeria may come to surface here again. An additional point is that India (as well as China ) tries to acquire licenses to be able to launch its own arms production.

Other experts say that MiG-35 is just another modification of MiG-29 fighter, while India wants to receive the fifth-generation fighter jet.

The agreement for the production of the fifth-generation fighter jet was signed in October 2007. About 18 months were wasted on bureaucratic red-tape, and the contract for the mutual development and production of the new fighter jet was signed in December 2008.

Sergei Balmasov

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov