LE BOURGET, France — Russian defense aviation firm MiG hopes to wrap up testing for its MiG-35 fighter jet by the end of the year, opening the door for a contract from the Russian military for serial production of the aircraft, a company official told Defense News on Wednesday.
Although MiG-29s have been operated by more than 30 countries, the company has lately struggled to find new sales for both its legacy and new fighter jets.
Once the Russian military begins ordering production aircraft, the company is hoping to gain more international interest for the MiG-35, with neighboring former Soviet bloc countries like Kazakhstan as well as Latin America, South Asia and East Asia as particular focus areas, said Anastasia Kravchenko, who is representing the company at the Paris Air Show.
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MiG is also open to moving some production and training to customer countries, she said.
After the MiG-35 finishes flight testing late this year or early next year, the Russian Air Force is expected to place an initial order of 37 aircraft, but could order as many as 258 to replace its fleet of MiG-29s.
The contract would be welcome news for the company. Kravchenko confirmed the completion of major deliveries of Russia's MiG-29SMT as well as ship-based MiG-29s for Russia and India. However, she declined to say what outstanding orders were currently in production.
"What I can say is our production facilities are actually loaded. As for the contracts that we're working on, we're not at liberty to say," she said.
Kravchenko described the MiG-35 as a fourth-generation fighter jet with some fifth-generation capabilities. Although its design is clearly not stealthy like the F-35 or Russia's T-50, the company has tried to reduce its signature through the shape of the airframe, a "radar-absorbing" coating and electronic measures, she said.
The MiG-35's RD-33MK engine has 12 percent more thrust compared to the MiG-29's RD33, and the aircraft also has an active phased array radar.
Earlier this year, Sergey Chemezov, the head of Russia’s largest defense corporation Rostec, told reporters about plans to develop a fifth-generation stealth fighter jet based on the MiG-29 with the United Arab Emirates.
Kravchenko confirmed MiG was involved on three major development programs — a "prospective plane," a long-range interceptor and a UAV — but would not elaborate on activities related to a potential fifth-gen jet.
Asked about the possible capabilities of a UAV, Kravechenko said it would have both armed and reconnaissance capabilities and reside in the lightweight to medium-weight range — hints that mean the company could be developing a competitor to General Atomics’ MQ-9 Reaper or perhaps a follow-on to the "Skat," an armed, low-observable UAV prototype developed by MiG.
Valerie Insinna is Defense News' air warfare reporter. She previously worked the Navy/congressional beats for Defense Daily, which followed almost three years as a staff writer for National Defense Magazine. Prior to that, she worked as an editorial assistant for the Tokyo Shimbun’s Washington bureau.