MOSCOW – Russia has launched flight tests of its latest lightweight fighter, MiG-35.
The military aircraft, which has been constructed to be potentially equipped with laser weapons, will in the near future replace previous generation jets in the Russian Air Force.
The new war machine by the Mikoyan Aircraft Corporation (MiG) can fly at speeds of over 2,700 km/h (1,700 mph) and reach heights of up to 17,500 meters (57,400 feet).
Its strike radius is 1,000 km (620 miles), while it can be in action twice as long as previous generation fighters, as there is an option to replace the second pilot’s seat with an extra fuel tank.
“The 3,500 kilometers [2,175 miles] that MiG-35 is able to fly suits us very well,” Russian Air Force Commander Viktor Bondarev has said.
The new warplane was presented in a ceremony at the MiG factory in Lukhovitsy, Moscow, earlier this week.
The twin-engine jet, made by Mikoyan, will replace the MiG-29, which has been a mainstay of the Russian air force since the 1980s.
Mikoyan was reportedly relying on selling the planes to India, but officials picked the French Dassault Rafale over the Russian fighter.
Egypt is the only other country to have shown an interest in the fighters and in 2015 signed a contract worth up to $2 billion for 50 MiG-35s.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has congratulated “the designers, engineers, workers and pilots” on the launch of the MiG-35 flight tests, which he called “an important event.” During a video conference with the testing site, Putin also expressed hopes that the fighter will not only strengthen the Russian armed forces, but will also be in demand with international buyers.
“Our other aircraft, the MiG-29, is actively used in more than 30 countries, with a good infrastructure and well-trained staff providing for the use of such Russian fighters,” the president said.
While the latest Class 4++ MiG-35 jets are being tested, the Mikoyan corporation will start developing new, fifth generation fighters, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin has announced. So far, fifth-generation F-22 and F-35 aircraft are only deployed by the US Air Force.
By comparison, the U.S. Air Force alone plans to buy more than 1,700 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters – the western equivalent of the Russian craft.
The single seat MiG-35 is reportedly not as stealthy as its foreign counterpart and is unlikely to see much service beyond Russia. But the planes are relatively low-cost and reportedly retain the extreme maneuverability of the MiG-29, which was regarded as one of the best in the world.
MiG-35 is a twin-engine aircraft that comes in single-seat and two-seat variants.
It can attain a speed of 1,491 mph at altitude, 901 mph at low level.
With fifth-generation information-sighting systems, the aircraft has a compatibility with Russian and weapons applications and an integrated variety of defensive systems, which reportedly increase combat survivability.
The MiG-35 is not described as stealthy but does have an AESA radar which makes it more difficult for enemy pilots to detect the plane’s initial radar signal and gives the craft greater resistance to electronic jamming.